SciFi Weekend: Two Doctors; Star Trek; Heroes Villains; and Desperate Governor


A preview of the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special was shown as part of the Children in Need telethon. The trailer (video above) shows both a second Doctor and Cybermen.


A high definition version of a new Star Trek trailer is due out tomorrow, but many science fiction bloggers are too impatient to wait, with lower resolution versions such as the above being distributed. The HD version will be available here on Monday.

More stories are also coming out with information on the movie. Empire reports that the movie will feature Romulans as the bad guys, a Klingon subplot was removed, and Klingons will still have a presence in the movie. Entertainment Weekly features a look at the new Enterprise.

I am far from the only political blogger who has been discussing  science fiction and Star Trek. Yesterday Ross Douthat discussed rebooting Star Trek, setting up an unusual situation where I’m backing the more conservative position while Douthat is taking the radical approach.

A while back, in a debate with Peter Suderman that’s vanished into the American Scene’s lost archives, I argued that the Trek franchise needed a complete reboot – one that keeps the iconic characters, keeps the Enterprise‘s five-year mission, and keeps the basic outlines of the Federation-Klingons-Romulan political dynamic, but otherwise untangles itself from the burden of maintaining real continuity with the five television series and ten movies that have come before. I suggested Batman Begins as a model, and wrote: “If Star Trek is going to boldly go into the twenty-first century, it needs to consider becoming something a little bit more like the Superman and Batman stories – that is, a pop culture mythology that can be reinterpreted and refashioned every generation or so.” (And of course another obvious model would be the radical – and radically successful – reboot that ex-Deep Space Nine scribe Ronald Moore provided to Battlestar Galactica, which has basically displaced Trek as the gold standard for modern space opera.)

Interestingly, Babylon Five‘s J. Michael Straczynski wrote a proposal for a Trek series in 2004 that was conceived along precisely these lines, promising to completely reimagine the Kirk-Spock-McCoy Enterprise’s five year mission. But it looks like the franchise’s custodians decided not to take the leap: Based on what we know about Abrams’ Star Trek, it sounds like a straightforward, none-too-imaginative prequel to the original series – and worse still, one that’s sufficiently insecure about its relationship to the canon (and the fan base, presumably) that it’s shoehorned in Leonard Nimoy as a time-traveling Spock, in the same way that the first Next Generation film felt compelled to shoehorn in a quasi-time-traveling James T. Kirk.  Nothing soured me on the Trek franchise quite as much as its promiscuous use of time travel (culminating, of course in the absurd “Temporal Cold War” from Star Trek: Enterprise), and Abrams’ decision to haul it out immediately as an excuse for a Nimoy cameo is a pretty bad sign, both for this film and for any others that end up following.

I agree with Douthat on the problems time travel has sometimes brought to Star Trek, especially with the Temporal Cold War, but do not support a reboot as with Batman. Comics such as Superman and Batman have required reboots as they have had the same characters in multiple comics every months since the 1930’s. While there has been a lot of Star Trek shown, there has been far less than such comics. There is no need for updating as with comics stories which began in the 1930’s. Showing a consistent future history has been one of the characteristics of Star Trek which many fans have enjoyed. We can overlook some minor contradictions which come up with an occasional episode, but to rewrite features such as the Prime Directive as J. Michael Straczynski proposed is a different matter. (I previously discussed his proposal here).

If further movies are to be made they can easily take place in the final two years of the original five year mission, occurring after the original series ended. This could allow for entirely new stories while avoiding contradictions with previous episodes, leaving no need for a reboot. I also hope this could lead to a new television series taking place in the same universe after the events of Voyager and Deep Space Nine. This allows for changes in Star Trek without ignoring its past. Rather than rewriting the stories of Kirk and Spock, new series can develop entirely new characters within the established Star Trek universe.

Heroes has not been up to its earlier quality this season, with rating falling, but last week’s episode, Villains, was worthwhile for providing more back information, primarily on the older generation. I was also surprised by what we learned about Sylar. Back then HRG again looked evil, and I was surprised both that he was working with Elle (Kristin Bell) and that he was largely responsible for initiating Sylar’s killing spree.

And finally, the television rumor of the week, even if untrue:: Sarah Palin to appear on Desperate Housewives. From The New York Post:

IS Alaska’s Gov. Sarah Palin headed to “Desperate Housewives”? Series creator Marc Cherry is “very hot to trot to have her appear on the season-five finale,” Hollywood p.r. man Hal Lifson, who’s not involved with the show, told us. “Marc is highly enamored of Sarah and sees her as the ultimate guest star [playing] a similar version of herself. The idea has gone over surprisingly well with execs at Disney, who see it as a blockbuster based on Sarah’s huge ratings on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ ” Cherry declined to comment. An ABC rep said, “There’s no truth to it.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger Provides Path For Republicans

Republicans love to pull out Arnold Schwarzenegger when they feel they will benefit from campaigning with a celebrity, but Arnold would have never made it into office if he had to win a Republican primary first. While many in the party mistakenly believe they lost because they were not conservative enough, they would benefit from paying more attention to Schwarzenegger. He was interviewed on This Week with George Stephanopoulos and began by explaining why he has been busy, saying something most Republicans would never say:

Through global warming, we have now a fire season all year round. We used to have fire seasons only in the fall. But now the fire seasons start in February already. So this means that we have to really upgrade and have more resources, more fire engines, more manpower, and all of this, which, of course, does cost extra money.

While many Republicans are denying the existence of global warming, Schwarzenegger is working with the implications. He also has a more realistic view of taxes than conservative like Grover Norquist who insists that Republicans pledge not to raise taxes under any circumstance:

I don’t want to do it. I hate taxes. I hate the word “taxes” and all of those things. But there’s certain times when you have to forget about the ideology, and, you know, all of this, and fix problems…

Stephanopoulos noted he sounded much like Barack Obama when trying to look beyond partisanship:

I think it’s a bunch of nonsense, talking about parties and all of those things — because in the end, the American people are not that interested in Democrats versus Republicans and them arguing in Washington about is this a Democratic principle or is this a Republican principle.

Let me tell you something. When it comes to building roads and people driving on the roads — it’s Democrats, Republicans, independents, decline to state — everyone wants to use those roads. Everyone’s kids — Republicans’ kids, Democrats’ kids — everyone is in the school. They want to have great education. When it comes to clean air and protecting our environment and fighting global warming, everyone in America wants to be part of that.

So I think that it’s only the politicians that always divide things up and they draw and line and say this is a Republican idea and this is a Democratic idea. And in the meantime, it doesn’t help the people to stay in their homes.

Schwarzenegger questioned the idea that moving further to the right is what is required for Republicans to return to core values:

Remember that so many times there’s dialogue about, you know, we have to go back to our core values.

What is that? What is core? How far does core go back in history in America, the word core? Does it go back 30 years? Does it go back 50 years? Because we know that Teddy Roosevelt talked about universal health care. So they’re off the core for a long time ago already. He has talked about protecting our environment. So they’ve been off for a long time on that.

I mean, let’s be honest. Ronald Reagan — let’s go to Eisenhower, for instance. Eisenhower has built the highway system in America and he’s poured billions of dollars into infrastructure. Where Republicans today say, well, that’s spending. We shouldn’t spend. That’s not spending. That’s investing in the future of America.

So there’s a lot of things that they have been off on, if they want to go and talk about the core values. But maybe their definition of core values is maybe different.

But I mean, so I think it’s all nonsense talk. I think if they just talk about one thing, what do we need now?

Now, America needs to be rebuilt, because we haven’t really rebuilt America for decades. So we need to rebuild America, fix the bridges, fix the highways, fix the buildings, tunnels and all of those kind of things we need to do. And then we have to go and create great relationships with our partners overseas, with the world, and to build those relationships again. And we have to take care of health care. We have to take care of our environment. And we have to build an energy future. Those are the things that people want right now.

He differs from the right wing in questioning the constitutionality of prohibiting gay marriage, regardless of his own views on the subject:

I personally am — for me, marriage is between a man and a woman. But I don’t want to ever force my will on anyone.

I think that the Supreme Court was right by saying that it’s unconstitutional. And that everyone should have the right, just like we had the battle in 1948 and the Supreme Court decision came down, that, you know, it was unconstitutional for blacks and whites not to be able to get married with each other, and they overturned that. And since then, that has been taken care of.

And now the Supreme Court says that it’s also unconstitutional to not let gay people get married, the same-sex marriage. So to me, that is the important decision here, and everything else is not that important. So people can pass initiatives, like Proposition 187 passed under Wilson that said we should not give, you know, Latinos and those that are illegally here any educational services or any kind of medical services. The Supreme Court said, well, the people maybe had some intentions there, but it’s unconstitutional.

The Republicans will have a much better shot of remaining as a viable political party if they adopt Schwarzenegger’s more moderate outlook, but this is not very likely to occur.