SciFi Friday: Fall Premiers, Doctor Who and Torchwood

The Bionic Woman was the most hyped genre show premiering this week, and it even beat the second season premier of Heroes in the ratings. Just as Battlestar Galactica was transformed from a camp show of the past to a more modern, edgy show, The Bionic Woman is a total remake of The Six Million Dollar Woman. The first episode was mixed, and hopefully will improve after it doesn’t have to spend time setting up the story. Typical of modern television shows of this genre, the remake centers around a government agency with a questionable agenda. David Eick, also Executive Producer of Battlestar Galactica, brought in a new character played by BSG’s Starbuck, Katee Sackhoff. Sackhoff (above) plays an earlier bionic woman who has gone bad, and who steals the scenes from the current version of the heroine, Jaime Sommers.

The most highly hyped new genre show, Pushing Daisies, doesn’t premier until next Wednesday, and is reviewed by Variety:

Series creator Bryan Fuller previously explored the great beyond in “Dead Like Me,” but this is a far more impressive construct, built around Ned (Lee Pace), who discovers at an early age that he possesses the power to bring the dead back to life with a single touch.

The tradeoff: If he touches that person again, they die forever — and leaving the resurrected alive causes someone else in the vicinity to drop dead, achieving a weird kind of cosmic balance.

Ned has found a way to eke out a living from this talent on two fronts: His dazzling pies, where his touch invests the fruit with tremendous flavor; and moonlighting with a detective (Chi McBride) who inadvertently witnessed his gift first-hand, reviving murder victims long enough to find out who killed them and split the reward. Still, it’s a detached, emotionally frigid existence, as his coworker Olive (the ever-adorable Kristin Chenoweth) points out.

Enter Chuck (Anna Friel), the girl Ned loved as a child before she moved away. When Chuck turns up murdered, Ned brings her back for the sizable payout but can’t bring himself to kill her, creating this conundrum: Although strongly drawn to each other, they can never, ever touch..

While it’s hard to imagine “Pushing Daisies” becoming a major hit, the best hope is that a cultish audience will become enormously attached to it (which is almost inevitable) and the series finds a way to sustain its initial charms. Those are both tall orders, but as the premiere makes clear, hope really does spring eternal; this is one pilot that truly deserves to postpone death’s embrace.

Heroes returned with a solid first episode. After ending last season together in New York to save the world, most of the heroes are split up four months later. A lot happens in the episode. Mohinder is researching a virus which is deadly to those with powers, and infiltrates The Company. We find at the end that Peter Petrelli lost his memory after blowing up. Clare Bennett and her father are trying to blend in while hiding in California despite a contending with mean girl cheerleaders and a stalker who can fly whose interested in Claire, and a boss on a power trip who gets on the wrong side of Noah. Hiro finds out that his hero is not what he believed. They even managed to introduce some new characters, while eliminating others.

Kristen Bell will be joining Heroes for an arc later this season, and is rumored to play Clare’s sister. Her television and film career is apparently taking up too much of her time, causing her to change her mind on appearing as the lead in Legally Blonde on Broadway.

Doctor Who has another strong episode tonight for those following on the SciFi Channel as they finally reveal what The Master has been up to behind the scenes all season in The Sound of Drums. I previously reviewed the episode here, along with a video clip.

The BBC also presents some information on one of next season’s episodes, Rome Sweet Rome:

The Doctor and his new companion Donna are set to travel back in time to the Roman Empire for the fourth series of Doctor Who.

In one of the most ambitious episodes to date, The Doctor, played by David Tennant and Donna (Catherine Tate) arrive in Pompeii in AD 79, on the eve of the historic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The Time Lord and his companion are posed with an immediate dilemma; should they warn the residents of Pompeii of the forthcoming catastrophe or leave them to fend for themselves?

“Arriving in Pompeii marks the start of another exciting adventure for the Doctor and Donna,” said Doctor Who’s Executive Producer and Head Writer, Russell T Davies. “Donna is stunned to find herself in the midst of history’s most famous volcanic eruption. Viewers can expect many more ambitious storylines and a whole host of guest stars in 2008.”

TV Squad reports that some episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures are available on YouTube. There’s no word yet on when this Doctor Who spin off will be broadcast in the United States.

The premier of Torchwood might have given Pushing Daisies the idea of bringing people back from the dead to solve murders. The second episode of Torchwood shows why the show has a reputation of being the “adult” spin off of Doctor Who. An alien arrives on earth which requires orgasmic energy to survive. It takes over the body of a young girl who obtains this energy from engaging in wild sex which causes her partner to explode at climax. When trapped, she even attempts some girl on girl action with Gwen. Yes, it is worth waiting a week to catch this show in High Definition.

SciFi Friday: Emmy Awards, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Spoilers for 24 and Sex in the City, and Does Vanessa Go Wild?

There were several Emmy nominations for genre shows, but the only winner last Sunday night was Terry O’Quinn who won as Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in Lost. While some were disappointed, the nominations themselves are also a form of recognition. I think they got it right in including Ron Moore in a group of top writers including David Chase, but it was no surprise that Chase came in first. Similarly Heroes is a good show and did well to get a nomination, but it didn’t stand a chance to win as best drama against Sopranos. While Battlestar Galactica got shut out on the main Emmy night, they did pick up a “Creative Emmy” for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. The award came for showing Galactica falling through the planet’s atmosphere in Exodus, Part 2.

TV Week reports that SciFi Channel is continuing to consider dividing up the final season of Battlestar Galactica for financial reasons:

As is often the case with the lavishly produced series, the issue is “the money people,” as one executive put it. Since “Battlestar” eats a considerable portion of the Sci Fi programming budget, the network might be forced to spread the resulting product across two seasons.

Showrunner Ron Moore shrugged off the issue. “It doesn’t affect my job either way, since we’re shooting it straight through,” he says. “It might be better to get it all done [in the same year] for the fans so they don’t have to wait.”

Waiting might be difficult:

With “Battlestar” fans already waiting about a year for the return of the series — not counting the two-hour “Razor” stand-alone movie coming this fall — returning with only 10 episodes could spark a revolt.

Moore’s storyline also could make fans demand rapid closure, one person close to the project says, since “when people see the ending of the 10th episode, they’re gonna freak out.”

The final decision might not come until January. A key factor is what new shows are in the pipeline that could be paired with “Galactica” – and how much those shows will cost.

Among the shows being considered is Caprica, the prequel to BSG. They are also considering filming the two hour pilot to sell on DVD regardless of whether they produce the entire series, especially if this fall’s BSG movie does well.

SciFi Pulse has an interview with Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. He is concerned about the movie being a prequel:

I am concerned about them doing a prequel because it’s always tricky to do a prequel. There were a lot of issues with Enterprise because Enterprise was going against pre – established things and it’s always tough when you go against pre – established things. So I’m happy he’s doing it. I’d prefer them, when I say them I mean Paramount and everyone to wait a few years. I’m hesitant on the prequel. You see I have not read a script. Paramount does not have to give me a script; no one has to give me a script to read to get my approval. I would like to read it but I think they know that I speak my mind for the most part. So if I thought it were a bad script I would probably say something along the lines of, ‘Huh you know it’s a good Star Trek’ as apposed to ‘Yeah everyone has to go see it. Everyone has to go see it.’ And the fans have given my family a lot of clout and I think that to some degree has given me a lot of clout. So I think that a lot of people respect what I say to a degree and if I didn’t have anything good to say about it I think they’d be scared.

I was opposed to doing an entire prequel series as with Enterprise, but for the movie I don’t think they have much choice. As there isn’t a recent successful television show to base the next movie on, the best chance for a mass market success comes from returning to the most well known characters including Kirk and Spock. If the movie does well, I hope it leads to a new Star Trek television series, preferably taking place on a Starship and occurring after the events of Voyager and Deep Space Nine. A television show can build a new following, but a movie does not have that luxury.

A web site for the Doctor Who spin off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, is now on line and they are no longer blocking those of us outside of the UK from seeing it. There’s no word as to whether it will air on American television. Currently the SciFi Channel carries Doctor Who, BBC America caries Torchwood (as well as previous seasons of Doctor Who) and HDNet carries Torchwood nine days after the episode is seen on BBC America. Therefore, unless I get to the point where I cannot wait to see what happens next, posts on Torchwood will be postponed until after it is shown in HD. Of course if it turns out to get so good that it becomes difficult to wait, I’ll just download the first season as I did to avoid waiting to see Doctor Who this season. The consensus appears to be that the show gets much better over time.

Tonight SciFI Channel broadcasts Utopia, which leads into the final two episodes of the season on Doctor Who. I previously reviewed Utopia here. Many items from earlier in the season play a part in the season finale, including even more than I first suspected from Utopia. The episode is also notable for the return of Captain Jack for the final three episode arc, taking place after the first season of Torchwood.

Geeks of Doom has a preview of the new version of The Bionic Woman:

Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan) is having a tough time of things, but she’s making it work for her. She has to deal with her bratty little sister (Lucy Hale), a crappy job, and not much of a future, but she has a nice guy in Dr. Will Anthros (Chris Bowers), a noted professor who works in prosthetics and reconstructive surgery. Things take a turn for the worse when Jaime and Will are in a terrible accident. Will is fine, but Jaime has massive injuries, and ends up losing her legs, right arm, right ear, and right eye. That’s when the boyfriend goes to work, and gives her new body parts. Of course as happened to Steve Summers in the Venture Brothers, the government expects her to pay for her new limbs. Do you know how long it takes to pay back 50 million dollars on a government salary? But seriously, she escapes from the hospital only to run into another bionic woman (Katee Sackhoff) and becomes embroiled in a variety of mysteries. Who is her new boss (Miguel Ferrer)? What is the other bionic woman’s agenda? What do some of these other scenes mean?

What the creators have done well here is create a good mystery series. There are conspiracies within conspiracies, and a lot of things to keep the viewer coming back for more. There’s so much going on that I discovered new connections on a second viewing. The angle with Jaime working for the organization that gave her the powers sets up a decent enough storytelling engine, as long as the creators can come up with valid threats for her to fight on a weekly basis. Fights with other enhanced people could wear thin quickly though, so they’ll need to come up with various enemies that are legitimate challenges for her. But it’s the underlying mystery that really drives the drama forward. Much like BSG, the big questions make me want to watch the second episode, and if done well, will keep me on for the third and the fourth and the whole season. I’m forced to keep coming back to BSG, but the creators have borrowed so heavily from it that it’s hard not to make the comparison (especially since creator David Eick is also a producer on BSG).

Google searches for Vanessa Hudgens are greatly surpassing Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in hits to the site following the item two weeks ago on the nude pictures of the star of the High School Musical being released on line. Disney is still sticking with her. After all, compared to former Mouseketeer Britney Spears, Vanessa still looks respectable. There are rumors floating around that Hudgens is considering posing nude in a men’s magazine and that she has been offered $500,000 to appear in a Girls Gone Wild video. I suspect there is a limit to what Disney will forgive. Besides, how much will people really pay to see what has been available on line to see for free?

Fox has issued a press release with a minor spoiler about the upcoming season of 24:

Bauer’s day gets off to a shocking start when former colleague Tony Almeida (played by Carlos Bernard), last seen in Day 5, returns after being left for dead by a terrorist conspirator in CTU’s infirmary.

The Sex and The City movie started filming this week, taking place four years after the events of the television show. Thanks to a cell phone camera we have a spoiler from the filming. The picture shows a very pregnant Charlotte talking to Big:


Ron Moore Provides Some Answers on The Battlestar Galactica Finale and Season 4

In an interview with Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ron Moore answered some of the questions raised in the season finale of Battlestar Galactica and provided some hints as to what is to come in Season 4. The finale showed four characters hearing strange music, leading them to conclude that they were actually Cylons. No evidence was acutally given that they were correct, but Moore has verified that they really are four of the five members of the final five. In explaining the music that they heard, Moore said:

It’s more that they arrived at a certain point in space and they were made aware of who they are. The music manifests a dawning awareness. These are four of the final five, which puts them in a separate category from everybody else. There are reasons for that I can’t really get into. We’ll be playing out those plot lines for quite a while.

With Tyrol now identified as a type of Cylon, we find that Hera is no longer unique as the only half-human, half-Cylon. When Owen noted in the interview that Hera isn’t the only half-Cylon baby, Moore simply answered, “Oh, yeah.” When asked if there are others, he said, “You never know.”

Having Tigh be a Cylon creates obvious problems with our view of Cylon history, as we are led to believe that Tigh had been around since well before there were even Cylons in human form. When Moore was asked if the four were placed in the Colonial fleet as adults, Moore gave a vague answer:

I don’t know if it’s that simple. I think it’s something that goes back pretty far. A lot of the specifics of the back story of how this came about will reveal itself over the course of the next season. Those four are trying to figure out their own story. They don’t really understand what this all means. Tigh’s been in two wars and wondering, how could this be? A part of next season’s storylines will uncover how they came to be who they are and the specifics of that.


Battlestar Galactica Finale Leaves Many Questions

The Battlestar Galactica season finale answered little and left fans waiting nine months for answers to most of the mysteries. Baltar was acquitted, but that was hardly a surprise. They weren’t going to toss such an interesting character out of an airlock. Besides, the almost religious fever of Baltar’s supporters probably foreshadows his role for next season. We still don’t know why Gaeta hates Baltar to the point where he would even lie in his testimony.

While we were led to believe that we would find out that a member of the cast was a Cylon before the end of the season, this remains uncertain. The four crew members who hear the music believe they are Cylons, but to believe this and actually be Cylons are two different things. There isn’t much significance to this yet as they wound up returning to work as usual. We are left with many possible explanations of why they hear that music. Perhaps they are members of the final five, with Starbucks being the fifth. I doubt that they would make so many of the Cylons unless the point is to have something in between the humans and the Cylons we knew to create new situations. I also question if Tyrol is a Cylon as this would give us a second human-Cylon hybrid baby, reducing Hera’s significance.

There are many other possibilities. Perhaps they received some type of implant while on New Caparica. I have a suspicion they might turn out to be humans but with a different background which makes them different from the others. One reason that I suspect this is that Ron Moore has revealed that the move before the start of Season 4 will involve the Pegasus. In an interview in Salon, which I’ll post more on later, Moore said, “The story will be set on the Battleship Pegasus and will take place in the past, relative to where we are in Season 3. But the events set up in that story will then pay off in Season 4.” As the Pegasus has been destroyed, this leaves questions as to how a back story on the Pegasus would relate to Season 4. It’s just a hunch, but I wonder if the existence of humans who are somehow different from the others will be a factor in the Pegasus story to lead into Season 4.

As anticipated, we saw Katee Sackhoff back, but is she really Starbuck? Even if she ejected or was somehow saved, how is she flying in the viper that we saw destroyed? Maybe she isn’t even real, but is now Lee’s equivalent of Six in his head. That’s possible, but this wouldn’t satisfy the early talk of her having a significant destiny. Maybe she’s a Cylon trying to trick the humans with promises to take them to Earth. We know that they aren’t going to have them reach Earth at the start of next season. If a Cylon, was Starbuck a Cylon all along who was resurrected or did the Cylons recreate something new that looks like her (along with the viper) after her death? I also wonder if they aren’t introducing yet another life form that Kara Thrace was chasing before her apparent death that is responsible for her return.

Nine months is a long time to wait for answers to these and other questions. Sometimes cliff hangers are over done. It was a novelty when we wondered who shot JR. The third season cliff hanger of Star Trek: The Next Generation created tremendous buzz and help establish the show as fans wondered what would happen with the Borg. Now we have cliff hangers on multiple shows per year. I’d prefer that shows work to get their viewers to return by providing a satisfactory ending to the season rather than relying on such cliff hangers. A memorable conclusion which tied up the loose ends from this season would also have led to discussion of the show and given us reason to look forward to the next season.

SciFi Friday: Kara Thrace is Still Dead, Veronica Mars Might Warp Into The Future, and Extermination by Chocolate

No news might not necessarily be good news, but this week no news was bigger news than any real news. That’s no news on Starbuck’s fate. Katee Sackhoff’s name is off the credits for Battlestar Galactica, but otherwise we found out nothing beyond the hints mentioned last week. There was something about preparation for a big trial, but was anyone really paying that much attention beyond searching for clues as to whether Kara will be back? My bet is that we’ll get a teaser in the season finale to keep people guessing over the summer. Maybe we’ll see her eating lunch with Elvis in a restaurant at the edge of the galaxy.

Those who recognize the allusion to Douglas Adams might also be interested in this collection of quotes in honor of his birthday last Sunday. Other recent science fiction posts include this listing of classic science fiction novels.

While Starbuck’s fate remains a mystery, hints about the cast of Heroes are being released, most likely to keep the attention of fans while the show is on a brief hiatus. Slice of SciFi and SciFi Wire reveal that “Linderman has superpowers of his own, that he was once a member of a group of heroes, that the members of the group eventually used their powers for personal gain—and that he is behind the plot to blow up New York as a way to engender widespread fear, which he believes will bring the nation together in hope. Linderman also reveals a prophecy that Nathan will eventually wind up in the White House.”

Looking into the crystal ball with regards to the CW Network is very hazy. Nothing is official, and as of now Veronica Mars might wind up remaining a student as she solves mysteries, the show might be cancelled, and there is yet another possibility. Kristin Veich reports that the show might leap four years into the future and show Veronica as an FBI agent after graduation. This scenario makes it less likely that many of the regulars will return (with some minor characters already getting parts on other shows).

The rumor is that negotiations are not going well for another season of Gilmore Girls. Melissa McCarthy, who plays chef Sookie St. James, has already signed for a role on a comedy pilot on ABC. Alexis Bledel apparently isn’t very interested in another season, and Lorelei says she won’t return without Rory. If this must be the end, at least Dave Rosenthal has managed to pull off something that Amy Sherman-Paladino and Dan Paladino could not. Rory’s idol, Christiane Amanpour, has agreed to appear on the season (series?) finale. Speaking of Rory, anyone else notice that, now that she’s back living with Paris, she has a poster for Fahrenheit 911 up in her bed room?

While I hope to see Vernoica Mars and Gilmore Girls return, even if this wasn’t the greatest season for either, hopefully CW will do the right thing and put Seventh Heaven out if its misery. If they don’t end the show after this year I suspect that God might personally intervene to end it. (Incidentally, to get this back to SciFi, Katerine Hicks, who plays Annie Camden, also played Dr. Gillian Taylor in Star Trek IV.) For those who haven’t been watching this year, Eric Camden finally died of heart disease, but was sent back to earth after an episode in heaven, which appears strangely like Glen Oak. The other big crisis of the year is that Ruthie Camden got a tatoo with the name of the homeless guy she fell in love with going across her rear end. As I said, put this show out if its misery.

Rory’s sign for Fahrenheit 911 isn’t the only sign for anti-government ideas on television this week. I already noted last week that the new character on Lost is named after Russian anarchist Mikhali Bakunin. There must be some meaning to having seen Bakunin killed as a result of Locke’s actions beyond the obvious that destruction seems to follow Locke around ever since his actions led to the destruction of the hatch. Also in last week’s episode we saw Sawyer sitting on the beach reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

Finally, for those who enjoy various “death by chocolate” recipees, this one takes it to a new level–Extermination by Chocolate. ChocaBlog has the recipe.

SciFri Friday: Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica Previews

J.J. Abrams has confirmed that the script for his upcoming Star Trek movie has been completed and is now undergoing editing. He promises to please everybody:

”On the one hand, for people who love Star Trek, the fix that they will get will be really satisfying,” he says. ”For people who’ve never seen it or know it vaguely, I think they will enjoy it equally, because the movie does not require you to know anything about Star Trek. I would actually prefer [that] people don’t know the series, because I feel like they will come to it with an open mind.”

Abrams has tried to deflect questions about the rumors that the story will deal with a young Kirk and Spock but William Shatner has leaked more information:

William Shatner revealed to SCI FI Wire that the upcoming 11th Star Trek movie will indeed, as rumored, deal with the early years of Capt. James T. Kirk and Spock—and that he will definitely appear in the movie if director J.J. Abrams can find a place to use him. Shatner, who originated the role of Kirk in the original Trek series and several subsequent films, said in an interview that he was invited to meet with Abrams (Mission: Impossible III), who is also co-writing the movie.

“I met with J.J., and they told me they would like me to be part of their film, but they have to write the role,” Shatner said in an interview.

As for the many rumors concerning the sequel’s story, Shatner said that Abrams will explore Kirk and Spock during their Starfleet Academy years. “Yes, we know the story is based on young Kirk,” Shatner said. Up until now, everyone connected with the film has maintained strict silence about the storyline, though rumors have run rampant that they concern Kirk and Spock’s first missions.

As for Shatner’s place in that storyline? “They need to figure out how to put the dead captain in with the young captain,” he said. “It’s a very complex, technical problem of how to write the character in, and I’m not sure how they will solve it.” It sounds as if Shatner may play an older version of Kirk.

There are additional leaks reporting that other characters include Scotty and Christopher Pike, who was Captain of the Enterprise before James Kirk. Reportedly the storyline is not linear, allowing appearances by Kirk as both a young man and by the older Shatner.

Another Star Trek related leak is that there are Klingons in the White House. These are Klingons of the worst type–faux Klingons. See this being revealed on the floor of Congress here. In other Star Trek news, The History Channel will have a show entitled Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier next month, narrated by Leonard Nimoy. As I reported earlier in the week, Stephen Hawking, who once appeared in space on Star Trek: The Next Generation, is now planning to take an actual trip into space.

The Chicago Tribune has another interview with Ron Moore which has some information on Battlestar Galactica after it returns. It’s already been revealed that a major character will die, and much of the information suggests it may be Kara Thrace. An episode to air March 4 will include profound changes in Starbuck, and reportedly Katee Sackhoff is leaving the show. Moore is ambiguous in answering the questions and leaves open the possibility that Starbuck might survive in some form:

As you know, there’s a ton of speculation that a character dies in the second half of the season. [Moore also alluded to an upcoming character death in a December interview.] And right now a lot of the speculation centers on Kara Thrace. Can you address that?

Ron Moore: “Kara is one of the characters some fairly profound events happen to in the second half of the season. There are also other characters that are pretty fundamentally… have fairly earthshaking events happen toward the end [of the season]. But certainly [what happens to] Kara will be one of the most surprising things that’s happened in the history of the show so far. Kara’s one of the key players and I think it’ll really take people by surprise.”

People are speculating that her character dies. Do you not want to characterize it that way?

RM: “I don’t know that I want to say that directly. I think people will have to watch that episode and judge for themselves what happens. I can say that Galactica will suffer a shocking loss in that episode and Kara is a key member of the crew. Certainly if she were not there suddenly, that would shift the parameters of what the show is and what the show is about and who the key players are.”

Tricia Helfer Playboy CoverThe direct to DVD Battlestar Galactica movie planned for this summer is also discussed. It reportedly will bridge seasons three and four but, contrary to other rumors, will only deal with BSG and not the upcoming Caprica prequel. While the Chicago Tribune has this interview with Ron Moore, Playboy has Tricia Helfer as its cover girl this month.

I noted the death of author Robert Anton Wilson yesterday. 10 Zen Monkeys has reposted a selection of rarely seen columns by Wilson.

The International Herald Tribune has an article on new plans to attempt to make a movie version of Atlas Shrugged. It will certainly be a challenge to trim this down to a two hour movie and still be true to the book. An Ayn Rand character is capable of giving a lecture for almost two hours on her philosophical views, often after making love. Obviously none of these can be included without turning this into a mini-series (a long mini-series).Those involved with the present project might have an easier time than those who tried in the past due to no longer having to deal with Ayn Rand. Hopefully they will do a better job than was done with The Fountainhead.

Jack is back this Sunday and finally gets out of that Chinese prison, only to be asked to sacrifice his life to fight another terrorist plot. Of course we know he will survive, as Kieifer Sutherland’s contract extends beyond this season. USA Today has an interesting article on the writing of 24. It comes as little surprise that they make up a lot of the story as they go along. Unfortunately sometimes it shows, but it always remains fun even if it is often necessary to ignore huge holes in the plots.