Terrifying Television (non-Halloween episodes)

October 31, 2009

If you’ve already exhausted your collection of Halloween episodes, or plan to take advantage of the holiday falling on a Saturday to pack in more television, there are a number of options. A marathon of any genre-themed show, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, or Supernatural, could make for a spooky Saturday, but if you’re looking for a variety of choices, here are a few of my favourite non-Halloween-themed hours of terrifying television.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Hush

hushSince it originally aired, I’ve included this fourth season episode in my annual Halloween marathon. The largely dialogue-free hour features the creepy gentlemen, who glide above the ground in tuxedos and politely applaud each other’s efforts to remove human hearts. The episode combines humour with drama and danger, and as fans of the show are aware, “Hush” is also the first appearance of Wiccan Tara, who would become a recurring character. It’s one of the best episodes of an above average show and also one of the scariest… perfect for Halloween!

Supernatural, “Monster Movie”

monster movieAlthough it isn’t the actual Halloween set episode of the season, this ode to monster movies is filmed entirely in black & white and provides a lighter hour perfect for any Halloween marathon. In a more comedic turn, the Winchesters take on an odd case involving the classic silver screen monsters, including the one and only Dracula. The humour comes from the juxtaposition of details from the 1940’s movies and the contemporary, which results in a memorable moment where Dracula flees on a moped.

Jekyll

jekyllI’m cheating a little here because Jekyll is not one hour of television, but a six hour BBC miniseries. However, I couldn’t write about monsters without mentioning this delightful take on the The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde set in the present day. I’m often skeptical of anything updating a period piece, but the creators have described this as a sequel, rather than an adaptation of the novella by Stevenson. This version of the story utilizes modern technology to cleverly continue Stevenson’s tale, and James Nesbitt is wonderful as Dr. Tom Jackman and his alter-ego. Jekyll was also written and executive produced by the brilliant Doctor Who scribe Stephen Moffat. I can’t wait to see what Moffat will do with his contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes, which he is adapting with Mark Gatiss.

Doctor Who, “Blink”

sally sparrowSpeaking of Stephen Moffat, there’s my favourite episode of Doctor Who, “Blink”. It’s extremely well-written, and even though the episode is “Doctor-lite” (referring to episodes where the Doctor and his companion have very little screen time to allow two episodes to be filmed simultaneously), it has a likable protagonist in Sally Sparrow. The episode is truly terrifying, especially if, like this TV enthusiast, you watched it with a group of friends at 3:00AM in an otherwise empty house. Trust me when I say that you will never look at a statue the same way ever again!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Conversations With Dead People”

conversationsIn my second Buffy pick, four completely separate stories are told, all of them occurring on one night. While on patrol, Buffy encounters an old classmate who has been turned into a vampire, while Dawn spends the night home alone, believing that her mother is trying to communicate with her. Meanwhile, Willow receives a message in the library, and Spike picks up a woman in a bar. The episode has its spooky moments but also some great humour and is one of the best from Buffy‘s final season. The dead and undead theme makes it a great choice for Halloween night.

Supernatural, “Bloody Mary”

bloody maryAlthough I was close to sticking the one with the clowns on this list, purely because clowns are truly terrifying, this early episode is a great choice for Halloween. What Supernatural does so well is make urban legends real and few legends are more well known than ‘Bloody Mary’. If “Blink” makes you think twice about statues, then “Bloody Mary” will make you wary of mirrors!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Buffy vs. Dracula”

buffy vs“Buffy vs. Dracula” is a new edition to my annual Buffy marathon. The slayer was bound to face off against the greatest vampire of all time at some point and although this isn’t one of my favourite episodes of the show, it doesn’t disappoint. In it Xander becomes Dracula’s manservant, while even Buffy seems to fall under The Dark Prince’s thrall. What could be more ideal for Halloween than our favourite slayer meeting Count Dracula? I really can’t think of a thing.

 

Happy Halloween Everyone!

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TV on DVD (September 15th)

September 16, 2009

big bang theoryWith the vast majority of returning shows airing their season premieres next week, yesterday’s new TV on DVD releases offer a last chance to catch up on your favourite television shows.  My pick of the week is a comedy, but other offerings include a recently remade 80’s favourite, some gossiping surgeons, supernatural creatures, and even everyone’s favourite Canadian mutant, Wolverine.  Here’s a look at what’s out on DVD this week.

My Pick: The Big Bang Theory Season Two

The original premise of The Big Bang Theory, a brainy meets blonde odd couple scenario, didn’t sound all that thrilling and, for this TV enthusiast, the fact that it was created by Chuck Lorre, the man behind Two and a Half Men, did not bode well.  So when I caught an episode of the show during its second season, mostly because it aired directly after How I Met Your Mother, I wasn’t expecting much.  Imagine my surprise when the show turned out to be not just humourous but often laugh out loud funny!

The Big Bang Theory is certainly one of, if not the, funniest shows on television.  Although it was shut out of a Best Comedy Series Emmy nomination in a newly expanded category containing seven nominees, Jim Parsons has been nominated as Lead Actor in a Comedy at the awards, which air this Sunday.  The sitcom revolves around four brilliant but geeky scientists and their relationship with waitress/aspiring actress Penny, who lives across the hall.  While it is undoubtedly funnier if, like this TV enthusiast, you enjoy the “geeky” things in life and are able to pick up on the many references to Star Trek, comic books, and video games, even the scientific elements, which are unfamiliar to an English and History major like me, are humourous.  Each episode is titled in the form of a scientific theory, such as “The Fuzzy Boots Corollary” or “The Bath Gift Item Hypothesis”.

The second season builds on the relationships and sense of humour established during its writers’ strike shortened first season, and the show really hits its stride.  Jim Parsons plays the socially inept Dr. Sheldon Cooper, whose obsessive neatness, need for routine, and inability to get sarcasm and irony impair his interactions with his friends, while Johnny Galecki plays his roommate Leonard, the straight man role.  Kaley Cuoco (Penny), Simon Helberg (Howard), and Kunal Nayyar (Raj) also star.

So many brilliant shows are cancelled before they have the chance to fulfill their potential.  Luckily The Big Bang Theory isn’t one of them.  It has built an audience and the decision to try out the show in the 9:30 PM timeslot, after ratings hit Two and a Half Men, proved so much of a success that it will now regularly air at that time.  Last Spring CBS showed their faith in the show by giving it a surprise two season pick up, much to this TV enthusiast’s delight, so you can watch without fear of cancellation.

The third season premieres this Monday, September 21st.

Also on DVD This Week:

Kevin McKidd and Sandra Oh in Grey's Anatomy.

Kevin McKidd and Sandra Oh in Grey's Anatomy.

If you’re in the mood for something more dramatic, pick up the fifth season of Grey’s Anatomy on DVD.  Grey’s has never been must see TV for me, and this year the show had its issues.  New Lesbian character Brooke Hahn was abruptly written out of the show, and Sadie (Melissa George), Meredith’s college friend, was poorly received and departed Seattle Grace.  However, more successful changes included the addition of the brilliant Kevin McKidd (Owen Hunt), as an army doctor and love interest for Sandra Oh’s Cristina, and pediatric surgeon Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw), who will be a regular this season on the show.  Less successful was the plotline involving Izzy (Katherine Heigl) who has “ghost sex” with Denny (guest star Jeffrey Dean Morgan) before the long overdue revelation that he is a hallucination and a symptom of something larger.  The fifth season also includes the all important 100th episode of the show, which featured a wedding.

Grey’s Anatomy spin-off Private Practice, following Addison’s move to the Oceanside Wellness clinic in Los Angeles,  releases its second season on DVD today as well.

With a new movie remake due to hit theatres this Friday, what better time to release the first and second seasons of 80’s television show Fame on DVD?  The show followed the lives of the students and faculty at the New York High School for the Performing Arts and it was nominated for, and won, a number of Emmy Awards.

sunnyI don’t think I’ll ever understand people who watch and take CSI: Miami seriously, the first five minutes of David Caruso removing and putting back on his sunglasses is all I can watch without laughing, but for those who do enjoy the series, its seventh season arrives on DVD this week.  More traditionally comedic is the fourth season of It’s always sunny in Philadelphia.The show revolves around four self-centered friends who own an Irish bar and episodes deal with controversial subject matter, including racism and abortions. FX has ordered 39 additional episodes of the series, carrying it through a seventh season.  Less fortunate was NBC comedy My Name Is Earl, which was cancelled last May.  The sitcom starred Jason Lee as Earl Hickey, a petty crook who comes to believe in the concept of karma after he wins the lottery and is promptly hit by a car, losing his ticket.  He proceeds to create a list of the bad things he has done and to do a corresponding good deed for each item.  The fourth and final season of the show is out on DVD this week.

The second season of Canadian comedy Little Mosque on the Prairie is also out on DVD this week.  The Saskatchewan-set series begins its fourth season September 28th, with the third arriving on DVD in January 2010.  Although the series isn’t Canadian, its protagonist certainly is – Wolverine is one of the best loved Marvel characters and he arrives on DVD this week in the first season of animated show Wolverine and the X-men. This isn’t the only animated show to feature Marvel characters; In the early 90’s Fox aired X-men, which received critical and audience praise.  More recently X-men: Evolution, featuring largely teenaged versions of the characters, aired on WB kids for four seasons.   Wolverine and the X-men hopes to achieve similar success.

Amanda Tapping in Sanctuary.

Amanda Tapping in Sanctuary.

There are two science-fiction offering this week.  One is the first season Canadian series Sanctuary, a Syfy original series starring Amanda Tapping (Stargate SG-1) as Dr. Helen Magnus, a 157-year-old English scientist who seeks out non-human intelligent creatures (known as abnormals) and provides safe haven for them.  The series was well received, with its premiere drawing in 3 million viewers to become the highest rated original series premiere since Eureka in 2006, and will air a second season beginning in October.

Finally, the 2008 Doctor Who Christmas special “The Next Doctor” makes its North American DVD debut this week.  David Tennant makes one of his last appearances as the Tenth Doctor, while Dervla Kirwin plays the villainous Miss Hartigan, and David Morrissey appears as a strange man with a TARDIS and a companion named Rosita. Could he be the next doctor?


When Good Shows Go Bad

August 11, 2009

Television Without Pity recently published an item on the “worst of the best”, choosing the worst episodes of great shows including Veronica Mars, House m.d., The Sopranos, and The West Wing.  Even the most consistently good shows have their missteps, those episodes that fail to live up to expectations or, Tv gods forbid, ones so bad you wonder how the episodes ever made it past the writers room.  We console ourselves with those truly great hours of television that we can watch over and over again, including such classics as How I Met Your Mother’s “Slap Bet”, or Doctor Who‘s “Blink”, but what about those entirely forgettable, or worse, memorable for all the wrong reasons, episodes?

Television Without Pity’s comprehensive list covers many of the obvious television missteps, from the “Jack’s tats” episode of Lost (titled “Strangers in a Strange Land”) with guest star Bai Ling, to the preachy Veronica Mars episode “Un-American Graffiti” with its messages about bigotry and underage drinking.  I don’t actually think any Dexter episode has been bad enough to land on one of these lists, but I can see the reasoning behind sticking second season finale “The British Invasion” there, and I was glad to know that I wasn’t the only one disappointed by the Doctor Who Easter special “Planet of the Dead”.  I do, however, have a few additions to their list.  Here are some of my picks for worst of the best:

Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Episodes: “The Zeppo” and “Beer Bad”

Buffy steps down he evolutionary chain in "Beer Bad"

Buffy steps down he evolutionary chain in "Beer Bad"

TWoP included Buffy in its list, but chose the poltergeist-inspired sex episode “Where the Wild Things Are” instead.  It’s certainly a worthy choice, as I really can’t remember anything happening in this episode beyond crawling vines, Buffy and Riley having a lot of sex, and a girl hacking off her hair in a closet, but here are a few other possibilities.

“The Zeppo” is, in my opinion, the black mark on my favourite season of the show.  I have some bias here as this is a Xander-centric episode and I’ve never been a fan of the character, but I found the third-season episode, which sees Xander getting a car and spending a harrowing night away from the scoobies, very dull.  This is one of those episodes I rarely re-watch and could wipe from my DVD set without a second thought.

However, the Buffy episode that is truly the worst of the best is the universally loathed “Beer Bad”.  I’d love to know how this was pitched in the writers room and the response it received.  Did it really seem like a good idea on paper?  The episode features Buffy, still hurting from Parker’s rejection after they slept together,  getting drunk with four college boys and waking up the next morning to more than a hangover.  The beer turns them all into Neanderthals and the boys begin a fire that Buffy saves Parker from.  In the episode’s only good moment, Neanderthal Buffy beats him with a club when he apologizes for his actions.

Show: Lost
Episode: The Kate-centric episodes (including “Eggtown” and “Whatever the Case May Be”)

Evangeline Lily plays ex-con Kate Austen in Lost.

Evangeline Lily plays ex-con Kate Austen in Lost.

Since the beginning I’ve had a few issues with Lost.  Plotlines and monsters were introduced only to be forgotten about or never explained and more new characters than should ever be on a supposedly deserted island kept coming out of the woodwork.  The main problem though was consistency and much of this depended on the character who was featured in the episode.  So I came to dread the Kate episodes, preparing for what was bound to be a dreary hour.  As an ex-convict, Kate should really be more interesting than she is.  Instead I find her to be the dullest character on the island, and her episodes about retrieving toy planes, miraculously not being convicted of murder, and being unable to choose between Sawyer and Jack do nothing for me.

Show: How I Met Your Mother
Episode: “The Best Burger in New York”

Regis Philbin guest stars on How I Met Your Mother

Regis Philbin guest stars on How I Met Your Mother

Many shows rely on, or become famous for, their stunt-casting.  Some of them genuinely aren’t that funny without that “special guest star”, but How I Met Your Mother is a genuinely funny sitcom with great characters and some wonderful writing.  It really doesn’t need cameos by Britney Spears, Enrique Iglesias and, in this episode, Regis Philbin, to be hilarious.  The episode revolves around the quest to find a burger place Marshall ate in eight years earlier that served “the best burger in New York” but it just doesn’t have the same sparkle or the heart of other episodes.  The repeating joke of Robin’s burger being the last to arrive isn’t all that amusing, and descriptions of just how good the various burgers taste are only funny for so long.  That said, this is my no means a terrible half hour of television, it just doesn’t live up to the comedy and heart of other episodes.

Lily: This burger is so good, its like Christmas in my mouth. Meat Christmas.
Ted: Its like an angel from heaven landed in
the kitchen of McClaren’s… where the chef killed it and ran it through the meat grinder.
Barney: I love this burger so much I want to sew my ass shut.

Show: Torchwood
Episode: “Cyberwoman”

Ianto's girlfriend Lisa in Cyberwoman

Ianto's girlfriend Lisa in Cyberwoman

Let’s face it, Torchwood didn’t exactly start out as high art.  During the first season the show was campy, tried a little too hard to convince us that it was the darker adult cousin of Doctor Who, and went out of its way to show the fluidity of human sexuality.  It also routinely borrowed and twisted plots from Angel, including having the female lead wake up nine months pregnant by a demon/alien and using an alien/demon who stays alive through sexual intercourse that destroys their partner.

Still, the first season had some good episodes, it’s just that “Cyberwoman” was not one of them.  The first episode focused on mysterious tea boy Ianto Jones revealed that he had been keeping his girlfriend Lisa, partially converted during the Cyberman Invasion (which occurred during the Doctor Who episodes “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”), in the Torchwood Hub basement in hopes of curing her.  Her Cyberman programming soon takes over though and Captain Jack tries to feed her to the resident pterodactyl.  Really the fact that Jack sprays Lisa with special barbeque sauce to help the pterodactyl identify its prey speaks for itself.

Show: Star Trek Voyager
Episode: “Threshold”

Janeway and Paris go through some... changes in "Threshold"

Janeway and Paris go through some... changes in "Threshold"

Not even the writers defend this episode of Star Trek Voyager, which co-executive producer Brannon Braga called a “royal, steaming stinker”.  It has even been unofficially erased from canon by fans and the production staff.

In “Threshold”, Tom Paris takes on a mission to break the Warp 10 barrier in a shuttlecraft.  However he begins experiencing symptoms upon his return and rapidly mutates into a new form of life.  Paris escapes his planned treatment, kidnaps Captain Janeway, and steals the shuttlecraft.  Here’s where we get to the bad part because the cast of Voyager track the shuttle only to find two amphibious creatures and their three offspring(!)  Luckily there is enough human DNA remaining for the ships’ Doctor to reverse the mutation and restore them to normal.  Lizard mating?  This is another one that speaks for itself.

Show: Dead Like Me
Episode: Dead Like Me: Life After Death movie

George faces off against new leader Cameron.

George faces off against new leader Cameron.

I absolutely love Dead Like Me and it is certainly at the top of my “gone but not forgotten” list of shows cancelled before their time.  The show, which followed the unlife of Georgia Lass after she is hit by a flying toilet seat and becomes a grim reaper, was full of colour, thoughtful, and found the humour in death to great success.  Its cancellation after just two seasons, and for no apparent reason, was disappointing but fans found hope in the news that there would be a direct-to-DVD movie.

I’m glad I read the reviews about the film before watching it or I would have been sorely disappointed.  It isn’t that the movie is bad, so much as it just isn’t the Dead Like Me we knew and loved.  The role of Daisy Adair was recast, as Laura Harris was committed to another project, and replacement Sarah Wynter always felt “off” to me.  At that time Mandy Patinkin was starring in Criminal Minds and his lead reaper Rube Sofer was replaced with a new character, played by Lost star Henry Ian Cusick.  I enjoyed the subplot with George’s sister Reggie, which answered the question left open in the show’s series finale about whether or not Reggie had recognized her sister in the graveyard, but the movie just didn’t have the same feel as the series.  The real pity is that Harris’ show Woman’s Murder Club was cancelled that year and Patinkin famously departed Criminal Minds.  If the movie had been delayed, the whole cast could have reunited.

And one for the road…

Although I’ve seen most of Star Trek: The Next Generation, DS9, and Voyager, I haven’t seen more than one episode of the original series and don’t have a strong desire to do so.  I haven’t included episodes generally regarded to be poor unless I have seen them myself but this is my one exception to the rule.  “Spock’s Brain” seems to have the same universal loathing in fans of the original series that “Beer Bad” inspires in Buffy fans.  The synopsis seems to be that aliens steal Spock’s brain and that the episode is, according to this site, “the most sexist hour of television that I’ve ever seen.”

But wait – there’s more!  It’s featured on a website called the agony booth under the “Worst of Trek” title, and a website featuring fan created Star Trek motivational posters has one just for the episode which says the following:

Spock’s Brain

Look, not every episode can be “City on the Edge of Forever,” okay?

I’m sure my list will continue to grow as I discover new shows and as my favourites misstep but these are my “worst of the best” so far.  I’d love to hear other ideas though, feel free to let me know some of your “worst of the best” television episodes!


Birthdays in TV land

August 8, 2009

angel buffyMany TV enthusiasts have wanted, at one point in their lives or another, to escape to the fictional worlds inhabited by their favourite television characters.  Who wouldn’t want to share a booth at MacLaren’s with Barney Stinson, research the new “big bad” with the Scoobies, or travel through time and space with The Doctor?  Yet despite the promise of adventure that these fictional worlds offer, there is one occasion on which you are better off in the real world – your birthday.

In TV land, birthdays are the testing ground for Murphy’s Law, the adage which states “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”  At the best of times character birthdays pass unnoticed, or wacky but ultimately harmless hi-jinx ensue.  At the worst, the character is put through the wringer with lasting consequences.   One of these sub-sections of birthdays gone wrong even has its own TV trope , the “Ironic Birthday”.  This occurs when:

“A character has had to make a tough decision or has just lost something of extreme value to him, and upon walking into a room is greeted with a surprise birthday party.  This is not a celebration that makes everything all right; this is about the character having to pretend to enjoy what should be a happy time while secretly suffering.”

The example of this trope that sticks with me is Buffy’s seventeenth birthday, when she comes home to celebrate with her mother after her vampire boyfriend Angel loses his soul, taunts her mercilessly, and tries to burn the humanity out of the population of Sunnydale.  Instead of making a wish, a melancholy Buffy lets the candle on her cupcake burn.

Although other shows have featured the birthday where everything goes wrong, Buffy the Vampire Slayer takes the cake (excuse the pun).  After watching her boyfriend become a monster on her seventeenth birthday, Buffy begins a pattern of birthdays where everything that can go wrong does.  For her eighteenth, Buffy’s trusted watcher Giles drugs her in order to remove her slayer abilities, and an insane vampire kidnaps her mother.  The following year an old foe turns Giles into a demon and an unknowing Buffy almost kills him.  As the slayer enters her twenties, her sister Dawn discovers her origin as a ball of energy put into human form, and narrowly escapes the God searching for her, while season six sees Buffy and her party guests trapped in the Summers residence with a sword wielding demon, after Dawn wishes that people wouldn’t keep leaving her.  Her latest birthday disaster causes Spike to ask Buffy if she had ever thought about “Maybe, not celebrating your birthday? Just try it, I mean.”  Perhaps Buffy took his advice.  The final season of the show didn’t feature a birthday episode for Buffy.

Willow and Tara dance in "Family".

Willow and Tara dance in "Family".

It’s easy to forget that Buffy wasn’t the only character on the show to have a birthday where everything went wrong.  Tara’s birthday involved her family arriving in Sunnydale to convince her that she was a demon who had to leave behind her girlfriend, Willow, and her independence.  In order to prevent the group from seeing the demon she believes she is, Tara casts a spell that makes all demons invisible, which renders the slayer unable to see her opponents.  Fortunately, this birthday ends on a high note as Tara realizes who her real family are and is defended by Buffy and her friends.

Cult favourite Firefly, also created by Joss Whedon, features a TV land birthday as well.  The birthday celebrations for Dr. Simon Tam are cut short when the engine room is engulfed in flames and life support is disabled, leaving them stranded with only a few hours of remaining oxygen.

Similarly, Isabel Evans begins her birthday with a party at the Crashdown Cafe in Roswell, but must abandon her party when she receives visions of fellow alien Tess in danger.  Although Isabel rescues Tess from her kidnapper, she also finds out that in her past life on Antar she betrayed her family for love.

Sitcoms are not immune to the birthday curse.  On his 30th Birthday Ted, upon finding out that Barney and Robin slept together, tells Barney that he no longer wants to be friends with him on the CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother. The following year, Ted’s architecture contract is passed over for Swedish rival Sven, and he has an infamous encounter with Missy the goat.

tedYet it is Ted’s former flame Natalie who has a true TV land birthday when she is dumped by Ted through a message on her answering machine during a surprise birthday party.  Three years later, when he decides to re-date her, he breaks up with her on her birthday once more.

I wasn’t looking for adventure, but a year ago I experienced the perils of a birthday fit for TV land.  After an afternoon watching the excellent Queen musical “We Will Rock You”, my birthday quickly descended as our dinner waiter was stoned and we walked through the pouring rain to the movie theatre.  By the end of the walk we were soaked, and upon arriving at the theatre we discovered that the movie had begun ten minutes earlier.  Since there wasn’t another showing, I had to choose between my friends as some disbanded to a movie theatre closer to home while others, who I saw less regularly, had to remain in Toronto.  Although the company was excellent, the night did go as planned and we can still remember the misery of being caught in that downpour.

This year I spent a quiet, but enjoyable, night in with my family.  Sometimes not being a fictional character has its perks.


Thoughts on Torchwood: CoE

August 2, 2009

children+of+earthIt’s been a week since day five of Torchwood: Children of Earth aired here in North America, and although I did mention the Save Ianto Jones campaign, I haven’t actually written about my thoughts on the miniseries.  Although I generally have positive comments about ‘Children of Earth’, it is my firm belief that it works only as a series finale.  Unfortunately, all signs seem to indicate that there will be a fourth season of the show, with creator/writer Russell T. Davies in charge and stars John Barrowman and Eve Myles returning.  Wondering why I wish this was the swan song for the Torchwood team?  Keep reading.

Upping the Stakes

What ‘Children of Earth’ did well was up the stakes for Torchwood.  In previous seasons, the show mainly focused on an ‘alien-of-the-week’ formula, similar to the old ‘freak-of-the-week’ familiar to fans of Smallville during its earliest seasons.  The show mixed humour with drama, and even the possibility of the world ending was faced with deadpan humour by the Torchwood team.

Owen: What if they can’t stop it?
Tosh: They’ll stop it.
Owen: Yeah, but if they can’t?
Ianto: Then it’s… all over.
Owen: Let’s all have sex.
Ianto: And I thought the end of the world couldn’t get any worse.

‘Children of Earth’ featured one story arc unfolding over five episodes and dealt with a much greater threat than the Torchwood team had faced before.  The problem with this was that it didn’t allow for a continued build-up of evil.  If the show is going to return how can it top this latest series?  As far as villains go, how much worse can you get than an alien race who wants to use 10% of the Earth’s children in order to get high?

American science-fiction dramas, which creator Davies has said influenced Torchwood, have used escalating evil very successfully during their multi-season runs.  In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the title slayer begins by facing one ancient vampire, escalates to facing a pure demon, and dies facing a god, while the final season pits Buffy and her friends against the first evil itself.  Its spin-off Angel has a similar pattern of escalating evil.  During the first season the vampire with a soul takes on weekly cases, but by the series’ final year, Angel and his team face a powerful group of foes and must wrestle with the morality of working at an evil law firm that keeps demons and vampires as clients.

Torchwood: Children of Earth certainly built on the evils shown in its first two seasons but I believe it went too far too fast and did not follow a natural progression but jumped ahead to a future evolution, like in H.G. Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’.  Torchwood very quickly became a tense melodrama rather than a sometimes light-hearted drama.  This change in tone is not necessarily a bad thing, but it comes with the price of not being able to go back to simpler times.  The remaining members of the Torchwood team have been too affected by the events of ‘Children of Earth’ to go back to being who they were before, and the show has now lost the ability to play between the lighter comedic moments and serious drama.

This change particularly affects Captain Jack Harkness, a character who was so refreshing because he had elements of the common brooding heroic figure with a dark past, but was also capable of being a flirtatious rogue.  Having watched his lover die and sacrificed his grandson, it is safe to say that we will no longer see that half-brooding, half-flirting Jack Harkness who takes it on the chin, and if we do, what does that say about him?  Is he a character we want to know and who we can sympathize with, or is he a monster?

Kill ‘Em All

the original Torchwood team.

the original Torchwood team.

However, my main issue with ‘Children of Earth’ is that it has taken the ‘anyone can die’ theme to the extreme.  Certainly television characters who constantly face danger must occasionally die; if they didn’t then the viewer would never believe that their favourite characters were in any real danger, but Torchwood has gone to the opposite extreme and killed three of its main characters in the span of five episodes.  This is worsened by the fact that the show’s ensemble cast was not large, like the casts of Lost or Heroes, but only had five people to begin with.

The idea of creating a dramatic ending by killing off multiple characters has been used in many mediums, including the Harry Potter series where the final battle results in the loss of fan favourites Lupin, Tonks, and Fred Weasley.  The problem here is that it isn’t the end for Torchwood.  If ‘Children of Earth’ was not an extraordinary occurrence but a regular week in the life of the Torchwood team, do we really want to continue watching such a dark series on a weekly basis?

While I certainly appreciate the need to write-off characters and show the cost attached to working for an organization like Torchwood, I worry about a show that kills off characters so quickly and recklessly.  Doing so doesn’t give the remaining members of the Torchwood team a chance to realize their grief about Tosh and Owen, who were only briefly mentioned at the beginning of ‘Children of Earth’, before killing Ianto.  This is not drama but melodrama, a never-ending tragedy.

Recently there have been comparisons between Davies and Buffy creator Joss Whedon, both of whom have no problem killing lead characters.  The difference for me is that Whedon doesn’t lightly kill a character for the sake of dramatic effect then seek to replace them.  Tara’s devastating death was not only the catapult for Willow turning to dark magic, but continued to be mentioned through Willow’s guilt over beginning a new relationship, her receiving messages, apparently from Tara, in the episode “Conversations with Dead People”, and a visit to her grave.   Although Willow did begin a new relationship, Tara was always remembered.  I worry that Tosh, Owen, and Ianto, will not be remembered in the same way and this takes away the meaning their deaths may have had.

Unfortunately Davies has made his attitude towards his characters clear.  In an interview with EW’s Michael Ausiello, Davies has this to say about continuing the show after killing half the cast:

I will just sit down and invent new stories and characters. That’s what I’ve spent my entire life doing. It’s not difficult at all. I could write the first 10 scenes in an episode right now.

The flippancy with which Davies claims he will just sit down and invent new characters is problematic.  To kill characters for a reason after a story arc is one thing, but to kill them for the sake of melodrama when their stories are unfinished is another.  Tosh, Owen, and Ianto were characters who the audience had come to care for over the course of two thirteen-episode seasons.  Since Davies has not introduced any new potential characters, except perhaps office assistant Lois Habiba, will he be killing off team members shortly after they are introduced?  Do viewers want to sit down and bother investing in the story and new characters if Davies is just going to kill them four episodes later?

Death of the Coffee Boy

The death of Ianto Jones

The death of Ianto Jones

Although I am a fan of the Ianto Jones character, it is not the fact that he died, rather than Gwen Cooper or Rhys, that bothers me but the way in which he died.  Although Ianto’s death was clearly conceived to be a great dramatic moment, all I kept thinking was how poorly plotted it was.  Senseless deaths happen in real life, so moments like Tara, shot by a stray bullet meant for Buffy, or even Kutner on House m.d., committing suicide seemingly out of the blue, I understand.  I also understand making a final stand against a great evil, which accounts for the deaths of Anya and many a potential slayer in the seventh season of Buffy, or the other Torchwood deaths of Tosh and Owen in “Exit Wounds”.  What irks me are deaths that the writers clearly mean to be purposeful but that the viewer sees as absolutely preventable.

I always found Charlie’s death on Lost to be a prime example of this, although some people have since explained that the hanger door he closed could only be locked from the inside and that was why he couldn’t save himself.  I do still think that since this obviously confused many people, and for me cheapened his heroic death, the writers should have articulated it better.

I find Ianto’s death to be problematic for much the same reason; it was entirely preventable if the characters had stopped to think at all.  This was death for the purpose of melodrama.  Why else would Jack, the man who tried to convince Gwen not to go along with Captain John Hart because it was dangerous and she might get hurt, take the all too mortal Ianto along with him to essentially peeve the aliens by telling them you’re not going to obey their commands?  There was no reason for Ianto to be there, except to die a horrible death in Jack’s arms.

Davies’ response, that someone had to die because “The threat to the world was just so great it simply would have been unlikely if everyone had survived,” indicates that there was no purpose to Ianto’s death except that he seemed to think someone should die.  What Davies doesn’t get is that someone did die, a child at that, not to mention the others involved in the 1965 deal with the 456.  Did their deaths mean less because they were not main characters?  Perhaps they haven’t provoked the fan response that Ianto’s demise did but I hardly think no one was sacrificed.  I doubt audiences were unaffected watching John Frobisher kill his wife and two daughters, and finally himself, because he couldn’t stand to watch them suffer the fate of the original eleven children.

The Ego Has Landed

Russell T. Davies

Russell T. Davies

Clearly I disagree with Davies’ decisions, particularly his idea that someone has to die in order to create drama or make danger believable.  There are other ways to create drama and killing characters does not make something good.  Certainly the 456 were fuel for nightmares, but despite all the insistence that Torchwood is “darker”, “sexier” and an “adult show”, episodes of Doctor Who have created better drama and been scarier, including “Blink”, which will ensure that, regardless of your age, you never look at a statue in the same way ever again.

What annoys me even more than the moments of sloppy writing towards the end of ‘Children of Earth’, is Davies himself.  I remember first being introduced to the man’s writing through a thought-provoking TV movie “The Second Coming”, and then of course through the new Doctor Who.  Certainly he’s a capable writer who has written some great episodes, such as “Turn Left” and “Midnight”.  Yet there are other great writers in the world.  Personally I love novelist George R.R. Martin, comic and television writer Brian K. Vaughan, Dead Like Me creator Bryan Fuller, Joss Whedon, and fellow Doctor Who scribes Paul Cornell and Stephen Moffat.  So I am a fan of Russell T. Davies’ writing, but not of his ego.  I am even impressed by the way he has been treating his fans.

In a previous entry I detailed the current campaign to save Ianto Jones.  I don’t have any hope whatsoever that it will be successful in reviving the character, and that’s a shame, but regardless it is a labour of love for fans who miss a character and should not be so easily dismissed.  More importantly, the fans of Ianto and actor Gareth David Lloyd have currently donated 4500 pounds to charity.  So when I read interviews with Davies where he tells fans who didn’t like ‘Children of Earth’ to “go watch Supernatural, because those boys are beautiful. And don’t tell me they’re brothers.  Not in my mind.” I get angry.  To put down the very fans who have kept you on the air for three years and to dismiss Ianto as nothing more than a pretty face, or his relationship with Jack as simply eye candy, is a low blow in my mind.

He has also said, regarding the backlash, “It’s not particularly a backlash. What’s actually happening is, well, nothing really to be honest. It’s a few people posting online and getting fans upset.”  Yet the 4500 pounds were hardly raised by a few people, and www.saveiantojones.com has received 59,165 hits.  Davies has also mocked those sending coffee to the BBC, claiming only 9 packets have been received although tallies indicate a number in the hundreds, and called upset fans “nine hysterical women.”

I agree that a writer can’t always pander to fan reaction.  Sometimes characters will be killed regardless of how much audience members enjoyed them, and they will stay dead.  What I have a problem with is the way that Davies has been treating a group of fans who have done nothing more than show their love for a character and raise money for a charity that will benefit children!  Surely there is a polite and respectful way to tell fans that although you appreciate their support over the years and understand their love for Ianto, he will unfortunately not be coming back, but you are touched by their efforts to raise money for charity in the character’s name.

Lessons Learned

New head writer Moffat.

New head writer Moffat.

I don’t have a great desire to watch another season of Torchwood, although I am confident that there will be one given the ratings ‘Children of Earth’ received.  To be honest, I am far more interested in seeing how new head writer Stephen Moffat handles Doctor Who with eleventh doctor Matt Smith and companion Amy Pond.  What I do hope is that he has learned from Davies both what to do and, more importantly, what not to do with the characters he has inherited.  Hopefully he has learned that an avoidable death is not heroic but melodramatic, no matter how much rising music plays in the background, and that characters can be written out and drama occur without killing the entire cast.  But the lesson I hope Moffat has learned from his predecessor most of all is how to talk respectfully to fans, because belittling them or forbidding them to disagree with you is clearly not the way.


Quotes from Comic-Con

July 27, 2009
Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco in The Big Bang Theory

Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco in The Big Bang Theory

As I’ve said before, San Diego Comic-Con is on my list of things to do before I die. Hopefully in a few years I’ll get the chance to experience all the madness and the joys of being there firsthand, but until then, this TV enthusiast is making do by reading everyone else’s tweets and blogs, and by enjoying the youtube videos of panels that inevitably emerge. For anyone else who didn’t get a chance to attend the event, or for those who don’t spend quite so much time gathering information and quotations from various television resources, here’s a look at some of the great quotes of Comic-Con this year.

One of the best comedies on television has to be The Big Bang Theory, so it comes as little surprise that their cast offered a number of memorable quotes.  Although this year the show will be moving towards Leonard and Penny in a relationship, a portion of the Internet community prefers the idea of Sheldon and Penny as a couple.  Personally I agree with the writers’ stance that Sheldon’s mistress is science and I can’t picture him in a romantic relationship, but one fan who felt differently asked if he would ever get a girlfriend.  Jim Parsons (Sheldon) replied, “Do you want me to sit here and prognosticate? Because you’ve got the writers.”  After co-stars Kaley Cuoco (Penny) and Johnny Galecki (Leonard) commented on his great word choice, Jim said, “Thank you.  I said I’m not dumb, I just don’t get the science.”

The idea of Sheldon and Penny as a couple did get an enthusiastic response from some of the attendees at Comic-Con, leading to this exchange:

Writers: Ten minutes and she’d shoot him.  She’s from Nebraska, they have guns.
Jim Parsons: I don’t know that Sheldon’s man enough for Penny.
Kaley Cuoco: She would eat you alive.
Jim Parsons: Uh huh.

Yet the most memorable moment came when one fan asked Jim Parsons, referring to the show’s Christmas episode “The Bath Gift Item Hypothesis”,  if he would use a napkin so that he could “grow his own Jim” for his little sister.  Kaley wiped Jim’s brow before handing the napkin back to the fan.

Although I don’t watch the show, I’ve heard a great deal of praise for Battlestar Galactica, which was recently snubbed at the Emmy nomination ceremony.  Executive producer Ron Moore had this to say on the subject, using the BG substitute expletive ‘frak’ while shouting to enthusiastic applause:

“It was a fraking crime that the entire cast of ‘Battlestar’ was never recognized for the performances they gave week in and week out.”

Tru Blood the drink will be available soon.

Tru Blood the drink will be available soon.

At the True Blood panel, series creator Alan Ball announced that the popular synthetic blood drink from the show would now be a reality.  The beverage will be available on HBO’s website as of September 10th, just in time for the second season finale.  But just what will the drink consist of?

Ball: We put together a nice little mixture of a kind of delightful Chateau, cabernet, with some actual blood of hemophiliac European royalty, a little vodka, a little vicodin, a little viagra, and ecstasy. Unfortunately it’s completely illegal.”

The label is an exact replica of those used on the show and the drink will actually be a blood orange soda.  The panel also announced that Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels that the show is based on, has signed a deal to write three more books.

Other big announcements at Comic-Con included the fact that Supernatural might get a sixth season.  Creator Eric Kripke has had what so many writers inexplicably don’t – a plan.  His five year plan for the show would have made this year the last hurrah for the Winchester brothers, but Kripke says that he is open to doing another year of the show and that stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are signed for a possible sixth season.

Finally, Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse panel offered some insight on which Whedonverse stars would be appearing in the Dollhouse this season.  ‘If the stars aligned’ Summer Glau, of the recently cancelled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, would guest star.  Felicia Day, who appeared in the unaired episode thirteen, titled “Epitaph One”, will also be appearing in the first episode of season two, while Alexis Denisof, known to Angel fans as Wesley, will put in an appearance this season as well.

Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon and star Eliza Dushku.

Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon and star Eliza Dushku.

Between offering hints of what’s to come, Whedon found time to quip, getting in some great quotes as follows:

When asked how he knew that Alan Tudyk was the right one to play Alpha:
“I met him.”

On what’s next for Dollhouse:
“We talked about a lot of ideas for going forward after we accidentally forgot to get cancelled.”

On his obsession with big corporations:
“Have you been in America?”

And finally, getting in a dig at Heroes:
“As long as we don’t send anyone back to feudal Japan we’re pretty much okay.”

With Lost entering its sixth and final season, the actors speculated on how they would like to see things turn out for the island’s characters.  Nestor Carbonell (Richard), Michael Emerson (Ben), and Jorge Garcia (Hurley) commented on the Sawyer/Kate/Jack love triangle in an interview with Michael Ausiello:

Michael: I think that Kate should find another man altogether.  I really do, there’s just so much baggage now.  It’s not a healthy triangle I don’t think.  It would be better if someone had the nerve to bust out.  It’s a large role, there are a lot of nice people out there.”
Jorge: Have Kate go ruin someone else’s life.
Nestor: I’d be happy if Kate ruined Richard’s life.

Josh Holloway, who plays Sawyer, had his own theory about season six:
“Me and Hurley will hook up and live happily ever after.”

Only executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse hold the answers and they presented a locked box at the beginning of the panel which they said contained the last page of the final episode’s script. They claimed that they would open the page on Jimmy Kimmel after the series finale aired. However, near the end of the panel Josh Holloway took to the stage with a taser and forced Cuse to open the box so the final scene would be revealed to Comic-Con.

Paul Wesley from the new CW series The Vampire Diaries commented on being compared to heartthrob Robert Pattinson of Twilight, “It makes me so uncomfortable.  9  of 10 girls in this room would throw me under a bus to get to Edward Cullen.”

While Freddy Prinze Jr., who is joining the cast of 24 this year, recieved a response for mentioning watching television with his wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar who starred in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  As the audience screamed, he snorted, “I forgot she’s big here.”

John Barrowman and David Tennant in Doctor Who

John Barrowman and David Tennant in Doctor Who

Some of the most eagerly anticipated panels were those for Torchwood and Doctor Who.  Introducing the Easter special Planet of the Dead to American audiences, star David Tennant said “Tonight you’re going to see the American premiere – the legal American premiere of Planet of the Dead.”

He also joked about American pronunciations telling the audience “I love America, you say premieres and awesome.  I’m taking awesome back to London with me.”

But the highlight for some was John Barrowman, there to introduce the screening of Torchwood: Children of Earth, reacting to David Tennant kissing him.  After Tennant planted one on him, he pretended to faint and let out a fangirl scream.  Recovering, he said “I’ve slightly gone all flustered, I really have.  I’ve been waiting for that for years, thanks David.”

At the Fringe panel, actor Joshua Jackson (who plays Peter in the series), talked about the revelation that his character was from an alternate universe, saying, “As an actor, you never want to read the line ‘And he looks at Peter’s grave’.”

Alexander Skarsgård of True Blood

Alexander Skarsgård of True Blood

True Blood‘s thousand year-old vampire Eric Northman, played by Alexander Skarsgård, received cheers at the HBO panel, and in an interview afterwards Skarsgård and co-star Deborah Ann Woll, who plays fledgling vampire Jessica, talked about what they would like to see for their characters.  Deborah hoped her character would get a little loving in the future, prompting the interviewer to ask if she was saying that she wanted Skarsgård to play her love interest.  Deborah replied, “Who wouldn’t?”

Fan favourite Johnny Depp even made a Comic-Con cameo, appearing to support Tim Burton at the Disney 3D panel, where he was previewing his live action ‘Alice in Wonderland’ adaptation.  Depp reportedly walked onstage to cheers, said “Hey. Happy to be here.” into the mic, and departed.  Burton quipped, “He was in the neighbourhood visiting Sea World.”

Dexter stars Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, and Jennifer Carpenter were joined by guest star John Lithgow, who will play a murderer known as the “Trinity Killer” on the show, on the Showtime panel.  Referring to his popular 3rd Rock from the Sun character, Lithgow said, “On ‘Dexter’ I play a serial killer and his first victim is High Commander Dick Soloman.”

But it was Comic-Con favourite Robert Downey Jr., there to promote Iron Man 2 who arguably had the best quote of the event as he said had this to say about co-star Mickey Rourke, “And I thought I was eccentric.”


Game of Thrones casts Sean Bean

July 23, 2009

asoiaf11A few years ago, while browsing a bookstore in Toronto together, a friend recommended George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.  It was summer, I was looking for something to read, and we had similar tastes in fantasy and science-fiction, so I bought the first novel, titled A Game of Thrones, on the spot.  I quickly fell in love with the rich world that Martin had created, full of unexpected plot twists and morally ambiguous characters.  The four published books of a planned seven novel series are some of the best I have ever read, and Martin has become one of my favourite authors.

‘Ice and Fire’ is set in a fictional world that resembles medieval Europe but has extended seasons, meaning summers can last a decade.  Martin has said that he was influenced by the English Wars of the Roses but that “there’s really no one-for-one character-for-character correspondence”.  The series revolves around the seven noble houses of Westeros, particularly Houses Stark and Lannister, and the struggle for power over the Seven Kingdoms.

When Martin announced on his livejournal, titled Not a Blog, that HBO had optioned the rights to turn the books into a series it was great news for fans, but optioning the rights does not always mean that a film or television show will ever be created.  So when James Hibberd, a senior writer at The Hollywood Reporter, announced on his blog that HBO had green lit a pilot for the series, I was ecstatic.  As he noted, high fantasy is a popular enough genre for film, but has not been tackled on television before, despite the recent increase in science-fiction and genre-themed programing.  But if anyone can do it, it’s HBO, who have worked with expansive period pieces before in Rome, Deadwood and Carnivale.

Peter Dinklage will play Tyrion Lannister

Peter Dinklage will play Tyrion Lannister

The involvement of HBO is a good sign for fans who hope that the more adult content involved in the series won’t be watered down or cut completely.  Additionally, a television series consisting of a speculated 10 to 12 episodes per season, is more likely to remain faithful to the lengthy books, which average 1000 pages each.  The series itself has been named after the first novel, A Game of Thrones.

Even before the pilot was ordered, fans had begun compiling lists and discussing which actors would appear in their ideal casts.  Who should bring the honourable but cold Eddard Stark to life on screen, and which actress had the ability to transform from a meek girl to a powerful young woman, as Daenerys Targaryen does over the course of Martin’s novels.  The characters in ‘Ice and Fire’ are so complicated, and in many cases so young, that even with great writing and special effects the casting will likely make or break the series.

So when it was announced in May that the first actor cast was Peter Dinklage (Death at a Funeral), who was not only the fans’ choice, but also Martin’s pick to play the role of Tyrion Lannister, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.  Other bits of information were slowly released as well, including the name of the pilot’s director, Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent) and that filming would be conducted in Northern Ireland in October.

Sean Bean will play Ned Stark

Sean Bean will play Ned Stark

Through casting sides and a leaked early script, fans have had the chance to see how scriptwriters have adapted the first novel into a workable pilot, but there were no further casting announcements until this Monday, when the rumour that Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) had signed on to play Ned Stark was confirmed.  Both a fan favourite for the role and a terrific actor,  Bean is a fantastic addition to the cast.  Adding a ‘name’ actor like Bean to the project also gives it credibility and perhaps will draw in fans of the actor who might not have watched otherwise.  On a personal note, I’ve long thought that Sean Bean deserved more leading roles.

Although news of Bean’s role was the biggest and best piece of casting information for the series, sources including Martin himself reported that Mark Addy had been chosen to play King Robert Baratheon I, an old friend of Ned’s and the ruler of the realm.  Fans who remembered him for his comedic turns in A Knight’s Tale and Still Standing were apprehensive about the news, but Martin’s wife Parris reassured fans that they had both seen his audition tape and “liked him immediately.”

Mark Addy will play King Robert Baratheon I

Mark Addy will play King Robert Baratheon I

For many fans, the casting of Harry Lloyd to play Daenerys’ brother Viserys Targaryen meant very little.  But for those who remembered him as Baines from the brilliant Doctor Who episodes “Human Nature” and “Family of Blood”, he was an inspired choice.  I’ve included a video clip at the end of this post of his role in the episode.  The actor, who also played Will Scarlett in the BBC drama Robin Hood is able to pull off the taint of madness that is often a Targaryen trait and I expect he’ll be a fantastic Beggar King.

The casting of lesser known actors to play two of the many younger roles in the series was expected and encouraged by fans.  Jack Gleeson (Batman Begins) was announced as the Crown Prince Joffrey Baratheon, while stage actor Kit Harrington has been cast as Jon Snow, Ned Stark’s bastard son.  Harrington certainly has the look for the role, and George R.R. Martin commented in his blog, “You probably haven’t heard of him yet… but you will, we’re confident. [writers/producers] David and Dan can’t say enough about his talent and intensity.”

Kit Harrington will play Jon Snow

Kit Harrington will play Jon Snow

There is still a great deal of casting to be done, including the pivotal roles of twins Jaime and Cersei Lannister, Ned’s wife Catelyn Stark, Council treasurer Petyr Baelish, and exiled Princess Daenerys Targaryen.  Martin recently wrote that casting has already taken place in New York, Los Angeles, London, Dublin, and most recently Australia, in order to find the right actors for the roles.  So far the casting process is off to a great start.  As some have pointed out, the calibre of actors already cast is a good sign that HBO will order a full first season of Game of Thrones and give it a try.  I really hope they’re right, because at this point I’m hugely excited about seeing a visual adaptation of such a fantastic series of novels.

One worry that has come to mind though is the fear that Martin may not finish all his novels before the television series (if it is picked up and renewed each year) catches up to him.  When planned fourth novel A Dance With Dragons became too long to print in one volume, Martin opted to split the book into two parts, dividing the limited third person character viewpoints by their geographical location.  This meant that characters from the South of the Seven Kingdoms were featured in the first part of the book, published as A Feast For Crows, while other characters will reappear in the forthcoming fifth book.  When A Feast for Crows was released in October 2005, it went straight to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and led to the Time calling Martin “the American Tolkein.”  Although it was hoped that A Dance With Dragons would be published the following year, it is now more than three years later and the book remains unfinished.

While the wait for the fifth book is a difficult one, the continuing casting news updates for Game of Thrones are filling the void admirably and I hope that more news will be announced soon.  If you’d like to keep updated on the HBO series, the excellent blog Winter Is Coming was the first to post the rumour that Bean had been cast and is always quick to update when new information is released.  If you haven’t read the novels but are planning to, or if you would like to avoid spoiling the plot of the television series for yourself, be careful when reading the blog entry comments, as many assume anyone on the site has already read the novels and they may contain plot and character details.

Harry Lloyd in Doctor Who: