Sunday, January 31, 2010

Caprica Commentary--Spoilers for "Rebirth"

Caprica isn't as surprising as I'd hoped it would be, but "Rebirth" provided a few intriguing character twists. Four reasons why I'll be back--

1. Amanda Graystone

I don't identify with her or particularly like her at this stage of the story, but I adore the way she can twist the plot. Who knew the grieving mom could "out" her daughter at a memorial for bombing victims? And what a way to finally grab Daniel's attention!

2. More minutiae--links among the two BSGs and Caprica

Anybody else notice that Daniel plays the original Battlestar Galactica theme on the piano? In his lab at his remote lair (how very Dr. Frankenstein), Daniel welcomes Zoe/Cylon home with a few bars of the original series' opening. That theme also survived from the 1970s to the 2000s in a few episodes illustrating Galactica's history. Nice tie-in, guys.

3. Shifting perspectives of Zoe/Cylon

Similar to the way the audience saw Baltar's "imaginary friend," Head Six, Zoe appears as her teenaged self when we see her, yet everyone else sees her as a Cylon. That visual shift provides some of the best moments in "Rebirth," such as when Zoe holds out a hand to best friend Lacy and the two embrace. Seeing the BFFs hug is normal, whereas Lacy clinging to a tall, gleaming robot is a bit disturbing. So is watching a drill approach "human" Zoe's face when a lab tech plans to work on the Cylon body. The visual shift helps us to mentally shift from foe to friend and makes me want to protect Zoe, which brings me to ...

4. Sympathetic Cylons

Since 1978, Battlestar Galactica slowly has been changing fans' view of Cylons, first portrayed as pure monster out to purge the galaxy of humans. The recent BSG helped us view our prejudices toward Cylons and gradually accept at least some of them as "human" characters we could understand. After only the pilot movie and one Caprica episode, I'm already sympathetic toward Zoe/Cylon. Should the audience become sympathetic with characters who, in less than a century of the BSG/Caprica timeline, destroy humanity? Should we root for the Cylons? Or should we feel that humanity has/had it coming?

So far that's Caprica's only controversial aspect and the most interesting reason to follow the saga again next week.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Torchwood Alumni and Random Musings about Desperate Housewives and The Bill

Sad to say, one of my first tasks each day (after making a pot of morning coffee, of course) is to check the news of my favorite TV series. This week Lost and Caprica are top of the list, but with all the hullaballoo about Torchwood last week, it's moving up the charts fast. So...I wasn't surprised to learn the official news that John Barrowman is headed to Hollywood.

Two words: Desperate Housewives

He's been there (Hollywood, not Wisteria Lane) before, and I do remember his roles on U.S. series, but they vanished so quickly that I was startled by Captain Jack in 2005. That role was like meeting JB the actor for the first time. As many of you know, I'm a big fan of Torchwood. I even taught a Torchwood unit in my Honors class last semester. The news this morning has me Hmmmmm-ing, but I expect fan buzz to drown that out as soon as U.S. fans wake up.

I've been waiting for about a month now for news about the next step in Barrowman's career. The CD debuts early in March, now coinciding with that westward flight. If Torchwood was going to start filming in Wales, it would've begun by now. The timing of the Torchwood USA announcement kept me checking back to Barrowman's site to see which would come first: a new TV series or a concert tour. And now we know.

A few thoughts about the news:

1. I'll be watching Desperate Housewives for the first time in years this spring.

2. I previously watched sporadically after Season 2 because of Richard Burgi. (I'm a former fan of The Sentinel and loyal to actors I've enjoyed watching.) Now that he's off the series, I'm wondering if Barrowman's "villain" is a type of replacement. He won't play the same role, obviously, but the series seems to need some kind of confident, sexy, snarky man with a physical build similar to Burgi's. Gee, who could fit that role?

3. The article noted that Barrowman would be meeting with RTD while in Hollywood. Guest shot in the pilot? A starring role in the "US remake," an unfortunate choice of words if I ever heard them? Another project? Tea and scones?

4. Another interesting bit in the article: Torchwood is planned as a joint Fox and BBC production. Not BBC America, but BBC. Typo? Truth? I don't recall "joint" being in previous news blurbs, although I wondered just what everyone was smoking when they started planning Torchwood 4. So...that raises all kinds of new questions about who might be doing what and where. Suddenly I'm a bit more hopeful about Torchwood's future--but there's still too much speculation to know what's going on. I still remember the dreaded "pilot" word from last week's news.

In any case, I shouldn't have doubted JB. He's really not going to be off air that long.

Last week I also was fortunate to see Gareth David-Lloyd's role in The Bill. I don't want to gag anyone with too much sugar so early in the day, but let's just say that I like to watch him act and was looking forward to seeing his next role.

The actors I enjoy most always surprise me. Sometimes it's one little expression or line phrasing; sometimes it's a big old emo scene. The Bill is pretty straightforward, and a guest role like GDL's is meaty enough but still gives limited screen time.

Nevertheless, I almost bought into the stalker's story for two little reasons: GDL's fleeting smile when his character talks about his "lover"'s favorite films and a brief sigh at the beginning of an interrogation scene. They weren't choices I expected for that scene.

Sure, the role offered him a good range of emotion for a guest role, everything from pain to disbelief to earnestness to anger. But ... those two expressions, in close up, in the middle of a longer scene and lots of dialogue--those were the choices that made the role interesting to me. OK, you might think I'm mental for noticing minutiae, but small character moments can turn a perfectly good performance into something memorable. (Remind me to tell you about one scene from a stage production of Heaven Can Wait in 1979 that made me respect and admire Peter Strauss forever.)

I'm looking forward to seeing more of GDL in the upcoming Casimir Effect. It seems like a role with a lot of potential, and I expect more surprises in his character interpretation.

Now, off to set the recorder for tonight's episode of Caprica. Undoubtedly I'll be writing about it soon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

LOST: The Book, Blog, and Conference

I'm proud to show off the newly published 3rd edition of LOST's Buried Treasures, which is available from Sourcebooks as well as,,, and so on, internationally. I'm a huge LOST fan, and David and I updated this new edition about the theories, characters, locations, and popular culture references through Season 5. It's the fan guide with the scholarly difference.

Because I intend to make separate and frequent posts about new episodes of LOST, I've created a new LOST blog. I'll make my Season 6 comments there. To start off, this week's post is about my recent trip to Hawaii. Please follow or link to

I should also add that my co-author David Lavery has issued a Call for Papers for the LOST conference to be held in--you guessed it--Hawaii in January 2011. I'll add more info about that soon, but you can also check David's website: for the initial info. The LOST conference will be held in conjunction with the Hawaiian International Conference on Arts & Humanities in Honolulu. In addition to presentations and panels, we're planning events like LOST tours. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Torching Torchwood?

Yesterday's news that Torchwood may be picked up by Fox, may go to pilot, and even may include John Barrowman in the cast quite naturally caused an uproar in Torchwood fandom. One LJer even included a countdown to fandom meltdown (which made me laugh, even as I knew it to be true--I remember those early post-"Children of Earth" days well). For the past 24 hours I've thought about this really quite unsurprising announcement and pondered directions where, were I given some power over programming, I would take the series.

Like many of you, at first I was simply horrified that the series would go to Fox, which hasn't the best track record with science fiction. Maybe I'm still crying over spilt Firefly, but I hold a viewership grudge.

After the horror came morbid fascination, perhaps the second stage in the grieving process when a series switches networks. If Torchwood ends up on Fox (and that announcement sounded like a carefully hedged if, given that the series hasn't even gone to pilot stage yet), I would expect an American Torchwood with a new cast as well as new location. I'm not even getting into speculation how Queen Victoria would fit into all this. I wouldn't be surprised if Captain Jack made a guest appearance at the beginning, or even periodically, but I'm not holding out any hope that Fox will endorse The John Barrowman Show. (I would, however, tune in if they did.)

Now that I'm over the shock of Fox--but not that Russell T. Davies opted to bring Torchwood to the U.S.--I'm already moving on to my major questions concerning this potential move:

What happens to Captain Jack?

How malleable can Torchwood be without becoming an entirely new series?

What happens to Captain Jack?

If Jack returned to Cardiff during Gwen's lifetime, I would be disappointed. After the events of "Children of Earth" and even "The End of Time, Part 2," Jack doesn't seem likely to head back to Wales, out of all the potential places in the universe he can travel. I respect that, and as a Ianto, Jack, and Janto fan, I don't want Jack to mourn or suffer forever, but I don't want to see him re-creating Torchwood 3 just as it was. Let sleeping (or smoldering) craters lie.

One reason I enjoyed Torchwood, even during Seasons 1 and 2, was the character of Jack Harkness, but let's face it, Jack is a much more interesting character when he doesn't have to be anybody's boss. Let's free him of that burden and send him traveling again--but without the Doctor. Surely the universe, if not the Whoniverse, is big enough for both of them.

Jack should be a hero at times, perhaps a mercenary at others, and maybe an increasingly sage wanderer most of all. Let's see how he reacts in a totally new environment, and keep him moving instead of stuck on some backwater planet for 13 episodes.

Now, granted, the BBC doesn't seem like it has a lot of money for travel expenses these days, but surely those about-to-be-constructed studios in Cardiff will have room for one more time traveler.

If Jack pops into 21st century Fox sometime, that's fine, but I hope his vortex manipulator stays fixed and he can leave when his hour is up.

I'd also like to see Jack at different ages--older, humbled Jack is a sexy guy, in or out of Mos Eisley.

And while I'm wishing, I'd like for anyone claiming copyright or intellectual property ownership over the character to allow the Barrowman siblings plenty of leeway to write novels. Hey, if the Beeb or Fox doesn't want Captain Jack, there are plenty of us who do. Let me read new adventures. I can visualize without a TV.

How malleable can Torchwood be without becoming an entirely new series?

I address this issue in much more detail in a chapter I've drafted about the possible future(s) of Torchwood after "Children of Earth," so I won't write another 36 pages about it here. However, the more important "TV issue" question revolves around the nature of a "series" and how flexible a creator can be, within or across networks.

A series like Battlestar Galactica can be re-imagined (30 years after the original) without the majority of viewers getting upset. Sure, there was the Starbuck-is-a-woman issue at first, but Moore and Eick had a lot of room to re-imagine. Even prequel Caprica has a lot of leeway to present information about Cylons and colonists; it's a new series, a spinoff--no one is expecting to see BSG as it was.

Even Lost re-invents itself each season--and the upcoming Season 6 might be the biggest re-invention of all. Yet fans keep watching because they know that at least some of the characters/themes/plot points they love remain in the series.

Torchwood 3: Cardiff died somewhen during "Children of Earth." The elements we knew and loved about that series are gone--at least in that location or format (or body).

So the question becomes Is Torchwood U.S.A. a completely new series? a spinoff of a spinoff? a re-imagining of the British Torchwood? a part of a franchise? If Torchwood 3 fans are going to embrace Torchwood 4, someone needs to establish some definitions.

The CSI franchise doesn't face much CSI fan backlash when a new city is added to the roster. CSI: Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Poughkeepsie--new cast (with opportunity for cross-overs), new location, no problem.

I see Torchwood U.S.A. as being that type of franchise. Just like a new CSI must establish its difference from its predecessors in order to be successful, a Fox version of Torchwood must look different--not necessarily better because or in spite of being Americanized--but it must offer something new. If Torchwood U.S.A. is a part of the Torchwood franchise, then the BBC could, theoretically, have its own Torchwood simultaneously (or that Captain Jack series I'd like to see).

If Torchwood U.S.A. is simply a remake of Torchwood Wales, then I can't see that it will succeed. If it's merely a continuation of Torchwood 3 in a new location, ditto. Torchwood 4 should stand for a brand new (or newly discovered) Torchwood, not the next season of the old series.

Now, just don't get me started on the little-mentioned note in The Hollywood Reporter about Doctor Who gaining U.S. citizenship.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Casimir Effect: A Film in Progress

A few months ago I found this little trailer about Casimir Effect, a film in pre-production in Cardiff, Wales. As a Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones on Torchwood) fan, I'd heard about this project late last October, when the actor participated in the Hurricane Who convention in Orlando. I'd had a chance to talk with him briefly about the project, and he seemed eager to discuss it. Once I checked the trailer and corresponded with Gabriel Strange, a driving force behind the film, I could understand why.

On the surface, Casimir Effect pushes my SF, requited/unrequited love story, and independent film buttons. I'm interested in the time travel premise, and the characters sound interesting. What intrigues me just as much, however, is the approach the writers and producers are taking to getting their film made and noticed.

Their website

lets fans, the film industry, and potential investors look behind the scenes of this production. Getting an independent film made is increasingly difficult, and the Casimir Effect writers and producers gain their funding from people interested in seeing their short film succeed. Through eBay auctions (about which I'll write in future blogs), merchandise, and donations, people just like you and me can ensure that this film is made.

As an added perk to feeling good about helping promote independent film and new talent, all donors can have their names listed in the credits. (Yes, I want to see my name on screen--and this is likely to be my only chance. That's Lynnette, with 2 N's.) I always regretted not joining the Lord of the Rings Fan Club early enough to be listed in credits--a very nice touch by Peter Jackson. Casimir Effect gives me a second chance.

If you haven't seen the extended trailer, check it out on YouTube:

I'll be writing about Casimir Effect and my upcoming set visit in subsequent blogs. If you want to read my blog site devoted purely to this film project, go to

Please note that I'm not officially affiliated with this film or anyone associated with it. As a film student and fan, I like to write about new projects that take my eye. Casimir Effect has done that, and I hope you'll become interested in it, too.

All About Myself

What a pompous title for a first blog, right? Be forewarned--In this series of blogs, I'll be writing mostly about my current interests. Usually those include the TV series or films I've just seen, books or articles I'm writing, and projects (again, mostly about film, TV, or books) on which I'm working or which intrigue me.

You might also be wondering about the "Books, Films, and Me" title when I write that I'm a university prof who teaches courses about writing and communication. Think of my blog being about books, films, and, of course, me, and the title doesn't sound quite so strange.

Currently I'm focused on four separate work areas:

My real job as a teacher

My books-in-progress, such as a book about science fiction TV heroes, villains, and monsters and a book about Tolkien's hobbits

My just-published books, such as the third edition of Lost's Buried Treasures (Sourcesbooks, January 2010)

A film currently in pre-production that has absorbed my interest: Casimir Effect

For the immediate future, my blogs will be centered around those. I hope you'll enjoy reading them, commenting on them (but please, play nicely!), and sharing them with readers, filmgoers, fans, or anyone else who might enjoy them.