June 28, 2011

Thundercats return this July on Cartoon Network!

Thundercats return to television screens from July 29th on Cartoon Network! As you would expect, Bandai has created action figures and vehicles based on the character designs from the new Thundercats series.

The new "ThunderCats" will appeal to viewers who have loved the characters all their lives as well as young newcomers to the franchise. A sweeping tale combining swords and science and boasting ferocious battles with the highest of stakes, the grand origin story of Prince Lion-O's ascension to the throne - and of those who would thwart his destiny at any cost - takes on epic dimensions in this sharp new telling. As the forces of good and evil battle each other in the quest for the fabled Stones of Power, Lion-O and his champions learn valuable lessons of loyalty, honor and mortality in every episode.

Are you excited about the Thundercats reboot?

Source: Forces of Geek

June 27, 2011

Review: A Good Man Goes To War

It appears that I wasn't the only fan who spotted not-so-subtle Star Wars references in the current series of Doctor Who. A Jedi Knight confronts Trade Federation battle droids during the mid-season finale...

Guest post by Andrew Lewin

Contains some oblique spoilers, sweetie.

And so the first half of this year's "double mini-series" season 6 of Doctor Who has come to an end, allowing us time to pause and reflect about the season overall. But before that - what about the final episode?

The previous episode's final cliffhanger in the Tardis with not-Amy certainly caught me by surprise - I didn't see that one coming! That shock ending led directly into "A Good Man Goes To War", and we're expecting greatness of epic proportions. For the first 20 minutes it royally delivers: the scale of the Doctor's preparations of assembling an army and tracking down Amy are truly astonishing, with the Tardis and Rory (the Lone Centurion) acting in the Doctor's place and the man himself appearing only briefly in (unconvincing) silhouette as befits a legend and a myth.

By this point we're prepared for something absolutely sensational: the Doctor's (uncharacteristically) casual destruction of a entire Cyber battle fleet to make a rhetorical point leads us to believe that this is the Time Lord Victorious pushed over the edge, driven to darker deeds by an incomparable fury. Except that neither the Doctor nor head writer Steven Moffat are ever that obvious or predictable. Instead, when the Doctor finally does pop up, he looks very much as normal and he outwits the army arrayed against him with typical light-hearted cunning (brilliantly plotted). The battle is defused, and while there is a subsequent trap to be sprung by Madame Kovarian this proves to be an even lower-key plot beat with just half a dozen or so on either side, and the action essentially taking place off-screen. (Judging how stodgy the pirate battle antics ended up looking in The Curse of the Black Spot", it may be just as well.)

It's Moffat's greatest strength that he confounds and defies our every expectation; but it can also be his greatest weakness. Having promised us that "the Doctor will climb higher than ever before", the way the episode unfurls simply doesn't deliver on this promise. The structure of the episode is oddly inverted, starting with epic and sweeping but then getting smaller and smaller until finally it comes down to a rather talky final scene between the regulars. It leaves an oddly awkward, unfulfilled feeling to it: having opened a Christmas present in huge extravagant wrappings, the end result is the perfectly fine but still rather-expected Doctor Who annual.

How you feel about the climax depends on how big a shock the final reveal about River Song's true identity is. I confess, I've thought that she is who she turned out to be ever since episode 1 of this season, when she and Rory were investigating underground and had a rather interesting conversation that only has genuine emotional resonance if River Song is one particular person. The line of dialogue in "The Doctor's Wife" that 'the only water in the forest is the river' sealed it for me, so this week's reveal was not in the end a big surprise, although Moffat certainly played around in the episode with a few red herrings to make it pleasingly in doubt until the very final moments.

A small genius of Moffat's writing is that despite having finally revealed River Song's true identity, it turns out that the answer gives rise to far more questions than the answer every addressed - the perfect sort of plotting. Instead of being an end to River's story, if anything it just throws up even more avenues that need exploring which are far more interesting. How exactly does River's story now intersect with the Impossible Astronaut, the little girl regenerating, and River's own ultimate fate seen back in "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead"? What's this going to mean to Rory and Amy? Where has the Doctor gone after learning this piece of information - how does it give him the location of the baby? Will the baby be lost to them for years, stuck in a Silents-infested orphanage for years to come? What's with the astronaut suit, anyway? And why doesn't River know?

Overall, the episode was extremely well done and great fun - just not the episode to end all episodes that we'd been led to hope for. It felt like a reprise of "The Pandorica Opens" in that it's all a trap to snare the Doctor and features alliances of various old foes; the difference being is that here the Doctor builds his own alliance to fight back. In the end, this felt more like Russell T Davies' era of the show (in particular his biggest shows, "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End") than anything Moffat himself has previously done: only that instead of gathering together a feel-good line-up of his old friends, allies and companions to help him as RTD gave us, here the Doctor seeks out more unlikely line-up of Silurians, Judoon and Sontarans who owe him.

And what delights there were in that alliance. For all the praise Moffat gets for his intricate plotting, it's easy to forget that his real strength is in giving us the most brilliant characters the show has ever seen: not just Amy, but Rory who has developed into one of the true stars of the show; then there's River Song, without whom it's almost impossible to think of modern Doctor Who, such a fabulous and vibrant part of the team she's become. And let's not forget that Moffat also gave us Captain Jack Harkness, the first character to sustain a successful Doctor Who spin-off series of his own.

This week, add to this line up the brilliant characters of Madame Vastra and her companion Jenny: is there any fan out there not dying to see a Victorian Era-set spin off featuring these two? Such a shame that blue-marketeer Dorium and Commander/Nurse Strax are also not available for future stories: Robert Holmes must be beaming down from on high with delight that someone has finally grasped his Sontaran creations and made them into richly textured, fully-rounded and even humorous personalities without betraying the underlying principle of the cloned warrior race. Even the odd minor character of Lorna Bucket with her memory of 30 seconds running through a forest with the Doctor (who doesn't know her) feels like someone with far more tale left to tell. Even if she is dead for now.

In the end, the episode is less of a season climax and a major cliffhanger than the episode that preceded it: instead it feels more like the end of Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back - everything has been thrown up in the air, the pieces are in play, and suddenly it all looks less like a happy fairytale than it did, and more like a dark and dangerous time. And like that brilliant film it leaves us sitting on the edge of our seats counting down the hours to part two of series six in the Autumn.

Just as long as Moffat doesn't try and add any sodding Ewoks to the Silurian/Judoon/Sontaran alliance, we should be in for a treat as the story continues to unfold.

Andrew is a freelance writer, social media consultant, web developer/programmer, technical specialist (in the fields of accessibility, usability, IA, online communities and public sector procurement.) Formerly employed by the UK's Central Office of Information (which provides marketing and communications services to other government departments), Andrew currently provides NASCAR, IndyCar and GP2 racing coverage for motorsports website crash.net, and blogs at andrewlewin.wordpress.com. His other interests include film and television, science fiction - and he never met an Apple product he didn't like!

June 23, 2011

Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Timing

As an addendum to yesterday's belated guest post (I've been otherwise preoccupied). Andrew addresses the media frenzy that followed Private Eye's suggestion that Doctor Who was about to go on indefinite hiatus; in a manner reminiscent of the mid 1980s, which culminated in the series' cancellation in 1989. Ironically, this storm in a teacup passed me by...

Guest post by Andrew Lewin

A couple of weeks ago we had the Great Day of Whovian Crisis, when an article in the June 10 edition of the satirical Private Eye magazine said that Doctor Who was about to be forced into its second year-long hiatus in just over three years in 2012 because of a series of behind-the-scenes problems, which had already led to two producers being dismissed and executive producer Piers Wenger quitting to go to Film4. The reported decision by BBC Wales had apparently "horrified" the BBC chiefs back in London who rely on the show for its Saturday evening scheduling.

The Private Eye article's credibility was somewhat undermined by its insistence that the split-structure of season 6 was down to "poor budget control and scheduling": considering how far in advance this split was announced and how much the structure of season 6's writing depended on this mid-point cliffhanger there's no way that the split suddenly appeared because of production problems. Hopefully that means the article's concerns about the second batch of season 6 being ready before Christmas are equally far off the mark.

But the BBC did little to help the situation on that day - Tuesday June 7, a day that will live in Who infamy. Considering they are one of the biggest media corporations in the world, it's amazing how poor the BBC can be at communications at times: everyone was apparently at meetings or (literally) out to lunch and not available for comment while the story roared around the Internet that day. Initially the BBC even said it wasn't about to make any announcement about it at all, but finally they were bounced into conceding - via Twitter of all things - that "#DoctorWho is returning. Fourteen new episodes have been commissioned with Matt Smith as The Doctor."

Hurrah, crisis over, we all thought. Except that instead of getting clearer over the intervening time, the situation seems to have actually been getting mirkier.

The main point seems to be concerning when those 14 episodes (a full 13-part series and a Christmas special) will air. The initial announcement was taken to imply that a full season would indeed air in 2012, refuting the Private Eye article's claims; then further word trickled out that only "most" would air next year. Then it became "a good chunk" and "a significant number". Then it was "some episodes" and then just "starting in 2012." And in the background you could still hear PR reps crossing their fingers and mouthing 'hopefully'. Far from confirming a 2012 season, we were starting to see it slide away without even the prospect of some specials to tide us over with, as happened in 2009. Even Steven Moffat himself told SFX magazine that "I don't know" when season 7 would air, although he went on to add in typically playful fashion: "If I did know, I wouldn’t tell you. When I do know, what I know will change, so I won’t really know then either. Then it will change again, so I still won’t really know. And if, secretly, I’d really known all along, I’d still be telling you I don’t know."

As it has gone on, it seems increasingly inconceivable that Doctor Who will return for season 7 at Easter in 2012. This time last year we were hearing about Moffat finishing the script for "A Christmas Carol" and filming getting underway; this year at the same time we're not hearing about any of that, but instead seeing news stories about Matt Smith looking at acting opportunities in Los Angeles and Arthur Darvill appearing at The Globe in Faustus and using the unfortunate language of being happy to be "moving on" from Doctor Who, suggesting he was fully done with the show.

The best we can hope for is that season 7 will be now shown in the Autumn, probably in two parts split over Christmas. And when I say "best we can hope for", I would actually describe an Autumn slot as precisely that, the best for the show. I'm no fan of the current scheduling trying to squeeze it in between Easter and mid-summer as we've seen since the show's return in 2005. The lighter, warmer evenings prove a considerable distraction to the viewing public and hence suppress the rating figures once we get into May and June. It's been made worse by the timing of the show on the evening - Doctor Who just can't be properly scary on a bright Saturday evening at 6pm. It should be shown on properly dark, spooky evenings with the rain lashing at the windows and the wind howling through the trees so that the family can huddle together and get properly frightened.

More troubling has been some of the rather public falling-out that has been going on surrounding the news. A week after the confused handling of the original announcement, BBC1 controller Danny Cohen told a media conference that it was all down to Steven Moffat, who "needs enough time to get that done and then start work on the next series of Doctor Who ... Steven Moffat is the creative driving force behind Doctor Who. He also, rather magically at the same time, created and got to air Sherlock. So we have to get that balance right." He went on to say that "There's only so many hours a day he can be awake," adding: "The man has to sleep and eat, and he's got a family."

These were meant to be light-hearted remarks to soothe over the situation, but in fact they just added fuel to the fire. Moffat was not amused by being fingered as the reason for the series' delays and icily tweeted that "The scheduling of Dr Who has got NOTHING to do with Sherlock." It may be reading too much into 140 character missives, but Moffat's tone since then in other tweets and interviews has been on a decidedly grumpy side: Moffat seemed particularly unhappy with the way that BBC News online covered the story, starting with the headline "Sherlock success will hit Doctor Who, says BBC One boss." When Neil Gaiman asked Moffat on Twitter, "Er... is it my imagination or are you being shafted by BBC online news?", Moffat's response was "It's not your imagination. Unbelievable, unacceptable."

Moffat is understandably worried about being left with the blame. In a way it's his own fault for being too insatiably industrious to ever be satisfied with just working on one series for an extended period: his creativity needs more diverse outlets than just 24/7 Time Lords. But we all know how working on Doctor Who consumed Russell T Davies' life for five whole years and nearly gave him a physical and mental breakdown at times (just have a read of the excellent The Writers Tale book for the details); so how can Moffat manage to step into RTD's shoes and on top of that create, develop and run another of the BBC's flagship shows at the same time and expect to be able to survive and get away with it with sanity intact?

But it's also curious that the BBC would see a new show consisting of just three feature episodes as somehow ranking alongside what's supposed to be one of the BBC's most important shows. Don't get me wrong: I've been a Holmes fan almost as long as a Who fan, and I absolutely adore what Moffat and Mark Gatiss have done reimagining the character for the 21st century. But for all its Baftas, that first season was both short and uneven: Moffat's opener was utterly stellar, but the middle story about Chinese Tongs was hokey and confused; the final episode was back on form but the portrayal of Moriarty and the final face-off between him and Holmes met with a mixed reception. (For the record: I loved them both.)

Nor can I see the show having a fraction of the staying power of Doctor Who: the second mini-season of Sherlock will apparently feature "Adler, Hounds and Reichenbach" which is pretty much all the remaining highlights of the Conan Doyle canon; a third season reviving Sherlock from his presumed demise at the Falls would doubtless follow, but after that the series has probably done all it can and come to a natural end. (And again for the record: I'm all for "short" television series which know when to leave the stage and not hang around just to churn out series after series. Not that I'd mention Last of the Summer Wine in a Cloister Bell blog guest post.)

So it seems strange that the BBC should put Sherlock ahead of its longest running success in such a cavalier fashion. The Corporation does indeed seem at risk of dropping the Doctor Who ball bigtime, just when the show seemed to be at its peak, merely because it has an in-bred snooty preference for 19th century literary classics over modern day science fiction. It happened before to the classic Who: history repeats itself, it seems. And the BBC's history with one of its most important signature properties has never been easy or straightforward at the best of times. In fact it seems eternally one step away from a mess and a crisis at any given time, and things are proving no different in the 21st century.

Let's not forget that we're coming up on a hugely significant year for Doctor Who: 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the show's creation in 1963 and a marketing opportunity beyond compare in modern television. Surely they can't fumble that? And yet with over half of season 7 slipping over into 2013 already, where does that leave the plans for the shape of the rest of the show's golden jubilee year?

Andrew is a freelance writer, social media consultant, web developer/programmer, technical specialist (in the fields of accessibility, usability, IA, online communities and public sector procurement.) Formerly employed by the UK's Central Office of Information (which provides marketing and communications services to other government departments), Andrew currently provides NASCAR, IndyCar and GP2 racing coverage for motorsports website crash.net, and blogs at andrewlewin.wordpress.com. His other interests include film and television, science fiction - and he never met an Apple product he didn't like!

June 22, 2011

Doctor Who - What, and Where Next?

While I may have waxed lyrically about Doctor Who's darker turn under the auspices of series showrunner Steven Moffat. Andrew's vexed prose (written a fortnight ago) presciently foreshadowed the recent furore surrounding the future of our most beloved TV series, which culminated in the BBC announcing that it would be renewed into 2014...

Guest post by Andrew Lewin

We've come to the end of the first half of Doctor Who season six, which makes it a good time to pause and reflect on the state of the Whovian nation.

As someone who has loved and admired Steven Moffat's work ever since the early days of the superb The Press Gang, this should be a no-brainer question and a short blog post declaring everything is just brilliant and wonderful. Should be ... But I'm afraid it isn't. There's something nagging away at me, something making me uneasy about the future of the show we love so much.

"This is the battle of demon's run, the Doctor's darkest hour, he'll rise higher than ever before, and then fall so much further."

It's hard not to agree that the Doctor has truly risen higher than he ever has before right now, at least as far as Doctor Who fans are concerned: we have the writer/producer we admire more than any other, who is at the top of his game and producing the most fabulous scripts, season arcs and characters. Matt Smith has made a genuinely brilliant Doctor; the threesome combination of the Tardis crew has given us something genuinely different and new after too many years of the Doctor/female companion formula - even before we add the fantastic recurring character of River Song who we just yearn to join full-time. The production team also seem to have managed to get over the funding squeeze that compromised key moments in season 5 with below-par CGI, because season 6 has all looked fabulous (well, save for one Flesh Jen monster CGI too far...) - even before the impressive jaunt to America that added to the sense of sheer scale and substance.

But I can't shake the feeling that this almighty high does indeed potentially come before the biggest fall and darkest hour, and that there are signs and portents that should worry all Who fans at least a little.

Some of these are external matters: the tabloids loved reporting that viewing figures for the early episodes were sharply down, and while this was not entirely accurate (the iPlayer/view on demand figures pretty much reversed that situation so it's more a sign of an error in the scheduling of the show at 6pm or so on warm, sunny May and June evenings that's a mistake of the network programmers rather than the show itself) it did lead the papers to gripe about how it's no longer a family show, that it's too dark, too scary, too bloody complicated for children now.

Actually the children are fine by all accounts, and follow it perfectly - as least as much as they need to. It's the adults who are feeling lost, puzzled, worried or horrified. But that's still a problem for the show, because this is the BBC's family tent-pole offering, and if the adults are scratching their heads and shrugging before going off to do something else - or deciding it's not suitable for the little'uns - then it's undermining a major element of the show's success and profile, both of which are vital to keeping the show mainstream and properly funded.

When Russell T Davies took on the tast of regenerating the show in 2005, he was commendably open about how this was the most commercial, market-tested, focus-grouped project he'd ever done. Every last bit of it had to be hand-crafted to make sure it hit the market properly, delivered the whole-family audience, spun off the merchandising and won the awards. It had to, if this wasn't to be a one-season flop. Artistic integrity be blowed: to make any expensive TV show, first you have to make the show a proven success to earn your right to experiment. It might sound cynical, but it's survival in the modern broadcast arena and RTD knew it better than anyone. I'm sure a little piece of him died everytime he had to subjugate his artistic inclinations in favour of ensuring the commercial success, but he pulled it off: he took a revival that no one gave much of a chance of really working and delivered to the BBC's their biggest international blockbuster property.

As a result, Steven Moffat doesn't have the same pressures: the show is a hit right now and he doesn't have to permanently look over his shoulder fearing cancelation. That security has given the show an undoubted confidence and swagger; and in any case, Moffat is not the kind of person to ever allow anything to override his artistic integrity. He will do the show his way no matter what, believing it's the best for the show: focus groups and market testing be damned.

It's admirable, and arguably is giving us a better, higher calibre show than we've ever seen before as least as far as hard-core fans are concerned. But it's also markedly different from the show that was reborn under RTD that we grew to know and love in its own right. Davies might have had his problems as head writer (and not really seeming to grasp what a science fiction story really was, and continually relying on cheap deus ex machina get-outs were definitely among them) but every episode was suffused with a sense of love of the show and with a huge feeling of fun that made it accessible and enjoyable by everyone of any age or level of interest.

You don't get that with Moffat's seasons. I have no doubt that he loves the show every bit as much as RTD or you and I do, but he never allows that passion to override his story judgement - or to show through in the episodes themselves. Instead they're far more coolly cerebral, intricate and complex, always eschewing the obvious even when it might end up frustrating the viewer. He is not writing for the casual fan who may dip in and out, miss a week or read a paper at the same time: this is a show for people who watch. And rewatch. And sit and think and talk about it for a week afterwards. And even if you do all that, it's still likely to have scrambled your brain and leave you with a headache (as the end of "Day of the Moon" did for me, I confessed at the time.)

It's asking a lot of viewers to submit themselves to this mental overload; casual fans will depart, and even die hard fans have been struggling to sustain the level of absolute concentration the show now demands. Instead of the fun, easy, family viewing under RTD, the show just got worryingly difficult, fan-ish and closed-up by comparison.

For those fans who push through and keep watching, it's worth every minute. It comes together like the most wonderful puzzle box, and not only can you appreciate how perfectly it all comes together but you can also see how all the clues were left in plain sight all along and it only seemed complicated but actually you really did understand it all along after all, giving a lovely frisson of feeling like you've cracked it and are worthy of being one of the Whovian nation - and that your brain isn't as broken as you thought after all.

But then we hit another snag: where does the show go from here? After being raised to such eye-popping heights, what's next?

It's hard to imagine the show going back to the nice, fun "adventure of the week" format. Indeed it tried that with "The Curse of the Black Spot" and how poor that episode felt, even though in previous RTD seasons that would have been a perfectly fine albeit average episode (no offence intended to RTD.) Not every episode can be a Silents/Flesh/Gaiman/Demons Run blockbuster every single week, but these episodes have raised the bar so high in season 6 that a merely ordinary episode is now a deep disappointment. You pity anyone who is tasked to take over from Moffat, because no one can reach the sort of heights he's been delivering this season - and anything less is going to be the Doctor's darkest hour and his furthest fall (and potentially at worst, his latest cancelation.)

This problem is echoed in a development in the Doctor's character in the show itself: he's become so big, so epic, so unbeatable that the loveable old eccentric "mad man in a box" has never seemed so far away. These days he can wipe out entire Cyber battle fleets as a rhetorical flourish in a pre-credits teaser, or reboot the universe, or send aliens running away in fright just by reading them his CV. This started back in RTD/David Tennant's era with "The Christmas Invasion", was echoed in "The Eleventh Hour" at the start of the Moffat/Matt Smith era, but has now becoming a recurring problem with both "The Pandorica Opens" and "A Good Man Goes to War" both essentially focusing on it.

Quite simply, there is no one left who is more powerful than the Doctor. He is a God. Even the Daleks - who were revamped so successfully in season 1 as the ultimate nemesis of the Time Lords and the only race able to defeat them in the Time War - are now so "reliably beatable" that Moffat himself has concluded that they have no credibility left and have to be rested from the show. But if not the Daleks - who can threaten the Doctor anymore? It's rather like the 'scope creep' that infected the character of Superman, in which a character who could initially simply jump high and run fast suddenly became invincible and as a result lost both empathy with the readership and also potential plots. How could Superman bear to spend his time dealing with muggings with all his powers?

So to it is with the Doctor. He's now so powerful that nothing really seems to threaten him anymore. Some lovely dialogue in "A Good Man Goes To War" stressed how he is now more myth than regular person: how "Doctor" is becoming a galaxy-wide synonym for "great man of learning" or "warrior" depending on your point of view (apparently an idea Moffat had in 1995 according to some links on the Internet pointing to 'proof', but we'll take these with a pinch of salt for now.) Did you spot the sublime way that Rory is made to realise this is happening to him, too: as he consoled Commander Strax, he realised he was talking to a warrior who had become a nurse, while he himself was a nurse who was now a centurion warrior? An uncomfortable realisation for both.

The stakes have been raised too high too many times: the show has seemingly killed off the Doctor, Amy or Rory too often as a result just so that we feel something bad really did/could happen, but it's backfired and now they've all died and restored in too many ways that so we just role our eyes, say "oh, not again" and wait for the plot to unravel and restore everyone to life.

Moffat seems acutely aware of this "Godhood" problem with the Doctor now, and it's why the trope has been returned to in "A Good Man Goes To War" with dialogue specifically riffing this (which in turn is an echo of dialogue that RTD's Davros used on Tennant's Doctor in "Journey's End".) I suspect Moffat's overall intentions for the current convoluted plot arc are to do something about this "all-powerful" Doctor and restore him back to something like his old original self, the eccentric traveller.

The trouble is that the genie is out of the box, and we can't go home again: would we be remotely satisfied with a show of a group of friends amiably poking around investigating a deserted city or scrapping with some cavemen?

Steven Moffat's a sharp guy with far greater writing and creative skills than I possess - maybe he's figured all this out and has an answer for us, and that's what we're heading to. We should certainly hope so, for the sake of the future survival of the show hinges upon it. Far more than the side questions of identity of River Song or whether the Doctor will retrieve Rory and Amy's baby, this is the most important and pressing question facing the Whovian Nation this morning as we head into the summer recess.

Andrew is a freelance writer, social media consultant, web developer/programmer, technical specialist (in the fields of accessibility, usability, IA, online communities and public sector procurement.) Formerly employed by the UK's Central Office of Information (which provides marketing and communications services to other government departments), Andrew currently provides NASCAR, IndyCar and GP2 racing coverage for motorsports website crash.net, and blogs at andrewlewin.wordpress.com. His other interests include film and television, science fiction - and he never met an Apple product he didn't like!

June 20, 2011

Evangeline Lilly cast in The Hobbit

Evangeline Lilly, best known to genre fans as Kate in Lost and celebrity face of L'Oreal, will be playing a woodland elf named Tauriel whose name translates to ‘daughter of Mirkwood’ in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit.

“Beyond that, we must leave you guessing! (no, there is no romantic connection to Legolas),” said Jackson, adding: “What is not a secret is how talented and compelling an actress Evangeline is; we are thrilled and excited she will be the one to bring our first true Sylvan Elf to life.”

Lilly bears a striking resemblance to Liv Tyler who played Arwen in The Lord of the Rings. She'll be joining Sir Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom. Ian Holm is believed to be in negotiations to play the older Bilbo Baggins, too.

Warner Bros is purportedly funding the $500 million production, which will be split over two movies and filmed back-to-back in New Zealand.

“There's no way you can pace yourself for shoots like these,” Jackson revealed. “When we were going through the schedule for The Hobbit, I felt a terrible drop in my stomach when I saw that we'd be shooting for 254 days. We're only 12 days short of The Lord Of The Rings even though we're only doing two movies.”

An Unexpected Journey will be released next December and There And Back Again following on in December 2014.

Source: On The Box

June 05, 2011

Darkly sexy adventures in time and space

On Saturday we reached the midway point in the current series of Doctor Who with the revelatory A Good Man Goes To War. A series first in the form of a mid-season finale. So what have you made of it so far?

This series was launched with a fanfare reserved for a Hollywood blockbuster! One of the leads was going to die in the opening episode and much was made of BBC America ramping up the series' success across the Atlantic.

Unsurprisingly, but no less audacious, it would be the Doctor, himself, who would die. The funeral pyre poignantly evoked Darth Vader's at the end of Return of the Jedi and the Star Wars homages didn't end there. How will programme showrunner Steven Moffat explain this timey-wimey twist without being trite?

Moffat and his creative team have consolidated series 5's Grimm fairytale aesthetic and cemented a preference for episodic storytelling that some viewers may take issue with. Personally, I'd be delighted if Moffat's masterplan is predicated on a single story arc, which he began during Russell T Davies era with Silence in the Library.

Unlike previous series, which were punctuated by sparse brilliance, the current series is much more consistent despite a spectacular misstep, following the opening two-parter, with the prophetically entitled The Curse of the Black Spot. It didn't plummet to the depths of the risible Fear Her from series 2, but series 5 raised the bar.

Amy Pond's pregnancy, masked by a Flesh avatar (spectacularly revealed @PureHokum's directorial debut The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People), and River Song's secret was deftly handled, and I haven't even touched on Neil Gaiman's majestic The Doctor's Wife. The TARDIS given corporeal form replete with some of the most moving scenes in the long-running series' history and there were TARDIS corridors for the win. Yes, I cried during the 'goodbye'...

If we're to assume, the risky notion, that Matt Smith's tenure will last for at least three series, then this is the second act where it all goes to hell.

I, for one, am gleefully following Matt's rise as the Doctor and, if River Song is to be believed, fall. The Autumn can't come soon enough and with it cold, long, nights...

Buy Doctor Who merchandise from Forbidden Planet International.