Looking back at WonderCon 2011, there were sneak peeks, special treats and stars galore. The entire weekend offered a feast of visual delights as fans were invited to preview and celebrate a number of upcoming films and television shows at WonderCon in San Francisco. Considered a mini-version of Comic-Con, WonderCon this year showcased such amazing films as Green Lantern, Cowboys & Aliens, The Three Musketeers, Hanna, Priest and Immortals. On the television-side, there were sneak peeks at the new TNT alien-occupation series FALLING SKIES, the British time-traveling series DOCTOR WHO, the comedy hi-jinks series BREAKING IN, the dino-epic TERRA NOVA, the octane-fueled HUMAN TARGET, and the alien invasion series V. Also bridging the gap between film and television, there was a special screening of the upcoming animation DVD Green Lantern: Emerald Knights and a preview of the upcoming graphic novel Immortals: Gods & Heroes (published by Archaia Comics).
For television and film buffs alike, it was a treasure trove weekend. It is always a rare treat when studios allow the fans an opportunity to mingle with the stars and peek behind-the-curtain at the magic offered by film and television. The invitation to preview special footage specially prepared for the fans made the 3-day event both rewarding and exciting.
Showcasing seven of the extraordinary television panels featured, here are a few glimpses, teasers and hints at what is upcoming on these fun shows.
Gauging from the packed ballroom, as well as the voluminous lines of fans still awaiting entrance, the DOCTOR WHO panel — even without its mega-watt leads Matt Smith and Karen Gillan — was the place to be. With dozens of cosplayers posing for pictures imitating their favorite DOCTOR WHO characters (including many Amy Ponds, several Doctors and a Weeping Angel), the crowd was lively and exuberant to be a part of the WHO-verse. Things only got more lively and interesting once the featured panelists arrived, including: director Toby Haynes, guest writer Neil Gaiman and upcoming guest-star Mark Sheppard. The room simply oscillated between excitement and a blissful state of happiness.
During the panel, when queried about his involvement with the upcoming season of DOCTOR WHO, Mark Sheppard was careful not to let any spoilers slip. While the preview clips clearly showed Mark’s character to be an ex-U.S. government operative working for Richard Nixon, Mark was reticent to reveal much more than that. He was, however, much more forthcoming about his love for the series, which dated back to the time of when he discovered DOCTOR WHO in the 1980’s at which time it starred Tom Baker. Thus, Mark happily shared, “It’s obviously the dream of a lifetime to be on DOCTOR WHO — they asked me and just like Toby, I jumped 35 feet in the air and accepted — experience of a lifetime — incredible, incredible experience!” He also noted that Series 6 would be a lot darker, offering some of the scariest villains to date. He teased, “Stephen [Moffat] is going to be responsible for an awful lot of sleepless nights.”
Neil Gaiman, who wrote the upcoming 4th episode of the new season entitled “The Doctor’s Wife,” also shared that this was a dream-come-true moment for him. Having been indoctrinated with the love of DOCTOR WHO since his childhood, growing up with both William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, he too leapt at the chance to pen an episode of the iconic series. For a man known for creating extraordinary stories covering a large multitude of mythology, Neil was quick to point-out, “Before I ever discovered the Egyptians or the Greek or the Norse or the Aztec mythology, [I knew] what the initials of the T.A.R.D.I.S. stood for and what a Dalek was.”
Neil also cheekily provided a wonderfully easy way to describe the show to newcomers to the WHO-verse, describing it as: “There’s a big blue box. It’s bigger on the inside than the outside. It can go anywhere in space and time — sometimes where it is supposed to go! Something will go wrong — and there’s some bloke called The Doctor who’ll make it all right because he’s awesome. So sit down, shut up and watch ‘Blink’!” (“Blink” is the award-winning Series 3 episode penned by Stephen Moffat.)
A clip from “The Doctor’s Wife” revealed an encounter on a dystopian planet where The Doctor and Amy come across a rag-tag group, including an Ood. After fixing the Ood’s damaged orb, The Doctor heard a sound coming from it that shocked him greatly. When Amy inquired what it was, The Doctor curiously replied, “Somewhere – nearby — there are lots and lots of Time Lords.” (Neil also revealed that renowned British actor Michael Sheen will make an appearance in “The Doctor’s Wife” as well.)
For those wondering whatever happened to Neil’s episode that was supposed to air last season, it got bounced to this next season after he got a call that they had run out of money. The episode “The Lodger” aired instead. But, feeling magnanimous, Neil happily shared that he appreciated the extra time as it allowed him the opportunity to write in scenes including Rory, who would not have been in it otherwise. In fact, Neil loved writing one scene in particular where Amy and Rory get into a bit of a squabble after Amy discovers that Rory left The Doctor alone. When Rory tries to protest that The Doctor is a Time Lord and will be fine, Amy glares at him and snaps, “Rory, it’s just what they’re called – it does not mean he knows what he is doing!”
As one last nod to how special it was to be able to actually film in the United States for a portion of this next season of DOCTOR WHO, Mark insightfully noted, “The fact that we shot in America was an extraordinary thing, which I think increases the scope of the show a lot.” Just the sheer expanse of everything America – the vast array of geography and rich history –open doors of story-telling opportunities that this next season is gleefully exploring – including cowboys, pirates and a peek into the tricky politics in the Oval Office — and which Toby Haynes noted that it was only once he began filming in the U.S. that he realized why wide lens were invented as he playfully said, “America is bigger on the inside!”
Thus, be sure to catch DOCTOR WHO when it returns with new episodes on April 23 on BBC America, starting with “The Impossible Astronaut.”
The new dino-era story TERRA NOVA, which features a group of people recruited to voyage into the past to save Earth, made a quick appearance at WonderCon as well to ensure that fans got a chance to fully appreciate the new series before it debuts next Fall.
From an extended clip of the show, the series starts out in the year 2149 where pollution and overpopulation have ravaged the planet. Then, after the discovery of a time portal, a group of scientists are recruited to go back 85 million years to the prehistoric era to see if they can find a way to preserve Earth for the future. The fracture in time is thought to be an escape-hatch for humanity.
Starring Jason O’Mara as a father who defiantly follows his family into the past, the show tells the tale of the Shannon family as they struggle to survive in the wilds of the dinosaur era. With strict instructions to live amongst and yet not harm the indigenous life, it is a game of survival to live amongst some of the most ferocious and deadly life forms to inhabit Earth. Part Jurassic Park and part Land of the Lost, TERRA NOVA may look like paradise, but even paradise has a dark side. Thus, executive producer Brannon Braga noted, “It’s not the best place to resettle humanity — lots of hostile things back there.”
During the panel with director/EP Alex Graves and stars Jason O’Mara and Stephen Lang, Brannon was quick to reassure fans that the show is not about time-traveling. It is a one-way trip to the past and the story focus on the trials and tribulations of trying to adjust to and assimilate into this new world. He also stated that the issues of “the Butterfly Effect” would be addressed early on to clarify what repercussions it has. Brannon said, “It’s basically a TV show unlike any other that I’ve been involved with in that it takes place in the distant future and the distant past, but not in the present.”
Despite concerns about the lengthy push back of the unveiling of the new show, it was done simply to ensure that TERRA NOVA’s special effects are fully completed. In fact, the show is the first ever to offer depictions of dinosaurs using motion-capture technology, which prompted Brannon to humorously add, “It looks kind of funny to see guys in dinosaur suits walk around in front of a green screen!”
EP Alex Graves also stated that the show shall continue to film in Australia, which offers some of the most beautiful and untouched areas of the world – making it the perfect place to set a show, which depicts an era that we can only now envision.
When it was brought up that his former television series LIFE ON MARS also featured time-travel, Jason O’Mara cheekily replied, “I only do shows that involve a time-travel premise!” On a more serious note, Jason explained that his character is an ex-cop who has been imprisoned and breaks out in order to go with his family through the time-portal. Thus, like in his role on LIFE ON MARS, in TERRA NOVA, he explained “There’s still a sense of being completely overwhelmed by your new environment – so I’ve been down that path before — but there isn’t the same level of confusion and frustration.” However, for him, Jason simply loved the opportunity to portray such a character as Jim Shannon because he embodies the “second chance” and he appreciates that Shannon is all about redemption and second chances.
As for Stephen Lang’s character, Commander Taylor, Stephen made sure to differentiate between his former Avatar character Col. Quaritch and Taylor who he described as, “[Taylor]’s primarily a survivalist. He’s somebody who knows how to cope and is not afraid of highly precarious situations.” He also clarified, “Taylor is truly heroic in stature. He’s an idealist. He’s doing everything he can to bring about the creation of a second chance civilization, which is quite different from the Avatar situation.” As to the complex relationship between Taylor and Shannon, Stephen insightfully added, “In Shannon, Taylor recognizes a very strong potential leader, which is both very welcome to Taylor, but at the same time threatening to him. Just for the sake of future story . . . I think it’s important to recognize that, if there is to be a falling out between the two characters, it’s extremely helpful to have them come together.” He also noted that given the edict to not kill the hostile indigenous life and to preserve their environment, “It’s even more complex and tougher than if they came to conquer the environment.”
With literally the stakes of human civilization and planet Earth on the line, TERRA NOVA seeks to tell the tale of a miraculous attempt to slip back in time and re-set the future. If the preview clips are any indication, this is a show that will captivate the television audience — enthralling them with its amazing imagery and astounding dinosaurs. The journey to save Earth in TERRA NOVA is a cheer-worthy event not to be missed!
Look for TERRA NOVA to debut this Fall on Fox.
While DOCTOR WHO may have been about a time-traveling alien manipulating the fate of the human race and TERRA NOVA is about a trip to the past to save the human race, FALLING SKIES is a simple alien invasion story – or rather an alien-occupation story. Appearing for the preview panel were executive producer/writer Mark Verheiden, writer Melinda Hsu-Taylor and actor Drew Roy, who plays Hal, a young soldier and son of Noah Wylie’s character.
Executive producer Mark Verheiden was quick to point out at WonderCon that the series will not focus on the actual invasion, but instead picks up six months after the invasion. Being a Steven Spielberg creation, they were not anxious to return to a story Stephen had just recently told in War of the Worlds; instead, they wanted to explore the after-effects of what life is like after the invasion is complete: how do the survivors cope; and who will continue to resist alien-occupation and struggle in the fight against insurmountable odds?
As Mark explained, “It’s a show about the human race trying to deal with the aftermath of an alien invasion . . . Our show starts six months after the invasion, which is different from other shows — the military has been taken out, so we’re left with family men, mothers – and it’s a learning curve. . . They have to deal with, ‘how do we live with this?’” He also noted, “It’s interesting to walk-in on these characters six months later, because the shock has gone away.” He further explained that because the story picks up after the invasion, after the destruction of Earth’s major cities and an EMP has disabled everything with a transistor, that the survivors are just beginning to come out of the shell-shock of what happened and are starting to fight. That kind of story sets a different tone from exigency to a long-drawn out battle that will take time and a coordinated, tenacious effort to strike back against their alien occupiers.
Also revealed in FALLING SKIES, the invaders are called “skitters.” They are highly intelligent, diabolical creatures that look like a cross between a spider and a crab. Basically something so disgusting and revolting, it will give you nightmares. Mark explained, “We never wanted to be coy with the aliens . . there’s no reason for them to hide from us.” If the preview clips are any indication, the aliens come in two primary forms: one is the Skitters who have six legs, and the other are the Mechs and they are bipedal. When asked during the Q&A about the two different types, Mark sheepishly admitted, “Oh, you noticed that. There will be developments of all of these things as we go on.” He then cryptically added, “Keep your eyes on the Skitters!”
Because much of modern technology was destroyed or rendered useless, the resistance fighters have to make do with the meager supplies and equipment they can find; and ratcheting up the suspense, the skitters have systematically enslaved teenagers to perform manual labor for an as yet unknown purpose.
As a point of interest, Melinda noted that the show was originally entitled “Concord,” referring to the American Revolution and the struggle to repel a more organized and advanced occupying force. Thus, she explained that The show is about the struggle for independence — common men called into these roles of combat or survival. She further added that it illustrated the wake-up call of, “It is a time to put down the history book and be called into battle — for there are things bigger than me and I need to do my part.” Thus, Mark said it is Noah’s character who answers that call and then struggles to find the balance between survival and the fight to hold on to the few corners of humanity that is left. He wants to ensure that there is something to come home to in the end — otherwise, what are they fighting for?
Mark note that there is a certain fascination with examining how we as a society respond to such horrific circumstances. He explained, “When you peel back the layers of civilization and you’re just trying to survive, suddenly there aren’t political arguments; you don’t have a lot of racial arguments.” Thus, he added, “I think we want to believe that if we were faced with overwhelming odds that we might drop all the arguments we have and gather as people — I think there’s a real sense of hope in the show.” Drew also chimed-in to add that he thought it was cool that invasion/occupation brought people from all kinds of different backgrounds together in order to fight back — plus, the aliens were really cool, which he loved. Mark also made sure to remind everyone that the skitters are not exactly what you think — they appear to be one thing, but by the end of it, they may surprise you.
FALLING SKIES focuses on how humans rise up and deal with such horror and find ways to cope and survive — to find moments of normalcy in the midst of chaos and destruction – which Melinda noted, “Our characters are trying to survive and bond with each other and figure out what’s going to keep them going as a species and as individuals . . . There are no people holding out secrets. It’s we’ve got this problem: how are we going to survive?”
With yet again the fate of the human race at stake, it bears watching to see how we would deal with the struggle to maintain our humanity when we are the enslaved population to an alien race. Be sure to catch FALLING SKIES’ premiere on June 19th on TNT.
Due to the sheer abundance of material and wonderful insider-information obtained, this feature will be continued on Thursday, April 7th with the remaining four “wonders” from WonderCon. Be sure to check back!
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).
DOCTOR WHO Photo Credits: Jennifer Schadel