Tag: sci-fi

What Does It Mean To Become Syfy?

On July 7th the channel soon to be formerly known as SC FI will henceforth be called Syfy. I readily admit that I was as baffled as anyone when the re-branding was first announced, but I have definitely warmed to it and think it’s a nice play on the genre name and a distinctive title for the channel. There has also been the concern that this would also herald the channel’s departure from its previous style of programming. I’m convinced now that is a pretty baseless fear. Below is a video of a short film entitled “House of Imagination” that will put a little perspective on the whole change and show you what the folks at SCI FI/Syfy have in mind going forward.

“House of Imagination” is produced and directed by the award-winning 4Creative team led by director Brett Foraker, director of photography is Larry Fong (Watchmen, 300), the production designer is Tino Schaedler (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, V For Vendetta) and the visual effects are provided by MPC (Watchmen, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). So, you know, this isn’t something slapped together haphazardly by a marketing team. Sure, Marketing most likely had a hand in it, but they let a talented, genre-friendly team run with it.

The channel describes the promo film thusly: “The film invites viewers into a celebratory house party populated with rooms inspired by the Channel’s original programs and characters. Goldfrapp’s “Happiness” provides the soundtrack for the trip through the never-ending house, where anything can and does happen in each one-of-a-kind room. Through high-concept visual storytelling, each scene fuses a bold complement of visual effects with practical set design. “House of Imagination” was designed to be modularly deconstructed into a dynamic, long-running campaign of 10- and 5-second network identifications.

The experience will extend digitally into Syfy.com/Imagine Greater, beginning July 7, where visitors will have a rich, fully interactive and immersive experience as guests at the house party. Visitors will be able to explore parallax rooms and to discover exclusive content including games, behind-the-scenes and making-of footage, cast interviews, downloadable wallpaper and much more. …”

Breaking: Joe Flanigan And Ivan Sergei Guest On ‘Warehouse 13’

We’ve just heard from SCI FI that Joe Flanigan (Stargate Atlantis) and Ivan Sergei (Charmed, Crossing Jordan) have landed guest starring roles on the new series Warehouse 13. The new original one-hour series stars Eddie McClintock, Joanne Kelly, Saul Rubinek, Allison Scagliotti and previously announced guest star CCH Pounder. The series is currently in production in Toronto and will premiere Tuesday, July 7 with a two-hour pilot starting at 9:00PM.

Warehouse 13 follows two Secret Service agents who find themselves abruptly transferred to a massive, top-secret storage facility in windswept South Dakota which houses every strange artifact, mysterious relic, fantastical object and supernatural souvenir ever collected by the U.S. government. The Warehouse’s caretaker Artie (Rubinek) charges Pete (McClintock) and Myka (Kelly) with chasing down reports of supernatural and paranormal activity in search of new objects to cache at the Warehouse, as well as helping him to control the warehouse itself.

Joe Flanigan will be playing the handsome and wealthy Jeff Weaver, whose charm captures Myka’s interest, but he finds himself under Pete and Myka’s scrutiny when a sculpture on which he bid vanishes in an impossible heist.

Ivan Sergei will be appearing as Ross, an EMT from Unionville, New York. Ross and some of the other townspeople begin to display bizarre behavioral symptoms – involuntary (and potentially dangerous) expressions of their subconscious desires.

Warehouse 13 is produced for SCI FI by Universal Cable Productions. The executive producer is Jack Kenny (The Book of Daniel) who also serves as showrunner. David Simkins (Dresden Files) is also an executive producer; Jace Alexander (Burn Notice, Rescue Me) is co-executive producer and director of the pilot; and Stephen Surjik (Monk, Burn Notice) is producer/director of the series.

Congratulations to Joe and Ivan. I know their fans, myself included, will be pleased to see both of them on the screen again. Stay tuned to Pop Culture Zoo for more on Warehouse 13 in the next few days!

Robert Carlyle Leads ‘Stargate Universe’

Well, now we can definitely say who will not be taking over Doctor Who when David Tennant leaves next year. SCI FI has just announced that the brilliant Scottish actor Robert Carlyle has been cast in the lead role of Dr. David Rush in the latest addition to their popular franchise, Stargate Universe. This is actually a surprise as I never figured Carlyle as someone interested in a regular stint on an ongoing series. I didn’t seriously consider him a contender for Doctor Who for that very reason, although this explains where that rumor may have come from since his character will be a doctor. I will say that I have greatly enjoyed several of Carlyle’s films and he’s the caliber of actor that instantly raises the quality of any project he’s involved with. The trick now will be to round out the cast with people that can rise to the level set by Carlyle’s talents and to write scripts that are worthy of him. I am confident the Stargate folks can accomplish both.


New York, NY – December 15, 2008 – Award-winning Scottish actor Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, The Full Monty) has been cast in the leading role of Dr. David Rush on SCI FI’s highly anticipated new original series, Stargate Universe, the latest adventure in the Stargate franchise produced by MGM television. Production will begin in Vancouver in February ’09 with an eye toward a summer 2009 premiere. Additional casting is currently underway.

“We couldn’t be more excited to set Robert Carlyle for Stargate Universe. He brings a depth, intelligence, and complexity to his roles, which will fit perfectly with the fresh, new reinvention of this franchise, “said Mark Stern, Executive Vice President, Original Programming for SCI FI & Co-Head Original Content, Universal Cable Productions.

Edgier and younger in tone than the two previous series, SGU follows a band of soldiers, scientists and civilians, who must fend for themselves as they are forced through a Stargate when their hidden base comes under attack. The desperate survivors emerge aboard an ancient ship missing in the far reaches of space. As they fight to survive, Dr. Rush (Carlyle) works to unlock the mysteries of the ship and return the group home, but evidence of his ulterior motives soon arises.

Brad Wright and Robert Cooper, co-creators of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis and who both currently serve as executive producers on Atlantis, will serve as executive producers and writers on the new series.

Carlyle is best recognized for his roles as Francis Begbie in Danny Boyle’s hit independent film Trainspotting and the stripper Gaz in The Full Monty, which earned him both a BAFTA and SAG Award for his outstanding performance. His career began in the UK where he gained attention in the British television series Cracker featuring Robbie Coltrane. He has starred in such films including 28 Weeks Later, The World Is Not Enough, Angela’s Ashes and The Beach, where he re-teamed with Boyle. His television credits include the Emmyâ-winning miniseries Hitler: The Rise of Evil, and Human Trafficking, which garnered him an Emmyâ Award nomination. He recently starred in 24: Redemption opposite Keifer Sutherland.

Stargate Universe will debut as a two-hour movie event on SCI FI and will be distributed by MGM Worldwide Television Distribution.

SCI FI Takes Us Back To ‘Caprica’

The SCI FI Channel has given the go-ahead for a full 20 episode first season of the Battlestar Galactica prequel series Caprica. The two-hour pilot episode was shot earlier this year and will be included as part of the order. Caprica stars Eric Stoltz (Milk, Chicago Hope), Esai Morales (Jericho, NYPD Blue), Paula Malcomson (Deadwood, ER) and Golden Globe nominee Polly Walker (Cane, Rome).

Per the Press Release: “Set 50 years before Battlestar Galactica, Caprica follows two rival families – the Graystones and the Adamas – as they grow, compete, and thrive in the vibrant world of the 12 Colonies, a society recognizably close to our own. Enmeshed in the burgeoning technology of artificial intelligence and robotics that will eventually lead to the creation of the Cylons, the two houses go toe-to-toe blending action with corporate conspiracy and sexual politics. Caprica will deliver all of the passion, intrigue, political backbiting and family conflict in television’s first science fiction family saga. Production on the series is slated to begin summer ’09 in Vancouver for a 2010 premiere. Jeffrey Reiner (Friday Night Lights) directed the pilot.

As the series begins, a startling development is about to occur – the creation of the first cybernetic life-form node or “Cylon” – the ability to marry artificial intelligence with mechanical bodies. Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) – father of future Battlestar commander William Adama (Sina Najafi) – a renowned civil liberties lawyer, becomes an opponent of the experiments undertaken by the Graystones (Eric Stoltz), owners of a large computer corporation that is spearheading the development of these living robots: the Cylons.”

Caprica is produced by Universal Cable Productions and executive produced by Ronald D. Moore and David Eick (Battlestar Galactica) and Remi Aubuchon (24). It is co-written by Aubuchon and Moore and directed by Jeffrey Reiner (Friday Night Lights).

I wasn’t so sure about Caprica at first, but the more I hear about it the more interested I get. I think they’re being pretty smart by not trying to show everybody’s parents and grandparents and just focusing on the Adamas. And delving into the origin of the Cylons adds another layer to the parent series that will probably demand a re-watch of BSG. I was hoping we’d get to see the pilot movie soon in order to get an idea of what to expect, but it looks like we will have to wait until 2010 as it sounds like the pilot will now be a two-part series premiere. As always, we will let you know more details as we get them. In the meantime, let us know what you think about this new prequel series.

Talking Physics, Astronomy And ‘Stargate Atlantis’ With Bill Nye

“Brain Storm”, the latest episode of Stargate Atlantis, guest-stars Dave Foley, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. Also known as the “Science Guy”, Nye has shown many people the fun and entertaining side to science. His show, Bill Nye the Science Guy ran for four years on PBS and majorly influenced me in an interest in physics and astronomy. Thanks to SCI FI, I recently had a chance to speak with him about his appearance on Stargate and a whole range of other topics. While this may not read as funny, trust me when I say he had me laughing the entire conversation. Note: there are some mild spoilers below so you may want to read this after you watch the episode.

PCZ: How did you get involved with doing an episode of Stargate Atlantis?

BN: Robert Picardo is on the advisory board of The Planetary Society. I have been a member of The Planetary Society since 1980. Now I’m the vice president and he and I have become really good friends. So he asked me if I’d be interested and he asked them [the producers] if they’d be interested and we converged. It turns out that Stargate-ians are all big Bill Nye fans. It’s cool.

PCZ: Most of the time on a show like Stargate, a fictional show, it’s usually…

BN: Fictional, what?!? Are you kidding? That’s not real?

PCZ: You tell me, how real is it?

BN: I’ll just tell you, [on the episode I’m in] the world almost ends, man. It takes us like fifty-four minutes to keep the world from ending. We really had to focus.

PCZ: When they came to you was it always that you were going to be yourself and have such a large role in the episode? Usually they bring the guest star through as themselves for a few minutes, they make a few jokes and then go away. But you keep showing up and you help save the day.

BN: I know, yeah. They let me ad-lib a couple of lines. “I can do math, I’m an engineer!” “It’s a convolution integral,” or something like that. I don’t know if that made it in.

PCZ: Did you get to make up some of the science or help keep the science real?

BN: Well, I mean I made a couple of suggestions. The whole plutoid thing, did that make it in?

PCZ: Yes it did.

BN: Oh good, I made that up or expressed that. Did the public service announcement make it in? The PSA about the importance of science-fiction and imagination and stuff?

PCZ: I just saw a rough cut of the episode and it wasn’t included.

BN: It’ll be after the show. Let me just say it was the most fun [being in the episode]. Oh man, the big thing for me I got to just be an actor. Normally, you know, I’m a producer too. I bring the beakers and I develop the demonstration, a lot of extra dinking around. But in this thing I was just acting.

PCZ: That’s easier, right?

BN: Well, it’s easier if that’s all your doing, if you only have one role. I mean it’s gotta be harder to be the player-coach than the player.

PCZ: Had you watched Stargate before?

BN: Yeah. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a religious, never-miss-it guy, but I watched it many times.

PCZ: So how does it hold up as far as plausible science or real science?

BN: Oh, that’s another thing about this episode for me. It’s just a cool idea. You know, we all want as engineers and physicists the second law of thermodynamics to not be true. We want somehow to be able to move heat from one place to another without the enormous physics penalty that we have. I don’t know if you know what I mean, but if you’re gonna move heat around there’s this thing called the Carnot efficiency that just crushes your smokes, as we say. It makes it really difficult. Your dream ever since you’re a little kid is that that is really not true, that there is some physics way around that which is not perfectly analogous, but reminiscent of the idea that time isn’t always going one way. If you could go through a wormhole wouldn’t that be great to end up at another part of the universe at another time? Wouldn’t that just be a wonderful thing? And so that’s the premise of Stargate.

“If you could go through a wormhole wouldn’t that be great to end up at another part of the universe at another time? Wouldn’t that just be a wonderful thing?”

So, this guy has a way around the second law of thermodynamics. It’s wonderful, it’s a great idea as far as science-fiction goes. It’s really good and that was another thing that really really appealed to me. Also, and I’ve said this a hundred times, but [episode writer and director] Martin Gero is really good he’s going to go somewhere huge I think.

PCZ: Do you think a show like Stargate fits in well with your idea of combining entertainment and science to get people interested in it?

BN: Well, there’s a couple of things about Stargate includes a hopeful view of the future. It’s inherently optimistic that we will solve the world’s problems and we will have the wonderful luxury of cruising all over the place and as we do everybody will get along. I mean there’s wraiths and they’re trouble, sure. We’re trying to talk them out of it with that genetic modification. I don’t know if that’s going to get resolved. I don’t want to frighten your readers, but the wraith could be a problem for a long time.

At any rate, at any wraith, I love the optimist quality of science-fiction. For somebody my age this goes back to Star Trek where if we just played our cards right things would be better. So Stargate Atlantis has this inherently optimistic thing. The great thing about Stargate Atlantis is just the vulnerability of every character. Every character just has so much trouble. Rodney! Dude! And Keller, she’s just so vulnerable so fragile, yet she’s tough, you know?

PCZ: You and Neil deGrasse Tyson just get to tear Rodney apart in front of his date.

BN: Well, we did our best. Hey, did the whistle come out? They walk away and I whistle? There was a lot of ambiance and I’m not sure I was whistling very strongly.

PCZ: Yes, that made it in. Was that another ad lib?

BN: Oh yeah. The way it was [originally] written was that it didn’t quite point out that Neil is very happily married, so he’s not going to hit on her. So I had to sort of slip that in.

PCZ: That was a nice little line there as well.

BN: Neil’s wife is something, she’s quite charming and brilliant. They met in astrophysics grad school for crying out loud! He’s the real deal that Neil. He almost always includes his middle name, it’s his thing. Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s his deal, who am I to judge? I think the fewer names the better.

PCZ: Bill Nye is very concise and it’s right to the point.

BN: It’s right there and you’re done.

PCZ: When you do a role where you’re yourself are you playing exactly yourself or is it more of an exaggerated version?

BN: Well, the guy on camera is a little more wound up than I am. I don’t drop as many things on my feet as the Science Guy does. The Science Guy’s a lot of trouble. He’s always getting hit in the head with an anvil. The world was ending people!

PCZ: You’re going to be a little high strung…

BN: Yes! The world’s ending, ok?!?

PCZ: You still maintained your cool. I thought you kept everyone focused.

BN: Well, [quoting himself from the episode] “I can do math, I’m an engineer! Now, Rodney, this epsilon is a function of time! The convolution integral is not a constant here. I’ve been telling you all this for hours, man! At least 50 minutes I’ve been telling you this!” And Dave Foley was great, he was cracking me up.

PCZ: Between you, Dave Foley and David Hewlett how did you keep it straight?

BN: Dave Hewlett, man that guy. He works hard I tell ya. He’s a good guy.

PCZ: This episode is all based in one building. Did you get to go see the Stargate?

BN: No I didn’t have time, too much going on. We hope we are going to be back. This Stargate is going to get canceled, but there will be derivative products and I hope we get sucked into that.

PCZ: There’ll be another series as well.

BN: Exactly. Like Star Trek just reinvent it all the time. So we are hopeful that we get sucked into that. We, the royal we for I, me, Bill. I want to get sucked back into the vortex. It was so much fun and I’m wearing a tuxedo, come on! In downtown Vancouver, down by Robson Street, walking around in the evening. And I bought a pair of shoes there that I wore on camera all week.

PCZ: You kind of had the James Bond thing going on there.

BN: Sure I did, sure I did. And that was my tie and Neil’s tie, we both brought our ties. When you’re playing yourself you can pull that off. That tie is custom made. I was at a science museum in London a couple of weeks ago and I bought a tie at the Science Center and it’s a straight tie and I send it to this company in Vermont called Beau Ties. Get it? Beau Ties will make a straight tie into a bow tie for thirty bucks. I’ve had two dozen ties made into a bow tie. The one with the planets on it started out as a straight tie and Neil owns another version of that tie from the same company, but he uses it as a straight tie. But we look good I mean, come on, you’re standing around in a tuxedo for four days. What’s not to love about that? Neil, he’s a busy guy. He’s on the NASA board and the National Advisory Council, so he was only there for a day.

“But we look good I mean, come on, you’re standing around in a tuxedo for four days. What’s not to love about that?”

PCZ: And you supported his downgrading Pluto from planet status?

BN: Absolutely, because there’s very good, as we say, pedagogical reasons for that. Pluto is different from the other planets and that is a great thing to know if you’re a kid, if you’re anybody. It’s good to understand that Pluto is inherently not like the planets in what I like to call the Main Plane. The Main Plane is the plane of the ecliptic and Pluto is trans-Neptunian and is closely related to what I like to call the ultra-Neptunian objects. Trans-Neptunian would cross the orbit of Pluto, ultra-Neptunian would be beyond the orbit of Pluto. These objects are form the earliest, earliest days of the solar system and contain water, rockiness and they’re kooky and crazy. If you took Pluto near the sun it would evaporate, it would have a tail. Is a planet supposed to do that? I mean it seems like a planet should be more robust. Although it has enough gravity to be a ball it doesn’t have enough gravity to clear things out of it’s orbit. I mean, the moon is a much bigger object than Pluto. Pluto and Cheron are a doublet, a pair, and the pairs are very common. In certain orbital sectors thirty percent of the objects are in pairs, binaries.

PCZ: I’m learning all kinds of things from this interview.

BN: I give you this because I was just at the DPS, the Division for Planetary Science meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Ithaca at Cornell. Didn’t see you there, it’s really a party. Well, it was fun for me, but, hey, I like [New York] hot dogs.

PCZ: Are you still in competition with Ed Begley Jr. ?

BN: Oh, yes my friend! Ed Begley – what is it now punk? What’s in right now and I’m looking right out at it is the subterranean lawn watering system. Instead of pipes coming up with sprinklers and spraying through the air these have these patented shaped tubes with these very small holes drilled in them and water comes from underneath. Now I just put it in on Saturday and we’ll see if it works. I think it’ll work. I looked at the data, I looked at their test site where they’ve installed it at other houses. It looks like it’s perfect, but one test is worth a thousand expert opinions.

PCZ: So he has no chance still?

BN: Oh he has a chance, but, I mean, come on. He’s falling farther and farther behind.

PCZ: Look who he’s up against, come on!

BN: Yes, exactly. Right now I am still surprised at how cool my house is inside today. Here in southern California we’re having the Santa Ana winds, where air sloshes back from the great basin. The great basin is another name for Nevada and, this is physics and astonishing, the air falls downhill so fast it gets warm. Have you ever pumped up a bike tire and the bottom of the bike pump gets warm? The vibrational energy of all the air molecules that are, if you will, two feet long when you start the pump end up six inches long when you get to the bottom. Compress all that energy, it gets warm. So these winds fall downhill so fast they compress and get warm and dry the land out. Then when you get a fire set by a wrecked car or lightning or something you really get a fire. But my house is quite cool because of these new energy efficient windows. Ed has a few of them, but he hasn’t replaced them all, has he? How do I know that? That’s right, Charlie the window guy. Charlie the window guy complaining to me that Begley hasn’t finished. Hey man, i finished. And shot the lid. That’s right, shot the lid. I sprayed granular beads that are evacuated in this silver spray paint on the underside of the roof. It’s a radiant barrier and all these things are conspiring to make the house so much better.

The trouble with the windows and the insulation and all that stuff is these are the low hanging fruit, this is not sexy. So you replaced the windows, big deal. Ed and I both have solar panels. I have a solar hot water system that I claim was better than his, but he has a new one and I don’t know if I’m still keeping up with him on that. His is three years younger. But my electric bill is seven dollars a month and my gas bill is less than ten. It depends on how much cooking I do. Traditionally, environmentalists want you to do less; they want you to drive less, they want you to wear dirty clothes…I tell you what, just don’t eat! But that’s not what people want. People are not going to embrace that, you’ve got to come up with ways to do more with less. I have a section of my lawn called the wabe, which is from “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carol. A wabe is a triangle piece of grass around my sundial. If I can maintain that just as green with a tenth of the water I used this time last year that will, if I may, kick ass.

PCZ: You invented a sundial that’s being used on the mars rover, is that correct?

BN: Well, I didn’t invent it, but I was a big part of it, I claim. I was the guy who suggested it in this one meeting. I wasn’t the first guy to suggest it be a sundial, I was the first guy to point out that there is no symmetry problem because we’ll be near the equator.

By the way let take a look right now. Twenty-three cents is my average cost per day for energy, the last sixty days is fourteen dollars. I just opened the bill because I was talking to you. And I remind you I am on the grid, I do not live off the grid. There’s a connection charge of seven dollars a month. This is from the Department of Water and Power from August 1st to the 6th of October, so two months. And I’m one guy, I don’t have a family. I travel a lot, I’m not here a lot, but the other thing is I have all these energy conserving systems in place.

PCZ: Well, that’s all the time I have for now.

BN: It was great talking to you and enjoy the show.

PCZ: I will and thank you very much for your time.

Thank you very much to Bill Nye for his time. Catch the “Brain Storm” episode of Stargate Atlantis November 21st at 9:00PM on SCI FI.

[Editor’s note – as pointed out by reader Psyberian, this interview originally contained the phrase “thermal dynamics” instead of “thermodynamics.” This was an unfortunate mis-transcribing accident (Mr. Nye did indeed pronounce it correctly) for which the writier humbly apologizes to Mr. Nye and all our readers. Sorry!]