Ashes to Ashes (Season 2)
BBC-1 (UK): spring 2009
8 60-minute episodes
The sequel series to Life on Mars continues. I must admit to being extremely underwhelmed by the first season, which was a poor continuation of the excellent earlier series. However, with more revelations about both show's central mysteries promised, the second season will at least be worth a look. It's unclear at the moment if the series will continue: the creators have asked for three seasons and ratings appear strong, but Philip Glenister has indicated he may only have wanted to do two seasons and then leave the character of Gene Hunt behind for good.
Battlestar Galactica (Season 4.5)
Sci-Fi Channel (USA): 16/01/09
Sky One (UK): 20/01/09
9 45-minute episodes, 1 2-hour episode
The space opera returns for its final ten episodes, picking up after the shocking conclusion to Season 4.0. Producer Ronald D. Moore has promised that almost every major question the audience still has will be answered, including who the Final Cylon is, what happened to Starbuck at the end of Season 3, who the 'head-characters' really are, the origins of the Final Five and how they ended up in positions of power and influence in the fleet. However, also expect events to take a very dark turn and for several major characters not to make it until the end. Also, expect the final shot of the series to be a major mind-frak of Biblical proportions.
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan
Sci-Fi Channel (USA)/Sky One (UK): summer 2009
1 2-hour special
The series' second TV movie (which will be released on DVD shortly after transmission) is a look back at the events of Seasons 1-2 from the Cylons' perspective. Working with revelations from the end of Season 4.5, The Plan looks set to reveal the Cylons' motives and feature key scenes that have only been referenced so far, such as how Boomer and Caprica Six convinced the other Cylons to live in peace with the humans on New Caprica.
Doctor Who (Season 4.5)
BBC-1 (UK)/Sci-Fi Channel (USA): Easter, Summer, Christmas 2009
3 60-minute specials
Doctor Who will return for a full fifth season in the spring of 2010 with new Doctor Matt Smith in the role. However, in the meantime we have four specials starring David Tennant to occupy us, starting with Planet of the Dead at Easter, a so-far unnamed special in the summer and a two-part epic commencing with the 2009 Christmas special and culminating in early 2010 with the Doctor's regeneration and a huge confrontation at 'The Gate'...
Dollhouse (Season 1)
Fox (USA): starting 13/02/09
13 45-minute episodes
Joss Whedon returns to television and, unexpectedly, another collaboration with the Fox Network. This new series focuses on the 'Dolls', humans who have had their minds wiped and are constantly reprogrammed for whatever tasks they are hired for, from seduction to assassinations. Eliza Dushku stars as Echo, one of the Dolls who begins to suspect her life isn't her own, whilst BSG's Tehmoh Penikett plays an FBI agent investigating the Dollhouse. Expect plenty of twists and turns as one of the Dolls goes rogue and some of the operators at the Dollhouse develop consciences over what they are doing.
Terry Pratchett's Going Postal (mini-series)
Sky One (UK): Christmas 2009 (est.)
2 90-minute episodes
The third Terry Pratchett/Sky One collaboration, although thankfully this time David Jason-less. An adaption of the first Moist von Lipwig novel, this book follows the attempt to reform the Ankh-Morpork post office in the face of competition from the new 'clacks' towers. The previous adaptions were a bit hit-and-miss, but a more focused storyline may make it easier for new viewers to jump aboard and two sequels (Making Money and the forthcoming Raising Taxes) already ready to adapt.
Heroes: Fugitives (Season 3.5)
NBC (USA): 02/02/09
BBC-1 (UK): spring 2009
12 45-minute episodes
The second half of the third season of Heroes sees the main characters on the run from the American government, who have been alerted to the existence of people with special abilities. With Sylar back to his murderous ways and on the loose and Nathan now working with the US government to bring down his former comrades, expect a more dramatic and tense storyline than the confused muddle which made up the first half of Season 3. The bringing on-board of BSG's Mark Verheiden and the return of Bryan Fueller late in the season will hopefully raise the game of the show after its underperforming return last year.
Lost (Season 5)
ABC (USA): 21/01/09
Sky One (UK): 25/01/09
17 45-minute episodes
In contrast, Lost is on creative fire at the moment, with radical shifts in format and setting as well more focused story arcs making for a highly satisfying fourth season. The fifth and penultimate season sees the Oceanic Six getting caught in the crossfire of the clandestine war between Ben Linus and Charles Widmore as they attempt to return to the Island which, given what happened to it at the end of Season 4, is easier said than done. Meanwhile, those left behind on the Island find themselves in an unfamiliar time and place where their skills and abilities will be tested to the limits. Expect some more major revelations about the series as the end of the story, at last, edges into sight.
Torchwood: Children of Earth (Season 3)
BBC-2 (UK)/Sci-Fi Channel (USA): spring 2009
5 60-minute episodes
As with Who, there is no 'proper' season of Torchwood this year. Instead, there will be a five-episode mini-series entitled Children of Earth, aired over the course of a week, possibly around Easter, featuring the Torchwood crew facing their greatest challenge yet. James Marsters has hinted his character may return.
The remaining eight episodes of the second season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will air on Fox starting in February 2009. The BBC has commissioned second seasons of both Merlin and Survivors, both of which will air in late 2009. ITV1 expands its genre efforts beyond the third season of Primeval with a new series starring Philip Glenister, Demons, and a remake of The Prisoner, starring Ian McKellan. HBO has commissioned a second season of True Blood, which may commence airing as early as May 2009. Whilst not genre, HBO's long-awaited sequel to Band of Brothers, entitled The Pacific, also looks finally set to air in mid-to-late 2009. Showtime's magnificently trashy The Tudors also gets a third season airing later in the year. No word on if we will see Sky One's Blake's Seven 're-imagining' this year though. AMC are also working on an adaption of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, but it is unclear if that will make it on screens this year.
Those anticipating a 2009 airdate for HBO's epic A Game of Thrones are in for severe disappointment: with shooting of the pilot by itself not likely until later in the year, and the rest of the first season not until early 2010 if it is commissioned, the earliest transmission time for this series will likely be late 2010/early 2011.
James Cameron's return to directing after a twelve-year break will apparently push forward the boundaries for special effects and the way movies are shot and made. It is known that the movie will largely take place on an alien planet named Pandora and features a struggle for survival. Sigourney Weaver stars. Not to be confused with Paramount's adaption of Avatar: The Last Airbender with M. Night Shyamalan, which will be released in the summer of 2010 with the 'Avatar' part of the title removed.
The previous Neil Gaiman adaption, Stardust, was an unqualified success and one of the best fantasy movies of all time. This stop-motion effort from the same animators as The Nightmare Before Christmas will probably be a bit more niche in its appeal, but the visuals look stunning.
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
This Stephen Sommers-directed, live-action movie version of the popular 1980s toy range, known as 'Action Force' in the UK, has an interesting cast (including Ray Park as Snake-Eyes and, interestingly, Christopher Ecclestone as Destro and Sienna Miller as the Baroness!). Early buzz on the film is encouraging, suggesting that it has deliberately taken a somewhat cartoonish and fantastical approach to the material in keeping with its audience rather than going for gritty and realistic. The hiring of the series' comic writer, Larry Hama, as consultant has also soothed fans' concerns.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The movie franchises reaches its penultimate act (although the last book has been split into two movies, so it's not quite the end just yet) as much of the cryptic backstory is finally revealed and the war against Voldemort gets underway in earnest.
JJ Abrams revisualises the original Star Trek series with new actors in iconic roles, although Leonard Nimoy puts in an appearance as a time-travelling Spock to link the movie to the established franchise. Abrams' mixed record and some fanboy-baiting changes to the established Trek timeline (the newly re-conceived Enterprise being built on Earth and looking rubbish) are not encouraging, but there is a positive buzz from advance screenings of the film.
Christian Bale takes over the role of John Connor as the movie franchise finally takes us into the beginning of the war between humanity and SkyNet for control of the Earth. The first chapter in an epic trilogy that will resolve the franchise once and for all. There is a lot of good buzz on the movie and the trailers look stunning, but director McG's track record (the Charlie's Angels movies) is not encouraging.
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
Expect more Transformers, bigger explosions, even more nonsensical storylines and the introduction of an ice cream van Transformer. Oh, and the Constructicons are apparently going to show up and combine into Devastator for maximum carnage. Michael Bay's sequel to the 2007 hit is likely to be neither quiet nor subtle. However, the news that the film isn't a set-up for a third installment is quite welcome.
Assuming no hitches due to the ongoing legal storm between Warner Brothers and Fox, this is the movie of the year for most SF&F fans, a large-scale, epic adaption of Alan Moore's acclaimed 1986 graphic novel. The trailers indicate the movie will look the part, if nothing else, but confirmation of a changed ending and a mixed reception to director Zack Snyder's previous move, The 300, have caused concern in some fan quarters.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Gavin Hood's prequel focuses on the origin story of everyone's favourite X-Man, with Hugh Jackman reprising his role as Logan. Supposedly darker than the prior movies, the film was scripted by Game of Thrones and Troy scriptwriter David Benioff.
Roland Emmerich is back to doing what he does best: devastating the crap out of the planet through flood and fire. This time he cashes in on the Mayan prophecy that the current 'cycle of time' ends in 2012 and the Earth will be ravaged by ecological catastrophe.