Eureka will go animated for their next Christmas special

Yesterday's Eureka panel promised an animated Christmas special, a big mission into deep space, sinister forces plotting against the town, and a love triangle between Fargo, Felicia Day, and a hugely dickish Wil Wheaton.

The most intriguing revelation of the Eureka panel was that the show is making an animated Christmas episode. The basic premise is that a scientist does something stupid enough to turn everyone into animated versions of themselves. The episode will feature tons of different animation styles, although the panel cautioned it won't be completely animated, but instead feature animated elements. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I'm excited - and, if nothing else, this now means Eureka and Community have at least one thing in common.

Until then, the focus of season 4.5 builds on what's already been established in the first two episodes: Eureka has developed a faster-than-light drive, and the Astreus Mission has been set up to send astronauts to Saturn's moon Titan. Those astronauts will come from Eureka, setting up a ton of competition over who gets to go on the mission and who has to remain behind. Executive producer Jaime Paglia told us that, for various reasons, season three had gotten too episodic for his liking, and both parts of season four were attempts to get back to more serialized storytelling.

At the panel, Paglia explained that he was incredibly nervous about sending such an earthbound show into space, but he was won over by what it would mean for the town: this would be a dream for so many who lived there, and he singled out Fargo as someone who would particularly want to go into space. (Or return there, considering the events of the season premiere.) Paglia also explained that the thought of doing a "big mission" instead of having the characters face a "big bad" appealed to him - though he hinted we'd be seeing some of that too, what with the return of Beverly Barlowe.

Speaking of which, Salli Richardson-Whitfield explained to us that the strange brain implants Barlowe placed in Allison's head at the end of the most recent episode will make her act drastically out of character, giving her a chance to do some crazy things that we usually never see out of the reserved, restrained Allison. Richardson-Whitfield also talked about her on-screen son Kevin, praising Trevor Jackson's performance and saying he will fulfill the teenage presence on the show that was vacated with the departure of Carter's daughter Zoe. That said, Zoe herself will return in the fifth episode "Omega Girls", which features a sinister plan hatched by outsiders against the town. Guest star Wil Wheaton, who returns for seven episodes this season as Dr. Parrish, called this one an "important, pivotal episode" and explained it kicks off a lot of the larger stuff happening this season.

As for the show's other big guest star, Felicia Day explained that with Dr. Holly Marten she felt like she was "being given the most beautiful gift tied up with a bow" because of all the different aspects of the character she could dig into. One big part of her story will be the love triangle that develops between Fargo, Holly, and Dr. Parrish - something that Wil Wheaton told us comes not just because he thinks Holly is smart and beautiful but because if he wins her affections, then Fargo loses, and he's driven by an intense need to piss Fargo off.

Looking further ahead, Paglia told us that they are currently working on the season five finale (which, if you add up all the bifurcated seasons, is actually more like the season seven finale), which will air next year. We asked him about a pick-up for another season - which would presumably air in 2013 - and he said nothing is official yet, but all signs point to the show getting renewed again.

He also made it clear that the original timeline is definitely gone for good - in fact, he credited the new timeline with breaking them out of the old formula and basically saving the show - but the current season will continue to explore the subtler aspects of the new timeline. And, as for the other big return people keep asking about, Paglia said to never say never, but there are no immediate plans to bring back Ed Quinn as Nathan Stark.