SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery Returns; The Orville; AOC Quotes Watchmen; Donald Trump and Batman; Possible West Wing Revival

Star Trek: Discovery returned last week, following a final Short Trek staring Rainn Wilson reprising his role as Harry Mudd. Brother was more in line with traditional Star Trek compared to the last season, with Christopher Pike making it clear he was not Captain Lorca. Spock was central to the episode, but we only saw young Spock, living in a home inspired by Marie Kondo. Young Spock definitely displayed human emotion in showing jealousy towards a new adopted sibling.

The episode will please some who felt season one strayed from what they see as true Star Trek, but not everyone will be happy. The technology continued to look like it was far beyond what we saw in The Original Series, and possibly Next Generation, which is inevitable for a show produced in the twenty-first century as opposed the nineteen sixties. Another huge break from canon was that the officer in the blue shirt was killed as opposed to the one in the red shirt, but Connelly’s death was clearly foreshadowed.

It took until the second season, but we finally found out that members of the Discovery bridge crew actually do have names. Elsewhere on the ship it is suggested that  Stamets is leaving, but I suspect that we might never see his transfer to teach at  the Vulcan Science Academy actually take place. Whether or not he leaves, a new engineer, Jett Reno (played by Tig Notaro), was introduced, who fits more into the mode of ship engineer who can do miracles.

We have not seen adult Spock yet, but I suspect that this might not come for a while, as the season searches for both Spock and the Red Angel. Nor have we seen Rebecca Romjin as Number One. In an interview with Romjin at TrekMovie.com, she said she is not allowed to say when she will first appear. While it might not be her first appearance, I noted that the picture above was labeled as DSC 204. She also had this to say about the character:

What characteristics did you bring to Number One as a person?

Romijn: Well you know, she was only in that one episode. So as an actor, you want a certain amount of liberty to help a character unfold, obviously. She’s got a vast skill set, she’s obviously Captain Pike’s number one, second in command, he feels comfortable leaving her in charge of the Enterprise when he’s not there. I don’t even think we know how vast her skill set is, I think there’s a lot of exploration to do. She knows her shit. I want her to be a little bit of a fast-talking dame, in a way. It was fun. It was really fun to play her.

Do you have scenes with characters other than Pike?

Romijn: Yes. Yes I do.

Can you tell us which ones?

Romijn: No! I feel so scared to reveal anything, like … the number of letters we’ve gotten and emails, I was scared to post anything on Instagram. I can’t say anything.

More on the relationship between Pike and Number one at TV Guide:  “I think that Captain Pike relies on Number One in a very deep way. I think they’re very close. I think she’s got the skill set that he depends on,” she says. “I think that he would feel confident leaving the ship in her hand if he had to and there’s room to explore it further.”

Alex Kurtzman discussed the episode with The Hollywood Reporter:

Discovery season one seemed like a declarative end of a chapter with the Federation-Klingon war coming to its conclusion. Why did you choose to start the second chapter by bringing in the Enterprise, considering its notoriety?

We discover in season one that Michael has a relationship with Spock. The mystery of why Spock, who we’ve known for over 50 years, has never mentioned his sister, is huge. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to answer that question in one or two episodes. It was easily going to be the substance of a whole season. This season is a deep-dive into that relationship and what went wrong, their history and where they’re headed. That excited me. It’s the unwritten chapter of how Spock became the character that we meet in the original series. We’ll come to understand that were it not for his relationship with Michael, many of the things we know and love about Spock may not have flowered in the way that they did.

What prompted your characterization of Pike, considering what the audience has seen of him in other depictions?

He’s established as a pretty specific figure in [the original series episodes] “The Menagerie” and “The Cage.” And obviously, I have Bruce Greenwood in my mind from my work on the J.J. Abrams movies. Everybody thinks of Pike as a noble, just and kind captain. It felt right that in the wake of a captain like Lorca who was so manipulative and wreaked havoc on the ship, we needed a captain who was 180 degrees in the other direction. It felt like an interesting and different take, a new flavor for the show.

The episode primarily focuses on Pike attempting to solidify his dynamic with the characters aboard Discovery. How did you find the beats of seeking out that trust from both ends of the relationship?

Pike sat out the war. We’re going to learn a lot more about that over the course of the season. He sat out the war because he was ordered to, and that created a big problem for him. He had to sit there and watch many of his friends and colleagues die, and feel entirely helpless in the process. He’s a captain who wants to make up for lost time, who wants to correct an error. It was hard for him to watch all these people die, and that’s a huge part of what drives him. If a character were to caution him to slow down, that would be very difficult for him. I think that’s where we will see him find tension with this crew. It’s not because he’s manipulating him; it’s because there may be a difference in procedure. As a captain, you have to make difficult decisions that may require allowing certain members of your crew to be at risk to save others. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Let’s talk about the introduction of this mystery of the seven signals, as well as the “Red Angel.” These were both featured prominently in the trailers leading up to the premiere and served as a crucial part of the episode as well. How did you come up with these mystical enigmas?

Initially, it started as a conversation about the way in which Trek has dealt with the issue of space vs. science. Gene Roddenberry had a very specific take on religion as it relates to Star Trek. In the original series, religion doesn’t exist. Yet, faith is something that has always been a major topic in different ways. The idea of this mystery that has no answer immediately suggests a presence or force greater than anything anyone has ever known. It was intriguing to us. The other reason for the Red Angel was that it sheds specific light on Spock’s dilemma at that point in his life. Spock has, as we all know, a unique relationship to logic. And logic fails him in dealing with the Red Angel. He doesn’t know whether to turn to logic or emotions to solve the mystery. The only way he can work through it is with his sister, to whom he has a very complicated relationship. It felt like a really wonderful way to get them to have to wrestle with each other over a larger mystery.

CBS All Access confirmed yet another spin-off series earlier this month with Michelle Yeoh to star, concentrating on Captain Georgiou’s role in Section 31. This will also be seen during the second season of Discovery. From the announcement:

CBS All Access today announced plans to further expand the “Star Trek” universe with a newlive-action series in development starring Michelle Yeoh. The series will expand on Yeoh’s current role as a member of Starfleet’s Section 31 division, a shadow organization within the Federation, on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, which debuts its second season Thursday, Jan. 17 exclusively on CBS All Access in the U.S., and is distributed concurrently by CBS Studios International on Netflix in 188 countries and in Canada on Bell Media’s Space channel and OTT service CraveTV.

The series will be produced by CBS Television Studios, Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment. Alex Kurtzman, Heather Kadin, Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth will serve as executive producers. Aaron Baiers will serve as co-executive producer along with Bo Yeon Kim, and Erika Lippoldt will also write the series.

“Michelle has shattered ceilings, broken boundaries, and astonished us with her grace and gravitas for decades. As a human, I adore her. As an actor, I revere her,” said Alex Kurtzman. “Erika and Boey are remarkable, exciting writers who bring a fresh perspective to the world of ‘Star Trek,’ and we’re all thrilled to explore the next wild chapter in the life of Captain Philippa Georgiou.”

“I’m so excited to continue telling these rich ‘Star Trek’ stories,” said Michelle Yeoh. “Being a part of this universe and this character specifically has been such a joy for me to play. I can’t wait to see where it all goes – certainly I believe it will go ‘where no WOMAN has ever gone before!’”

Michelle Yeoh is recognized as one of the greatest and the most successful actresses from the east. She can most recently be seen starring in John M. Chu’s romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians,” and in CBS’ STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. The former Bond girl is best known for her roles in Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and its sequel, Rob Marshall’s “Memoirs of a Geisha,” Roger Spottiswoode’s “Tomorrow Never Dies”and Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine.” Michelle also starred in Luc Besson’s critically acclaimed “The Lady” and voiced a role in the DreamWorks animated hit “Kung Fu Panda 2.”

The development of this new untitled series is the latest expansion of the “Star Trek” franchise. In addition to the hit original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, returning with season two on Thursday, Jan. 17, and STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS, a series of short stories tied to STAR TREK: DISCOVERY and the overall “Star Trek” universe, CBS has announced a new untitled “Star Trek” series featuring Sir Patrick Stewart, reprising his iconic role as Jean-Luc Picard, as well as its first animated series, STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS, developed by Emmy Award winner Mike McMahan (“Rick and Morty”).

The Orville has also returned for its second season, last week returning to tie up a loose end from a first season episode. We are left to wonder if Billy Joel music will help promote peace. Earlier there was an episode centered around Alara, which ended with Halston Sage leaving the show. They did leave room for a future return. Jessica Szohr has been announced to be joining the cast. There is no word if Seth MacFarlane will be dating her, but there was an announcement last week that Scott Grimes and Adrianne Palicki are engaged.

In other genre and media news, following an attack from Joe Lieberman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quoted Rorschach from Watchmen.

On the other hand, last month we learned from Christian Bale that Donald Trump seemed to really think he was Bruce Wayne:

While filming a Batman scene in Trump Tower, Christian Bale got the chance to meet Donald Trump. “We were filming on Batman in Trump Tower and he said, ‘Come on up to the office,’” Bale told Variety at the premiere of the Dick Cheney biopic Vice. “I think he thought I was Bruce Wayne because I was dressed as Bruce Wayne,” he joked.

Bale said he tried to go along with it, but found it odd. “He talked to me like I was Bruce Wayne and I just went along with it, really. It was quite entertaining. I had no idea at the time that he would think about running for president.”

That isn’t the most dangerous delusion which Trump has.

Richard Schiff has spoken about a possible reboot of The West Wing.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Resolution; What If The Doctor Was A Dalek (Parody); Pike and Spock On Star Trek Discovery; The Magicians Returning

Resolution gave Doctor Who the episode it needed for a proper season finale. By this I don’t mean any cliff hangers, or big changes such as companions leaving or a regeneration. Just a good episode, much better than The Battle of Ranskoor Av Koloswith the added benefit of bringing back the most show’s most iconic villain.

Resolution also did a good job of introducing the Daleks for new viewers. Like most of the season, the episode could be enjoyed without prior knowledge of the show. This was done by limiting the story to a single Dalek who had been trapped on earth for ages, bypassing any need for explanations of matters such as the Time War. While I’m sure there are purists who will object, they also made this an advanced scout Dalek with different abilities. Yes, it is a valid objection that we have never seen Dalek’s being able to teleport fragments of their bodies, or temporarily take control of a human. On the other hand, it would be hard to do a fresh, new Dalek story without taking any liberties, and the body snatcher aspect in this episode was entertaining to watch.

As the special took place on New Year’s Day instead of the traditional Christmas, there were views of fireworks, but otherwise the holiday did not place any unnecessary restrictions on the story. Realistically they could have done this as a Christmas Day special as well, with a brief scene of Team Tardis visiting Christmas celebrations.

The episode also continued the story of Ryan’s relationship with his father. After all, this season under Chris Chibnall has essentially been Broadchurch In Space And Time. (Jody Whittaker is more season three as opposed to season one Beth Latimer.) Ryan’s father even supplied the first means of nearly destroying the Dalek. This Dalek, while resourceful in building a new outer shell (reminiscent of the Doctor building her own sonic screwdriver earlier in the season), was not all that difficult to defeat. It was defeated both by humans in the past, and by the application of the oven in the present.

This led to a second climax in which, while I though it was more likely than not that Ryan’s father would survive, there was legitimate suspense over the outcome. I was a bit surprised that both of the archaeologists came out of this alive. There were plenty of casualties, but the deaths were among unknown people who were quickly vaporized.

The other casualty of the episode was UNIT, a victim of Brexit and “funding disputes and subsequent funding withdrawal by the UK’s major financial partners.” That is quite a step down from the Doctor being President of Earth during times of alien invasion. It might be for the better that there is no longer UNIT to step in if the earth is in danger, leaving it to the Doctor to save the planet. There is nothing stopping the reestablishment of UNIT (or perhaps Torchwood) in the future.

While I still have some questions about Chibnall’s writing for the series, Jodie Whitter did answer any doubts as to a woman taking over as the Doctor. Karen Gillan responded to the “crazy resistance” to the change in an article late last year in The Hollywood Reporter:

Jodie Whittaker knocked it out of the park.

She has elements of Matt Smith and David Tennant — that manic energy, brain going 100 miles an hour — but she made it her own. And that’s the great thing about the role — it has no limits. It can be played by any race or gender. All you need is a great actor. A great British actor. Or one who can do a convincing British accent.

As for the Dalek’s, check out the parody video above which shows how there would be major differences in the show if the Doctor was a Dalek. There would be no emotion or sentimentality. Plus the Weeping Angels are not a threat as Daleks do not blink. The one thing which is not different is how fans react to changes on the show.

CBS has released the above video on Anson Mount playing Christopher Pike. Entertainment Weekly also looked at how Spock and Pike will be different:

Expect Pike to restore some civility to the big chair after last season’s traitorous Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs), and come across rather different than previous captains.

“Kirk has a swagger, and is good at thinking outside the box because he’s a rulebreaker,” Mount says. “Pike is very by-the-book. He refers to the Starfleet code of conduct more often than not. What sets him apart from other captains, especially from Lorca, is he knows like any good leader the most precious resources is his crew. when he’s stuck, he’s not afraid to say, ‘I’m lost, anybody got a better idea?’ He uses the bridge as a bigger brain.”

For hardcore fans, the biggest mystery is: What’s Spock (Ethan Peck) even doing here? And how can he be Burnham’s adopted brother when the iconic character has never mentioned her in all of the Trek canon? Showrunner Alex Kurtzman says the Spock we meet here is rather different than the Leonard Nimoy or Zachary Quinto version.

“The Spock we meet in season 2 is not the one we know yet,” Kurtzman says. “He’s really struggling. But if it were not for his relationship with Michael, he wouldn’t become the Spock we know today.”

The Magicians returns January 13 (trailer above). Plus this new recap to bring us up to date from last season was released last week:

Last season on THE MAGICIANS, our core group embarked on the epic quest of the seven keys to restore magic after it was turned off. In the shocking finale, just as our magicians finally restored magic by unlocking the fountain at the other end of the Wellspring, the Library, Irene McAllistair and Dean Fogg swooped in to reroute magic to them.

In exchange, Dean Fogg negotiated the lives of his students, erasing their memories and giving each – except Alice who is now imprisoned by the Library – a new, magic-free identity. Even with their new identities, our core group is far from safe since inside Castle Blackspire, an ancient, powerful and unkillable Monster escaped confinement and jumped bodies to a new host, Eliot. The season ended with The Monster finding a mind-wiped Quentin, and Season 4 will pick up with The Monster seeking out the others, and something else…

THE MAGICIANS stars Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Hale Appleman, Arjun Gupta, Summer Bishil, Rick Worthy, Jade Tailor, Brittany Curran and Trevor Einhorn. The series is executive produced by John McNamara, Sera Gamble, Chris Fisher, Henry Alonso Myers and Groundswell Productions’ Michael London and Janice Williams.

SciFi Weekend: Timeless, Doctor Who, Rainn Wilson’s Short Trek

Timeless ended too soon, but at least in the streaming television age it now exists as a more complete story which will remain available, and possibly lead to yet another revival. The finale had to compress many ideas into the space of two episodes, but did manage to tie up many of the loose ends of the series. As expected, it saved Rufus, and did so quite quickly by taking advantage of a change in the timeline. Lucy’s diary provided a means to speed up the story, and to give a sense of coherency to the entire two seasons. Flynn had a major role, completing his redemption arc. While this was expected after the second season, there was also an unexpected redemption for Lucy’s father, Benjamin Cahill.

Not all loose ends could be tied up in this short a time. While it worked to have Rufus be brought back so easily, it would have been less realistic for Lucy’s sister Amy to be suddenly brought back to life. Rather than attempting to deal with this in this short a time, there was a sensible argument for no longer playing with time. Of course, should the show return, this could also be a good plot line.

Deadline spoke with Shawn Ryan about the finale:

DEADLINE: From being canceled twice and then resurrected for a big movie finale, Timeless has been on quite a journey. Were the emotions high while shooting the finale?

SHAWN RYAN: I’m the kind of producer that’s not upset about it when we film. Our two writers, in this case, Arika Mittman, who is a co-showrunner with me, and Eric Kripke last season really carry the burden for this two-hour event. (laughs) She and Lauren Greer, the other writer, were the ones that were on set and I was getting reports back from them that it was very emotional. I stopped by a couple of times, but not at the end. But yeah, I was talking to Abigail (Spencer) this past weekend, and she was talking about the various goodbyes and how hard it was, especially since there are no immediate plans to do the show. And we’ve opened the possibility that maybe the show will be resurrected in one form or another somewhere down the line, but you never know for sure so this could be the end. It was always a very difficult show to make, and this two-hour event was similar, but there was a lot of joy that went into making it. This was the most pleasant shooting experience that the cast and crew had at any point along the journey. So it was a really good experience for everyone, and so, as a result, it was kind of hard to end and to leave.

DEADLINE: That’s good to hear. You mention how this may not be the ending, but we’ll get to that later. The fate of the show was always up in the air and it was canceled after season 2 and then it was announced that you guys were doing this two-hour movie. Would you say that this movie finale is a compact version of what you wanted to happen in season 3?

RYAN: I would say that’s partly true. We had some ideas for things we wanted to pursue in season three and we definitely put them into this movie — some had to be in a compressed way. There are certain aspects, I think, that if we had had a 10,13 or 16-episode season three, we would have taken some more time with. We did have to adapt a little bit more of a movie mentality than an ongoing TV-show mentality because we knew that we had to get a lot of story in the hour and 25 minutes or so, and so you look for inspiration. Back to the Future told an amazing, full story in two hours, and other movies have as well. So we just had to change things, but yes, there were definitely ideas and aspects of the show that we had in mind for season three, and even beyond, that we sort of put into this ending.

DEADLINE: In the finale, the gang travels back to the California gold rush era in 1848 and then North Korea in the ’50s during the Korean War. What was it about those two eras that spoke to you for the movie?

RYAN: One of the mandates that we got from NBC when they picked up the movie was they said, “We think this is going to air right around Christmas time, and we love it to be Christmas-themed if you can make that work.” So we started looking for historical events and time periods that had something to do around Christmas time. We looked at George Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas Eve — but we’d already done a George Washington episode, so I was reluctant to do another George Washington thing. And Arika and Lauren, and Logan, our writer’s assistant, came upon this miracle-of-Christmas story from the Korean War that none of us had ever heard of. And the more we dug into it, the more we realized it was sort of perfect. So that was actually the first time period that we agreed to do, but we soon realized that they’re probably wasn’t enough story to fill all two hours, and we thought that we’d need something different for the first hour, especially as it related to saving Rufus.  When we get into the second time period, if Rittenhouse was low on funds, they might want to gold rush, but really it was more the character of Joaquin Murrieta that interests us the most and made us want to go back to that time period, because there were such parallels to his journey and to Flynn’s journey about men who had violence committed against their families, and their search for vengeance, and what it does to a person. That’s the way we always approach finding the time period…there’s a character that allows us to really learn something about one of our main characters. It took us a while to come up with those two time periods. That was not the easiest thing to come up with.

DEADLINE: There is one particular scene which is game changer for the whole finale — it’s the scene where Flynn goes back to 2012 and has a no-holds-barred fight with Jessica. What was the conversation that led to Flynn sacrificing himself and then him being the one to take out Jessica?

RYAN: Well, I think it was a result of our conversation of where do we want the arc of Garcia Flynn to go? He was somebody who was seemingly a straight-up villain early in season one. Then he became a little bit more of a complicated villain in the middle of season one. Then he became a misunderstood, slightly sympathetic villain at the end of season one. And then he became a reluctant, cautious ally at the beginning of season two, and then someone who loosely began to see the good sides of him to the point that there was almost a little romantic triangle between her and Wyatt and Flynn.

Having said that, we never forgot that he really did some bad stuff in season one — and how do you “redeem” someone like that? Their actions of penance have to be almost as large in scale as their misdeeds, and so the conversation that he has with Joaquin Murrieta, just prior to the campfire discussion, where he tells him that a quest for vengeance ultimately leads nowhere, and Joaquin asks him why he does it…he looks over at Lucy and you get the sense that he really is kind of in love with Lucy and yet knows from the journal that it’s not something that’s going to end well. He decides to make a choice to essentially pay penance for all his actions — that he sees a way where he can do something that will make the lives of these other people better and will help stop Rittenhouse, the group that killed his family. It will allow him to actually witness and look at his family one last time. It just seems very poetic to us to do that. It’s a very difficult, selfless choice on his part, and it’s a choice that really brings his character full circle to the point that Lucy, at the end of the movie, in Brazil, says, “You may be the greatest hero of us all.” There’s just something beautiful in that.

He spoke more with TV Guide, including about the relationship between Flynn and Lucy:

My eyes popped out when Flynn revealed that he and Lucy were having an affair in the future. A potential relationship was hinted at in Season 2, and fans have been curious about it. Why did you decide to give them that relationship now?
Ryan: I always thought there was really great chemistry between Abby [Spencer] and Goran [Visnjic] on our show. Even in Season 1 when they were adversaries, there was always something electric about them. In the story we chose to tell in Season where Wyatt’s (Matt Lanter) wife Jessica comes back from the dead, and he feels obligated to try to make that work, Flynn being the sort of lonely island in the storm for Lucy, you felt moments there where something might happen. Really this finale talks about two different paths that could have been taken, one in which Lucy and Flynn have their romance and relationship and it goes bad and five years later everyone is still fighting Rittenhouse and future Wyatt and Lucy come back, but there seems to be some pain and coldness there. And there’s the ending we show in the end.

We certainly know that there are fan bases supportive of both different relationships, there are Lucy-Wyatt fans and Lucy-Flynn fans. This was a way to explore both those, and pay homage to both. Storywise, it felt like it worked well for us.

If Timeless had been given a Season 3, would you have shown that relationship?
Ryan: I think it’s possible, it was something we talked about, that we didn’t really feel like we earned to get there in Season 2. I don’t know if we would have felt like we had earned the right to get there in Season 3, but it was something we were moving closer to. We didn’t have too many sessions where we sat down and mapped out Season 3, so it would be hard to say without sitting down and going through that exercise with all the writers. But it was something we wanted to make more understandable and more palatable with each and every episode.

There is more at The Hollywood Reporter:

The endings you gave to Wyatt and Lucy (and their twins) and Rufus and Jiya were very happy, but they were also very feminist — Lucy is a tenured professor who teaches her students about female historical figures, and Jiya is a famous scientist. Was that on purpose?

I think that’s on purpose. Listen, we had two women who wrote this finale. But I’d like to think that Eric and I supported this vision. One of the things we stumbled upon on this show [was that] all of our earlier episodes were about famous people like Abraham Lincoln and JFK, these powerful, iconic male characters. As the series went on we got more and more interested in telling the lesser-known people of history: Women, people of color, people that historically were pushed back to the margins but actually had a big impact. That comes full circle, really, when the last half of the movie focuses on this pregnant Korean woman who is not famous at all. But that doesn’t mean she’s not important. We consider ourselves a show that certainly doesn’t ignore or downplay the famous historical figures that everyone has heard of, but there’s definite a sense to this show that we wanted Lucy to be a true heroine. Not a sidekick to a hero, a true heroine. Wanted Jiya to have her own license to be a successful woman in 2023, et cetera.

And in the final scene of the little girl coming up plans for her own time machine, was that you leaving the door open for a potential sequel or spinoff or continuation of some sort?

There’s definitely a door open if someone is interested in opening it further, absolutely.

Entertainment Weekly has more on the question of whether Timeless might return:

When Ryan thinks of Timeless‘ possible future, he thinks of a different sci-fi franchise. “I keep thinking about how Star Trek was a TV show in the ’60s, and then became movies in the ’80s, and became a TV show again in the ’90s, and then became movies again,” he says. “I don’t know what form [Timeless] might take [if it were to continue], but…we’ve been killed twice, and we’ve come back both times, so we’ll see.” In the meantime, fans can always turn back the clock and rewatch the series.

Of course the Timeless finale isn’t the only time travel show this time of year. The third season of Travelers is now available on Netflix, having to handle a major cliff hanger from the second season (no spoilers here). The Doctor Who New Year’s Day Special is coming up with a lot of hype from Chris Chibnall via Radio Times:

“You want the Special to feel like an event. It always performs a slightly different function to the rest of the series – you want it to be like an opener and a finale all rolled into one.

“You want it to be accessible to those who’ve missed the series, but you also want to reward the audiences and fans who’ve been there for the whole ride.

“Most of all, you want it to feel like a treat: a big, thrilling, explosive, moving, cheeky, surprising treat,” he concluded.

“Basically, you want the Special to be epic. And I promise, it’s going to be epic.”

That’s a LOT of exciting adjectives to throw around – though as it turns out, Chibnall still missed a few out, with episode guest star Nikesh Patel revealing that we could also expect some seriously scary parts in the festive story.

“The script read like a really tense thriller, with elements of horror,” Patel said.

“I had an awareness that Doctor Who was a show where episodes can be tonally very different to each other. This felt like a psychological thriller in some ways, and that was on the page when we got into it. Then obviously it lightens up with all the wit that the four regulars bring to it.”

“What I hope is that everyone enjoys the Special for what it is because it’s incredibly fun,” added episode director Wayne Yip.

“And I hope that new fans have a great time because it’s such a popcorn, blockbuster version of Doctor Who.”

Bleeding Cool has a detailed analysis of the trailer for the episode.

A trailer for the final Short Trek was released. The official synopsis of The Escape Artist:  “Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson), back to his old tricks of stealing and double-dealing, finds himself in a precarious position aboard a hostile ship – just in time to try out his latest con.” Rainn Wilson previously had this to say about the short:

“There’s going to be that 10-15 percent of fans that go, ‘Oh, no way. I’m not going to watch a short film about Star Trek. This isn’t how it works.’ But I love that they’re breaking molds and breaking new ground, and it’s a terrific mini Harry Mudd adventure,” Wilson teased. “It goes to a lot of different places, from different aliens, lot of fun situations, some great twists and turns, and I get to direct it and star in it. It’s like a dream come true. It’s like, ‘Write me a dream job.’”

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos; Star Trek Discovery; Elseworlds CW Crossover; The Good Place; Agents of SHIELD; Timeless Finale

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos was rather weak as a season finale of Doctor Who, but at least they get a second chance on New Year’s Day with an episode widely assumed to involve the Daleks. There were a number of interesting ideas, including loss of memory and characters being fooled into believing another is their God, but it never really flows into a coherent episode. This might be said about the first season as a whole. Being the season finale, the stakes were increased with the earth itself being in danger.

Chris Chibnall decided to do stand alone episodes. This might have been a good idea in terms of bringing in new viewers if executed better. There is certainly an argument for getting away from the more complex story lines of the Moffat era, at least for Chibnall’s first season. Russel T. Davies might have been a better template, but Davies did add season long subplots when he revived the series. Seeing the various clues to Bad Wolf pay off in the season finale was far more rewarding than just seeing the return of Tzim-Sha from the first episode. It is not surprising that Chibnall turned the Stanza into more than a single-episode villain, but they were hardly developed enough to make their return a significant season-ending event.

Again, fortunately we do have one more episode in which to redeem the season, followed by a wait for an entire year to see if some of the problems of Chibnall’s first season are corrected. Fortunately the cast, including both Jodie Whittaker and her three companions, all did a fine job. While the season did have its problems, the switch to a female lead was not one of these problems.

The above trailer for Star Trek: Discovery season 2 has been released. There previously had been speculation that Burnham and Spock never meet in light of his failure to ever mention a sister, but the two are seen together in the trailer. Spock has also smiled in trailers released to date, consistent with the Spock of The Cage as opposed to his behavior later on the original show. Michelle Yeoh seen in her new role at Section 31, which might receive its own spin off.

A second video released last week shows both the more cinematic mood of the show, along with its continued concentration on the characters:

Alex Kurtzman has spoken with Entertainment Weekly about the planned series staring Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard:

The mysterious upcoming Star Trek series bringing back fan favorite Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is going to be very different in tone from previous shows in the franchise, and below, executive producer Alex Kurtzman explains exactly how.

The writer-producer has worked on J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films and is the current showrunner of CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Discovery, as well as an executive producer on the Picard series. We asked Kurtzman how the spin-off will compare to Discovery and Stewart’s previous Star Trek series, The Next Generation.

“It’s an extremely different rhythm than Discovery,” Kurtzman told EW exclusively. “Discovery is a bullet. Picard is a very contemplative show. It will find a balance between the speed of Discovery and the nature of what Next Gen was, but I believe it will have its own rhythm.”

Continued Kurtzman: “Without revealing too much about it, people have so many questions about Picard and what happened to him, and the idea we get to take time to answer those questions in the wake of the many, many things he’s had to deal with in Next Gen is really exciting. ‘More grounded’ is not the right way to put it, because season 2 of Discovery is also grounded. It will feel more… real-world? If that’s the right way to put it.”

This season’s Arrowverse crossover, Elseworlds, was limited to three episodes. Each episode was partially a self-contained story, with the three combining into a more complete story. Elseworlds did a better job of providing fun interaction between the characters with lots of Easter Eggs, and perhaps setting up next year’s cross over episode, than it did in plotting this year.

Smallville and the 90’s Flash series were both brought into the Arrowverse. John Wesley Shipp was Barry Allen on Earth 90, most likely a reference to him playing the role in 1990-91. Shipp’s character warned of a Crisis to come, and expressed surprise that Diggle wasn’t wearing his ring. Arrow showrunner Beth Schwartz says that an episode with a version of Diggle as the Green Lanturn is, “To be continued.” We will not see this in the immediate future as it was confirmed that this has not actually been written yet.

The Arrowverse is finally able to make references to Gotham City with Gotham near the end of its run, but still cannot show Batman. Instead we were introduced to his cousin, Batwoman, who might be getting her own series.

The episode ended with an announcement that next year’s crossover event will be Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Flash has been teasing a Crisis since the beginning, but showing this as occurring in 2024, making it unclear if this is the same event. I also wonder if they might collapse the television multiverse, placing Supergirl on the same earth as Arrow and The Flash.

In other genre news, The Good Place, which once again rebooted itself in the most recent episode, has been renewed for a fourth season. Before going on hiatus for the holidays, for the first time the cast has made it to what appears to actually be the real Good Place.

Mack will be taking over as head of SHIELD when Agents of SHIELD returns. The series has already been renewed for a seventh season, with season six to air this summer.  Clark Gregg is not listed as part of the cast. This might mean he really has died after last season, but it is also possible that they are purposely not announcing his return to the series to hide future plans for him.

NBC will air the two-hour finale of Timeless this Friday, with fans hoping the show will once again return following cancellation. The episode is left open-ended to leave the possibility open of a return.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Final Two Episodes Of 2018; Star Trek Shows Saru’s Backstory

It Takes You Away provided three stories in one episode of Doctor Who. Unfortunately this meant that none of them were fully developed.

The episode started out looking like a “cabin in the woods” horror story. Once again there was misdirection when we learned it was about something else entirely. By the end, the real monster of this portion was the blind child’s father. Erik abandoned his daughter in the cabin and used recordings of a monster (with a primitive sound system as opposed to Wifi as Ryan discovered) to keep her from leaving. He mostly got away with this, but Yaz did chastise him for this: “That’s a shocking bit of parenting.”

The second portion of the story in the Anti-Zone was the weakest, and could have been eliminated in order to spend more time on the other portions. Ultimately we wound up with the Solitract, which required far too much explanation, based upon an old Gallifreyan fairytale. This episode fit in well with the overall theme of this season of loss–continuing from Chibnall and Whittaker’s work on Broadchurch. The science fiction trope of dead people appearing to have returned first showed Erik back with his wife, and then tried to lure Graham with faux-Grace.

The decision to part from the Moffat era hurt the episode. Instead of ending with a frog, it could have been much stronger if the Solitract had tried to lure the Doctor with the form of River Song.

There was an homage to past Doctor Who. Following the recent homage to Matt Smith and Fez hats, in an homage to Jon Pertwee, Yaz offered the advice to “reverse the polarity.” There was also a major progression of character development between Ryan and Graham.

This was followed by The Battle Ranskoor Av Kolos. As usual, I will avoid spoilers until after it airs legally in the US. Unfortunately this is not likely to be a memorable season finale for Doctor Who. Hopefully they do better on the New Year’s Day special, which appears to be teasing the Daleks in the preview: “This is the DNA of the most dangerous creature in the universe.” Then there will be no Doctor Who until 2020. The BBC released this statement:

THE DOCTOR AND HER FRIENDS WILL LAND AGAIN ON BBC ONE IN 2020

As series 11 came to a close on BBC One tonight (Sunday 9th December) the show announced that series 12 is on its way and will be returning to BBC One in early 2020.

Series 11 marked a brand new era for Doctor Who with Showrunner, Chris Chibnall, taking control of the TARDIS. With Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, viewers saw the Doctor and her friends travel through space and time on adventures fighting monsters and conquering battles. Series 12 will see Jodie reprise her role as the Doctor and she will once again be joined by Bradley Walsh (Graham), Mandip Gill (Yasmin) and Tosin Cole (Ryan).

So far, from the first eight episodes, series 11 of Doctor Who has averaged a 4-screen consolidated audience of 8.4m.

Jodie’s first episode as the Doctor launched with a consolidated audience of 11 million making it the second biggest drama this year across all channels, while also placing it among the top 10 programmes in 2018 so far across all channels and genres. The episode received 3.7 million requests through BBC iPlayer.

Speaking of the return Showrunner Chris Chibnall said “We’re off again! Well we never actually stopped – as Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and friends have been winning the hearts of families across the nation this autumn, we’ve been busy with a whole new set of action packed adventures for the Thirteenth Doctor. We adore making this show and have been blown away by the response from audiences, so we can’t wait to bring more scares, more monsters and more Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole to BBC One. Brilliant!”

Charlotte Moore, Director of Content added, “We’re delighted that the Doctor and her friends will be returning to thrill audiences in 2020. I know Chris and the whole team are already working on a whole new set of exciting adventures. In the meantime we’ve got a very special episode on New Year’s Day for everyone to enjoy.”

 

 

The Brightest Star shows Saru’s backstory in the third Short Trek. We see the life of Kelpians, and how Saru met Philippa Georgiou. It was somewhat reminiscent of Pen Pals, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Data came into contact with a girl from a pre-warp civilization. It was a bit surprising that, while the Kelpians were victims, they were not shown to be the constant prey I had come to expect from the little which was said about them on Discovery.

Syfy Wire has information from the writers of the episode as to how it fits into the rest of the Star Trek timeline:

…the final moments of “The Brightest Star” depict Saru (Doug Jones) and Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) meeting for the first time, it begs the question of when exactly this all happened in the future-history of Star Trek. At this point in time, Georgiou is not the captain of the USS Shenzhou, just a lieutenant. So, by the time we get to the era of Discovery, just how long have she and Saru known each other?

The answer it seems is about 18 years.

“Burnham is brought aboard the Shenzhou for the first time in a flashback in ‘The Battle of the Binary Stars,’ and the events of this short took place about a decade before that,” Lippoldt tells SYFY WIRE. “Saru would have needed time to acclimate to this new worldview outside of his home planet; he’s only just learned that humans exist, after all! So he wouldn’t have entered [Starfleet] academy right away.”

In terms of Trek chronology, “The Battle at the Binary Stars” happens in the year 2256, and the flashback in which Burnham first beams aboard with Sarek is eight years before, in 2248. So, if “The Brightest Star” is “about a decade” before 2248, then we’re somewhere in the 2230s. For hardcore completists, this means we’re in a decade where Kirk and Spock are little kids, meaning Lt. Georgiou was out contacting alien races with Kirk and Spock literally in diapers!

They also looked at the questions raised about the Prime Directive:

“As we began exploring Saru’s backstory in the writers’ room, ‘Pen Pals’ did, in fact, come up a lot as it dealt with a pre-warp species,” Kim says. “We talked at length (days? weeks?) about the complexity of the Prime Directive, and how each Star Trek series has approached this iconic notion: How do our characters do the right thing, adhering not only to Starfleet’s values but also its governing laws? What are the exceptions, the loopholes?”

Lippoldt adds: “Part of the fun of developing this story is that we’ve — hopefully —created a scenario that presents a juicy moral quandary. Here, Georgiou made a case to make an exception for Saru based on several factors.

“First, that Saru is the one who initiated contact, and directly asked for help. Second, that during their interaction, Georgiou came to see that Saru displayed an understanding and knowledge of technology. And third, that Saru was only asking for himself. His people, and specifically his father, showed no interest in changing their ways. So by accepting to help Saru leave Kaminar without the rest of his people’s knowledge, Georgiou is not, in fact, interfering with the normal development of the planet’s civilization.”

Even so, this moral quandary leaves Mr. Saru in a situation where he cannot legally return home to visit his people. But will he ever? Does he want to?

“In the first few years of joining Starfleet, Saru had always intended on learning everything he could and returning to Kaminar to help his people,” Kim says. “But over the years, he realized that the Prime Directive exists for a reason, and breaking it would bring about serious repercussions, not just to his Starfleet career but to his people. So that is the weight of Saru’s burden.

In other Star Trek news, it was also announced this week that Patrick Stewart’s series reprising Jean-Luc Picard will debut in late 2019.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Continues To Improve, Looking At The Most Recent Three Episodes; Elseworlds; Daredevil Cancelled; Responses To Bill Maher’s Attack On Stan Lee; Handmaid’s Tale Sequel; Big Bang Theory/Young Sheldon Crossover

This season of Doctor Who will not be remembered for its any big episodes, but the show is getting on track. Chris Chibnall has stayed away from the big, outlandish ideas of past seasons, timey wimey twists, or multi-episode stories. Instead we have a series of stand alone episodes which do work well to keep the show accessible for new viewers and show the variety of types of stories possible with Doctor Who.

There have been three more solid episodes since my last review of Doctor Who. Kerblam! was a science fiction story which could have worked well with some of the previous Doctors. We got to see the Doctor wearing a Fez once again. As with some other episodes this season, the air date fit in well with current events, but wasn’t limiting for future viewers. We went into the week leading up to Black Friday with a look at some of the problems with Amazon (which did not prevent me from putting in lots of orders later that week).

Beyond the social commentary about the problems of replacing humans with machines, and the treatment of human workers, there was a strong story. One measure of its success was that I was totally fooled by who turned out to be the villain, while the more obvious villain was, as has been common this season, more misdirection. In previous seasons we have been led to fear common place actions such as blinking. This week the danger was in breaking bubble wrap.

The major faults of the story were primarily understandable due to budgetary constraints. This hardly seemed like a company which employed ten thousand people when we only saw a few. It was also a little disappointing to see how easily they killed off characters. Dan’s death seemed sort of unnecessary. Kira’s death was the saddest, and in other episodes equivalent characters would have been saved by the Doctor. I would even have expected the Doctor to resolve the problem without Charlie getting killed. The message of the episode was also diluted by having Charlie turn out to be the villain of the episode. However, having a rebel who goes too far for a desirable goal is hardly unprecedented, and does not contradict the underlying message.

After Kerblam! we got another historical episode with The Witchfinders. The episode checked off many boxes: time travel, social commentary, a historical figure, an alien threat, and even zombies. If the episode had any flaws, it was throwing too much into one episode. While taking place in England, the witch trials had the same warped logic of the American version:  “If she dies she’s innocent, and if she lives, she’s a witch and we’ll hang her.” The  Pendle Hill witch trials seen in this episode were based upon real historical events (but, to avoid any confusion, there were no mud zombies).

Once again there was misdirection as to the villain, with Alan Cumming, initially seen looking menacing in a mask, turning out to be more comic relief than the villain of the episode. The Doctor was also shown to have a new power–bobbing for apples without getting her hair wet.

This episode finally addressed the difference in having the Doctor regenerate as a woman. She had trouble being taken seriously due to her gender, as King James denied that a woman could possibly be the Witchfinder General.  Jodie Whittaker made a rare reference to her gender this episode in protesting: “If only I was still a bloke, I could just get on with the job without having to constantly defend myself.” There was this commentary on the times:  “These are hard times for women. If we’re not being drowned, we’re being patronized to death.”

It was inevitable the a woman who appeared and acted differently, and even used a magic wand, would be accused of being a witch during the episode. As the Doctor was told, “Do you know why the Ducking Stool was invented, Doctor? To silence foolish women who talk too much.” Fortunately the Doctor had also learned some tricks from Harry Houdini.

Kerblam! included a reference to the Doctor meeting Agatha Christie.  The Witchfinders quoted Arthur C. Clark’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

This week’s episode, It Takes You Away, was another success, taking place in the present on earth instead of in space or the past. I won’t say much about it to avoid spoilers as it has not aired in the US yet, but the episode also works well to continue the back stories of a couple of the companions, and move their relationship forward. The episode also includes monsters, with one again being based upon misdirection (but without WiFi). While it avoids getting seriously timey wimey, there is also a strong science fiction element going back to an old Gallifreyan fairytale. Following the recent homage to Matt Smith and Fez hats, in an homage to Jon Pertwee, Yaz offered the advice to “reverse the polarity.”

The above trailer is out for Elseworlds, the three night crossover on CW, which premieres next week. The official synopses are out:

EPIC ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER KICKS OFF TONIGHT — When Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Oliver Queen (guest star Stephen Amell) wake up one morning and realize they have swapped bodies with each other, the two set off to find out what disturbed the timeline to cause such a shift. However, things quickly go from bad to worse when they present their case to Team Flash and the gang doesn’t believe them. Barry and Oliver realize they need Supergirl’s (guest star Melissa Benoist) help and travel to Smallville on Earth-38 where they end up meeting Kara’s cousin, Clark Kent (guest star Tyler Hoechlin), and intrepid reporter, Lois Lane (guest star Elizabeth Tulloch). LaMonica Garrett guest stars as The Monitor.

THE ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER CONTINUES IN GOTHAM CITY WITH BATWOMAN (RUBY ROSE) — With Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Barry (guest star Grant Gustin) still stuck in the other’s bodies, the two get a lead on John Deegan (guest star Jeremy Davies) and head to Gotham City with Supergirl (guest star Melissa Benoist) to figure out why their reality has changed. While there, they meet the mysterious Kate Kane (guest star Ruby Rose) who provides them with information that leads the group to Arkham Asylum.

THE BATTLE CONCLUDES — Supergirl (Melissa Benoist), The Flash (guest star Grant Gustin), Green Arrow (guest star Stephen Amell) and Superman (guest star Tyler Hoechlin) engage in the battle of their lives.

Stephen Amell tweeted the above picture, posed in front of the bat signal.

Entertainment Weekly has more on the episodes from the stars, including this from Grant Gusten and Stephen Amell:

“You’re not going to see me playing Oliver Queen’s mannerisms, or Stephen playing Barry’s mannerisms. It’s more being aware that for some reason we’ve switched lives and destinies. It’s more the fun of the situational comedy that we keep finding ourselves in, and less us having a complete role reversal,” Gustin tells EW. “We get to see Stephen do some of the more goofy speed stuff I have to do on a regular basis, and I get some actual combat as Green Arrow. So, we just see different colors for each of us.”

“Having superpowers is crazy! Wearing the Flash suit is crazy!” says Amell, who, like everyone else involved, sounds genuinely thrilled about the crossover’s story. “The idea is that in order to be the best version of Barry Allen, which I have to be because we face a threat, there are elements of his personality I have to embrace, and there are elements of my personality that he has to embrace.”

Besides including characters such as Batwoman, Superman in black, and Lois Lane, Comicbook.com reports that the episodes will include “alternate versions of Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) serving as a Central City police officer — alongside alternate versions of Joe Wilson (Liam Hall) and Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman).”

Daredevil joins the growing list of Marvel series being cancelled by Netflix but Disney apparently has more planned for the character with their own streaming service starting soon. Third season showrunner Erik Oleson also discussed the news on Twitter. 

Stan Lee’s company has responded to Bill Maher’s attack on Lee’s legacy with this letter:

An Open Letter to Bill Maher from Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment

Mr. Maher: Comic books, like all literature, are storytelling devices. When written well by great creators such as Stan Lee, they make us feel, make us think and teach us lessons that hopefully make us better human beings. One lesson Stan taught so many of us was tolerance and respect, and thanks to that message, we are grateful that we can say you have a right to your opinion that comics are childish and unsophisticated. Many said the same about Dickens, Steinbeck, Melville and even Shakespeare.

But to say that Stan merely inspired people to “watch a movie” is in our opinion frankly disgusting. Countless people can attest to how Stan inspired them to read, taught them that the world is not made up of absolutes, that heroes can have flaws and even villains can show humanity within their souls. He gave us the X-Men, Black Panther, Spider-Man and many other heroes and stories that offered hope to those who felt different and bullied while inspiring countless to be creative and dream of great things to come.

These are but a few of the things we the fans of Stan Lee also consider “adulting,” because life both as a child and grown-up can indeed be a struggle. Stan is the author of millions of happy childhood memories and the provider of so many of the positive tools of adulthood.

Our shock at your comments makes us want to say “‘Nuff said, Bill,” but instead we will rely on another of Stan’s lessons to remind you that you have a powerful platform, so please remember: “With great power there must also come — great responsibility!”

-Team Stan

Comicbook.com has compiled arguments, beginning with a quote from  Barack Obama from 2013:

I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman. Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story — the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.

They concluded by quoting these words from Stan Lee:

Let’s lay it Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater — one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen — people he’s never known — with equal intensity — with equal venom.

The television version of The Handmaid’s Tale has gone beyond the events of the original novel. Margaret Atwood has tweeted that she is writing a sequel:

The Arrowverse doesn’t have the only shows with a huge crossover planned. CBS has revealed how they will handle the Big Bang Theory/Young Sheldon crossover episode: “Sheldon and Amy are still down about their theory being disproven, but a VHS tape from Sheldon’s past inspires him not to give up.” When I first heard of the crossover, I was hoping for time travel.

SciFi Weekend: Prospects For Doctor Who Looking Better, A Look At The Last Three Episodes; Star Trek Calypso; Stan Lee Dies

We now have three more episodes of Doctor Who since my last full review, and I am now feeling more optimistic about the series under Chris Chibnall. The first of these three however, The Tsuranga Conundrum, had me still wondering about story plots. If Steven Moffat tended to try to throw out too many big ideas in his stories, I felt like The Tsuranga Conundrum just had too many small stories thrown together.

The episode followed a common formula of getting the Doctor and companions into an alien base or spaceship, and then fight a menace. This was done in a unique manner as they were wounded in a sonic minefield, and then picked up by a hospital ship. This is the second time this season that they faced a near death situation, but were picked up by others.

The Doctor was asked what she is a Doctor of:  “Medicine, science, engineering, candyfloss, lego, philosophy, people, hope. Mostly hope.” We were also treated to a lesson on antimatter, in which the ship’s engine was described as  “the iPhone of CERN reactors.”

The alien menace, Pting, gave the feeling that they were battling Stitch. Pting isn’t directly menacing, but does eat everything, and is invulnerable to any form of weapons. Therefore the danger was that the ship would be eaten away while they were in space. The other danger turned out to be the ship’s own self-destruct system, leading to the obvious solution of feeding the bomb to Pting, and punting him out into space.

The heart of the episode was meeting the other patients, such as a male in labor. On his planet males gave birth to males, and females gave birth to females. As I said, it was an episode of lots of small ideas.

The meeting with another patient demonstrated that another Moffat-era idea is totally gone. At the conclusion of The Wedding of River Song, Matt Smith’s Doctor felt he had become too big: “I got too big. Too noisy. Time to step back into the shadows.” He started to write himself out of history in a big Moffat idea which never really went anywhere, and seemed to be forgotten in the Capaldi era. We saw that this idea is totally dead when the Doctor met General Cicero, who spoke about how the Doctor had a chapter in The Book of Celebrants, which appears to be a record of major heros in the galaxy. The Doctor responded, “I’d say it was more a volume than a chapter.” So much for writing himself/herself out of history.

My hopes for the series increased tremendously with Demons of the Punjab. The episode is the second historical drama of the season. It has similarities to Rosa, except is about a topic which Americans such as myself are likely to know far less about. The story begins when Yaz requests to see her grandmother Umbreen when younger, and the Doctor agrees to go back for one hour, with no interfering. That was an early clue that they would be there for far more than an hour, and would wind up getting involved in the events. This includes officiating the wedding (which she has also done for Albert Einstein).

The title of the episode, and much of the early action, was total misdirection. Initially it seemed that the aliens were the menace, and the goal would be, like in Rosa, to prevent an outsider from altering what should occur. Instead it turned out that the Vajarians, while initially assassins, had changed their goal to become witnesses for the unseen dead in response to the destruction of their own planet. (I wonder if they ever bump into the beings seen in Twice Upon A Time who harvested the memories of the dead.)

While Krasko might have been a villain in Rosa, the true villain of the episode was racism, and Krasko was removed from the story before the end. The Vajarians remained, but were shown not to be a threat well before the end of this episode. The demons were actually the humans, and the religious division and hatred, turning brother against brother. I wonder if the story might have been even stronger if left as a pure historical drama, but apparently it was felt that some sort of alien threat was needed for an episode of Doctor Who.

The author was certainly interested in the history and appears capable of writing an episode based on this. Vinay Patel tweeted, “There are so many stories to be told about Partition – this is only one, and whilst it was an honour to tell it, I’d urge you to seek out more. Hopefully the previous tweets will help with that. Thanks for having me in the Whoniverse.” This included a tweet with a few of the many books he read to research this episode.

This might not be the only episode in which the title was a red herring. Just as the demons were not the monsters in the title of this episode, was The Woman Who Fell To Earth the Doctor, as we first thought, or was it Grace, who fell to her death?

The episode was also like Rosa in that the characters had to allow history play out. It was hard for Graham to be a part of the events of Rosa, sitting in the front of the bus, and now hard to watch Brem get shot. Failing to allow events to play out would not have hindered the civil rights movement like in Rosa, but could have prevented Yaz from ever being born.

Besides showing more about Yaz’s family history, there was more fun interplay between the Doctor and companions. Last week the Doctor awarded points. This week Ryan earned a gold star. Will this drive sticklers for continuity crazy?

We have already seen that the Doctor is more kind and nurturing than Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. In this episode she claimed that she is too kind because her predecessor told her to be kind, referring to the speech in Twice Upon A Time just before the regeneration.

The Vajarians also turned out to be much like the Doctor, who was initially shown in the revival of the series to be the last of his kind after the destruction of his planet. Of course we now know that the story is more complex. This sense of loss fits in well with the works of Chris Chibnall, with Broadchurch being largely about the effects of the loss suffered by Jodie Whittaker’s character after the murder of her son.

My optimism for the future of the series increased further in seeing today’s episode, which I will not say much about to avoid spoilers as it has not yet aired in the United States. Kerblam! is in many ways the best episode of Doctor Who this season. Rosa and Demons of the Punjab might have been better in terms of dealing with serious historical issues, but Kerblam! felt the most like a good old fashioned fun Doctor Who science fiction story. More on this episode next week.

The second Short Trek is written by Pulitzer-prize winning author Michael Chabon along with Discovery staff writer Sean Cochran. Charbron wrote this story based upon the story of Odysseus landing on the Isle of Calypso from The Odyssey. The protagonist, Craft, is in an escape pod picked up by the Discovery one-thousand years in the future. The crew is gone, but there is an AI named Zora who is delighted to have the company after having been alone. We never learned why the Discovery is abandoned. Most likely we will never know this, but it is possible that there are plans to tie this into the events of a future episode. We also do not know how or when ship computers become as advanced as Zora, the AI in this episode.

Syfy Wire discussed the episode with Michael Chabron who suggested that “all of the computers in Trek lore have the ability to do what Zora does in this episode, but maybe they’ve just been suppressed.”

“In my mind, in the 1,000 years she’s been alone, she may have been all kinds of people, a whole library of personas. But Zora is the one she chooses to present to Craft,” Chabon told SYFY WIRE. “She had a lot of time on her hands and went through many incarnations. She may have had a male persona and a female persona and all kinds of persona. She also consumes massive amounts of media. Every film ever made. I mean, a starship like that could have a media library representing the cultural output of hundreds of civilizations over tens of thousands of years.

“So she’s kind of become an expert on how human emotion works, how moral quandaries work and how that kind of thing manifests itself. She’s made a study of it, and so she’s able to produce this magnificent persona. That’s what she’s been doing with herself.”

He discussed artificial intelligence further in the interview:

“At what point does a synthetic intelligence become so indistinguishable from a human consciousness that we have no choice but to acknowledge this as human?” Chabon says. “I wanted this guy to be confronted with a kind of indisputable reality. And he brings it on himself when he invites her to represent herself. Up until that point… He’s safe. But at that point, he can’t deny that she is a person in some way and that he is attracted to her.”

The ending of the episode finds Zora releasing Craft from exile aboard the empty USS Discovery. We have no idea why the ship is empty or whether this even is the version of the Discovery we know so well. The episode isn’t interested in answering any of those questions, just telling a story. Having said that, Chabon does seem to casually suggest a huge change to Star Trek canon. Are the computers aboard all these starships capable of becoming this self-aware?

“We don’t have any kind of indication from Discovery that the ship’s computer is that much more nuanced than ships’ computers have tended to be on Star Trek for a while,” he says. “I don’t think we ever see characters interacting with the ship like it was a person. Maybe that’s done by design? So maybe that’s how ship’s computers are intended to be. And maybe there’s some kind of discouragement in place to keep them from becoming too human in some way.”

Chabron is also a writer for the upcoming series based on Jean-Luc Picard. Seeing his work in this brief episode makes me optimistic about the upcoming series.

There is also talk that Michelle Yeoh might also star in a future Star Trek series on CBS All Access. Most likely it will continue stories of the Mirror universe Captain Philippa Georgiou in Section 31.

The biggest genre story of the week was the recent death of Stan Lee. It should not be necessary to say anything regarding the importance of his work. I09 has accumulated some of the many tributes to Stan Lee.

Douglas Rain, the voice of HAL in 2001, A Space Odyssey, also died recently.

SciFi Weekend Preview

Since the last full post, we have had two additional episodes of Doctor Who. If Steven Moffat tried to throw out too many big ideas, Chris Chibnall throws out a whole lot of small ideas in The Tsuranga Conundrum. Then history got personal in Demons of the Punjab. In both, Chibnall tried to avoid having any real monsters.

Star Trek returned with a new Short Trek, Calypso, written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon.

I have had to postpone the full post on these topics, and more, for later in the week.

Trump Threatens Press

If the White House Press Corps had any balls, they’d all stop showing up for the orchestrated press briefings in response to a threat like this and resort to real reporting to cover Trump in the disrespectful manner he deserves.

Trump Threatens to Retaliate Against Reporters Who Don’t Show ‘Respect’

President Trump said on Friday that he might revoke the credentials of additional White House reporters if they did not “treat the White House with respect,” lobbing another threat at the news media two days after his administration effectively blacklisted the CNN correspondent Jim Acosta.

Asked how long Mr. Acosta’s pass would be suspended, Mr. Trump replied: “As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t made that decision. But it could be others also.”

The president made his comments while speaking with reporters on the South Lawn before boarding Marine One.

“When you’re in the White House, this is a very sacred place for me, a very special place,” Mr. Trump said as he left Washington for a brief jaunt to Paris. “You have to treat the White House with respect. You have to treat the presidency with respect.”

The removal of Mr. Acosta’s credential, after a tense news conference on Wednesday when the CNN correspondent aggressively questioned Mr. Trump, has raised alarms among press freedom groups that say the president is encroaching on journalists’ basic right to cover the government…

Democrats Slap Donald Trump On the Wrist In the Midterms

The midterms were a mixed success for the Democrats in 2018. Most notably the Democrats took control of the House, but unfortunately this probably means Nancy Peolsi returns as Speaker. They also regained about three hundred of the near one thousand seats in state legislatures they lost over the past decade, have a majority of state attorney generals in the nation, and won some key governorship battles, especially in the midwest. On the other hand, despite a Republican president as terrible as Donald Trump, their midterm gains in the House were historically not terribly impressive for the party out of power, and they did poorly in the high profile battles in the Senate. (I’m waiting to hear Rachel Maddow explain why the Russians meddled in the Senate races but not the House races this year.)

This was far more a slap on the wrist than a shallacking for Donald Trump.

The Senate map was undoubtedly very unfavorable for Democrats, but it will be so virtually every year as long as Democrats are unable to come up with a message to win in the smaller states beyond the east coast. The system of giving two Senators to each state regardless of size makes the Senate extraordinarily unrepresentative. Still, don’t be tempted to repeat the memes showing up since the election regarding winning the popular vote. They are misleading as the entire nation did not vote for Senate, and this can be tilted by which states do vote. This was especially true in 2018 as California had two Democrats running for Senate due to a system where the two leaders in the primary get on the November ballot regardless of party. This leads to a tremendous number of Democratic votes if the mythical Senate popular vote is counted, but only one Democratic Senator.

Democrats are always far quicker to list off the problems which make it more difficult to win than to change their strategy. They showed once again that moving to the right in the hopes of attracting Republican votes does not work. Nor did recruiting veterans help them do any better than expected. I would prefer to see Democrats be more consistent in supporting a reduction in  the role of government in the private lives of individuals–an attitude which might make defense of reproductive rights part of a consistent philosophy that might be accepted in the more libertarian minded portions of the country. Taking a rational anti-war line, as opposed to acting as if they are apologizing for appearing weak on national security, might also help in those areas which are hurt by perpetual warfare–and rejected Hillary Clinton in 2016.

This does note mean that the Democrats don’t have many valid complaints, including regarding voter suppression and gerrymandering. Some of the election results will help, including increasing their strength in several state governments before the next redistricting. While the high profile races in Florida did not turn out as hoped (how badly did campaigning with Hillary Clinton hurt Andrew Gillum?), but there was a victory in passing a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have served their time.

While Democrats continued to struggle in Florida and Ohio, their hopes for Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin being more blue in 2018 look favorable after Tuesday’s results, including the defeat of Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Besides possibly giving the Democrats their electoral votes again in 2020, there might be an increased number of representatives as the heavily gerrymandered system of drawing Congressional districts will be replaced by an independent redistricting commission in Michigan.

Other ballot proposals passing in Michigan will make it easier to vote and legalized marijuana for recreational use. Newly elected Governor Gretchen Whitmer is looking at legislation or issuing executive orders to free prisoners convicted for marijuana related charges which will no longer be crimes after the ballot proposal passed. I did hold my nose and vote for Whitmer, despite her reliance on dark money and financing by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Action such as this will make me happier that I did so. A judge has already put some new marijuana cases on hold.

Medicaid expansion passed in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah, and is also expected in Kansas due to the victory for a Democratic governor. While there is no chance of it becoming law imminently, there are also more Democratic supporters of Medicare for All in the House.

There were victories for various groups. The media has covered extensively how there are more women and people of color in the House. In addition, seven more scientists were elected to the House–all Democrats as the Republican war on science continues.

It remains to be seen how some issues will play out now that the midterms are over. Are we still supposed to be terrified by the caravan? Donald Trump quickly took advantage of having control of the Senate by firing Jeff Sessions.  I never would have guessed that I would see this as a bad thing when Sessions first became Attorney General. On the one hand, Sessions might have been the worst Attorney General in history. On the other hand, Sessions was absolutely right in his dispute with Trump in recusing himself from Mueller’s investigation, and his firing could be a sign that Trump plans to take action against Mueller. I suspect that Mueller has prepared for this by being ready to turn over evidence of financial crimes committed by Trump and his cronies to state prosecutors. Congressional Democrats will also be able to take over the investigation if needed. Hopefully they concentrate on Trump’s financial crimes and obstruction of justice, as opposed to the dubious conspiracy theories popular among many Democrats blaming Russia for Hillary Clinton’s loss.