SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Oxygen; Timeless; Sense8; The Handmaid’s Tale; More Renewals and Cancellations; The Last Man On Earth Season Finale; Artistic Opposition To Donald Trump

Doctor Who began Oxygen with an apparent homage to Star Trek, speaking of the final frontier. Except it led into this week’s episode by saying, “Final because it wants to kill us.” Final frontier might also tie into the return of the Master by referring to the 1973 episode Frontier In Space which was final appearance of Roger Delgado as the Master.

The episode took advantage of the Doctor’s role as professor, and allowed him to use the blackboard again, even if he got off topic in discussing the dangers in space: “What’s this got to do with crop rotation?” This was a combination hard science fiction/space zombie episode, with less of the simple talk between Bill and the Doctor. That does not mean Bill didn’t get a chance to ask pertinent questions such as, “What happens if I throw up in my helmet?”

The best answer of the episode came from the Doctor in response to the question“Who the hell put you in charge?” The response: “I’m here to save lives. Anyone who doesn’t want me to, raise your hand now.”

The episode finally involved Nardole in the story, and got him off earth.

This was one of the more political episodes of the show. It was bad enough to find that the miners were charged for oxygen. They would also pump any excess oxygen out of the station to force the workers to have to purchase the oxygen from them. Making matters even worse, once the algorithms calculated that it was not cost effective to keep the workers alive, they were turned off and the suits took over. They continued to move, looking like space zombies.

A line from the Doctor when he figured out that the next set of people coming were not to rescue the workers, as that would not be cost effective, made this all work: “They’re not your rescuers. They’re your replacements. The end point of capitalism. The bottom line where human life has no value at all. We’re fighting an algorithm, a spreadsheet … like every worker everywhere, we’re fighting the suits!”

Giving the two meanings to “fighting the suits” fit in so well with this episode.

The Doctor went on to explain that soon after humanity resorted things like selling oxygen capitalism came to an end. However, after this, “the human race makes a whole new mistake.”

The solution to the problem was simple but fit into the story. The Doctor began to bluff in saying, “The nice thing about life is however bad it gets, there’s always one option left – dying well.” He had no intention of actually dying, but he made it look like he would make it more expensive for the corporation, causing the suits to all stop.

Unfortunately this did not come without some costs. The sonic screwdriver was destroyed (once again). The Doctor gave Bill his helmet to keep her alive, and as a result became blind. As the Doctor put it,  “I’ve got no TARDIS, no sonic, about 10 minutes of oxygen left and now I’m blind. Can you imagine how unbearable I’m going to be when I pull this off?”

Many episodes this season turn something common into something deadly,  reminiscent of Blink. This week the warning was “don’t panic” as this will lead to breathing faster, using up more oxygen, and death. Next week in Extremis yet another common event, reading a book, might get you killed. The Doctor’s blindness might be what saves him. Is this just a temporary measure for next week’s episode, or is it part of a slow death leading to his regeneration later this season? From the preview, we also see the return of Missy.

There was a lot of news this week regarding final decisions on renewals, largely with shows which were thought to be on the bubble. The announced cancellations included Sleepy Hollow, Timeless, Blacklist: Redemption (with Blacklist renewed), Scandal, PowerlessFrequency, and No Tomorrow. Renewals included New Girl (for one final season), Gotham, Agents of SHIELD, iZombie, American Gods, Thirteen Reasons Why, and A Handmaid’s Tale.

Of the cancelled shows, the only two which I might miss are Sleepy Hollow and Timeless. Sleepy Hollow did recover this season, with its season finale working as either the series finale or as a stepping stone to a new season. Timeless got better as the season went on, and ended with a cliff hanger which did leave me wanting more. Fortunately NBC listened to protests from other fans who felt the same and reversed its decision, giving it ten episodes next spring or summer.

Considering the nature of the show, there is also speculation that time travel was utilized to bring back the show. However, we learned from The Flash that going back in time to change things does have consequences. Reversing the decision at NBC might lead to terrible consequences. Perhaps ER will return for another decade, or worse, Whitney or Sean Saves The World will return to the NBC lineup.

I have no idea how the two new CW shows, Frequency and No Tomorrow, were. I never gave them a chance as there were already more shows on than I had time for, but I know both shows did have their fans. The CW Network has at least released epilogues for both of these shows.

Both Thirteen Reasons Why and The Handmaid’s Tale have been renewed for a second season, adding to the series based upon books which are going on beyond where the book they were based upon ended. The third season of The Leftovers is showing how a series can be better in such a situation. The Handmaid’s Tale has been excellent through the fifth episode, leaving me quite trusting of the producers to continue the story. While based upon the book this season, the show so far is often made stronger when it goes beyond the book. The story feels more realistic and a possible extension of current trends by showing the flashbacks. Mentions of events in Canada and the European Union since I last mentioned the book have further added to this sense of reality.

Now that we have also had additional episodes beyond the first three which were released at once, I further appreciate how good a job they are doing at not only converting a book but presenting episodic television. While it is not necessarily bad, many streaming shows and shows based upon books are more like a multi-hour movie with arbitrary breaks every hour or so. In contrast, each episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, while part of the novel, do tell a separate story.

Sense8, which I have completed since last discussing this, is also stronger in its second season in better handling episodic television while also having a season-long arc. Highlights include a wedding, a shoot out, and a car chase, along with other things I won’t mention to avoid any spoilers.

The Last Man on Earth ended with a change in scenery necessitated by a nearby nuclear power plant being on the verge of a melt down. We also found out that Kristen Wiig’s character, who had appeared in a single episode, has survived. Den of Geek spoke with the writers:

DEN OF GEEK: I sort of like the idea that this finale is all about safety. Did you know that you’d be ending up at this nuclear fallout angle when the season began? There are light references to it throughout the year.

KIRA KALUSH: We were always pretty set on doing a nuclear fallout this season. For a while we thought it could be our mid-season finale. We even toyed around with it being the reason the group leaves Malibu, but ultimately, here it landed, and I think it was the right move.

ANDY BOBROW: When we went in to discuss the season with the network, we pitched this ending, kind of as a “this is something we’re thinking about, not married to it yet.” It certainly scared them financially, since we basically guaranteed we will have to build all new sets next year. So we were mindful of that, what it would cost. And we kept thinking, well, maybe some better idea will come along. As the year progressed, we really couldn’t think of anything stronger. We realize we’re writing ourselves into a corner, but it just seemed so Last Man, I think we had to go for it.

Is that perhaps the direction that the show is moving in?  Where the gang is just trying to avoid nuclear fallout. It’s nice that this material also brings everything back full circle in terms of Pat.

KIRA KALUSH: You can never really say where the show is going until we’re there, but I don’t think the group will be on the run for too long. It’s likely that this is just a way for them to move locations and get out of their element. But who knows? R.I.P. Pat Brown. He was a fantastic misunderstood conspiracy theorist with anger problems, but it was his time to go.

ANDY BOBROW: The thought of doing a whole season on the run is very enticing, but might be cost prohibitive. Just in terms of the production of the show, our model is we build a set and shoot three days on set and two days on location per episode. Location shooting is more expensive, but if there’s a way to do more of it and stay on budget, I’m all for it…

The season seems to end with the only things that are clear being that the gang is on a boat and that Kristen Wiig’s Pamela is along for the ride. Did you ever think of her appearance almost just functioning as like a short film about the end of the world, or was the plan always to circle back to her?

KIRA KALUSH: I actually have a good answer to this one. There was a pitch that always made me laugh, but it’s a giant “fuck you” to the audience. The Wiig episode is so good and so exciting and we knew our fans would be psyched, waiting to see when and how she joins the group. So the pitch was this: In the time jump at Melissa and Todd’s wedding, Tandy is rambling on about everything they’ve been through together as a group. He points to memorials of Phil, Gordon, Lewis, and finally, Pamela — revealing that Pamela met up with the group, lived with them and died, all within those six months. I don’t think we ever would have done it, but it still cracks me up.

ANDY BOBROW: Right right. I mentioned this in the time jump questions, because at one point, rather than Pamela it was going to be Steve Buscemi. Either Steve Buscemi as himself, or just a character Tandy mentions, who is represented by a driver’s license or passport on a tombstone, and you can see it’s Steve Buscemi.

But getting back to Pamela, Will’s initial discussion with Kristen was we’ll take you for as few or as many episodes as you want. So our thought was if we could only have her for one episode, it would be a thing where she interacts with them more, i.e. she shows up at the beginning and leaves them at the end. Since she was game for more than one, we decided this was the way to go. Do a standalone with her, and then have her show up at the end. There were pitches that would have used more of her in the finale, but her availability was limited. She only had a day. As for season four, well once again, we’ll take as much Kristen as we can get.

The first episode of The Last Man on Earth with Kristen Wiig showed the death of the Pence administration, presumably after Trump was gone. While the novel was written in the Reagan era, The Handmaid’s Tale as a television show has been seen as a cautionary tale about Donald Trump.

In another commentary on politics, during the past week we learned that hail-hydra.com redirected to the official White House web site. Bleeding Cool tracked down and interviewed the person responsible for this:

Bleeding Cool: What made you decide to do this? Did you own the domain before you decided to do the redirect or did you buy a while ago? What made you decide to buy it?

Hail-Hydra Owner: I bought the domain in April of 2014. I’d remembered the Senator played by Garry Shandling whispering “Hail Hydra!” in Iron Man 2, then is arrested at the end of Captain America: Winter’s Soldier for being a member of Hydra. His character reminded me of many GOP senators (probably a personal bias there) so I looked to see if I could come up with a good domain to redirect at Republicans. hail-hydra.com was the second I tried. Originally I pointed it at Ted Cruz‘s presidential campaign, then Trump’s campaign and finally (and depressingly) at his White House web page…

Bleeding Cool: What about the current redirect? Was it something you changed recently or was it when he was inaugurated in January? Or was this a reaction to something specific that President Trump did?

Hail-Hydra Owner: I changed it the day of the inauguration. It was the first time I knew I was going to change it and when. All the other times I’d just remembered I owned it and would pick a target based on news at the time, and then tweet a few people to try and get it to go viral. I’m not even sure what set it off this time around.

Bleeding Cool: Finally, how do you want people to react to what you’ve done here? Did you get the type of reaction that you wanted or did you want something more? Less?

Hail-Hydra Owner: Since this seems to be getting some news I’ve kept an eye on twitter reactions, most people are reacting the way I would hope. It’s funny, it’s political satire. Do I think Republicans are literal Nazis? No. Do I think they’re over-authoritarian with a complete disregard for the majority of people in the country that can’t donate a million dollars to them? Yes. Several articles say they contacted the White House for comment, I hope I don’t end up on a terror list in retaliation.

For those who prefer their artistic opposition to Donald Trump to come from music, The Hill reports:

Todd Rundgren, a singer and songwriter, warned fans not to attend his concerts if they are Donald Trump supporters, saying “buyer beware.”

“If I had the power, I’d say: If you’re a Trump supporter, don’t come to my show, because you won’t have a good time,” Rundgren said in a Variety interview released Sunday.

Rundgren collaborated with an array of artists for his new album “White Night,” including Donald Fagen. Together, Fagen and Rundgren produced an anti-Trump song called “Man in the Tin Foil Hat.”

Lyrics include: “He’s coming down the escalator with a girl from east of here, because the man in the tin foil hat is leading like a teenage girl. He put’s the ‘pluto’ in plutocrat, he hasn’t got time for losers, unless they do what he demands.”

Rundgren said his shows will contain many insulting jokes about the Republican president, warning that it could be a turnoff for the president’s supporters

“I guarantee that in this show, if you’re a Trump supporter, you will likely be offended. Let the buyer beware! I mean, if you can’t take a joke, or you can’t admit that you’ve made a mistake, you don’t belong with the rest of us,” he said with a laugh, according to the interview.

Rundgren also said he also questions the values of Trump supporters.

“And also, I don’t understand your frickin’ values. Because I’m not singing about that. If you don’t understand that basic thing, you’re just fooling yourself,” he added.

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