SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; Interviews With Jason Isaacs; The Good Place Second Season Finale; American Gods Gets New Showrunner

What’s Past Is Prologue was an exciting episode of Star Trek: Discovery in which a lot happened (with major spoilers ahead). In a single episode, Lorca went from a prisoner to taking control of Georgiou’s ship. Georgiou agreed to team up with Burhnam and they not only retook control of the ship, but Georgiou went along with Burnham and her plan to destroy it. The threat to the entire multiverse from the corruption of the mycelial network was resolved, and the Discovery made it home to the prime universe. The title, like so many this season, was quite appropriate considering how the events of the start of the season were mirrored in these events.

That certainly made for an exciting episode, but considering how they had the luxury of telling the story over multiple episodes, I wish that they had given more time to these events to make them more plausible. I’ve seen quicker, less plausible, resolutions in single episode stories, but there was no need to resolve everything so quickly in a serialized format. It seemed way too easy for Lorca to take control. Why were his allies even kept alive after all this time and not beamed into space as we have seen done with other traitors? It was also too easy for Burnham to move around the ship and for her to get Georgiou’s help. Why did Georgiou so quickly give up on her own future after putting down the rebellion?

Putting aside these questions, this has us back to the prime universe with a nine month jump in which the Federation went from appearing to be winning the war with the Klingons to now appearing to have lost the war. If the Federation bases nearby were all destroyed, I do wonder where the Discovery pulled up that map from. Were the conquering Klingons now putting out the information on some sort of public channel to brag about their victory? Of course I’ll let this nitpick go as it allowed the story to progress without a diversion to figure things out--analogous to how they picked up information when first appearing in the Mirror Universe.

Seeing the Federation being defeated when we obviously know they survived the Klingon war raises questions which presumably will be answered in the final two episodes of the season. Is this a case of a war in which each side dominated at various times, leading to the outcome we know of? Or is this a different timeline, and will time travel be used to change events of the preceding nine months? I hope that this is not the case and we don’t wind up with problems of fixing problems with time travel as we have seen on The Flash. I also wonder if the tide changes in the war due to help from Mirror Georgiou.

Regardless of whether Georgiou helps them, it is a big question as to what they do with her. Star Fleet security often seems very limited, but would they allow her to roam freely on the Discovery? On the other hand, it would he difficult to confine her as a prisoner as she has committed no crimes in our universe (and any terrible acts she might have committed in the Mirror Universe were presumably legal over there). Perhaps Discovery might be more realistic than past Star Trek series in having a situation in which someone is not a prisoner, but can be restricted from any sensitive areas and have use of the computer either prohibited or restricted.

Besides having a former Mirror Universe Emperor on board, there are also one and one-half Klingons, and they are also likely to play a role in what is to come this season.

Saru is Captain for now, giving us the first example of an alien being the Captain on a Star Trek series. Previously I had difficulty taking Saru seriously as a Captain, thinking he would not be bold enough for the role. However he did give a great speech to the crew, reminiscent of both Kirk and Picard. Still I bet that next season we will again have a ship with a human captain.

Lorca appears to be dead, but perhaps being absorbed by the mycelial  network gives him a way to return. That speck of the mycelial network falling on Tilly may or may not be significant. I sure hope that it is not foreshadowing Lorca taking over her body. Besides the question of whether the Lorca we know can return, they left matters open so that the original prime Lorca could still be around. Same is true of the original Mirror Burhnam. My suspicion is that neither might be seen this season, but the writers were leaving their options open for future seasons.

Jason Isaacs will be a big loss to Discovery if he is really gone. Entertainment Weekly recently interviewed him:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, so in terms of Mirror universe Lorca — who as it turned out was the Lorca we knew all along — he’s really, truly dead, right?
JASON ISAACS: Here’s the context: I’ve lied to all of the press constantly since the very first day I got this job. So why would you believe anything I say now?

Well, because there is some seeming finality to his story, at least to this version of the character?
I would say, yeah, the prognosis is not good for him given he was dissolved into a million pieces on camera. There are not many homeopathic cures that can help that.

When did you know Lorca’s secret backstory?
I knew before I took the job. It was pitched to me that he was from the Mirror world. I said, “What’s he doing here? How did he get here? What does he want? And how’s he going to go about achieving those things?” And at first they went, “We’re not really sure, it could be one of 20 different things.” And I blinked slightly and I said, “I’m not sure I want to do the job if I don’t know exactly what he’s after, because then I won’t be able to act!” Then we had a bunch of discussions and came up with a plan which we pretty much stuck to all the way through. Then it was not just easy, but a joy, because I had that lovely thing that actors always love, and the camera likes, and that’s that I had secrets. I knew what I was after, why I was doing stuff, and I knew when I would reel Michael Burnham [Sonequa Martin-Green] in, what I wanted her for. It was deliciously ambiguous for viewers but if you watch it a second time you’ll see it was always crystal clear.

Is there anything in particular we should go back and look for in your performance?
Well, there’s the giant bold story points: Why the hell would I get some prisoner, some mutineer, re-route her ship, and promote her way beyond her capacity, in defiance of everybody else in Starfleet? If not to engender loyalty because I had a long-term plan for her. She’s great, but nobody is that great. There’s a number of little things. The fact that [Admiral Katrina Cornwell] and I, that I can’t remember instances that she’s referring to. And I sleep with a phaser in a paranoid way. And when it looks like she might take the ship from me, I consign her to a trap that I must have seen coming or set up. And then there’s forcing Stamets to do a bunch of jumps that were unnecessary, and the mapping I was doing privately. I was prepared to break Starfleet rules and directives. And even when I’m back in the Mirror world pretending to be Prime Lorca who’s pretending to be Mirror Lorca — if you can follow that twisted logic — and when Burnham comes to be and says they’re asking me to kill the people down on the planet and I say, “Just do it.” I’m not sure Kirk or Picard would have done that. This is a guy who’s had his eye on the prize for a very long time, and he gets very close.

What was his biggest mistake? 
In the end, he hadn’t read Burnham correctly. He thought of her as practical, pragmatic, having made out-of-the-box decisions earlier on, that she’d see the best option for her is to stay and help him rule this empire and maybe she might buy into the racist philosophy he adheres to — the lack of assimilation and that the world is healthier and better when those who are powerful and strong rule it and the weak are kept down. He’s blinded by that kind of bigotry, and it’s never going to fly for her.

It’s never quite made clear, I don’t think, exactly what was going on with Prime Lorca, who we assume he switched places with …
There was a Prime Locra, he was captain of the Buran in the Prime world. He swapped with him and found himself captain of the Buran. This never came out, this backstory detail we never put in the dialogue: Lorca spins this story having had to sacrifice the men on Buran and had to blow them up to save them from Klingon torture. Actually, if I remember correctly, there was some kind of DNA identification that would have exposed Lorca as not being Prime Lorca, and so he blew up the ship and killed everyone on it.

But what happened to Prime Lorca is now an open question …
It is.

Do you know the answer to that? 
If I did, you’d have to stand behind my wife, friends, and professional collaborators to find out the answer. I’ve kept this one big secret for six months — I am certainly going to keep any others.

Well, are you signed on for season 2?
I’m sorry, is that not a related question?

It’s my tricky way of asking if we’re going to meet Prime universe Lorca. 
Oh God, that totally would have worked on me if I had the IQ of a sock. If I do do another season, I know I won’t have to wear that leather coat anymore. It turns out I had to revoice every voice I made during those scenes because [the jacket] squeaked like a rusty bedpost in a brothel.

Jason Isaacs was also interviewed by Variety:

Was his interest in Burnham just to use her as a tool to get to Georgiou or was it that he was attracted to her?
It’s twofold. It was 99% “She is the tool by which I will pry open the locked doors and gain access to the Emperor.” Without Burnham, he would just be killed if he reappeared. So he needed Burnham. And not only did he need her, he needed to win her over and make her feel like he was her best friend in the world and her confessor and she could trust him and possibly have faith in him beyond any of her training. And at the same time, in the back of his head, less important, was the idea that if he could gain the throne, she might rule alongside him.

Lorca is revealed to be someone who is pretty racist …
That’s absolutely right. The Terran world, unlike the original incarnations of the Mirror Universe where they were just a kind of one-dimensional evil, this is a world that is not very far from our very own. We could all wake up and be mirror versions of ourselves any day. It’s a very Darwinian world, and a world that from Lorca’s point of view and for millions of people with his point of view, where assimilation is a bad thing and there’s a natural hierarchy of racists. To disrespect that is to sow chaos and anarchy, and lying is a perfectly reasonable technique to get what you want. Sadly, I don’t think we need to look very far to find those these reflected in our headlines every day.

Was it important to you that his thinking be rooted in something and that he not just be a mustache-twirling villain?
Yeah, I wouldn’t have taken the job. But luckily it was important to everyone. I had no interest in playing a mustache-twirling villain and they had no interest in creating one. When we got to the mirror world, it was very important to me that the dialogue feel like it was in many ways ripped from the headlines. It’s no coincidence that I’m exhorting my followers to make the Empire great again.

‘Star Trek’ has always had a socially progressive element to it. Were you surprised or pleased as the season played out to see just how much the the writers dug in on fairly complicated ideas about racism?
One of the great skills of the writers is that it’s never about those things. It’s about the plot. Incidentally you’re looking at a fully ethnically inclusive crew and gay couples and straight couples. It’s a future which is inclusive. But that’s never front and center in the story. What surprised me, given that I know the huge, incredibly welcoming reception that the show’s had from “Star Trek” fans, is the people who, online at least, pretended to be “Star Trek” fans to attack it on racist lines. People would be coming out from where they should be hiding in the shadows to say the most racist things, all sorts of white supremacists and haters, feigning the mask of “Star Trek” supporters, attacking it for the very things that “Star Trek” has always stood for — which makes them look, frankly, ridiculous.

Last week also featured the season finale of The Good Place. For the benefit of those not watching, despite being a comedy, The Good Place has had an ongoing fantasy story line, and has often dealt with philosophical issues. The first season finale totally shook up everything we thought about the show during the season. The second season finale was also a huge change, but not as big as after the first season. Instead it continues from where the season was heading, which is a good thing. The show might have lost credibility if it once again said they were deceiving us and something else was going on.

Among the highlights, there was the opportunity to have Ted Danson back behind the bar like on Cheers. It is not clear whether Eleanor and the others were really returned to Earth and their death was undone, whether this is some sort of simulation created to test them, or whether the distinction even matters. It is somewhat reminiscent of the final season of Lost, with the connection to the afterlife not being clear until the finale. Presumably all four will ultimately wind up back together, perhaps even figuring out once again what is going on. Wherever they are going with this, the twist opens a lot of possibilities for the third season.

American Gods just might have a showrunner who can keep the show going after the loss of Bryan Fuller. The Hollywood Reporter has a story on the newly hired showrunner:

After an extensive search, American Gods has enlisted a new showrunner for season two.

Jesse Alexander, who worked with Bryan Fuller on shows including Hannibal and Star Trek: Discovery, will take over showrunning duties alongside novel scribe Neil Gaiman…

“I’m thrilled that Jesse is [the] showrunner. He loves and understands the book, he loves and understands the TV series and he’s dedicated to making future seasons of American Gods as good and as beautiful and as unique as they can be,” Gaiman tells THR. “Shadow’s journey is going to take him, and Mr. Wednesday, and the New Gods and the Old, to some very strange places. I’m glad that we, and the cast and crew, will have Jesse shepherding us on the way.”
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