SciFi Weekend: Interview with Jodie Whittaker; Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Wiseman, and Doug Jones on Star Trek Discovery; Better Call Saul Season Finale; The Expanse; American Gods; Review of Doctor Who, The Ghost Monument


As I wrote in my review of The Woman Who Fell To Earth last week, Jodie Whittaker is doing an excellent job of portraying a newly regenerated Time Lord, still a bit confused about her role, who has changed from a Scotsman to a woman, yet still is clearly the Doctor. I will place my review of the second episode at the end to make it easier for those who are reading this before it aired to look away and avoid spoilers. For now, here are excerpts from an interview with Jodie Whittaker with Vulture:

When you were announced as the Doctor last summer, a lot of articles tried stirring the pot with headlines about a backlash, but I didn’t see that much vitriol on social media. Do you think the media was complicit in making a big fuss out of your casting, when, in fact, the overwhelming consensus was positive?
My limited perspective comes from the U.K. and its media. Not social media, because I’m not on it, so all of that went over my head. Sure, there were concerns or strange interpretations from fans. I think the negative responses were relatively small. Of course, when any Doctor changes — David [Tennant] to Matt [Smith], Matt to Peter [Capaldi], Peter to me — there’s an inevitable loss of the familiar. The suggestion that I’ve “ruined the show” or have “gone against the show” are coming from people who aren’t necessarily Whovians. If they understood the world, they know that Matt and David aren’t aliens. Peter isn’t an alien! Their gender is as irrelevant as mine as. As a political moment, or as a moment as a woman in the industry, it is relevant. But within the world of Doctor Who, it really isn’t.

It’s hard because for some people, Peter was their only Doctor. They haven’t lived through a regeneration before. It’s like you’re letting go of something. But the wonderful thing about the show is a celebration of change and evolution. There’s no point in making changes if you’re not going to do new things. I think the biggest misconception right now is that a woman has “ruined” the show.

That reminds me of one of your lines in the season premiere, which is something like, “I haven’t bought women’s clothes in a long time.” It suggests that the Doctor has been a woman before, but we just haven’t seen it on-screen.
Yeah, and there are a lot of things that reference what the show has done before — you’ll have to wait and see. The Doctor has three friends in the TARDIS now, even though it’s been traditional in the modern era to be one or two. Chris gets asked why he wants to “break form” in that way, and he’s like, Uh no, going back, that was always how it was on the show…

It’s one thing to have an anonymous Twitterbot spew stupid, misogynistic stuff about your casting, but when a former Doctor Peter Davison says he has doubts because it’s a “loss of a role model for boys,” does that give you pause?
I feel for him, because I feel he was misinterpreted. I don’t think it was a true reflection of what he was trying to say. Regardless of what was said, the mythology of “boys can only look up to boys” whereas “women are expected to look up to men,” it was never a question that our role models are men. But men have looked up to women their entire lives. Mothers, aunts, bosses — there are many versions of female heroes within our lives that are regardless of gender.

If someone actually came up to you and said, “I’m not watching the show anymore because the Doctor is a woman,” how would you respond?
I suppose I’d say, I think you have some internal issues that need addressing. I wonder if their mothers would be proud of that comment. [Laughs.] Some people are capable of change, but it isn’t worth engaging with, necessarily.

Let’s talk about your grand entrance! What were the conversations like surrounding that scene, especially in regards to the revelation of the Doctor discovering her new gender?
It was the second day on-set that I got to actually say all of those lines and do all of that jumping. I was like, Are you fucking kidding me? Jumping? You bastards! That hero speech is when I remember who I am. When I’m like, I thought my legs used to be longer!, it was a joy to play around with. It’s a nod to the fans, but if you haven’t seen the show before it’s okay, because it adds to the mystery of the character. Watching it back, it’s the most extraordinary entrance I’ve ever had to do.

In the premiere, the Stenza warrior mockingly tells the Doctor that she has a “tiny mind.” I didn’t necessarily think it was a gender-specific slight, but it did make me wonder: Will the Doctor’s new gender affect the way she’s treated by her adversaries? 
It definitely comes from things like history. I can’t speak to specifics, but there are moments when you venture into the past when relationships would be different. Like you said, we’re potentially going to times when women weren’t able to have a voice. The “tiny mind” thing was definitely character-to-character, not men-to-women. I don’t think gender played a role in the warrior’s motivation.

Are there motivations in future episodes when gender becomes more prevalent?
They do. There are times when we potentially go into history where gender is referenced, sometimes through others characters, too. But it’s irrelevant with the Doctor. The Doctor is the Doctor. The character isn’t lost because it’s in a female form. Maybe sometimes other people’s reactions are different because it’s a woman and not a man, but that’s as far as it goes.

I’ll get back to Doctor Who below. Meanwhile, we heard from yet another female lead of a science fiction franchise which began in the 1960’s, Sonequa Martin-Green of Star Trek: Discovery. From a a roundtable press interview as reported by TrekMovie.com from New York Comic Con:

Will Michael Burnham’s redemption arc continue in season two?

Oh for sure. The redemption continues, at least the journey to redemption continues, because what I realized as Burnham is that I have to forgive myself. I’ve been sort of redeemed, professionally speaking. I’ve been reinstated into Starfleet. I’ve been redeemed interpersonally. A lot of my coworkers and dear friends and loved ones have forgiven me and understood why I made the choices that I made, though they weren’t the right ones. But I do definitely have to forgive myself, and I carry a lot of guilt, as Burnham.

That’s a huge cornerstone for me, shame and guilt, because of things that happened, namely the murder of my parents, which was because of me. That’s a hell of a lot for a child to take on and carry with them through their maturation. So the redemption has to continue and it has to include a forgiveness and acceptance of my very self, and I say to Sarek in the pilot, that my emotions inform my logic, but what I need to find next is how my logic then informs my emotion. And that will show a synergy of all the parts of me. An acceptance of my emotion, an acceptance of my logic, an acceptance of my humanity, an acceptance of my Vulcan indoctrination … which is the journey of every human being, right? We have to find a way to accept all the parts of us and figure out how they work together, right? And we want that to be a seamless working together, but that’s a long journey for all of us. And that’s certainly the journey that’s continuing for me.

How would you define Burnham’s relationship with Spock?

Complicated. Difficult. Strenuous. We don’t shy away from that, either, which I love. And season 2, as I said in the panel just now, is deeply emotional. And I pray and hope that people can go on the journey with us wholeheartedly because it will wrench your heart. Because it is so deeply emotional. And of course, as we saw in the trailer, that wonderful trailer, that there’s lots of action, but this season digs down to a deeper emotional level than season 1 did. And I’m hoping that people just grit their teeth and are at the edge of their seats and take it in.

Are we going to find out why Spock has never told anyone about Michael?

Oh gosh, yeah. And we mentioned that too, you know … there’s a long game with Star Trek: Discovery. Because it is hyper-serialized, and because it is a novel told in chapters, there is a through-line, and there are conceptual weavings that take time to unravel – that might have been a mixed metaphor, but we’re just going to go with it – but I really encourage everyone to trust that every single question that we raise in Star Trek: Discovery that may seem like it’s not canon-compliant, every one of those questions gets answered. Every one.

Does Burnham wrestle with her spur-of-the-moment decision to bring back Mirror Georgiou?

For sure. What you’ll see in season 2 with Burnham – and with everyone else – is the aftermath. You’ll see the residual after the war, the war is over now, and now there’s time to think about everything that’s happened. And to look at the mess we’ve left behind and what we’ll do with it. And now, who are we? And where are we, and what are we doing, and what have I done and who am I now? And who are we now? Because there is a lot of aftermath after that war, there’s a lot of residual effect from the war. So that is just one of them – this huge decision that I made to bring Georgiou back, I will certainly be wrestling with that along with every other decision that was made throughout the course of season 1.

More at TrekMovie.com with full interview in this video:

In other interviews at New York Comic Con, Mary Wiseman and Doug Jones discussed Discovery and how their Short Treks episodes fit in:

Mary Wiseman: Yeah, I think it should take place sort of somewhere non-specific, in the timeline of season 2. So it’s not specific. And they wanted that so that it could be standalone. So people who don’t watch it, they can still appreciate the season, but also it’s an enriching sort of character story, deepens the character. So it’s set kind of where we are now, but not very specifically. We wanted to leave that open… Definitely after the medal ceremony, like you said.

Doug Jones: You’ll notice her hair, too. The hair might be a giveaway with where we are in the timeline.

Mary Wiseman: I was really obsessed with, just, you know, evolving from the bun into a pony.

Does “Runaway” affect what happens in season two?

Mary Wiseman: No, not sort of… super-specifically. The way that they exist in the world is more of a character study and a character deepening and a backstory – you get to see my mom, you know – it’s just like, I think it fleshes out a little bit who this character is. I don’t think we want it to directly affect the season, so if someone hasn’t seen it, they can still totally comprehend, and it will totally make sense.

Doug, can you tell us about your Short Treks episode (“The Brightest Star”)?

Doug Jones: The thing about all the four of the shorts we have so far, is that they’re all very different from each other, and they all take place in different moods, different time periods, different everything. Different characters. So mine is actually – you’re going to learn how Saru became a part of Starfleet. So mine goes back, so there are breadcrumbs that you’ll find in season 2 that you’ll find in the short film as well. So mine does have a direct tie with hints. But, like Mary just said, you can watch one or the other, with a complete story, without having to see the other one.

Season four of Better Call Saul ended with Jimmy talking about his plans for returning to practice law: “S’all good man!” In other words, we are seeing the birth of Saul Goodman. We also saw major development in Mike Ehrmantraut. Vulture spoke with showrunner Peter Gould:

What was the finale’s most dramatic moment: Mike executing Werner or Jimmy announcing his intent to practice as Saul?
This is a show with two sides: There’s the Mike Ehrmantraut side and the Jimmy McGill side. They’re two very different kinds of drama. On the one hand, you’re seeing the death of Werner Ziegler, and on the other, you might be seeing, possibly, the death of Jimmy McGill as we’ve known him. One is irrevocable, and one perhaps might still have a shot at redemption. I don’t know whether I can say one was more dramatic than the other…

Has Kim been trying to meet Jimmy halfway as he drifts further down his path, or is she still a mystery herself?
Yeah, Kim does try to meet Jimmy halfway. These two people have a lot in common. The first season, we saw Kim smile when he was doing that whole billboard scam. She enjoys the roguish side of Jimmy, but she believes that has to be put in its place. She seems to draw a very definite line between scamming and her legal work — until this season. If you squint at it one way, Jimmy’s dragging Kim down. If you turn your head and squint at it the other way, she’s facilitating his slide.

Kim is a relative blank slate compared to so many regular characters on Saul. Is that equally daunting and exciting?
One of the things that gratifies me the most is how much passion our audience has for thinking about Kim’s future, and how worried folks are when I talk to them about Kim. It’s really a tribute to Rhea Seehorn. Her character’s not quite like any character I’ve seen before. She has the best poker face of anybody I’ve seen, but she puts great intellect into the decisions she makes. But she also has an emotional, impulsive side, and someone who, like Jimmy has, pulled herself up by the bootstraps. I’m worried that she’s going to lose that, or lose her life, because we know Jimmy’s about to enter the same world of violence Mike has been living in. It gives us a world of possibilities in a show where a lot of the character’s fates are known already. All I can say is, I’d be very sorry if something terrible happened to Kim, but there’s a lot of things that can happen to people that don’t involve violent deaths.

The show isn’t moralistic, but it does put forward a point of view that you can’t just dip your toe into criminal life. Is that by design?
Hopefully it’s not a moralistic show, but we’re exploring a lot of questions about what’s okay to do. How do people get the things they want? How do they decide what they want? We talk a lot in the writers room about what the characters should be doing, and why doesn’t the character make the choice that in our eyes would be the most moral? There is a moral dimension, otherwise you just have chaos. One of the things I love in drama is it gives us all a chance to work out different possible lives. We’re all really law-abiding people in the writers room, so maybe it’s fun for us to race our minds over other ways to be in the world.

Peter Gould also spoke with Entertainment Weekly:

You’ve said that you kept pushing back Jimmy’s moment of transformation from as early as season 1 because you fell for Jimmy and loved exploring this character. Was it hard to finally let that moment happen? And why is now the right time?
I never felt like we were delaying it. It always felt like we hadn’t earned it. The Jimmy McGill we met in the first season of Better Call Saul was so very distant and different from Saul Goodman. And always the question we were asking ourselves and beating our heads against the wall trying to answer was, how does this guy become Saul Goodman? What we started with was, what is the problem that becoming Saul Goodman solves? And I think what we realized gradually, especially in season 4, was that the problem that becoming Saul Goodman solves is, “I don’t want to be Jimmy McGill anymore.” Saul Goodman is a choice that Jimmy makes — and I don’t think he’s made it all the way. I don’t think he’s exactly the Saul Goodman we met on Breaking Bad yet. Not by a long shot. I don’t think he’s ready to suggest murder to his clients, for instance. But assuming that separate identity is going to give him a lot of freedom. And I think he craves that freedom. Right now as the season ends, he thinks that there’s no contradiction between having that freedom of being Saul Goodman and also going home and being with Kim. We’ll see if he can have it both ways.

After Jimmy’s moment of triumph with the appeals board, Kim is stunned to see that he was faking it for the board. Does their relationship ever really recover from that moment? Especially coupled with that parking lot rooftop fight, which ended with her lacerating him with the comeback, “You’re always down, Jimmy.”
Wow! Oh, boy. That’s a great question because Jimmy has never fooled Kim before. He’s never scammed her. And now he has scammed her. But I will say two things that give me a little bit of hope for their relationship. First of all, that was an awful fight on the roof. But also, maybe it’s a door to a more honest relationship. Possibly. Because the two of them have been keeping their own counsel about so many things, there have been so many sins of omission between them: Kim started doing public defender work and she didn’t mention it to Jimmy for quite a while, and Jimmy was selling phones on the street and wasn’t telling Kim. I think they’re in a different place. There’s a little bit more honesty there because Jimmy especially has expressed his fears about the relationship. They came out as accusations, but in another way of looking at it, they are and were his fears. So it’s a question. I think it can go either way after an argument like that. And Jimmy doesn’t know that he fooled Kim. He may have scammed her, but his back was to her in that room. He was scamming the members of the board. We’ll see. I think that these two have a deep affection for each other, and I think they may have a little further to go down the road. I’m hoping.

In other genre news, Netflix has cancelled Iron Fist after two seasons. It was definitely the weakest of their Marvel series. I have seen some speculation that it might return when Disney starts their upcoming streaming service.

CBS and Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence are working on an adaption of DC’s Secret Six comics.

The Expanse cast did not make New York Comic Con, but Amazon did release the above video.

Neil Gaiman said at New York Comic Con that current plans are for at least five seasons of American Gods. According to I09, the second season will look at social media and the surveillance state.

I will now return to Doctor Who, with a warning that there are spoilers for those who have not seen The Ghost Monument. Jodie Whittaker was again great, but the jury is still out on the writing by Chris Chibnall. I did not expect a very complicated episode last week, consider all the table-setting that had to be done, but I did wonder if Chibnall might have lost an opportunity because of new viewers turning in. This week we had the typical second episode for a new Doctor, taking the companions into space–even if somewhat accidental this time. The problem, as the Doctor described it was, “We’ve been dumped in space, we’ve got spaceships crashing all around us, now we’re marooned on a planet that everyone else seems to be running to get away from.”

Unfortunately the actual episode was much smaller than this. Early in the episode it looked like they had come across the tent from The Great British Bake Off. A great race which included 209 terrains and over 94 planets was down to two contestants, location shots of desert from South Africa, and some pretty simplistic robots who could not hit anyone. Epzo and Angstrom were okay as guest characters. The closest thing to a villain was a hologram, to which the Doctor commented, “I was a hologram for three weeks – the gossip I picked up.” Not that I didn’t enjoy seeing a simple story with the Doctor and her new companions, but more might have been done to try to hook new viewers.

The trek did provide for some character development. Ryan again had a tendency to touch things he should not, and was given a lesson in why guns are not good to use. Ryan and Graham are having difficulty connecting after the death of Grace, and I suspect we will see development in their relationship over the course of the series. We will also need to watch for more references to the Stenza to see if they become a season-long threat, and there was the mysterious mention of the Timeless Child. The episode might seem more important down the road if they build upon these.

The highlights of the episode were the new title sequence and seeing the inside of the TARDIS (complete with biscuit dispenser). In addition, there were sunglasses in the episode which were previously worn by worn by either Audrey Hepburn or Pythagoras. (Somehow they were in the Doctor’s pocket even though she had empty pockets last week and had not been back to the TARDIS yet.)

The title sequence is in the video above. The video below shows the newly designed TARDIS with a description from Production Designer, Arwel Wyn Jones:

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Woman Who Fell To Earth; Star Trek Runaway, Bearded Spock, and the Picard Series; The Magicians

After months of anticipation, Doctor Who premiered today in an international simulcast. Jodie Whittaker totally nailed the role as The Doctor, showing that glass ceilings can be broken when you have the right woman. Her personality as the Doctor is far from completely established as this was a regeneration episode in which the Doctor is suffering from post-regenerative trauma. Whittaker did capture both many aspects of previous Doctors along with the disorientation of one in the process of completing a regeneration. She managed to be both somewhat confused and totally in charge, without this feeling at all contradictory. Chris Chibnall and crew also showed they understand what came before them on Doctor Who.

Despite the change, it did not seem at all strange to have a woman play the Doctor, while a male could have also played the lead in this episode, other than for a brief exchange when the Doctor apparently forgot having seen that she is a woman in last season’s finale, Twice Upon A Time. Again she is suffering from post-regenerative trauma, or perhaps a concussion after somehow surviving a fall to earth and into a train. She was surprised to be called a woman, and explained that, “Half an hour ago, I was a white-haired Scotsman.” She quickly accepted that she is a now a woman asking, “Am I? Does it suit me?”

Whittaker quickly established that she is also an alien when another character expressed skepticism about the threat on the train being an alien, saying “Don’t be daft, there’s no such thing as aliens. Anyway, even if there was, they ain’t gonna be on a train in Sheffield.” The Doctor responded, “Why not? I’m alien and I’m here.”

Yasmin, a new companion training to be a police officer, initially wanted to play by the book. The Doctor dissuaded her: “And why do you need to check CCTV when we all saw it with our own eyes?  But, you’re worried about how you’ll explain all this to a superior officer who won’t believe you.” This scene involving a woman who fears she will not be believed benefits from the accidental timing of airing the day after Brent Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, despite the accusations of a woman which some did not believe.

Whittaker still had to establish some of the other characteristics of the Doctor. Her pockets were empty, and she hates empty pockets. This left her being forced to rebuild her sonic screwdriver, instead of it just turning up as it has done for other Doctors. She also explained its role to her new companions and new viewers: “Sonic screwdriver. Well, I say screwdriver, but it’s a bit more multipurpose than that. Scanner, diagnostics, tin opener! More of a… sonic Swiss army knife, but without the knife – only idiots carry knives.”

While the explanation worked, I do hope that she goes back to referring to it as her sonic screwdriver and not sonic Swiss army knife.

There were various scenes in which she explained who she is, including explaining her regeneration and her role to her new companions:

There’s this moment when you’re sure you’re about to die. And the you’re born! It’s terrifying. Right now I’m a stranger to myself. There’s echoes of who I was and a sort of call towards who I am. And I have to hold my nerve and trust all these new instincts. Shape myself towards them. I’ll be fine. In the end. Hopefully. But I have to be, because you guys need help and if there’s one thing I’m certain of, when people need help, I never refuse! Right? This is gonna be fun!

She also warned the monster of the week who she is: “Bit of adrenaline, dash of outrage and a hint of panic knitted my brain back together. I know exactly who I am. I’m the Doctor. Sorting out fair play throughout the universe. Now, please – get off this planet, while you still have a choice.”

We did meet a whole new group of companions. Among things we learned were that Ryan has a tendency to touch things he shouldn’t, which the Doctor warns about in the preview to next week’s episode. He also has a developmental disorder which interferes with activities such as riding a bicycle. I wonder if riding a bicycle will become important in a future episode. We also learned that Graham has cancer, which is in remission.

I haven’t said very much about the actual story or the monster as this part was weak, as we have seen in previous regeneration episodes. There was far too much table setting to deal with than to worry about the story. There were some major plot holes which will soon be forgotten, such as how the monster initially came to earth to take someone’s sister before Ryan gave permission. If people are being held in some sort of stasis on the cusp of life and death, I would have expected the Doctor to go to their rescue. Maybe we will see this in the future, but I suspect we will not.

Once the monster was taken care of, partially in a manner the Doctor did not approve of, and there was a funeral for one character who did not survive, the Doctor was advised of the need to finally change her clothes. Rather than going through the TARDIS and throwing clothes all over until finding the desired look, the Doctor did the same in a clothing store. The store clerks will hate her. Then on to getting the TARDIS back. This was not completed this episode, so we did not get a chance to see either the new interior or the reactions of the new companions to it being bigger on the inside. Instead there is sort of a cliff hanger with them all just floating in space. I imagine that if the Doctor could fall all the way to earth without getting hurt, surviving this will not be all that difficult.

The first Star Trek Short Treks premiered with Runaway, staring Mary Wiseman as Tilly. The episode gives us a food fight, a further look at Tilly’s desire to get into command, and an introduction to another planet (which may or may not play a part in the actual series).

The return date for Star Trek: Discovery was announced to be January 17 at New York Comic Con, and the above trailer was released. It ends with a look at Spock, played by Ethan Peck, seen with a beard. As it is not a goatee, I suspect it is due to being in a situation where he could not shave, as opposed to indicating Mirror Spock. However, one character from the Mirror Universe is seen. Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) now works for Section 31. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) is undergoing her own metamorphosis. A transfer from the mirror universe, the ruthless empress was recruited into the secretive Section 31. “What they don’t like to do, we get to do really, really well,” she explained after jokingly tell the audience to bow to her. “Not everybody knows that I was from the mirror universe, so sometimes I get to play the good captain: compassionate, kind. And then with Georgiou from Section 31, she’s manipulative, dangerous.”

TrekMovie.com has some news on the upcoming series staring Patrick Stewart:

Speaking to TrekMovie at New York Comic Con on Saturday, executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin confirmed that actually, the plan is for new Picard show to be an ongoing Star Trek series. Heather Kadin specifically confirmed they are planning for the Picard series to run multiple seasons.

During the Discovery panel itself, Kurtzman spoke very briefly about the Picard series, saying the writers’ room is up and running, and noting “we are four weeks in.” Speaking to TrekMovie following the panel Kadin and Kurtzman confirmed that production on the Picard show is expected to begin in April 2019. They were not able to provide any estimates on when the show would be released, but if the Picard show follows the same pattern as Discovery, it could debut in early 2020.

The producers did talk about how they hoped to roll out the various shows in the planned expansion of the Star Trek television universe. When asked about CBS Studios David Stapf’s comments from August saying there “should be a Star Trek something on all the time on All Access,” Kadin confirmed with TrekMovie that the plan is to not have Star Trek shows overlap. She also noted they plan to have breaks between the various Trek shows, to build up fan anticipation.

Kurtzman also talked about how the Picard will relate to Discovery. Responding to a fan question during the Q&A portion of the panel the executive producer said that Jean-Luc Picard “will not mesh into this season [of Discovery], that will be its own thing.”

No other details on the Picard show were revealed during the panel or at our roundtable discussion. However, at the panel Kurtzman did tease the crowd regarding the Picard show saying “Who wants to know who the bad guys are?” only to then say “no” he wasn’t going to give out that kind of info.

Taking place much further into the future, it only makes sense that the new series will not mesh into the plot lines of Discovery. Having each series on at a different time also works well for the business model of CBS All Access, giving fans reason to continue to subscribe year round. (In this age of peak television, have a break in between is also welcome). Of course for this to really work, they will need at least one or two more Star Trek series.

The above trailer from season 4 of The Magicians was also released at New York Comic Com. Margo meets Ember in a dream but, as was seen in last season’s finale, Margo has no memory of being a queen.

Actually it seemed like I was watching the season finale of The Magicians all over again a couple of weeks ago when watching the season finale of Killjoys. Instead of The Monster being on the loose and most of the characters losing their memories and having new identities, Killjoys ended with The Lady on the loose and the main characters also having new identities with their old memories lost.