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.

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