SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Arachnids In The UK; Penny Dreadful Returning; Marvel Television Crossover Hinted; Arrowverse Crossover and News on The Flash

Arachnids in the UK provided both a horror story before Halloween and political satire just over a week before the midterm elections in the United States. These two components were not entirely successful, but there was a third aspect of this episode of Doctor Who which was a success, redeeming the episode.

The main story line was fairly weak (as many episodes of Doctor Who tend to be), and its fairly minimal importance was seen in the way it was wrapped up quickly. Rather than being a true monster, the spiders were simply normal spiders who grew to be too big and lacked an ecosystem to exist in. The solution played into the anti-gun sentiments seen earlier this season, but is it really more humane to let them suffocate as opposed to shooting them quickly? I could see earlier seasons solving the problem more humanely by transporting the spiders to a new planet where they could live in peace. While the episode did provide a quick solution for the spiders in the hotel, it also seemed to forget that there were additional spiders around the apartments seen earlier in the episode.

Chris Noth added the political aspect for the episode and, like the spiders, fell short of being the outright villain of the episode. He played an American businessman who aspires to be president, builds luxury hotels around the world, loves to fire people (including Yaz’s mother), sees guns as the solution, uses words such as “fire and fury,” and hates that a woman (the Doctor) is the one in charge. He also hates Donald Trump, whom he is clearly modeled upon, and plans to run against him. I had expected to see Jack Robertson die a horrible death, being eaten by the spiders. Instead this only happened to his poor bodyguard. The episode ended with Jack Robertson seeing himself as the hero, and ready to go on to attempt to become the next president. This would have been the true horror of the story if not for the fact that we already have Donald Trump as president. This does leave open the possibility of Robertson becoming a recurring character, possibly with Chris Noth returning to play the next president sometime in the future.

As political satire, this was fairly weak considering it adds nothing to the vast work satirizing Trump, other than copying some of his obvious characteristics. I suspect that Chris Chibnall did not want to get overly specific so that the episode will still hold up over time. While many future viewers might forget many of the specifics of the Trump years, I doubt anyone will forget the basic outline of Trump as shown in the episode.

The episode works best if seen as the conclusion of a trilogy to establish the Doctor and her new companions, beginning with The Woman Who Fell To Earth and The Ghost Monument. These show the Doctor meeting her future companions, getting to the TARDIS, and ultimately getting home after a series of adventures–with Rosa showing only one of these as a side story to this trilogy. After this series of adventures, the TARDIS made it back to Sheffield.

The revival of Doctor Who has been stronger by showing the families of many of the companions, allowing the companions to be more complete people as opposed to simply people traveling with the Doctor. The episode concentrated on showing Yaz’s family, but also went back to Graham’s loss of Grace and building a relationship with Ryan.

Until they returned to Sheffield, the three were with the Doctor by accident, and the goal was to return them home safely. Now they had a choice, and the Doctor even warned them of the dangers of traveling with her. This especially makes sense considering the fates of many of her recent companions. I imagine that it is easier to write a companion out by having a tragic outcome than showing that someone would just decide that they no longer wish to travel on the TARDIS.

The episode also suggests further expansion of the Doctor’s backstory. Steven Moffat had set up the possibility of a Timelord changing gender, but now we are hearing suggestions that the Doctor has also been a woman, had a family, and had a life we do not know about. Peter Capaldi, speaking of the Master, has said, “I think she was a man back then. I’m fairly sure that I was, too. It was a long time ago, though.” This episode was more explicit. The Doctor said she used to have sisters, and that she herself was once a sister in an aqua hospital, which was a training camp for space assassins. As we know very little of the Doctor’s life before becoming a Timelord, there is no contradiction with the Doctor having had sisters. However, for the Doctor to have once been a woman, this would mean that William Hartnell was not the first Doctor. Older episodes did sometimes hint at previous regenerations before Hartnell, but for this to have been possible it would have been necessary for the Doctor to have been granted additional regenerations in the past. We did see this was possible with Matt Smith.

In other Doctor Who news, it appears that instead of a Christmas special there will be a special on New Year’s Day this year. This does help as they appear to have run out of ideas for a Christmas tie-in for the series. I imagine that for some viewers in the UK, this might not matter much, unless people really care about the tradition. Watching in the United States, I would prefer a special on Christmas Day, and lacking a connection with the holiday would be fine. There is very little new American television around the holidays, and I’ve gotten in the habit of downloading Christmas specials from the UK that day. However, New Year’s Day is taken up by football here.  At least the streaming channels will fill in for the lack of Doctor Who on Christmas Day if my wife and I wind up staying home and watching television.

The Hollywood Reporter has a story on a new version of Penny Dreadful, with new cast and new location:

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels opens in 1938 Los Angeles for a story that Showtime describes as “a time and place deeply infused with Mexican-American folklore and social tension.” Rooted in the conflict between characters connected to the deity Santa Muerte and others allied with the devil, City of Angels will explore a mix of the supernatural and the combustible reality of that period, creating new occult myths and moral dilemmas within a historical backdrop. The series will feature all new characters and storylines.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels will have a social consciousness and historical awareness that we chose not to explore in the Penny Dreadful London storylines,” Logan said Thursday in a statement. “We will now be grappling with specific historical and real-world political, religious, social and racial issues. In 1938, Los Angeles was facing some hard questions about its future and its soul. Our characters must do the same. There are no easy answers. There are only powerful questions and arresting moral challenges. As always in the world of Penny Dreadful, there are no heroes or villains in this world, only protagonists and antagonists; complicated and conflicted characters living on the fulcrum of moral choice.”

There have been hints about a cross-over between Marvel’s Runaways and Cloak & Dagger. Comicbook.com reports:

“It can reference the rest of the world, but it’s true to teenagers — they’re not interested in what Tony Stark is doing this week or what Matt Murdock is doing this week but they might be interested in a couple of kids who live down in New Orleans and what’s going on there.”

That’s fitting because both Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen have been members of the Runaways team at some point along in the Marvel comics mythos. Now that the characters are played by Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt, respectively, that’s a scenario that’s entirely plausible in live-action.

In fact, Cloak & Dagger showrunner and executive producer Joe Pokaski has previously said the powers that be have had conversations on how to make crossovers happen.

Chicago, as opposed to Vancouver, will provide the background for Gotham City on the Arrowverse Elseworlds crossover episodes this season. We will be seeing Ruby Rose as Batwoman, and seeing a Black Suit Superman, but it has been confirmed that Batman will not appear.

CBR.com reports that Flash’s most iconic villains might be returning for the 100th episode:

DC World writer Paul Edwards attended an autograph signing at MCM Comic Con London. While there, he talked with actor Tony Todd, who previously provided the voice for Flash villain Zoom. During a conversation about Todd’s acting, the former Candyman star explained that he had just finished filming episode 100 of Flash. When asked if he would be reprising his role as Zoom, Todd replied, “They are all returning, all the speedster villains, and they all want a piece of Barry.”

…Executive producer Todd Helbing teased a big twist for the series at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, so this might be what he was referring to. The eighth episode of Flash Season 5, which will premiere on Dec. 4, will be the series’ 100th episode. Tom Cavanagh, who plays various versions of Harrison Wells on the show, will direct.

You might have noticed that Joe West has not been doing much on The Flash this season, generally sitting in scenes. TVLine has the reason for this:

I’m hearing that Martin suffered a back injury over the hiatus. In fact, a studio rep confirms for TVLine that the actor will be taking a medical leave from the CW hit, adding: “We wish him a full and speedy recovery and look forward to his return as Detective Joe West.” (It’s unclear at this time exactly when and for how long Joe’s absence will be felt on screen, but sources tell me it will be addressed at some point.)

Fortunately it should be easy to have a reduced role for Joe, and write him out for a while, without causing serious problems for the stories.

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