SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Continues To Improve, Looking At The Most Recent Three Episodes; Elseworlds; Daredevil Cancelled; Responses To Bill Maher’s Attack On Stan Lee; Handmaid’s Tale Sequel; Big Bang Theory/Young Sheldon Crossover

This season of Doctor Who will not be remembered for its any big episodes, but the show is getting on track. Chris Chibnall has stayed away from the big, outlandish ideas of past seasons, timey wimey twists, or multi-episode stories. Instead we have a series of stand alone episodes which do work well to keep the show accessible for new viewers and show the variety of types of stories possible with Doctor Who.

There have been three more solid episodes since my last review of Doctor Who. Kerblam! was a science fiction story which could have worked well with some of the previous Doctors. We got to see the Doctor wearing a Fez once again. As with some other episodes this season, the air date fit in well with current events, but wasn’t limiting for future viewers. We went into the week leading up to Black Friday with a look at some of the problems with Amazon (which did not prevent me from putting in lots of orders later that week).

Beyond the social commentary about the problems of replacing humans with machines, and the treatment of human workers, there was a strong story. One measure of its success was that I was totally fooled by who turned out to be the villain, while the more obvious villain was, as has been common this season, more misdirection. In previous seasons we have been led to fear common place actions such as blinking. This week the danger was in breaking bubble wrap.

The major faults of the story were primarily understandable due to budgetary constraints. This hardly seemed like a company which employed ten thousand people when we only saw a few. It was also a little disappointing to see how easily they killed off characters. Dan’s death seemed sort of unnecessary. Kira’s death was the saddest, and in other episodes equivalent characters would have been saved by the Doctor. I would even have expected the Doctor to resolve the problem without Charlie getting killed. The message of the episode was also diluted by having Charlie turn out to be the villain of the episode. However, having a rebel who goes too far for a desirable goal is hardly unprecedented, and does not contradict the underlying message.

After Kerblam! we got another historical episode with The Witchfinders. The episode checked off many boxes: time travel, social commentary, a historical figure, an alien threat, and even zombies. If the episode had any flaws, it was throwing too much into one episode. While taking place in England, the witch trials had the same warped logic of the American version:  “If she dies she’s innocent, and if she lives, she’s a witch and we’ll hang her.” The  Pendle Hill witch trials seen in this episode were based upon real historical events (but, to avoid any confusion, there were no mud zombies).

Once again there was misdirection as to the villain, with Alan Cumming, initially seen looking menacing in a mask, turning out to be more comic relief than the villain of the episode. The Doctor was also shown to have a new power–bobbing for apples without getting her hair wet.

This episode finally addressed the difference in having the Doctor regenerate as a woman. She had trouble being taken seriously due to her gender, as King James denied that a woman could possibly be the Witchfinder General.  Jodie Whittaker made a rare reference to her gender this episode in protesting: “If only I was still a bloke, I could just get on with the job without having to constantly defend myself.” There was this commentary on the times:  “These are hard times for women. If we’re not being drowned, we’re being patronized to death.”

It was inevitable the a woman who appeared and acted differently, and even used a magic wand, would be accused of being a witch during the episode. As the Doctor was told, “Do you know why the Ducking Stool was invented, Doctor? To silence foolish women who talk too much.” Fortunately the Doctor had also learned some tricks from Harry Houdini.

Kerblam! included a reference to the Doctor meeting Agatha Christie.  The Witchfinders quoted Arthur C. Clark’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

This week’s episode, It Takes You Away, was another success, taking place in the present on earth instead of in space or the past. I won’t say much about it to avoid spoilers as it has not aired in the US yet, but the episode also works well to continue the back stories of a couple of the companions, and move their relationship forward. The episode also includes monsters, with one again being based upon misdirection (but without WiFi). While it avoids getting seriously timey wimey, there is also a strong science fiction element going back to an old Gallifreyan fairytale. Following the recent homage to Matt Smith and Fez hats, in an homage to Jon Pertwee, Yaz offered the advice to “reverse the polarity.”

The above trailer is out for Elseworlds, the three night crossover on CW, which premieres next week. The official synopses are out:

EPIC ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER KICKS OFF TONIGHT — When Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Oliver Queen (guest star Stephen Amell) wake up one morning and realize they have swapped bodies with each other, the two set off to find out what disturbed the timeline to cause such a shift. However, things quickly go from bad to worse when they present their case to Team Flash and the gang doesn’t believe them. Barry and Oliver realize they need Supergirl’s (guest star Melissa Benoist) help and travel to Smallville on Earth-38 where they end up meeting Kara’s cousin, Clark Kent (guest star Tyler Hoechlin), and intrepid reporter, Lois Lane (guest star Elizabeth Tulloch). LaMonica Garrett guest stars as The Monitor.

THE ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER CONTINUES IN GOTHAM CITY WITH BATWOMAN (RUBY ROSE) — With Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Barry (guest star Grant Gustin) still stuck in the other’s bodies, the two get a lead on John Deegan (guest star Jeremy Davies) and head to Gotham City with Supergirl (guest star Melissa Benoist) to figure out why their reality has changed. While there, they meet the mysterious Kate Kane (guest star Ruby Rose) who provides them with information that leads the group to Arkham Asylum.

THE BATTLE CONCLUDES — Supergirl (Melissa Benoist), The Flash (guest star Grant Gustin), Green Arrow (guest star Stephen Amell) and Superman (guest star Tyler Hoechlin) engage in the battle of their lives.

Stephen Amell tweeted the above picture, posed in front of the bat signal.

Entertainment Weekly has more on the episodes from the stars, including this from Grant Gusten and Stephen Amell:

“You’re not going to see me playing Oliver Queen’s mannerisms, or Stephen playing Barry’s mannerisms. It’s more being aware that for some reason we’ve switched lives and destinies. It’s more the fun of the situational comedy that we keep finding ourselves in, and less us having a complete role reversal,” Gustin tells EW. “We get to see Stephen do some of the more goofy speed stuff I have to do on a regular basis, and I get some actual combat as Green Arrow. So, we just see different colors for each of us.”

“Having superpowers is crazy! Wearing the Flash suit is crazy!” says Amell, who, like everyone else involved, sounds genuinely thrilled about the crossover’s story. “The idea is that in order to be the best version of Barry Allen, which I have to be because we face a threat, there are elements of his personality I have to embrace, and there are elements of my personality that he has to embrace.”

Besides including characters such as Batwoman, Superman in black, and Lois Lane, Comicbook.com reports that the episodes will include “alternate versions of Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) serving as a Central City police officer — alongside alternate versions of Joe Wilson (Liam Hall) and Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman).”

Daredevil joins the growing list of Marvel series being cancelled by Netflix but Disney apparently has more planned for the character with their own streaming service starting soon. Third season showrunner Erik Oleson also discussed the news on Twitter. 

Stan Lee’s company has responded to Bill Maher’s attack on Lee’s legacy with this letter:

An Open Letter to Bill Maher from Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment

Mr. Maher: Comic books, like all literature, are storytelling devices. When written well by great creators such as Stan Lee, they make us feel, make us think and teach us lessons that hopefully make us better human beings. One lesson Stan taught so many of us was tolerance and respect, and thanks to that message, we are grateful that we can say you have a right to your opinion that comics are childish and unsophisticated. Many said the same about Dickens, Steinbeck, Melville and even Shakespeare.

But to say that Stan merely inspired people to “watch a movie” is in our opinion frankly disgusting. Countless people can attest to how Stan inspired them to read, taught them that the world is not made up of absolutes, that heroes can have flaws and even villains can show humanity within their souls. He gave us the X-Men, Black Panther, Spider-Man and many other heroes and stories that offered hope to those who felt different and bullied while inspiring countless to be creative and dream of great things to come.

These are but a few of the things we the fans of Stan Lee also consider “adulting,” because life both as a child and grown-up can indeed be a struggle. Stan is the author of millions of happy childhood memories and the provider of so many of the positive tools of adulthood.

Our shock at your comments makes us want to say “‘Nuff said, Bill,” but instead we will rely on another of Stan’s lessons to remind you that you have a powerful platform, so please remember: “With great power there must also come — great responsibility!”

-Team Stan

Comicbook.com has compiled arguments, beginning with a quote from  Barack Obama from 2013:

I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman. Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story — the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.

They concluded by quoting these words from Stan Lee:

Let’s lay it Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater — one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen — people he’s never known — with equal intensity — with equal venom.

The television version of The Handmaid’s Tale has gone beyond the events of the original novel. Margaret Atwood has tweeted that she is writing a sequel:

The Arrowverse doesn’t have the only shows with a huge crossover planned. CBS has revealed how they will handle the Big Bang Theory/Young Sheldon crossover episode: “Sheldon and Amy are still down about their theory being disproven, but a VHS tape from Sheldon’s past inspires him not to give up.” When I first heard of the crossover, I was hoping for time travel.

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