SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery Season Finale; Sex Ed On The Magicians; Roswell; Constantine on Legends of Tomorrow; Black Panther

Star Trek: Discovery had the best first season for a Star Trek sequel/prequel series, but the season finale, Will You Take My Hand, was somewhat of a disappointment. Some aspects of the episode did work, but it was an overly simple and unrealistic ending for a season-long arc. While many individual episodes of other Star Trek series have relied on similarly simplistic endings, I had hoped for more with Discovery. On the other hand, Star Trek does have  a history of disappointing conclusions of arcs, such as with the finale of Deep Space Nine.  I wonder if the loss of Bryan Fuller resulted in setting up the season long story line, but if he left before the ending was totally fleshed out.

Last week they set up the ruse that Georgiou was the Prime Georgiou, despite it being unrealistic that the crew of the Discovery would be fooled. This was immediately abandoned this episode when Mirror Georgiou did not act like a Federation officer. It was also unnecessary for the plan initiated in the finale for her to have tried to fool anyone.

While weakly plotted, the scenes on  Qo’noS had multiple treats for fans, including a fourth role for Clint Howard going back to The Corbonite Maneuver. There were Orions, and we learned more about the Klingon penis in a season which previously showed Klingon breasts. (If everything, including the penis, is duplicated in Klingons, shouldn’t they have four breasts?) By the time they revealed that the package was really a bomb and the plan was to destroy or cause major destruction to  Qo’noS, I assume that most viewers had already caught on.

While a rather simplistic conclusion for the Klingon war, this provide the opportunity for Burhnam to raise the issue of sticking to Star Fleet principles, and give her reason to mutiny for a second time. The parallels to the start of the season were obvious. Besides returning to the theme from the start of the season, this season was unique in both starting and ending without the main ship’s captain being present.

Burnham came up with a solution preferable to mutiny, but I don’t see how she sold Star Fleet on her plan and returned before Georgiou had time to set off the bomb. Although it was established that L’Rell’s main goal was Klingon unification, there was hardly good reason to be so certain that L’Rell wouldn’t have tried to accomplish this by leading the Klingons to victory after taking over. It is also questionable that Klingons would have believed she could blow up the planet and very likely would have decided to attack her first and think about matters later (if at all).

Even if L’Rell could get the Klingons in the room to give her the power, I also found it unrealistic that Klingon ships on the verge of attacking earth would have turned around. It would have been more realistic that the Klingons would have abandoned the war if, instead of being on the verge of victory, they were engaged in a space version of trench warfare from World War I with no victory in sight for either side. Having the Klingons be so dominant at this stage of the war also makes it less believable that the Federation seemed so dominant again by the time of the original show. Perhaps the resurgence of the Federation will be dealt with over the next few years on Discovery.

With the war over, there was time for a family reunion and an awards ceremony. Many questions already remained open. How will they deal with the spore drive, which now seems fully functional, but which needs to be forgotten within the next ten years? What is the meaning of the spore which landed on Tilly? Georgiou, L’Rell, and Tyler are all around in this universe, providing possibilities for a return. The Prime Lorca and perhaps the Mirror Burnham could also turn out to be alive.

After leaving the awards ceremony, the next question raised was the identity of the new captain. While the captain would be picked up on Vulcan, this may or may not mean that the person will be a Vulcan.

Then came the big surprise. The Discovery encountered another ship. The call letters began NCC17…

By then most fans probably knew what was coming next. They certainly could not tease this and then show the NCC1776, The USS Independence Day, or some other starship. It was NCC 1701, the original USS Enterprise, the flagship of Star Fleet, currently under the command of Captain Pike.

The episode then went into a new rendition of the original Star Trek end credits music, and we will have to wait until next season to see what happens with the Enterprise. This is the type of a cliff hanger I prefer for a series which will not return for months. Conclude the main story arc of the season, and then tease something from the upcoming season, as opposed to leaving the main arc unfinished.

For all but purists, the ship we saw did look like the Enterprise, regardless if there were slight changes. Matters will be more difficult if they show the interior, or the uniforms, considering how much Discovery has been updated. It would be an easy matter to recast Captain Pike, and most of the crew are unknown to us with one notable exception–Spock. While it would be amazing if Zachary Quinto were to play Spock, I doubt this is likely.

There are other difficulties. If Spock and Burnham interact, it would be a little more difficult to believe that Spock never mentioned his half-sister. There would be an even greater contradiction if Sarek and Spock see each other considering that, as established in Journey to Babel, the two were estranged for eighteen years. Of course it is possible that the two could avoid any contact with each other as they are estranged, or Spock could be elsewhere.

TVLine  discussed the episode with  Discovery executive producers Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts

TVLINE | Let’s start at the end, with the Enterprise reveal. What kind of storytelling avenues does that open up for you in Season 2?
AARON HARBERTS
 | I think one of the biggest things it’s going to allow us to do is start to develop how Discovery fits into canon. One of the big things that’s been polarizing for fans is, “We’ve never heard about Discovery! How does it fit? She’s related to Spock?” All those things. And what it’ll allow us to do is hit that straight-on. We see it as an exciting opportunity to say, “This is exactly how Discovery fits into the timeline. This is exactly how we can reconcile the choices we have made.” Because at this period in time, the Discovery and the Enterprise are the crown jewels in the fleet, so they should be face-to-face.

TVLINE | So does that mean Christopher Pike is a full-fledged character next season? Because we don’t know a lot about him, outside of “The Cage” and “The Menagerie.”
GRETCHEN J. BERG | Yeah, we can’t talk about specifics too much, but I think that because we are in canon, we look at things we know, and things we don’t know… and then there are the things we don’t know about the things we know! And there, often, you’ll find great opportunities for storytelling. But it is intriguing. It’s one of the fun things about playing within this box that is the timeline where we are.

HARBERTS | If there ever were to be a captain from canon that one could explore… Christopher Pike would certainly be that one.

TVLINE | So I guess you can’t tell us if we’ll see a ten-years-younger Spock next season, then?
BERG | [Laughs] No, we can’t!

HARBERTS | I can tell you: All you have to do is look at Michael Burnham and Sarek, and the look they exchange at the end of the show, and ask yourself what that could be about.

TVLINE | Maybe it’s safe to ask you about this: How great did it feel to lay down the old-school theme song over the closing credits?
HARBERTS | That was [executive producer] Akiva Goldsman’s idea. He is a huge Trek fan, and from the very beginning of his involvement in the show, he’s always been the guy who’s like, “And then the Discovery and the Enterprise will meet up!” And we’re like, “OK, Akiva, yes, yes…” [Laughs] It was his ultimate fanboy geekgasm… and it was a great idea. And then it was his idea to do the old theme at the end of the episode. I was at the scoring session, watching [composer] Jeff Russo lay that down. Tons of people were there, and you could have just heard a pin drop, and then there were smiles on everyone’s faces. It was very cool.

TVLINE | Oh, so that was totally re-recorded? That wasn’t just the original theme replayed?
HARBERTS
 | Oh yes, that was re-recorded. We had a vocalist come in. They had a bongo player in an isolation booth to play the bongo part. [Laughs] It was legit…

TVLINE | There’s always a chance she could run into Tyler and Georgiou again, right? It’s a big universe, but not that big.
HARBERTS | Oh yeah. One of our goals was: We wanted to create a universe, and play in that universe. And it’s only fun if you’ve got a cast of characters who can continue to come and go…

TVLINE | You did leave us hanging on who the next captain of the Discovery will be. What kind of personality type are you looking for to fill that spot?
BERG | Well, I don’t think we could bring back a Lorca [type] again, just because he was a captain perfect for wartime. I think the crew would be suspicious of that again. [Laughs] Discussing who’s next in that chair is a big topic in the writers’ room, and we certainly have landed somewhere… but I think we’d like you to stick around and watch and find out who it is, and why.

ET Online also interviewed them:

ET: Why did you want to introduce the USS Enterprise now on Star Trek: Discovery?

Gretchen J. Berg: From the beginning, it was something that we knew that folks who are fans of Star Trek know the Enterprise is out there and it was kind of the elephant in the room. We knew eventually that we would want to address that and deal with it. Even though it’s a giant, giant universe, it’s something that’s on everybody’s minds. So we were glad to be able to take the whole season to get to know our crew because the storytelling is going to be told from the point of view from Michael Burnham and Discovery. Let everybody get to know our characters and our show and what we were doing before we brought in the Enterprise. We knew it would be exciting and provocative, for sure.

Aaron Harberts: We also knew that we couldn’t hold off on this because there are so many questions about Burnham in regards to the notion of Sarek and Spock’s family, which is not to say that we’re introducing Spock at the moment. We don’t want to spoil anything. But it’s certainly time to get the audience understanding that we fully intend to respect the original series and respect where Discoveryfalls in that. To do that, we have to show the Enterprise and at least have these ships cross paths.

What is your intention with establishing the Enterprise in this way? What are you comfortable saying with regards to its place in season two?

Berg: Usually, we like to say sit back and enjoy the ride because it’s one of those things… You know, as a writer, you work on something and work on something, and you’re always like, but wait! We’re working on it and we’re going to show it to you and you’ll see. We’re certainly acknowledging that they exist in the same time. But always, always, always, the story on Discovery will be told from the point of view of Disco and our Disco crew. I think it’s fair to expect something, but we probably couldn’t go too much into detail about what it is.

Harberts: More than anything, it is about what new stories does this provide for our crew, for Michael Burnham, for Saru, for Tilly. Our main interest is Discovery. However, if the presence of the Enterprise can show us new things about our crew, the better.

It’s notable that it’s Captain Pike who sent the distress signal for the Enterprise. Is he a character we could meet in season two, along with Enterprise crew members?

Harberts: The thing to consider about Captain Pike is, from an audience and writer’s point of view, there is something very exciting about a key character from [Star Trek: The Original Series] who’s only been explored in two episodes of the original series — three if you consider how [the rejected pilot for the original series] “The Cage” works into the puzzle in TOS. When we think about the idea of Captain Pike, it opens up some large possibilities. We will never say never to exploring him a little bit more…

Are you suggesting that the nine-month period in Prime during which Michael and crew were stuck in Mirror Universe won’t be revisited?

Harberts: To be honest, Episode 14 [“The War Without, the War Within”] was all about what had happened. With the destruction that was wrought by the Klingons and the Federation during those nine months, we tried to paint the picture of that. I think what’s exciting about moving into season two is we’ve got a fresh new palette. We’ve put the war behind us and we’re excited to move on into some things that Trek fans have been longing for, which is more exploration, more diplomacy, more planets, more away missions. We’re focused on serving up some new stuff.

What does this mean for the future of Jason Isaacs, whose Mirror Lorca was killed but the whereabouts of Prime Lorca are still unclear, or Michelle Yeoh, whose Mirror Philippa is still roaming the galaxy?

Berg: If they’re out there, the possibilities are endless. Never say never. That’s the great thing about this universe: there are so many more different ways to go. I can’t confirm or deny anything, but…

Harberts: If we find Prime Lorca, I sort of want to find him making artisan sourdough bread in a bakery in San Francisco. That’s how that storyline could start and we’d just build from there. (Laughter.)

Because it seems the Mirror Universe isn’t a destination you’ll go back to anytime soon, what about Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber’s future? Wilson Cruz told us recently that their story isn’t over.

Berg: Wilson’s correct. We have just begun to tell the love story between Culber and Stamets, so I would just say hold tight.

Harberts: Stamets has got a lot to process that he hasn’t had time to process yet, in terms of not being in charge of the spore drive and having lost Culber. We’ve got to take Stamets on a journey as well and then we’ll see. But Culber is a character who is part of this Star Trek world, no doubt.

You’re already knee-deep on season two planning. What are you looking to achieve thematically and creatively?

Harberts: Chapter 1 of this novel was war, and right now, we’re thinking about Chapter 2. One of the themes we continue kicking around is the conflict between science and spirituality, and that’s something that we’re very interested, particularly after you finish a war. How do you rebuild yourself? What’s required for that? What we’re most excited to do is to continue thematic exploration and philosophical exploration and debate, and these characters are perfectly primed to carry storylines like that. That’s one thing that we’re thinking about. We have a few things up our sleeve, but we’d be lying if we knew everything, because that’s the fun of it is as well. You go into it, you see what’s working and you see what’s interesting, and you build from there.

Berg: The joy is in the journey for us as well in creating it.

This week’s episode of The Magicians was significant for introducing Poppy Kline, played by Felicia Day, but regular Summer Bishil (Margo) certainly held her own. Margo wound up in an undesired marriage to young Fomar, and turned to her version of sex ed to attempt to turn him off to the idea. While she pulled out a thick volume which contained female anatomy, her suggestion of the presence of teeth provided the title for the episode.

As usual, The Magicians did an excellent job of combining such amusement with advancing the plot. While Fumar was knocked out (later to be told he did great), Eliot and Margo found a massive field of the Fairy Queen’s mushrooms, which turned out to be fairy incubators to grow a fairy army. It will be interesting to see what happens now that Margo has taken hostages.

More also happened in this episode, including a look at depression with Felicia Day’s story. Inside The Magicians video below:

The CW Network rivals Syfy in the number of genre shows. They have announced that they will be expanding their programming to six nights a week, adding Sunday. This should increase the chance of their bubble shows returning and provides room for new shows. Next season this includes remakes of Charmed and Roswell.  Jeanine Mason (Grey’s Anatomy) has been cast a the lead for the Roswell reboot.

The highlight of the past week on CW was an appearance by Constantine on Legends of Tomorrow. It has been confirmed that Constantine will return later in March.

The biggest genre news of the week was the record smashing opening weekend of Black Panther.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Magicians Get Timey Wimey; The X-Files On The Horrors Of War; Nudity On Altered Carbon; Star Wars

The War Without, the War Within is largely a table-setting episode of Star Trek: Discovery to transition from the Mirror Universe episodes to the season finale. While the season is supposedly about the Klingon War, we seemed to have missed a lot of key developments, with these covered by quick explanations of what happened over the past nine months

We learned that the war has gone badly with the Klingons dominating the war after Discovery failed to deliver the information regarding detection of cloaked Klingon ships to Starfleet. As we know that this ability is not present in future series, the question remains as to whether the information is never received from Discovery, or if the Klingons subsequently find away around this.

The ISS Discovery was apparently destroyed by the Klingons, so we will probably never see stories about Captain Killy in the Prime Universe. They suggested that Prime Lorca could not have survived, immediately making me suspicious that he will turn up in the future. Similarly have been led to assume that Mirror Burnham has died, but cannot be certain. I also suspect that the writers might have left this open even if they do not have plans for either character to show up at present.

Admiral Cornwell and Sarek took control of Discovery early in the episode. While I was not surprised to see Sarek being used for mild melds in the Mirror Universe, where ethics are loose, I have missed feelings about him doing involuntary mind melds in the Prime Universe. However, these are desperate times, and we later are led to believe that Sarek and Cornwell were going along with a plan which stretches usual Starfleet ethics.

When they learned what had gone on, Sarek did have an entirely logical explanation for nobody suspecting being suspicious about Locra’s origin: “That Lorca was an imposter from an alternative universe was not the most obvious conclusion.”

Making information on the Mirror Universe classified helps explain how Kirk and Spock were unaware of what was going on when they appeared in the Mirror Universe.

There was also advancement on the Ash Tyler storyline, and I continue to suspect that he will be significant in what happens with the Klingons. He apparently is no longer really Ash or Voq, but is more Ash with Voq’s memories. However, is it really safe to trust what  L’Rell said, considering that she created him to be a sleeper agent in the first place? If  L’Rell is still up to something, hopefully the “Fitbit” placed on him will be enough to contain him.

Tilly has a traditional Starfleet argument for trusting Tyler: “What we do now, the way that we treat him, is what he will become.” I’m just wary that this is the wrong attitude during a war which is not going well. Burnham is more wary, considering both her underlying distrust of the Klingons who killed her parents, along with having had Ash just recently try to strangle her. Saying “things got complicated” was a real understatement, sounding more like a Facebook status than a full description of the complexities of their relationship.

The one thing even more dangerous than trusting Ash Tyler would be to trust Mirror Georgiou. It appears that, having conquered the Klingons, she knows things about the Klingons which those in the Prime Universe do not know–and has a plan which the crew of Discovery might not go along with. It is disturbing that Starfleet is not able to come up with their own leaders who can win the war but, as Sarek argued, “Starfleet tactics have failed us.”

It did seem strange that  Burnham and Saru weren’t briefed about the plan to pretend that Mirror Georgiou was the Prime Georgiou. At very least they should have been told so that they did not give things away, but the scene was probably written this way to be more dramatic for the viewers. Considering that the transporter officer saw her come aboard, and everyone else just came from the Mirror Universe were everyone had a double, I wonder whether the crew of the Discovery will remain fooled about this for long.

The spore drive, which appeared to be out of commission for a while, is now a factor again with Stamets finding a way to grow spores quickly. Apparently they are to emerge in the caverns within Qo’noS as part of their final plan. Presumably, regardless of what their actual plan is, the outcome will lead to the Cold War situation with the Klingons we saw on the original show as opposed to serious damage long term damage to either side.

The Magicians had a real timey wimey episode last week, with Quenton and Elliot going back in time and living another life. While the time travel element was different, this reminds me to some degree of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, The Inner Light, in which Captain Picard had another entire life. Penny’s situation is a bit better, but for now he is still dead.  TV Guide interviewed executive producers John McNamara and Sera Gamble the episode:

Give it to me straight, does this mean Quentin has grandchildren running around Fillory?John McNamara: Hmmm…
Sera Gamble: It might mean that, yeah.
McNamara: He’s got to be very careful who he marries.

Let’s talk about that Quentin/Elliot hook up! Why did you guys decide to have those two share a night together amidst all the puzzling?
Gamble: It felt true about their relationship… What would these two people do if they were together every single day of their lives in one location, and frankly they’ve hooked up before. It just didn’t seem that weird to us that they might get drunk one night and one of them would make a pass at the other.
McNamara: The last time they hooked up, it was a Margo sandwich.
Gamble: Yeah, last time it was a threesome.
McNamara: But there was the reference in dialogue, I believe, in that episode or the next episode, where Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) says to Quentin because she walked in on the threesome, “The last time I saw you Elliot’s dick was in your mouth.” So that’s on record. It didn’t come out of nowhere.
Gamble: We say this a lot when we’re talking about the show, but the job of the writer is often just to sit around and talk about what they did when they were in their 20s, and occasionally getting drunk and sleeping with a friend is a fairly normal part of being in your 20s, especially in a situation when you are very intensely hanging out with them to the exclusive of almost everyone else for a long period of time. That’s the causes and conditions for a hook up.

How does the knowledge that he had a wife and a kid and a whole life affect Quentin moving forward?
Gamble:
 They do remember it, there are references later in the season. There’s a scene I’m thinking of, I don’t want to spoil it, but there’s a really beautiful scene that Quentin has late in the season. It’s maybe my favorite scene of the whole season, where he sits down with someone he loves and he talks about what he has experienced on the quest. A huge part of what has changed him in his own mind is that he experienced a whole lifetime trying to solve the mosaic with Elliot, and he talks really specifically about how that changed him and how it changed his outlook on the quest and on his entire life.

How dead is Penny right now? Like he’s dead, but he’s still kind of around? How much hope can we have that he’ll be able to get back to the land of the living?
Gamble: He’s going to try!
McNamara: Whatever you think is going to happen, it’s not going to happen.
Gamble: I have to say, Penny this season though — John speaks the truth. Of any storyline we’ve ever done on this show, Penny this season is the one that has surprised me the most. Right around the time we decided we were going to burn his body, we really felt like we were walking on a tightrope without a net in a super exhilarating way. The pitches from the writers about where to take this character next were so exciting and unusual. And Arjun came to play, and in episodes to come I think you’ll see him doing his best work of the series, and that’s saying a lot because he’s always great.

The X-Files looked at Skinner’s past and the horrors of war. While not one of the top episodes of all time, it was a solid story. This  also provided an explanation for Skinner helping Mulder and Scully,  as they “taught me not to hide, but have the guts to shine a light into the darkest corners.” The finals scene also played into the general paranoia of the series.

Assignment X interviewed Mitch Pileggi about returning to the role:

ASSIGNMENT X: Were you surprised when X-FILES came back for a tenth season two years ago, or are you at this point, “Nothing about X-FILES surprises me”?

MITCH PILEGGI: Nothing surprises me. No, it was a pleasant surprise when it came back two years ago, and then to have it come back again this time, and even have more episodes, it was a treat.

AX: What was the point when you stopped being surprised at the longevity of X-FILES? I’m sure at the beginning, it was like, “This is still here?” Not because of quality, but just because it’s so hard for anything to endure the way X-FILES has.

PILEGGI: I came in late in the first season, so they had been going a little bit at that point. And when I came on, we didn’t really know what we had. David said he thought the show would last six episodes and be out. Here we are twenty-five years later. Not the case [laughs]. So with any show, it’s really difficult to anticipate or predict how it’s going to do or what it’s going to do. You think you’re on a show that’s going to last forever, they pull the plug on it after eight episodes. You don’t know. It’s so unpredictable that there’s no point in even trying to guess, but I think the second season, we were nominated and won the Golden Globe. If you put any weight into awards, that was fairly impressive and gave some indication that there was a pretty positive thing going on with this, with what we were doing…

AX: What is Skinner’s attitude at this point towards belief/non-belief/what he thinks is happening as far as the paranormal and/or extraterrestrial visitations?

PILEGGI: He’s definitely seen things, and he definitely has his own beliefs, and he’s seen things previously when he was in Vietnam. He had an out-of-body experience that he relates to Mulder, I think, in Season 2 or 3. So he’s had his past experiences, and that’s one of the things that draws him to Mulder and Scully. So there is definitely a belief system set up within him to accept it.

AX: But does Skinner believe less than Mulder does, or is he just more pragmatic about fighting the system?

PILEGGI: I think he’s definitely pragmatic in everything he does. But he does have faith in what Mulder and Scully are searching for, so that’s why he’s become their champion within the FBI.

AX: Who has a more secure secrecy system, the X-FILES production company, or the government?

PILEGGI: Well, I’ll tell you what – we’ve been able to keep secrets pretty good this time around, so THE X-FILES right now, I think we’ve probably got it down where leaks are not prevalent. Our government is what it is.

AX: Did you at any point do research for the character into the FBI, or Area 51, or …?

PILEGGI: I grew up around the military, I grew up around the government. My dad worked for them, and eventually I did, too, before I started acting. So I had a pretty good taste of the procedure and behavior.

Gamespot discussed the frequent use of nudity on the new Netflix series Altered Carbon with showrunner Laeta Kalogridis:

“Our worst instincts as human beings have to do with our carelessness with natural resources, and when the body itself becomes just one more of those resources, how will we treat it? Will we treat it with such indifference and with such depersonalization that it becomes more like a very fancy car than a repository of the self?” Kalogridis continued. “And that, I think, is one reason that the nudity itself is not gratuitous; it’s meant to reinforce to you, as a viewer, that the advent of this technology fundamentally and substantially changes people’s relationships with their idea of their own body.”

In other words, in a world in which bodies are interchangeable, what does nudity even matter? It’s not really “you” being seen naked–it’s just your sleeve. Depending how wealthy you are, it might not even be the one you were born in–or even a real human body, since synthetic sleeves are also a thing.

As Kalogridis pointed out, Altered Carbon‘s nudity is “equal opportunity”–the show features a comparable number of naked male bodies as female. She emphasized that the whole thing only works because so many of the actors were onboard to strip down.

Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will be writing and producing a new series of Star Wars movies. Does this mean there will be nudity and dragons?  (Probably not.) From the announcement:

“David and Dan are some of the best storytellers working today,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. “Their command of complex characters, depth of story and richness of mythology will break new ground and boldly push Star Wars in ways I find incredibly exciting.”

“In the summer of 1977 we traveled to a galaxy far, far away, and we’ve been dreaming of it ever since,” Benioff and Weiss said in a joint statement. “We are honored by the opportunity, a little terrified by the responsibility, and so excited to get started as soon as the final season of Game of Thrones is complete.”

No release dates have been set for the new films, and there have (thankfully) been no sightings of White Walkers around Lucasfilm.

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.”

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The X-Files; Time Travel: Doctor Who, Timeless, and Legends of Tomorrow

With Vaulting Ambition I feel that Star Trek: Discovery has moved on from what was predictable and discussed in previous posts to new surprises. As I, and probably most of the internet, previously guessed, Ash Tyler is Voq, Lorca is from the Mirror universe and caused Discovery to wind up there, and Georgiou is the Emperor. All of this was finally confirmed, additional details provided, and new questions raised.

If you accept the logic of the Mirror Universe, most of the remaining revelations in Vaulting Ambition make total sense. In the Prime Universe Burnham was an orphan, was close to Georgiou, and betrayed her. In the Mirror Universe, the specifics are different, but this basic framework exists. As we learned last week that Sarek was not the one who adopted Burnham, it was not all that much of a surprise to learn that Georgiou was the one who adopted her.

It was already pretty obvious that Lorca had a special need for Burnham considering how he not only arranged for her to be on Discovery, but also acted very protective of her. Their connection was explained. Presumably the Lorca of the Prime Universe and the Mirror Burnham are dead, but having one or the other show up isn’t impossible. The writers sure played with the audience in both surprising us in the dinner scene with the revelations that Burnham was adopted by Georgiou, and subsequently that Burnham had betrayed her with Lorca. They also played with the viewers when Lorca was in the torture booth initially pretending not to know the name of the sister, as would be expected if he was from the Prime Universe. Then he suddenly gave it away.

There were already many clues. While there was already speculation that Lorca was the Mirror version to explain his very un-Starfleet like behavior, including leaving Harry Mudd behind with the Klingons, I became convinced of it in Lethe. The clues included him not remembering details of past actions with Admiral Cornwall and his behavior towards her, including attacking her and sleeping with a phaser. Another clue in this episode was finding that both Georgiou and Lorca eat Kelpiens, after Burhnam picked one out as we pick lobsters. Again this is consistent with Kelpiens being a prey species in the Prime Universe (even if not prey of humans). The clincher for Burnham was finding out about the shared eye problem between Georgiou and Lorca.

The confirmation that Lorca is from the Mirror Universe provides an answer for critics of Discovery who complain that what we have seen is not consistent with Star Trek. Lorca was not acting like a Starfleet Captain because he was from the Mirror Universe. The fact that his actions were found to be suspicious and he was at risk of losing his command shows that the rest of this universe is like the Star Trek universe we are accustomed to.

Burnham, who has frequently made bad decisions from her initial attack on Georgiou in the pilot to going to the planet last week, seems to have made another one in quickly informing Mirror Georgiou both that she is from a different universe and about the spore drive. Georgiou was far better at keeping secrets, including the use of her killer fidget spinner to make sure none of the witnesses to the conversation will talk. Burnham was also easily conned by Mirror Georgiou’s claims of being honorable as the Georgiou she knew was honorable, but the whole point of the Mirror Universe is that we are seeing the evil versions of Federation characters.

Also in the episode, Stamets did get to see Culber again, but it hardly left me optimistic that Culber will actually be seen alive again. The issues in the mycelial network might provide yet another reason why the technology is not being used by the time of the original show.

It was surprising that  L’Rell both revealed so much about her plan with Voq, and gave in to work on him. This still leaves the question open of what she is actually doing, and who will remain when she is done.

There are many remaining questions including the specifics of Lorca’s plan. In a battle between the Mirror versions of Lorca and Georgiou, is one preferable, or are both entirely evil? Will learning about how Lorca got into the Prime Universe provide another way home for Discovery? Regardless of how the battle between Lorca and Georgiou turns out, where does this leave Star Trek: Discovery in the future?

It is hard to see Lorca being Captain in the future, unless the Prime Universe version is locked up in Lorca’s menagerie and will be ready to retake command (after a hiatus between seasons). One of the original ideas discussed for Discovery was for it to be an anthology series. I wonder if it is even a possibility that next season will be an entirely different story with a different ship and crew. That possibility also means that we cannot even be certain that the Discovery will return to the Prime Universe. It might be stuck in the Mirror Universe, wind up in yet another universe, or leave the Mirror universe at a different point in time.

If you only watch one episode of The X-Files this season, watch The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat. The episode was written by Darin Morgan who wrote classic episodes such as Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’ and the best episode of last seasonMulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.

The episode appears to be inspired by both The Twilight Zone and Donald Trump. It is about gaps in collective memory, a phenomenon known as the Mandela effect–except in the episode it is also misremembered as the Mengele effect. Examples begin with Mulder finding evidence that his favorite episode of The Twilight Zone, The Lost Martian, doesn’t really exist. When Mulder couldn’t find it anywhere Scully suggested it might have been an episode of The Outer Limits. Mulder was shocked: “Confuse The Twilight Zone with The Outer Limits?! Do you even know me?”

Elsewhere in the episode Mulder set everyone straight as to who he is: “Do you know who I am? I’m Fox Mulder! I was fighting the power and breaking conspiracies before you saw your first chemtrail, you punks! I’m Fox Freaking Mulder, you punks! I’m Fox Mulder! Fox Mulder!”

Much of the episode involved meeting a guy named Reggie in a parking garage, with other faux historical information provided about manipulating collective memory. This included Dr. Thaddeus Q. They, who had worked on making astronauts forget home, but wound up making them think they were chimpanzees. His best scene was siting on top of the Washington Monument (as there were no other seats available) wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap. It was mocking Trump’s claims about the inaugural crowd by pretending that the public was manipulated into forgetting how many people actually attended.

This was the perfect episode for the Trump era, called the POCO age in this episode as “We’re living in a post-cover-up, post-conspiracy age.”  This might describe the POCO age:

No one will care whether the truth gets out, because the public no longer knows what’s meant by the truth. No one can tell the difference anymore between what’s real and what’s fake. Take this Mandela Effect. In the old days, I never would have come out and admitted to you that yes, I can change people’s collective memories.

Dr. They gave Trump credit: “Our current president once said something truly profound. He said, ‘Nobody knows for sure.’”

The episode had Mulder attempt to explain discrepancies in memory based upon parallel universes, while Skully explained it by faulty memory. When Mulder’s memory of watching television of a child was shown, there was a child sized Mulder with adult Mulder’s head.

The invasion of Grenada was shown to be a cover-up of an alien visit. We later later learned that, “We’re not alone in the universe, but nobody likes us.” The alien returned to say that a wall, which will be “beautiful, albeit invisible,” will be built around our solar system to keep humans from infecting the rest of the galaxy. The rationalization sounded like one from Donald Trump saying the Earth is  “not sending us your best people. You’re bringing drugs, you’re bringing crime, you’re rapists.” To make up for this restriction, Mulder was given a book entitled All the Answers, which answers all the questions raised by the X-Files. Of course Mulder did not want the book, wanting to continue his search for the truth.

Ultimately the entire series was retconned to include Reggie as a third member of the team, with scenes from classic episodes edited to include Reggie Forrest Gump style. The idea was set up earlier this season in This when Mulder and Scully were flipping through the electronic X-Files and there was a badge for Reggie. Reggie was ultimately taken away in a straight jacket. Skinner then came out asking where they were taking Reggie, adding a question as to how real his story was.

With the recent talk of a secret society in the FBI working to undermine Trump, I do hope that Gillian Anderson reconsiders and returns for another season of The X-Files so that they could do an episode on this. The likelihood that this talk is largely nonsense in no way reduces the possibility that The X-Files could use the idea for an episode.

SyFy.com interviewed Darin Morgan:

With the renewal of The X-Files for a Season 11 and your call back to write another episode, did it start with asking yourself, “What do I want to explore?”

Darin Morgan: Well, you know my last episode [“Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster”] was kind of about coming back to the show, and reflecting back on what did it all mean and how did I feel about that?

 have to say, it was a unique exploration of those themes via comedian Rhys Darby’s out-of-sorts monster.

Yeah, Rhys was great. So this one was more of like, ‘Okay, you’ve reflected, so what’s going on now with the world?” And the whole idea of, if this show’s main thing has been ‘The truth is out there’ and we have a president who…

For him there is no truth.

Right. Or you have Mulder, who’s been a conspiracy nut from the get-go, and now you have essentially his boss [President Trump] is even a bigger conspiracy nut.

Mulder actually looks sane for the first time compared to where the world is right now.

Exactly. So that was the main approach. How would Mulder respond to all that’s going on around him?

David and I talked about that too, in that over the 25-year span of the show, the world has achieved peak surreal. As a writer, how do you distill that into this world?

Good question. I don’t know. This may not directly answer you, but I found the hardest thing was in terms of Trump, every day he does something that you go, “I can’t believe he said that. I want to address that.” But a week later, no one remembers that thing. There were so many things when I first started writing that if I had referenced it I don’t think people would have remembered it now. So I ended up focusing on the wall and his lying. Those two things will always be around as long as he’s president. I sort of focused on those two things.

Having Reggie as the third partner is fantastic. Where did that idea come from, and also Brian’s casting?

Brian was great. He’s a lot of fun. I came across the… I was going to say the Mengele Effect, but it’s The Mandela Effect. (Laughs) From that it was figuring out what I was going to do with that. It’s this idea — and I think this is where the third partner idea came in — was like if someone has never had an experience, like I don’t have a memory other people do, the only way to make them understand what that might feel like is if someone was watching the show, The X-Files, and the someone goes, “There was always another character.” And you go, “Wait, no, no. It was just Mulder and Scully.” And they say, “No, no. There was Mulder and Scully and Reggie something.” That would put them in a position of going, “Oh, how would I react if a memory I have that I cherished of my past, suddenly nobody else believes me?” So that was the way to do it.

Did you come out of the other end of it feeling like the phenomena is something more?

No.

No?

I still think it’s just people misremembering. I have a really bad memory myself. It’s interesting to go, “Oh, try to come up with some theory to explain it.” But it’s just people not remembering. I guess that’s why I probably didn’t do as thorough and in-depth exploration of that phenomenon, because, to me, there wasn’t a lot to run with. Other than that, I get parallel universes, which is one explanation…

Are you doing any episodes in the back part of the season?

No. Once is enough.

After all these years, do you feel like new X-Files stories still come to you easily?

Oh, God no. No. It’s always tough. Writing for the show is so hard because you have to come up with a completely different story and it’s not in an anthology show, which in some ways makes it easier. But it’s also difficult because you have to do Mulder and Scully investigating a story on something completely different. It’s just always difficult. I’ve never had an episode where, “Oh, that one was easy.”

I am glad that the 13th Doctor won her first battle. From Digital Spy:

The BBC gender pay gap was one of the biggest stories of last year, and one person who is not afraid of fighting such inequality is Jodie Whittaker.

The actress told Digital Spy and other media outlets that she made sure that she got paid the same as her Doctor Who predecessor Peter Capaldi.

Speaking backstage at the National Television Awards, Whittaker said: “It’s an incredibly important time and the notion [of equal pay] should be supported.

“It’s a bit of a shock that it’s a surprise to everyone that it should be supported!

“I know I do not speak just on behalf of the women here, I speak on behalf of the men and the women,” she added, stating that people of both sexes believe they should be paid equally.

When asked how she was enjoying working on the iconic sci-fi show, the actress said: “Yeah, it’s great. I love it, I absolutely love it, yeah. It’s amazing! I get to see all the best places!”

Den of Geek looked at the unanswered questions of the Peter Capaldi era.

Radio Times summarized what is known about the first season of the Jodie Whittaker era here.

NBC has announced a return date for Timeless. The second season will  start on Sunday, March 11th at 10 p.m. with an episode entitled, The War to End All Wars. Needless to say, it involves a trip back to World War I. I hope they don’t give away the fact that we call it World War I as the Doctor did on Twice Upon A Time. Spoilers.

On another time travel series, Legends of Tomorrow, Wally West (Kid Flash) is going to become a series regular. Constantine will also appear on the show when it returns February 12. Following is the synopsis of the episode:

After Sara’s (Caity Lotz) encounter with Mallus, the Legends are paid a visit by John Constantine (guest star Matt Ryan), a demonologist detective.

The Legends agree to accompany him to a present-day psychiatric hospital and they are surprised to discover who Constantine is trying to help.

During the exorcism, Sara, Leo (guest star Wentworth Miller) and Constantine go missing, leaving Ray (Brandon Routh) and Zari (Tala Ashe) to try to take care of Constantine’s client.

Meanwhile, Amaya (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) and Nate (Nick Zano) once again come face to face with Kuasa. Dominc Purcell also stars.

The CW Network is staggering its superhero shows, having recently started Black LighteningMark Pedowitz, the CW’s president, realizes that there is a limit to how many superhero shows can survive at once, and has placed a limit of four. Good idea, especially considering that other networks also have superhero and comic-based series at present.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; Counterpart; The Gifted; The Magicians

I like how Star Trek: Discovery is rapidly providing payoff to the mysteries of this season rather than dragging them out too long. The Wolf Inside provided answers to two big questions, while showing more of the Mirror universe.

The big event of the episode centered around  the rebel camp where Firewolf, the rebel leader, had been hiding. (This briefly sounds more like Star Wars than Star Trek). Burnham’s logic for going to the planet didn’t make all that much sense but I’ll forgive it as 1) we’ve often seen that Burnham does not make the greatest decisions, even if she means well, and 2) it did a lot to propel the story. This led to a great scene for fans, seeing other Star Trek aliens, including Voq as Firewolf and seeing Sarek with the obligatory Vulcan goatee. I loved seeing the goatee enough to overlook the problem that this conflicts with the idea of a goatee representing an evil Mirror version.

This leaves open a lot for a possible novelization regarding Sarek as there are questions which I suspect are beyond the narrative on Discovery. Sarek must have learned a lot of interesting things about the two universes which he kept quiet about. I also wonder about the family dynamics. When we first learned in Despite Yourself of how xenophobic the Empire is, I questioned Spock’s position as seen on Mirror, Mirror. I rationalized that as being a rare exception, with Spock being half-human. I also suspect they are emphasizing the xenophobia more in the current incarnation of the Mirror universe as a reflection of our current politics. Spock’s position becomes even more complicated with Sarek and Spock being on opposite sides–not that the two were all that close in our universe. Presumably there was not a relationship between Sarek and Burnham in the Mirror universe, unless this is something being left unmentioned until a later date.

Meeting mirror Voq provided the trigger to finally reactive Voq in Tyler’s body, answering the question of how long until he was exposed now that Discovery finally revealed his identity. It turns out that the Tribble on Lorca’s desk did not play a part as many had predicted.

This also set up the solution to another dilemma. Somehow Burnham and Saru were able to easily communicate with holograms but she could not transmit the data she found back to the Discovery. While the problem is therefore questionable, it was a great solution to place the data on Tyler’s body before beaming it into space. Having Tyler/Voq in custody also raises questions should Tyler’s identity resurface as that part of the duo is innocent.

There were other good moments in the episode, such as Burnham’s interaction with Mirror Saru and Stamets meeting Stamets. Of course I did not believe that Stamets was dead for even a moment.

Ultimately the episode concluded with the answer to another question, confirming as I predicted that the Emperor would turn out to be Georgio. I still hope that, considering how Discovery frequently throws in references to past Star Trek shows, that them also mention a previous Empress Sato.

The huge question remaining is what Lorca is up to, including whether he is the Mirror version and intentionally brought the Discovery to the Mirror universe as part of a bigger plan following his attempt to assassinate Mirror Georgio. With the show appearing to be moving in this direction, Lorca’s decision to get Burnham on board Discovery does seem to fit into the dynamics of the Mirror universe power struggle.

Syfy Wire interviewed Shazad Latif about playing both Ash Tyler and Voq. Here is a portion:

This has been a huge few episodes for you. What is it like to play a character who’s so conflicted?

It’s one of the greatest gifts, and scariest gifts at the same time, that you can get as an actor. Just so much going on, double the amount of things that would normally go on with just one person. Getting to explore that, doubly, at the end of the day is stressful and scary, but very beautiful and very rewarding, as someone who likes to express themselves. It’s just crazy.

Ash has been through a lot, but I loved the decision to portray a character who believed he was experiencing, and was experiencing in many ways, PTSD.

It was always there. You think it’s because he’s been through this war stuff or this torture, and it’s not. He’s been in this crazy war zone, it’s just this trauma that you’ve never seen before. It’s this crazy alien operation.

Me and Sonequa, we always wanted to push it. Because you meet Tyler and he’s this guy who’s going through this trauma and we’ve seen that story many times. It’s amazing to explore, but we wanted to see him … With him and Michael Burnham, she’s always very strong. She’s the strong one and she’s the one looking after him, and he’s weak around her and he’s vulnerable around her, in the bedroom, in the hallway.

I wanted to make sure that that was clear because, to show a man’s vulnerability and weakness and show that you can still be a man and vice versa, that Sonequa is a very strong female character — it was very important to us in the scenes that we played that and we showed that. It’s nice to play the inner turmoil and suffering and weakness of the man as well, rather than being this classic sort of rogue action hero. There’s more to it than that.

Because when you first see him, he is playing that, we’re playing that sort of archetype. He’s this guy coming from the ship, he’s getting his job and “Aha! He’s a classic American hero,” but really he’s crumbling, and it’s very beautiful to watch.

There was a lot of fan speculation about Ash’s true identity. Was that hard to keep quiet about? You were doing publicity with so much of the cast towards the beginning of the show. People were like, “Wait til you see him,” but we had seen you but we didn’t know it yet.

It was my idea. I’ve been keeping it for a year now. It’s harder than any acting … That’s the hardest acting I’ve ever done; I did it terribly. I actually chose the pseudonym for the actor who played Voq in the beginning.

On the credits, it’s Javid Iqbal who played Voq, and we created a fake IMDb page, but that was my father’s name, who passed away about six years ago. I was asked to choose a pseudonym, so it was a shout out to him. He was a big movie lover, changed the film reels in the cinema when he was young. I just wanted to shout out to him. We kept that a secret for a long time.

It’s nice to have the buzz, still keeping a secret. You know people are going to find out, whether they find out in the first episode or the last episode.

The characters always find out secrets about the show and stuff like that, but it’s more about how you tell the story and execute. How it’s executed is more interesting. Even if you have figured it out, you still tune in to go, “Am I right or am I wrong? Or how have they done it?” Really, just to see the acting, to see the way they’ve cut the story…

Can you tell us anything about what’s coming for Ash/Voq?

It’s all coming to a head. This four-way love triangle in three bodies, basically. It’s L’Rell and Sonequa and Tyler. That’s gotta come to a head. The solving of the Culber case, all this kinda stuff. Some people don’t know, how are people gonna react to it? It’s a culmination of everything, and it’s going to be very exciting to watch.

One theme of the Mirror episodes of Star Trek: Discovery is to see how different versions of the same person turned out in a vastly different environment. There is another show starting with a similar theme. Counterpart (trailer above) is sort of a combination of a John le Carré novel and Fringe’s alternate universe stories. The Starz series premieres this month, but they have been offering the pilot for free since December. J.K. Simmons stars as a low level employee of some sort of spy agency, but we learn in the pilot that he has a double in the other universe who is far more important. From reviews coming from those who have seen episodes beyond the pilot, there are many characters whose lives were dramatically different due to a single change after the two universes diverged due to a Cold War experiment which went wrong.

The Gifted concluded its first season. While certainly not ground breaking like Legion, it was an entertaining X-Men spin-off. Unlike Inhumans, the show did have some success and will be back for a second season. The show did a good job of progressing over the season, initially centering around one family, and growing to develop a far more complex world. The Frost triplets made matters much more complicated with next season likely to feature a three-way conflict with different mutant camps and humans. The conflict between The Frost triplets and the original Mutant Underground somewhat parallels that of Charles Xavier and Magneto. It is made more complicated with members of the Mutant Underground joining the Frost triplets, including one member of the original family, creating divided loyalties.

The Magicians has started the second season with two strong episodes. I especially liked all the genre references–and how they were used to overcome surveillance. I didn’t notice in the first episode, but they stopped editing out the f-bombs in the second episode for the first run of the show as they had done previously.

Vox spoke with Lev Grossman, who wrote the novels the series is based upon, about seeing his stories being remixed:

Constance Grady

You’re someone who does a lot of remixing in your storytelling and is now watching your own stories get remixed. What’s it like having been on both sides of the process?

Lev Grossman

Well, the kind of remixing I did, The Magicians, and the kind of remixing it’s undergone on TV are not exactly the same kind of remixing. They’re not perfectly analogous.

I would say that I do very much think of The Magicians as a remixing kind of book. I was very conscious of that when I was writing it. In fact, I found it really energizing to imagine myself taking other people’s work, C.S. Lewis’s or J.K. Rowling’s, and — I don’t know if remix is actually the word I’d use, but recasting it, retelling it, in a way that was both an homage and a kind of critique at the same time.

I was conscious that I was doing something that gets done a lot in fanfiction. And then there’s a longer tradition of it; I also had in mind Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard, or Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, high-culture works that take another story and remix it, retell it, reimagine it. I was very aware of all that stuff.

I was aware I was doing something that legally was kind of a gray area right now in the culture that we write in, which was interesting. But I found it just incredibly energizing.

There’s a book called The Anxiety of Influence by Harold Bloom. He has this theory that the way in which artists and creators come into their own is through this act of remixing, which he sees as quite an aggressive act. I think he describes it almost in terms of an Oedipal struggle.

 I thought that was very true. I realized that through this kind of imaginary exchange, which was both aggressive and loving at the same time, that was how I was figuring out who I was as a writer. Which is paradoxical! Because we often think of working with someone else’s material as unoriginal and derivative, but at the same it was through taking control of someone else’s work that I came to understand what my own voice was.

Since then, I’ve seen The Magicians remixed in different ways. I’ve seen it be an influence on other books, I’ve seen fanfiction based on it, and of course there’s the TV show based on it. I’d love to able to say it was a completely joyful and unproblematic process watching The Magicians be adapted — and it was joyful and exciting and thrilling. But it definitely took some getting used to.

I realized that when you write novels, you have a lot of control over what’s going on. It’s not a collaborative art form. It’s one of those art forms where you get to do it all. You write all the dialogue; you point the camera where you want to; you dress the set; you do the costumes. So really, it’s a one-person act.

And when it came to collaborating, to passing this story that I’d written on to other creators, it was definitely unnerving. It provoked a lot of feelings. It was exciting and thrilling and stimulating, but it was also a real gut-check feeling where I had to tell myself, “It’s time to let go, and to let other people find different kinds of meanings in this story, which you’re used to thinking of as your own.”

More on last week’s episode below:

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery Returns; The X-Files; Runaways Concludes First Season; The Handmaid’s Tale Season Two; Krypton

Star Trek: Discovery returned last week with Despite Yourself, directed by Jonathan Frakes. The episode immediately provided the answers to two points which were widely predicted: Ash Tyler is Voq and the Discovery is in the Mirror universe. Of course there were new twists to keep things interesting.

As I had been discussing late in the fall season, the only way to make sense of Ash Tyler’s actions was that if he was Voq he was a sleeper agent and did not realize it. This turned out to be true, but in addition something went wrong when L’Rell tried to restore his memories. This leaves Ash/Voq in a situation where we cannot predict what he will do in the future, and we have seen that at times either could dominate.

The procedure used for Voq was quite sophisticated, initially fooling medical exams. (The Tribble was back on Lorca’s desk so perhaps it can expose Voq–except both are off the Discovery.) Ultimately Culber did figure it out, and appears to have been killed to keep him quiet. This resulted in Discovery taking heat for providing another case of part of a same-sex couple getting killed, such as on The 100 a couple of years ago. This led to quick assurances that we will see Culber again. There are many possibilities including that he can still recover (with the help of future medicine) from having his neck snapped, Stamets using time travel or other aspects of the mycelial network to reverse what happened, or the replacement of Culber with a version from the Mirror universe or another universe. It is a bit strange that there was nobody else around either sickbay or the brig when Ash was letting L’Rell out of the brig or attacking Culber.

Finding that Ash Tyler is actually a sleeper Klingon has the potential for further ramifications now that he is one of only three from the Discovery crew on the ISS Shenzhou. This came about due to a poor decision from Burnham to keep quiet about him, but it was established early that Burnham is capable of making really bad decisions. Fortunately we saw that Burnham is very capable of defending herself.

It was also revealed very early in the episode that they were in the Mirror universe from Mirror, Mirror. The data recovered from a destroyed rebel ship quickly provided them with quite detailed information about not only the Empire but about the roles of the crew on their own ship. While somewhat unrealistic that they could have received this much information, it did allow them to quickly get into the story without wasting time searching out this information. This also provided a good way to bring viewers new to Star Trek up to date without boring long time viewers. Tying this into the events of an episode of Enterprise, In a Mirror, Darkly, was also rewarding for long time Star Trek fans, while new viewers could still follow what is going on. (A synopsis of In a Mirror, Darkly can be found here).

While Captain Lorca reviewed the information they retrieved, it also felt like this was for the benefit of others, and Lorca was already aware of what was going on, having appeared to have intentionally caused the Discovery to wind up in the Mirror universe. Having learned that the Lorca of the Mirror universe has disappeared raises suspicion that possibly the Lorca we know is actually the Mirror counterpart. This would explain much of his behavior, including sleeping with a weapon. If so, Lorca is more sophisticated than Mirror Kirk, who could not keep fit in and keep his identity secret when he crossed over to our universe in Mirror, Mirror. There is also the question of what is going on with the Mirror Discovery after it crossed over into our universe.

It was entertaining to see the USS Discovery quickly convert to the ISS Discovery. Seeing a replicator-like process for making Burnham’s uniform in a previous episode makes it more plausible that they could quickly make the needed uniforms (even if not entirely consistent with the original show). As on previous Mirror universe stories, the elevator was one of the preferred places for an assassination attempt (other than the bedroom), and we got the obligatory attempted murder scene. As was foreshadowed in Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum with Stamets calling Tilly “Captain,” Tilly (or Killy) is the Captain of the Mirror Discovery. I do like how this is truly a continuing, serialized series, with little events in one episode providing a payoff in future episodes. Having Lorca portray the Engineer with a Scottish accent was also an amusing homage to the original show.

While the recovered data provided far more information than was realistic, the one missing piece of information was the identity of the Emperor. As they made a point of this, it is very likely that this will be revealed in a future episode, and it will also provide a payoff to viewers. If this was fan fiction, I might guess that it was a very old Empress Sato. While that would be satisfying to fans who remember In A Mirror, Darkly, it would mean little to newer fans, so I doubt that this will be the case. My bet is that it will be Philippa Georgiou, especially after there was no sign of her on the Shenzhou. Burnham already had a fight to the death with the Mirror version of someone she knew from the Shenzhou, and I bet she will also have to confront the Mirror Georgiou. (A confrontation with Tyler/Voq is also very likely.)

While previous Mirror universe stories were one or two episodes, it appears that the entire second half of the season will be a longer Mirror story. As I quoted in an interview with the producers last week, Discovery is gradually moving towards showing the vision of the Federation we are accustomed to from the original series. Taking place in the Mirror universe does now allow Discovery to portray what is good about the Federation through contrast with the Empire, even if we did not see it at its greatest in the first half of the season.

The same interview mentioned second chances. Being in the Mirror universe has provided a second chance for Lorca, who appears to have wanted to go there with his future uncertain in our universe. Bringing the Discovery from our universe might also be part of a bigger plan if he is really the Mirror Lorca. Bernham might also be tempted to remain now that she is the Captain of her own ship in the Mirror universe, and faces a possible return to prison in our universe. Ultimately both will have big decisions about what is important to them. The xenophobia of the Mirror universe also resonates in our present with the presidency of Donald Trump, years after the idea was first shown on the original show. It is sad that we have not progressed more since the 1960’s.

TV Line interviewed the Discovery show runners about the episode:

TVLINE | The mirror universe is a huge part of Trek mythology, dating back to the original series. How early on in the writing process did you know you wanted to go there?
GRETCHEN J. BERG | I think pretty much from the beginning.

AARON HARBERTS | Yeah, the biggest thing, frankly, was when we were going to do it. Initially, plans had been hatched to go over there in Episode 5, and we realized as we were talking about it: The mirror universe only works when you can care about the characters enough in the prime universe, so you can uncover the discovery of who people are in the alternate universe. So we realized that the mirror universe really needed to play in the back half of the [season], that it really needed to anchor the last several episodes…

TVLINE | So the crew needs to find a way out of this mirror universe with the Terrans. Is that the overriding mission for the next few weeks? Does it run through the season finale?
HARBERTS
 | We will be in the mirror universe for a little while. Episode 10 is simply the introduction. We felt like we could tell quite a bit of story in this mirror universe — not only about the mirror universe, but about our characters. Things come out about our characters in the mirror universe that wouldn’t come out in the prime universe. So we really felt like it was a great crucible for storytelling.

TVLINE | Is it giving away too much to ask if we’ll see a mirror Georgiou?
BERG
 | I find your question very interesting, but that’s a “no comment.” [Laughs]

TVLINE | Making Tilly the captain was such an inspired stroke of storytelling. How much did Mary Wiseman enjoy that twist?
HARBERTS | [Laughs] The thing that was fun is, we always knew we were going to do it. The gift that we’ve been given from CBS All Access was to allow this to be so serialized. So Tilly says “I’m going to be a captain someday” the first time we meet her. So we knew: “Mary, guess what? In the mirror universe, you’re going to be a captain!” Mary is super-dry and super-sassy, so whenever she would cop a little ‘tude — and I mean that in the most playful of ways, because we have fun and just go at each other — it would just be like, “Yeah, that’s really mirror-universe Tilly. Save that for the mirror universe!” I think she had a ball. When she takes charge of that bridge, it’s just a testament to how great she is as an actor. She can go from comedic to downright scary to fighting both instincts. She’s just truly gifted.

TVLINE | We did witness Dr. Culber’s death as well, when Tyler’s alternate personality came out. What’s the fallout going to be from that when the crew returns to the ship? 
BERG | There are so many things that are set off or started in Episode 10… there are ramifications for every action. It is a huge thing. And it’s heartbreaking, and horrifying.

HARBERTS | One of the early bits of feedback about Discovery is that it’s very dark, and very bleak. And I don’t necessarily believe that that’s true, because we know where the show is going. But I do think that scenes of forgiveness and atonement and redemption are really important in Star Trek, and we’re going to have to take that journey. On our show, no one is ever truly a villain, and no one is ever truly a perfect person. And what’s beautiful about Shazad [Latif]’s performance is, you see just how shocked and horrified he is by his actions…

TVLINE | What else is coming up in the rest of this season? Is Tyler’s alternate personality kind of the ticking time bomb that could derail this entire mission?
BERG
 | It’s looming pretty large, and it’s a huge complication to what is going on, not only personally with Burnham and everybody else.

HARBERTS | If your psyche is hanging by a thread, maybe the last thing you want to do is go on an away mission to the Terran Empire. [Laughs] What you don’t need is more stress.

BERG | Where is the couch and afghan you can climb under? They don’t have one! I would say, also, as shocking as the death of Culber is that you just witnessed at the hands of Tyler, Culber and Stamets have been in a relationship that… sort of represents the epic love story of our series. And, you know, love overcomes all. I think you can count on that it won’t be the last we see Culber. You’ll see him again.

HARBERTS | This relationship between Stamets and Culber… this death is but the first chapter. The trope of “Bury Your Gays,” which is running rampant through our television landscape, that is not something that Star Trek has ever been interested in doing. I think we’ve shown by now that we’re not interested in tropes, and that we love our characters, and we love our actors. When you’re given the gift of Wilson Cruz and Anthony Rapp, and you’ve got several gay writers on staff, you don’t just throw that away. You will see Dr. Culber again. This is a love story that’s going to transcend death, and there is much more story to tell for those two. And the science that [the real-life mycologist] Paul Stamets has provided as a backdrop for our fictional Paul Stamets, and for our show… if the audience is concerned about what’s going to happen to Culber, dig deeper into the science of the mycelial network. There are so many clues in there.

This (as with last week’s episode) has me optimistic that we are in store for a much better season of The X-Files than the previous. While much of the story might not hold up if looked at too critically (which can be said of the original run of the show), it was very entertaining. It provided, as a revival should, both something of the past (Richard Langly of The Lone Gunmen) along with an updated twist. The idea of consciousness being uploaded after death is an idea which Steven Moffat has used several times, although this was handled much more like Black Mirror than Doctor Who.

The episode also played on modern paranoia and conspiracy theories, from the use of the Russians to this exchange:

Skinner: “The bureau is not in good standing to the White House these days.”

Mulder: ‘The FBI finally found out what it’s like to be looked upon a little spooky.”

While the alien threat was potentially eliminated last week, there is a new threat. We were warned that, “life on this earth, all human life, most animal life, is about to be crushed. Burnt to the ground.” They also had to enter something very close to a real life NSA facility.

Runaways concluded its first season last week, and was an excellent origin story setting up their situation. By the end of the first season, we have learned quit a bit about the characters and their situation. Nothing really got resolved in the finale, but fortunately Hulu has renewed the series for a second season. They also renewed Future Man. I have not seen this yet, but have heard good things about the series.

Hulu has turned into a major player in streaming with The Handmaid’s Tale, including with a Golden Globe win last week. It will be interesting to see what happens when it returns on April 25 now that they are beyond the book. Reportedly the second season will go beyond the events in Gilead and show the Colonies. The above trailer was recently released.

Syfy has released the first official trailer for Krypton, which premiers March 21.

SciFi Weekend: The X-Files Returns; Star Trek Discovery Starting Second Half Of Season; Jodie Whittaker On Doctor Who

The X-Files returned last week and, after so many good seasons, there was no question but to give it another chance despite a disappointing season two years ago. My Struggle III wound up retconning much of what occurred in part II (last season’s cliff hanger season finale). The events, including the plague, the breakdown of civilization, and the alien spaceship at the end, apparently are prophesies while Scully is actually in a coma, and none of it has happened yet (if ever). Normally I might object to getting out of a cliff hanger in such a manner, but it is probably better for the show that they reset like this. It just lowers my view of the tenth season a bit more, while giving me more hope for this season.

Overall it was a good episode, and I hope that they do include more of the mythology, as opposed to going to stand-alone monster of the week episodes until the season finale as they did last season. Besides the retcon of cliff hanger, they went back and revised more of what we thought about the show, spending a lot of time on events dealt with during the regular run of the series. This included a lot with the Cigarette Smoking Man (always a plus for an X-Files episode), and especially with his involvement with William’s birth. If he sees himself as William’s father, I guess this means that William is Mulder’s half-brother rather than son.

Other developments include finding that Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) is working quite closely with the Cigarette Smoking Man, and there are new characters involved in the big conspiracy. Jeffrey Spender is also more important, as long as the season involves the search for William. The entire end-game has also changed, with the aliens no longer wanting to colonize the earth as we have made it too hot. Apparently there is some good to come from global warming.

The episode also showed the moon landing as being faked, which I was disappointed in, finding this to be a bit too much tin-foil-hat even for The X-Files. Yes, part of X-Files is accepting a lot of alien conspiracy stuff as real for the fun of the series. I wouldn’t have minded if they did something like having aliens on the moon at the time of the landing. However X-Files is about believing that a lot of science fiction stuff is real, not denying space travel which has actually occurred.

Where ever they go this season, I do hope that they end with a satisfactory conclusion (even if leaving some things open), especially as Gillian Anderson says she will not return to The X-Files (or American Gods), and Chris Carter doesn’t plan to continue without her. Of course actors have been convinced to change their mind in the past about returning to a role.

Star Trek:Discovery returns tonight–but why couldn’t CBS stream it a little earlier so we could watch it before the Golden Globes start? Tonight’s episode, Despite Yourself, will be the one directed by Jonathan Frakes, and is rumored to involve the Mirror universe. The producers are teasing what we will see in the second half of the season, via AV Club:

The Discovery EPs talked about keeping the workplace safe for women and promoting greater representation on and off screen, which remained a part of the discussion even when reporters were green-lit to go off topic and ask about what viewers can expect from the second half of the show, which returns January 7.

Berg advised fans to “buckle up,” because the show is “introducing a huge new development.” “It’ll be fun for Trek fans,” Harberts chimed in, teasing a “nice nod to stuff from [The Original Series]. This back half—what happens tomorrow night firmly anchors the back half to the season. It’s definitely again a war story, as far as how it’ll play out, but our characters find themselves in a place where their identities are challenged. It’s an emotionally wrought back half. Very intense. The cast has done some amazing work.”

As far as what thematic arc we can expect from the Trek series that the EPs and network have regularly touted for its more serialized storytelling, Berg invoked the “discovery and self-discovery” themes that have been a part of Burnham’s story this season. “She had a big hole to climb out of emotionally, spiritually, and how she feels she fits in the world. [This second half] is about getting her back to a place we saw her in in the beginning.”

“Redemption’s a huge theme,” Harberts adds, which is something the show’s producers and writers are probably hoping for after the first half of season one was deemed not quite Trek enough by some viewers. “The other thing that’s a huge theme for us is taking the Federation from the darkness into the light. Everybody wants this optimistic version of Star Trek right out of the gate. And I feel that our show has a lot of hope in it from episode to episode, depending on storyline we’re tracking.” So if you’ve found the show somewhat grim (this particular writer hasn’t), stay tuned, because Harberts says “by season’s end, people will see the Federation they’ve come to know and love from TOS on.”

When The A.V. Club asked Berg and Harberts about Georgiou’s sudden departure, the EPs pointed to the upcoming episode. Berg calls the relationship between Georgiou and Burnham “such a core relationship for the entire spine. Our goal was always to keep Captain Georgiou alive on the show.” Cutting herself off to avoid revealing too much, Berg then says, “The joy is in the journey. I’d say, keep watching, because Georgiou is such a huge part of the heart who was Michael Burnham. If that’s something you’re invested in, keep watching because I think you hopefully will enjoy what we’re going to do.” “Once you watch episode 10, you’ll see the context that we’re playing in,” Harberts adds. “Another theme for the back half is second chances. As people are consuming the back half, keep that in mind.”

As for what we can expect from the back half of season one, the war story will continue, but there will be less Klingon and subtitles. “We still stand behind that decision,” Berg says, because it made sense for the story of the nativist Klingons. But Harberts also indicates there will be “a little less reading involved” going forward.

I previously speculated that we might see Captain Georgiou alive in the Mirror universe, or some other parallel universe. Perhaps we will find out if that is the case tonight.

Doctor Who Magazine has an interview with Jodie Whittaker which includes the above picture of her as she will be dressed on Doctor Who. Whittaker also discussed the significance of her new role on Doctor Who in an interview with Total Film, calling it “fucking brilliant.” A synopsis from Digital Spy:

In an interview with Total Film, Jodie acknowledges how the very act of her casting as The Doctor may already have opened up doors for other actresses.

“This is the defining moment of my life,” she tells the magazine. “I feel old enough for it. And I feel like I understand how important it is, and I’m so excited that the role models for young children, boys or girls… or teenagers, or adults, come in different forms.

“There’s nothing unattainable about me. I don’t look like I’ve been carved out of rock. I don’t sound like I’ve had the extraordinary glamour.”

The actress then explained: “For me, knowing what I thought were my limitations as a person and an actor, because this industry is about, ‘You sound like this, you look like this’… but I’m normal.

“And that was exciting to [Broadchurch co-star and former Doctor] David [Tennant] – it was a superhero he could play. And now it opens it a little wider, to women as well.

“It’s amazing to be a milestone, but how wonderful if it wasn’t, if it was just accepted, embraced. I’m not dissing the moment – it’s f**king brilliant – but hopefully when other people grow up, it’s not so much of a surprise.”

SciFi Weekend: Twice Upon A Time; Black Mirror Does Star Trek (And More) With USS Callister; Jonathan Frakes on Star Trek Discovery and The Orville; Top New Genre Shows Of 2017

Twice Upon A Time was the final episode of Doctor Who for both Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat. The episode has far more references to previous episodes than I’d attempt to list and makes it clear that it is part of a tradition starting long before either Capaldi or Moffat were involved. It goes back to the first Doctor, starting with black and white footage and the caption “709 episodes ago,” ultimately leading to the words “to be continued.”

We knew it would be continued although both the first and the twelfth Doctor threatened  not to regenerate. Of course we knew that the first had to regenerate as we have seen subsequent Doctors. It was also no surprise that Twelve ultimately decided that, “One more lifetime won’t kill anyone…except me.” Of course each Doctor will give into yet one more lifetime.

The episode differed from a typical episode in that we learned that the Testimony was not really doing anything menacing. (“I don’t know what to do when it isn’t an evil plan.”) Rather than having the universe in danger this was a smaller scale story, only giving enough plot so that we didn’t have the two Doctors, along with the Captain and Bill’s memories, do nothing but talk to each other. This also enabled Moffat to return to his earliest stories. The planet Villengard was from his first Doctor Who story, The Doctor Dances, and Rusty the good Dalek returned from Into The Dalek. The idea of memories living on after death has been seen repeatedly in Moffat’s stories in some form or another.

The year of #MeToo turned out to be the perfect year for Doctor Who to explore sexism, contrasting the first Doctor’s 1960’s attitudes with the present. When the twelfth Doctor said, “You can’t say things like that,” he was not only lecturing someone from the 1960’s, but was also pointing out what he has learned over time. It was an even bigger shock for the first Doctor when he and the Captain mentioned that they have had “some experience of the fairer sex” and Bill responded that she has too. Ultimately the glass ceiling in the TARDIS was broken (along with the entire TARDIS blowing up).

Besides the appearances by David Bradley as William Hartnell’s first Doctor (after having played Hartnell in the An Adventure in Space And Time), and the return of some form of Bill, there were brief cameos by Clara Oswald and Nardole, with the Doctor regaining his memory of Clara. The two characters out of World War I were by Mark Gatiss and Toby Whitehouse, both writers with Doctor Who experience. The Captain also turned out to have yet another role in Doctor Who history as he was ultimately identified as Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart–the grandfather of General Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart,  the Brigadier. (His exact relationship was not mentioned in the episode but SciFi Wire reports that Gatiss referred to his character as the Brigadier’s grandfather in a press Q&A).

Being a time travel story, there was the obvious slip (“Spoilers”) of the Doctor referring to the “War To End All Wars” as “World War I.”  “What do you mean ‘one’?” Plus being a Christmas episode led to the perfect resolution of the Captain’s story with the Doctor returning him a few hours later so that instead of being shot he participated in the Christmas Armistice of 1914

Of course we all knew where this was going as Peter Capaldi gave his final speech on the TARDIS, with advice for his next self:

Oh there it is. Silly old universe. The more I save it, the more it needs saving. It’s a treadmill. Yes, Yes I know they’ll get it all wrong without me. Well I suppose one more lifetime won’t kill anyone. Well, except me. You wait a moment, Doctor. Let’s get it right. I’ve got a few things to say to you. Basic stuff first. Never be cruel, never be cowardly, and never ever ever eat pears. Remember, hate is always foolish and love is always wise. Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind. Oh, and you mustn’t tell anyone your name — no-one would understand it anyway. Except children, children can hear it, sometimes if their hearts are in the right place, and the stars are, too, children can hear your name — but nobody else, nobody else, ever. Love hard, run fast, be kind. Doctor, I let you go.

Screen Rant provided an explanation as to where the various portions of this speech came from.  Den of Geek also explained:

The twelfth Doctor’s final speech, which was worked on by both Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi, contains several elements from dialogue past. “Never be cruel, never be cowardly” is a doff of the cap both to The Day Of The Doctor and to 70s script editor Terrance Dicks, who would often cite the Doctor’s lack of these two traits as one of his greatest virtues. “Never eat pears” is a reference to Paul Cornell’s novel Human Nature, in which the seventh Doctor expressed a dislike for pears before taking on human form. A similar line was cut from the 2007 tenth Doctor adaptation with the same name. In Hell Bent the Doctor told Clara never to eat pears, as “they’re too squishy and they always make your chin wet”.

“Be kind” is what the Doctor begged of the Master and Missy back in The Doctor Falls, but it was also said by the tenth Doctor to the Vashta Nerada in Forest Of The Dead. “Don’t tell anyone your name” likely refers to the kerfuffle caused by the Doctor’s name in Matt Smith’s final year, when it was revealed that saying his name on Trenzalore would have reignited the Time War. However, the Doctor did seemingly tell River Song his real name on the occasion of their ‘nuptials’ in 2011’s The Wedding Of River Song – but then, as we’ve been told, ‘the Doctor lies’… The part about the stars and one’s heart being in the right place appears to be the invention of Peter Capaldi, who expressed a similar sentiment at a special screening earlier this year.

Then there was the regeneration energy, the Doctor’s ring fell off, and we had a new Doctor. Just as we first saw Peter Capaldi’s forehead and eyes, this is what we first saw of Jody Whittaker. Apparently us Americans will have to learn to understand Jody Whittaker’s Yorkshire accent. All we heard from her so far was, “Oh brilliant.” Then there was the ultimate cliff hanger as the TARDIS exploded and the thirteenth Doctor was falling towards the earth. Presumably this will enable her to have her own look for the TARDIS, or perhaps she will be without it for a while.

More on Twice Upon A Time, and the question of the Doctor’s real name, here.

Just as Doctor Who incorporated the Doctor from the 1960’s, Black Mirror began its fourth season with an homage to the other classic science fiction show of the 1960’s, Star Trek, with USS Callister. It first appeared as an over-the-top parody of a Star Trek episode, culminating with Captain Kirk kissing all the girls. It turned out to be something completely different. Major spoilers ahead.

While Star Trek type science fiction played a key role in the story, the story was more about artificial reality and about abuse of power. Jesse Plemons played the co-head of a tech firm who did not get much respect on the job, and took it out on sentient digital clones of others in the office. Most had accepted their roles and inability to fight back until a new employee played by Cristin Milioti was brought aboard. The final straw was finding that she had been robbed of her sexuality, and her vagina. She led a successful rebellion, which included blackmailing her real self into helping with revealing pictures hidden online. It all worked out well in the end with the digital clones becoming free of Jesse Plemons and free to explore the digital universe, now with a modern JJ Abrams Star Trek look (including lens flare). Perhaps if Plemons wasn’t so concerned with exercising power and abusing others he could have had far greater adventures in his digital world.

Den of Geek interviewed Charlie Brooker and Anabel Jones about the episode:

This is a brilliant ‘have your cake and eat it’ episode, in that you start with the spoof of the ship navigating the asteroid belt, then by the end I’m watching like this [mimes learning forward, tense] thinking ‘are they going to get through the asteroid belt?!’ How did the layers of that story evolve?

Charlie Brooker: We were on the set of Playtest from the previous season and we were saying ‘we haven’t done a space episode. What’s a Black Mirror space episode?’ and quite quickly we went ‘well, it couldn’t really be in space, it would have to be in a simulation’, then quite quickly again it was like ‘what if there are people who are copied in and they’re trapped in there and it’s like a prison?’

Like White Christmas?

CB: Yeah! And then the captain is the baddie, so it’s like Playtime Fontayne from Viz, who’s a grown man who makes everyone play games like a child. It’s like a nightmare, he’s a tyrant, he’s mad! So then we started calling it Toy Story or Adult Toy Story, we kept calling it…

Annabel Jones: …which then sounded wrong! [laughs]

CB: Relatively quickly those thoughts came together. Then the notion of it being a sort of vintage show that he was obsessed by kind of came in slightly later because we thought, what’s even more unexpected? A), because the world he has created is a throwback and a simplistic interpretation of shows like that. It’s his interpretation of that show, rather than what that show would have actually been, it’s his simplistic fable version of it and it’s quite reductive and out of date. We’re not saying that shows of that nature are reductive and out of date, because they were actually very progressive at the time. His warped version of it.

Partly it also came about because we wanted to have an opening where you go ‘what the fuck is this?’…

He starts as the underdog and I thought I was going to like him, he seemed like my kind of socially awkward guy. Then you see him behaving like a cruel tyrant, ignoring the irony of the speech he gives about the utopian ideals of Space Fleet. He’s like ‘actually, it’s about ethics in space exploration!’ Was that intended as a comment on online fandom and that sort of character?

CB: Not really. It’s interesting because that is a thing that a couple of people have said. That worries me slightly because I don’t want it to be seen that we’re attacking fans of classic sci-fi, that speech is more meant to be a bit of a joke really. He delivers this speech, which presumably he has lifted from an episode of Space Fleet, about the noble ideals of this progressive UN-in-space, and then he turns around and goes “…and you arseholes are fucking it all up!” It’s meant to illustrate the gulf between his fantasy heroics—he wants to be the hero in this make-believe world—and the stupidity and tyranny of what he’s actually doing…

Speaking of influences, there are echoes of that Twilight Zone great episode with Anthony Fremont, the little kid who controls his town and turns people into Jack-in-a-box. Was that an inspiration or just somewhere in the back of your head?

CB: I think at some point I thought ‘hang on, it’s not a million miles away’ because he’s a tyrant, that kid is a dictator that everybody has to be extremely mindful of, that lives in a fantasy world so probably unconsciously there was an element of that. Certainly you could draw a parallel there.

Are you a Star Trek fan? What’s your relationship with that franchise?

CB: I was probably more of a Doctor Who fan as a kid, or Twilight Zone or Tales Of The Unexpected but Star Trek was kind of an anthology show as well in a way. I never really watched the 90s Star Trek series. Will Bridges, who co-wrote the episode, is a big, big, big Star Trek fan, so he was delighted at the chance to do all that. He knew a lot of the lingo.

The episode has a lot of fun with early Star Trek…

CB: Tropes, yes. A lot of that came from Will, he was like ‘Oh, I know! This and that can happen’, so he was having a lot of fun in that respect. I watched The Original Series when I was a kid and would find it terrifying a lot of the time. I think we wanted it to feel, generally, with classic sci-fi, we wanted it to feel more like an homage than an attack.

An affectionate ribbing?

CB: Yeah. There’s a bit of piss-taking going on but really it’s aimed at Daly.

So incurring the wrath of Star Trek fans isn’t something you’re worried about?

CB: Well it’s worrying, because you don’t want to upset people unnecessarily. We’re not saying that is a rubbish show, or it’s a throwback, because again, it was wildly ahead of its time. He says at one point that it was visionary, and that’s true!

Of course this season we have had two different interpretations of Star Trek with new the new shows, Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. Jonathan Frakes, who has past experience on Star Trek: The Next Generation, has directed episodes of both and discussed this with IndieWire:

Mimicking a variety of styles is something that the veteran director is quite used to doing. In just the last year, Jonathan Frakes directed five episodes of television, including both “The Orville” and “Star Trek: Discovery,” perhaps serving as the ultimate bridge between the two fall TV homages to the “Star Trek” franchise. And according to Frakes, there’s room for both.

“Stylistically, your responsibility as an episodic television director [is] when you do a show like ‘The Orville,’ you want that show to look like ‘Next Generation,’” he said. “And when you go to Canada to do ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ they want that show to have the feeling, and look, and vibe of the J.J. [Abrams]-era ‘Star Trek.’ Much more cinematic, a lot of crane work, and a lot of movement, a lot of dutch angles. On ‘Next Generation,’ the traditional framing, and the things we became accustomed to as fans of the show, we see in [‘The Orville’] because that’s the look.”

When it came to “The Orville,” Frakes said that “I was afraid that it was going to be like ‘Family Guy,’ and it’s not really, but it’s also not really as serious as ‘Next Generation.’ I think Seth [MacFarlane], and Brannon [Braga], and whoever else is involved in all this, they found a tone that clicks with this audience, either the millennial audience or the old school audience. Everyone is very pleasantly surprised at how well the show has been received. I’m happy to see the homage, and I’m happy to see success for whoever wants to steal good ideas.”

Added Frakes, “It was a very conscious, and I think quite successful, homage. ‘Orville’s’ coming back for a second season, so is ‘Discovery.’ There’s room, obviously, in the fans’ hearts for both types of ‘Star Trek.’”

Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville are just two of the great science fiction shows to premiere in the past year. See SciFi Weekend’s ranking of the Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017. (I’m linking to it again today as those who follow links to SciFi Weekend through Facebook groups did not get the link last week as I was back in Facebook Jail last Sunday, with Facebook increasingly interfering with posting links to groups).

SciFi Weekend: Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017; Doctor Who News On The Eve Of “Twice Upon A Time”

Doing top of the year lists in television has become increasingly difficult in this age of peak television when there are around 500 scripted shows and it is impossible to watch everything new which is on. I’ve even heard some of the professional television critics admit to this problem and that their lists should realistically be called the Top X Shows Which I Have Watched. As each season adds to the number of shows which deserve to be ranked which I have not seen, I have annually limited my lists to the top new shows of the year. (The Top Twenty New Shows Of  2016 is posted here). In past years I have included all types of television, with a bias towards genre in the rankings. I found that this year I have seen most (but certainly not all) of the new genre shows which I believe are worth seeing, but when all types of shows are considered the percentage drops significantly. Therefore I decided to make the main list the Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017 and will mention some additional shows afterwards.

Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017

10. The Gifted (Fox)

One of three new X-Men or mutant related shows (with the X-Men and Inhumans possibly to be united if the Disney purchase of Fox goes through). This is definitely the more conventional of the two included on this list, and the mid-season finale opens hope that the show will be expanded from what we have seen so far. It is worth seeing with the combination of Root (Amy Acker) and Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer), both obviously in new roles.

9. The Defenders (Netflix)

The team-up of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist was more worth watching to see the interactions of these four than for the battle against The Hand. I previously reviewed the series here.

8. The Tick (Amazon Prime)

This was a far better than NBC’s attempt at superhero comedy with Powerless. More on the show here.

7. The Punisher (Netflix)

Technically there are no superhero or science fiction elements in the show but I will include it as it overlaps with the Marvel universe, with Karen Page playing a significant role, and with the Punisher having been introduced in Daredevil. Like the other Marvel shows which are set up as one long story, it might have been better if cut to eight to ten episodes as opposed to thirteen, but they did do a good job of intermixing two related stories in the present along with flashbacks to set up the backstory. I did prefer the government conspiracy story line over The Hand as in the other two new Marvel series on Netflix this year.

6. Runaways (Hulu)

Yet another show based upon a Marvel comic, Runaways in tone is somewhere between the network-friendly Agents of SHIELD and the more adult shows on Netflix. So far it has done a good job of setting up a conflict between a group of teens and their villainous parents.

5. American Gods (Starz)

Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have done an excellent job of adapting the first portion of Neil Gaiman’s novel, but it is now questionable as to whether this will survive with their departure from the show. There is a look at the season finale here.

4. The Orville (Fox)

The show initially appeared questionable when billed as a parody, but over the course of the season Seth MacFarlane learned how to tell serious science fiction stories while mixing in humor. I had brief reviews of each episode, often looking at how well humor was incorporated into the episode, in each week’s post. My review of the season finale was here, with a follow-up look at the first season here. The show is strongly based upon Star Trek: The Next Generation, and many who prefer more conventional Star Trek, as well as episodic television, might prefer this over the other new Star Trek show.

3. Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)

While many fans feel more comfortable with The Orville, Star Trek: Discovery is the more ambitious of the two. Discovery does a far better job than Enterprise did in making a Star Trek show with a more modern television feel, including a serialized format. This is also different from previous Star Trek series in taking place during a time of war, and having a Captain who is far more morally ambiguous. There are also questions regarding continuity which I discussed here. I had weekly reviews of each episode while the show was on, with the review of the fall finale here.

2. Legion (Fx)

Noah Hawley provided a quite original take on the X-Men universe, providing something new and unique to prevent superhero fatigue. My post on the season finale was here.

1. The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

This excellent dramatization of Margaret Atwood’s novel about a dystopian future could have been a great series any year, but its treatment of women seemed so much more relevant at the start of the Trump administration–at time when its horrors seemed a bit more plausible. More on the series here.

Among the shows which I saw but did not make the cut was Iron Fist, the weakest of the Netflix Marvel series. While flawed, it is watchable and does lead directly into The Defenders. If you still have a lot of Marvel shows to watch, put this off. If you plan to watch them all, it might make sense to still watch it before The Defenders.

Two genre series which debuted in 2017 were remakes of past series. The X-Files (Fox) was generally disappointing, but with all the excellent episodes in the past I will still give the next season a try. I previously discussed the show here and here. There was also the return of Twin Peaks (Showtime), which competed with Legion as strangest series of the year. I previously looked at the series here.

There are also some genre shows which I have not seen but which might be worth checking out, such as the time travel comedy Future Man and the anthology series Dimension 404, both on Hulu. The genre show which I haven’t seen which is receiving the most favorable publicity is the German series Dark, available in the United States on Netflex.

There were also a few genre flops in 2017. I gave up on Powerless (NBC) midway through the season. I didn’t watch The Inhumans (ABC) after numerous poor reviews. If interested, Io9 summarizes what happened on The Inhumans for those who stopped watching. Time After Time (ABC) was cancelled before I had a chance to give it a try.

Moving beyond genre, there were also many excellent shows in 2017. There were two excellent dramas dominated by women, Big Little Lies (HBO) and Godless (Netflix), which I am currently in the midst of watching. The three top comedies from 2017 which I have watched also are led by women: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime) from Amy-Sherman Palladino, GLOW (Netflix), staring Allison Brie, and SMILF (Showtime).

While not genre, the CW also premiered another comic based series in 2017, Riverdale, which presents a new take on the Archie comics.

Tomorrow we have a major television event with Peter Capaldi having his last appearance before regenerating into Jodie Whittaker on Doctor Who. Doctor Who News has an interview with Steven Moffat about the show:

What does Twice Upon A Time have in store for us?

There are some new eerie creatures of glass haunting the Doctor and his friends throughout this story – but what their purpose and what their plan is, and what their time traveling machinations are, is going to be a big surprise to the Doctor.

Were there any sets or locations that you particularly enjoyed working on?

There’s a real range of spaces that we visit across the special. We have the inside of a giant stone spaceship full of creepy glass creatures. We’re in the first Doctor’s TARDIS – recreated and brought back from the 1960s to stand proud in the Welsh studios. We’re on a First World War battlefield. And at long last we go to a location that I mentioned in my very first episode of Doctor Who back in 2005, as we visit the ruins of Villengard.

How would you describe the tone of this episode?

This episode is somewhere between a coda and drumroll. It’s a coda to the time of the Twelfth Doctor played by Peter Capaldi, and a drumroll to usher in the Thirteenth Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. Approaching it, one issue I had was that The Doctor Falls (this year’s series finale) was the end of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. That episode saw the Twelfth Doctor stating what he stands for and standing on the hill on which he was prepared to die.

That was the end of his story. But – as often happens in stories and real life – it didn’t end there. He kept going, he started to regenerate, so at Christmas what we’re going to see is a man weary and tired and, having made his point and having made his stand and given his life for something that matters, he has to learn just how to carry on after that. But of course this being Doctor Who and Christmas it’s much warmer and hopeful than that, so in perfect timing walking towards him out of the snow he meets earliest incarnation. The William Hartnell version of the Doctor – played now by David Bradley in an astonishing performance – and the two of them are about to regenerate. Tonally it’s about saying “to hell with dying, let’s get on with living”. And what’s more Christmassy that that? It’s the turn of the year, a time for new beginnings, it’s the time when we start climbing back towards the light.

How does the First Doctor look at the Twelfth Doctor?

Well the Doctor never gets on with himself. Arguably he doesn’t get on with himself when it’s just him alone – we had the whole plot of Heaven Sent (in series nine) about that – so he doesn’t get on with himself even when it’s just him. But here I think we have perhaps one of the most interesting instances of the Doctors meeting, because the First Doctor as we know from the show is quite different from the Doctor we know now.

Ultimately he’s the same person – he has the same set of impulses and ideals – but he hasn’t yet become at home with what he’s becoming. If you look at the original William Hartnell series, the Doctor’s starting to fight the good fight, but he’ll arrive in a spot of trouble and generally speaking he’ll only help others out because he needs to get back to the TARDIS. So often there’d be a plot contrivance to stop William Hartnell’s Doctor getting back to his TARDIS and flying out of danger. Slowly that started changing as the Doctor developed as a character. He’d start saying “No I can’t leave yet – not because I can’t get to the TARDIS, but because these people are still in trouble and this evil is still in control. I have to help these people.”

Without noticing it, or it ever being his plan or his intent, he’s starting to engage with the universe and he’d be horrified to think that he’s starting to become its protector. Now, at the end of that lifetime when the First Doctor is facing his end, he doesn’t yet realise that’s what he already is. He’s already the man who rides to the rescue, the saviour of the oppressed, but he doesn’t own up to that. Now he meets the Twelfth doctor, and the Twelfth doctor has been doing this for so long. He’s used to the idea that he’s already Earth’s protector – an idea that completely bewilders his younger – except kind of older self. The thing to focus on this time, alongside the flourishes that distinguish the two doctors – it that they are at very different moments in their lives. The First Doctor is not quite yet the hero we are used to.

How did you feel to be writing your final episode of Doctor Who?

The truth about writing anything is that it’s always difficult. You can change the reason why it’s difficult, but the fact is it’s just always difficult! Throughout writing this I wanted to feel more about the fact it’s the last one I’ll ever write, and I wanted to feel more about it’s the last one Peter will ever play, but the truth is that the technicality and the difficulty and the demands on your creativity – all that overwhelms you to the point where you’re just trying to write a great Doctor Who story! That’s enough to contend with – you can’t have the real life drama of two old Scotsmen making their way to the door.

Once we got into shooting it, however, and especially when we approached filming Peter’s last moments as the Doctor which were done at the end of the shoot, we did talk more about how exactly he should meet his end. We were both very pleased with that final section of the script already, but as we went through piece by piece we thought there were ways to improve it so I’d be banging out new pages each night for us to discuss on set each day. That was so enjoyable and exciting to do – to really feel that we were getting his send off right – that in a way it took whatever emotions we were both having about leaving and put them on screen where they belong. By the time we got to that part of filming I think Peter and I were probably the least emotional on set because we’d put it all in the show!

David Bradley has some advice for Jodie Whittaker:

“Keep it light. Keep it funny,” he offered, adding poignantly: “Have a sense and wonder about the universe and everything in it.”

David Bradley previously told Digital Spy that he had high hopes for his former Broadchurchco-star Jodie’s tenure as the denizen of the TARDIS.

“I was delighted [by the casting],” Bradley told us. “I was wondering if [showrunner] Chris [Chibnall] would pick someone from the Broadchurch cast.

“As we saw in Broadchurch, she’s got this emotional reserve that… there’s no limits. She’s capable of great emotion and passion.”

The TARDIS Yule Log video has some glimpses of Twice About A Time.

Yahoo TV talked with Pearl Mackie about her year on Doctor Who. Here is a portion:

What were the characteristics about Bill that jumped out at you right away?
Well, she’s quite cheeky, which I liked. But she’s also intelligent and doesn’t feel the need to brag about it. It’s very much a part of her, and she’s not ashamed to just say things. She has this confidence that I really engaged with; she doesn’t let her life or experiences get the better of her. She also wants to learn more and is very inquisitive.

We see that in the way she challenges the Doctor from their first meeting. That’s a different dynamic from past companions.
Yeah, and that’s the energy that I felt when I first read the script. There’s an irreverence between her and the Doctor, even though there’s also a lot of respect and they grow to be very close by the end of the series. She’d never be like, “I bow to your superior knowledge.” It’s more akin to, “Well, actually I don’t agree with that. What about this?” I think he respects her for that; they both enjoyed the verbal sparring they had. It’s enjoyable to watch that dynamic.

How quickly did you establish that rhythm with Peter Capaldi?
I met him for the first time in my second audition — my callback essentially. Before that, I’d been reading the script on my laptop with the Facetime camera on, responding to a recording I’d made of myself doing a version of Peter Capaldi reading his lines! The real Peter is a much better actor than that — much more dynamic. [Laughing] When I went into the room, I was absolutely terrified because Peter is not only an incredible actor, but he’s also been playing this character for a long time. We read the first scene of Episode 1, this mammoth six-page scene, and I spent most of it standing there just hoping that what I was doing was right or at least interesting.

Then we did the scene where Bill goes into the TARDIS for the first time, and Peter said, “Do you want to stand up?” I went, “What? OK, sure.” In auditions, you’re supposed to sit still and keep your face as still as possible, but if you’re me, your face tends to move of its own accord. Steven enjoyed that and used it a little bit in the first episode when Bill is standing at the window in the Doctor’s office and says, “I see my face all the time. I never liked it; it’s all over the place — it’s always doing expressions when I’m trying to be enigmatic.” But, yeah, I mainly remember standing there aghast at being in a room acting with Peter Capaldi. Luckily, Bill was supposed to be pretty aghast when she walked in the TARDIS, otherwise we may not be having this conversation today! I think we were both responding to each other quite honestly and seemed to work in a very harmonious fashion.

BBC America posted this thank-you video for Peter Capaldi.

CinemaBlend said Capaldi had this to say about the Doctor’s real name: “I also know his real name. It’s not pronounceable to humans. It’s a frequency that can only be heard of people with good heart.” They went on to add:

To date, that’s one of the best answers someone connected with Doctor Who has given to the question. It’s far better than Matt Smith’s answer from long ago that it was “Drasicanawhocius” or some long name similar that is easily abbreviated by saying “Doctor Who.” It’s also more interesting than the some diehard fans’ explanations that the Doctor’s name is actually a rather hard-to-pronounce set of Latin letters to varying powers. Given that, Peter Capaldi’s response to Radio 2’s Access All Areas (via Digital Spy) should win as it gels with the awesomeness of the Doctor and doesn’t risk the spraining of the tongue muscle trying to pronounce.

While he has some very interesting ideas regarding the Doctor’s name, Peter Capaldi also holds an opinion that may sound like hot take to many Doctor Who fans. In fact, it may trigger some of those fans fans who have battled to keep those outside the fan community from referring to him in a certain way. Capaldi may indeed ruffle some feathers with this statement:
We can get into a fight about whether he’s called The Doctor, or Doctor Who. The reason I call him Doctor Who is because when you’re in the street, people don’t shout out, ‘There’s The Doctor!’ They go, ‘Hey, Doctor Who!’ That’s his street name. His street name is Doctor Who.

SciFi Weekend: Mr. Robot Season Finale; Doctor Who; The Orville; Star Trek Discovery; Outlander Finale; Apple and Disney Moving Into Streaming; The Punisher Renewed; The IT Crowd

Mr. Robot completed its third season and has officially been renewed for a fourth. While I don’t think the third season was able to be as good as the spectacular first season, I did feel that it was something of a comeback after the less successful second. The finale seemed to go full circle with the hack, had revelations for both Elliot and Angela, and put Dom in a new dilemma. Following are excerpts from four interviews with Sam Esmail about the season finale, including the impact of Donald Trump’s election on the show.

Entertainment Weekly:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The season ends with the suggestion that the hack will be undone. Was this the plan from the outset?
SAM ESMAIL: If I’m going to conjure up my original feature plan, this was always part of it. The plan was that basically toward the end of act two, he would reverse what he did, but still kind of be in a position of now pivoting and targeting the real top one percent that orchestrated the 5/9 hack behind his back. That was always a plot point, but as you can see, that kind of gets unwieldy because your main character’s goal is essential reversed as you go through the second act of the story.

Yeah, it’s basically Mad Max: Fury Road, turning back around and going back to where they came from.
Exactly. It’s literally turning the main motivation and main dramatic drive upside down. It’s kind of an Odyssey structure. With Elliot, because the journey is really internal and really about his emotional growth, having the plotline be circular like that lent to that more internal exploration…

I didn’t see the Angela-Price twist coming. What’s exciting for you about that dynamic going forward?
I’ve read this somewhere — though I wasn’t conscious of it when creating the show — that people consider this a family drama. In a weird way, I see the underpinnings of that. Obviously you have Elliot, Darlene, and Mr. Robot being this weird dysfunctional family. But then you throw in Angela, who, because she’s such a close friend, she is sort of part of that family unit that Elliot created growing up. One of the things that I think drives a lot of our characters are those family ties and the history of their families. In fact, that’s how they even know each other — because of Elliot’s father and Angela’s mother going through the same trauma. What I always felt was interesting was to reveal that this whole thing was actually kicked off by another family connection that we had no idea about: Price being the estranged father of Angela. If you peel back the onion and think about it. That caused this chain reaction. It’s because of Price’s connection to Angela that he hired this company that had no business being a cybersecurity company for a major conglomerate, and it’s because Angela worked at Allsafe that Elliot was offered a job there and had the idea to initiate the 5/9 hack. I thought it was interesting that, when you boil this massive global tragedy down, it was really these family connections that motivated and kicked off this whole event. That was always there from the get-go. In fact, that was the one reveal I thought people would most likely guess by the end of the first season, given how close we played Price and Angela together…

Do you intend for White Rose to remain a target for Elliot?
Yeah, I believe that the thing about the show is that we set up Tyrell as the main villain, when in fact, it’s White Rose, and that’s something that comes out this season. The ultimate target is White Rose and the Dark Army. Moving forward, that’s the pivot we’re trying to make. Elliot is going to go after them.

I have time for only one question, so I’m going to make it count. Does the pee tape exist in the world of Mr. Robot?
I think far worse than the pee tape exists in the world of Mr. Robot and our real world.

The Hollywood Reporter:

In the past, you have talked about envisioning Mr. Robot as a five-season arc. Exiting season three and heading into season four, does that plan remain intact?

Honestly, I’ve always said it’s four or five seasons, and I’ve said that because I think it’s somewhere in between. Whether that means the next two seasons are two short seasons, or it could technically still be two full ten-episode seasons, we’re still kind of figuring that out. It’s something the writers’ room and I take very seriously. We never want to feel like we’re treading water. Hopefully it fits into two more seasons, but we’re trying to figure out that number…

Season three ends with Elliot reversing the Five/Nine Hack, or at least beginning that process. How will that change the show moving forward, tonally?

It brings the show back to its initial promise of Elliot wanting to take down the guys behind the scenes who are manipulating society. The journey between seasons one to three has been about discovering who the real culprits are. The hack was merely a distraction that was coopted by these people, and it’s finally been revealed and exposed to Elliot. In a weird way, the next season will return back to that initial premise of the show and have Elliot be motivated by that, with this new clarity.

In a second story at The Hollywood Reporter:

Elliot and Mr. Robot finally return to each other’s lives, at one of their earliest meeting spots. Can you talk through the different ideas that were in place for how to get these characters back together on the same page after so much time apart, and to have that meeting of the minds at Coney Island, where it all started — at least as far as the show’s depiction of events, that is?

This is funny because so many of our pitches for this moment made their way into the episode in one way or another. When we started to brainstorm ideas for this reunion, we naturally were drawn to those Mr. Robot/Elliot milestones from the pilot and season one. Sam loved the idea of them speaking to each other on the Wonder Wheel again. I was pushing for a callback to that symmetrical shot of them sitting on opposite sides of a subway train. Someone else pitched the subway platform from the pilot. We ended up seeing all of that in this finale. The Wonder Wheel ended up being the initial reunion because of how uniquely tied to Mr. Robot it was. We’ve seen Elliot in all of these other locations already (the arcade, the subway, his apartment). It made sense that Elliot would allow himself to feel safe enough to talk to Mr. Robot on the Wonder Wheel.

It’s a very emotional moment, realizing that as much as Elliot has shades of Mr. Robot, the Mr. Robot side of his personality has his own shades of Elliot. Has that always been a tenant in writing the character, that Christian Slater’s side of Elliot has more in common with Rami Malek’s depiction than he or we realized? Is it something that was discovered in the writing of the character? And how critical is that reveal, moving forward?

The plan was always to evolve the relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot. We’ve already been through so much manipulation, betrayal, and battling with them. To me, this is finally a beautiful moment of sincerity and honesty. It’s also cool because you, as Elliot’s friend, are able to witness how Mr. Robot is helpful in certain situations and how Elliot really needs him at times. It’s definitely a crucial reveal, as it’s that first step in the healing process — the path toward integration. By the end of this episode, in one of many callbacks to our pilot, we have a heartfelt exchange between Mr. Robot and Elliot. In a way, we’re healing Elliot and resetting him back to his old self. He still wants to take down the men who play god without permission, but he has a clearer view on who those people are now…

Elsewhere in the episode, we have Phillip Price’s Darth Vader moment, revealing himself as Angela’s biological father. Two-fold: was this always part of the character’s design, and do you think this news refocuses Angela? By the end of the finale, it’s hard to tell if she’s fully recovered from the Whiterose experience… do you think it’s fair to say she at least realizes she was being used, even if she still believes in Whiterose’s agenda to some degree?

This wasn’t always part of the character’s design. I think we decided on this about halfway through season two. Initially, we were working toward some kind of twisted, sexual infatuation that Price had with Angela. There actually was a pitch on the table in season two for Angela and Price to sleep with each other, but we ended up changing that to her going for an older dude at the bar. (Maybe she’s just into old dudes?) That sexual infatuation idea still works as a misdirect until the moment of the reveal. Of course, we dropped hints throughout this season that I know you picked up on (the anonymous benefactor, Price’s reaction when Whiterose confronted him about Angela, etc). I think it’s meant to be ambiguous at the end of that scene, but I definitely agree that she realizes she was being used by Whiterose, regardless of how much she still might believe in “the cause.”

Deadline Hollywood:

Let’s talk about what we saw tonight. Elliot is still bent on taking down the 1% of the world, but his dilemma is that he’s now in the pocket of WhiteRose.
The way we are ending the third season is that we’re coming back to the original promise: Elliot’s mission to take down secret organizations who are controlling things behind the scenes. It’s the first time that Elliot has exposed them and seen their true identity in that they’re being led by White Rose and the Dark Army. It’s an interesting predicament: He has leverage of them, but they have leverage over him as well. It’s an interesting Mexican standoff.

Elliot’s decision to reverse the 5/9 hack: Is this just a means to ease his own guilt after blowing up all those E-corp buildings?
Yeah, I think that with the journey of Elliot, we started the series with this guy in an immense amount of pain. Instead of facing that, he blamed it on society and externalized to the world around him what needed to be fixed, when in fact, he was avoiding facing the problem within. That’s what this moment in this season was about: His realization that what he wanted was not co-opted by the very people he was trying to take down; that it was wrong.  There are a few internal struggles he also faces in regards to his relationship with Mr. Robot and its evolution.

Angela learning that she was Phillip Price’s daughter. Why was this important to establish and was this something you knew going into the season? 

The thing about that revelation is that what I always thought was interesting in regards to the entire chain reaction of things that led to the 5/9 hack and the global catastrophe is that it all started with broken family ties. And really the chain reaction of Price who is estranged from his daughter her whole life, and reaching out in the distance, by hiring this (small) cybersecurity company which has no business representing E-Corp; then because of that, Elliot joins the company to avenge his father’s death — that strategy to attack E-Corp, that spiraling out of control, is in essence about broken family ties. Now (Price and Angela) are trying to heal that tragedy and trauma that comes out of it. We planned this very early on; at the end of the first season Price takes Angela in…

Dom and Darlene, where does this leave them now?
Dom is at a crossroads. She’s the most noble character to her cause in the entire series. She’s now in with the Dark Army in this brutal way and we’re going to see the aftereffects of that. In terms of Darlene, she’s going to have to live and process a lot of guilt of what she’s put Dom through. There’s a genuine relationship there: They did care for one another. It’s going to be interesting though because they’re on opposite sides. We’re going to explore that relationship and whether they survive through that.

The Brave Traveler at the end of tonight’s show, that’s the drug kingpin Fernando Vera who double-crossed Elliot in season one and took girlfriend Shayla’s life. What now?
Well, he’s a crazy person, an egomaniac and hopefully very entertaining to watch. I’ll leave that as my answer. There’s a personal connection here with Elliot and out of all the global chaos that he’s been experiencing on the show, this one narrows the field a bit on a personal level. Shayla was the only true connection Elliot made when we began the series. We’ll definitely explore the blowback from all of that with her murder and how Elliot assisted in breaking Vera out of prison.

Variety:

While Esmail said the current political climate doesn’t influence the plot itself, he noticed it affects the energy writers bring into the room. Esmail called the election “catastrophic not just for the country, but for the world.” Still, he says he is open-minded about politics.

“I never try and tune anything out. I think that’s a mistake,” he says. “You want to bring all the honest stuff that’s going on inside you into your work. Otherwise you’re keeping a lot of authenticity out.”

Following President Donald Trump’s election, Esmail said the writers felt the same apprehension that many others experienced.

“When you’re talking about a man that’s incoherent and inarticulate and unintelligent, egomaniacal, it’s a dangerous thing for the world,” Esmail said of Trump getting elected. “We also felt a little responsibility to it. That we underestimated him, that we underestimated that this can possibly happen,” he explains.

That sense of accountability then loosely paralleled Elliot’s journey this season, he said.

“That indirect responsibility led to a lot of Elliot’s feeling at the beginning of the season of his responsibility in the 9/5 hack, which was a lot more direct, but that energy that we were all feeling and sensing in the room,” Esmail says. “This dread that we have committed this crime by not doing something enough definitely fueled a lot of Elliot’s motivations.”

Mozilla upset some users when they inserted a browser extension which promoted Mr. Robot into their Firefox browser, leading users to think their computer was hacked. There is a similar virtual reality game available on Amazon’s Alexa products, but they handled it in a safer manner. Ads during the show show people asking Alexa for the Daily Five/Nine. For this to work, it is necessary for users to specifically enable the Daily Five/Nine skill. Generally I find it to be a negative for Alexa that some information is not obtainable unless the user knows which skill to activate, but in this case it is for the better that users only receive paranoid news from the Mr. Robot universe if they activate it.

Steven Moffat originally did not plan to have Bill Potts in the Christmas episode of Doctor Who and explained why he changed his mind:

“I was 20 pages in to the script, and I thought, ‘I need Bill here. There isn’t a witness for this. The Captain [played by Mark Gatiss] isn’t quite right as the witness. I want to hear what Bill would say.’ I needed that voice back in the show. I just did.

I missed her terribly. I missed the way Bill reacted to things. Also, if the Twelfth Doctor’s got someone as forthright and irreverent as Bill, you really want the First Doctor to meet her! [Laughs]”

Following a screening of Twice About A Time, Steven Moffat argued that Doctor Who is the greatest show ever made:

“It’s worth saying, because I don’t think it’s ever said enough… the reason Doctor Who is as successful – I mean humanly successful – for so long in such an enduring way – and I’m just gonna say it because I don’t ever say it, but now I’m leaving I’ll say it – it is actually the greatest television show ever made.

“I’m gonna prove it to you. There are probably press here who are ‘No, it’s The Wire’. It’s not The Wire. It’s not I Claudius. It’s not The Office. It’s not even Blue Planet. It’s Doctor Who and I’m gonna prove to whoever is doubting me the hardest that they’re wrong to doubt me.

“How do you measure greatness? Do you measure it by ratings? Do you measure it by reviews? Christ no, of course you don’t.

“Do you measure it by perfection? Is Doctor Who perfect every week? No, it’s not. It really isn’t. It can’t be. Because every episode of Doctor Who is an experiment, and if you experiment every single week, sometimes you get a faceful of soot and you’re blinking the smoke away and you look a bit ridiculous. That happens. Perfection is the refinement of boredom, it’s doing the same thing all the time perfectly. Doctor Who, by always being different, can never be perfect.

“But yes, how do we measure its greatness?

“There are people who became writers because of Doctor Who. Loads of them.

“There are people who became artists because of Doctor Who.

“There are people who became actors because of Doctor Who. Two of them have played the Doctor.

“There are people, believe it or not, who become scientists because of Doctor Who. That seems improbable given we said the moon was an egg, you’d think they’d have a problem with it.

“But people become scientists, people change their view of the world and what they’re capable of, because of a silly show about a man who travels around in time and space in a police box.

“So, never mind the reviews. Never mind anything. Never mind the ratings. Never mind any of that.

“Count the scientists, the musicians, the scholars, the writers, the directors, the actors, who became what they are because of this show.

“Count, as you might say, the hearts that beat a little faster because of Doctor Who.

 “I do not even know what is in second place, but without doubt, and by that most important measure, Doctor Who is the greatest television show ever made.”
Peter Capaldi also had this to say:

“I’d like to thank all my friends on Doctor Who for sharing their good humour, talent and life with me over the last four years. And particularly, Steven Moffat, who has brought so much to Doctor Who, even more than might be realised today, but will be seen clearly in the future.

“I’d like to thank everyone who loves the show for sharing it with me, and sharing the boundless generosity of spirit that it embodies. I wish Jodie and the new TARDIS team all the best for the future, and the past, and everything inbetween, and look forward to watching them journey to new and wonderful places.

“For me, it’s been an amazing trip. I went to the end of time, I met fantastical creatures… and I blew them up. But now it’s over. Time I was off.”

Last week’s post included additional Doctor Who news including information on a special about the Peter Capaldi era which will air after the Christmas episode, a trailer for the episode, a link to an interview with Steven Moffat, and an article on David Bradley.

For the benefit of those who did not see it because of more problems with Facebook, last week I had a review of  Mad Idolatry, the first season finale of The Orville. Until links from Facebook groups to the post were shut down by Facebook, the link to this video of  Sports Illustrated model Kyra Santoro as the scantily-clad Ensign Turco had a quite a few hits. Hopefully this remains up this week–there is little consistency to Facebook’s censorship.

In an interview with Digital Spy, Seth MacFarlane argued that The Orville filled a void left behind by the classic Star Trek:

Speaking to Digital Spy, the creator and star of The Orville said that he was heavily inspired by the themes and direction of classic Star Trek – aspects which he feels haven’t been replicated much since then.

“I kind of miss the forward-thinking, aspirational, optimistic place in science fiction that Star Trek used to occupy,” he said.

“I think they’ve chosen to go in a different direction which has worked very well for them in recent years, but what has happened is that it’s left open a space that has been relatively unoccupied for a while in the genre.

“In the same way that when James Bond kind of moved into a different area than classic James Bond, Iron Man came along and sort of filled that void.

“So for me, it’s a space that’s kind of waiting to be filled in this day and age when we’re getting a lot of dystopian science fiction, a lot of which is great and very entertaining, but it can’t all be The Hunger Games.”

MacFarlane added: “It can’t all be the nightmare scenario.

While MacFarlane has used a lot of humor in the series, the show did turn out to be more like Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation as opposed to being a parody as many pre-season articles incorrectly described the series. MacFarlane also corrected this misconception in another interview with Digital Spy, saying that The Orville was not influenced by Galaxy Quest.

The titles for the chapter 2 episodes of Star Trek: Discovery have been revealed:

Episode 10:  “Despite Yourself” (January 7)

Episode 11: “The Wolf Inside” (January 14)

Episode 12:  “Vaulting Ambition” (January 21)

Episode 13: “What’s Past Is Prologue” (January 28)

Episode 14: “The War Without, The War Within” (February 4)

Episode 15: “Will You Take My Hand?” (February 11)

Four new character posters, including the one above, have also been released. The full set can be seen here.

Last week I linked to a couple of articles on the fall portion of the season of Star Trek: Discovery. Bleeding Cool also weighs in, arguing that Star Trek: Discovery Absolutely Earns Its Place in the Star Trek Continuity. My review of the fall finale was posted here, and I looked at other aspects of the show, including continuity, here. I will resume weekly reviews of the episodes after Discovery returns.

Wil Wheaton tweeted about wearing his Star Trek uniform to the opening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While I didn’t go until last night, for the record, as I don’t have a Star Trek uniform and it was too cold for either of my Star Trek t-shirts, I wore a Gallifrey swhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/eatshirt and, again as it was cold out, my Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf.

Outlander also had a season finale last week. Deadline talked to Ron Moore about the episode and future plans. Apple has also ordered a science fiction show from Ron Moore, who also was behind the revival of Battlestar Galactica. Deadline reports:

Created and written by Moore, along with Fargo co-executive producers Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, the untitled series  explores what would have happened if the global space race had never ended. Tall Ship Prods.’ Moore and Maril Davis executive produce with Wolpert and Nedivi.

This is is the third original scripted series ordered by Apple via its recently formed worldwide video programming division headed by former Sony TV presidents Jamie Erlicht & Zack Van Amburg, joining a morning show drama series project, executive produced by and starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, which has a two-season pickup, and Amazing Stories, a reimagining of the classic anthology from Steven Spielberg and Bryan Fuller.

It looks like Apple is working hard to make a credible entry into original programming with such orders. Of course they will have very tough competition from not only the established sources, but from Disney when they launch their planned streaming service.  Assuming the deal goes through, their acquisition of much of Fox will give them an incredible library, including many major genre franchises, along with a controlling stake in both Netflix and Hulu.

Netflix has renewed The Punisher for a second season. Last week’s post included the trailer for season two of Jessica Jones, which will be released March 8.

HBO has renewed Larry David’s show Curb Your Enthusiasm for a tenth season.

NBC is trying yet again to have a US version of The IT Crowd. Maybe they will have better luck this time as Graham Linehan, who created the original, is going to be the writer and executive producer. Besides being an excellent comedy, the show teaches the most important lesson you will ever need to fix computer problems (as explained in the video above).