SciFi Weekend: Timeless Finale; SHIELD In The Framework; The 100; Doctor Who Trailer; Sense8; The Discovery; Bill Paxton Dies

Timeless ended its first season on the bubble, and the season finale was written without knowledge of whether it will return. I am still waiting for Trump to actually do something useful, such as issue an Executive Order banning cliff hangers on shows which aren’t known to be coming back. If there must be one, it was handled well on Timeless. The season finale did wrap up the running story line of the first season, and could work as a series finale. It also had a huge reveal in the final minutes which changes how we see some of the season, and leaves a lot open for a second season, if the series is renewed.

Deadline spoke with Shawn Ryan, who co-created and executive produces Timeless with Eric Kripke:

DEADLINE: Up until the last few minutes, the series was heading to a happy ending. Why did you decide to add the major cliffhanger at the end?
SHAWN RYAN: We had thought for awhile about what the best way was to give some closure for Season 1 while also setting us up for a new dynamic in Season 2. We wanted to bring Garcia Flynn’s journey to some kind of end, though I’m sure we’ll see more of him going forward. So while many people might see our Season 1 conclusion as a cliffhanger, we see it as a wrap-up of Season 1 and a launch point for Season 2.

DEADLINE: Did you have an alternate ending that would serve as a series finale in case Timeless does not come back?
SHAWN RYAN: No. Eric and I planned for success. We’ve been working towards this ending ever since the season began.

DEADLINE: In the cliffhanger, Rittenhouse takes control over the time machine. What is the plan for Season 2? Will our heroes continue to chase the mothership, trying to prevent Rittenhouse from implementing their sinister plan?
SHAWN RYAN: We are working on our overall plan for Season 2 right now and we’ll pitch it to NBC in April, so I’m reluctant to get too much into it because we’ll want to take a deep breath and evaluate the whole season before we commit to what we want to do in Season 2. What I can say is the current plan involves our heroes traveling to the past to stop history from being perverted and changed too much…

DEADLINE: What will be Lucy’s mom role going forward, and why wasn’t she arrested along with 100+ Rittenhouse members in the government sweep?
SHAWN RYAN: Lucy’s mom will be influential in Season 2. We don’t presume that every member of Rittenhouse was identified and apprehended in the first 48 hours after our heroes returned from 1954, though the organization was definitely dealt a big blow. So we will owe an answer in Season 2 as to why Lucy’s mom was one of the Rittenhouse members not to be identified right away.

DEADLINE: Had she been onto the time machine project from the very beginning, including the arrangement of Lucy’s involvement in it?
SHAWN RYAN: Yes. Eric and I had it in our minds even from pilot stage that Carol was secretly a part of Rittenhouse and was keeping her eye on Lucy this whole time…

DEADLINE: Will Flynn resurface in Season 2 or did his story arc end with the season 1 finale?
SHAWN RYAN: Well, Goran was fantastic for us this season and I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Garcia Flynn on the show, though obviously his role would be different going forward

DEADLINE: How did Emma, seemingly a fugitive on a mission to take down Rittenhouse, turn out to be a Rittenhouse operative? Is she earmarked for a major role in the Season 2 developments?
SHAWN RYAN: We will definitely owe some answers and explanations for this in Season 2, but once again, it was always our plan that she was secretly Rittenhouse and she was hiding out in the 1880s for Rittenhouse reasons that we will need to explain. We’ll see what stories we want to tell and how available our actress is to be on the show…

DEADLINE: Will Lucy be able to get her sister back or will she succumb to her Rittenhouse fate as her parents suggested?
SHAWN RYAN: I certainly think she’s going to continue to try to get her sister back. We’ll see if her mother or father can persuade her otherwise.

I posted excerpts from an interview with both Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan about Timeless last week.

It was only a matter of time until Agents of SHIELD found a way to bring Agent Ward back in some form. This is being done by having the show move into the Matrix. Actually it is called the Framework. The probably couldn’t call it the Matrix for copyright reasons, just as Ray Palmer said he couldn’t call his saber which used light a lightsaber for trademark reasons in the Camelot/3000 episode of Legends of Tomorrow. Jed Whedon discussed Agents of SHIELD with E! News:

How long was it in the works to bring Brett back? How long had you been planning on this?
Well, we knew that at the start of the third pod as we’re calling them, we were going to get into the Framework, so there were a lot of options of things to do there, but that was always sort of at the top of the list. We love him and the fans love him and so we didn’t want to undercut the stories we’ve told with him, but this felt like a way to bring him back in a thrilling fashion that didn’t negate what we’d done earlier with him.

Was there talk at the end of last season when he was written out that this was an option, or was this something that came about later?
His end was his end, but this is Marvel and our show is built upon the foundation of a man who was brought back from the dead. And we had actually done that with Ward. So, it’s always an option that someone can find a way to appear back on our show and I think that this next pod will prove that out.

How would you tease what this Framework version of Ward? Because he’s wholly an Aida creation, it would seem.
The Darkhold has given them this amazing ability to sort of recreate reality, but we know that some small changes were made, repairing regrets for everybody they’ve put in there, so that seems to have had some sort of ripple effect. Who Grant Ward is in this world, we’ll have to wait and see, but they set out to recreate our world in every way and recreate everyone in it and everything in it, so there will be some familiarity to the man when you get to know him right off the bat in the next episode.

Another big surprise was learning that Jemma isn’t alive in the Framework. Are we going to cut to poor Simmons waking up in a coffin when she enters the Framework? How will this work for her?
We’ll have to see, but she didn’t wake up in a warm tub, that’s for sure. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out, but the two of them are going in and how she comes to be we’ll have to see. I have a feeling that she’s not gone from the series. That’s not how we would end Elizabeth’s run. [Laughs.] That’s a wait and see, as I have a feeling a lot of these questions will be…But that’s the fun part about the Framework. It’s a what-if world and we don’t really know what to expect.

Talk to me a little bit about the decision to have Hydra in control in the Framework. What is this Hydra going to be like and what was the thought process behind going in that direction?
Well, you know, Hydra is sort of the opposite of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the simplest version of the anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. And we’ve told a lot of Hydra stories, but this story is more about our characters and sort of dealing with questions of identity and the nature of reality and whether or not you have a true nature or whether or not you’re made up of your experiences. If you’re made up of your regrets. Is there a true you or are you just an assembly of your experiences?

More at TVLine.

Jemma’s death on Agents of SHIELD is only in the Framework, but it appeared that we were seeing a string of deaths on television. There was the death of Alice on The Magicians recently. Connie Britton’s character died on Nashville. In this case I assume it was a matter of Britton not wanting to commit to a series on CMT for more than a brief season after it was cancelled by ABC. The question now is whether the show can survive her loss. It reminds me a little of how Dallas couldn’t survive the loss of Larry Hagman after the revival of Dallas on TNT. The one difference is that Hagman’s death came as a surprise, as opposed to Herskovits and Zwick having planned on Britton’s departure from the start.

For a brief time I thought we also had a major death on The 100. I actually went into the episode expecting a death based upon headlines of articles I had put off reading. The 100 has a history of killing off major characters, including Lexa and Lincoln last season, but Octavia seemed too important to kill off. Between having a sword go through her body and falling off that cliff, she sure did look dead, but the rules for survival are different on television than in the real world. Perhaps the bigger question of how she survived this is how her horse managed to make it down the cliff to her.

At least I am glad that they did show her get on the horse at the end of the episode as opposed to leaving viewers with a false belief that she was killed if they did plan to keep her alive. Now the question is how long it will take for Bellamy to discover that the news he heard of his sister’s death was premature. Plus Clarke’s story line got quite interesting last week, reminiscent of the types of issues raised in the first season.

The above teaser has been released for Doctor Who series 10, which will premiere on April 15. It features the Doctor’s new companion, Bill, speaking about him:

The first time you meet him, he’s funny.The second time, he’s amazing. The third time, you realize he’s the most dangerous man in the universe. He says he’s a man of peace, but he walks in war. I’m having the time of my life, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world–even if it kills me.

As Pearl Mackie has only been signed for a single season, and there is talk about a clean slate when Chris Chinball takes over as showrunner, perhaps she actually will die.

In other Doctor Who news, the spin0ff Class has been cancelled after a single season due to low ratings. It aired in the UK last fall and will be shown in the United States this spring following episodes of Doctor Who on BBC America. I did download the episodes last fall and found it to be a decent show to watch while there was no Doctor Who available, but it is hardly must see for those who have not seen it yet. The eight episodes do wrap up a story for the season, so it can easily be watched as a stand-alone season.

Sense8 returns on May 5, after a teaser Christmas episode.  Here is the (rather vague) synopsis for the upcoming full season:

Picking up where season one left off, Capheus (Toby Onwumere), Kala (Tina Desai), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Riley (Tuppence Middleton) , Sun (Donna Bae), Will (Brian J. Smith) and Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) come together both physically and mentally, plunged into the middle of each other’s tragedies and triumphs. On the run from Whispers (Terrence Mann), and forced to question their very identity, it’s a matter of survival as the Sensates must find a way to live with, understand and protect one another against all odds.

Some pictures have been posted on line. As we already got the obligatory orgy in the Christmas episode, I don’t know if there will be another in the full season.

Netflix has released the above trailer for The Discovery, a movie in which the afterlife has been scientifically proven to exist and millions of people commit suicide to get there. My bet is that there is a catch.

The 2016 Nebulla Award nominees have been announced.

In this time of peak TV we already have one excellent series by Noah Hawley running (Legion). A second will return soon as the third season of Fargo is schedule to premiere on April 19.

Starz has announced that the long-awaited series based upon Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods will premiere on April 30.

Looking at the winners of recent awards ceremonies can help predict the winners of the Academy Awards tonight. Based upon recent winners, I predict that La La Land will win Best Picture, and Rumor the German Shepherd will win Best in Show.

Bill Paxton has died at age 61 of complications of heart surgery. He starred in Big Love, and has had genre roles including Aliens and Agents of SHIELD. There are many comments on his death on Twitter today, including several from cast and crew of Agents of SHIELD, with TVLine having a compilation. He has also had lesser genre roles including being killed early in The Terminator. The Mary Sue points out the science fiction villains he has faced:

In the course of his career, Paxton faced three of science fiction’s most famous villains. In Aliens, he faced the xenomorphs; in Predator 2, he faced a Predator; and in The Terminator, he played one of the punks from whom Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character demanded clothes. /Film wrote that this makes him “the only actor to have been killed by a Terminator, a Predator, and a Xenomoprh,” and I personally can’t think of anyone else who can come for that title.

Quote of the Day: James Corden On The U.K. Banning Donald Trump

The British parliament is debating whether or not Donald Trump should be allow to make a state visit to the United Kingdom after a petition to keep him out garnered 1.8 million signatures. Hey, Donald, how’s that travel ban feel when it’s on the other foot?–James Corden

SciFi Weekend: Timeless; Legion And Other Wednesday Genre Shows; Doctor Who; Renewal And Returning Show News; A Sci-Fi Explanation For Donald Trump; Oscar First Thoughts

Timeless started out the season as an entertaining time travel series, even if not the most significant genre show on at present. As it approaches its season (and possibly series) finale, the show has gotten even better as the Rittenhouse backstory progressed, and the series moved on from its initial formula. Screenrant looked at Why Everyone Needs To Be Watching This Time Travel Show.

TV Line spoke with producers Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan about Timeless:

TVLINE | How would you preview the finale?
SHAWN RYAN | I’m proud of the finale. It answers a ton of the questions that we’ve raised. We’ve had a pretty good plan from the beginning of the season. There are things that happen in the finale that we had plotted out in our first couple weeks in the writers’ room back in June. We’ve known for a while that we were going to make 16 episodes this season, so we were able to plan for that and build to this…

TVLINE | The last episode left off on quite a cliffhanger, with Rufus in very dire straits. How that will play out in the finale?
ERIC KRIPKE | It’s not so much about whether Rufus will live or die, because — spoiler alert! — he lives. He’s one of our main characters and a popular one, and we’re not going to kill him. So as long as there’s a Timeless, Malcolm [Barrett] has a reasonable amount of job security. It’s more about the storyline that it leads to. Rufus is unable to pilot the lifeboat alone because he’s wounded, and so he needs some help, which comes from some unexpected places, and it kind of turns the story into a new direction, and then turns again.

I think the show’s gotten better and better the more we’ve focused in on and doubled down on the characters. The thing I’m most proud about in the finale is that it’s really a character piece. So many finales, especially the genre shows, are just about people running around and fighting, and ours really digs down to the thematics and the character issues that our people have been facing all year. It’s a uniquely thoughtful and emotional finale, and I’m really proud of it because of that.

TVLINE | How much did not knowing whether the show was renewed or not impact the finale and how you chose to end it?
RYAN | It did not have a great impact. We had a story that we wanted to tell from the beginning. We’re moving forward optimistically. We think there will be a Season 2. I’ve been in a situation before on Last Resort, where it was clear as we were making Episodes 10 and 11 that the show wasn’t going to continue, and we chose at that point to write what was essentially a series finale for Episode 13 to give closure. I think there are a lot of reasons for optimism for a Season 2. We’ll find out in two or three months. We’ve always set out to tell this one-season story that then would provide a launching point for a Season 2, but that would answer a lot of things, and I think we did it. We didn’t have any conversations where we were pulling out ratings and trying to do the math. We’re just writers, and we told the best story we could. So we’ll let the chips fall where they may.
KRIPKE | When you write these things, you plan for success. You just sort of have to, and whatever happens happens. But you write it as if the show’s coming back, because I think doing it any other way, you’re compromising the story you set out to tell.

Legion remains one of the more intriguing shows of the last  couple of years, and is already being compared to recent greats like Mr. Robot and West World. It deals with mental illness and an unreliable narrator as in Mr. Robot. While it might not be a major feature of the show after the premise is established, it handled time jumps far better than West World. While the themes are quite different, it also raises comparisons to Noah Hawley’s recent work on Fargo, in which Hawley adapted another universe in his own way. Uproxx interviewed Noah Hawley:

When you first got the material, what was going in your head in terms of how you wanted this to look?

When I sat down to write it, there was nothing specifically contemporary about it, but I don’t think I assumed it wasn’t a contemporary story. Then, I guess we talked about, since the movies jump from decade to decade, should we be in there somewhere? Then it just seemed to me like the subjectivity of the show gave us this opportunity to create a reality and I don’t know why, I just found myself drawn to these ’60s movies, British ’60s movies; Terence Stamp movies and Quadrophenia. There was a sense of the young punks and these are a band of outsiders and there is that sense of teenage rebellion that exists in this thing. In a modern day sense I think we’re over that and yet there’s something about that period in us that makes something familiar unfamiliar.

It started with just thinking like, “Well, let’s embrace the brutalist architecture and let’s not have any cars, because cars date something, so then if you’re in a reality without cars, where are you when you’re outdoors?” We shot on this University of British Columbia campus where there were no cars allowed. Then the hair and the costumes, this idea of the track suits that they’re in and all of that was a process of figuring out what it was and then the music plays into that as well. This idea, as I said to our composer Jeff Russo, that the show should sound like Dark Side of the Moon, so he went out and he bought the patch cord synthesizer they use in the show.

It is this mixture of visuals and the sound and music of it that’s trying to create something that’s not about information but that’s about experience.

Yeah. It’s almost a ‘60s vision of what the future would look like.

Right. Some of the elements seem futuristic and some of them seem dated, but I wanted there to be a certain whimsy to it as well, and a playfulness. I always loved about that genre and genre in general was the pure inventiveness of it and the way like a science fiction story. The example I give is Battlestar Galactica, the remake. It’s the Cylons who have God. It takes God and it takes robots and it creates something completely new. It’s not something that you would do in a drama. It’s something you would only do in a genre and so what are the genre elements that will allow us to take a show that would work as a dramatic story, two people in love, trying to define themselves rather than being defined by society and it turns it into something that I hope every week there’s something that blows your mind a little…

David alone has, in theory, an infinite number of powers. You get a bunch of these other characters with their own abilities that seem to, for the most part, be your own creations, so you can give them the powers to do whatever you want. What was that process like of figuring out, for instance, what Syd can do?

For me it was about creating characters and saying, what makes a tragic love story? A tragic love story is about people who want to be together but can’t be together for one reason. If they physically can’t touch then that creates this seemingly unleapable obstacle. Then it became about her having a power where she couldn’t be touched, and obviously I think there are characters in comic book lore who have different versions of, “If you touch me, something happens.” I took the creative license to say, “Well this is my version of that.” The danger with a character with a hundred issues of mythology is you’re always turning around and realizing you can’t do something because someone’s going to get mad or it’s going to conflict with what they know and it’s going to be confusing.

It just seemed more and more that I could take David and take this multiple personality disorder that he has in the comic and I could create a sort of metaphorical version of that, which is not to say we won’t ultimately realize that’s what he has, but it’s to say that that’s not what he’s diagnosed with in the show. Then to surround him with characters of my own invention so that I’m not hamstrung about what stories I can tell.

There has been a recent TV trend of unreliable narrators. How do you keep the audience from looking at the show as a puzzle to solve?

You have to solve the mystery. The narrator has to become reliable. It’s a lot to ask an audience to take a perpetually unsatisfying journey where it’s like you’re never going to know for sure. It’s another thing to say, “We’re going to take a character out of confusion into clarity and an audience out of mystery into clarity.” That’s the goal of it which is to say, there’s a contract and you watch that first hour and you like, “I don’t know. There’s a devil with yellow eyes and there are these other elements that I’m not sure what they mean, but I trust the filmmaker and I know that I’m going to understand it eventually.” You do. It becomes clear by the end of the first year what’s going on.

Before this era of peak TV, The 100 might have been the top genre show on of the night. Now it shares the night with Legion, The Magicians, The Expanse, and Arrow. The 100 really deserves more attention than I’ve been paying to it, but TV Line does have some comments on the revelations in Wednesday’s episode.

Spoiler TV reviewed last week’s episode of The Magicians in the aftermath of Alice’s death.

Plus information from the producers on Arrow here and here.

Vox has more on The Expanse.

Although they have no inside information, and the decision probably won’t be made for several months, the odds makers seem to like Tilda Swinton as the favorite to replace Peter Capaldi on Doctor Who. Chris Chibnall will be making the actual decision, and says it will be made in the traditional way:

We’ll cast the role in the traditional way: write the script, then go and find the best person for that part in that script. You couldn’t go out and cast an abstract idea.”

He adds: “The creative possibilities are endless, but I have a very clear sense of what we’re going to do, without even knowing who’s going to play the part.”

Steven Moffat says that Chibnall did try to convince Peter Capaldi to stay. He also says he does not plan to write further episodes of Doctor Who for a while after he leaves as show runner. He seems to have thrown all his ideas into Doctor Who the last several years, but perhaps he will come up with something new down the road.

Odds are looking good that The Big Bang Theory will be renewed for two additional seasons.

Fox has renewed Lucifer for a third season.

I gave up on Once Upon A Time a while back, and  from the ratings it looks like many others have too. The producers are talking about wrapping up the current narrative at the end of season six, and possibly rebooting the show in a different direction for a seventh season.

Fox is considering a reboot of Firefly, but only if Joss Whedon is on board. That makes perfect sense. I question if there is any point in rebooting the show, as opposed to leaving it as a brief , but excellent, old series. I really see no point in having someone else do a reboot.

Netflix has announced that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns on May 19.

Outlander returns in September. The production is moving to South Africa, which might be a stand-in for Jamaica.

Goliath has been renewed for a second season.

The Flash deals in multiple parallel universes, including the one in which Supergirl takes place. Screen Rant explains the most important Earths in the CW multiverse. This got me thinking after hearing Donald Trump’s comments on what appears to be an alternative Sweden…

It increasingly looks like the best explanation is that Donald Trump and his top aides have been replaced by their counterparts from an alternate universe in which there have been terrorist attacks in Bowling Green, Atlanta and Sweden. Also, in their universe, Barack Obama really was a Muslim born in Kenya, and scientists never did figure out the connection between human action and climate change. Presumably orange skin and that hair are also commonplace there too.

I’m still racing to catch as many of the top Academy Award nominees as possible by next Sunday. Looking at the favorites, at this point I enjoyed La La Land and am okay with Emma Stone as Best Actress, but I would not pick it as Best Picture. Based upon what I’ve seen so far I’d go with Arrival, but not expecting a science fiction movie to win, I’d also pick Lion above La La Land. It would be a toss up with Manchester by the Sea, depending upon whether I want a more upbeat or downbeat movie. Casey Afflect is justifiably a strong contender for Best Actor.

This could change by next week. My immediate goal is to at try to get in Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight before the awards.

Late Night Comics On The Trump Press Conference

After yesterday’s bizarre press conference from Donald Trump, which has me now wondering if Trump has gotten to the talking to pictures on the White House walls stage yet, it was inevitable that the late night comics would concentrate on it. It would have been comedic malpractice if they had not. Here are the highlights:

Stephen Colbert changed his monologue to cover the press conference for obvious reasons.

Jimmy Kimmel played the highlights.

Seth Meyers took A Closer Look.

Jimmy Fallon gave his impression of the press conference for his cold open.

James Corden gave his break down of what occurred.

Or perhaps the funniest commentary of all comes from the right wing which took Trump seriously. For example, Michael Goodwin wrote, Sorry, media — this press conference played very differently with Trump’s supporters. 

The president proved once again that he is the greatest show on Earth. Lions and tigers and elephants are kid stuff next to his high wire act.

Next time, the White House ought to sell popcorn.

Amid feverish reports of chaos on his team and with Democrats fantasizing that Russia-gate is another Watergate, Trump took center stage to declare that reports of his demise are just more fake news…

He did it his way. Certainly no other president, and few politicians at any level in any time, would dare put on a show like that.

In front of cameras, and using the assembled press corps as props, he conducted a televised revival meeting to remind his supporters that he is still the man they elected. Ticking off a lengthy list of executive orders and other actions he has taken, he displayed serious fealty to his campaign promises.

Or there is the laughable claim from Rush LimbaughTrump Triumphs Over Press.

To be fair to conservatives, many do see through Trump. For example, David Brooks wrote, What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like. He began:

I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued…

Quote of the Day: Seth Meyers On Betsy DeVos

A snowstorm in the Northeast today caused many schools in the area to close. Said Betsy DeVos, “What? The school closures weren’t supposed to start yet.”  –Seth Meyers

SciFi Weekend: Legion Premier; The Magicians; First Look At Klingons On Star Trek Discovery; Stranger Things; Travelers Renewed & Other Renewals; Supergirl/Flash Cross Over; Missy Returning To Doctor Who

The major genre event of the week was the much anticipated premier of Legion. After watching the pilot, I would say it is worthy of the hype. If it can maintain this quality, it would rank with Jessica Jones, and possibly surpass it as the best superhero show ever. Created by Noah Hawley of Fargo, the show will also hopefully receive a cross over base of fans from those who watch quality television, even if they have not watched superhero shows in the past.

Syfy Wire interviewed Noah Hawley. Here is a portion of the interview:

In a recent conference call interview, Hawley says FX’s John Landgraf was all-in with approaching the show from left field. “The only reason to take on the genre on FX is if we felt we could make a FX show out of it,” Hawley details. “They are hardwired to look for a different way to tell a story. I think the love story [between David and Syd (Rachel Keller)] is also very grounding. When you have a character who doesn’t know what is real or not real, and the audience is on the journey with him, if you give them something positive to root for, they will make you a trade. As long as the girl is real and the love is real, we’ll go where you want to go.”

At the Television Critic’s Association Winter tour, we talked more with Hawley about how closely he hewed to the Marvel X-Men universe when crafting the series, the aesthetic of the series and how he narratively framed the eight-hour first season.

Legion has a very distinct, retro, out-of-place vibe to it. Why go with a vague visual setting for the series?

These latest X-Men movies take place in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, so there is a period-ness to the movies. By hiding the period [in the series], the question is more open-ended and it allows us to prove ourselves and stand on our own two feet. With the first year of Fargo, for the first three hours there was no connection to the movie at all so the audience felt it was working on its own. Then in the fourth hour, we introduced the money from the movie and suddenly it was connected. But by that point we had earned the right to be judged on our own merits.

Was there any burden to look to Marvel comic or even recent X-Men film mythology to construct this series around?

I suppose I have. There’s nothing on a white board with a lot of squiggly lines. For me, the show isn’t an information delivery device, right? It’s an experience delivery device. There is information in there that can often be separated from its meaning. You’re seeing things that are important because [David] is seeing them, but you don’t necessarily understand what they mean yet. It creates something that is a little surreal, which isn’t something that TV normally does, since Twin Peaks or Hannibal. There’s information that you will understand down the line, but right now what’s important is the experience of being in his mind…

Do you apply any of the ‘rules’ of the universe?

We obviously had a conversation based on the movies, where in the second-to-last movie mutants became public knowledge. Our idea is that they are not public knowledge. So it was a lot about where are we and how do we play with those rules. The other thing X-Men has is a lot of alternate universes. I’m not saying [the show is] one of those. I’m saying the rules are flexible enough that I can place the show and say, “Just watch it. Experience it and then we’ll talk.”

What’s been freeing about writing a genre show?

What I always got from the genre is a sense of wonder, and the inventiveness. If you look at the remake of Battlestar Galactica, there was the idea that the robots were religious, which was a such a fascinating idea. To say on an existential level, what is it really like to be these people [in Legion]? This idea that David, in the comics, has a multiple personality disorder, which is not something we are literally doing this year, but you are seeing facets of things that make you wonder, as in The Wizard of Oz, like a little bit of you were there, and you were there, and you were there, and they are all parts of him in some level…

How did you construct the series, as in will there be a cliffhanger to end the season like the comics or films might do, or is this self-contained storytelling?

It ends a chapter. Even though it’s a recurring series, and not a limited series, there is a beginning, middle and end to the first season, and there would be to the second season as well. I think it’s important to think of them in that way.

The Magicians also had some major events last week, with the third episode of the season feeling more like a season finale than an early season episode. (Spoilers ahead). Among the major changes, it does appear that Alice is at least a niffon, and probably dead. Fortunately in a genre show such as this, death may not be permanent, and characters might be seen even after death. Screener tried to find out what will happen with Alice from the cast:

Everyone give a warm welcome to Niffin Alice. Knowing that his girlfriend is essentially gone (niffins don’t have those pesky consciences, or even souls really) Quentin makes the impossible choice to set his keiko demon on her to make sure she isn’t set loose on Fillory.

Naturally, we asked the cast whether we should really accept that Alice is dead and gone. Jason Ralph’s answer was at least a little encouraging, since apparently Alice & Quentin might not be totally done with each other yet.

“The evolution of that relationship continues throughout the season,” Ralph teases. “So in some way, she’s around.”

It sounds like even though Alice is dead, we might be seeing a little more of her through flashbacks, visions, or even as a ghost. At least we can take heart knowing that we’ll see some version of her from here on out.

E! News interviewed Olivia Taylor Dudley:

E! News: At what point did you know we were saying goodbye to Alice this season?
Dudley: I knew eventually Alice was going to die, because I mean I read the books, and it happens in the books. I didn’t know going into the series when it would happen, and neither did John [McNamara] and Sera [Gamble], our showrunners. We talked about it and knew it wasn’t going to happen in the first season, so I assumed it was going to happen in the second season, but didn’t know until we got up to Vancouver and started shooting that we had the conversation that it was going to be in the third episode. And I think it’s so important to the story, and it’s a huge part of Quentin’s journey from here on out, and the heartbreak of that, so I knew that it was important. As much as I didn’t want it to happen, I was excited to get a chance to have that moment, because it was my favorite part in the books when Alice battles the beast and dies.

It was such a cool moment at the end of last season when Quentin realized Alice was really the “chosen one” who needed to kill the Beast. Did that have a big impact on you, especially knowing it was leading to this heroic death? 
That’s very exciting to get to play that. In that scene, when Quentin says you’re the hero, you’re the one, I think it’s really hard for Alice to digest. For me, it was so exciting to get to play the hero at the end, and you know, Alice has so many issues and it takes a really long time for any of them to have any kind of growth on the show, but under the surface, I think that it’s hard for her to swallow that she’s the one, she’s the chosen one. I love that in books and movies, like Lord of the Rings. I loved that character that gets to be the chosen one whether or not they wanted to. She wasn’t seeking this in her life, and to get it thrust upon her and force her to be great is, I think, really beautiful.

She also confirms that Alice will be back, in some form:

“That version of Alice that we’ve been with for the last season and a bit is gone forever. You can’t bring her back, and there’s no cheap tricks on bringing her back,” Dudley says. “So I get to disappear for a while, and there is a version of Alice that fans will get to see in one shape or another. I got to go on a separate journey with her and with this character later on in the season. I’m excited for people to see that. But it is heartbreaking, because I fell so in love with Alice and had such a wonderful time playing her, so getting to not play that person anymore is really sad.”

The Verge took a look at the entire series in an article entitled, The Magicians builds a better fantasy show by bringing realism to magic.

With Star Trek: Discovery taking place before The Original Show, there has been speculation as to whether the Klingons will return to their original look or have the ridges as on later series. We got the first answer in the picture above.

The cast of Stranger Things is on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, with some hints as to what happens next season.

Showcase has renewed Travelers for a second season, with it to also be available in the United States on Netflix. Netflix has also renewed The OA and Love.

Set photos suggest that the Supergirl/Flash musical cross over episode will take place in the 1940’s.

The BBC has confirmed that Missy will be returning on series 10 of Doctor Who.

The fifth and final season of Orphan Black will premiere on June 10.

Sarah Shahi of Person of Interest will be appearing in another genre show, Reverie. The NBC thriller deals with virtual reality.

We might need a show as absurd as Veep to make any sense out of the Trump White House. Fortunately the show will be returning on April 16.

Richard Hatch, who stared in the original Battlestar Galactica and also had a role in the remake, died last week of pancreatic cancer.

Al Jarreau died earlier today:

Al Jarreau, a Grammy Award-winning singer whose versatile tenor voice and vibrant stage style blurred the lines between jazz, soul and pop music, died Feb. 12 at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 76.

His publicist, Joe Gordon, announced the death, saying the singer had been treated for exhaustion, after announcing his retirement from touring last week. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Mr. Jarreau was loosely classified as a jazz singer, but his eclectic style was entirely his own, polished through years of obscure apprenticeship in lonely nightclubs. He did not release his first album until 1975, when he was 35, but within two years, he had won the first of his seven Grammy Awards and had begun to attract a wide following.

SciFi Weekend: Months of Doctor Who Speculation To Come; The 100 Returns; Gotham; Star Trek Discovery Starts Production; Renewals; Supergirl; Powerless; 12 Monkeys

Just as we struggle to get used to the transition in Washington, there is another huge transition to look forward to. As I posted earlier in the week, the big news is that Peter Capaldi has announced that he will leave as the Doctor, with his last appearance on Doctor Who to be in the 2017 Christmas special. There might be speculation for many months as to the next Doctor, with reports that incoming show runner  Chris Chibnall will be waiting until next fall to chose a replacement as he is currently busy with completing the third and final season of Broadchurch, and then plans a vacation. There are also reports that he will not start filming Doctor Who until early 2018, with the show not airing until fall, giving us another long gap between seasons.

The speculation regarding the next actor to play the Doctor appears to be concentrating even more on having the first woman or non-white Doctor than in the past. Digital Spy looked at some of the top female contenders for the part.  David Tennant backs his costar on Broadchurch, Olivia Coleman. Peter Capaldi suggests Frances de la Tour. Billie Piper is also calling for a woman to receive the role (but has no interest in doing it herself).

Just to be clear, my opposition to Hillary Clinton replacing Peter Capaldi is not sexist and does not indicate an opposition to having the first female Doctor. My opposition is just to that woman. Hillary Clinton is terrible at acting. Look at what happened when she tried to act like a progressive. There are plenty of far more qualified choices being discussed, such as Hayley Atwell or Lara Pulver, along with those mentioned above. Jill Stein would be a far better choice, and is even a real doctor. I would chose to have Barack Obama be the first black Doctor before picking Clinton. Joe Biden would also be an excellent choice, having a similar look to Jon Pertwee. I disagree with those who say that Bernie Sanders would be too old or too far left for the role, although I see him more as a Jedi Knight than a Time Lord. Of course, #NeverTrump. However, if they decide to have a regeneration of the War Doctor after the recent death of John Hurt, then Hillary Clinton (aka The Queen of Chaos) should be a top choice.

Season 4 of The 100 began just after where season 3 left off. If anyone hoped that ALIE was lying about the nuclear reactors melting down, the episode graphically demonstrated that the survivors of the first apocalypse are now facing a second one. Eliza Taylor discussed Clarke’s role in the upcoming season:

“We’re picking up directly where we left off,” Taylor told us on set in Vancouver. “We’ve just discovered that the world’s going to end, again. Just another day on the ground. This whole season’s mostly based around how we’re going to deal with fighting an enemy that we can’t go to war with, so it’s going to prove very interesting.”

As of now, Clarke is the only one with the knowledge that the world is going to end … again. The rest of Skaikru and the Grounders have no idea, and as season four begins they’re all going to have their hands full with picking up the pieces of their respective civilizations after ALIE took over their minds and convinced so many people, both Skaikru and Grounders alike, to kill themselves and their loved ones all in the name of the now-destroyed “City of Light.” Will Clarke tell everyone about ALIE’s warning, or will she keep this revelation to herself?

“It’s something that she has to be really careful about because she’s just taken all these people out of a beautiful city that they were happy [in] and brought them back into a world that’s about to end,” Taylor said. “She has to be very careful about how she goes about telling people without starting a riot. You will see more of her relying on her friends and family, which is good because it’s kind of like the old crew being back together again. It feels like season one again, which is awesome.”

While Clarke has always been the de facto leader of the 100 juvenile delinquents sent down to Earth, with help from Bellamy (Bob Morley), when the rest of the Ark came down from space, the adults didn’t listen to Clarke’s guidance. They thought they knew how to lead better, and they’ve been proven wrong time and time again. With Chancellor Pike (Mike Beach) murdered by Octavia (Marie Avgeropolous) and Jaha (Isaiah Washington) officially fallen from grace after he helped ALIE take over, Clarke will finally take the leadership position that is rightfully hers.

“She’s definitely stepping up more and accepting herself as the leader, which is really great,” Taylor said with a smile. “It’s really fun to feel like she’s asserting herself and not taking any s-t from people who don’t know as much as she does exactly what’s going on.”

Jason Rothenberg also discussed plans for Clarke, plus other characters, in an interview with Nerdist.

Gotham is going on hiatus and (spoiler alert), having left with Jerome being pushed in the river after being shot. He has already returned from the dead once, and it seems commonplace for characters to survive being dropped in that river. The original plan was for Jerome to just be a precursor of the Joker, but it now appears that he is actually being considered as the Joker. Cameron Monaghan, who plays Jerome, discussed how the original plan was to kill him off even earlier in the season:

But according to Monaghan, that wasn’t the original ending the Gotham showrunners had planned for this episode and his character—in fact, Jerome wasn’t supposed to survive the winter finale at all.

“I don’t think the producers will mind me saying that initially Jerome wasn’t going to live,” Monaghan told Nerdist. “He wasn’t originally going to make it through this confrontation. He was going to be beheaded and that was going to be it for him. Ultimately they decided that instead, we’ll go the opposite way and really embrace the idea of the character being involved in the Joker mythos. They decided not to dance around it but instead embrace it and bring the audience on the roller coaster ride of the episode, allowing it to be open-ended, playing into whatever they decide to do with that stuff later down the line.”

He continued, “The first time I read that final scene, I didn’t even really know about that or think about it or care about it because I was just so excited about everything else that was going on in the script. But now the fact that I am able to return in the fourth season or whenever they want to bring me back is really exciting.”

When Monaghan first debuted on Gotham back in season one, the showrunners didn’t officially call him the Joker, explaining instead that his character was the earliest inspiration for the Joker, who would come later. But now, it looks like the show is finally coming out and saying that Jerome is the Joker, at least for the DC Comics TV universe.

CBS announced that Star Trek: Discovery has started production. Air date is still unknown, with the previously announced date already having been moved back twice. There was also additional casting news, with Emily Coutts as the helmsman.

I recently noted that, following the inauguration of Donald Trump, 1984 had moved up to be the number six best selling book on Amazon. It is currently at number two, and had made it up to number one recently. As it was sold out for a while, this might possibly account for its slip to number two. Some other books to consider following the inauguration of Donald Trump, both alternate histories, were discussed here.

We will see the outcome of that huge plot twist on The Good Place, as the show has been renewed for a second season. Mozart in the Jungle has been renewed for a fourth season by Amazon. TNT has renewed The Librarians.

Supergirl has already used a number of actors who have played characters in the Superman universe. Teri Hatcher, who played Lois Lane in Lois & Clark, has been cast to play a villain later this season. Aftermath has been cancelled.

Over in another corner of the DC universe, Powerless debuted. It is too early to evaluate the show and I want to see more of it. Screen Rant lists sixteen DC Easter eggs and other references.

12 Monkeys will have its cast reunite in the 1980’s when it returns.

Quote Of The Day: Stephen Colbert On The Travel Ban

And at Dulles Airport, a 5-year-old Iranian boy was detained for hours and kept from his mother. Or as Kellyanne Conway calls it, “alternative daycare.”  –Stephen Colbert

Peter Capaldi Announces Plans To Leave Doctor Who

During an interview on BBC Radio 2, Peter Capaldi announced he plans to leave Doctor Who, with his last appearance to be on the 2017 Christmas special. Radio Times Reports:

The actor was speaking with BBC Radio 2’s Jo Whiley during a special Evening in with Peter Capaldi when he revealed that he had decided it was time to say goodbye to the Whoniverse.

“One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best” he told Whiley. “From our brilliant crew and creative team working for the best broadcaster on the planet, to the viewers and fans whose endless creativity, generosity and inclusiveness points to a brighter future ahead. I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been cosmic.”

“For years before I ever imagined being involved in Doctor Who, or had ever met the man, I wanted to work with Peter Capaldi”, departing Doctor Who boss Steven Moffatt said in an official statement.

“I could not have imagined that one day we’d be standing on the TARDIS together. Like Peter, I’m facing up to leaving the best job I’ll ever have, but knowing I do so in the company of the best, and kindest and cleverest of men, makes the saddest of endings a little sweeter” Moffatt added.

Capaldi’s last season as the twelfth Doctor will start in April, which will also be Steven Moffat’s last season as show runner. Just over one year ago we got the news that Chris Chibnall, creator of Broadchurch, will be taking over for Moffat.

If Capaldi follows the pattern of Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman after they left Doctor Who, perhaps he will take a leading role in a drama about a member of the British royalty.

SciFi Weekend: Top Twenty New Shows Of 2016; Mary Tyler Moore and John Hurt Die; Genre Novels In The Age Of Trump; Riverdale Premieres

With over four hundred scripted shows (expected to surpass 500 in 2017) it is probably impossible for any one person to fairly rank the best of any season. Even many professional television critics, who don’t have another day job interfering, have said  how difficult it is to watch all the shows to do their end of year rankings. To make it more manageable, and to get around problems of listing the same top shows every year, I have limited this to the best new shows every season. Last year’s list is here and the top new shows of 2014 were listed here.

It got even harder this year with so many new streaming shows, some not dropping until December. In order to include more shows, I waited until the end of January to post the list. As usual, there are shows which I have heard very good things about which I have not watched at all. I put in a couple of shows towards the end of the list which I only watched parts of the season, and might rank them higher if I were to watch more. Also, as usual, it is very difficult to compare shows from different genre’s, or shows watched months apart. If you disagree with some of the rankings, it is very likely I also might agree and rank them differently if I were to do this on a different day. The real point of lists such as this is to point out shows which were worth watching.

Top 20 New Shows Of 2016

20. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (CW Network)

If based upon the premiere of the show in early 2016, this show would not have made the list, however it was much better when it returned for a second season in the fall. If you gave up on it last year, as I almost did, it is worth another look.

19. Class (BBC)

A Doctor Who spinoff aimed at an older audience than TheMary Jane Adventures. Torchwood (in its early years) remains the only spinoff I consider must see, but fans should find this enjoyable. It aired in the UK last fall, and will be shown in the U.S. this spring after Doctor Who. While I understand the decision in the U.S., I personally found it to be of more value as a fall show to fill the gap when, besides the Christmas episode, there was no true Doctor Who.

18. Fleabag (Amazon Prime)

I wasn’t as in love with this show as the critics, but if you have Amazon Prime, it is well worth checking it out and deciding for  yourself. The entire season is only about three hours, making it essentially a long movie. There is a definite payoff to some of the events of the season in the finale.

17. Atlanta (FX)

Another show which many would probably rank higher. I started watching when it premiered, but then it got forgotten in September because of a combination of being busy with personal matters and the premiers of all the fall shows. It very could rank higher after I see more.

16. Dirk Gentry’s Holistic Detective Agency (BBC America)

A fun and very quirky genre show which, by the end, definitely qualifies as science fiction.

15. Billions (Showtime)

An entertaining cable series. It’s most important benefit was to give Damian Lewis somewhere else to go to make sure they didn’t get desperate and try to bring him back to life on Homeland.

14. Speechless (ABC)

A few years ago it looked like network sitcoms were on the verge of death, beyond The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family. ABC has managed to continue to make worthwhile sitcoms with the Modern Family formula, including Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat, and now Speechless.

13. Goliath (Amazon Prime)

Billy Bob Thorton makes what could have been a run of the mill lawyer show well worth watching

12. The Crown (Netflix)

A young queen ascends to the thrown in a high budget presentation. She receives advice from the prime minister and is married to a foreigner played by Matt Smith, who adds a bit of whimsy to the show.

11. Victoria (ITV and PBS)

A young queen ascends to the thrown in a not-so-high budget presentation. She receives advice from the prime minister and is married to a foreigner. This also has strong connections to the Doctor Who world including Victoria being played by Jenna Coleman, with supporting cast including Eve Myles from Torchwood. It doesn’t have the budget of The Crown, but in deciding upon the ranking I deferred to my wife’s opinion. This aired in the UK last fall and recently started airing in the United States on PBS.

10. Luke Cage (Netflix)

The latest introduction of a Marvel character on Netflix. It could not meet the extremely high bar set last year by Jessica Jones, but was better than the second season of Daredevil.

9. The Magicians (Syfy)

Much more than an adult Harry Potter, but that would make a starting point to explain what this series is about. Yes, it did technically have an advanced showing of the pilot in 2015, but I’ll still consider this to essentially be a 2016 series. I watched the uncut episodes later in the year, and the editing for television on the premier episode of the second season last week was noticeable.

8. The Good Place (NBC)

A sitcom which has a continuing story, a genre element, discusses philosophy, plus has Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. Extra points for having one of the best plot twists on television in recent years.

7. This Is Us (NBC)

I thought that quality drama was dead on NBC with the ending of Parenthood, but this fills the gap. It had a fairly good twist of its own in the pilot but, unlike in The Good Place, I saw this one coming. The bigger surprise was that Mandy Moore could do such a good job acting. Sure it is full of old television cliches and spends most episodes tugging at the heart strings, but it does a good job of it.

6. 11.22.63 (Hulu)

Received mixed views but I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation of the Stephen King time travel novel. (No comparison between this and the messed up adaptation of  Under the Dome). More on the show here.

5. Travelers (Showcase and Netflix)

Another low budget Canadian science fiction series filmed in Vancouver. This one is well-written and highly recommended, plus now easily available in the US on Netflix. The premise is that travelers from the future send their consciousness back to our present to prevent an apocalyptic future, taking over the bodies of people at the time of their recorded death. (I was  hoping that something like this would happen on January 20.) Besides having to attend to their mission, the travelers have to cope with the lives they took over–and sometimes their information was a bit off.

4. The Night Of (HBO)

A great self-contained story which shows both problems in the criminal justice system and xenophobia.

3. The Night Manager (BBC and AMC)

An excellent adaptation of the John le Carré novel. It was such a success that BBC and AMC are planning a second adaptation.

2. Stranger Things (Netflix)

The surprise hit from last summer. The series, with explanations of the finale, was discussed here.

1. West World (HBO)

The most discussed new show of the season, with mainstream critics also falling for this science fiction series. I looked at the show at various times, with a discussion of the season finale here.

There are also shows which might make the list which I did not see. I didn’t see any point in rehashing the O.J. Simpson story, but note that The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story  (FX) has received considerable critical acclaim. Many other shows, including genre dramas such as The OA (Netflix) and comedies such as One Mississippi (Amazon Prime) are also recommended by many people.

In past years I have found shows which I did not see when new, but saw them in subsequent years and thought they deserved to be in my rankings. This year I caught up on season one and two of Dark Matter (Syfy) and loved the show. I then tried Killjoys (Syfy) and didn’t get into it. I only watched the first episode, which might not be enough to judge it. I also thought that perhaps I was expecting Dark Matter and it might be better to watch some other shows before trying it again so I could judge it on its own merit.

It is notable that, once again, cable (both basic and premium), British imports, and especially streaming, dominate the list, with very little from the major American networks.

2016 ended with the loss of one beloved actress, Carrie Fisher, and began with the loss of another, Mary Tyler Moore. Later in the week, John Hurt died. While he is more famous for other roles, among science fiction fans he might be best remembered as the War Doctor for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary.

The past two weekends also were dominated by protests against Donald Trump. Earlier this week I looked at one good thing to come from Trump’s election–people are talking about books. This includes the classic 1984, as well as two other novels in which populist authoritarians became president. Even Doctor Who has been cited in discussion of the alternative facts coming from the Trump administration.

This week included the return of several genre shows, as well as the premiere of The CW’s reimagination of Archie comics, Riverdale. After watching Riverdale, I have three questions:

1) Who killed Jason Blossom?
2) What real teen talks about Truman Capote and about Mad Men by season?
3) And the old classic question, Betty or Veronica?