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.

Quote of the Day: Jimmy Kimmel On Donald Trump’s Great Words

There’s a website called Fact Base that did an analysis of the first 30,000 words spoken in office by every U.S. president since Herbert Hoover. So they loaded all the speeches into a computer, and what their software found is that President Trump speaks at a fourth-grade level, lower than any president they’ve ever measured.

Herbert Hoover is at the top, 11th grade level. Obama was in third place with ninth grade. And then, way all the way in the back of the class in the fourth grade, there’s Donald Trump. Remember that show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”? He’s not. –Jimmy Kimmel

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).

SciFi Weekend: The Orville; Star Trek Discovery; Doctor Who; Legends of Tomorrow; Jessica Jones; Sense8; House of Cards

The Orville concluded its first season with Mad Idolatry, an episode which might have been better if the didn’t try to cram so much into the episode. Much of the humor came from Captain Mercer trying to find something to do after work, including learning about Moclan culture in a rather painful manner. While entertaining, it might have been better to do this in another episode and allow more time for the rather large themes of the rest of the episode.

Kelly was at the center of the two main story lines, both dealing with her relationship with Ed and her being responsible for the “cultural contamination” of an alien planet. Plus they threw in having the planet both spending time in two different universes and time passing at a vastly different rate. There was so much going on that it felt like none of the subjects received the time it deserved.

The result of Kelly’s interference was quite predictable, but resolved too easily. First the religious leader accepted her word too quickly, although it didn’t turn out very well for him. Then everything got resolved quite easily when they were visited by the most advanced version of inhabitants of the planet. The message delivered by the ambassadors from the planet, “You must have faith in reason, in discovery, and in the endurance of the logical mind,” certainly would fit in well with the Star Trek universe. The lack of consequences for her violation of what appears to be their version of the Prime Directive, along with Ed leaving it out of the report, both also fit in with many Star Trek episodes

Part of the drama of the episode was also to be Isaac being left on the planet for what 700 years, but this also turned out to be rather inconsequential to the entire story.

Kelly’s decision regarding her relationship was sensible and fit well into the story, but I also wish that this could have been given more time in the episode.

Besides seeing their version of the Prime Directive, we learned in this episode that the Orville’s shuttles have cloaking technology.

Another highlight of the episode was Sports Illustrated model Kyra Santoro as the scantily-clad Ensign Turco. (Video of her cleavage can be seen here). This beat out  Adrianne Palicki’s dress when she went out with Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane).

Overall the episode was enjoyable, but it could have been so much more.

For those who have not been watching, Blastr has 10 Reasons To Binge Watch  Star Trek: Discovery This Holiday Season. Wired questions why some hate the show. Note that CBS All Access does provide one week free, so it would be a good time to check out the entire first half of season one for free before deciding whether you want to continue into the next season.

Alice Eve, who appeared in Star Trek: Into Darkness, has been cast in the second season of Iron Fist.

Quentin Tarantino has pitched an idea for a Star Trek movie and might direct it. Deadline reports that it will be R-rated. Screen Rant speculates on Star Trek episodes he might turn into movies, including both from the original show and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Patrick Stewart has expressed interest in reprising his role as Jean-Luc Picrard:

Following the news that Quentin Tarantino was working on a new idea for the franchise alongside J.J. Abrams, with plans to direct, Patrick Stewart has thrown an unlikely hat back into the intergalactic ring.

“People are always saying to me, ‘Will you be Jean-Luc Picard again?’ And I cannot think that would be possible, but there are ways in which something like that might come about,” the iconic actor told The Hollywood Reporter, speaking from the sidelines of the Dubai International Film Festival, where he received an honorary award.

“But one of my dreams is to work with Tarantino. I admire his work so much, and to be in a Tarantino film would give me so much satisfaction. So, if he is going to direct something to do with Star Trek and there was the possibility of dear old Jean-Luc showing up again and doing that for Mr Tarantino, I would embrace it.”

Stewart said one thing was sure about a Tarantino-directed Star Trek installment: it would be gripping.

“The one thing that characterizes all of his movies is that frame by frame, it always challenges, always demands your attention, always demands a very kind of open and generous response to what he does,” he said. “I also love his sense of humor as a filmmaker. So yes, he would be my first choice.”

Netflix has released trailer for the next season of Black Mirror, including U.S.S. Callister, which has the feeling of original Star Trek. Knowing Black Mirror, it is no surprised that something will be off.

BBC America has released another trailer for Twice Upon A Time, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. Video above. Nerdist reports on another special to be aired afterwards:

 Immediately following “Twice Upon A Time,” BBC and BBC America will air an all-new special titled, Doctor Who: Farewell to Peter Capaldi. Narrated by actor Colin McFarlane (Jonathan Moran in “Under the Lake” and “Before the Flood”), the episode will feature archival footage and interviews, as well as a look back at Peter Capaldi’s era as the Twelfth Doctor—from his very first script read through to his very last. It will also feature, the BBC stated in a press release, “Steven Moffat reflecting upon his time as a writer and then later as executive producer, revealing some of his best and worst moments from his tenure, as well as his favorite episodes.”

Radio Times has an interview with Steven Moffat here, and an article on David Bradley, who will be playing William Hartnell’s role of the first doctor, here.

The entire Arrowverse concluded the fall season with good cliff hangers or episodes leading into the second half of the season a week after the excellent cross-over episodes with Crisis on Earth-X.

The biggest changes are occurring on Legends of TomorrowConstantine will, at least briefly, be joining the Legends of Tomorrow when they return. There are certainly now openings for him to stick around longer with Victor Garber and Jax Jackson both leaving recently. Wentworth Miller is only expected to be on the show for a short time.

Legends will not return until February 18, taking over Supergirl‘s timeslot for nine weeks to conclude its season. Supergirl will resume on April 16 and conclude on June 18.

Netflix has released the above trailer for Season two of Jessica Jones, which will be released March 8. Entertainment Weekly has this report:

Looks like Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is going to need a stiff drink. The super-powered PI may have killed her mind-controlling abuser Kilgrave (David Tennant) at the end of the Marvel-Netflix drama’s first season, but that doesn’t mean she’s forgotten him — or what he did. “He’s such a part of her construction and her dilemma,” showrunner Melissa Rosenberg says. “I think just having him come back and be that mirror again is really important.”

And Kilgrave’s lingering presence won’t be Jessica’s only problem in season 2. Sure, she did just (very reluctantly) help save New York City, but what happened on The Defenders was just “a blip” in her story, Ritter says. “Jessica is in a pretty dark headspace when we meet her at the top of season 2. What we’ve done again is kept the story very personal. If season 1 was in her head and in her mind, then this season will be more in her heart. It’s still a psychological thriller, but it’s more of an emotional thriller this time.” Rosenberg agrees: “She was somewhat of a mess even before Kilgrave came into her life, so [season 2] is about digging deeper into that chaos and peeling back those layers.” In the end, the mystery of Jessica herself may be her hardest case to crack.

A brief video was posted on Twitter to remind fans that there will be one more episode to wrap up Sense8 following its cancellation after the second season.

Netflix has confirmed that they do plan to resume production on House of Cards following the firing of Kevin Spacey:

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos announced the landmark original series is going into production on its final season next year, but Kevin Spacey will not be part of the show, after reports of sexual misconduct from the star.

“I can actually give you some news in the room today, because we have been in arrangement to produce a sixth season of ‘House of Cards.” It’ll be an eight episode season that’ll start production early ’18, and it will not involve Kevin Spacey,” said Sarandos at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. “It will star Robin Wright. And we’re really excited about bringing some closure to the show for fans.”

Fortunately last season did end on a good point to change the focus of the show from Spacey to Robin Wright’s character. The only downside is that I had hoped that they would wrap up the series with Frank Underwood gradually being exposed and being taken down for his crimes. Instead he will probably be killed off early next season.

Quote of The Day: Seth Meyers On Donald Trump Slurring His Words

Towards the end of the speech on Israel today, President Trump began to slur his words, leading some to speculate that he may have been wearing dentures. But the White House insists that it’s nothing unusual and that most of his words are slurs. –Seth Meyers

SciFi Weekend: CW’s Crisis On Earth-X; Agents of SHIELD; Doctor Who; The Orville; The Avengers Infinity War; American Gods; Stranger Things

Crisis on Earth-X was both the best of the CW cross-overs and was a lot more fun than the DC movie team-ups. They did an excellent job of using most of the characters over the entire four hours, and making a true four hour story as opposed to four related episodes of each CW series. The event ended with Legends of Tomorrow and did include more members of the team as only some had good reason to spend the entire time at the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West, which started the story. Despite having good reason for the rest of the Legends to only appear in the fourth episode, some of the Legends were important throughout the four hours, especially with many scenes involving Stein and continuing the story line involving his separation from Firestorm.

While the crossover did continue plot lines from the individual shows, it was more notable for the combinations who do are not normally together. This included the hook up between Alex and Sara prior to the wedding, and later having Felicity and Iris team up. There were also plenty of pop culture and genre references, especially with The Man In The High Castle plot line. Comicbook.com has a list of Easter Eggs.

I was surprised that Crisis on Earth-X advanced some major plot threads in the various series, rather than leaving them for the individual shows. (Major spoilers ahead.) While we knew that the marriage of Iris an Barry would eventually occur, Felicity and Oliver turned it into a double wedding. The Stein’s story line not only progressed, but his previously-announced departure from the show (baring further appearances thanks to time travel) also occurred. Bleeding Cool has Victor Garber talking about his time on Legends of Tomorrow.

The event also may have started new story lines. There was the introduction of one new character,  The Ray, and the return of Leonard Snart , except as his good doppelganger, Citizen Cold. Presumably the mystery girl at the wedding was there for a reason–with some speculation as to her identity here.

Of course there were many plot holes and questionable elements. Rather than an infinite number of parallel earths, there are exactly fifty-three, which all have agreed-upon numbers. While people from other earths seem to have far more contact with each other than people from our earth, we are still designated Earth One. A major plot device involved preventing the destruction of the installation used to transport the heroes to Earth-X, but at other times it seems relatively easy to go from one earth to another (or send wedding invitations).

The major villains included doppelgangers of Oliver and Kara, but instead of a Barry’s doppelganger there was a version of Eobard Thawne. It is already quite convoluted to explain how he is around, thanks to time remnants, despite having been removed from existence at the end of season one when his ancestor killed himself. It is even harder to explain why the version seen was from when he appeared like Harrison Wells, other than to give more air time to Tom Cavanagh. Plus when did he learn how to do heart transplants?

Overall it was an enjoyable four hours which was never intended to be thought about very deeply, with the time passing much more quickly than most of the DC movies, which often feel like they are far more than four hours long. Plus, with my daughter’s wedding now less than six months away, it provided me with important warnings of things to be careful about–guests who fail to RSVP and, of course, the danger of a wedding being interrupted by Nazis from a parallel earth. I will be certain to take the proper precautions.

There is behind the scenes information available here.

Jed Whedon’s goal for Agents of SHIELD this year was to “throw them on the craziest roller coaster adventure we could think of.” While we knew since the last season that the season would take place in space, we did not learn the real twist until the season premiere on Friday (spoiler’s head). Not only are they in space, but they have been pulled into the future, and are on a space station with the last remnants of humanity, under Kree rule. Most of human history has been wiped out to help keep humans subservient, except a version of the Framework is still around.

The specifics are vague but the earth has been destroyed, supposedly by Daisy (who does not fall for future pick-up lines). The members of SHIELD were brought due to a legend that they will help save the remaining humans. As we don’t really know the rules of time travel in effect here, I wonder if the ultimate victory will be helping them get out from under Kree rule, or if the end-game will be to prevent this future from happening.

The cast discussed being in space here. Elizabeth Henstridgeand Iain De Caestecke discussed having Simmons and Fitz being separated yet once again here. Screen Rant has a list of Easter eggs.

The BBC has released a teaser poster for Twice Upon A Time, this year’s Christmas episode of Doctor Who, with a motion version here. The official synopsis:

The magical final chapter of the Twelfth Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) journey sees the Time Lord team up with his former self, the first ever Doctor (David Bradley – Harry Potter, Game of Thrones) and a returning Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), for one last adventure. Two Doctors stranded in an Arctic snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. Enchanted glass people, stealing their victims from frozen time. And a World War One captain destined to die on the battlefield, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story. An uplifting new tale about the power of hope in humanity’s darkest hours, Twice Upon A Time marks the end of an era. But as the Doctor must face his past to decide his future, his journey is only just beginning…

Doctor Who will have both new cast and crew next season. The show will also have a different look. Radio Times reports:

If it’s not exciting enough to get the first female Time Lord on screen, then Doctor Who bosses have further surprises in store: a brand new cinematic look for Jodie Whittaker’s adventures.

The production is being supplied with brand new cameras and lenses which will add a touch of big screen dazzle to the look of the new series according to trade magazine Broadcast

Production house Films at 59, which supplies the BBC’s Doctor Who studios in Roath Lock in Cardiff, is using Cooke anamorphic Prime lenses and Angenieux Optimo anamorphic zooms that will be used with Arri Alexa XT and Alex Mini cameras for series 11.

The intention is to bring an increased cinematic look to the show which started production at the end of October.

According to Bristol-based Films at 59’s Dave Wride this means a whole new visual feel to the show.

“The BBC have made a monumental leap here to enhance the look of Doctor Who and I’m sure the fans will not be disappointed with the distinctly cinematic results that this lens and camera combo will afford them,” he said.

New Dimensions was another solid episode of The Orville. It also helped remedy one of the problems which was seen in a previous episode, Majority Rule. John LeMarr played a key role in that episode, which also served to make it apparent that we really did not know very much about him. We learned that there is much more to him in this episode.

There were the usual references to current and recent literature and pop culture, including Flatland, Doctor Who, Oscar the Grouch’s can, Snoopy’s doghouse, and Dumbo.

The episode also did a good job of mixing humor in the episode. This included yet more practical jokes, leading to Yaphit having to explore Bortus’ GI tract for a portion of himself: “Ah, dude, it stinks down here, what the hell have you been eating?  Is that a boot?”

While we have one more episode to go, I09 has already accumulated a list of the funniest and most surprising moments from The Orville so far. TV Guide has information on this Thursday’s season finale.

The official trailer for Avengers: Infinity Wars is now available, with the movie to be released May 4. Discussion here, here, and here.

The talks between Disney and Fox are back on. While I am concerned about yet further media consolidation, this does have interesting ramifications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Bad news for American Gods with show runners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green leaving. While there have been no specifics, most of the reports center around disputes with Starz regarding the budget for the show.

Surprising nobody, Netflix has officially renewed Stranger Things. (Last night I was out for a walk and saw holiday light effects outside of a neighbor’s house which made it look like it was in the Upside Down. Just to be safe, I didn’t get too close.)