The election of Donald Trump appears to be stimulating reading along with protests. The Hill reports a surge in sale of George Orwell’s novel 1984 after Kellyanne Conway said that the White House press secretary gave “alternative facts” after he made false statements about the crowd size at the inauguration. Alternative facts sounds alarmingly like the newspeak and doublethink of 1984. 1984 moved up to the sixth best selling book on Amazon on Tuesday. Sales of 1984 also surged in 2013 in response to the revelations from Edward Snowden regarding NSA surveillance.
1984 is probably the most famous literary criticism of the techniques used by authoritarian regimes, but other sources have also been discussed following the inauguration of Donald Trump. Yesterday I posted about two novels, The Plot Against America by Philip Roth and It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. Both novels involved an alternative history in which populist politicians promising to make America great defeated FDR and established dictatorships.
Doctor Who fans have been giving the show credit for predicting this forty hears ago in an episode in which the Doctor, then played by Tom Baker, said, “You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views.”
Boing Boing used the format of Little Golden Books to make the above mock cover for The Little Golden Book of Alternate Facts. The cover presents all you really need to know as to what alternate facts really are.
Seth Meyers compared Kellyanne Coneway’s statement to a Jedi novice: “Kellyanne Conway is like someone trying to do the Jedi mind trick after only a week of Jedi training. ‘These are not the droids you’re looking for.’ ‘Yeah, they are, those are my droids.’ ‘No, these are alternative robots.'”
I suspect that the Trump administration might be associated with this meme forever. After he dies, Donald Trump’s tombstone might read: “Alternative Fact: He Was A Really Great President.”
Donald Trump got off to a poor start with an attack on the press by his press secretary, while Saturday was a good day for the start of an anti-Trump protest movement. The excitement seen in the participation in the anti-Trump marches shows what could have happened if the Democratic Party was not so foolish as to give Hillary Clinton the nomination. Reporters covering the event found that many women motivated to march against Trump did not see Hillary Clinton as a choice which motivated them to turn out to vote. With a better candidate we could now have a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate.
While the protests were in progress, Donald Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer were attacking the press. Donald Trump is as defensive about the small crowds at his inauguration as he is about his “small hands” and what that represents. Speaking at the CIA, Donald Trump even said, “I have a running war with the media.” Ezra Klein wrote that “Trump’s real war isn’t with the media. It’s with facts.”
Trump then had press secretary Sean Spicer call an impromptu briefing in which Spicer lashed the press for estimating crowd size. “Nobody had numbers, because the National Park Service does not put any out,” he insisted. Seconds later, he said: “This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, both in person and around the globe.”This, along with much else Spicer said, was plainly untrue. But there’s a strategy at work here. The Trump administration is creating a baseline expectation among its loyalists that they can’t trust anything said by the media. The spat over crowd size is a low-stakes, semi-comic dispute, but the groundwork is being laid for much more consequential debates over what is, and isn’t, true.
Delegitimizing the institutions that might report inconvenient or damaging facts about the president is strategic for an administration that has made a slew of impossible promises and takes office amid a cloud of ethics concerns and potential scandals.
It also gives the new administration a convenient scapegoat for their continued struggles with public opinion, and their potential future struggles with reality. This kind of “dishonesty from the media,” Spicer said, is making it hard “to bring our country together.” It’s not difficult to imagine the Trump administration disputing bad jobs numbers in the future, or claiming their Obamacare replacement covers everyone when it actually throws millions off insurance.
Spicer ended the statement on a warning. “There has been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility of holding Donald Trump accountable. I am here to tell you that it goes two ways. We are going hold the press accountable as well.”
This is reminiscent of the credibility gap during the Vietnam war. If Trump will outright lie about verifiable facts such as these which are of limited significance, it is doubtful that he will hesitate to lie when it comes to justifying actions while at war, or defending his policies. We have already seen this type of disregard for the truth throughout his campaign. Kellyanne Conway said that the White House press secretary gave “alternative facts.” Alternative facts sure looks like another word for lies.
The White House is being called out for their lying from both the left and the right. The Weekly Standard wrote:
Crowd size does not matter. At all. It is not correlative with any conceivable marker of presidential success.
Which leads us to the question of why Spicer rushed out on Day 2 of the administration to begin his relationship with the press by insisting on a blatant, demonstrably false, lie. And please understand: That’s what this is. It is not spin, or misrepresentation, or cutting a fine line. It’s a deliberate lie.
And the answer is that this isn’t about Sean Spicer. He’s already been caught lying in the recent past…
Rule #1 for press relations is that you can obfuscate, you can misrepresent, you can shade the truth to a ridiculous degree, or play dumb and pretend not to know things you absolutely do know. But you can’t peddle affirmative, provable falsehoods. And it’s not because there’s some code of honor among press secretaries, but because once you’re a proven liar in public, you can’t adequately serve your principal. Every principal needs a spokesman who has the ability, in a crunch, to tell the press something important and know that they’ll be believed 100 percent, without reservation.
It is debatable as to how much crowd size matters, but I do find it encouraging to see both that crowd size was much smaller than for Barack Obama’s inauguration, and that far more people were motivated to protest against Trump than to see him inaugurated as president. While it is bad that the White House is already lying to us, it is at least better that most realize when they are lying. If the election had turned out slightly differently in a few states, Hillary Clinton could be president, but we would still have a president who cannot be trusted. Instead of turning out to protest, many of those protesting on Saturday would be defending her and, as we saw during the campaign, this would including defending her false statements. While many of the protesters did vote for Hillary Clinton, many also cheered when Michael Moore said the “old guard” has to go and that “We have to take over the Democratic Party.”
The week included two shows ending their season with a twist (a tip off that this post has many spoilers). It was notable that the comedy The Good Place did a far better job with its twist than the more serious Sherlock. The Final Problem had multiple twists. First there was the overall idea, introduced the previous week, that Sherlock has a sister. This week we found the degree to which, despite somehow forgetting her existence, Eurus influenced Sherlock’s behavior.
Mark Gattis defends the flaws in the episode by bragging about how the show is complicated, but that does not justify the cheats and inconsistencies they relied upon. The story was propelled too easily by having Eurus being able to exert mind control over others, freeing Moffat and Gattis of any need to write a more plausible plot. The flat was blown up, with everyone simply jumping out the window and remaining uninjured. It makes no sense that Eurus almost blew her brother up, but later was so upset when Sherlock surprised her by pointing the gun at himself.
The twist with Redbeard was more plausible, but it is an idea which has been used before. This was mishandled in the current story when the police pulled Watson out of the well while he had a chain on his feet. The manner in which Molly was handled only reinforced criticism of how Moffat handles women. Moriety’s suicide did not seem to make much sense in The Reichenbach Fall. This episode raises the question of whether Eurus gave him the suggestion to do so, or whether Moriety had a death wish and improvised on his own.
The episode began with a girl on a plane with everyone else, including the pilot, unconscious. The manner in which this was handled was the poorest twist of all. There were many strange things about the situation from Sherlock’s perspective when listening to what he heard on the phone. If this is all the audience encountered we might have have questioned its reality. However we actually saw the scene with a small girl, making it an unfair solution to later find it was Eurus on the phone pretending to be the girl.
Steven Moffat had an explanation for this which I do not agree with, along with other comments on the episode at Entertainment Weekly:
It felt like by bringing back Moriarty you to have your cake and eat it too — he’s back but in flashback so you don’t violate that he died. Can you talk about the decision to bring him back?
There was some unfinished business there, but we were always absolutely clear he was dead. People said we were making that up, but the power of that rooftop scene would have been destroyed in retrospect if he hadn’t really killed himself just to win an argument, which is what happened. It was great to get a bit of Andrew [Scott] back, it didn’t occur to us until quite late in the day that we could just do it. But we needed the flashback to fill in how this had happened. And you’ve got the perfect opportunity to bring back Moriarty and for two minutes to make it seem like he was arriving in the present day. It was fun.
Was it a bit of a cheat to have a different actress play Euros in the plane vs. in the flashbacks?
No, because that’s a dream, she doesn’t need to look the same. A dream image of yourself you don’t dream of yourself looking as you necessarily are. So I didn’t think so at all.
Some of the elements, from Redbeard to the water motif, extend back further into the series. How long did you know about the major elements of this finale?
We started talking about him having a sister fairly early on. What if Sherlock had a sister? What would that be like? But we didn’t take it madly seriously. During the planning of [season] 3 we came up with the plotline that we wanted to do. But there are elements from it we’ve been kicking around forever. Some of them have accidentally worked out well. If you go back to “A Scandal in Belgravia” and look at Mark Gattis when he reflects that Sherlock originally wanted to be a pirate but suddenly looks very sad and haunted, it’s very much a long game.
And since we didn’t get any closure on this: What’s now going on with Mycroft and Lady Smallwood and Sherlock and Irene Adler, that we’re not being privileged to witness?
Well, that you’re not privileged to witness it means you’re not going to know! With Lady Smallwood and Mycroft, we might never find out what happened there, and I’m quite content to leave it that way. We don’t have to know everything. And as for Sherlock and Irene Adler, I have no reason to suppose that Sherlock is not telling the truth, that he loves ignoring her texts. There was no new information there. We always known he rescued her and she wasn’t really dead. And if you paid attention you’d have known they’ve remained slightly in touch because there’s a rose — when he’s injured — there’s a single rose in the room. If you think about it, he saves her life, they must have escaped together, obviously there’s some form of contact.
If there is something fans seem upset about with this episode it’s that there’s no resolving scene with Molly after that very effective devastating call to her while she’s in the kitchen. Did you consider doing one? Is it fair to leave her that like that?
But that’s not how we leave her. People need to learn to face their televisions, we see her later on–
We see her skipping into the room but–
She gets over it! Surely at a certain point you have to figure out that after Sherlock escapes tells her, “I’m really sorry about that, it was a code, I thought your flat was about to blow up.” And she says, “Oh well that’s okay then, you bastard.” And then they go back to normal, that’s what people do. I can’t see why you’d have to play that out. She forgives him, of course, and our newly grown-up Sherlock is more careful with her feelings in the future. In the end of that scene, she’s a bit wounded by it all, but he’s absolutely devastated. He smashes up the coffin, he’s in pieces, he’s more upset than she is, and that’s a huge step in Sherlock’s development. The question is: Did Sherlock survive that scene? She probably had a drink and went and shagged someone, I dunno. Molly was fine.
We do not know whether Sherlock will be back, and, even with its flaws, the episode works both as a season or series finale. Sherlock and Watson are left to go back to solving crimes as they have done in earlier seasons before the show concentrated more on their ongoing personal stories as opposed to mysteries.
Many other shows besides Sherlock have utilized plot twists, but none did it as well as The Good Place. The plot twists in Westworld were discussed on line long before they were revealed. Mr. Robot relied on plot twists in both the first and second season, These were predicted both years, with some questioning the wisdom of trying it a second time. In contrast, I don’t know of anyone who predicted the huge twist on The Good Place, and yet once revealed it made perfect sense after Kristen Bell’s character figured it out. Ted Danson responded with the perfect diabolical laugh, and went on to wipe the memory of everyone involved to set the stage should there be a second season.
The old broadcast networks have very few new shows worth watching (besides The Good Place, along with Speechless). This is US is probably the best new network drama. It has now been renewed for two additional seasons.
Star Trek Discovery has been delayed again due to scheduling conflicts with its lead, Sonequa Martin-Green. The good news is that James Frain has been cast to play Spock’s father Sarek.
Steven Moffat has received criticism for his treatment of women characters long before the controversy over the scene with Molly in last week’s episode of Sherlock. In a recent interview, Moffat expressed regrets over how he treated the matter of Amy and Rory grieving over the loss of their baby:
In an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, Steven Moffat discussed his feelings on how Amy Pond and Rory Williams dealt with the grief of their baby. In “A Good Man Goes to War”, Madame Kovarian kidnapped their daughter Melody. Amy gave birth to her child after being captured by Kovarian, and then Melody disappeared — only for everyone to find out that River Song is the grown-up Melody.
The entire season was a little wibbly wobbly timey wimey but the way that the Ponds dealt with their baby being kidnapped was weak, for lack of a better term. In the interview, Moffat explained why it was hard for him to write their grief.
“Usually, big dramatic things happen in Doctor Who, then the next week everyone’s absolutely fine. I never found a way to have Amy and Rory grieve over their lost baby, and I still don’t know how I would do that. I could never work out how to write that.”
In an interview with The Wrap, Karen Gillan says she would be willing to return to play Amy Pond if asked:
Gillan is also well known for her portrayal as Amelia Pond, co-star to the Eleventh Doctor in the popular BBC adventure series “Doctor Who.” But will the show’s fans see her reprise her role any time soon? Gillan said, “If they ask me, I would be back there in a shot, but I think I’m more excited about seeing Pearl take over as companion, because she was amazing.”
The big event of the week was the inauguration of Donald Trump, making the 2016 election the worst reality show ever. Trump has been accused of plagiarizing from the Batman villain Bain in his acceptance speech:
Compare Trump’s declaration that, “Today’s ceremony, however has very special meaning. Because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another. But we are transferring power from Washington D.C. and giving it back to you… the people.For too long a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have born the cost.Washington flourished but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you.”
Sound familiar? Declareth the cartoon Batman villain: “We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you… the people. Gotham is yours. None shall interfere. Do as you please. Start by storming Blackgate, and freeing the oppressed! Step forward those who would serve. For and army will be raised. The powerful will be ripped from their decadent nests, and cast out into the cold world that we know and endure. Courts will be convened. Spoils will be enjoyed. Blood will be shed. The police will survive, as they learn to serve true justice. This great city… it will endure. Gotham will survive!”
Stephen Amel of Arrow also had some comments on Donald Trump on Facebook:
Bottom line: I don’t really like Donald Trump, I wouldn’t invite him to dinner, I probably wouldn’t stay in a property he owns… but I don’t yet know how he is going to govern. And I think that requires me to (tepidly) reserve judgement. Why? Because – holy shit!! – he’s the President, and citizen or no, America is my home. I pay taxes. I care about the way the government treats its citizens. So… I hope he succeeds for EVERYONE. And I can’t say I completely understand the opposite perspective – hoping for failure – even though I fully support someone’s right to have it.
People might think I live in a bubble, but I actually feel quite the opposite. At 35, I don’t really have experience on my side, but I have been across the spectrum to a pretty strong degree. I’ve lived in two countries, in varying states of financial security and I’ve participated in an industry that celebrates diversity. There’s no place for anything but inclusion, honesty and transparency in 2017. I hope that’s what we get.
Bleeding Cool shows how various comics have recognized the inauguration.
I am not going to give any spoilers on the season finale of Sherlock which airs tonight but leaked out early, waiting to watch until this is posted, but there remains a lot to say about last week’s episode. Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis spoke about the big twist in The Lying Detective. (Major spoilers for those who have not seen the episode):
At the end of the episode, we found out that the woman pretending to be Watson’s therapist, rush hour crush and Culverton Smith’s daughter were the same person. Not only that, but she was Sherlock and Mycroft’s long lost sister, Eurus (which means east wind).
After a screening at the BAFTA Cymru in Cardiff, the show creators hosted a Q and A where they told all about the chaos that had just ensued.
Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat explained how the idea that Sherlock had a sister had been in the back of their minds ever since the first episode. Gatiss said:
“It started as a joke years, years ago. Right from the beginning of the first season, there was a line in ‘The Great Game’ when we were sort of sketching in the idea of the Holmes family and there was going to be a line about Mycroft being a member, Sherlock admitting that he was cleverer than him and then him kindly saying, mind you…my sister…
It was absolutely cut off, and that’s really where it all began.
[At the time] we thought, we won’t do too much. And thank god we didn’t, as it gives us this place to go.“
But that wasn’t the only shock of Sherlock. People were frankly dumbfounded to see that Watson had been seeing a girl behind Mary’s back. Steven decided to tackle that one, head on, saying:
“He’s a fully rounded character. He’s a fully rounded human being with all the normal flaws that people have.”
BuzzFeed then asked him if he was going to be back to his usual self for the next episode, to which he said:
“We’re not going to say now that he’s cosy and lovely, you don’t get Martin Freeman to play that.”
The episode even contained a Torchwood Easter egg–a postcard on the mantel with the Torchwood ‘T’ logo. Technically this would place Sherlock in the Doctor Who universe.
“It’s a grand old finale. It’s a very very finale finale,” said Moffat, at the BAFTA screening for ‘The Lying Detective’.
“It’s the most like a Universal Sherlock Holmes that we’ve ever done,” Gatiss added. “It’s like a Basil Rathbone one. It’s absolutely crazy.”
The Expanse returns for season 2 on February 1. For those of use who didn’t make it through the entire first season, Syfy has put out a series of videos on the series, such as the one above. For those who want a briefer summary of season 1, below is a recap with cats:
Deadline interviewed the writers of Deadpool about the planned second movie. They also blamed the leak of test footage from the first movie on Putin.
The cast of Stranger Things teased season two in an interview with Vanity Fair.
Wayward Pines will not be returning this summer, but Fox has left open the possibility of it returning in the future. I’m actually happy to hear this. I’ve read the novels the show was based on by Blake Crouch, but the television show is one of many shows in this era of peak TV which I haven’t gotten to yet. Another year might give me a chance of watching the first two seasons before a third if there should be one. Incidentally, Blake Crouch is also the author of Dark Matter (no relationship to the televisions how by that name). The novel is more a page-turner thriller than hard science fiction, but, like his Wayward Pines series, was a quick and enjoyable read, and I’ve seen it on some of lists of top books of 2016. (Also, while not really related, I have used the hiatus in new shows around the holidays to catch up on Syfy’s Dark Matters and will now be able to include it in the weekly show coverage when it returns).
Return to Twin Peaks on May 21:
Kyle MacLachlan reprises his role as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper. TWIN PEAKS, the 18-part limited event series will debut with a two-part premiere on Sunday, May 21 at 9PM ET/PT. Immediately following the premiere, SHOWTIME subscribers will have access to the third and fourth parts, exclusively across the SHOWTIME streaming service, SHOWTIME ANYTIME® and SHOWTIME ON DEMAND®. In its second week, TWIN PEAKS will air the third and fourth parts back-to-back on the linear network, starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT, followed by one-hour parts in subsequent weeks…
Directed entirely by David Lynch, the new SHOWTIME limited event series picks up twenty-five years after the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town were stunned when their homecoming queen Laura Palmer was shockingly murdered.
Widely considered one of the most groundbreaking and influential broadcast series of all time, TWIN PEAKS followed the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town who were stunned after their homecoming queen Laura Palmer was shockingly murdered. The town’s sheriff welcomed the help of FBI agent Dale Cooper, who came to town to investigate the case. As Cooper conducted his search for Laura’s killer, the town’s secrets were gradually exposed. The mystery that ensued set off an eerie chain of events that plunged the inhabitants of Twin Peaks into a darker examination of their very existence. Twenty-five years later, the story continues…
Maisie Williams has a major role in an new superhero movie coming out on Netflix. It has a more modern origin story. Instead of being bit by a radioactive spider, the hero gets his powers from portions of a smartphone embedded in his brain:
Tom is an average teenager whose world is turned on its head when a violent encounter with local thugs leaves fragments of his shattered smartphone embedded in his brain. He wakes from a coma to discover that returning to normal teenage life is impossible because he has developed a strange set of superpowers. With these new powers he sets out to seek revenge on the gang, who also assaulted his best friend Lucy.
iBoy is a Netflix original film starring Bill Milner, Maisie Williams, Miranda Richardson and Rory Kinnear and is available on Netflix globally from January 27th, 2017.
The Hollywood Reporter has news on another Game of Thrones Star. Peter Linklage is engaged in talks to appear in Avengers: Infinity War.
The second season of Humans was excellent, and will become available (legally) in the United States on AMC on February 13. Deadline has some information. Syfy Wire spoke with the showrunners about topics including the comparisons to Westworld:
The showrunners were asked whether they minded that Westworld entered their same thematic storytelling space last year, but Brackley says the more, the merrier. “From our point of view, it’s only a good thing if people are interested in the issues we are all talking about. There’s plenty of room for both of us, and probably more about AI. Our shows are very different.”
Another excellent series from the UK will also become (legally) available in the US. Victoria debuts on PBS tonight. It is often compared to Golden Globe winner, The Crown, with similarities including actors from Doctor Who in key roles. While The Crown had Matt Smith in a supporting role, this one stars Jenna Coleman. Both The Crown and Victoria center around a new Queen and her relationship with the Prime Minister in their first season. Unlike The Crown, in which Elizabeth is married to Philip at the start, Victoria doesn’t meet Albert until later in the first season. Entertainment Weekly has more on Victoria and spoke with Jenna Coleman:
Apparently there is some other show about British royalty called The Crown, which features your Doctor Who costar Matt Smith. Have you two compared notes?
[Laughs] I think both of us tried to work out our [characters’] relationship to each other. It’s funny, he’s filming the second season in London. I’ve seen all the first, which I think is fantastic.
We already know Victoria will have a second season. In an ideal world, how long will the show run?
It depends on appetite and the pacing. There’s so much story, it could run for 60-odd years!
There is another interview with Jenna Coleman at Collider.
The Night Manager was one of the highlights of 2016. This leaves me optimistic about the next John le Carré adaptation from AMC, The BBC, and The Ink Factory: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
While several celebrities say that at first they were petrified about the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump, they are now singing, I Will Survive. Those singing Andrew Garfield, Chris Pine, Emma Stone, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Matthew McConaughey, and Chris Pine. Needless to say, conservatives don’t find this entertaining. The New York Times looked at how other celebrities such as Judd Apatow are responding in a different manner. I previously posted about reactions to Donald Trump at the Golden Globe Awards, including text and video of Meryl Streep’s speech, here.
Sherlock began the season in The Six Thatchers with a plot twist which was in some ways both shocking and predictable. Major spoilers ahead for those who have not seen the episode yet. Steven Moffat explained the decision to kill of a major character in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Just so fans don’t misinterpret that ending … Mary’s really dead right? Steven Moffat: Yes, we’re not playing games. She’s dead.
What made you decide to get rid of Mary? She died in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, but the cause of death was never even mentioned… The truth is it’s never established that she died in the stories. We just assume she died because Watson refers to his “sad loss” which is probably a death but not necessarily. The reality of this, of course, is that Sherlock Holmes is about Sherlock and Dr. Watson and it’s always going to come back to that — always always always. They had fun making it a trio but it doesn’t work long term. Mary was always going to go and we were always going to get back to the two blokes. That’s the format. [Sherlock writer-producer-actor] Mark Gatiss and I do not have the delusion that we know better than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That’s how the show works and always will. We reset to the most traditional and famous version of the format…
What made Mary decide to take a bullet for Sherlock?
Well, she saved her friend. There wasn’t a lot of time to do anything about it. Throughout the episode, she’s really quite protective of them. She’s actually better at all this than they are. She regards them as a couple of talented amateurs. She doesn’t make a huge decision about it, she does what she can with no time to think.
Her postmortem message said “Save John,” meaning protect him from being lost without her?
Yes, you can assume we’re going to elaborate on that next week.
Watson made such an agonizing wail during that scene, and of course, Freeman and Abbington were partners in real life (and recently announced they’re separating). What was it like to shoot that?
It was emotional, but at the same time, we did that scene a million times. There was a sense this was a hugely important moment in a show we’ve been making all this time and it was Amanda’s exit from a show that she’s been part of for a few years. So it was a big deal.
You said this will “reset” the relationship between Sherlock and Watson, but this seems like a rift that can never fully heal.
We take that rift head-on in the remainder of the [season]. We don’t ignore it. We don’t have John come back and say, “Well I’ve thought about it and it’s all fine.” If anything, the rift gets worse. We decided if we were doing this we’re doing grief properly. We were doing the consequences properly. We tried to have people go through what they’d actually go through in this circumstance which, of course, is hellish. And as emotionally reticent as Sherlock Holmes is, it doesn’t take a 12-year-old to figure out he’s a profoundly emotional man. We don’t skirt around it. We don’t just get on with the story of the week — although there is a story of the week. There’s a big villain to fight. But front and center are the consequence of Mary’s death and Sherlock’s culpability. He could have done better, it’s his lifestyle that killed her in the end.
It was interesting because very clearly that whole situation could have been wrapped up without bloodshed had Sherlock not kept egging her on in that moment.
We spent a long time trying to work out what his culpability was. Obviously, it wasn’t his fault. Mary tried to save his life. But having Sherlock unable to stop himself from showing off and that’s what riles her up to take the shot, I think it adds another layer. We were determined to make it as difficult for us as possible [as writers] to take on the following things: We will do grief in a big way, we will have the rift between them, and it will be real and will never completely go away — because you’ll always think about that, however imperishable that friendship is. At the same time, we’ve got to be a proper detective show with proper action, proper villains, proper mystery solving. We really went for it. There was a big debate about whether to kill her in episode 1, instead of more traditionally in episode 3 at the end of the [season]. But let’s not give ourselves that two years to forget how mad they are at each other. Let’s do it in a circumstance where we have to come back in a week and make this show work again. I think it does. Obviously, I’m not the person who makes the judgment. All the consequences are believable and painfully in place with a Sherlock Holmes plot and with some kind of resolution to it all that makes continuing possible. If we do pull that off that will be great.
It is understandable that the series is about Holmes and Watson, but if that is the case I cannot help but question the decision to have Watson marry Mary in major episodes if they were only going to make her this disposable and kill her off so quickly.
Beyond the incidents leading to Mary’s death, the episode just played with a more classic title, substituting busts of Margret Thatcher for Napoleon in the original story. The show has changed from early episodes to tell more of a continuing story, differing from the original stories where everything was generally reset at the start of the next. Sherlock’s detective skills were shown more in brief snippets as opposed to making this a coherent story based upon detective work. In may ways it did feel more like Bond that Holmes, raising objections from some critics. Mark Gattis responded to this criticism in rhyme:
Here is a critic who says with low blow
Sherlock’s no brain-box but become double-O.
Says the Baker St boy is no man of action –
whilst ignoring the stories that could have put him in traction.
The Solitary Cyclist sees boxing on show,
The Gloria Scott and The Sign of the Fo’
The Empty House too sees a mention, in time, of Mathews,
who knocked out poor Sherlock’s canine.
in the misspelled wrestle Doyle called baritsu.
In hurling Moriarty over the torrent
did Sherlock find violence strange and abhorrent?
In shooting down pygmies and Hounds from hell
Did Sherlock on Victorian niceties dwell?
When Gruner’s men got him was Holmes quite compliant
Or did he give good account for The Illustrious Client?
There’s no need to invoke in yarns that still thrill,
Her Majesty’s Secret Servant with licence to kill
From Rathbone through Brett to Cumberbatch dandy
With his fists Mr Holmes has always been handy. Mark Gatiss London
The second season of The Man In The High Castle tied up most of the loose ends from the first season. (Spoilers ahead). The ending could serve as the end of the story, but leaves things open for additional seasons in this universe. People who otherwise might be seen as villains did turn out to be heroes, at least in stopping a war between Germany and Japan which could have been devastating for America.
There was a brief flashback to John Smith witnessing the destruction of Washington, D.C., confirming that he was an American who happened to be away from the capital at the time. This raised questions as to how he rose to his rank in the first two season. It has been announced that the show has been renewed for a third season, with at least a part being a flashback which addresses these questions. SciFi Now reports:
Intertestingly, it looks like the show is going through a number of changes. For a start, it will at least in part be a prequel, more specifically during the invasion of the US when Washington DC is nuked, with John Smith (Rufus Sewell) and his wife Helen (Chelah Horsdal) in the vicinity. At this time Smith was an officer in the US army, so it will be interesting to see how he became one of the Reich’s highest-ranking – and most ruthless – officers.
Also confirmed is that Eric Overmyer will be serving as showrunner for the new season (there wasn’t one in Season 2 after Frank Spotnitz’s departure at the end of Season 1), with Ridley Scott, David W Zucker, Richard Heus, Isa Dick Hackett and Daniel Percival all on board as executive producers.
Speaking of the new appointment, Joe Lewis, Amazon Studios’ Head of Comedy and Drama, had this to say:
“As timely as ever, the exploration of characters at a dark point for humanity has provided incredible stories for two seasons. Eric and his team are doing an incredible job crafting stories about the inner lives of those who struggle to do good in a world that is not. We couldn’t be more excited to bring season three to customers in 2017.”
Cast members for Season 2 included Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, Rufus Sewell, Joel de la Fuente, Brennan Brown, Bella Heathcote, Callum Ke ith Rennie, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and DJ Qualls, with the majority of these expected to return for Season 3.
The CW Network has announced early renewals of Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin and Supernatural. No word yet on iZombie and The 100, which have not started their seasons yet. Frequency and No Tomorrow are not expect to be renewed. There are plans to wrap up the stories in a digital format to be posted on the website if cancelled.
In Doctor Who news, following The Return of Doctor Mystero, Titan comics is planning a spinoff comic of The Ghost.
Matt Smith will be regenerating into a different actor once again, this time on The Crown as the lead characters age.Claire Foy, who is working on the second season, has revealed that there will be a change in cast after the second season:
Producers plan to cast new actors for the third series of the Royal saga. A total of six series are planned.
Competition is already heating up for stars to play the Queen for the years 1965 to 1985, with Emily Watson, Rachel Weisz and Kate Beckinsale among those tipped for the role.
Presumably this means they will also cast someone older to play Prince Philip. Perhaps Peter Capaldi could replace Matt Smith once again.
Donald Trump is saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” Donald Trump said he’s a fan of Jesus because “I like guys who inherit their dad’s business and then think they’re God.” –Conan O’Brien
A Doctor Who Christmas Special is different from a regular episode. While there have been some exceptions, generally they are lighter and disconnected from the story lines of a particular season, making them something the entire family might watch even if they do not watch Doctor Who regularly. Keeping this in mind will answer some of the criticism I’ve seen of The Return of Doctor Mysterio, which worked fine as a Christmas story, even if light. It was not, and was not intended to be, a major story with profound ramifications for the mythology of the show. The show broke ratings records for BBC America.
The episode got its name because Peter Capaldi loved to refer to his character as he is referred to in Mexico, and it fit as it did include two times in which the Doctor returned to see Grant after he accidentally turned him into a superhero. Having the Doctor be responsible allowed for Steven Moffat to play with many troupes of superhero comics and movies without fully including superheroes as part of the Doctor Who universe. Instead it is superhero comics, and generally not superheroes, which are a part.
This was the first appearance of the Doctor (other than his brief cameo in Class) since last year’s Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song. While it was not necessary to have seen it, this episode is a direct continuation. Both episodes included a key situation involving not recognizing someone else. They also both involved aliens exchanging heads or brains, and has the return of Matt Lucas as Nardole. Fortunately the Doctor’s many skills include the ability to reassemble Nardole’s head on his body, allowing him to become a valuable assistant after the twenty-four year night he spent with River Song before she met her fate in the library. Matt Lucas will remain a semi-regular in the upcoming season.
Moffat took advantage of his experience in writing the romantic sit-com Coupling. This was seen when he had the entire body of the adolescent superhero who couldn’t control his x-ray vision levitate, obviously representing the rise of something else. It was seen again in scenes with Grant and Lucy, especially when they had dinner on the roof, while Grant had to be in two places at once.
The roof-top dinner was a clear homage to the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve Superman films. There were even panels from a Superman comic displayed early in the episode. How many collectors felt ill to see the Doctor deface what would now be a rare old comic by drawing glasses on Superman to show off how he figured out that Clark Kent is Superman, oblivious to the fact that everyone else already knows this (except for Lois Lane). It is just something we accept that wearing glasses keeps most people from figuring out his secret identity, but to the Doctor, “there are some situations which are too stupid to be allowed to continue.”
There were other ways in which this was a homage to Superman, including the double-L name of Lucy Lombard to match the names in DC comics. Moffat worked in the names of Siegel and Shuster, the creators of Superman, as names of employees at Harmony Shoals. There is a globe on top of the building reminiscent of The Daily Planet.
Moffat didn’t limit himself to Superman comics. There are items from multiple DC and Marvel comics all over young Grant’s bedroom. The Ghost had aspects also comparable to Batman, including the look of the Ghost, his voice, and a reference to the bat signal. The advice, “With great power comes great responsibility,” comes from Uncle Ben’s advice to Peter Parker in Spider-Man. The Doctor reacted to Spider-Man’s origin in being bitten by a radioactive spider by expecting the signs of radiation poisoning. He considered himself to be the inspiration for superheroes with Doctor in their name.
There were other great moments in the episode, such as Lucy interrogating the Doctor by squeezing Mr. Huffle. I bet the BBC will be selling those toys in the future. I also liked the earlier scene when the Doctor came across Lucy, also spying on the aliens: “It’s okay. I’m an intruder too. Yeah, I brought snacks – mark of a pro. Keep listening.” Plus there was the Doctor’s comment on the situation: “Brains with minds of their own? No-one will believe that – this is America.”
Yes, there was also an alien invasion, but this was a trivial aspect of the show, present to provide a backdrop for Grant’s story. This did make the episode seem a little disjointed at times, but the pleasure of seeing the classic superhero triangle of Grant, The Ghost, and Lucy made up for this.
The episode ended with a teaser of the next season, and the new companion, Bill, played by Pearl Mackie.
Bill met the Doctor at a University and, contrary to previous rumors, is from the present. The trailer above does give some clues as to her personality and relationship with the Doctor. At this time we don’t know yet whether she will encounter the strangest aspect of being a companion to the Doctor, witnessing a regeneration.
The biggest genre related news of the week was the death of Carrie Fisher, followed the day later by her mother, Debbie Reynolds, dying, presumably of a broken heart. Carrie Fisher’s death was too big a story to wait for SciFi Weekend, and I posted about this story in greater detail here: Carrie Fisher Dies At 60, May The Force Be With Her Always.
Netflix dropped a hint raising speculation that there will be more of Gilmore Girls after the cliff hanger ending of A Year In The Life.
Bot Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman played British royalty in The Crown and Victoria in 2016. While Matt Smith’s role was not as big as Jenna Coleman’s, his portrayal of Prince Phillip was an entertaining aspect of The Crown. Radio Times reports that Matt Smith will continue to have a major role in season two of The Crown:
You might think you know what’s coming next in Netflix’s The Crown: after all, the life of the most famous family in the country is not exactly untold history and requires no spoiler alerts.
But with the making of season two, creator Peter Morgan has revealed how he plans to continue the story of Elizabeth’s reign – and the focus will shift away from the Queen herself as other royals take centre stage.
“We start to focus on Charles as a young boy and his education, and on Philip and his back story,” Morgan told People magazine.
Matt Smith’s Prince Philip was one of the most engaging characters in the first season as he struggled to adjust to his wife (played by Claire Foy) becoming Queen. The production team has recently been in South Africa, filming part of Philip’s Commonwealth tour which took him away from his wife and young family for months.
Executive producer Suzanne Mackie teased: “We glance backward to Philip’s childhood and his upbringing, and how that might have impacted him as a man, a father and as Prince Consort – which is fascinating.”
We’ve watched the first episode and we really felt as though something bad was going to happen… Mark: It’s prefigured. You start with the sharks and then you go into lots of light-hearted fun. But it’s important to think: ‘This is not going to end well.’ I was listening to people sobbing in our first press screening – that’s a very good reaction.
Are you two still moved to tears, despite knowing what’s coming up? Mark: Oh, I cry every time with episode one. That one shows what fun the duo have, but that events have consequences… It’s about the past coming to get you. And there are at least two scenes in episode two that make me cry. And I always cry at a certain point in episode three… Steven: Episode three is the finale of finales…
You have said that this is not the last series. Have you got the next one mapped out? Steven: It’s slightly early to be talking about season five when season four hasn’t been on yet. But no one can really end the story of Sherlock Holmes, can they? Mark: We’d like to carry on. We just don’t know.
Finally in show business, including Hollywood, news, someone changed the famous Hollywood sign to read “Hollyweed” last night. This happened once before in 1976 following the passage of a California marijuana law.
While waiting for the Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, we have The 12 Doctors of Christmas video above.
This will lead us into the upcoming season, to start in April 2017, which will be Steven Moffat’s last as show runner. He talked to Digital Spy about his plans:
If you’re expecting a grand finale to the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who, then you might want to think again.
Moffat told press including Digital Spy that his final episodes of the BBC series will be about “pushing forward” – not bringing anything to a close.
“With Doctor Who, you never want to have finished the story – I’m not going to do that,” he insisted. “I want Chris [Chibnall, the new showrunner] to come in and have a brilliant time, so I’m not going to wrap it all up.
“So no… it’ll still be pushing forward. The thing is, people don’t really care about me or Chris, that’s the absolute truth. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s true – so the departure of a showrunner and the arrival of another one doesn’t really matter very much, ’cause no-one’s ever heard of us!”
Steven Moffat also has an interview with the BBC over the upcoming season of Sherlock, to premiere on New Year’s Day:
What do you mean when you say ghosts of the past are coming back?
By ghosts of the past we mean consequences. There are consequences to the kind of mad cap in-the-moment fun lives that Sherlock and John and Mary lead. There are things that have happened, there are enemies that they have made, there is damage that has been done and some of that is coming back to visit them. There will be surprises and when some of those surprises happen you’ll think “ah I should have seen that coming”.
How have the main characters developed in this series?
That’s the whole story of this series, so I’m not talking about that! Events get out of their control for a while and we see them in their darkest hours and in their highest moments.
How does Sherlock feel about John and Mary’s new addition?
The thing about Sherlock Holmes is that he is a grown-up. We always like to pretend he’s an absolute lunatic but he does things well and he straightforwardly adores John and Mary, they’re his best friends. So he behaves probably better than most young men behave when their best mates are having babies. He’s pretty good at all that.
Netflix released the Sense8 Christmas Special on December 23. At first it seemed an unlikely show to have a Christmas Special, but in retrospect it made a lot of sense. This provided a way to get reacquainted with the characters during the two year hiatus between the first and second season. The slow pace of the show worked well here. Not all that much happened to advance the story lines of the characters, giving plenty of time for holiday celebrations and the obligatory orgy scene.
Netflix also released two genre shows around the holidays, The OA and Travelers. I have not had time to see either, but The OA has been receiving a fair about of buzz since released. More information at Variety, Vox, and The Atlantic. The Travelers (trailer above) has an overall plot line similar to many science fiction shows including 12 Monkeys, Legends of Tomorrow, and Continuum in which time travelers from the future try to prevent a catastrophe in their era. This differs in that the travelers do not physically travel through time. Instead their consciousness takes over the bodies of others at the moment of their death. Here is the official synopsis:
Hundreds of years from now, the last surviving humans discover the means of sending consciousness back through time, directly into people in the 21st century. These “travelers” assume the lives of seemingly random people, while secretly working as teams to perform missions in order to save humanity from a terrible future. These travelers are: FBI Special Agent Grant MacLaren (Eric McCormack), the team’s leader; Marcy (Mackenzie Porter), a young, intellectually disabled woman in the care of her social worker, David (Patrick Gilmore); Trevor (Jared Paul Abrahamson), a high school quarterback; Carly (Nesta Marlee Cooper), a single mom in an abusive relationship; and Philip (Reilly Dolman), a heroin-addicted college student. Armed only with their knowledge of history and an archive of social media profiles, the travelers discover that 21st century lives and relationships are as much a challenge as their high-stakes missions.
Westworld is one show which in which things would be much clearer if viewed a second time. While watching the season finale I was thinking it would be even clearer if recut in chronological order, as some have done with a work by creator Jonathan Nolan’s brother–Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Of course it would be much harder to rewatch the entire season of Westworld as opposed to a movie such as Memento. These issues have been solved at The Outline where there is a recut version of Westworld season one in chronological order in which what they call the “normal” parts are sped up. This reduces the video to only ninety minutes.
As of time of writing this on Saturday, Carrie Fisher remain in intensive care after suffering a heart attack on Friday while flying from London to Los Angeles. She survived thanks to passengers on the plan initiating CPR. Hopefully she has a full recovery. We do need Princess Leia back to lead the rebellion against the evil empire when Donald Trump takes over in January.
For the last few months Father of the Bride has been the movie which means the most to me personally, still recalling watching it on ancient video tape when my daughter was a long way away from this point in her life. Therefore it caught my attention when I was scanning entertainment news for this post and saw that E! News had an article on the movie entitled How Realistic Is Father of the Bride? Fact-Checking the Classic 25 Years Later. 572 guests!!! I’m going to have nightmares tonight contemplating that.
We have now gone almost a year without any new episodes of Doctor Who. (At least there was Class, along with seeing Matt Smith on The Crown and Jenna Coleman on Victoria). Peter Capaldi and others have filmed the above message in advance of the Christmas special, and Capaldi has been available for interviews, including the one below:
Doctor Who does have some famous fans, including Prime Minister Theresa May, who has said she always watches the show on Christmas Day. Peter Capaldi responded to hearing this by saying, “I hope she takes this message of kindness and tolerance and compassion to heart.” When asked about whether he plans to leave the role, Capaldi responded by saying, “not for a long time, I hope.”
In another recent interview with Digital Spy, Steven Moffat has suggested someone else for the Doctor to meet, but does see a potential problem. “I’d like Doctor Who to meet the real James Bond, that’d be awesome. They wouldn’t get on at all. He’d shag his assistant!”
The fourth season of Sherlock begins on New Year’s Day. (They don’t worry about competing with the Rose Bowl in the U.K.) There have been hints that it might be the final season in light of how busy Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are, but Steven Moffat denies it will be the final season.
Among other things I’ve recently learned about Doctor Who, Matt Smith has a sister, who is one of the girls in the above video.
Gizmodo lists The Best Gifts for Doctor Who Fans. Of course I already have my own full-sized Tom Baker scarf and a sonic screwdriver.
If you prefer a different franchise, and have a big budget, Ars Technica reviews a $434 replica light sabre. Or, if you want to build your own Death Star, here is how to begin.
We have become accustomed to seeing special holiday episodes of shows from the U.K., but I believe it is a first for Netflix to do this. The trailer for the Sense8-Christmas Special is above (to be released December 23). I have seen conflicting reports as to whether they will wait until May (as the trailer states) versus releasing the second season this month. Presumably the trailer has the most up to date plans.
In other genre news this week, Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot) is planning to do a miniseries of the 1927 classic science fiction movie, Metropolis.
The lead has been cast for Star Trek: Discovery. Sonequa Martin-Green (Walking Dead), will play a lieutenant-commander. Unlike previous Star Trek series, the show will not center around the captain.
Humans ended its second season tonight. (I have the season finale downloaded but have only watched through the seventh of eight episodes). The series raises many of the same issues as Westworld. It lacks the budget, the hype, and the big stars, but it many ways it has done an even better job. AMC will be starting the second season in the United States on February 13.
Amazon started the second season of The Man In The High Castle. While I am still early in the series, it looks good so far. The show which includes Nazi occupation of the eastern United States now seems more relevant with just over a month to go until Donald Trump becomes president. Deadline also recommends another new streaming show released on December 12, OA on Netflix.