SciFi Weekend: The Magicians Musical Episode; Black Mirror Renewed; Timeless Returns; Michelle Gomez on Returning To Doctor Who; The Expanse; Agents of SHIELD; Gotham; Lost In Space; Jessica Jones; Altered Carbon; Episode of Black-ish Too Controversial For ABC

Last season The Magicians went into battle with a musical number from Les Miserables (video here). This season they topped that in an episode with four muscical numbers, which also revealed where Josh has been.  The most talked about musical scene was Under Pressure where the entire cast was involved but my favorite was Kady (Jade Tailor) singing All I Need Is the Boy (adapted from All I Need Is the Girl from Gypsy). While most of the cast members have no experience singing, Jade Tailor does have experience with burlesque.

I have not been able to find a stand alone video of Jade Tailor’s song. Video of the entire cast singing Under Pressure follows:

The producers discussed All That Josh with Entertainment Weekly:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In approaching the episode with so many musical numbers, where do you start — with the songs or the story? 
JOHN MCNAMARA: God, I wish it was that linear. [Laughs]
SERA GAMBLE: John, I remember you talking about the David Bowie song, like, the previous season. Am I remembering this right, that you kind of had this image in your head of everybody singing that song long before we got to this episode?
MCNAMARA: Yeah, I think the music was first. Initially, I think it was a much looser, even lighter, less menacing plot. At first, the design was almost going to be like a singing contest where there are high stakes to be lost. That didn’t really hold water, it just didn’t seem to work. [We realized] it had to sit in the serialized narrative of the show, it had to be about the quest, it had to be about something and someone you really cared about, and it had to also serve several ongoing threads that had nothing to do with this musical pocket universe. That just took a lot of trial and error. This was one of those episodes — you have one every season — where the normal episode will take anywhere from three days to two weeks to break the story, get all the beats on the board, and my recollection is this took six weeks. It stopped the [writers’] room. It literally stopped all forward momentum. Fortunately, we’d been on schedule with our other scripts and we kind of planned out. This was the knot to untangle at the end of the second third of the season. All hands were on deck. I give a lot of credit (or blame, depending) to my two co-writers Jay Gard and Alex Raiman. This was their debut professional script.

For me, one of the breakthroughs — which fortunately happened while I was out of the room, so it wasn’t my idea, but I immediately approved it — was the idea that it was a universe where there were dangerous consequences if you didn’t behave exactly the way the leader, Todd/the demon, wanted you to behave. That was a really important breakthrough, I think, for all the writers because it gave it a lot of bottom. It wasn’t just going to be like jazz hands.

When I got to this episode, I was surprised that it became about the group uniting. How did you land on taking it in that specific direction, where it’s about Josh feeling left out? 
MCNAMARA: Part of it was just an accident. We realized we hadn’t had Josh in a bunch of episodes. He sort of got bumped out of a block of episodes through no fault of his own, just that we have a lot of characters and a lot of plot, and that in a way felt fortuitous, that you could then make the show about what happened to Josh.
GAMBLE: Whether or not the episode we’re working on happens to have half a dozen musical numbers in it, we are always playing within the structure of a classic fairy-tale quest this season. Quentin especially is very, very cognizant of how these epic quests work and how each step of the quest challenges the quester in a different way. From the beginning in this case, the quest has been a group effort, and when Eliot is given the quest in the first episode, he’s both encouraged and warned by the fact that everybody is part of one whole, and that means that these different keys, as you try to get them, will challenge you in different ways. If they’re a team and they forgot Josh, that’s a problem for the quest. So that was really one of the first things that we could sink our teeth into. Unlike John, I really don’t have a brain for musical theater. There are a lot of hilariously ardent musical theater fans in The Magicians writers’ room, as you can tell, starting with John, and I am not one of them. I am sort of the grumpy person in the corner who’s drinking coffee and saying, “Explain to me how this would work if no one was singing.”

You had “Under Pressure” in the back of you head for a while, but how did you pick the other three songs for the episode?
MCNAMARA: We knew the opening number would have to reintroduce Josh in a big way. It would have to be a big, inexplicably well-choreographed number that tells you why he’s so happy to be here, how integrated he is into this universe. The dance tells you something nonverbally about the world and the character: He is the center of this whole little universe. He’s the lead singer, he’s the lead dancer, and Todd is kind of his enabler, and we later learn why. That to me felt like we needed something big and upbeat and party-ish. We listened to a lot of songs, I can’t remember the titles of all of them. Some of them were insanely expensive and popular, and the song “Wham Bam” I thought was really catchy and a lot of fun. I thought it was like a really good introduction. It then gave Alice, Quentin, and Kady something to stare incomprehensibly at.

Another [type of musical number] that I’m very fond of is cabaret, where most of the musical numbers take place on a stage, so that you’re seeing a character perform for an audience that isn’t the audience in the theater, it’s the audience of the Kit Kat Klub, and character and milieu are revealed through a little more of a sideways way in. On the surface, it’s not as revealing of character, but if you do it right, it’s very revealing of character. So that informed the decision to have Kady sing her song. All I knew about that song early on was I wanted it to be a Sondheim song, because I love his work and I think it’s really intelligent and it always has layers to it, and I knew that it had to be a torch song because I had an instinct early on that we do a kind of classic Mata Hari move wherein she would do something outrageous to distract all of these creatures, and mollify and entertain them while our heroes were off doing something nefarious upstairs with Josh. I thought the [“All I Need Is the Boy”] lyrics were just as good if not better than “All I Need Is the Girl,” which has pretty good lyrics. I thought that’s the perfect torch song and definitely for our really hardcore musical theater aficionados, who may number in single digits, it’s kind of a treat to hear what is kind of, for 99% of the world, a brand new Stephen Sondheim lyric and, in my opinion, does not disappoint when you want cleverness, emotion, and a not-sentimental emotion and depth from Sondheim.

Then I came to discover with Sera, Jay, and Alex was now we have to explain why it is Kady would choose to sing this song and do a striptease. Then we thought, well, her mom, who we met in season 1 and was a bit of free spirit, might have had a year where she decided to be a stripper and maybe she did this burlesque number and Kady remembers it and recreates the dress. Without necessarily intending to, suddenly the song and the number and the moment and even the suspense it creates all illuminates Kady’s character to a greater degree.

“Car Wash” was just that we wanted something fun for Josh to use to distract, but also to slowly reveal to him how empty and repetitive this life has become and how false it is. I thought disco was a pretty good route to get to the death of the soul. If you’re just doing disco for months and months and months, you’re going to see the emptiness of it. As I said, “Under Pressure” was always in the back of my head before there was anything like a story as something that all eight characters could sing as we intercut between their various worlds and their various problems. None of us started out knowing how or why. That was just always on the board as the big number. In a weird way, the only one that we planned ahead of time was “Under Pressure.” Everything else was kind of trial and error, and selected to either illuminate character or move the story forward.O

Inside the Magicians (video above) has more on the episode, including a very brief look at Jade Tailor singing All I Need Is the Boy.

Black Mirror was officially renewed for a fifth season. There is no word yet as to how many episodes

Timeless returns tonight. Spoiler TV has a preview of the episode here.

In an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, Michelle Gomez says she might return to face Jodie Whittaker’s version of the Doctor. She had this to say about the character:

I think it’s going to be really hard to shake this one off. Missy has made quite a big impression on me, and hopefully on the fans as well. She was such a great fit. Even though, for now, she has been laid to rest. I don’t think she’s ever going to be that far away. I loved playing this character so much, and it was really hard to see her go. But I think that in many different shapes and forms, she will be back. I can’t really say much more than that. I have never had this response to anything else that I’ve done, and I’m really grateful for that.

While her character appeared to be killed and left unable to regenerate, the Master has a long tradition of returning from apparent death. Plus time travel would allow for seeing her at a different point in her time line.

Syfy has released the above trailer for The Expanse season three, which returns April 11.

There were big moments last week for the 100th episode of Agents of SHIELD (discussed and spoiled here), and on Gotham. Although it was during a drug induced hallucination caused by Poison Ivy, Bruce Wayne had a vision of his future, with might be the only view of Batman we are likely to see on the show:

The Librarians has been cancelled by TNT, with there some talk of trying to have it picked up elsewhere.

Netflix will be releasing another remake of Lost in Space on April 13, and released the following trailer:

Jessica Jones is out on Netflix now. I have a four more episodes to go, but so far it has been excellent, showing more about Jessica’s backstory. While the series is slow moving, I haven’t minded. I would much rather spend time with Jessica, Patsy, and the rest of this cast than in the far less interesting world created in Iron Fist.

Altered Carbon is another show highly worth binging which came out recently on Netflix. It also starts out a little slow, but once I got to the second half it was hard to stop until the end.  While it has not been renewed for a second season, I would not be surprised if it returns after the success of the first season. They have the options of adapting the sequels to the novel, or writing new stories set in the universe created.  Joel Kinnaman, star of the current season, will be staring in Hanna on Amazon, and may or may not be available to return for a future season. However, somewhat analogous to Doctor Who, this series has a built-in way to cast a new lead. In this case, as occurred in the novels, Takeshi Kovacs could receive a new sleeve and have his consciousness placed in a new body, played by a different actor. If desired, they could continue this series with a different lead actor every year.

Black-ish has often dealt with political matters, but the episode originally scheduled for February 27 was not shown due to “creative differences.” Variety has some information on the episode:

Shot in November and directed by Barris, “Please, Baby, Please” features Anthony Anderson’s patriarch Dre caring for his infant son on the night of an intense thunderstorm that keeps the whole household awake. Dre attempts to read the baby a bedtime story, but abandons that plan when the baby continues to cry. He instead improvises a bedtime story that, over the course of the episode, conveys many of Dre’s concerns about the current state of the country.

The episode covers multiple political and social issues. In one scene, Dre and oldest son Junior (Marcus Scribner) argue over the rights of athletes to kneel during the performance of the national anthem at football games.

Alec Baldwin Returns To SNL

Alec Baldwin returned to Saturday Night Live to portray Donald Trump in the cold open, video above.

The skit began with Alex Moffat portraying Anderson Cooper saying, “In times like this we look to our leaders for guidance. But instead, we’ll hear from Donald Trump.”

Alec Baldwin’s Trump began discussing school violence by bragging about his mental health: “We have to take a hard look at mental health — which I have so much of. I have one of the healthiest mentals. My mentals are so high.”

The number of people leaving the Trump White House didn’t deter him: “If I have to make America’s schools safe all by myself, I will. Just like how I’m running the White House all by myself.”

The latest to leave the White House was Hope Hicks: “She’s like a daughter to me. So smart, so hot. You know, I hate seeing her go but I love watching her walk away. Jared Kushner’s basically the hottest chick left in the place.”

This followed another round of Donald Trump attacking Alec Baldwin on Twitter.  The New York Times has a review of that battle here. An earlier, deleted version of the above Tweet referred to Alex Baldwin in error.

 

SciFi Weekend: The X-Files Does Black Mirror; Drone Hosts on Westworld; The Magicians Renewed; Star Trek News; Jessica Jones; Wayward Pines

The X-Files had another unique episode this week with Rm9sbG93ZXJz , which decodes to “Followers” in Base64. The episode has more of the feel of an episode of Black Mirror, and would better take place in the near future than present, but no less plausible than many other episodes of The X-Files.  The story was made to feel more plausible by starting with a true story about a Twitter bot which started out emulating a teenage girl but turned violent and racist after learning to “be human” from interacting with alt-right trolls.

Mulder and Scully were the only customers at a sushi restaurant run entirely by robots. The scene, and much of the episode, were made more surreal with the absense of both other people and of dialogue. Scully ignored a friend request from the restaurant which she received on her phone. Mulder’s dinner was messed up and he decided not to leave a tip due to this and the lack of human service. The restaurant retaliated by refusing to give Mulder his credit card back and refusing to open the door, forcing Mulder to pry it open.

Unfortunately for Mulder and Scully, the AI which controlled the restaurant also seemed to control every other smart device in the world. Scully had problems with a reckless, driverless car. Mulder also had problems when his car wouldn’t play the song he requested, and ultimately returned him to the restaurant.

Problems for Scully and Mulder continued at their homes. Beyond the tech issues, there was another surprise in the episode when Mulder saw Scully’s home and asked, “Why’s your house so much nicer than mine?” Is this really the first time he was there?

As they continued to be attacked by tech, they figured out that “they are tracking us on our phones… they know everything.” They got rid of their phones and keys. Scully got rid of her step tracker and her vibrator, or  “personal massager.”

Ultimately a robot held out Mulder’s phone in front of him and another text came through asking one last time if Mulder would like to leave a tip. While a timer was counting down, Mulder gave in and hit the 10% button. Fortunately the AI was satisfied with a tip which most humans these days would see as stingy. The robot thanked him and explained, “We learn from you.” Mulder responded, “We have to learn to be better teachers.” Mulder and Scully had their next meal at a more conventional human-run diner.

SyFy Wire interviewed Kristen Cloke and Shannon Hamblin, the writers of the episode:

“Rm9sbG93ZXJz” is such a unique episode with virtually no dialogue. Was that always the plan, to write something without dialogue? Or did you start with the story idea and it felt organic to not have any dialogue?

Shannon Hamblin: It was always no dialogue. Conceptually, I think that’s what Glen was looking to do: tell the story without it.

KC: When we did Space: Above and Beyond, they had done an episode that had virtually no dialogue. It was one of the first shows to do it. [Glen] always wanted to do it again. He was excited, as a director, to tell a story visually. I think it created a great show, especially for me. I’m kind of a wordy person, so it was a good challenge.

How did David and Gillian react to an episode with virtually no dialogue?

KC: They were happy about it — they didn’t have to memorize any lines!

SH: Yeah!

KC: I think it was challenging for everybody. The restaurant was [empty], your mouth is empty of dialogue, everybody wants to fill the proverbial space. Everybody had to fight against their instincts to do that, which was kind of interesting.

SH: And how that moved into no music in certain spots, and no sound. Except for the song, “Teach Your Children.” I think it also adds to that isolated feeling that the obsession with technology and your cell phone and all that stuff [gives you]. You feel like you are engaged all the time, but maybe you’re even more alienated by not really engaging.

KC: I think that’s a good point. A lot of being on your technology is spent there, filling space. We all want to fill the space, and that’s why phones have taken over our lives. They are really great space-fillers.

SH: If you are sitting at a restaurant alone, you can just look at your phone: “Oh, look how busy and cool you are!”

…One of my favorite parts of this episode is when the robot vacuum finds Scully’s vibrator under the bed, and then how that carries throughout the show. Did you have any trouble getting the vibrator storyline past Chris Carter or standards and practices?

KC: When we were in preproduction and were working on props, we had certain vibrators that were “cleared.” Prime-time vibrators, I guess! And we do call it the “personal massager” in the script. High-level stuff. But that was motivated by an article that said something about the fact that the personal massagers at, I think it was Brookstone, were collecting your personal data. So all the technology talks to each other, and it is all technology that has been reported, at one time or another, to be collecting your personal data. It all knows about you. So you’ve got spies in your bedroom, spies in your cleaning closet…

SH: Spies in your vagina. Literally! [Laughs]

Plus, it will be a huge plus for all the ‘shippers out there.

KC: Good! Because if you are upsetting the ‘shippers, it’s bad. Believe me; I’ve been there! It’s not good.

Which brings me to a slightly fannish question: Who is Scott? His name appeared on Scully’s smart fridge, saying she had a dinner date with him, and I know that ‘shippers online were freaking out.

KC: Scott is the guy who programmed the display on the refrigerator! He is a really, really talented guy. All of the visual props you see, like in the Whipz car and on the refrigerator, were all programmed by him and the incredible props team they have. All those guys did such a great job, so they should get dinner with Scully! He made all of us look good.

This isn’t the first time The X-Files has featured machines with a mind of their own. Did you go back and watch any of the other episodes? Did you keep in mind how technology has changed in the last 25 years?

SH: I didn’t go back and check the episodes. I think technology has changed so much over the past… even five years. Just thinking about people who don’t know what an answering machine is. Even with the car being automated… I’m working on something right now and GM is talking about their cars being automated. Everything is happening and is so different in technology that I didn’t think it was touching on anything that had been explored before in previous episodes. Did you go back and watch?

KC: No, I didn’t. I was on The X-Files 20 years ago, so I remember. When [the fans] had something to say about you, they had to say it on a message board. So the technology has changed a lot. I think it was completely appropriate to do an episode that deals with technology, and I think one of the interesting things, whenever I see clips of the show, if they are talking on a phone, they are usually talking on a landline. They weren’t even really using cell phones when the show first started. That alone is just so different. It would be appropriate that Mulder and Scully could get into what is now, appropriately, called the Black Mirror, I guess.

The Superbowl commercial for Westworld included a quick glimpse of Bernard with something we haven’t seen before behind him. Entertainment Weekly discussed this with showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy:

As you’ll recall, last season Bernard’s detective work uncovered mysteries about the park’s past, and a major reveal about his own identity. As Nolan explains below (mild tease-y spoilers), in season 2 Bernard discovers there was a lot more about the park and its mysterious corporate owners Delos that was kept from him. The white robot is called a “drone host.” And there’s apparently more than one of them.

“The drone hosts relate to the corporation’s secret project which is hidden in plain sight in this park,” Nolan says. “As we talked about in the pilot, the park is one thing for the guests, and it’s another thing for its shareholders and management — something completely different. We’ve used the Google analogy — for consumers, it’s for search and email, yet for the company, it’s for advertising. There is an agenda here that Delos has undertaken for a very long time. As Bernard is making his way through the wreckage of the fallout from the first season, he’s discovering things about the park that even he doesn’t know and coming upon creatures like the drone host.”

The Magicians has been having an excellent third season, along with receiving an increasing amount of favorable critical reviews (such as here). Therefore it comes as no surprise that it has been officially renewed by Syfy for a fourth season. Variety notes that the show “has been Syfy’s top performing scripted original among on a Live+3 basis in adults 18-49 for the past three years.”

A musical episode of The Magicians will be airing on March 7. More on the episode here.

Many people were upset when Star Trek: Discovery killed off half of a gay couple. This was followed by statements from the producers that Culber would return. His return later in the season was only in the mycelial network, suggesting he was really dead. In an interview at Emmys.com, Wilson Cruz did say he will be returning:

Your character, Dr. Hugh Culber, appears to have a beautiful connection with your on-screen partner, played by Anthony Rapp.

It’s not an accident. I’ve known Anthony for 20 years. I did his last three weeks on Broadway. And as fellow openly gay actors, we’ve talked through the years about what that experience is. We’ve supported and rooted for each other.

When we came to this, I think we both felt like it was a really special opportunity in that we’ve had all of this history and compassion and respect for each other’s talent. So I think we both decided, without even saying it, that we were gonna use our real love for each other to draw on to tell the story.

The process for creating a relationship is different for everyone on TV. And sometimes you talk it through and create a history with each other. But there was this unspoken thing with Anthony and we didn’t have to do any of that. We just showed up on set and decided we loved each other and took it from there. And it was really easy!

Without giving spoilers, what did you think of your character’s twist?

Aaron and Gretchen explained what was gonna happen and told me I was part of the story for next season. This is a longer, epic love story and this is just a part of that that we have to do in order to tell it. I know what that story is and as an actor, I’m really excited about it. But even as a viewer, I think that’s gonna be fun to watch!

How did fans react?

We’re letting people know I’ll be back because there’s this “bury your gays” trope that’s out there. People are concerned about the way that LGBTQ characters, especially those of color and women, continue to be killed off in a very random and dismissive way.

We wanted to make sure that people stayed engaged with the show because this isn’t that. They should just know there’s a bigger plan. It’s gonna pay off and it’s a great story to tell.

Love has a way of telling its own story

In other Star Trek news, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves spoke at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco. TrekMovie.com quoted some of his statements regarding Discovery. His responses were not unexpected. He said that CBS placed Discovery on CBS All Access as opposed to other possible outlets to help the new streaming service in light of the built in fan base. He discussed the more serialized nature of the series, which would not have been utilized for a show on the main network.

David Ogden Stiers died last week. He is best known for playing Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H but has also had genre roles, including on Star Trek: The Next Generation. StarTrek.com posted this tribute to him:

StarTrek.com is saddened to report the passing of actor David Ogden Stiers, who succumbed to bladder cancer on Saturday at the age of 75. According to his agent, he died peacefully at home in Oregon. The Emmy-nominated Stiers was best known for his role as Major Winchester on M*A*S*H, provided voices for such films as Beauty and the Beast and Lilo & Stitch, co-starred on the TV iteration of The Dead Zone, and made his mark in the Star Trek universe with his role as Dr. Timicin in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Half a Life.”

Stiers touched Trek fans as Dr. Timicin, a scientist who must undergo the Resolution, a ritual suicide, in order to save the people on his planet, Kaelon II. However, his plans were thrown for a loop — at least for a while — when he met and fell for Lwaxana Troi. The episode remains well-regarded for its powerful story, rare focus on two guest stars, unusually serious Lwaxana arc and the strong performances by Stiers and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry.

StarTrek.com interviewed Stiers in April 2017, when the mostly retired actor agreed to a chat timed to the release of the film, Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time, which also featured Walter Koenig. During the conversation, he addressed the fact that Dr. Timicin, in the course of a single episode, experienced a full arc. “They really let it focus on the two of us, which was very unusual,” Stiers said. “I just watched a clip of it this morning. I had forgotten how beautifully written the arguments are. The whole moral dilemma was beautifully presented. I’m not jumping up and down, but I really like the idea that I live in a state with dignity legislation and physician assisted suicide, should it ever come to that. That seems to me to be an intelligent and mature middle ground. You don’t use it if you don’t want to, but it’s there if you are in need, for whatever reason, of a legitimate reason for ending your life.”

Please join StarTrek.com in offering our condolences to Stiers’ family, friends, colleagues and fans.

Jessica Jones season two will be released on March 8. Comicbook.com has a spoiler free review.

When Wayward Pines did not return in 2017 after appearing the previous two seasons, Fox left it open as to whether the show would return. While they did not officially cancel the show when it did not return, Fox is now saying that it is “unlikely” to be back. I have read the three novels by Blake Crouch which the series is based upon and hope to some day find time to catch the two seasons of the show.

Late Night Comedians Mock Trump For Claiming He Would Enter School During Shootings

Donald Trump claims he would go into a school where there is a shooter to protect the kids, even if unarmed. Nobody seems to believe him (other than perhaps his delusional base). Eli Rosenberg has described his actual record of appearing cowardly in response to danger. Late night comedians took the opportunity to mock him.

Stephen Colbert (video above) said, “There’s a lot in there that I doubt, but the part I really don’t believe is that he can run.” Colbert also said, “Look, sir, we already know how you react to combat situations. You got five deferments from Vietnam. What are you gonna do, run in there and stab ’em with your bone spurs?”

Seth Meyers took A Closer Look (video above) said:

There’s really nothing worse than a fake tough guy. Trump lives in a fantasy world where he’s some sort of action movie star who’d rush into danger and save the day.

I’m sorry but you’re not exactly Liam Neeson, If you’d been in the movie Taken, they would’ve had to change the name.” The name he suggested was, My Daughter’s Gone, Let’s Move On. 

Meyers also said, ““I gotta say, I find it hard to believe Trump would voluntarily run inside a place of education. The only way you would run inside is if a reporter asked you a question outside.”

Trevor Noah (video above) said, “It would be ridiculous coming from anyone, but especially from Trump. He’s gonna run in? Yo, when Trump ran for president, that was the first time he ran in his entire life.” Along these lines Noah also  said, ““Really? Trump cares so much about helping people that he’d jump into the middle of a school shooting with nothing but his fun-size fists?”

Noah mocked the idea with this suggestion for how it might have played out:

To be fair if Donald Trump ran into a school during a shooting, I do believe he would stop the shooting. Imagine you’re a school shooter and Donald Trump appears in the hallway — how distracting would that be?

That’s right, it’s me, Donald Trump. I don’t have a gun, but what I do have is an amazing electoral college victory. Then, like eight minutes later, the police show up and Trump is still talking.

It is hard to believe that Donald Trump would face actual gunfire, as Hillary Clinton claims she faced sniper fire when she flew into Bosnia in 1996. Check out the video of Clinton facing sniper fire from Funny or Die:

SciFi Weekend Time Travel Edition: Legends of Tomorrow Does The Time Loop; Doctor Who News; Timeless Season 2

Having the characters of a science fiction show enter a time loop as on Groundhog Day has been a common trope on science fiction shows. Last week’s attempt at this on Legends of Tomorrow might not have been the best version, but it turned out to be a great homage to the sub-genre. Tala Ashe (Zari) did an excellent job of expressing her frustration of repeating the same events repeatedly.

In some ways this was most like the version seen earlier this year on Star Trek: Discovery. The overall scenario was quite different from Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad, but they were similar in having one character realize they were in a time loop, and having their ship explode at the end of each cycle. On both shows, one person realized what was going on, but had a hard time convincing others.

On Discovery, Stamets beat the time loop by convincing Burnham that he was telling the truth by showing that he knew everything she was going to say, and subsequently others were brought in.

On Legends, Zari initially had no success convincing others she was telling the truth. I was actually thinking at one point that time loops are such a common science fiction trope that the obvious thing to do is to tell people that things were happening like on Groundhog Day. Moments later Zari came close to this in a conversation with Nate. Actually she explained the scenario and Nate recognized it as Groundhog Day. Having it explained like Groundhog day was enough for him to believe her, and he and suggested that she only had to tell him that to get him on board next time. She did botch by saying Hedgehog Day, but she ultimately got the message across.

Groundhog Day is hardly the only example of this. Subsequently Ray was brought in, except that he related the scenario to Cause and Effect, an episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation. Other recent shows to use this trope have included the fourth episode of season three of Dark Matter, and the movie Edge of Tomorrow. While I did not watch the show, I also recently read that Xena: Warrior Princess had their own version entitled Been There, Done That. With this being such a common trope, it really should not be hard to explain what is going on if one encounters a science fiction fan while in a time loop.

The episode used the time loops partially for fun, and showing more about the characters. This included another rare occurrence of seeing Amy Pemberton give Gideon a human form. Other fun aspects including learning that Mick writes romance novels (and goes to great lengths to keep this secret). One time Nate suggested that Zari take a break and go though a cycle and just have fun, knowing she would have another chance to try to prevent the Waverider from exploding afterwards.

When Doctor Who returns next fall, major changes in how the show looks and feels are inevitable, between a new show runner (Chris Chibnall) and the first female Doctor (played by Jodie Whittaker). The show will also have a new logo, pictured above. A BBC America press release states that, “all official Doctor Who merchandise featuring the new logo will be available at selected retailers from February 20th, 2018.”

There will also will might be significant changes to the sound of Doctor Who. Murray Gold, who has been composing the music for Doctor Who since its return in 2005, is leaving.

Another rumored change might be moving the show from Saturday to Sunday. I hope this is the case as I regularly download Doctor Who as soon as possible after airing in the UK, except for when it conflicts with college football–as it inevitably will when moved back to the fall.

There are also rumors that an episode next season will deal with Rosa Parks.

Now that old television shows are easy to watch I suspect that there is far less interest in novelizations of episodes, but if people are still interested, Russel T. Davies and Steven Moffat are writing novelizations of some of the episodes they wrote.

For those interested in podcasts about both science fiction and Doctor Who, I recently discovered one worth subscribing to. Imaginary Worlds deals with a wide range of science fiction topics, and is currently running a series on Doctor Who. The first episodes was on the Doctor, the second was on the companions, and the third is on the Daleks, with briefer mention of other villains. The stories have a feel sort of as if This American Life was covering Doctor Who. The coverage includes both the original run and the new series. The podcasts would be great for someone new to the show to get a feel for its background, but long time viewers are also likely to find it interesting.

Another time travel show, Timeless, returns March 11. This was a rare case of a show being cancelled, and then the network reversing the decision and renewing it. Any chance someone went back in time to change the future for the show?

As Timeless ended on a big cliffhanger, which I looked at here, I am happy that it will be returning.

Following is the official synopsis of the season from NBC:

From Eric Kripke (“Revolution,” “Supernatural”) and Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), season two of this thrilling action-adventure series will pick up right where we left off with our heroes. We continue to race throughout history with our beloved team: Rufus (Malcolm Barrett), a scientist; Wyatt (Matt Lanter), a soldier; and Lucy (Abigail Spencer), a history professor, in an attempt to prevent the destruction of our world as we all know it. This season they’ll find an unlikely ally in their quest to ruin Rittenhouse, a deadly organization with plans to change history and reshape reality — even though Lucy’s family has been a part of Rittenhouse for centuries. Still making every effort not to affect the past themselves, they will visit 1692, 1917, 1941, 1981 and more.  We’ll be introduced to the likes of Marie Curie, Hedy Lamarr, William Randolph Hearst and a multitude of other influential people throughout history. 

Stephen Colbert Responds To Donald Trump On Guns In Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ET Online also interviewed them:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assignment X interviewed Mitch Pileggi about returning to the role:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; Interviews With Jason Isaacs; The Good Place Second Season Finale; American Gods Gets New Showrunner

What’s Past Is Prologue was an exciting episode of Star Trek: Discovery in which a lot happened (with major spoilers ahead). In a single episode, Lorca went from a prisoner to taking control of Georgiou’s ship. Georgiou agreed to team up with Burhnam and they not only retook control of the ship, but Georgiou went along with Burnham and her plan to destroy it. The threat to the entire multiverse from the corruption of the mycelial network was resolved, and the Discovery made it home to the prime universe. The title, like so many this season, was quite appropriate considering how the events of the start of the season were mirrored in these events.

That certainly made for an exciting episode, but considering how they had the luxury of telling the story over multiple episodes, I wish that they had given more time to these events to make them more plausible. I’ve seen quicker, less plausible, resolutions in single episode stories, but there was no need to resolve everything so quickly in a serialized format. It seemed way too easy for Lorca to take control. Why were his allies even kept alive after all this time and not beamed into space as we have seen done with other traitors? It was also too easy for Burnham to move around the ship and for her to get Georgiou’s help. Why did Georgiou so quickly give up on her own future after putting down the rebellion?

Putting aside these questions, this has us back to the prime universe with a nine month jump in which the Federation went from appearing to be winning the war with the Klingons to now appearing to have lost the war. If the Federation bases nearby were all destroyed, I do wonder where the Discovery pulled up that map from. Were the conquering Klingons now putting out the information on some sort of public channel to brag about their victory? Of course I’ll let this nitpick go as it allowed the story to progress without a diversion to figure things out--analogous to how they picked up information when first appearing in the Mirror Universe.

Seeing the Federation being defeated when we obviously know they survived the Klingon war raises questions which presumably will be answered in the final two episodes of the season. Is this a case of a war in which each side dominated at various times, leading to the outcome we know of? Or is this a different timeline, and will time travel be used to change events of the preceding nine months? I hope that this is not the case and we don’t wind up with problems of fixing problems with time travel as we have seen on The Flash. I also wonder if the tide changes in the war due to help from Mirror Georgiou.

Regardless of whether Georgiou helps them, it is a big question as to what they do with her. Star Fleet security often seems very limited, but would they allow her to roam freely on the Discovery? On the other hand, it would he difficult to confine her as a prisoner as she has committed no crimes in our universe (and any terrible acts she might have committed in the Mirror Universe were presumably legal over there). Perhaps Discovery might be more realistic than past Star Trek series in having a situation in which someone is not a prisoner, but can be restricted from any sensitive areas and have use of the computer either prohibited or restricted.

Besides having a former Mirror Universe Emperor on board, there are also one and one-half Klingons, and they are also likely to play a role in what is to come this season.

Saru is Captain for now, giving us the first example of an alien being the Captain on a Star Trek series. Previously I had difficulty taking Saru seriously as a Captain, thinking he would not be bold enough for the role. However he did give a great speech to the crew, reminiscent of both Kirk and Picard. Still I bet that next season we will again have a ship with a human captain.

Lorca appears to be dead, but perhaps being absorbed by the mycelial  network gives him a way to return. That speck of the mycelial network falling on Tilly may or may not be significant. I sure hope that it is not foreshadowing Lorca taking over her body. Besides the question of whether the Lorca we know can return, they left matters open so that the original prime Lorca could still be around. Same is true of the original Mirror Burhnam. My suspicion is that neither might be seen this season, but the writers were leaving their options open for future seasons.

Jason Isaacs will be a big loss to Discovery if he is really gone. Entertainment Weekly recently interviewed him:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, so in terms of Mirror universe Lorca — who as it turned out was the Lorca we knew all along — he’s really, truly dead, right?
JASON ISAACS: Here’s the context: I’ve lied to all of the press constantly since the very first day I got this job. So why would you believe anything I say now?

Well, because there is some seeming finality to his story, at least to this version of the character?
I would say, yeah, the prognosis is not good for him given he was dissolved into a million pieces on camera. There are not many homeopathic cures that can help that.

When did you know Lorca’s secret backstory?
I knew before I took the job. It was pitched to me that he was from the Mirror world. I said, “What’s he doing here? How did he get here? What does he want? And how’s he going to go about achieving those things?” And at first they went, “We’re not really sure, it could be one of 20 different things.” And I blinked slightly and I said, “I’m not sure I want to do the job if I don’t know exactly what he’s after, because then I won’t be able to act!” Then we had a bunch of discussions and came up with a plan which we pretty much stuck to all the way through. Then it was not just easy, but a joy, because I had that lovely thing that actors always love, and the camera likes, and that’s that I had secrets. I knew what I was after, why I was doing stuff, and I knew when I would reel Michael Burnham [Sonequa Martin-Green] in, what I wanted her for. It was deliciously ambiguous for viewers but if you watch it a second time you’ll see it was always crystal clear.

Is there anything in particular we should go back and look for in your performance?
Well, there’s the giant bold story points: Why the hell would I get some prisoner, some mutineer, re-route her ship, and promote her way beyond her capacity, in defiance of everybody else in Starfleet? If not to engender loyalty because I had a long-term plan for her. She’s great, but nobody is that great. There’s a number of little things. The fact that [Admiral Katrina Cornwell] and I, that I can’t remember instances that she’s referring to. And I sleep with a phaser in a paranoid way. And when it looks like she might take the ship from me, I consign her to a trap that I must have seen coming or set up. And then there’s forcing Stamets to do a bunch of jumps that were unnecessary, and the mapping I was doing privately. I was prepared to break Starfleet rules and directives. And even when I’m back in the Mirror world pretending to be Prime Lorca who’s pretending to be Mirror Lorca — if you can follow that twisted logic — and when Burnham comes to be and says they’re asking me to kill the people down on the planet and I say, “Just do it.” I’m not sure Kirk or Picard would have done that. This is a guy who’s had his eye on the prize for a very long time, and he gets very close.

What was his biggest mistake? 
In the end, he hadn’t read Burnham correctly. He thought of her as practical, pragmatic, having made out-of-the-box decisions earlier on, that she’d see the best option for her is to stay and help him rule this empire and maybe she might buy into the racist philosophy he adheres to — the lack of assimilation and that the world is healthier and better when those who are powerful and strong rule it and the weak are kept down. He’s blinded by that kind of bigotry, and it’s never going to fly for her.

It’s never quite made clear, I don’t think, exactly what was going on with Prime Lorca, who we assume he switched places with …
There was a Prime Locra, he was captain of the Buran in the Prime world. He swapped with him and found himself captain of the Buran. This never came out, this backstory detail we never put in the dialogue: Lorca spins this story having had to sacrifice the men on Buran and had to blow them up to save them from Klingon torture. Actually, if I remember correctly, there was some kind of DNA identification that would have exposed Lorca as not being Prime Lorca, and so he blew up the ship and killed everyone on it.

But what happened to Prime Lorca is now an open question …
It is.

Do you know the answer to that? 
If I did, you’d have to stand behind my wife, friends, and professional collaborators to find out the answer. I’ve kept this one big secret for six months — I am certainly going to keep any others.

Well, are you signed on for season 2?
I’m sorry, is that not a related question?

It’s my tricky way of asking if we’re going to meet Prime universe Lorca. 
Oh God, that totally would have worked on me if I had the IQ of a sock. If I do do another season, I know I won’t have to wear that leather coat anymore. It turns out I had to revoice every voice I made during those scenes because [the jacket] squeaked like a rusty bedpost in a brothel.

Jason Isaacs was also interviewed by Variety:

Was his interest in Burnham just to use her as a tool to get to Georgiou or was it that he was attracted to her?
It’s twofold. It was 99% “She is the tool by which I will pry open the locked doors and gain access to the Emperor.” Without Burnham, he would just be killed if he reappeared. So he needed Burnham. And not only did he need her, he needed to win her over and make her feel like he was her best friend in the world and her confessor and she could trust him and possibly have faith in him beyond any of her training. And at the same time, in the back of his head, less important, was the idea that if he could gain the throne, she might rule alongside him.

Lorca is revealed to be someone who is pretty racist …
That’s absolutely right. The Terran world, unlike the original incarnations of the Mirror Universe where they were just a kind of one-dimensional evil, this is a world that is not very far from our very own. We could all wake up and be mirror versions of ourselves any day. It’s a very Darwinian world, and a world that from Lorca’s point of view and for millions of people with his point of view, where assimilation is a bad thing and there’s a natural hierarchy of racists. To disrespect that is to sow chaos and anarchy, and lying is a perfectly reasonable technique to get what you want. Sadly, I don’t think we need to look very far to find those these reflected in our headlines every day.

Was it important to you that his thinking be rooted in something and that he not just be a mustache-twirling villain?
Yeah, I wouldn’t have taken the job. But luckily it was important to everyone. I had no interest in playing a mustache-twirling villain and they had no interest in creating one. When we got to the mirror world, it was very important to me that the dialogue feel like it was in many ways ripped from the headlines. It’s no coincidence that I’m exhorting my followers to make the Empire great again.

‘Star Trek’ has always had a socially progressive element to it. Were you surprised or pleased as the season played out to see just how much the the writers dug in on fairly complicated ideas about racism?
One of the great skills of the writers is that it’s never about those things. It’s about the plot. Incidentally you’re looking at a fully ethnically inclusive crew and gay couples and straight couples. It’s a future which is inclusive. But that’s never front and center in the story. What surprised me, given that I know the huge, incredibly welcoming reception that the show’s had from “Star Trek” fans, is the people who, online at least, pretended to be “Star Trek” fans to attack it on racist lines. People would be coming out from where they should be hiding in the shadows to say the most racist things, all sorts of white supremacists and haters, feigning the mask of “Star Trek” supporters, attacking it for the very things that “Star Trek” has always stood for — which makes them look, frankly, ridiculous.

Last week also featured the season finale of The Good Place. For the benefit of those not watching, despite being a comedy, The Good Place has had an ongoing fantasy story line, and has often dealt with philosophical issues. The first season finale totally shook up everything we thought about the show during the season. The second season finale was also a huge change, but not as big as after the first season. Instead it continues from where the season was heading, which is a good thing. The show might have lost credibility if it once again said they were deceiving us and something else was going on.

Among the highlights, there was the opportunity to have Ted Danson back behind the bar like on Cheers. It is not clear whether Eleanor and the others were really returned to Earth and their death was undone, whether this is some sort of simulation created to test them, or whether the distinction even matters. It is somewhat reminiscent of the final season of Lost, with the connection to the afterlife not being clear until the finale. Presumably all four will ultimately wind up back together, perhaps even figuring out once again what is going on. Wherever they are going with this, the twist opens a lot of possibilities for the third season.

American Gods just might have a showrunner who can keep the show going after the loss of Bryan Fuller. The Hollywood Reporter has a story on the newly hired showrunner:

After an extensive search, American Gods has enlisted a new showrunner for season two.

Jesse Alexander, who worked with Bryan Fuller on shows including Hannibal and Star Trek: Discovery, will take over showrunning duties alongside novel scribe Neil Gaiman…

“I’m thrilled that Jesse is [the] showrunner. He loves and understands the book, he loves and understands the TV series and he’s dedicated to making future seasons of American Gods as good and as beautiful and as unique as they can be,” Gaiman tells THR. “Shadow’s journey is going to take him, and Mr. Wednesday, and the New Gods and the Old, to some very strange places. I’m glad that we, and the cast and crew, will have Jesse shepherding us on the way.”

Quote of the Day: Stephen Colbert On The State Of The Union Address

Tomorrow night is President Trump’s first State of the Union address. He’s not scheduled to appear in front of Congress again until the impeachment hearings. –Stephen Colbert (on yesterday’s show)