SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery Does Groundhog Day; Holodeck Technology On Discovery; The Orville; The Flash; Stranger Things; Doctor Who News

Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad  was the Groundhog Day episode of Star Trek: Discovery, along with featuring the return of Harry Mudd. This has become a common theme in science fiction, including the Next Generation episode Cause and Effect, the fourth episode of season three of Dark Matter, and the movie Edge of Tomorrow.

For these stories to work there will be someone who realizes what is going on, generally to learn from it. This version had two such people. Harry Mudd intentionally used the time loop to learn how to take over Discovery and what was special about it. Having Stamets be the only crew member to realize what was happening worked well in light of his connection to the spore drive.

Having become a common science fiction trope made it easy to progress the story rapidly with viewers understanding with only brief views of each repetition. Stamets first got Burnham’s attention by speaking along with her, knowing what she would say. That led to her telling him a secret which nobody else would know so that she would believe him the next time.

If I had any complaints about the episode is that once they established that they could make plans for the next time they had to progress rapidly off screen. By the final time they had multiple people involved and doing quite a lot for only thirty minutes. They did have a plausible explanation for beating Mudd, who took over essential systems but was defeated by the use of non-essential systems such as the Captain’s chair.

The episode ended with Harry Mudd closer to the situation we saw him in on the original show, stuck with his wife Stella. As much as he hates Stella, he did get off pretty lightly considering how many times he murdered Lorca and others. Of course in the final time loop he did not commit the murders and probably could not be convicted of those, he was still trying to steal a starship. Fitting into Star Trek continuity won out here.

We saw more daily life on Discovery, including a party which was much livelier than the typical party seen on The Next Generation. We Trying To Stay Alive fit in especially well. The episode progressed the relationship between Michael Burnham and Ash Tyler, except that they will not remember most of it. There were no clear clues regarding the theory that Tyler is actually a Klingon spy, but if he was I wonder whether he might have taken advantage of the situation to take control of Discovery and turn it over to the Klingons. Perhaps he has a longer game, influenced by the rivalries between different Klingon Houses. Another idea I had is that maybe when he had to give up everything, this included his memories. He might be a sleeper agent without realizing it, and will not regain his memories until a later date, allowing him to more easily fit into Discovery’s crew.

There was little development for Lorca. He did not do anything absolutely evil, but it was amusing to see how he differed from the typical Star Fleet captain in expressing how he did not care what was done regarding the space whale.

There have been some complaints about Discovery appearing to have more advanced technology than they should, including the holographic gallery on last week’s episode. One of the writers of the episode, Ted Sullivan, was interviewed by TrekMovie.com:

The holographic shooting gallery has spurred a lot of fan discussion, can you explain how the Discovery holographic gallery differs from a TNG era holodeck?

Look, they never physically interact with the Klingons. Yes, Tyler “hits a virtual button,” but you do the same thing playing Star Trek: Bridge Crew on the PS4. What you’re seeing here is a step toward the development of holodecks. It’s not a fully realized holodeck.

We talked about this a lot in the room. It’s honestly not that far removed from today’s VR experience. Are we supposed to pretend that technology just disappeared or stopped evolving? This is basically a high tech laser tag. And honestly – it was in The Animated Series. So I don’t get what the big controversy is.

Technology doesn’t just suddenly materialize overnight. You evolve slowly from punchcard machines to desktop computers to laptops to smartphones. What you’re seeing here is a step in the journey of the development of holodecks. That’s all.

That still leaves open the question as to why we never saw anything comparable on the original show. Presumably they had them but we never saw them.

The Monkey Cage column at The Washington Post discussed how The new ‘Star Trek’ has gotten darker and more pessimistic — just like our politics.

Last week we learned that CBS All Access has renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a second season and this week we learned that The Orville has also been renewed. I am glad that for a second year we will have two versions of Star Trek. One dark and one light. One closer to the original show, and one based more on The Next Generation.

Into The Fold could largely be one of those episodes of STTNG which concentrated on a limited number of crew members beyond the Captain. Being written by Brannon Braga and Andre Bormanis certainly accounted for this feeling so much like such an episode. Humor also works best in episodes involving Isaac (as was the case on a previous episode). These scenes work best with Isaac as they seem less forced, with Isaac struggling to understand humans in a manner comparable to Data.

My favorite scene had Isaac, seeing Dr. Finn having difficulties with her two young children, advise her that on his planet “when a program is not working properly it is deleted.” He then offered to vaporize the children. By the end of the episode he was helping to save the children and even said he had grown fond of them.

Like on Discovery this week, we also saw the crew listening to music. Discovery won on this comparison, with the crew of the Orville listening to Barry Manilow. To be fair, this was actually Seth MacFarlane’s way to mock Manilow.

Just as this episode looks into specific characters. Screen Rant looked into the characters with a set of interviews.

Elsewhere on genre television this week, the Elongated Man was an excellent addition to The Flash. Screen Rant has background information on the character.

Legends of Tomorrow also had a fun episode, between seeing Zari join the crew and the time travel adventure to save Ray Palmer from being killed as a child.

The third season of Stranger Things is already in the works but probably will not be seen until late in 2018. The ending of the second season certainly left open many possibilities. There are many questions about events of the first two seasons (some of which are discussed here), but they also had enough of an ending to move on to different stories if they like.

One thing which made the second season so bingeable was how most episodes ended with a major event which led directly into the next episode. The one difference was in the controversial seventh episode, which had Eleven go off elsewhere. The Duffer Brothers have defended the episode against some of the criticism. Personally I liked the episode as it addressed the question of whether people with powers like Eleven would abuse their powers, providing Eleven with a means to confront the issue.

Stranger Things has multiple pop culture references. IndieWire has a guide.

In Doctor Who news, Jenny, the Doctor’s Daughter, is back, in a set of audio dramas from Big Finish.

I would love to see River Song meet Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor. I don’t know if that will happen, but Alex Kingston will reprise the role and meet two additional Doctors in radio dramas.

Bernard Cribbin, who played Wilfred Mott, Donna Noble’s grandfather, has expressed interest in returning to travel with the Doctor when Jodie Whittaker takes over.

Dalek operator Nicholas Pegg has been fired for putting a crude message in a column he also wrote. The Mirror reports:

Under pen-name The Watcher, he launched an extraordinary attack on BBC Worldwide , which distributes the sci-fi show, and Panini, who publish the magazine.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, Pegg has included a coded message in the current edition of Doctor Who Magazine.

The first letter of each sentence in his column spells out, “Panini and BBC Worldwide are c***s.”

The digital version of the page has been altered and Pegg will not be returning to either job.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Orville; Doctor Who

Overall I was very impressed with the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery. While there are some aspects I question, overall it did feel like Star Trek, both modernized by the improved special effect available and the more serialized story telling common on television today.

I do question both whether the Vulcan salute would have been effective in this situation against the Klingons and whether someone, after serving for seven years on a Federation Starship, would disobey the captain in this manner. For now I will accept the premise that an implausible but possible event did occur and give the writers the opportunity to see where they take this. From various interviews (such as here) it does appear that they have given this matter, and sticking with established Star Trek canon, considerable consideration.

Michael Burnham does follow in a long Star Trek tradition of characters with identity issues, including Spock, Data, Seven of Nine, and the Emergency Medical Hologram. Captain Georgiou’s quick recovery from the Vulcan nerve pinch was important to the plot, but also has me wondering what we will see in the future in terms of both Burnham acting as a Vulcan and the limitations of a human doing so. The first two episodes seemed to summarize what could have been another seven year series about the Shenzou, with Burnham showing considerable growth from how she appeared in the flashback at the start of the second episode.

There was a tendency to use special effects because they could, sometimes benefiting the episode, and sometimes being unnecessary. I did question seeing Burnham flying to the Klingon ship in only in her spacesuit. On the other hand, there is no question that they should modernize the look of the bridge from the 1960’s instrument panels of the original show. Despite the modernization of the ship, they had the old style sound effects down perfect. The changing look of Klingons over time has been around since The Next Generation moved beyond the simplistic look from The Original Show and it is best not to question this.

The use of holograms for communication seemed an unnecessary change from the on screen communications we are accustomed to. It is important that this does fit within Star Trek canon, but there are also limits to the degree fans should demand this be true of every detail. Once something is shown on Discovery, by definition it does become canon. As holograms are based upon science already existing this could be explained as Star Fleet experimenting with this, abandoning it for a while, and then trying again in the Deep Space 9 era when it was seen again. (My theory to make this all consistent is that Star Fleet admirals had taken up working with their pants off between the years of Discovery and The Original Show and therefore demanded communications based upon above-the waist view screens as opposed to full body holograms.)

I also had my doubts about the communication between Burnham and Sarek, and unless this becomes important for future episodes, the story could have easily been written without utilizing this.

Despite such nitpicks, the show looks very promising. While I have some doubts about the details of the issue, it is typical Star Trek to raise the question of whether the Federation would shoot first even if more expedient. Even if less extreme, there is also a long history of Star Trek heroes breaking the rules. While some of the scenes with Klingon subtitles did get a little long, I am glad they are showing the Klingons as more than a one dimensional villain.

They did an excellent job both with production values and in keeping the story interesting, including ending each of the first episodes with a cliff hanger which should make viewers want to keep watching. If this was on Netflix instead of CBS All Access and the full season was available, I would have kept watching longer.

Despite small elements which some might argue violate canon, at least they did not destroy Vulcan as J.J. Abrams did with the flimsy excuse that it was s different timeline. Even if we might question Michael’s existence in Sarek’s family, it appears this series will be well tied into other aspects of canon related to Vulcans. This includes the addition of Sarek’s wife Amanda to the series, with Mia Kirshner cast for the role.

I have been rooting for The Orville to succeed, but have also recognized it problems. The show has received considerable criticism, with there being no need to repeat that once again. The show also does have its fans. For balance I’ll link to this reviewSeth MacFarlane’s ‘The Orville’ Is The ‘Star Trek’ Show Fans Have Been Waiting For. Some excerpts follow:

By not having a budget (or requirements) for wall-to-wall spectacle, the hour-long Fox show is forced to focus on character, chemistry, sci-fi plotting and moral debates that have partially defined Gene Roddenberry’s property for generations. Yes, to a certain extent it’s fan fiction, but then so is so much of our current pop culture entertainment. But by being a network television show, it is forced to be the kind of Star Trek that fans claim the recent movies have neglected in favor of four-quadrant blockbuster thrills. The Orville is not a spoof, but rather a straight-faced Trek show with characters who are funny and can laugh at funny events…

Sans the pressure to be bigger, bolder, faster, and free from the budget and expectations that demand big-scale action sequences and “the world is in peril” plotting, The Orville uses its adventure of the week format to explore modern-day social issues and tackle current moral dilemmas in a sci-fi venue. I like its characters, and I like that they are good at what they do and seem to like each other. The show is refreshingly progressive in its politics, and optimistic to its core. It is a Star Trek show for folks who want something a bit old-school.

Again, I haven’t seen the third episode of Star Trek Discovery, and I frankly don’t wish to make it a competition. The best-case scenario is that the CBS show, with a superb lead in Sonequa Martin-Green, offers high-quality, big-scale Star Trek while Fox’s “homage” offers a more traditional Trek which emphasizes cast chemistry and social issues of the day. For those fans who were turned off by the jokey previews and commercials, I’d suggest giving The Orville another shot, starting perhaps with the second episode which begins to spotlight the supporting cast.

The irony is that, by ripping off rather than revamping and by being hamstrung by network television production values and thus putting an emphasis on character and social parable over sci-fi action, The Orville has a pretty good shot at becoming the kind of Star Trek that fans claim to want so badly. I’m hoping this variation indeed lives long and prospers.

The review is rather generous, but I do want to give The Orville the chance to correct its flaws. I do agree with Screen Rant that, No, The Orville Is Not Better Than Star Trek: Discovery. Of course it does not have to be a competition and we can enjoy each series for the different things it tries to accomplish.

While we are now getting two versions of one of the great science fiction franchises which started in the 1960’s, we have to wait until December to see more of Doctor Who. I still plan to try to post Doctor Who news regularly while we wait. This week Pearl Mackie has told Radio Times that the Christmas episode will be an emotional farewell for Peter Capaldi:

The final farewell of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, the departure of well-loved companion Bill Potts, the groundbreaking introduction of the first ever female Doctor – the signs were always there.

But just in case you were in any doubt, Pearl Mackie can confirm that, yes, this is indeed going to be an emotional Doctor Who Christmas special…

“I’d say have a box of tissues close at hand,” Mackie tells RadioTimes.com. “As to be expected: it’s Peter’s last episode as the Doctor and my last episode as well.”

But is it? Given that Mackie’s character Bill had supposedly made her last appearance at the end of series ten – only to be handed a comeback in the special immediately afterwards – should we even trust that this is the last we’ll see of her?

“One of the wonderful things about Doctor Who is that the world of possibilities is endless,” teases Mackie, “so I guess, never say never…”

We can also hope to see the return of others beyond Bill. Radio Times also reports that Alex Kingston would like to see a reunion with Captain Jack:

Both time-travelling lotharios who love conning their way around the galaxy with a vortex manipulator, we can’t help but feel they’d do well in their own Doctor Who spin-off, or even just an episode where they finally meet – and now it turns out that River Song actor Alex Kingston feels the exact same way.

“I think it’d be great if she met with Captain Jack Harkness,” Kingston said at Edmonton Expo in Canada. “It’s funny because John and I, we talk about, we imagine, fantasise about all the possibilities.”

She also said, “Not necessarily a spin-off show, but it kind of would be great if even the Doctor happened upon a bar in the universe where River and Captain Jack happened to be sitting, having a drink or something. I think it’d be cool!”

SciFi Weekend: Twin Peaks Finale; Star Trek Discovery Tackles The Trump Era; The Orville; Doctor Who News

As Damon Lindelof said during the Twin Peaks panel at Comic-Con, “Without Twin Peaks, there would be no Sopranos, no X-Files, no True Detective, no Fargo, no Lost…” continuing to list the shows which have changed television.  Twin Peaks: The Return went beyond these in being unusual and something we have never seen before on television. We saw exactly what David Lynch would do with eighteen hours in which he could do whatever he desired, unedited. Some who are huge fans of David Lynch had great reviews. Television reviewers, probably along with most viewers, were more negative, expecting something more like television, and seeing a need for at least some boundaries on the imagination of David Lynch.

It is difficult to truly recap what occurred in either the series or two-hour finale last week. The series was slow, and often confusing. It included fake versions of major characters, including three different versions of Dale Cooper (or at least those who looked like him), and time travel. We also saw Diane, the off screen secretary from the original series, but of course things were not as they seemed with her. Perhaps most disappointing was how little there was of Audrey Horne, and with major questions about her left unanswered. An earlier disappointment was that Madeline Zima’s character, who I initially thought might be the Audrey Horne of the revival, was killed shortly after she took her clothes off.  Many things throughout the series seemed to make no sense, but to criticize the show for this would miss the point in a David Lynch creation.

In the finale, Cooper went back in time to prevent the murder of Laura Palmer, and was as almost as confused as the viewers when the series ended with him asking, “What year is this?” This was followed by a scream from Laura Palmer, who perhaps was recalling her murder in another time. If the interpretation at IndieWire is correct, the better question for Cooper to ask might have been whether he was in an entirely new time line (perhaps created when he attempted to save Laura). The episode then ended, leaving many questions open. Kyle MacLachlan has said there have been no discussions related to another season, and I wonder how many of those of us who made it through eighteen episodes of this series would do so again.

We also might ask, as Dale Cooper, did, what year this is when watching television. Just as we recently returned to Twin Peaks, soon we will be watching Star Trek once again. In the original series, produced during the Cold War, the Klingons represented the Soviet Union. Entertainment Weekly reports that Star Trek Discovery will tackle the political divide in the Trump era:

Star Trek: Discovery will continue the venerated sci-fi tradition of using a fantastic setting to tackle real-world issues — only in a bigger way than any Trekseries has done before.

The upcoming CBS All Access drama tells the serialized story of a war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. The show is set a decade before 1966’s original series — which premiered 51 years ago today — during which the Federation and Klingons were in a Cold War standoff that reflected yesteryear’s U.S.-Soviet relations. In Discovery, war breaks out and the Klingons leading the charge have some ideological ideas inspired by the 2016 electoral divide.

“The allegory is that we really started working on the show in earnest around the time the election was happening,” showrunner Aaron Harberts says. “The Klingons are going to help us really look at certain sides of ourselves and our country. Isolationism is a big theme. Racial purity is a big theme. The Klingons are not the enemy, but they do have a different view on things. It raises big questions: Should we let people in? Do we want to change? There’s also the question of just because you reach your hand out to someone, do they have to take it? Sometimes, they don’t want to take it. It’s been interesting to see how the times have become more of a mirror than we even thought they were going to be.”

Of course we have already seen another genre show deal with a Trump presidency–Game of Thrones with King Joffrey.

Discovery only takes place ten years before the events of the original show, meaning that we already know what some of the characters were doing at the time. TrekMovie.com reviewed where the TOS characters were.

There will be another show paying homage to Star Trek premiering tonight, Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville. It was originally billed as a spoof, but many reviews are negative, along with saying it is neither a true drama or comedy. Vox compares it (negatively) to fan fiction. I had planned to summarize some of the other reviews, but now see that The Mary Sue has already posted excerpts from several.

Once I heard that Jodie Whittaker was to become the thirteenth Doctor, I had hoped that River Song would get a chance to meet her. Alex Kingston also expressed interest in returning to Doctor Who for such a meeting a Dragon Con:

…she also mentioned that she was going to “call the BBC and let them know River is ready to meet her second wife.” To which, of course, the audience exploded. “Why not?  She (River) said it!”

Billie Piper also says that Rose would be in love with the thirteenth doctor.

It was previously announced that the Doctor Who spinoff Class would not be renewed for a second season, but the possibility was left open that it might continue if it did well in the United States, where it did not air for several months after on in the UK. The cancellation is now official.

Sian Brooke, who played Eurus in season four of Sherlock, teases the possibility of a fifth season. Hopefully it really is made.

SciFi Weekend: Gilmore Girls A Year In The Life; CW Superhero Crossover; Bryan Fuller and Star Trek Discovery; Class; Doctor Who; Sherlock; Luke Cage; Sense8; Westworld

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Gilmore Girls, A Year In the Life finally revealed the greatest mystery beyond the secret of life, the universe and everything (which was revealed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy to be 42). Major spoilers ahead as I figure that any fan of Gilmore Girls will have completed the series by now. It is only six hours and it is Lorelai, Rory, Emily, and Stars Hollow, after all. The series concluded with those four final words which  Amy Sherman-Palladino had intended when she first started the series, but did not get to use because of leaving the series for its final seventh season over contract disputes. After years of waiting, we now know they were, “Mom. “Yeah?” “I’m pregnant.” The words, in retrospect, were entirely predictable. As we learned from Battlestar Galactica, “All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.” Lorelai being pregnant with Rory years earlier set up the series, and now all of it will happen again.

Of course it will not happen exactly the same. Rory will not run off and leave her family as Lorelai did. Rory is now much older than both Lorelai was, and also significantly older than Rory would have been if the four final words were spoken at the end of the original seventh season. She could go down a completely different path. “Rory doesn’t have to keep the baby,” as Amy Sherman-Palladino told TVLine. “There are choices here that she can make. It’s just the left turn. It’s that curveball that life throws you. I will say, weirdly, that I like it much more now. ”

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The revival captured much of what made the original series great. Most of the old cast was seen, with Paris having some of the best scenes. Drop Murder She Wrote and sign Liza Weil for a Paris Geller spinoff. There were many additional cameos, including cast members from Bunheads and Parenthood. This included her Parenthood daughter Mae Whitman. The two park rangers were played by Jason Ritter, a romantic interest on Parenthood, and by Peter Krause, her brother on the show, and real-life romantic partner. A full list of cameos can be found here.

There were many pop culture references. This includes genre references include Doctor Who (with an appearance by Alex Kingston), Superman, Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel Movies, Outlander, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks (with Ray Wise also having a role), and Game of Thrones. While there were far too many to mention all the genre references here, Screen Rant has a full list. The timing of the show, taking place during the 2016 election year but filming before the results were known, prevented them from including political references. A future season of Gilmore Girls could easily include some snarky comments about Donald Trump–as they sometimes did at the expense of George Bush and other Republicans during the original run. I collected some examples here and here.

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Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino gave multiple interviews which covered some of the points discussed, included whether Stars Hollow would have gone for Donald Trump. Here’s a portion of one interview from Vulture:

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter: the final four words. You’ve said these were the same four words that would have marked the end of the original series. But did you ever contemplate changing the ending for A Year in the Life in a way that differed from that plan?
Amy Sherman-Palladino: We didn’t really know what that last season was until we got into it and then we asked a lot of questions and we found out where the show ended. The show could have ended in a different place that made those last four words completely irrelevant. So we went into breaking this in a way that we were really looking at it like these three women are at a crossroads. The patriarch has died and what’s the way forward for them?

Organically, the last four words fell into place on this. It’s not something we would have shoved in there if it hadn’t really led us to a good space and if we weren’t churning toward that anyhow. What’s interesting about the last four words as originally conceived is they would have been when [Rory] was 22, and while that still, I think, thematically would have worked with the whole idea of history repeating itself full freaking circle — you know, daughter follows in mother’s footsteps — to me it’s actually more interesting, it takes on more relevance, that it’s at the same age. She’s at the same age now that Lorelai was when we started the series.

That’s just an interesting kind of dynamic. When we met Lorelai, she was 32 and that’s where she was in her life and now we’re leaving Rory at 32 with the thing on the horizon. It felt kind of cooler to us to do it now than if we had done it when we were still on the WB.

Also, Rory has had an opportunity to live life and do some things that her mom didn’t.
ASP: She’s bringing more to whatever decision she makes than she would have at 22, fresh out of college.

Let me ask you this: Do you know who the father of Rory’s baby is?
ASP: We do…

I’m sure everyone is asking you this question, but do you want to do another season or series of mini-movies like this? Has that been discussed at this point?
DP: Nothing’s been discussed. This was kind of set as a one-off thing, but we would never have anticipated that we were going to do this up until a couple of years ago when it occurred to us. So we never say never. It wasn’t designed to go beyond this, but it certainly can go beyond this.

ASP: Yeah, it wasn’t the sales pitch. The sales pitch was, these are the four stories, this is A Year in the Life, this is what it’s going to be. There were no ulterior motives walking into that room to pitch, other than we think it will be really interesting to see where these women are over this particular year.

Because it ends the way that it does, some people may assume that, “Oh, they set it up to continue.”
ASP: Nope, not at all. We’ve always tried to not wrap things up in a bow. We tried to do that on the series. Because life isn’t like that. You can have a good moment with a parent you are estranged from, and you have a great moment, and then the next time you see them, everything’s back to the way it was before and you guys are throwing knives at each other. Life doesn’t tend to fix things or wrap them up in bows. Because of that, we wanted the ending of this to not have a pat, “And they all lived happily ever after!”

It’s not that it’s a sad ending, particularly, but it’s an ending of, “And life throws you another left turn and then you’ve got to go with the flow.” That’s what we’ve always tried to do, successfully or unsuccessfully, with the show over the life of it. We felt it would have been weird to end this year with, “Everyone’s happy! Yay! Unicorns for all!”

A detail that jumped out at me while I was watching was a poster with the date of Luke and Lorelai’s wedding, which would have been a few days before the election. I didn’t know if that was something that was …
ASP: They were so happy then. So innocent to the ways of the world.

DP: We were tempted to put something about — you know, because there was the prospect and the likelihood that there was going to be a woman president-elect at the very, very end. I think that poster [originally] indicated that it would be on November 19, I think it was post-election. I think it may have been post, you know, it was right around that time. We in this industry can’t afford to even predict the future even when it’s as certain as Hillary Clinton winning the presidential election. Quite frankly, this show — Amy and I are dyed in the wool liberals and very left wing. But the show, we always wanted it to be bipartisan and Stars Hollow is a — probably voted for Trump, mainly …

ASP: No. No, no, no, no.

DP: Oh, I think they did.

ASP: No, no, no, no, no.

DP: It’s rural America!

ASP: No, no, no, no, no. There is no evilness in Stars Hollow. Do not put that out there, I do not accept that. Absolutely not.

DP: Okay, maybe it’s a …

ASP: No. No.

DP: … clean, liberal …

ASP: No. No.

DP: … maybe.

ASP: No. No, no, no. The problem is that if we had known Satan was taking over the world we would have needed a whole other budget for, like, dragons and flying demons and, you know, like the sun disappearing from the world. Winter is coming. It would have been so expensive the way we would have needed to do it, had we known that the apocalypse was coming. It’s good we didn’t, so we didn’t have to spend all that money on horns, harpies — and Minotaurs and women with snakes.

Gilmore Girls, A Year In The Life works well as a stand-alone revival, or given the flexibility of Netflix, it should be possible to have further mini-seasons.

DC's Legends of Tomorrow --"Invasion!"-- Image LGN207c_0156.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): David Ramsey as John Diggle, Caity Lotz as Sara Lance/White Canary, Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon, Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak, Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer/Atom, Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl, Nick Zano as Nate Heywood and Victor Garber as Professor Martin Stein -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The CW Network had its big cross over event with Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow.The episodes were a treat not only for fans of the CW shows, but for all genre fans. While there weren’t as many genre references as in Gilmore Girls, MoviePilot.com listed some of the Easter Eggs for genre fans included in the episodes.

Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim discussed some of the issues raised in the episodes with TVLine:

WILL THERE BE MORE FLASHPOINT CHANGES FOR ARROW AND LEGENDS CHARACTERS? | The producers are keeping mum on that front, but Guggenheim did share that “there’s a fair amount of discussion” about the subject in next Wednesday’s Arrow midseason finale. “[The characters] deal with — in some humorous ways, actually — some of the ramifications. For example, I think Curtis is concerned that maybe he was straight, originally.” As for whether Barry’s voicemail is directly tied to Flashpoint or referencing more changes that the speedster makes down the road, Kreisberg offers this cryptic tease: “The message from the future relates to Flashpoint, but it also may relate to something else coming up.”

WILL SUPERGIRL VISIT EARTH-1 AGAIN? | Now that Kara has a way to communicate and travel across Earths, crossovers are certainly “easier” to execute, Kreisberg says. “The next time we do it, it means it doesn’t necessarily have to be because Oliver and Barry need Kara; it could be because Kara needs them.” However, the EP notes that nothing is in the works, seeing as how “we just barely survived this one. So we’re not too concerned with what we’re going to try to do next year. But it just gives us another way to come at a story.”

WILL STEIN’S DAUGHTER BE BACK? | “You’ll see her again in a few episodes,” Guggenheim says. And as early as next Thursday’s Legends midseason finale, “the ramifications” of Stein and Jax keeping the doc’s newly discovered offspring a secret “come into play.”

COULD THE NEW PRESIDENT HAVE BEEN LYNDA CARTER? | “Actually, in the original draft of the Legends episode, she was the Vice President, who became the President,” Guggenheim reveals. “The studio had what we all considered to be a very fair note [that] it was a bit too confusing.”

bryan-fuller1

Bryan Fuller is no longer involved with Star Trek: Discovery, but his early work on the series should still have a big impact on the direction of the series. From Newsweek:

“Ultimately, with my responsibilities [elsewhere], I could not do what CBS needed to have done in the time they needed it done for Star Trek,” Fuller explains to Newsweek. “It felt like it was best for me to focus on landing the plane with American Gods and making sure that was delivered in as elegant and sophisticated a fashion as I could possibly do.”

CBS opted to move ahead without Fuller after previously accommodating his and co-creator Alex Kurtzman’s request to push the show’s planned January 2017 premiere to May in order to “achieve a vision we can all be proud of.” Variety reported in September that the pair wanted to meet fans’ expectations, particularly with special effects.

“It is bittersweet,” says Fuller. “But it was just a situation that couldn’t be resolved otherwise…so I had to step away.”

Fuller—who retains an executive producer credit—wrote the first two episodes of Discovery and the story arc for the rest of the 13-part first season. CBS said it would see his “vision through,” but the writer confirms he has no active involvement with the series.

“I’m not involved in production, or postproduction, so I can only give them the material I’ve given them and hope that it is helpful for them. I’m curious to see what they do with it,” he says.

He commented on a potential second season: “They have my number and if they need me I will absolutely be there for them.”

class-doctor-who

Class began it season with an appearance by Peter Capaldi and now has completed its first season with a surprise visit from a classic Doctor Who enemy. As it won’t be airing in the United States until spring, I won’t give any details. Those interested can find out more here. Warning, the spoiler is in the title and cannot be avoided if you click on the link. Review of the episode here.

Jenna Coleman reports that filming of the second season of Victoria will start in February. The first season will be available in the United States on Masterpiece on PBS starting January 15.

sherlock-clues

The above picture provides several clues about Sherlock. Radio Times goes through the clues, which include a nod to a Doctor Who character.

Netflix has picked up Luke Cage for a second season.

Originally Netflix was only going to release a Christmas episode of Sense8. Now they have decided to release the entire second season on December 23. (Update: The second season will not be released until May.)

Masters of Sex has been canceled after its fourth season. The show has gone downhill and it didn’t seem like they really knew what to do with it anymore. I just wish that they had known that it would be the final season earlier. Rather than a meandering fourth season, they could have told a story over a longer time span and taken the story until wherever they wanted to ultimately finish it.

Amazon has canceled Good Girls Revolt after its first season. I have not had a chance to see it yet, but I had added the first season to my queue following favorable reviews.

Last week more fan theories were confirmed on Westworld but there are a lot of questions remaining. With the season finale airing soon after this will be posted, there is little point on speculating further until the finale is viewed. I do have one additional tip for casual viewers who have not been paying attention to all the on-line discussion of the show. Pay close attention to the opening credits. The scenes do give away a lot.

Alec Baldwin did his impersonation of Donald Trump once again on Saturday Night Live, this time mocking his use of Twitter. Probably failing to see the irony, Trump responded by blasting Baldwin with a tweet. Baldwin offered to stop doing his impersonations if Trump would release his tax returns.

SciFi Weekend: Outlander Season Finale; Doctor Who; John Barrowman; Alex Kingston; Sleepy Hollow; Person of Interest

Outlander Season 2 2016

The second season finale of Outlander was what a finale should be, tying up the season, providing an opening for the next season, and in this case surpassing virtually everything done so far this season. Before getting into the inevitable spoilers, for the benefit of those (like myself) who are having difficulty keeping up with all the excellent television shows on but also have not seen this season, the finale almost stands on its own as a show worth watching. If you have seen the first season but not the second, it is possible to watch the start of the first episode which has Claire back in the 1940’s, and jump from there to the finale. Of course there are some other events during the season which are well worth seeing. For those who might want to binge on the essential episodes only, TV Guide has a list which includes essential episodes from both the first and second season. TV Line has summaries of the episodes leading up to the finale which will be helpful for those who don’t have the time to watch them all.

Further discussion of the episode includes major spoilers. The structure of the episode was a surprise in primarily taking place  in 1968. (starting with television scenes from the British version of The Avengers), with flashbacks to the Battle of Culloden. This worked very well, finally tying together the scenes from the 1940’s at the start of the second season with the overall narrative, showing why Claire returned to her present. It was also enjoyable to hear the 60’s music, with many of the lyrics applying to the show. Plus, after seeing Claire’s medical skills in the past, we learned that she has become a surgeon.

The episode served to introduce Claire and Jame’s daughter Brianna and Roger, and handled the matters of setting up a reason forcing Claire to tell her story to Brianna, her daughter’s logical disbelief in the story, and ultimately proving the story to her. This was accomplished partially from Brianna and Roger investigating the past, and further enabled by the introduction of Scottish nationalist Gillian Edgars.

Outlander Geillis

Gillian Edgars cared so much about Scottish independence that she planned to travel back in time to try to change history, becoming known to Claire as Geillis. When we previously saw her, she had told Claire that she had come back from 1968. Geillis knows more about time travel than Claire did when she first went back, but also had at least one misconception, believing time travel required a human sacrifice. The rules of time travel on Outlander remain vague, and from what we have seen so far I also have my doubts that it is possible in this world to change time. While perhaps there will be incidents we have not seen, so far we have seen the actions of the two time travelers we know only working to create a consistent history which their actions became a part of.

Once Claire found that Geillis planned to travel back in time, it was rather obvious that she would not be successful in either preventing her from going to her doom. Her point in the story was clearly to allow Brianna to see her disappear into the rocks and convince her that Claire had told her the truth.

There would also be continuity or time travel issues to deal with if Geillis had not gone back in time. While she had interacted with Claire, the more important matter was that Geillis and Dougal had a child who was Roger’s ancestor. Roger felt confident he would not just disappear if she did not go back to conceive his ancestor. While we don’t know the rules for certain, it appears there would not be reason to be concerned about such a paradox as events in this world cannot be changed, and Geillis did go back in time.

The episode interspersed events from the past with the events in 1968. Claire came up with one final scheme to try to change history by poisoning Prince Charles and preventing the battle which destroyed the Scottish clans. Dougal discovered the plan, setting up a fight in which he was killed. When it became obvious that there was no way to change history, Jamie revealed that he knew Claire was pregnant due to missed periods, and convinced her to return to the future where Frank would care for Claire and their child after his expected death in the Battle of Culloden. We saw the aftermath of Claire’s return in the first episode of the season, and that now finally makes sense.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Back in 1968, Roger had another major reveal, having found evidence in his father’s papers that Jamie had survived. This leads to the dramatic words from Claire to end the episode: “We have to go back.” Earlier in the episode, Claire did take a notebook from Geillis’ home with her ideas on time travel, but we do not know if they are incorrect on other details Perhaps they will help Claire with matters such as choosing which year to arrive with a second trip back.

Fortunately we know that Outlander has been renewed so far for a third and fourth season, allowing the next two books in the series to make it to television. While readers of the books know for sure, I suspect that the information in Geillis’ notebook allows Claire to return to Jamie when their ages are closer as opposed to being twenty years older than him. Of course this would mean that Jamie had lived without her for twenty years, but we can safely assume that he will welcome her return at any point.

Ron Moore and others involved with the show have granted several interviews, some of which deal with altering the structure of the books for the show, plans for the third season, and even a brief discussion of the rules of time travel.

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The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Ron Moore about the finale:

Since you altered the structure of the beginning of the season, how did that affect the way you told the story in the finale?

I had the finale planned out pretty much at the beginning of the season. When we were talking about the beginning of season two, I just felt that right away, starting in 1968 wasn’t going to work on TV. It was too big of a leap to go from Claire and Jamie on the ship sailing off to France to suddenly go to 1968, with 20 years passed and Claire is now in the 20th century, she’s a doctor, she has a grown daughter, Jamie’s dead, Frank’s dead. It’s like, whoa. Too much for the audience to take in one big swallow. So I decided to start more chronologically in the premiere with Claire returning to the 20th century, which in and of itself is a huge leap. That’s an enormous thing just by itself so let’s do that. And so when would we get to the 1968 story that book readers are expecting? That’s how we decided to get to 1968 at the end of the season, way back at the very beginning of the season. And then I felt it would be powerful to intercut that with the last moves of the 18th century story so while you’re watching Brianna realize who her real father is, and Claire is realizing that maybe Jamie didn’t die after all, we’re cross cutting that with the 18th century story when they arrive at Culloden Moor with Jamie’s goodbyes to Claire and all that.

Did you discuss with author Diana Gabaldon about the way you were structuring the season? It was a pretty massive change.

No. She sees all the story outlines and all that, so she knew as it was happening. She liked it. She thought it was smart. She totally got behind my choices.

We finally learn that Claire is pregnant again only when Jamie is convincing her to go back to Frank for the safety of their baby. Why did you want to wait until that scene to reveal that she was pregnant again when it actually comes earlier in the book?

The book was very similar in its structure, in that Jamie is the one that tells the reader that this is happening. But what we did is slid it a little bit further down so it was much closer to the very end of the season. It felt to us that if you put that in earlier, it kind of colors everything that took place after. They start talking about the baby, where she’s going to have the baby, would she stay or would she go? We didn’t want to be in the middle of that discussion while everything else was going on. So we opted to make it one of the last pieces of the puzzle, playing that Claire has this suspicion but she’s not quite sure so she doesn’t want to bring it up now because she knows that Jamie would most likely send her home and she’s determined to stick with him no matter what. Meanwhile, he’s figured it out on his own and he’s holding it as his trump card, that if things go bad, he’s going to pull it out at that moment to force her to return to the stones. It’s playing both characters a little cagey in terms of her pregnancy and each holding their cards until the last moment.

The circumstances of Dougal’s death turned out a bit different in the finale than how it played in the books. Why did you make those changes to that scene?

The one thing we did change is that we had Claire participate a little bit more. The scene reads fine on the page, but when we came to dramatize it, we quickly realized that in the books, it literally just looks like Claire is standing and watching throughout the entire fight and Dougal’s death. That didn’t feel right, dramatically for our characters. We wanted to see Claire take part in it more and be more active in that scene. And also, seeing Claire and Jamie work as a team one more time before they split up, this was the perfect opportunity for that.

It’s interesting to note that they didn’t get far in their plan to assassinate the prince, whereas in the book, they had decided against their plan before Dougal walked in on them. Why did you accelerate that scene when that change completely alters what Claire and Jamie were planning to do?

For that scene, you had to see Dougal overhear something that was damning in order to get Dougal to where he needed to go in his rage. If they had already decided against it, what was it that Dougal heard that made him come into that room with blood in his eyes? What sparked the fight in him that leads to his death? Again, because it’s a TV show, you have to let the audience see that they were being overheard and even though they hadn’t made a definitive decision to do it yet, what Dougal heard was enough to get him to go in there and want to kill them. We just had to parse it out a little finer than in the book…

In the finale we learn that Geillis believed you needed a human sacrifice to go through the stones, but with Claire, obviously she didn’t need that both times she went through the stones. How much of the rules of time travel did you discuss with Diana?

We did have a conversation with Diana and she explained her rules of time travel to us. We tried to translate that into something the audience can wrap their minds around on the show. Her rules of time travel have evolved and are spread out over many books and many characters and many scenarios. We needed to really understand both what Claire thought and what Geillis thought in this episode so we honed in on a couple of things. There are still a couple of things for Claire to figure out and discover as we move into next season though.

Outlander Finale Brianna Roger Couch

He added a little more in this interview with Deadline Hollywood:

DEADLINE: Season 1’s finale may have been more brutal, but this year’s ender certainly matched it for dramatic twists — especially the killing of Dougal. How do you think fans will react?

MOORE: If they don’t know the books, I think they will be surprised and shocked that we killed Dougal MacKenzie because he’s such a great character and such a powerful force. Especially since Colum (Gary Lewis) just died the week before, and you would think that there would be a long route to go with Dougal. I assume that the broadcast audience was assuming that we would see Dougal fighting to the death at Culloden, right? He would be one of the principal players in that story, so I think it will come as a pretty big surprise.

DEADLINE: Last season ended with the rape scene with Black Jack and with Jamie, about which there was a huge and shocked response from fans. This season finale had a different tone. Was that intentional?

MOORE: It was certainly intentional what we went for, but I don’t think we set out to set it apart from Season 1. It just had its own kind of organic feeling to it. It had a different rhythm and a different kind of overarching idea to what we were doing in the finale this year. Last year’s finale was a one-off, that was where that story ended. I don’t think the show or the book set out to try to top themselves each year or at the end of each book. That was the end of that story, and this one is the end of this story…

DEADLINE: To that end, you made a number of strategic changes from Dragonfly In Amber the book to Outlander the second season – all of which in many ways saw us end where things started, in the UK of the 20th century…

MOORE: I mean, the biggest change we made obviously was starting in the 1940s instead of starting in 1968. That was the biggest change from the book. I just felt that at the beginning of the season it was too big of a leap to take the audience from Claire and Jamie on the ship sailing off to France to then suddenly jump all the way to 1968 and reveal that not only did Claire return to the 20th century, but she has a grown daughter and she’s a surgeon, and the reverend’s dead and Frank’s dead, and it’s just like, whoa — traumatically that was just too much.

So I thought, “l right, let’s start in a little bit more chronological way. Let’s start with her return to the 1940s, establish that she’s with Frank and going to have a child, because even though that alone is still a huge leap for the audience, it’s not quite as big.” So from that point, then it was sort of letting the 18th century story pick up the balance of the season while touching base every once in a while, reminding the audience that actually this is all doomed to failure, and then catching up with 1968 at the end and intercutting that with the 18th century story in the last chapter, because I thought that that would be an interesting juxtaposition.

I like the idea that we’re going to take this 20-year leap forward in the 20th century and then catch up with adult Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and a more mature Claire, seeing that she really lived all those years and her life is moving on, while simultaneously telling the audience the last few moves of Claire and Jamie in Culloden and timing it all so that the moment that Claire goes back to the stones and leaves him behind to his doom, we also find out that actually he survived and now the Claire that lived those 20 years realizes that she needs to go back. I thought that would kind of bring everything together in a nice way.

DEADLINE: Are you planning on taking a similar approach with the Voyager book and Season 3?

MOORE: Yeah, some things get moved around, but the third book is not nearly the same challenge as the second book is. Voyager is a little bit more of a straight-ahead narrative and the adaptation process has already proven easier in the writers room because the structure is a little bit more straightforward.

Even in the first season we resequenced things and moved certain elements around, so that’s just part of doing an adaptation, but it’s just not as big a hill to climb in the third season, so we’re all feeling pretty optimistic and pretty good about where the third season is taking us.

DEADLINE: Outlander got a two-season pickup from Starz last month, so where are you at, if anywhere, with Season 4 and adapting the America colonies-based Drums of Autumn?

MOORE: We’re only just sort of talking in very general terms about Four. I mean, we know what the broad outlines are of it, but right now the lion’s share of our attention is on Three. Still, having the two-season pickup makes all that easier because you can sort of put Four over here to the side for a moment knowing that you’re going to do it. Then, as we get deeper into Season 3 — the planning, logistics — we’ll get closer and closer to start talking in earnest about Four.

Also, the writers will start turning their attention to Season 4 while this season is still underway. So we’ll write all the scripts for Season 3, get them all in train, get them all starting to prep, and then the whole writing staff will start to work on Season 4 while we’re still shooting this one. That gives us a big leg up, get on schedule and production and budget and all that — it’s enormously helpful.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Another key event in the episode was discussed with TV Line:

TVLINE | In the book, Claire is present for, but not directly involved in, Dougal’s death. In the finale, she helps Jamie push the blade into his uncle. Why the change?
We felt that when you saw it on screen, you would be struck differently than you were on the page. If you watch the scene play out on the screen [the way it does in the novel], Claire would very much be a spectator during the entire thing. We felt like she should participate, and watch her and Jamie be more of a team again. It just didn’t feel right for our Claire to stand and watch while this life-or-death struggle was playing out just a few feet in front of her…

Outlander Season 2 2016

TV Guide talked to executive producers Matt Roberts and Toni Graphia, who wrote the episode:

What was the greatest challenge in setting up this finale and what objectives did you know you had to achieve in the final 90 minutes?

Toni Graphia: Ron [Moore, executive producer] always said it was kind of like writing a pilot, in a way, because we have to introduce Brianna and Roger. They are such new characters, but ones that the audience are potentially interested in, obviously. The character of Brianna being half-Jamie and half Claire, they’re really into that. We had to introduce them and sort of kick off a whole new storyline for going forward.

We did it in a different way because the book [Dragonfly in Amber] opens with the introduction of Brianna and Roger. We chose to steal the opening of the Book 3 for the opening of Season 2, and then end the season with the introduction of Brianna and Roger. That’s a twist that we did that we think ended up well.

Matt Roberts: Literally, the whole book of Dragonfly in Amber and Season 2 is told in flashback because we already know Claire goes back. We know that Claire survived; it’s just how she survived. Toni and I had to be very careful not to tell [Bri and Roger’s] story in the finale, as opposed to just whet everyone’s appetite — because it’s not their story. It’s still Claire and Jamie’s story, and that’s whose it will always be.

Your initial instinct with [Brianna and Roger] is to give them a beginning, middle and an end to the story. … We had to be careful to reel ourselves in and not go too far with their story because that’s another season down the road.

What is different about the versions of Brianna and Roger you bring to life in the finale from the ones fans know in the books?

Graphia: We wanted to give Brianna a little more of a drive. We thought it would be a little more interesting if Claire, instead of already making the decision [to tell Brianna about Jamie] off-screen, was drawn back by the ghosts of her past. Even though she has the freedom to tell Brianna now, she hasn’t made the decision. In the book, your mind fills in all that, but when you’re watching it you don’t want the decision to be made off-camera. So when Claire comes back, we gave that drive to Brianna. In that way, Claire is being drawn in by the ghosts and Brianna is like, “What’s up with my mom? She’s always been a little distant and strange, but now she seems really moved by this place and she’s sneaking off to go see things.”

In the book, its Claire and Roger — Claire sort of shoves Brianna off to the side and secretly asks Roger, “Will you help me find out what happens to Jamie Fraser?” We switched it to Brianna and Roger, both for the sake of their developing relationship, because they’re now doing this project together, and to sort of have Brianna be the strong one that comes at Claire and demands these answers.

Finally, Claire can’t hide anymore from her past and has to come clean with her daughter. We just thought for the screen that was the more interesting story. It makes Brianna a more interesting character because she’s driving the story and she has something to do. She’s interested. She wants to know about her past and it makes for some explosive scenes between her and Claire, which we loved doing.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Vulture  interviewed co-executive producer Maril Davis and touched on the rules of time travel in the series:

Even after 20 years apart, they now have a chance to be reunited. We don’t see it in the finale, in that moment, but it’s implied that it’s about to happen. And when it does, they’re going to be different people…
We talk a lot about that in the room right now, for season three. It’s a big transition. People expect that if they were to just see each other, things will fall back easily into old habits. That doesn’t happen. Twenty years is a long time, and they both met when they were very young. So we’re talking about, “How are they different? How does that change them?” Also, in your mind, you build up things about a person that aren’t really reality, and they were together for a relatively short time. Certainly Claire was with Jamie longer than she was with Frank, but still, you change as a person, and your expectations get built up, and once you see them again, that’s a huge thing to go through.

Originally, we had a fun idea for the end of season one — we’d cut to black, and fade up, knock knock, and it would be Claire knocking on Reverend Wakefield’s door, 20 years in the future. In anticipation of that, we started looking for Brianna and Roger early. We decided at the end of the day not to do that, and suspended the search until later. But then we came up with this idea of starting with, “Oh my god, Claire’s already back. Holy crap! How did that happen?” and then the rest of the season, not peppering it through the way the book does, not dealing with it until the end. In some ways, it should be like the books, but telling the TV version should be fresh. Even for book fans, you want to give them what they want, but in a different way sometimes. We want try to do that for season three as well.

Let’s talk about Geillis. She returns for the finale here, but we’re not quite finished with her yet.
Even though Geillis saves Claire at the witch trial, there’s a little more animosity between them in the books, or at least that’s what I felt. We tried hard to give them more of a friendship in season one, to give Geillis some more layers. I love Geillis from the book. She’s witchy and mysterious. But we wanted to make her more human because that was a little more interesting to show. So even though Geillis does a lot of bad things, she still sees Claire as a true friend. Granted, her ways are a little more wicked than Claire, and for a different purpose …

Because she’s trying to control her time travel, and she’s willing to use blood sacrifice. We get to glimpse her notebooks, and we’re getting more of the rules, such as they are…
I can’t tell you how many discussions we’ve had in the writer’s room about the rules of time travel. [Laughs.] I’ve certainly pestered [author] Diana [Gabaldon] many times about her rules, because quite honestly, when you realize Claire went through the stones the first time without many of the certain elements you need, it’s a little confusing. Like, Claire went through without anything, so how did that work? And obviously she can do it, but Jamie can’t. Do we show that, or do we not? There are certain things you read in the book that you naturally accept, and you don’t think too much about it, but when you’re trying to dramatize it on screen, you have to. It almost makes your head hurt! [Laughs.] So I’ve asked Diana things about Master Raymond being a time traveler, or the Comte St. Germain, since she’s written that he might be a time traveler in The Space Between. But we didn’t really delve into that in this season.

So long as Claire gives more thought to her return journey, and realizes that she should bring some things back with her before just stepping through the stones again. Penicillin, for instance, could be handy.
Of course! She has to bring that back. [Laughs.]

DOCTOR WHO

In other time travel genre news, there are stories that Steven Moffat has hinted that Matt Smith might return to Doctor Who. He technically wouldn’t be the first Time Lord to regenerate as himself as the linked article claims as David Tennant’s Doctor did that. It would still be a first for the show to have a Doctor return after being played by someone else. If this becomes true, there is also the question as to whether he would be made to look like his previous version of the Doctor and if he would have the same personality. He might even hate bow ties. Another possibility could be returning to the show as an entirely different character, as some actors, even if not as prominent as Smith, have done.

Another time traveler from Doctor Who will be seen a lot more on television next season, but in the Bellantiverse on CW as opposed to Doctor Who. John Barrowman has been made a sort of regular throughout their DC based shows rather than being limited to Arrow. There have been questions as to whether the shows will be more connected next season with The Flash doing a version of Flashpoint.

Arrow -- "Streets of Fire" -- Image AR222b_0237b -- Pictured: John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn/Dark Archer -- Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

CW shows such as Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl will no longer be available on Hulu. At least their new deal with Netflix will have them be available eight days after the season finale.

Alex Kingston will have a recurring role in the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix. She will play an eccentric character, but presumably not River Song.

Like Outlander, Sleepy Hollow sometimes takes place in two different times, and we have seen time travel. Not only have they lost the female lead, they are moving from Sleepy Hollow to Washington, D.C. There will be a new female lead who has been described as Scullyesque.

Soon after the series finale of Person of Interest, The Washington Post has a story which makes it sound like the ideas behind the show could become reality: How artificial intelligence could help warn us of another Dallas.

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SciFi Weekend: Steven Moffat Leaving Doctor Who; Jessica Jones; Legends of Tomorrow; Charlotte Rampling On The Academy Awards

Moffat TARDIS

Steven Moffat is stepping down as show runner of Doctor Who after the upcoming tenth season (since the show’s revival) and Chris Chinball, best known for Broadchurch, will be taking over. Chinball is a long time fan of Doctor Who and also wrote these episodes: 42, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Power of Three. He was also a producer and writer on Torchwood.

The tenth season of Doctor Who will not air until the spring of 2017, and the only episode to air in 2016 will be the annual Christmas special. I wonder if Moffat will introduce the next companion in the special or wait until the show returns on a regular schedule in 2017.

After Broadchurch, I also cannot help but wonder if, should David Tennant return for an episode of the show, if Chinball will have him talk in an often incomprehensible accent.

Following is the BBC press release:

BBC announces Steven Moffat’s next series of Doctor Who will be his last and confirms Chris Chibnall as new Head Writer and Executive Producer.

After six incredible series at the helm, the multi-award winning Steven Moffat has decided to step down as the lead writer and executive producer of Doctor Who.

Steven took over the reins on Series 5 in 2010 and during his tenure the show has become a truly global success. He has been responsible for introducing the Eleventh and the Twelfth Doctors in Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi; as well as two companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) and iconic characters and monsters including River Song (Alex Kingston), Missy (Michelle Gomez), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and the terrifying Weeping Angels. Plus, the smash hit 50th Anniversary special in 2013 which saw fans around the world celebrate the world’s longest running sci-fi series with the Doctors, Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt battling the deadly Daleks in a feature length episode. Steven’s final series will air on BBC One in Spring 2017 and there will be a Christmas Special in 2016.

Steven Moffat says: “Feels odd to be talking about leaving when I’m just starting work on the scripts for season 10, but the fact is my timey-wimey is running out. While Chris is doing his last run of Broadchurch, I’ll be finishing up on the best job in the universe and keeping the TARDIS warm for him. It took a lot of gin and tonic to talk him into this, but I am beyond delighted that one of the true stars of British Television drama will be taking the Time Lord even further into the future. At the start of season 11, Chris Chibnall will become the new showrunner of Doctor Who. And I will be thrown in a skip.”

Like Steven, Chris Chibnall is also a lifelong Doctor Who fan and a multi-award winning writer and executive producer. He has most recently achieved huge success with the triple BAFTA winning hit ITV series Broadchurch. His other credits include BAFTA nominated The Great Train Robbery, United, Law & Order: UK, Life on Mars and Torchwood. Chris Chibnall’s debut series will launch in 2018.

Chris Chibnall, new Head Writer and Executive Producer : “Doctor Who is the ultimate BBC programme: bold, unique, vastly entertaining, and adored all around the world. So it’s a privilege and a joy to be the next curator of this funny, scary and emotional family drama. I’ve loved Doctor Who since I was four years old, and I’m relishing the thought of working with the exceptional team at BBC Wales to create new characters, creatures and worlds for the Doctor to explore. Steven’s achieved the impossible by continually expanding Doctor Who’s creative ambition, while growing its global popularity. He’s been a dazzling and daring showrunner, and hearing his plans and stories for 2017, it’s clear he’ll be going out with a bang. Just to make my life difficult.”

Charlotte Moore, Controller, BBC One says : “I want to thank Steven Moffat for everything he has given Doctor Who – I’ve loved working with him, he is an absolute genius and has brought fans all over the world such joy. I will be very sad to see him leave the show but I can’t wait to see what he will deliver in his last ever series next year with a brand new companion. I have decided to schedule Steven’s big finale series in Spring 2017 to bring the nation together for what will be a huge event on the channel. 2016 is spoilt with national moments including the Euros and Olympics and I want to hold something big back for 2017 – I promise it will be worth the wait! I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Chris Chibnall, a wonderfully talented writer who I know will bring something very special to the hit series.”

Polly Hill, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning says : “Like Charlotte I would like to thank Steven for his brilliance, which has made Doctor Who a global hit under his tenure. Chris Chibnall is the perfect successor to take over the reins of this incredible show, so I am delighted that his love for Doctor Who has made it impossible for him to resist! Chris is an incredible writer and his vision and passion for Doctor Who gives it an exciting future and promises to be a real treat for Doctor Who fans across the world.”

AKA Jessica Jones

Variety discussed plans for season two of Jessica Jones with show runner Melissa Rosenberg and star Krysten Ritter:

Rosenberg shared that she doesn’t know when work on the new season will start, or whether she’ll be collaborating with writers from any of the other Marvel-Netflix series (“Daredevil,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist”) leading up to “The Defenders” crossover, but said that she intends to continue utilizing story ideas from Brian Michael Bendis’ series of “Alias” comics, where Jessica Jones debuted.

“I will always use as much as I possibly can from the comic book,” Rosenberg said, noting that they’ll have to allow for deviations given the differences in the mythology between the Marvel comics and ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe. “The MCU is very different in terms of its mythology. In the books, everyone knows superheroes are walking around, there’s a lot of things building toward Secret Wars. We’re probably not going to be able to do a totally parallel storylines. But I take every little piece I can because it’s so good.”

While Rosenberg admitted that it was both intimidating and exciting to think of having to come up with a villain to follow Kilgrave, she didn’t consider keeping him around past season one, since “the show is about Jessica Jones; the story is about Jessica’s arc,” and thus everything had to be in service to her journey.

When asked about Jessica’s mental state at the end of the season, given her final defeat of Kilgrave, star Krysten Ritter said, “For Jessica, that final moment, that victorious triumphant moment, I found that very conflicting in terms of her headspace. He’s the reason why she got up every day. He’s the reason why she went out in the world… it really gave her a purpose, and the past trauma doesn’t go away with his death.”

Arthur Darvill Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow premiered this week and we found that there was some misdirection in both what the characters were told when recruited and in the trailers for the show. This might be for the better. If they really were already known to become legends, it would imply that they were successful and this was future history. The outcome of their mission would already be known. Of course with time travel a lot of questions can come up. For example, why not go after Vandal Savage when he was reduced to dust at the end of the Arrow/Flash episode and prevent him from being revived?

I suspect that this will turn out to be the sort of show which can be a lot of fun to watch as long as you don’t think too much about the time travel implications. It even has Rory (Arthur Darvill) as sort of a renegade Time Lord. Screen Rant has a list of additional Easter eggs.

KUDOS FILM AND TELEVISION PRESENTS BROADCHURCH SERIES 2 Images are under strict Embargo not to be used before the 18th December. PICTURED : CHARLOTTE RAMPLING as Jocelyn Knight. Copyright ITV/Kudos.

Charlote Rampling, who appeared with David Tennant and Arthur Darvill in Broadchurch, has addressed the controversy over lack of diversity in the Academy Award nominees. Rampling had initially spoken about boycotting the awards, but has backed away from this:

In an interview with Europe 1 Radio earlier this week, Rampling said calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards because all of the nominees were white “was racist to white people.”

Today Rampling told CBS News’ “Sunday Morning”:

“I regret that my comments could have been misinterpreted this week in my interview with Europe 1 Radio. I simply meant to say that in an ideal world every performance will be given equal opportunities for consideration. I am very honored to be included in this year’s wonderful group of nominated actors and actresses.”

Rampling also said:

“Diversity in our industry is an important issue that needs to be addressed. I am highly encouraged by the changes announced today by the Academy to diversify its membership.”

SciFi Weekend: Star Wars, The Force Awakens; Doctor Who, The Husbands of River Song

Star Wars Force Awkens Rey BB-8

The Force Awakens was the sequel to Star Wars we were looking for after the original trilogy. While J.J. Abrams has never understood Star Trek, he is a perfect fit for a franchise such as Star Wars which centers more on action and mythology than the type of ideas which characterize Star Trek when done well.  Rather than rejecting parts of of the original as with Star Trek, J.J. Abrams made a sequel to Star Wars which was a true homage to Star Wars: A New Hope. The movie has many parallels to the original, but does introduce a new generation of characters and mix things up enough to keep it fresh.  It avoided the mistakes of the second trilogy. There was no Jar Jar Banks, and it presented a cuter version of R2-D2 for a new generation. This review contains major spoilers, along with looking at some of the questions left unanswered in the movie.

In many ways, The Force Awakens was a retelling of the original story for a new generation. Both The Force Awakens and A New Hope have much of the early action on a desert planet with a droid carrying important information playing a major part. Therefore it did not came as a surprise that the escape was on The Millennium Falcon. Having it sitting there unused for years but all fueled up and ready to fly is just one of many plot holes which are easily ignored. Nor was it a surprise that Han Solo showed up. Many of the scenes on The Millennium Falcon felt quite familiar. Rather than repeating one classic scene, Harrison Ford did provide another reference to the original when asking about a garage chute.

The biggest surprise of the movie was that Rey turned out to be the character with the Force. We saw this when Rey found Luke’s lightsaber at Maz’s watering hole (reminiscent of the Cantina scene), with no explanation of why it was there. The producers did an excellent job of keeping this secret, such as showing the rare scenes in which Finn held the lightsaber in previews and posters.The experience would have been quite different if the previews showed the battle between Rey and Kylo Ren, or showed Rey holding out the lightsaber for Luke at the end.

Once we learned that Rey was really the main character with the Force, her path in the movie became clear. She would fight the movie’s villain, be tempted by and resist the dark side, and ultimately find Luke–after this movie’s version of the Death Star was destroyed (including flights through the trenches).

Once we saw the bridge in this part of the universe where hand rails have never been invented, it was also obvious that Han Solo would reprise Obi Wan Kenobe’s death scene. J.J. Abrams explained that this was also done to establish how evil  Kylo Ren was so that he could be at the level of a Darth Vader. Of course moments later in the movie R2-D2 woke up, so that viewers wouldn’t be sad for too long.

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The movie introduced other characters. One of the new characters, Poe, was intended to die but instead he turned up later in the movie. This isn’t the first time that Abrams planned to kill a character who seemed like a major character and later changed his mind. The original plan was to for Jack to be killed on Lost. While it might have been a surprise to see him later in the movie, most genre fans know that if you don’t see the body, the character most likely isn’t dead. I would have preferred it if there were brief scenes of Poe surviving but getting separated, and showing how he escaped from the planet.

Abrams also repeated an error he made in Star Trek in ignoring how big space is. The Enterprise seemed to travel from Vulcan to Earth in minutes, and in the alternate universe it is possible to beam by transwarp onto a starship traveling at many times the speed of light. The hyperlight weapon in The Force Awakens seems implausible, undoubtedly as a result of a desire to have a weapon even more powerful that the Death Star. The weapon was capable of destroying four distant planets as if they were nearby, with the four planets also appearing to be very close to each other.

The politics of the movie was also puzzling. It looked like we had a civil war between the Republic and the First Order. If that was the case, why weren’t the forces under Leia’s command the military for the Republic, as opposed to a rebel group? While I’ve seen explanations on line such as a peace treaty between the Republic and the First Order which made it necessary for the Republic to hide their actions against the First Order, the meta reason is most likely to be reminiscent of the rebel forces in the original trilogy. I suspect that having had its capital and a few other planets destroyed, we won’t see much more of the Republic, except possibly at the conclusion.

If a big moment in the second movie of the first trilogy was Darth Vader telling Luke that he was his father, I wonder if the second movie of this trilogy will be Luke saying the same to Rey. While I think that this is the most likely reason for Rey having the force, there are other possibilities. Maybe Leia is her mother, making Ren her brother, but this would require an explanation for Leia giving no indication of knowing about a daughter. Possibly Rey is descended from Obi Wan Kenobe. This could also explain the connection with the lightsabre as Luke’s lightsaber previously belonged to Obi Wan.

Another theory is that Ren’s parents are not from the characters we know. In The Empire Strikes Back, after Luke completed his training under Yoda, Obi Wan said , “This boy is our last hope.” Yoda replied, “No, there is another.” It was assumed he was referring to Leia, but she was never trained in the Force. Perhaps Yoda was referring to someone else that we do not yet know about.

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There are many other questions raised, some of which will probably be answered in subsequent movies. Others might be plot holes which there is no good reason for, but the movie was so much fun that most viewers won’t care. Some elements of the movie were taken from plot points in the expanded universe which was invented after the movies, which should give fans a lot to speculate on. The novelization for The Force Awakens also fills in some points.

The Daily Dot listed ten things learned from the novelization. Among the most interesting are the description of Kylo Ren’s feelings about killing his father:

In the movie, it isn’t clear what’s going through Kylo’s mind after he stabs his father through the chest with his lightsaber. The scene quickly shifts gears, and Kylo, wounded by a shot from an enraged Chewbacca, snarls up at Finn and Rey from a crouched position before the two heroes flee.

In the novelization, Kylo feels “stunned by his own action.”

“Following through on the act,” the narration says, “ought to have made him stronger, a part of him believed. Instead, he found himself weakened.”

Foster wrote the novelization based on a version of the script that later underwent significant revisions. It’s possible that the discrepancy between page and screen here is not a casual inconsistency but a deliberate choice—that J.J. Abrams and company didn’t want to suggest that Kylo felt conflicted after the fact. Of course, given how difficult it is to visually convey an internal monologue, it’s also possible that this moment wasn’t so much deliberate struck as overlooked for simplicity’s sake.

Rey’s battle with the dark side was more obvious in the novelization than the movie:

Rey’s triumph over Kylo in their lightsaber duel is widely considered one of the film’s greatest moments. But what you don’t fully see on-screen is that, standing over a defeated Kylo, Rey faces a final challenge. The novelization portrays it thusly:

Kill him, a voice inside her head said. It was amorphous, unidentifiable, raw. Pure vengeful emotion. So easy, she told herself. So quick.
Instead of killing Kylo, Rey “recoil[s]” from the feeling, which the narration describes as the pull of the dark side.

This is a very significant moment. Every Force-strong Star Wars hero faces this kind of challenge. When the narration refers to “pure vengeful emotion,” it’s important to remember that part of what drove Rey was seeing Kylo brutally defeat her new friend Finn. She had just seen Kylo deal Finn what might have been a killing blow. She was no doubt furious in that moment—the perfect target for the lure of the dark side.

This is, in essence, the dark side’s modus operandi. It’s how Anakin Skywalker began his fall in Attack of the Clones, when he slaughtered a village full of Tusken Raiders after they kidnapped his mother, who died in his arms.

But Rey, like Luke, is stronger than Anakin. She resists the urge to deliver her own killing blow. In the movie, a chasm quickly opens up between her and her vanquished foe, appearing to foreclose the possibility of her killing him. In the novelization, she makes her choice before that happens. She runs to Finn, to her friend, instead of yielding to her rage. In refusing the dark side, she has just taken the biggest step of her life.

I will be looking forward to seeing where they go with the next installment. It might be difficult to top the Starkiller base, and I hope they are not tempted to come up with a more implausible threat.  The answer might be to concentrate more on the characters now that The Force Awakens has made them important to the viewers. Will Luke have a more significant role? Presumably we will learn more about Ren’s back story, and possibly more about Snoke, assuming he remains a factor.

Doctor Who Husbands of River Song

Christmas also meant the annual specials from British television. This year’s specials included Doctor Who, Call the Midwife, and Downton Abbey. The Downton Abbey special was also the series finale, and therefore I will not give any spoilers for those who are waiting for the US showing of the final season. I wills say that they ended the series quite well.

The Doctor Who Christmas Special, the Husbands of River Song, was a very fun episode. The actual story hardly mattered. What was important was that it set up the situation where the Doctor met River Song with a different face that she knew, with River not recognizing the Doctor at first. This provided the Doctor a chance to act like those who see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time, and Peter Capaldi really hammed it up:

River: Oh, before you come in, you’d better prepare yourself for a shock. It’s not as… snug as it looks.
The Doctor:Finally… It’s my go. Oh… my… God! It’s bigger!

River: Well, yes.

The Doctor: On the inside!
River: We need to concentrate.
The Doctor: Than it is!
River: I know where you’re going with this, but I need you to calm down.
The Doctor: On the outside!
River: You’ve certainly grasped the essentials.
The Doctor: My entire understanding of physical space has been transformed! Three-dimensional Euclidean geometry has been torn up, thrown in the air and snogged to death! My grasp of the universal constants of physical reality has been changed… forever. Sorry. I’ve always wanted to see that done properly.
River: Would you like a drink? Aldebaran brandy. Help yourself, but don’t tell Dad.
This also allowed River to describe her relationship with the Doctor, more than once. First, someone looking for the Doctor questioned River, having identified her as “the woman who loves the Doctor.”
River: Yes, I am. I’ve never denied it. But whoever said he loved me back? He’s the Doctor, he doesn’t go around falling in love with people. And if you think he’s anything that small or that ordinary, then you haven’t the first idea of what you’re dealing with.
Doctor Who Husbands of River Song2
River discussed their relationship once again, when they were in danger, just before the Doctor revealed his identity:
River: When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!
The Doctor: Hello, sweetie.
Another of my favorite exchanges between the two when in danger:
River: Does sarcasm help?
The Doctor: Wouldn’t it be a great universe if it did?
The dangers in this episode were handled, but we know there are other dangers ahead for River Song. She had a feeling for this when she saw how little room was left in her diary and noted, “The man who gave me this was the sort of man who would know exactly how long a diary you were going to need.”

The Singing Towers of Darillium was established as the location for their last night together when in 2008 in Forest of the Dead. However things were not as bad as they looked, even if this is truly their last night together before River met a younger Doctor in the library:

River: So… assuming tonight is all we have left…
The Doctor: I didn’t say that.
River: .. how long… is a night on Darillium?
The Doctor: 24 years.
River: ( gasps ) I hate you.
The Doctor: No, you don’t.

Doctor Who Extra videos can be seen here.

SciFi Weekend: Valentine’s Day and Girls SciFi Geeks Love (About Time; Karen Gillan; Scarlett Johansson; Arrow; Almost Human)

SciFi Weekend is a weekly feature at Liberal Values, and is now being cross posted at The Moderate Voice. To introduce the feature to new readers, every week  this post generally deals with Science Fiction along with other topics. Sometimes, like last week, it is about a single topic (Sherlock Season 3). More often a variety of topics are discussed, typically starting with science fiction and genre television, but often including other topics in pop culture. Some weeks there is a theme. The theme this week is Valentine’s Day and Girls SciFi Geeks Love. Beware that there are frequently spoilers, especially for television shows which have aired in the United States. I do frequently leave out some details or only refer to them obliquely to limit this, and try to warn about spoilers when discussing movies or shows which have not aired yet in the U.S.

About TIme

This year we had not one but two major movies combining science fiction and romantic comedy. As I had already watched and blogged about Her, this left About Time to watch with my wife after we returned from dinner last night. About Time uses time travel much more like Groundhog Day than Doctor Who, except unlike Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, the protagonist of About Time can control which portions of his life he relives. The review does include spoilers.

On his twenty-first birthday Tim (Domhnall Gleeson)was told by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in his family all have the ability to travel in time. There are limitations. You can only go back and revisit portions of your own life. As his father put it, you can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy. Tim asked about the butterfly effect and his father told him he hadn’t run into it. To add some drama later in the movie, it turns out he wasn’t entirely correct here.

There are other limitations, including one standing in the way of Tim’s number one interest, getting a girlfriend. You can’t make someone love you. He failed in his first attempt with a girl spending the summer with his sister. He did later manage to meet Mary (Rachel McAdams) but the meeting was erased from time when he went back in time to help out a crabby playwright who he was briefly living with. There was no butterfly effect which destroyed civilization as we know it, but it is possible to change one’s past. It should surprise nobody that he did manage to meet Mary again, but had to go back in time to dispense with the boyfriend she met because of not meeting Tim.

From there time travel continued to come in handy. No more awkward first times in bed when for Tim it became the second and then third time after going back in time. It wasn’t even necessary to keep his first awkward attempts at removing Mary’s bra or meeting her parents. Minor mistakes later in their life, such as choosing the wrong best man, were also easily fixed.

Some problems were not so easily fixed. Tim found a serious problem in going too far back in time to help reverse a poor decision made by his sister, Kit Kat. Fortunately for Tim, his mistake was easily reversed, but he had to find another way to help his sister. Tim learned that time travel cannot fix all problems. Sometimes something terrible in life must occur to get people to change. If he was truly trying to help Kit Kat, he might have also bought her a comb.

The relationship between Tim and his father became as important to the movie as the relationship between Tim and Mary, even leading the two to once again break the rules, but this time with no dire consequences. Over time, Tim preferred a simpler form of time travel, moving forward in time day to day and fully appreciating every day. “The truth is, now I don’t travel back at all, not even for the day. I just try to live everyday as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day. To enjoy it. As if it was the full final day. Of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” About Time is far from a hard science fiction look at time travel, but it was an enjoyable movie.

Karen Gillan’s romantic comedy, Not Another Happy Ending, is being released in the U.K. on DVD this week but there are no current plans for a U.S. release. Trailer above.  Iain De Caestecker of Agents of SHIELD (Fitz) is also in the movie. The actress who formerly played Amy Pond does not do any time traveling during the movie, but she does write and bake in the nude (more of that scene here). Update: Not Another Happy Ending will be shown at the Cleveland International Film Festival on March 19.

Scarlett Johansson is becoming the go to girl for sexy female leads when she is not in The Avengers movies. When they needed an actress to make it seem realistic for a voice alone to seduce the male lead, it was Scarlett Johansson’s voice used in Her. She is also the female lead in Under The Skin, playing an alien female who seduces men for sexual experimentation. Trailer above. It reminds me a bit of an early episode of Torchwood, back before the show got to be too big and they messed it up.

Doctor Who Both Hearts

If you missed buying a card for Valentine’s Day you might have to use Tim’s trick from About Time to go back and fix that. Or you can go back in your TARDIS, perhaps to use one of these cards.  For the last four years I have posted Doctor Who Valentine’s Day cards, with the latest set posted here.  Cards from 2013 can be seen here. Older ones also available from  2012 and 2011.

Heir to the Demon

I had not initially watched Arrow during its first season believing it would just be more CW fluff with attractive people in glitzy backdrops. At times it is, but as I later found out, it is far more. With a rich playboy crime fighter, and now the League of Assassins, in many ways it is one of the best live action adaptations of Batman ever made. Plus there are flashbacks to an island which might remind viewers of Lost. Still, it is on CW, so there is plenty of romance and love triangles in this superhero soap opera.

Before going on a brief hiatus for the Olympics, Arrow looked back at the triangle Oliver had with Sara and Laurel Lance, but things became even more complicated. In Heir to the Demon, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter managed to incapacitate airport security agents without any of the publicity and follow through which such an event would generate in our world. Her mission was to return Sara to the League of Assassins or to kill her, but it became clear that her mission would be more complicated when the two kissed upon first seeing each other. A discussion with the show’s producer over this turn of events can be read here:

With the introduction of Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) — Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter — hunting down Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) to bring her back to the League of Assassins, the stakes would have been high enough. But the show added another, more emotional level to Nyssa’s journey: She was Sara’s ex and wanted to win her heart again.

Of course, Nyssa ended up releasing Sara from her duty to the League when it became clear Sara would rather die than leave her family again. But watching Nyssa deal with the pain of that revelation was what made her one of the series’ best villains so far — a fact with which executive producer Andrew Kreisberg wholeheartedly agrees.

“It’s been pointed out that sometimes our villains get short shrift and we don’t always do right by the villains,” Kreisberg tells Zap2it and a handful of other reporters. “We just don’t have enough time for them because our show is just so dense. We’ve gotten away with casting really cool people in the parts and asking our audience to just fill in the rest.”

Kreisberg and fellow showrunner Marc Guggenheim are glad that they were able to give Nyssa enough of a backstory to make her a sympathetic villain. “I actually feel bad for her. She really does seem like this broken-hearted person who got the shaft,” Kreisberg says. “She has the advantage of having an emotional and personal tie to one of our characters. She goes on a complete journey from start to end as opposed to someone who just wants to rob a bank.”

Guggenheim is quick to point out, however, that “Arrow” can’t have every villain be like that. “If every episode had a Nyssa, and didn’t have let’s say a Clock King, when the Nyssas of the world showed up it wouldn’t have any import,” Guggenheim says. “It would lack the weight that this kind of episode has. Because some episodes, yes, it’s just a guy bombing the city, but there’s other stuff in that episode that makes it worthwhile and worth watching. If everything becomes special, then nothing becomes special.”

Law was excited to portray Nyssa, but she wasn’t expecting her to have such a rich history with Sara. “I was surprised that I was going to be a lesbian,” Law says with a laugh. “When we did the chemistry read, I wasn’t quite understanding why I was [with Lotz].”

According to Kreisberg and Guggenheim, the decision to make Nyssa a lesbian came from the idea of what it could do for Sara. “We thought of this at the beginning of the season,” Kreisberg says. “If you watch [episode] 205 there’s a reference to ‘the beloved,’ and ‘You think that’s going to keep you safe.’ We talked about, ‘Well, does Ra’s al Ghul have a son?’ And then we were like, ‘Well, can it be Talia?'”

Since Talia al Ghul was portrayed recently in “The Dark Knight Rises,” the writers decided to go with the lesser-known story of Nyssa al Ghul.

“It just felt like something new and different,” Kreisberg says. “At the same time, we didn’t do it to be salacious, because it’s a pretty chaste relationship from what you see onscreen. It just touched on a couple interesting things, like the idea that Sara found one person who treated her with love and kindness. And then for Lance to be this hardened, tough cop and probably not the most progressive guy, even he was just like, ‘I’m glad you had someone who loved you and took care of you during those nightmare years.'”

Nyssa wasn’t the only one getting action with Sara in the episode though, as it ended with her and Oliver (Stephen Amell) hooking up in the Arrow lair.

“We were anxious to have in the same episode where we reveal that Sara had had this lesbian relationship, she was also sleeping with Oliver again,” Guggenheim says. “We wanted to be sensitive and realistic. We specifically avoid using the term ‘bisexual’ because we didn’t want to label her at all. Let her be her own person, and if the audience wants to label, fine. We didn’t want to do something just to shock

Before this was all resolved, Nyssa kidnapped Sara and Laurel’s mother, played by Alex Kingston. I had half expected the Doctor to save River Song. It now appears that Amy Pond is the Black Canary’s grandmother. There is yet another triangle, as Sara joined Team Arrow and Felicity can wonder once again about what was going on over on that island between Oliver and all those women.

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During most of the first season, Almost Human‘s best moments were its humor and the buddy cop relationship between the two male leads (one being an android). Unfortunately the last two episodes before its Olympic hiatus lacked the humor of previous episodes, but both episodes (Unbound and Perception) did more to flesh out the world the show takes place in. Perception returned to the events of the pilot and the relationship between Kennex and his probably-evil ex-girlfriend. Now that we now she is still tracking Kennex, there is the increased likelihood this will be used to find her and shed more light on what happened.

The episode also expanded upon the back story of Stahl, who turns out to be a genetically enhanced Chrome. Minka Kelley seemed almost too perfect on Friday Night Lights. She seems more plausible on Almost Human as being more than human, a character whose intelligence and beauty are the product of genetic enhancement.

Amelia Clarke of Game of Thrones was voted the Most Desirable Woman by Ask Men magazine. Alison Brie of Community and Mad Men came in second, with many other women in genre roles also on the  list.

continuum02

Two recent Canadian science fiction shows feature strong female leads. Syfy has announced that  Continuum, staring Rachel Nichols will return in the United States on April 4. Unfortunately this is after it returns on Showcase in Canada on March 16, making it harder to cover on line as I will definitely get a hold of each episode as soon as possible rather than waiting for it to air on Syfy.

Tatiana Maslany does an amazing job playing multiple roles on Orphan Black. Maria Doyle Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly that season two is like season one on crack:

That was just one of the tidbits Kennedy dropped when she stopped by Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) to chat about the show as well as her music career. Another tidbit? Looks like we can expect more Mrs. S in season 2. “You’re going to see more of her,” says Kennedy. “I had a great time in season 1 and there were some great scenes, but there was also a lot of hovering. They just really liked me so wrote me more this time, so that’s great.”

But on which side will Mrs. S. land in the war between Sarah and Rachel (both played by Tatiana Maslany)? Kennedy says her character’s ultimate objective is protecting Sarah’s daughter, Kira, whose whereabouts are currently unknown. “In the war between Rachel and Sarah and the whole idea about the clones trying to find out about themselves, she keeps going through that and beyond it and goes, ‘Where does Kira land in all this? What’s happening with her? How safe is she? Are they close to her? Can they get her?’”

Okay, but we still don’t quite know where Mrs. S stands and her connection to the clone conspiracy. Is she good, bad, or somewhere in between? “She is an incredibly pragmatic woman with a strong moral compass,” says Kennedy. “That’s how I feel about her. She has definitely done bad things in the past. She came through an era of protest and squatting, so she’s not afraid to be anarchic or against the law, but she always has a strong proper reason for doing what she does.”

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover 2014

Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge, and Chrissy Teigen appear on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Three girls would normally mean six bikini pieces, but apparently that would have put them above budget, forcing the models to pose topless. The theme is The Past, The Present and The Future. Is this another time travel magazine?

SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Magical Tahiti; Star Wars; Mad Man Return Date; Hannibal; Doctor Who; Sherlock; Gone Girl

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Orphan Black was one of the best new shows of last season, along with being one of the best genre shows of recent years. It returns to BBC America on April 19, with the producers having a three-season master plan outlined. There is additional news on the second season of Orphan Black here and here (minor spoilers):

– More boundary-breaking. “We are going to take some risks with our premise in the second season and we are going to push technically what we’ve done with the first season and our actors are really pushing the limits as well,” says Manson. Jordan Gavaris, who play’s Sarah’s BFF/foster brother Felix, prefers when he’s outside of his comfort zone. “It’s not a good thing if you get complacent, when you get comfortable and everything’s easy,” he says. “There should be that discomfort because that pushes you to take the risks to keep it interesting, to keep people engaged — and we’re scared!”

– Plot-wise, Sarah is frantically searching for Kira. The very first scene, which was screened for critics, takes place immediately after she discovers her daughter and Mrs. S. are missing. She frantically calls Felix and Paul, whose phones go to voicemail, but Paul calls back — except Rachel’s on the other end telling her to surrender herself. Naturally, Sarah hangs up, but then two menacing henchmen walk into the diner where she’s taken refuge from the rain and menacingly offer to take her to Kira. What happens next? Well, you’ll have to wait and see!

– Cosima is struggling with her mysterious respiratory disease. “Cosima to me has always been the one who’s the most fascinated with life, so it’s interesting for her to be facing her mortality and that’s really what we start to explore in Season 2,” Maslany says. Adds Manson, “It’s hard because she’s my favorite clone. We’re putting her in this really heartbreaking position, and yet she’s almost as brave as Sarah in a lot of ways. Narratively, examining her illness and looking into her own science is part of our mystery. She performs a really great story function in the second season as well, trying to get to the root of her own illness.”

– Ainsley’s death will continue to weigh on Alison. “Alison is an intense person to begin with, and the secret she’s keeping is really going to eat at her in an interesting way,” Manson says. “Alison’s got some explosions coming up.”

– Felix’s character will be fleshed out. “In Season 1 Felix was very much an integral cog in the mystery… and now I think what Season 2 helps to do is establish him outside of the clones as an individual with his own identity,” says Gavaris. “He has gone along and been that person who picks up the phone at 3 in the morning and I think it’s safe to say that the relationship with Sarah comes to a head and there’s a tough decision that’s going to be made — many tough decisions that are going to be made — and it’s not going to be easy.” While his relationship with Sarah might be tested, he will grow closer to some of the other clones.

Michelle Forbes has also been cast to appear in multiple episodes. According to TV Line, “Forbes will play Marian Bowles, a powerful new player at the Dyad Institute with a birds-eye view on the war between Sarah and Rachel.” Forbes has appeared in multiple genre shows including Star Trek: The Next Generation and Battlestar Galactica.

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Agents of SHIELD revealed some information about Agent Coulson returning from the dead. Apparently it involved a series of painful surgeries, with false memories of Magical Tahiti implanted to replace these memories. There was no real explanation as to how this managed to bring him back from the dead. I’m not sure if this is it and we are just to assume advanced medical procedures at SHIELD could accomplish this or if more is to come. At least this does eliminate some of the theories floating around, such as a room full of Coulson androids.

Agent Coulson is far from the only genre character to return from the dead. No surprise that Peter Parker is returning to the Spider-Man comics after having died last year with Dr. Octopus taking over his body.

Back when the Star Wars saga ended chronologically after the original trilogy, it didn’t matter much if different writers carried the story onward in different ways. Now that Disney is continuing the movies, it would seem to be an insurmountable job to try to maintain consistency. They did what was probably the only sensible option and have decided that the expanded universe is not canon. As I have not read any of the novels, I can’t say first hand, but I’ve also read comments that this is good because almost all of it was crap.

Among the various casting rumors regarding the next Star Wars movie, Jesse Plemons of Friday Night Lights and Breaking Bad is reportedly being considered for a lead role. If he is to play an evil role, his time on Breaking Bad will make it easier to see him as a villain.

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Speaking of Disney, I hear that Saving Mr. Banks is an entertaining movie (and plan to see it in the future) but am not surprised to read that it got a lot of the facts wrong.

AMC has announced that the seventh season of Mad Men will begin April 13. While officially the last season, the season will actually be broken into two parts like Breaking Bad. Why don’t they just call these series of shows aired about a year apart separate seasons? Regardless, it will be interesting to see where they go after Don Draper was fired for the bizarre behavior we have grown to sort-of love over the last several years. AMC also announced that Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad spin-off, will begin next November.

Screen Crush speculates on which characters might appear in season two of Hannibal based upon the book series.

Capaldi First Image

Filming has begun with Peter Capaldi playing the Doctor. Doctor Who will return in August. Current plans are for the next two seasons to be a single run (not counting the Christmas specials) as opposed to breaking them in half. Steven Moffat described Peter Capaldi’s Doctor as being more dangerous:

There would be little point in making as radical a change as we’ve made unless you’re going to go quite different with the Doctor. The last two Doctors have been brilliant, and have been your ‘good boyfriend’ Doctors. But the Doctor isn’t always like that. There is the sort of Tom Baker, Christopher Eccleston end of the spectrum, where he is mad and dangerous and difficult.

It remains open as to whether River Song will return:

It’s always down to whether there’s a good story. My immediate instinct was that story’s probably done. Not that we saw all of it, but I never thought we should see all of it. I’m slightly tempted, because I imagine Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would be absolutely hilarious together…”

He adds: “She could certainly have met other Doctors. So there’s nothing stopping us… But is there anything new we can do? Or is the new thing that Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would be very sexy together? Is that enough? We’ve always had fun with the fact that they don’t look like a couple.”

“Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would look like a couple – that’s the thing. Whereas I thought Matt and Alex were gorgeous together, but it looked slightly strange, because he was so much younger. Alex is just great fun to have on the show. It’s when you want to throw the Doctor a bit, because what River does so well is to make him a bit on the back foot and a bit flustered.”

Moffat also answered questions about a crossover with Sherlock, being non-committal and saying “nothing is impossible.” The final episode of the third season of Sherlock aired tonight but Steven Moffat also says that the fourth and fifth seasons have already been plotted out. I will hold off on discussion of the the third season episodes as they have not yet been shown in the United States. A spoiler-free review of tonight’s episode, The Last Vow, can be found here. I plan to watch a download later tonight. From what I here so far, it is a more conventional mystery after last week’s episode, and I suspect will receive a better reception.

John Simm will star in a new BBC America paranormal drama series, Intruder. He previously stared in the BBC version of Life on Mars and has played The Master on Doctor Who.

Starz has released a trailer for Ron Moore’s series Outlander–video above.

Starz has also announced that Da Vinci’s Demons will return on March 22. Like Saving Mr. Banks, Da Vinci’s Demons is a fictionalized account of a real person. It is probably better enjoyed as an entirely fictional show and ignoring the use of real names or events.

There has been a lot of talk about Gillian Flynn making major changes in the movie adaptation of Gone Girl. I think that this was inevitable, both because of the different structure needed to tell a story in a movie as opposed to a book where the readers were being deceived, and to give people who read the book more reasons to see the movie. Some of stories dealt with a change to the ending. However readers of the book are quite aware that the crucial point was midway through the book with the specifics of the ending being far less important. I can easily see a more satisfactory ending being written without changing the essential story.

SciFi Weekend: Raggedy Man Goodnight–The Time of the Doctor

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The Time of the Doctor tried to do many things at once: be a Christmas episode, be an action story, tie up questions from the Matt Smith era, be a regeneration story, and be an homage to the Matt Smith era. It succeeded or failed to various degrees in each, but in the end managed to do enough to be a memorable chapter in Doctor Who, especially as a proper way to end the story of the eleventh Doctor.

After recent Christmas episodes which were more clearly based upon Christmas stories or themes, The Time of the Doctor resorted to naming the town where the Doctor spent centuries Christmas, along with brief scenes of Christmas dinner at Clara’s home. There were far too many other things to accomplish to get bogged down with a true Christmas story, but this sure gave a new meaning to the War on Christmas.

Sometimes if felt like he has been making new interpretations up as he went along, but Steven Moffat did try to tie up loose ends from not only the Matt Smith years but, in dealing with the Time Lords and the regeneration limit, the entire series. He handled the regeneration limit well, explaining the situation for those who have not already read about it on the blogs and without dwelling on it too long for those who have already heard the discussion. Matt Smith quickly explained to Clara that he was on his last regeneration once you counted the John Hurt Doctor:

CLARA: “But you don’t die. You change – you pop right back with a new face.”
THE DOCTOR: “Not forever. I can change 12 times. 13 versions of me. 13 silly Doctors.”
CLARA: “But you’re number eleven, so -”
THE DOCTOR: “Are we forgetting Captain Grumpy? I didn’t call myself the Doctor during the Time War, but it was still a regeneration.”

Explaining yet another previously uncounted regeneration, the Doctor pointed out that “Number Ten once regenerated and kept the same face – I had vanity issues at the time.”. Of course we knew that somehow he would not die at Tranzalor any more than he died at Lake Silencio, but instead would regenerate despite the previously established and easily broken regeneration limit.

Before nearly dying of old age, the Doctor spent over 300 years on Tranzalor fighting the Daleks and others at a standoff. Several other enemies were also thrown in, often quickly. The Weeping Angels were present only to briefly grab Clara’s ankle (without sending her back in time). The Cybermen had a cameo, with far more memorable scenes from Handles, a severed Cyberman head who chronologically  became the companion to spend the most time with the Doctor and was reminiscent of K-9. These cameos would have been pointless, and even distracting, in a normal story, but were present as part of the homage to the many events of the Matt Smith years.

After frequently throwing out the question, Doctor Who? into many stories, Moffat made the answer a key point of this story. Unfortunately the explanation makes little sense once you think about it. The Time Lords were hidden in a pocket universe and would not return until the Doctor said his real name. It doesn’t make much sense as to why this would be so important and why the Time Lords would even think that the Doctor would want them to return. Many events during the Matt Smith years have been revealed as being based upon attempts to prevent the Doctor from bringing back the Time Lords. Why would they think that the Doctor would do so after he was the one who made them disappear? Gallifrey was hidden behind the cracks in time which have been present in multiple episodes. Why didn’t the issue of the Doctor’s name or the return of the Time Lords come up around prior cracks.

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I fortunately downloaded the BBC broadcast as I hear that at least one key explanation was cut from the BBC America version for commercials. The Silents were revealed to have been genetically engineered priests. Once someone gave their confession, they would forget about the confession. A cool idea until you question why. The key line which I heard was cut from the US showing was that Madame Kovarian led a renegade offshoot of the Silents from the Papal Mainframe which was dedicated to killing the Doctor as the way to prevent him from speaking his name and allowing the Time Lords to return.

Moffat managed to tie in many previous events into this narrative, including the explosion of the TARDIS. River Song was created as a perfect psychopath to kill the Doctor (but he wound up marrying her instead). The Doctor’s greatest fear behind a door in The God Complex was revealed to be a crack in time. The episode included other references to earlier in this regeneration, such as eating fish fingers and custard before regenerating, as the Doctor did after regenerating from Ten to Eleven. There were also references to earlier regenerations, such as using “reverse the polarity to the neutron flow.” Eleven has now said this more often than the Third Doctor actually did. The Doctor also referred to The Five Doctors with use of the“Seal of the High Council of Gallifrey – nicked it off the Master in the Death Zone.”

Moffat created a memorable new character in Tasha Lem. She seems to have had a romantic history with the Doctor and can even fly the TARDIS. She explained to Clara,”Flying the TARDIS was always easy. It was flying the Doctor I never quite mastered.” Such dialog could easily come from River Song, the only person other than the Doctor who we previously saw fly the TARDIS. The Doctor told Tasha Lem, “You’ve been fighting the psychopath inside you all your life,” reminding us of how River Song was called a psychopath in the same episode. Perhaps the episode was written with thought of including River Song. There has been some speculation that Tasha Lem is yet another manifestation of River Song, possibly taking a new bodily form after leaving the library.

Moffat also has a habit of bringing up themes and then dropping them (but you never know if he will one day return to them). The Doctor faking his death at Lake Silencio had no long term meaning as subsequently everyone still seems aware that he is alive. Clara’s wiping of the Dalek memory of the Doctor in Asylum of the Daleks has been forgotten. Moffat played with the meme that the Doctor lies by putting him in a truth field in this episode. This was also forgotten. The Doctor lied to Clara when he said he told her he would not send her away and lied at the end about having a plan.

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Moffat even took advantage of Matt Smith having cut his hair for a movie role. The Doctor hid a spare key to the TARDIS under a wig. The scene only worked because of the knowledge that Matt Smith was actually wearing a wig during the filming of the episode. It also reminded me of when Sam Malone revealed he was wearing a wig on Cheers after word got out that Ted Danson actually wore one.

The episode might have been improved by making it longer than an hour and providing a more sensible conclusion. The Time Lords sat behind the crack and did nothing for years. Then Clara said, “His name is the Doctor. All the name he needs, all you need to know about him. And if you love him… help him.” This was enough to get the Time Lords to act. While questionable, it is at least consistent with the Doctor Who theme of often having the companions perform important actions to save the Doctor.In a way it also resolves the issue of the Doctor’s real name by pointing out that it doesn’t really matter.

The Time Lords gave the Doctor a new regeneration cycle. Previous episodes have established that this is very rare, but not without precedent. It remains to be seen whether twelve more regenerations will be enough to keep the Doctor alive as long as the show continues or if another way will need to be found to grant additional regenerations in the distant future. The regeneration energy was enough to enable the Doctor to easily shoot the Dalek ship out of the sky. If the Time Lord’s possess this much power, it is hard to believe that they were ever seriously threatened by the Daleks during the Time War.

Time has been rewritten and the Doctor did not die on Tranzalor. This would also mean that there is no tomb where Clara was fragmented into multiple copies to save the Doctor from The Great Intelligence. Yet another of those timey wimey paradoxes.

The regeneration was drawn out, enabling Matt Smith to appear yet again as a young man, eating custard. The episode showed growth for the Doctor. Ten didn’t want to go and Eleven hated endings. Finally Eleven was ready and accepted his fate as “times change, and so must I.” As he saw Amelia Pond, the first person he saw as the Eleventh, he said, “I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”

Time of the Doctor Amy Pond

Karen Gillan will always be the companion most closely thought of  with Matt Smith. Like David Tennant visiting Billie Piper for one last time before he regenerated, a vision of Amy Pond got to say to the Doctor, “Raggedy man. Goodnight.” Ironically both Karen Gillan and Matt Smith were wearing wigs in this picture, having cut their hair for movie roles.

Some fans have been disappointed because the regeneration scene did not show a prolonged transformation of the face from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi. I suspect this might have been for budgetary reasons. I thought it was far more symbolic to have Matt Smith remove his bow tie just before changing. Bow ties and fez hats belong to the Eleventh. Others might wear them in his honor, but it will always be remembered that it was Matt Smith who said, “Bow ties are cool.”

As with previous regenerations, Twelve was observant of his bodily changes.”I’ve got new kidneys! I don’t like the color!” There are bigger concerns when the TARDIS alarms go off and he asks Clara, “Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?” It sounds like we might have another crash scene coming up, unless either he is either messing around with Clara or soon regains his memory.

Unfortunately we have to wait until next fall to find out.

Time of the Doctor Peter Capaldi