SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery Returns; The Orville; AOC Quotes Watchmen; Donald Trump and Batman; Possible West Wing Revival

Star Trek: Discovery returned last week, following a final Short Trek staring Rainn Wilson reprising his role as Harry Mudd. Brother was more in line with traditional Star Trek compared to the last season, with Christopher Pike making it clear he was not Captain Lorca. Spock was central to the episode, but we only saw young Spock, living in a home inspired by Marie Kondo. Young Spock definitely displayed human emotion in showing jealousy towards a new adopted sibling.

The episode will please some who felt season one strayed from what they see as true Star Trek, but not everyone will be happy. The technology continued to look like it was far beyond what we saw in The Original Series, and possibly Next Generation, which is inevitable for a show produced in the twenty-first century as opposed the nineteen sixties. Another huge break from canon was that the officer in the blue shirt was killed as opposed to the one in the red shirt, but Connelly’s death was clearly foreshadowed.

It took until the second season, but we finally found out that members of the Discovery bridge crew actually do have names. Elsewhere on the ship it is suggested that  Stamets is leaving, but I suspect that we might never see his transfer to teach at  the Vulcan Science Academy actually take place. Whether or not he leaves, a new engineer, Jett Reno (played by Tig Notaro), was introduced, who fits more into the mode of ship engineer who can do miracles.

We have not seen adult Spock yet, but I suspect that this might not come for a while, as the season searches for both Spock and the Red Angel. Nor have we seen Rebecca Romjin as Number One. In an interview with Romjin at TrekMovie.com, she said she is not allowed to say when she will first appear. While it might not be her first appearance, I noted that the picture above was labeled as DSC 204. She also had this to say about the character:

What characteristics did you bring to Number One as a person?

Romijn: Well you know, she was only in that one episode. So as an actor, you want a certain amount of liberty to help a character unfold, obviously. She’s got a vast skill set, she’s obviously Captain Pike’s number one, second in command, he feels comfortable leaving her in charge of the Enterprise when he’s not there. I don’t even think we know how vast her skill set is, I think there’s a lot of exploration to do. She knows her shit. I want her to be a little bit of a fast-talking dame, in a way. It was fun. It was really fun to play her.

Do you have scenes with characters other than Pike?

Romijn: Yes. Yes I do.

Can you tell us which ones?

Romijn: No! I feel so scared to reveal anything, like … the number of letters we’ve gotten and emails, I was scared to post anything on Instagram. I can’t say anything.

More on the relationship between Pike and Number one at TV Guide:  “I think that Captain Pike relies on Number One in a very deep way. I think they’re very close. I think she’s got the skill set that he depends on,” she says. “I think that he would feel confident leaving the ship in her hand if he had to and there’s room to explore it further.”

Alex Kurtzman discussed the episode with The Hollywood Reporter:

Discovery season one seemed like a declarative end of a chapter with the Federation-Klingon war coming to its conclusion. Why did you choose to start the second chapter by bringing in the Enterprise, considering its notoriety?

We discover in season one that Michael has a relationship with Spock. The mystery of why Spock, who we’ve known for over 50 years, has never mentioned his sister, is huge. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to answer that question in one or two episodes. It was easily going to be the substance of a whole season. This season is a deep-dive into that relationship and what went wrong, their history and where they’re headed. That excited me. It’s the unwritten chapter of how Spock became the character that we meet in the original series. We’ll come to understand that were it not for his relationship with Michael, many of the things we know and love about Spock may not have flowered in the way that they did.

What prompted your characterization of Pike, considering what the audience has seen of him in other depictions?

He’s established as a pretty specific figure in [the original series episodes] “The Menagerie” and “The Cage.” And obviously, I have Bruce Greenwood in my mind from my work on the J.J. Abrams movies. Everybody thinks of Pike as a noble, just and kind captain. It felt right that in the wake of a captain like Lorca who was so manipulative and wreaked havoc on the ship, we needed a captain who was 180 degrees in the other direction. It felt like an interesting and different take, a new flavor for the show.

The episode primarily focuses on Pike attempting to solidify his dynamic with the characters aboard Discovery. How did you find the beats of seeking out that trust from both ends of the relationship?

Pike sat out the war. We’re going to learn a lot more about that over the course of the season. He sat out the war because he was ordered to, and that created a big problem for him. He had to sit there and watch many of his friends and colleagues die, and feel entirely helpless in the process. He’s a captain who wants to make up for lost time, who wants to correct an error. It was hard for him to watch all these people die, and that’s a huge part of what drives him. If a character were to caution him to slow down, that would be very difficult for him. I think that’s where we will see him find tension with this crew. It’s not because he’s manipulating him; it’s because there may be a difference in procedure. As a captain, you have to make difficult decisions that may require allowing certain members of your crew to be at risk to save others. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Let’s talk about the introduction of this mystery of the seven signals, as well as the “Red Angel.” These were both featured prominently in the trailers leading up to the premiere and served as a crucial part of the episode as well. How did you come up with these mystical enigmas?

Initially, it started as a conversation about the way in which Trek has dealt with the issue of space vs. science. Gene Roddenberry had a very specific take on religion as it relates to Star Trek. In the original series, religion doesn’t exist. Yet, faith is something that has always been a major topic in different ways. The idea of this mystery that has no answer immediately suggests a presence or force greater than anything anyone has ever known. It was intriguing to us. The other reason for the Red Angel was that it sheds specific light on Spock’s dilemma at that point in his life. Spock has, as we all know, a unique relationship to logic. And logic fails him in dealing with the Red Angel. He doesn’t know whether to turn to logic or emotions to solve the mystery. The only way he can work through it is with his sister, to whom he has a very complicated relationship. It felt like a really wonderful way to get them to have to wrestle with each other over a larger mystery.

CBS All Access confirmed yet another spin-off series earlier this month with Michelle Yeoh to star, concentrating on Captain Georgiou’s role in Section 31. This will also be seen during the second season of Discovery. From the announcement:

CBS All Access today announced plans to further expand the “Star Trek” universe with a newlive-action series in development starring Michelle Yeoh. The series will expand on Yeoh’s current role as a member of Starfleet’s Section 31 division, a shadow organization within the Federation, on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, which debuts its second season Thursday, Jan. 17 exclusively on CBS All Access in the U.S., and is distributed concurrently by CBS Studios International on Netflix in 188 countries and in Canada on Bell Media’s Space channel and OTT service CraveTV.

The series will be produced by CBS Television Studios, Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment. Alex Kurtzman, Heather Kadin, Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth will serve as executive producers. Aaron Baiers will serve as co-executive producer along with Bo Yeon Kim, and Erika Lippoldt will also write the series.

“Michelle has shattered ceilings, broken boundaries, and astonished us with her grace and gravitas for decades. As a human, I adore her. As an actor, I revere her,” said Alex Kurtzman. “Erika and Boey are remarkable, exciting writers who bring a fresh perspective to the world of ‘Star Trek,’ and we’re all thrilled to explore the next wild chapter in the life of Captain Philippa Georgiou.”

“I’m so excited to continue telling these rich ‘Star Trek’ stories,” said Michelle Yeoh. “Being a part of this universe and this character specifically has been such a joy for me to play. I can’t wait to see where it all goes – certainly I believe it will go ‘where no WOMAN has ever gone before!’”

Michelle Yeoh is recognized as one of the greatest and the most successful actresses from the east. She can most recently be seen starring in John M. Chu’s romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians,” and in CBS’ STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. The former Bond girl is best known for her roles in Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and its sequel, Rob Marshall’s “Memoirs of a Geisha,” Roger Spottiswoode’s “Tomorrow Never Dies”and Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine.” Michelle also starred in Luc Besson’s critically acclaimed “The Lady” and voiced a role in the DreamWorks animated hit “Kung Fu Panda 2.”

The development of this new untitled series is the latest expansion of the “Star Trek” franchise. In addition to the hit original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, returning with season two on Thursday, Jan. 17, and STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS, a series of short stories tied to STAR TREK: DISCOVERY and the overall “Star Trek” universe, CBS has announced a new untitled “Star Trek” series featuring Sir Patrick Stewart, reprising his iconic role as Jean-Luc Picard, as well as its first animated series, STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS, developed by Emmy Award winner Mike McMahan (“Rick and Morty”).

The Orville has also returned for its second season, last week returning to tie up a loose end from a first season episode. We are left to wonder if Billy Joel music will help promote peace. Earlier there was an episode centered around Alara, which ended with Halston Sage leaving the show. They did leave room for a future return. Jessica Szohr has been announced to be joining the cast. There is no word if Seth MacFarlane will be dating her, but there was an announcement last week that Scott Grimes and Adrianne Palicki are engaged.

In other genre and media news, following an attack from Joe Lieberman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quoted Rorschach from Watchmen.

On the other hand, last month we learned from Christian Bale that Donald Trump seemed to really think he was Bruce Wayne:

While filming a Batman scene in Trump Tower, Christian Bale got the chance to meet Donald Trump. “We were filming on Batman in Trump Tower and he said, ‘Come on up to the office,’” Bale told Variety at the premiere of the Dick Cheney biopic Vice. “I think he thought I was Bruce Wayne because I was dressed as Bruce Wayne,” he joked.

Bale said he tried to go along with it, but found it odd. “He talked to me like I was Bruce Wayne and I just went along with it, really. It was quite entertaining. I had no idea at the time that he would think about running for president.”

That isn’t the most dangerous delusion which Trump has.

Richard Schiff has spoken about a possible reboot of The West Wing.

New York Times Reports, “Democrats Embrace Liberal Insurgents, Demanding New Face for Party”

The Democratic Party establishment has desired to nominate more moderate candidates, even in safe Democratic areas where they could not use their questionable arguments that more moderate candidates are more electable. Earlier in the year we saw examples of how the party establishment has attempted to suppress insurgent candidates. The New York Times notes how the Democratic Party establishment is having problems this year:

…Democratic voters and activists have increasingly succeeded at transforming their party into a more ambitious liberal force. In key races, they have also replaced elected leaders with newcomers who look and sound like the diverse, youthful base that the party relies on in presidential elections but that asserts itself sparingly in midterm elections and down-ballot primaries.

Should that mood of insurgency prevail on Election Day, it could set the stage for an even more tumultuous phase of redefinition next year: A liberal base that feels validated after November may be unlikely to heed calls from party leaders to pick their battles in the new Congress, or to approach the 2020 race with sensitivity to more conservative sections of the country. The next presidential primaries could become a climactic test for the awakened Democratic base, with women and candidates of color holding an appeal others might struggle to match.

Martin T. Meehan, a former member of Congress from Massachusetts, a state rocked on Tuesday by primary upsets, said Mr. Trump had helped fuse once-fractious Democratic constituencies into a powerful alliance for primary season. Mr. Meehan, now the president of the University of Massachusetts, likened it to earlier moments of political realignment, when ethnic groups like Italian-, Irish- and Greek-American voters learned to work together in the middle of last century…

The most dramatic upsets have come in New York, where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old activist and former bartender, defeated Representative Joseph Crowley, a Democratic boss in Queens and Washington, in a June primary; and Massachusetts, where Ayanna Pressley, a 44-year-old member of the Boston City Council, on Tuesday wrested the nomination away from Representative Michael Capuano, a 10-term progressive she branded as passive and conventional. Both women channeled liberal alarm at Mr. Trump and at social inequality in their own communities, and promised an unyielding fight for change…

In some revealing open-seat races, Democratic voters have also flouted the directives of party leaders and embraced inspiring activists. They nominated Jahana Hayes, an African-American educator, for Congress in Connecticut over a candidate approved by the state Democratic Party, and picked Andrew Gillum, the African-American mayor of Tallahassee, for governor of Florida over a field of better-funded candidates that included the scion of an imposing dynasty.

…Democratic insurgents predict that the party’s shifting attitude toward primary elections is more likely to intensify than recede. As Republican power brokers have found in recent years, once-potent instruments for enforcing partisan hierarchy have diminished in value: Political newcomers have deftly used online fund-raising and social media-based campaign tactics to replace the access to big donors and television airwaves that party leaders can more easily control.

And in Washington, as the number of Democratic upstarts elected to Congress grows, party leaders may face new pressures in navigating primary elections..

In keeping with Massachusetts political convention, Mr. Capuano mobilized a set of muscular institutions behind him, drawing endorsements from labor unions and influential Democrats including Boston’s mayor, Martin J. Walsh; Deval Patrick, the state’s first African-American governor; and black congressional leaders like John Lewis and Maxine Waters.

All that support was not decisive, and Ms. Pressley won by 17 points.

Sam Yoon, a former member of the Boston City Council, said Ms. Pressley’s victory had exposed a momentous cultural transition in the party. Mr. Yoon, 48, mounted a campaign nearly a decade ago against the legendarily iron-fisted former mayor, Thomas M. Menino, attempting unsuccessfully to energize young progressives and minority communities in a movement for change.

“I think the dynamic is just wide-open now,” Mr. Yoon said. “The establishment doesn’t have the hold that it used to.”

While we are undoubtedly seeing a reaction against Donald Trump, the changes in the Democratic Party are likely to be more a reaction to how the party leaders forced a candidate as conservative as Hillary Clinton on the party in 2016–and the excitement created by the campaign run by Bernie Sanders. The winners this year also make a mockery of the bogus “Bernie Bros” smears used by Clinton supporters against the left. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Jahana Hayes, and Andrew Gillum are certainly not the stereotypical white male Bernie Bros which Clinton supporters falsely claimed made up their opposition.

Among those now excited by the successes of the left are Barack Obama, who has returned to public life this week in a speech praising Medicare for all: “Democrats aren’t just running on good, old ideas like a higher minimum wage. They’re running on good, new ideas like Medicare for all,” Obama said. Perhaps Obama should have backed Sanders in 2016 over the Clinton, who campaigned against the plan. At very least, someone who had become president with promises of hope and change should have realized that a candidate as conservative and corrupt as Hillary Clinton was a poor choice in a year when voters demanded change.

Abdul El-Sayed Attempting To Bring Progressive Wave To Michigan In Key Primary This Week

The goal this year must not only be to elect candidates to oppose Trump, but to also reform the Democratic Party (which is responsible for the situation in 2016 which enabled Trump to be elected president). Tuesday provides an opportunity for another progressive upset in Michigan, but it will be a challenge due to the presence of both a real progressive (Abdul El-Sayed) and a faux progressive (Shri Thanedar) who will divide the vote against establishment candidate Gretchen Whitmer.

El-Sayed is running on a platform similar to that of Bernie Sanders. Sanders has endorsed El-Sayed, and came to Michigan to campaign for him on Sunday. The previous weekend, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was responsible for a major upset over the Democratic establishment, came to campaign for El-Sayed. He was also recently endorsed by The Nation and previously received endorsements from groups including  Justice DemocratsOur RevolutionThe People for BernieOur Revolution, the Progressive Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, and Democracy for America.

El-Sayed is behind in the polls, but victory might be within reach. Progressives are encouraged by the greater enthusiasm seen for his campaign as compared to his opponents. Progressives are also encouraged by the memories of Bernie Sanders coming back from twenty-points behind just prior to the Michigan Democratic primary in 2016 to upset Hillary Clinton. The polls missed support for a progressive alternative to the Democratic establishment then, and could be doing so again.

The front runner, Gretchen Whitmer, is the daughter of a former president and  CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and the recipient of their money. She is also the only Democratic candidate who opposes single payer health care. She has also benefited from dark money contributions, which has become an issue in the race.  When she twisted the facts to respond to El-Sayed, the Truth Squad at a Michigan newspaper called her claims “mostly inaccurate” as she tried to equate contributions from private individuals with her corporate contributions.

The task of upsetting the establishment candidate is made more difficult by the presence of faux-progressive Shri Thanedar, who is running as a progressive for strategic reasons, and has put $10 million of his own money into the race.  Hopefully the efforts of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and several progressive groups will lead to progressives coming out to vote for the true progressive candidate in the race, Abdul El-Sayed.

Two Candidates Running As Bernie Sanders Style Progressives In Michigan Threaten To Split Vote, With Only One Worthy Of Progressive Support

There has been a lot of talk lately about an anti-establishment fervor in the Democratic Party, largely fueled by both dissatisfaction with the status quo and the manner in which the DNC rigged the rules to block challengers to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Clinton’s inability to beat a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump cast more doubt on the party establishment’s strategy of promoting moderate candidates. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over party insider Joseph Crowley in New York’s 14th congressional district Democratic primary gave additional hope for progressive and true liberal Democrats hoping to beat the party establishment. In Michigan efforts to beat establishment candidate Gretchen Whitmer (who would still be far preferable to GOP front runner Bill Schuette) for the nomination for Governor might be thwarted by two candidates running as progressives in Michigan who are likely to split the vote.  However, only one is a true progressive.

While both Abdul El-Sayed and Shri Thanedar are running as Bernie Sanders style progressives, only El-Sayed looks like the real deal. The Intercept has had multiple articles exposing Thanedar as an opportunist. In a new article today, The Intercept shows how they differ on health care, but first recapped the case against Thanedar:

In Michigan, businessperson Shri Thanedar has spent millions of dollars on television ads casting himself as “the most progressive Democrat running for governor,” and promising that he would bring single-payer health care to Michigan.

“Health care is not a privilege; it is our fundamental right. I will bring single-payer health care to Michigan,” Thanedar says in a TV commercial. “Agree? Vote for Shri.”

But there’s reason to be skeptical.

Over the last year, investigations by The Intercept have revealed many facts which cast doubt on Thanedar’s progressive branding. He donated thousands of dollars to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, he was spotted clapping and nodding approvingly at a Marco Rubio presidential rally, and several Michigan political consultants have claimed that Thanedar once consulted them about possibly running as a Republican.

The Intercept interviewed Thanedar and found that “Thanedar’s much touted single-payer health care ‘plan’ appears to be nonexistent.” In contrast, they found that former Detroit Public Health chief Abdul El-Sayed “has a detailed strategy for how to accomplish it.” However, Thanedar is likely to split the progressive vote due to having spent much more on advertising. The Intercept notes:

Last month, he released a plan to establish “Michicare,” which would levy payroll and business taxes to establish state-funded public coverage for all Michigan residents…

But despite having a more well-developed plan, El-Sayed’s middle-class background means he does not have the same resources to advertise his health care plan as does Thanedar, who, not without controversy, made a fortune in the chemical testing industry.

As a result, there’s a real risk that the public might be misled.

The article also notes how this will impact the race against establishment candidate Gretchen Whitmer:

But by coopting a progressive message and splitting the progressive vote, Thanedar has helped Whitmer, an establishment candidate, take a comfortable lead.

Whitmer is the daughter of former Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Richard Whitmer. She’s the only Democratic candidate in the race who does not back single-payer, saying that it’s not “realistic” in Michigan at this time. BCBS Michigan lobbyists threw a fundraiser for Whitmer earlier this year. And she’s currently taking heat from an unidentified group who have paid for ads attacking her from accepting “big money” from insurance companies.

El-Sayed has been endorsed by Justice Democrats, Our Revolution, The People for Bernie, Our Revolution, the Progressive Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, Democracy for America, and after her victory in New York, by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Whitmer has a long list of establishment endorsements. I am not aware of any significant endorsements for Thanedar but the Grosse Pointe Democratic Club has issued an anti-endorsement for Thanedar warning Democrats NOT to vote for him.

Bernie Sanders Congratulates Progressive Winners Last Night–Wins For The Left Even More Important With The Retirement Of Anthony Kennedy

Despite efforts of the Democratic establishment to fight progressive candidates, there have been some major victories for the left, including the surprise upset of  Joseph Crowley in New York. Perhaps this will give Cynthia Nixon some momentum in her primary campaign against  Andrew Cuomo. Bernie Sanders has congratulated two of the progressives who won last night.

Sanders had this to say about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat Crowley, who was previously considered as a possible successor to Nancy Pelosi: “She took on the entire local Democratic establishment in her district and won a very strong victory. She demonstrated once again what progressive grassroots politics can do.”

Sanders also congratulated Ben Jealous, who won the Democratic nomination for governor in Maryland:

“Ben showed that running a progressive, issue-oriented campaign can bring all working people together in the fight for justice,” Sanders said in the statement. “That’s what Ben has done in the primary and that is what a united Democratic Party will do in the general election.”

“What the people of Maryland understand is that we can most effectively oppose Donald Trump’s extremism with strong progressive leadership at the state and local level — and there are few progressives stronger than Ben,” he added.

The importance of having more true liberals and progressives in state governments and Congress was highlighted by the announcement that Anthony Kennedy is retiring from the Supreme Court, giving Donald Trump a second Court pick. While we cannot understate the significance of the Supreme Court moving further to the right, we must also keep in mind that the Court’s function is to interpret the law. The strongest defense we have now is to increase the number of true liberal and progressives in Congress and state governments, as opposed to Republicans and establishment Democrats, to influence the laws which are written.

The one positive outcome of a Trump presidency is that this does give Democrats a chance to win in Congressional and state elections after a decade of losing, while a Clinton presidency would have led to a continuation of this trend. Democratic victories will only be meaningful if Democrats are willing to stand for something other than being just a little less crazy than the Republicans, as in recent years.  This will take victories by the grassroots over the establishment, as we saw last night.