SciFi Weekend: The Return Of Kahn; Mr. Robot; Doctor Who Deals With Chauvinism; Legends of Tomorrow; The Handmaid’s Tale; Patrick Melrose; Will and Grace; Audrey Horne Returns To Twin Peaks

It looks like Star Trek: Discovery might not be the only Star Trek television coming up. Geek Exchange reports that Nicholas Meyer is working on a limited television series based upon Kahn:

According to the sources, Meyer’s new project takes him back to Khan Noonien Singh, the “genetically superior” villain played by Ricardo Montalban in the original series episode “Space Seed” and in The Wrath of Khan, and by Benedict Cumberbatch in the J.J. Abrams-helmed Star Trek Into Darkness. Meyer will reportedly be developing a prequel miniseries, or limited series that would take place on Ceti Alpha V and chronicle Khan and his followers struggling to survive in the years between when Kirk dropped him off on the planet at the end of “Space Seed” and when the crew of the U.S.S. Reliant finds them early in The Wrath of Khan.

The directors cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn is going to have a theatrical release in September to mark the 35th anniversary of the movie:

The Director’s Cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, widely considered the best Star Trek film, is getting a special theatrical release this September to celebrate its 35th anniversary! I had a chance to sit down with writer/director Nicholas Meyer to discuss his experiences making the movie and its long-lasting success. But first, some exclusive details regarding the big screen re-release…

The digitally remastered Director’s Cut of Wrath of Khan will show for two days on Sunday, September 10th and Wednesday, September 13th in more than 600 theaters across the U.S. at 2pm and 7pm local time. Fans can buy advance tickets starting today. Screenings will be preceded by a brand new 18-minute interview with William Shatner about the making of the film. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting FathomEvents.com or at participating theater box offices.

A very creepy trailer was released for the third season of Mr. Robot with this description: “MR. ROBOT follows Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a cyber-security engineer who, along with Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) and fsociety, starts a revolution to change the world. Picking up immediately following the Season 2 cliffhanger, Season 3 will explore each character’s motivations and the disintegration between Elliot and Mr. Robot.” The show returns October 11 with new cast members including Bobby Cannavale.

Considering all the noise made about Jodie Whittaker being cast as the thirteeth Doctor, it is fitting to learn that the Doctor Who Christmas special will deal with chauvinism:

David Bradley is set to appear as the First Doctor in the Doctor Who Christmas special lined up for the end of the year, and he’s recently revealed at the London Film & Comic Con that he and outgoing Doctor Peter Capaldi are set to clash over their attitudes toward women during Steven Moffat’s final episode.  

“What we did emphasise,” Bradley explained, “was the old fashioned nature and how he is from the 60s. He goes into the Twelfth Doctor’s Tardis and says ‘it’s a bit dusty around here, it’s in an awful state isn’t it? Where’s Polly? Shouldn’t she give it a spring clean?’ And then Peter’s saying ‘you can’t say that’.”  

Bradley added that his character “brings all his 60s sensibilities, what’s lovingly called casual chauvinism. He’s just talking [as if] the [companions] are there just to help out, and do the dusting and do all the domestic chores – his attitudes to a lot of things come right from the 60s, so there’s a lot of conflict between Hartnell’s Doctor and Peter’s Doctor about how things have changed in the last 50 years… we had quite a bit of fun with that.”

LGBT Nation takes matters even further in questioning if the new Doctor will be bisexual:

Michelle Gomez, who plays Missy in the hit sci-fi show Doctor Who, dropped on heckuva spoiler in an interview with the UK’s Daily Star.

While male versions of the Doctor have had female companions, Pearl Mackie’s character Bill Potts, was the first lesbian companion on the show. The character “died” last season when she left to continue her relationship with an old flame who turned into an alien during her first plotline.

Missy, however, paved the way for Whittaker’s role, as the newest incarnation of the Doctor’s longstanding nemesis, the Master. Gomez’ character proved that a Time Lord could regenerate as the opposite sex.

“Now we have a got a female Doctor so there is going to be girl on girl,” Gomez said. “It might work. Dunno. Obviously it might be awful.”

While producers have reportedly pushed for a male companion next season, Mackie for her part says she’d love to see a lesbian relationship develop between the Doctor and her companion. “It could work,” she said.

Asked if she’d be willing to return to the show to be the object of the Doctor’s affection, Mackie was quick to reply.

“Who wouldn’t? It is Doctor Who. Never say never.”

Buddy TV has this news on the third season of Legends of Tomorrow (trailer above):

Legends of Tomorrow season 3 will continue the trend started in season 2 of having a group of villains terrorize the heroes. It won’t be the Legion of Doom this time but a much larger and more diverse group. Klemmer did announce that among this group will be Damien Darhk, Arrow‘s season 4 villain and one of the original members of Legends of Tomorrow’s Legion of Doom.

Legends of Tomorrow season 2 had Darhk travel from the past to participate in adventures with Reverse Flash and Malcolm Merlyn. This will no longer be the case in season 3. Darhk will be resurrected from the dead after being killed by Oliver Queen’s hands in season 4 of Arrow. There will be a power behind Darhk, who the show has yet to reveal, but Damien will be the face of the organization.

“Damien Darhk is going to be the leader of this group in the way Thawne was sort of the boss last year for the Legion of Doom. This group is distinctly led up by Damien,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim explained.

As for the mysterious head honcho, Klemmer promised that they would be unlike anything the show has seen before. At the head of the group of villains will be a “non-human entity” as Legends of Tomorrow plans to get more into the occult and magic side of the DC universe. Klemmer confirmed that they are actively pursuing getting Matt Ryan’s Constantine on season 3.

One non-human on the evil crew however will be The Flash‘s Gorilla Grodd. Much like Damien Darhk, Legends will introduce a Grodd that has not yet been seen on The FlashLegends‘ Grodd will be older, wiser and much more dangerous. “It will be a version of him that we have not met yet on any of the shows. It will be the most evolved and powerful form of Grodd,” Klemmer said.

While the group of villains will form the spine of the season on an episode-to-episode basis, Legends of Tomorrow will be dealing with anachronisms, not aberrations. Following the season 2 finale where time “broke,” figures from history will start appearing in the wrong eras. One example that was teased was Helen of Troy showing up in the 1940s and become a movie star. The head of the villainous group of season 3 will be using these changes to exploit and further their own purpose.

Deadline reports on a new cast member:

Mistresses alumna Jes Macallan has signed on for a recurring role in the third season of the CW’s superhero drama DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

 Macallan will play Special Agent Ava Sharpe, a hard working agent for a secret branch of the Federal Government (the Time Bureau) dedicated to the regulation of time-travel and the protection of history. She is very smart and incredibly ambitious and always believes she is the smartest person in the room. She is often quite ruthless in obtaining her goals and her drive for perfection has left many discarded friendships (and relationships) in her wake.

The Handmaid’s Tale has been the best new show so far of 2017, ending the first season in an ambiguous manner. The story now goes beyond the book, and the fact that there will be a second season indicates that Offred survives after being taken away. There were also other small signs of hope and rebellion in the first season finale.

We also know that Alexis Bledel’s character not only survives, but has been promoted to a series regular.

Beyond this we know very little, and Elizabeth Moss warns against trying to guess how the second season begins. She told TV Guide:

“Don’t try to guess what happens in that first scene of Episode 1 in Season 2,” she said. “You will never get it, and I mean that objectively as a viewer. You just won’t guess, and I love that so much.”

 

TV Line reports that Allison Williams has been added to Benedict Cumberbatch’s upcoming Showtime series, Patrick Melrose:

The former Marnie Michaels will guest-star on Patrick Melrose, Benedict Cumberbatch’s upcoming Showtime limited series, TVLine has learned.

The five-part project, formerly called Melrose, is based on Edward St. Aubyn’s novels and stars Cumberbatch as the title character, “an aristocratic and outrageously funny playboy” who turns to substance abuse to erase bad childhood memories of his abusive father.

Williams will play Marianne, someone Patrick runs into during his time in New York City.

The drama’s cast also includes Hugo Weaving, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Anna Madeley.

Will and Grace has not only been extended for sixteen episodes next season, but was also renewed for a tenth season before the revival even began. The revival plans to retcon the original series finale and have the cast back as we remember them (such as without the children shown in the original finale). Things have also been brought up to date, with Karen having voted for Donald Trump. Eric McCormack discussed this:

“One of the hardest things we’ve all had to deal with is realizing that some of the people around us didn’t vote for who we voted for and they might’ve been friends or they might still be friends, and how do we maintain that friendship?” McCormack told reporters at the Television Critics’ Association on Thursday. “We know that’s the case here as a result of that video we did in September. We know that Karen, of course, voted for her friend Donald. So that is going to lead the conversation. That is not inherently about the politics of today or even yesterday; it’s about the politics of friendship and how you navigate that. And it can be quite hysterical, how you navigate that.”

I wouldn’t dream of attempting to do recaps of Twin Peaks, or in any way try to explain what is going on, but I will note that last week’s episode had the return of  Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn). Picture from last week’s episode above. Or as we remember her:

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Doctor Falls; iZombie Ends Season 3 With Game Changing Episode; Sense8 To Return For A Two Hour Special

The Doctor Falls allowed both Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat to leave Doctor Who with an excellent season finale, but unfortunately it is a long way until Christmas to see how this concludes. Among the highlights were seeing two versions of the Master, with Michelle Gomez and John Simm doing an excellent job of playing off of one another. This included seeing Missy change sides between the Master and the Doctor based upon what was to her benefit at the time, gags such as Missy knocking herself out, their seemingly incestuous (?) relationship, a timey-wimey solution for the Master’s damaged TARDIS, and ultimately Missy deciding to be good.

This seemed to lead to both Missy and the Master killing each other, leaving the Master to regenerate and Missy’s fate unknown. The Master claimed that he shot Missy with enough force to prevent further regenerations, but the Master has a long history of coming back from apparent death. Plus we don’t know for sure if Missy was the regeneration directly after the John Simm Master. We might wind up seeing other regenerations between the two as it is hard to believe that the Master will never return in some form, even if Missy cannot regenerate.

Bill seemed to be heading towards  a tragic ending at the end of World Enough and Time last week. When the description of the creation of Cybermen was discussed, including the discarding of parts, it became clear that the Doctor could not save her. As I predicted last week, Steven Moffat would not leave her to suffer such a fate and, like Clara Oswald who escaped her death by going off with Ashildr before her last heart beat, Bill went to explore the universe with Heather from Pilot. This was foreshadowed with her tears. (“Where there’s tears, there’s hope.”) While most likely Bill will be leaving the series in this form, this does give Chris Chibnall the option of returning her to human form, either temporarily or permanently, to return as a guest or companion should he desire.

At least Pearl Mackie got to return for this episode as she saw herself in human form and was portrayed this way in many of her scenes. One minor nitpick is that if her brain showed her in human form when she looked at herself directly, why would her brain also not show her human self to her when she looked in a mirror or at her reflection?

Steven Moffat explained why he did not kill companions like Clara and Bill, and why Bill was not left as a Cyberman:

I’ll just say this and I’ll get into terrible trouble with certain people…I don’t think Doctor Who is that kind of show. Doctor Who is a big hearted, optimistic show that believes in kindness and love and that wisdom will triumph in the end. I don’t believe it’s the kind of show that says there are bitter, twisted, nasty endings because it’s not. It’s not gritty; it’s aspirational. It says, ‘It can work. And wisdom and kindness will triumph. And love will always come through in the end.’ I think there aren’t enough people or enough shows saying that and I’m damned if Doctor Who is going to join in with the general chorus of despair.

This leaves matters open:

So, she doesn’t die. She nearly dies. She nearly dies and she becomes something else. And we leave it in such a way that, again, I don’t know future plans, I’ve kept away from them, I put it such that, because Heather does say ‘Look, I can put you back on Earth if you want to go back and make chips,’ she could. So any of those are [possible]. I kind of think in my head she flies around the universe with Heather. That’s what she does.

We saw an origin of the Cybermen, but don’t know if this will be a separate group, or if they will ultimately escape the black hole and spread through the galaxy. The different origins seen so far for Cybermen is explained by this being the inevitable action of humans when put in a desperate situation and they wind up misusing their technology: “Like sewage, smartphones and Donald Trump, some things are just inevitable.”

This was hardly the first time that Doctor Who solved a seemingly impossible problem with an easy solution. It was too easy for the Doctor to reprogram the Cyberman in a matter of seconds to include two hearts in their definition of human. If the Doctor could do this, why not remove humans with only one heart from danger? It was also too easy for them to make things explode, even if they were on a space ship with such material under the floor. It would have made matters much simpler if they could create such explosions on the hospital floor where the Cybermen were being created. We did get to see the ultimate apple upgrade in one of many fun scenes. While it was shown to be impossible to return to the TARDIS for most of the episode, this was also solved too easily at the end.

Nardole had the simplest ending, taking the place of the Doctor to protect a group of humans. However, it is hard to believe that the Cybermen will not continue going upwards floor by floor.

The biggest question is what happens next with the Doctor. Moffat has said in interviews he wanted the Christmas special to be more positive than showing the death of the Doctor. Instead he had the Doctor receive his deadly wounds in the season finale as opposed to the Christmas episode. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor did not want to go (like David Tennant’s) but also did not want to return in a different form. Presumably the Christmas episode will have the a more uplifting story line with the Doctor deciding to go on.

The final scene also confirmed reports that the first Doctor would also appear, and it appears this might be around the time of his own regeneration. The scene also allowed both Peter Capaldi and  David Bradley (playing William Hartnell’s Doctor) to declare at different times in the episode that they were not just a doctor but the Doctor. The first Doctor introduced himself with: “You may be a Doctor. But I am the Doctor. The original, you might say.”

With this concluding on Christmas, this leaves open the question of whether, if the first Doctor is the ghost of the Doctor’s past, will we also see a version of the Doctor’s future in a story along the lines of It’s a Wonderful Life. If so, this conceivably could be a Doctor in a far distant regeneration, allowing Chris Chibnall to have a different actor play the Doctor when he takes over. This could also account for casting rumors. There could be different actors being considered for this role in the Christmas episode and for next season.

Steven Moffat has done a lot to set up the possibility of a female Doctor in previous episodes as I discussed last week. This was teased further when the Master asked, “Will the future be all girl?” The Doctor answered, “We can only hope.” Moffat has no say as to the next Doctor, but perhaps he is trying to nudge Chibnall in that direction. Maybe he will show a future regeneration as a female Doctor in the Christmas special.

iZombie also concluded the season with an excellent two-part episode. It was inevitable that Fillmore Graves (great name) would not act in a totally benign manner, and having all those people line up for a vaccine would lead to tragedy. While Doctor Who will be changing with a different show runner and cast, the season finale of iZombie also set up the show to move in a new direction now that the public is aware of the existence of zombies, and many more people are on the verge of becoming zombies.

Nerdist spoke with Rob Thomas about the changes:

“In some ways, some things will be familiar,” Thomas tells Nerdist. “Liv [Rose McIver] and Clive [Malcolm Goodwin] will still be solving murders in Seattle. But beyond that, the show is going to feel very different. Seattle is going to be a very different place next year. Zombies will be living side-by-side with humans, with each of them knowing that. There will be places where zombies hang out publicly. Human-zombie relations will be a very touchy thing. Seattle is going to become a walled city, much like Berlin. It’s going to be very different.”

In building to this point  zombies going public — this season and pretty much the whole series has essentially been like a prequel to the potential zombie apocalypse. But Thomas promises that we haven’t gotten to that point yet. “Everyone’s trying to prevent the apocalypse,” he says. “What I think it feels like is the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

He laughs, then adds, “Like right on the edge. There are people high up in the U.S. government, probably a lot of world governments, that would be in favor of nuking Seattle and just taking care of the zombie problem. It’s a tense, tense situation. Essentially, the card that Chase Graves has to play is, ‘I’m holding a half million human citizens hostage. If you’re going to nuke all the zombies, we’re going to take a half million innocent humans with us.’ We’re in a standoff.”

However, all these radical changes doesn’t mean we’re letting go of what makes iZombie, well, iZombie.

“Even if you lived in a city like that, life would have to go on,” Thomas says. “There’s this no-mans-land between Seattle and the rest of the United States, but murders still have to solved, the garbage still has to be picked up, food has to be delivered and most importantly, the rest of the U.S. has to deliver brains to Seattle, otherwise the zombies will go hungry and if the zombies go hungry, the apocalypse will start. Just as Chase Graves said in the video in the finale, ‘Send us your brains and everything will be okay.’”

Given the fact that Chase Graves has alerted the rest of the country to Seattle’s ever-growing zombie population, it would seem pretty reasonable to expect things to grow to a national—if not global—scale in the future, but Thomas gets pretty real about why the scope of the series isn’t going to grow all that much.

“Given our budget and the fact that we film in Vancouver, it’s always going to feel very Seattle-ish,” he says with a laugh. “We don’t quite have the Game of Thrones budget where we could do desert shots or anything. We might be able to put up a Chinese flag behind us and a couple Chinese actors and fake a call to China but I think that’s about all we could manage. We’ll have largely a Pacific Northwest bent to it.”

Like people returning from the dead on iZombie, television shows sometimes also return from the dead after they are cancelled. We saw this with Timeless, with NBC reversing their decision to cancel the show. Not long after Netflix cancelled Sense8 they agreed to have a two hour episode to resolve the cliff hanger from the season two finale. It certainly makes sense for Netflix to do this. They currently own two seasons of the show along with a Christmas special which bridged the seasons. Offering a conclusion will make it more likely people will watch Sense8 in the future, whether on Netflix, DVD’s or syndicated elsewhere. It would be much harder to maintain interest in a show which ends on a cliff hanger, and a two hour episode to wrap it up will cost far less than another full season. Will this also include a third orgy scene?

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Eaters of Light Review and Chris Chibnall Hints At Plans For Next Season

Eaters of Light was a filler episode of Doctor Who before we get into the two-part season finale. It was written by Rona Munro, who wrote Survival, the last serial of classic Doctor Who. Some elements of the old serials could be seen compressed into this episode. Munro has also been working as a play write, and this could be seen in the excellent dialog of the episode, which helped make up for the weakness of its plot.

In some ways I felt like I was watching a different version of last week’s Empress of Mars. Like last week’s episode, it began with a brief scene in the present or near-future which raised a question–this time the TARDIS engraved on a stone. The story then went back to resolve the mystery. Like last week, the plot was pushed forward by Bill falling. Again there were the themes of redemption for cowardice, the folly of war, and the need for enemies to work together for their common survival.

Besides the minor mystery of the TARDIS being engraved on the stone, two other common ideas from Doctor Who were seen. An old mystery, in this case what happened to the Ninth Roman Legion  in the second century AD, was “answered.” We also “learned” a lot about crows and how they communicate.

Bill showed her science fiction geekiness in figuring out the telepathic autotranslation functions of the TARDIS, although this revelation would have made more sense earlier in the season. This came into play in also allowing the previously warring parties to communicate and settle their differences in order to work together. Bill’s sexual preferences were easily understood by a Roman soldier. Bill also played a role in motivating the others, which ultimately set them up for their sacrifice at the end: “If you come with me, I can’t promise that you won’t die but, I can promise you this: you won’t all die in a hole in the ground.”

Nardole played comic relief, initially going around in his bathrobe like Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Later he changed clothes and did some face painting to fit in with the natives.

The plot did have its problems. I was bothered early on when Bill just went off on her own with no weapons, no way to communicate, and no way for anyone to track her. This did propel the plot, and everyone did get together after being separated, as often happened over and over again in the classic serials.

The entire enemy creature was weakly described. After other episodes in which the “monster” turned out to not be entirely evil, with motivations which made sense, we had a rather simple monster here. It is best to ignore much of the explanation and settle with this:

The Doctor: “It’s as if his bones disintegrated.”

Nardole: “What could do that?”

The Doctor: “A complete and total absence of any kind of sunlight.”

Nardole: “Death by Scotland.”

It was predictable that the Doctor might be willing to spend eternity battling the monster to protect earth, but hardly clear how the gate works or how the humans, with their brief lifespans and no regenerations, could accomplish this. It is best to just move on and get back to the TARDIS where we were surprised by the presence of Missy. The Doctor has upset both Bill and Nardole by allowing her out, but for the moment it appears she is trying to be good. Unfortunately for the Doctor, that does not mean she sees things the same way as he does.

Missy: “Those little people, trapped in a hill, fighting forever – – is that really up to your bleeding-heart standards?

The Doctor: “You understand the universe, you see it, you grasp it, but you never learn to hear the music.”

We should learn soon whether Missy really is good, and the previews reveal (as was already known) that both the John Simm version of the Master and the Mondasian Cybermen play a part.

The upcoming two part episode and the Christmas episode will also mark the end of Steven Moffat’s tenure as show runner, and the end of the current configuration the Doctor and his current companions. We may have learned something interesting about next season from incoming show running Chris Chibnall:

Season 11 of Doctor Who is going to be new… very new. There will be a new Doctor, a new showrunner, and apparently a new format. Chris Chibnall, who is slated to come on board as showrunner in 2018, has hinted at going away from the monster of the week format and into a more broad series storyline. As long as the TARDIS allows.

The writer/producer, who is coming off of the blazing BBC hit Broadchurch is fond of season-long storytelling, proven through the compelling, addictive crime drama. As the new head honcho, the style could easily bleed into Doctor Who, giving the season one single storyline…

Though Chibnall stayed mum on most Doctor details (ahem, like who is going to play the Doctor), he did respond to the question if he would be allowed to do a whole-season story­line, like Broadchurch, rather than individual episodes. To which he responded: “Yes. What the BBC was after was risk and boldness.”

Considering how difficult it must be to come up with a fresh story every week, this might be a good idea. Chibnall showed that he can keep a season long story arc interesting on Broadchurch (with the first and third seasons far better than the second). More on Chris Chibnall here.

***

Much more has happened in genre beyond Doctor Who, but I have had to limit the last couple of posts due to traveling. I still want to get to the question of whether Nora was telling the truth in the series finale of The Leftovers. Gotham ended the season with major character development for many characters, including Bruce Wayne. Dark Matter has continued from where last season left off, and is pushing some of its characters in new directions. Wynonna Earp has also returned on Syfy. I have not seen this series yet, but based upon recommendations of others it is now high on my list of series to catch up on. Orphan Black has also had major developments in its first two episodes, including the death of a clone. We are well into the revival of Twin Peaks, but still have not seen the real version of Special Agent Dale Cooper in the real world. I also just completed House of Cards, which is struggling to be even more outrageous than real life politics these days.

I am hoping to get caught up by next weekend to review some of these shows in greater detail.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Empress of Mars

Empress of Mars felt like an old style Doctor Who story which pays homage to both classic Doctor Who and modern movies. Mark Gatiss does’t know if he will be invited back to write for Doctor Who after Steven Moffat leaves, and had requested this opportunity to write one more story about the Ice Warriors.

The story began with a quick visit to NASA in the near future when Americans land on Mars with everyone surprised to see the message, “God Save The Queen” written in stone on the surface of Mars. The Doctor, along with Bill and Nardole, went back in time to find the origin of this on Mars, which involved Victorian soldiers and Ice Warriors. The episode was written before Nardole became a companion, and he was quickly written out of the story by having the TARDIS disappear with him for no good reason other than to take him out of the story. There was no explanation of the change in his attitude to be willing to leave Missy unguarded in the vault.

The story questioned the wisdom of war, which is a common topic of stories on Doctor Who. There were the type of scenes which we have become accustomed to on Doctor Who, such as an Ice Warrior serving Victorian soldiers. This is no stranger than seeing the Daleks serve tea to the British during World War II in a past episode.

Bill raised her usual science fiction references, such as to The Terminator and The Thing. Once again it is clear that Bill travels with the Doctor because she is a sci-fi nerd. Bill is also a woman, which raised issues for the older soldiers. This led to one of the best lines of the episode: “I’m going to make allowances for your Victorian attitude…because you actually are Victorian.”

The episode has additional girl power as the Empress recognized Bill as another woman, and asked for her advice. “What do you say? I would value your opinion. We are both surrounded by noisy males.”

The twist in this episode is that the British soldiers were the invaders, claiming Mars for the British empire. They failed to see the threat from a couple of  “upright crocodiles,” unaware that others were about to awaken. There was also a side story about one soldier having almost been executed for cowardice, and alliances crossed species lines.

The Ice Warriors are like the Klingons of the Doctor Who universe, not necessarily good or bad, but concerned about honor in battle. This played well into the side story mentioned above, giving a satisfying ending for the soldier mentioned.

The Doctor forced an end to the conflict by pointing out that firing their weapon would lead to them all being trapped under the ice, like Frozen, which he pointed out is a movie. He was not going to let Bill be the only one to drop movie references. Beyond the movie reference, his message was that we all live together or die together.

The episode contains a lot of Doctor Who history, from the sonic screwdriver still being unable to work on wood to references to the Peladon stories of the third Doctor from the 1970’s. It also fills in a gap in the history of Mars, or as the Doctor said, “This may be the beginning of the Martian Golden Age.”

Nardole returned at the end and had done something even more surprising than to agree to travel with the Doctor off earth. He turned to Missy for assistance, and she was piloting the TARDIS. It appears she is trying to uphold her promise to learn to be good–at least for now. She did possibly foreshadow the end of the season  and upcoming regeneration by repeatedly asking the Doctor if he was okay.

***

Due to traveling this weekend I am limiting this week’s SciFi Weekend to the review of Doctor Who, and will have to hold off on other major subjects such as the return of Orphan Black and Dark Matter.  I also have a post on last week’s finale of The Leftovers partially written, but I want to do that fantastic episode justice and not rush the post. Depending upon how much free time I have this week, I will either post a second science fiction installment, or hold these topics for the future.

I also have to at least mention in passing the death of Adam West, best known for playing Batman not long after Doctor Who began.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Lie of the Land; Class Finale; Sense8 Cancelled; A Week of Apologies; Wonder Woman

The Monks trilogy on Doctor Who was an excellent two and a half or so episodes. The Lie of the Land did start out great with the earth under the control of the Monks. It had an extreme take on alternative facts and fake news with a propaganda piece showing the Monks as having been here since before humans evolved.

This episode did feel a lot like a remake of The Last Of The Time Lords with a companion having to rescue the Doctor and free the earth. The episode was fine until they got to the part where Bill shot the Doctor and everyone laughed at how they tricked Bill to test her. This also included a fake regeneration scene which, while perhaps exciting for the previews, doesn’t fit well into the series. Sure we did see one incomplete regeneration before in The Stolen Earth, but in general, unless there is a very good reason for the story, regeneration energy should be reserved for regeneration into the next Doctor, not recovery of the same Doctor from bullet wounds. This scene was partially redeemed when the Doctor asked Nardole if the regeneration was a touch too much.

From some comments from Steven Moffat, I believe he might have taken three different story ideas by different writers, and then combined them into a trilogy. It was a clever idea for the Monks to rule by convincing everyone they had always been there, preventing thought of repelling the invaders who actually had only been there for six months. However this, along with how easily the Monks were repelled, did not fit with what was established in the first two episodes. This would not be necessary if they really only took over planets which requested their assistance, but if this was the only contradiction I might forgive it as humans beyond Bill and the dead generals did not really agree. I think that it would have been better if we had two different stories about different aliens to use the main ideas used in each episode.

Among the other questions raised, despite building such a detailed simulation of the earth in Extremis, did the Monks not think of trying to predict what dangers they could have with their occupation? In The Pyramid At The End Of The World we saw that the Monks had no problem removing a plane from the sky and a submarine from the ocean, yet the Doctor had no problem taking control of the boat. From there it was way to simple to enter the pyramid and defeat them.

The Missy story did progress, with her becoming an actual part of the main story line. The best line of the show, which only makes sense in its context was her saying “awkward.” It also appears that she might be trying to keep her promise to learn to be good. Even if she does keep to this, which is questionable, it appears that her view of being good will be quite different from the Doctor’s.

There is both considerable continuity and lack of continuity in this trilogy. Besides combining three different stories into a trilogy (even if flawed), they used the Doctor’s blindness from Oxygen and the pictures the Doctor retrieved for Bill of her mother in Pilot. There is also the possibility that the Monks could still return this season. On the other hand, everyone has forgotten the Monks. (“The Monks have erased themselves. Humanity is doomed to never learn from their mistakes.”) But what of the family and friends of those who died during the occupation, and those who were in the forced labor camps? On the other hand, it would be hard to both set Doctor Who in our modern world, and have people actually remember all the alien invasions. It would no longer be like our world if we did have memories of all the events shown.

Class also had its finale this weekend. I have not discussed Class on a weekly basis as I downloaded it during the U.K run and watched it last fall. In general, I thought the show was entertaining and worked as a brief stand alone series, but it was hardly essential for those following the Doctor Who universe. Ratings were poor in the U.K. and the show was not expected to return, unless it should do remarkable well on BBC America. The chances of revival are even lower with writer Patrick Ness saying he will not return to the show even if it should be renewed.

Netflix announced the cancellation of Sense8. Sadly there will be no third season, no continuation of the story from where it left off at the end of season 2, and, worst of all, we don’t get to return to see all those people and the world the show created.

The New York Times reports:

“Sense8” was a globe-trotting sci-fi drama made by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, the filmmakers behind “The Matrix,” and J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of “Babylon 5.” It received generally positive reviews from critics.

“After 23 episodes, 16 cities and 13 countries, the story of the Sense8 cluster is coming to an end,” said Cindy Holland, the vice president for original content at Netflix.

She added, “Never has there been a more truly global show with an equally diverse and international cast and crew, which is only mirrored by the connected community of deeply passionate fans all around the world.”

There are attempts to bring it back but I fear that the cost to produce this is too high compared to the number of viewers.

In other entertainment news, this was a big week for apologies, first from Kathy Griffin, and then from Bill Maher. There was also the release of Wonder Women. I have not seen it yet, but the reviews have been excellent, and it sounds like it has corrected many of the mistakes of superhero movies, especially from DC.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who: Pyramid At The End Of The World (Or All We Need Is Love); The 100 Finale; CW Superhero Finales; 12 Monkeys Season 3 Binge

The Pyramid At The End Of The World was not as good as Extremis last week, but still an excellent episode. It does have some of the disadvantages of being the middle episode of a trilogy. This also makes it hard to criticize for apparent plot holes as I don’t know if there will be explanations in the finale. 

The episode seemed to once again tease the Doctor’s impending regeneration with this opening: “The end of your life has already begun. There is a last place you will ever go, a last door you will ever walk through, a last sight you will ever see, and every step you ever take is moving you closer. The end of the world is a billion billion tiny moments, and somewhere, unnoticed, in silence or in darkness, it has already begun.”

There was more misdirection as initially it appeared that the crisis involved the risk of conflict between the earth’s military forces, “at the strategic intersection of the three most powerful armies on earth,” but the actual danger was elsewhere. The concept of the Doctor being the President of Earth was always a silly one, but it did turn out to make sense here as Bill’s association with him gave at least slight credence to Bill negotiating with the Monks due to her association with him. Plus it allowed for this line when the term President was first raised: “How would I know the President? I wouldn’t even have voted for him. He’s… orange.” That pause allowed us to fill in many other adjectives.

Now we have poor Bill’s date being interrupted by the UN, after being interrupted in the simulation last week by the Pope. I do wonder why it was the UN and not UNIT.

There are other intrusions from our world beyond the orange president, the Pope, and the UN. Sometimes fictitious search engines are used, but in this episode Google was mentioned. This might be related to changes in BBC policy, with real brand names not being allowed in the past. Apparently this has changed as this week there was also a reference to Uber.

Besides the old idea of the Doctor being President of earth, they purposely extended the Doctor’s blindness from Oxygen to both put the Doctor in danger, and give Bill a reason to negotiate with the Monks. It is a shame that the door didn’t have a keypad instead of the type of lock it did. The Doctor probably could have entered the code on a keypad by touch and saved the world without need for anyone to surrender to the Monks. (“Hello, I’m the Doctor, saving the world with my eyes shut.”)

While there are certainly questions about how plausible this is, it was a clever idea to have the Monks take over worlds by modeling every moment in the history of a planet, and figuring out when they would be destroyed without the help of the Monks. Then they could be asked to save the planet (with saving the planet but not surrendering control not being a consideration.) With countless alien invasion stories having been written, it isn’t easy to come up with new twists. Of course it does seem far fetched that their models could have predicted the exact sequence of events here, starting with a woman’s glasses being broken because she used her bag to prop her door open. It is also notable that Erica just played the scientists’s role as any woman might, without mention of her stature.

Modeling to this degree was not the only area where the Monks had inexplicable powers. For example, while perhaps they might be able to reset digital watches which are set from a common source to the time of the Domesday Clock, how could they possibly reset all the analog watches on earth? I also question the mechanism by which they could instantly restore the Doctor’s eye sight from a distance. It must be either nanobots moving at superspeed, or magic.

We will see if there is more of an explanation for their powers next week. Perhaps there is some clue in the TARDIS-like nature of the pyramid. While we know that Missy is involved next week from the preview, could the pyramid be related to the Time Lords, and perhaps the John Simm version of the Master (who is also returning this season)?

Their rational used by the Monks is also difficult to understand. The basic premise might make sense: “We must be wanted. We must be loved. To rule through fear is inefficient.” However, they seem to base this on technicalities (not unlike how the Doctor is keeping Missy in the vault but failed to go through with executing in Extremis). While they demanded love, and rejected the surrender of the others based upon fear, Bill’s love was for the Doctor, not for the Monks, and does not translate to love from other humans. I am willing to accept this for now based upon the Monks being aliens, with needs and motives which humans do not understand.

As they have the ability to change their shape, I also do not understand why they took this shape. A true monk, or perhaps an angel, might have led to easier acceptance from humans. Perhaps the third part will answer some of these questions.

The CW Network had several season finales recently. The 100 was the most interesting, and the only one to have a better season than last year. The season was about survival, and late in the episode it looked like we might have the group in the bunker, the group going into space, and Clarke on earth (never doubting that she would survive). The final moments expanded upon this by jumping ahead. Clarke was not alone, and a prison transport ship was landing. Presumably these were real prisoners, not the same as the original 100 to be sent down to earth in the first season. This also leaves open the possibility of other survivors, both on earth and from space.

Jumping ahead leaves open the possibility of telling one story six years in the future, while still having flash backs about how everyone survived. There are bound to be interesting stories about each group. As I would expect, Jason Rothenberg did say that we will see these flashbacks in an interview about the finale with TV Guide:

We do get a glimpse of Clarke in the flash-forward, and she’s taking care of a Nightblood child. What can you reveal about the life Clarke made for herself after praimfaya and who this girl is?
Rothenberg:
She’s definitely got a maternal bond with that child. Her name is Madi, she’s a Nightblood, you’re right. They probably found each other at some point a few years into being the last person the planet. We’ll play with that in Season 5 and probably go back and tell that story. But her relationship, her connection to Madi, is now as strong as Abby’s connection is to Clarke. These two people are the only two people on planet Earth. They are each other’s everything and they’ve survived together. On top of the age difference, obviously leaning into a mother-daughter thing, they also are each other’s best friends and companions. They’ve only been together for the last however-many-years-ago they met. That’s way longer than Clarke ever knew really anybody other than the people she came down with in the show. So it’s going to be a very, very important relationship in Season 5.

What can you say about the identity of the people on the ship and how they’ll factor into next season?
Rothenberg:
It’s huge. That’s essentially teeing up the story for the next season, which is obviously what we like to do in our finales. It’s prisoners. If you look at the signage on the ship, there are some Easter eggs to sort of indicate who those people may be. It’s a prison ship. So to me, it was really a cool idea to essentially bring things full circle. The 100, when they landed, were prisoners. They were juvenile delinquents, but they were criminals and they found out they were not alone on the ground. And here we have this group of real hardened criminals coming back to Earth thinking that its abandoned and that its their planet to come back to, only to discover, of course, that Clarke is out there, at least when we start things. So they’re not alone just like our heroes weren’t when they first landed. So there’s a real cool symmetry to that and perspective switch.

I definitely sensed some sparks between Bellamy and Echo in the finale, and six years is a long time to be trapped together in space. What can you say about the state of their relationship moving forward?
Rothenberg:
Well, I’m not going to go there, really, with you right now. But definitely six years is a long time to be trapped in space with somebody. And Bellamy and Echo have always had sparks. Their relationship was certainly interesting from day one when they woke up trapped next to each other in Mount Weather. It’s been a long and winding road, and obviously that road’s not over yet… They’re all together in a group in space, so you never know!

Will we get flashbacks to what happened in the six years since praimfaya?
Rothenberg:
Well, for sure the point of a time-jump is to skip a bunch of stuff and put them in another place and try to figure out how they got that way. And the thrust of the story in Season 5 will be going forward and not going backward. But the stuff that we’re jumping, as we’re in the room breaking Season 5, that time period is so filled with great story potential that it’s safe to say that we’ll see some of it. We’ll see the key moments for sure.

 

More in an interview at BuddyTV.

I thought that the DC superhero shows on The CW Network all had a down year, and this was reflected in their season finales.

Despite a meandering season, I thought that Supergirl did improve for the end of the season. I did like the Daxamite invasion storyline at the end, and the return of Calista Flockhart. Hopefully she will be around more next season. There was finally confirmation that she realizes that Kara is Supergirl, which I already assumed after she quickly figured out that James Olsen was the Guardian from seeing only his eyes. The concluding episodes also featured a strong female supporting cast beyond Flockhart with Teri Hatcher, Katie McGrath, Lynda Carter, and Brenda Strong.

The episode had the frequent superhero trope of setting up a situation in which two superheros fight each other, with Supergirl beating Superman. Fortunately they made this brief and went on to fighting the invaders. After this was resolved, it ended with a look at Reign being sent from away from Krypton, and I  assume he will be the big bad for next season. It was probably for the best that they wrote out Mon-El, leaving him alive so there is a possibility of him finding a way to return in a future season.

I was disappointed that after all these episodes dealing with saving Iris on The Flash, the finale used a simple solution with a device introduced the previous week. It also felt awfully contrived to end with someone needing to be a prisoner of the speed force, and then only Barry volunteering. We know he will get out. Hopefully they will at least do something creative with him being there and how he does leave. The highlight of the episode for me was Cisco telling Wally to “reverse the polarity on the neutron flow.” For a show which has used so much timey wimey time travel, this homage to the Third Doctor fit right in.

I thought the least of the finale of Arrow. It just felt like a series of fights and pretending to change sides. The cliff hanger was even less suspenseful than on The Flash as there is no question most, if not all, got off the island in time. Just as the synopsis for the next season of The Flash (released last week) gave away the fact that Iris would return before the finale aired, the synopsis for Arrow in the same post tells who is returning. At least the flashbacks are now over.

Over on Syfy, 12 Monkeys had not only their finale, but the entire season last weekend. As I suspect that some did not have time to watch it all, I’ll avoid spoilers, but the season was excellent, even better than the second season. The season has a continuous story, working well for binging over a short period of time. Generally each episode was also a self-contained story, but sometimes one episode would go right into the next. There were major events and changes in the story to make each of the three nights feel like they were also coming to somewhat of a conclusion before going onto the next, and the story was more compelling by watching this all together.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Extremis; Agents of SHIELD Season Finale; Legends of Tomorrow; The Flash; Arrow; Star Trek Discovery; Seth MacFarlane’s Spoof, The Orville; Gotham; The Magicians; Twin Peaks

Extremis was the best episode of Doctor Who so far this season, and it is just the first part of a three part story. There was a lot of misdirection in the episode, which is part of what made it so interesting.

The episode appeared to have two different story lines, but the conclusion revealed there were actually three. There were the flashbacks to the execution and the scenes with the Doctor outside the vault. It wasn’t reveled until the end that all of the other events were actually taking place in the shadow world, their version of the Matrix.

Even the execution scene had misdirection, as it was unclear whether the Doctor was intended to be the victim or executioner. Once it finally became clear that it was Missy to be executed, things did not turn out as planned. This gave plenty of opportunity for Missy to be Missy: “Please, I’ll do anything. Let me live. Teach me how to be good. I’m your friend.” She also had some words for her captors: “Get off, I’ve just been executed. Show a little respect” and “Knock yourself out. Actually, do that. Knock yourself right out.”

I am glad that they didn’t drag out the reveal as to who is in the vault any longer as pretty much everyone probably realizes by now that it is one of the versions of the Master. The Doctor is keeping his word to watch over her body, even if he mislead Missy’s captors in not going through with executing her. His decision to spare her life is consistent with the relationship which as developed between the two.

Any episode in which the events are in some way not real is vulnerable to criticism, but I was willing to accept it here. Being only the first part of a three part story helps minimize the problem the events being in the shadow world. There is also a legitimate pay off to the situation in which the Doctor outsmarted the Monks and got out a warning by email to the “real” Doctor. Or as the Doctor in the shadow world put it, “I’m doing what everybody does when the world’s in danger. I’m calling the Doctor.”

This reveal also allowed for some other genre references. This included the second Star Trek reference in two weeks, this time with Nardole saying the shadow world is like “like the Holodeck on Star Trek, or a really posh VR without a headset.” I also liked the explanation of people seeming to commit suicide when they realized the truth: “it’s like Super Mario figuring out what’s going on, deleting himself from the game, because he’s sick of dying.” There was also a reference to Harry Potter and portions of the episode felt like they were out of a Dan Brown novel.

Besides the simulation leading to the Doctor getting the warning about the invasion, it also gave the Doctor reason to encourage Bill to ask Penny out, reassuring her that she is not out of her league, knowing how it worked in the shadow world. While it only happened in the shadow world, presumably this accurately reflected the real world with Bill’s foster mother not realizing she is a lesbian, and therefore not realizing what was going on between the two girls. This included the exchange with Bill’s foster mother telling her “I have very strict rules about men” and Bill replying, “Probably not as strict as mine.”

The shadow world also gave us scenes at the Vatican, briefly at the Pentagon, at CERN, and with a dead president. This led the Doctor to wonder, “Particle physicists and priests–What could scare them both?” Plus there was the Pope in Bill’s bedroom: “Doctor, here’s a tip. When I’m on a date, when that rare and special thing happens in my real life, do not, do not under any circumstances put the Pope in my bedroom.”

There is plenty of additional grounds to nitpick, such as questioning whether a simulation so complex could not come up with a better random number generator. I am far more willing to accept potential plot holes which come up with thinking about an episode as opposed to glaring ones which cause a distraction while watching, such as with Knock Knock.

Continuity was also handled fairly well in this episode. They might have initially had the Doctor regain his vision at the end of Oxygen, but it worked out better to extend his blindness into this episode. This could also play into the upcoming regeneration, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if he encountered the Weeping Angels while unable to see.

The episode also showed how Nardole remained with the Doctor following the events of The Husbands of River Song, with him there at River’s request to prevent the Doctor from taking extreme actions following her death. Nardole even used a passage from her diary to influence the Doctor. While not seen on camera, Steven Moffat has said that one of the stories in his mind that he will not get a chance to tell is of the Doctor having Nardole going to the library after the events of The Forest of the Dead to recover River’s diary. There are also rumors that River will be returning this season. If so, this, along with her pictures on the Doctor’s desk, provides a good set up.

Agents of SHIELD also spent a lot of time in a version of the Matrix this season before the framework was destroyed in the season finale. IGN spoke with the producers about that space cliff hanger and that new role for Coulson:

IGN: Going back to the cliffhanger, that diner scene at first very much reminded me of the shawarma scene at the end of Avengers. Was there ever version of that sequence that didn’t have the cliffhanger, in case for whatever reason you didn’t get picked up?

Bell: It’s what it is. There was not a nice quiet shawarma version of it where they go, “Oh, it’s nice to be together.” It was always supposed to be, “Oh look, we’re finally together. Oh no, something bad happens.”

IGN: Which is sort of how it always goes for these guys, right?

Bell: It is!

Whedon: Man, SHIELD is not the coziest place to work, you know? I think they have a pretty good health plan, but other than that, it’s kind of up in the air all the time.

IGN: Well I hope so. They do keep coming back from the dead or near death at all points. I am excited we’re going back to space, though! Can you say how long it’s been in the show between when the team gets taken and when we pick back up with Coulson at the end?

Whedon: [silence] We can’t say.

Bell: We acknowledge there’s a time jump…

IGN: Going back a little bit, how long have you been planning for Coulson to be the Ghost Rider — and what was Clark Gregg’s reaction to finding out that news?

Bell: To say he was happy, it would be an understatement.

Whedon: I think what he said when we told him was, “I didn’t think I could geek out more,” but he was like, “It seems I can.”

Bell: Yeah, that was what he said.

IGN: Can you clarify: did Coulson make a deal with the devil to take on the Ghost Rider identity, or will we find out a bit more of the logistics of that deal that’s alluded to soon?

Whedon: We’ll find out more about it, but I think it’s safe to say he made a deal with the Ghost Rider, or the powers behind him. We’ll see what it all means, but it didn’t come for free. It wasn’t like, “Hey bro, can I borrow that? Can I just borrow that Ghost Rider thing for a second?”

Bell: Right, like borrowing a T-shirt.

IGN: Are you leaving the door open for more Ghost Rider?

Whedon: Well, first of all, he’s not dead — not that that means anything in our world. He also has shown that he has the ability to move in and out of realms and dimensions or planets or wherever he’s going. He’s a threat to pop up at any moment. Whether or not he will, I can’t say, but he’s out there…

IGN: I want to talk a bit about Fitz and Simmons. You’ve put them through the wringer over the past couple seasons, and my working theory is it’s because Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge always deliver such fantastic performances of those traumatizing events. Considering what they’ve gone through this year, are you considering them as a couple who will remain rocks for each other, or are you still planning to throw a bunch more terrible things at them?

Whedon: First of all, it’s the nature of the world. I think even this year with the flashbacks of May and Coulson and the rules we’ve stated through many seasons, that there are rules about agents not getting together for this very reason. Your love will be tested. That’s sort of the nature of the business. I think it’s safe to say from these past two episodes that they love each other and won’t love anyone else, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to repair their relationship and all that pain in between. One would hope that they could because everybody roots for FitzSimmons and the fans do and we do. We love the two actors, and so I think that seeing them together is a reward that the audience deserves, but how that happens, we’ll have to wait and see if it does.

Bell: I think the thing is people can have the forever love, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they get to end up together. They might, but you don’t know.

Whedon: But theirs is a forever love.

The CW Network has released a synopsis for the third season of Legends of Tomorrow, including the return of Rip Hunter and establishment of the Time Bureau, after they fractured time in the season finale:

After the defeat of Eobard Thawne and his equally nefarious Legion of Doom, the Legends face a new threat created by their actions at the end of last season. In revisiting a moment in time that they had already participated in, they have essentially fractured the timeline and created anachronisms – a scattering of people, animals, and objects all across time! Our team must find a way to return all the anachronisms to their original timelines before the time stream falls apart. But before our Legends can jump back into action, Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) and his newly established Time Bureau call their methods into question. With the Time Bureau effectively the new sheriffs in town, the Legends disband – until Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell) discovers one of them in the middle of his well-deserved vacation in Aruba. Seeing this as an opportunity to continue their time traveling heroics, Sara (Caity Lotz) wastes no time in getting the Legends back together.  We reunite with billionaire inventor Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), the unconventional historian-turned-superhero [Nate] Heywood (Nick Zano), and Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Franz Drameh), who together form the meta-human Firestorm. Once reunited, the Legends will challenge the Time Bureau’s authority over the timeline and insist that however messy their methods may be, some problems are beyond the Bureau’s capabilities. Some problems can only be fixed by Legends.

Last week’s episode of The Flash appeared to show that Iris did die in the scene we’ve been seeing all season. It might have been premature for The CW Network to release this synopsis of season four, which appears to have a major spoiler as to  how the season ends (not that I’m all that surprised considering how this show has involved changing timelines, not to mention the imaging tool used):

Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) lived a normal life as a perpetually tardy C.S.I. in the Central City Police Department.  Barry’s life changed forever when the S.T.A.R. Labs Particle Accelerator exploded, creating a dark-matter lightning storm that struck Barry, bestowing him with super-speed and making him the fastest man alive — The Flash.  But when Barry used his extraordinary abilities to travel back in time and save his mother’s life, he inadvertently created an alternate timeline known as Flashpoint; a phenomenon that gave birth to the villainous speed god known as Savitar, and changed the lives of Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Wally West (Keiyan Lonsdale) forever.  With the help of his adoptive father, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), his lifelong best friend and love interest Iris West (Candice Patton), and his friends at S.T.A.R. Labs — Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), C.S.I Julian Albert (Tom Felton), and an Earth-19 novelist named H.R. Wells (Tom Cavanaugh) — Barry continues to protect the people of Central City from the meta-humans that threaten it.  Based on the characters from DC, THE FLASH is from Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television, with executive producers Greg Berlanti (“Arrow,” “Supergirl”), Andrew Kreisberg (“Arrow,” “The Flash”), Sarah Schechter (“Arrow,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”) and Todd Helbing (“Black Sails”).

They have also released the synopsis of Arrow season six:

After a violent shipwreck, billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) was missing and presumed dead for five years before being discovered alive on a remote island in the North China Sea.  He returned home to Star City, bent on righting the wrongs done by his family and fighting injustice.  As the Green Arrow, he protects his city with the help of former soldier John Diggle (David Ramsey), computer-science expert Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), his vigilante-trained sister Thea Queen (Willa Holland), Deputy Mayor Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), brilliant inventor Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum), and his new recruits, street-savvy Rene Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez) and meta-human Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy).  Oliver has finally solidified and strengthened his crime-fighting team only to have it threatened when unexpected enemies from his past return to Star City, forcing Oliver to rethink his relationship with each member of his “family”.  Based on the characters from DC, ARROW is from Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television, with executive producers Greg Berlanti (“The Flash,” “Supergirl”), Marc Guggenheim (“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” “Eli Stone”), Wendy Mericle (“Desperate Housewives,” “Eli Stone”), Andrew Kreisberg (“The Flash,” “Eli Stone,” “Warehouse 13”) and Sarah Schechter (“The Flash,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”).

CBS has released the above trailer for Star Trek Discovery, which is to premiere this fall. Breakdown at TrekMovie. com and at Cult Movie News. Producer Ted Sullivan has reassured fans that it is definitely a prequel to TOS, and not a reboot or re-imagining.

The trailer for Seth MacFarlane’s spoof of Star Trek for Fox The Orville, is far more amusing.

Bruce Wayne’s transition to become Batman finally starts in season four of Gotham.

Trevor Einhorn (Josh) and Brittany Curran (Fen) have been promoted to regulars for the third season of The Magicians.

Twin Peaks returns tonight. The New York Times has a guide to where everyone was left after the original series. There’s another guide at Vulture.

Netflix has confirmed a fifth season of Arrested Development.

A revival of How I Met Your Mother in some form also continues to look possible.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Oxygen; Timeless; Sense8; The Handmaid’s Tale; More Renewals and Cancellations; The Last Man On Earth Season Finale; Artistic Opposition To Donald Trump

Doctor Who began Oxygen with an apparent homage to Star Trek, speaking of the final frontier. Except it led into this week’s episode by saying, “Final because it wants to kill us.” Final frontier might also tie into the return of the Master by referring to the 1973 episode Frontier In Space which was final appearance of Roger Delgado as the Master.

The episode took advantage of the Doctor’s role as professor, and allowed him to use the blackboard again, even if he got off topic in discussing the dangers in space: “What’s this got to do with crop rotation?” This was a combination hard science fiction/space zombie episode, with less of the simple talk between Bill and the Doctor. That does not mean Bill didn’t get a chance to ask pertinent questions such as, “What happens if I throw up in my helmet?”

The best answer of the episode came from the Doctor in response to the question“Who the hell put you in charge?” The response: “I’m here to save lives. Anyone who doesn’t want me to, raise your hand now.”

The episode finally involved Nardole in the story, and got him off earth.

This was one of the more political episodes of the show. It was bad enough to find that the miners were charged for oxygen. They would also pump any excess oxygen out of the station to force the workers to have to purchase the oxygen from them. Making matters even worse, once the algorithms calculated that it was not cost effective to keep the workers alive, they were turned off and the suits took over. They continued to move, looking like space zombies.

A line from the Doctor when he figured out that the next set of people coming were not to rescue the workers, as that would not be cost effective, made this all work: “They’re not your rescuers. They’re your replacements. The end point of capitalism. The bottom line where human life has no value at all. We’re fighting an algorithm, a spreadsheet … like every worker everywhere, we’re fighting the suits!”

Giving the two meanings to “fighting the suits” fit in so well with this episode.

The Doctor went on to explain that soon after humanity resorted things like selling oxygen capitalism came to an end. However, after this, “the human race makes a whole new mistake.”

The solution to the problem was simple but fit into the story. The Doctor began to bluff in saying, “The nice thing about life is however bad it gets, there’s always one option left – dying well.” He had no intention of actually dying, but he made it look like he would make it more expensive for the corporation, causing the suits to all stop.

Unfortunately this did not come without some costs. The sonic screwdriver was destroyed (once again). The Doctor gave Bill his helmet to keep her alive, and as a result became blind. As the Doctor put it,  “I’ve got no TARDIS, no sonic, about 10 minutes of oxygen left and now I’m blind. Can you imagine how unbearable I’m going to be when I pull this off?”

Many episodes this season turn something common into something deadly,  reminiscent of Blink. This week the warning was “don’t panic” as this will lead to breathing faster, using up more oxygen, and death. Next week in Extremis yet another common event, reading a book, might get you killed. The Doctor’s blindness might be what saves him. Is this just a temporary measure for next week’s episode, or is it part of a slow death leading to his regeneration later this season? From the preview, we also see the return of Missy.

There was a lot of news this week regarding final decisions on renewals, largely with shows which were thought to be on the bubble. The announced cancellations included Sleepy Hollow, Timeless, Blacklist: Redemption (with Blacklist renewed), Scandal, PowerlessFrequency, and No Tomorrow. Renewals included New Girl (for one final season), Gotham, Agents of SHIELD, iZombie, American Gods, Thirteen Reasons Why, and A Handmaid’s Tale.

Of the cancelled shows, the only two which I might miss are Sleepy Hollow and Timeless. Sleepy Hollow did recover this season, with its season finale working as either the series finale or as a stepping stone to a new season. Timeless got better as the season went on, and ended with a cliff hanger which did leave me wanting more. Fortunately NBC listened to protests from other fans who felt the same and reversed its decision, giving it ten episodes next spring or summer.

Considering the nature of the show, there is also speculation that time travel was utilized to bring back the show. However, we learned from The Flash that going back in time to change things does have consequences. Reversing the decision at NBC might lead to terrible consequences. Perhaps ER will return for another decade, or worse, Whitney or Sean Saves The World will return to the NBC lineup.

I have no idea how the two new CW shows, Frequency and No Tomorrow, were. I never gave them a chance as there were already more shows on than I had time for, but I know both shows did have their fans. The CW Network has at least released epilogues for both of these shows.

Both Thirteen Reasons Why and The Handmaid’s Tale have been renewed for a second season, adding to the series based upon books which are going on beyond where the book they were based upon ended. The third season of The Leftovers is showing how a series can be better in such a situation. The Handmaid’s Tale has been excellent through the fifth episode, leaving me quite trusting of the producers to continue the story. While based upon the book this season, the show so far is often made stronger when it goes beyond the book. The story feels more realistic and a possible extension of current trends by showing the flashbacks. Mentions of events in Canada and the European Union since I last mentioned the book have further added to this sense of reality.

Now that we have also had additional episodes beyond the first three which were released at once, I further appreciate how good a job they are doing at not only converting a book but presenting episodic television. While it is not necessarily bad, many streaming shows and shows based upon books are more like a multi-hour movie with arbitrary breaks every hour or so. In contrast, each episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, while part of the novel, do tell a separate story.

Sense8, which I have completed since last discussing this, is also stronger in its second season in better handling episodic television while also having a season-long arc. Highlights include a wedding, a shoot out, and a car chase, along with other things I won’t mention to avoid any spoilers.

The Last Man on Earth ended with a change in scenery necessitated by a nearby nuclear power plant being on the verge of a melt down. We also found out that Kristen Wiig’s character, who had appeared in a single episode, has survived. Den of Geek spoke with the writers:

DEN OF GEEK: I sort of like the idea that this finale is all about safety. Did you know that you’d be ending up at this nuclear fallout angle when the season began? There are light references to it throughout the year.

KIRA KALUSH: We were always pretty set on doing a nuclear fallout this season. For a while we thought it could be our mid-season finale. We even toyed around with it being the reason the group leaves Malibu, but ultimately, here it landed, and I think it was the right move.

ANDY BOBROW: When we went in to discuss the season with the network, we pitched this ending, kind of as a “this is something we’re thinking about, not married to it yet.” It certainly scared them financially, since we basically guaranteed we will have to build all new sets next year. So we were mindful of that, what it would cost. And we kept thinking, well, maybe some better idea will come along. As the year progressed, we really couldn’t think of anything stronger. We realize we’re writing ourselves into a corner, but it just seemed so Last Man, I think we had to go for it.

Is that perhaps the direction that the show is moving in?  Where the gang is just trying to avoid nuclear fallout. It’s nice that this material also brings everything back full circle in terms of Pat.

KIRA KALUSH: You can never really say where the show is going until we’re there, but I don’t think the group will be on the run for too long. It’s likely that this is just a way for them to move locations and get out of their element. But who knows? R.I.P. Pat Brown. He was a fantastic misunderstood conspiracy theorist with anger problems, but it was his time to go.

ANDY BOBROW: The thought of doing a whole season on the run is very enticing, but might be cost prohibitive. Just in terms of the production of the show, our model is we build a set and shoot three days on set and two days on location per episode. Location shooting is more expensive, but if there’s a way to do more of it and stay on budget, I’m all for it…

The season seems to end with the only things that are clear being that the gang is on a boat and that Kristen Wiig’s Pamela is along for the ride. Did you ever think of her appearance almost just functioning as like a short film about the end of the world, or was the plan always to circle back to her?

KIRA KALUSH: I actually have a good answer to this one. There was a pitch that always made me laugh, but it’s a giant “fuck you” to the audience. The Wiig episode is so good and so exciting and we knew our fans would be psyched, waiting to see when and how she joins the group. So the pitch was this: In the time jump at Melissa and Todd’s wedding, Tandy is rambling on about everything they’ve been through together as a group. He points to memorials of Phil, Gordon, Lewis, and finally, Pamela — revealing that Pamela met up with the group, lived with them and died, all within those six months. I don’t think we ever would have done it, but it still cracks me up.

ANDY BOBROW: Right right. I mentioned this in the time jump questions, because at one point, rather than Pamela it was going to be Steve Buscemi. Either Steve Buscemi as himself, or just a character Tandy mentions, who is represented by a driver’s license or passport on a tombstone, and you can see it’s Steve Buscemi.

But getting back to Pamela, Will’s initial discussion with Kristen was we’ll take you for as few or as many episodes as you want. So our thought was if we could only have her for one episode, it would be a thing where she interacts with them more, i.e. she shows up at the beginning and leaves them at the end. Since she was game for more than one, we decided this was the way to go. Do a standalone with her, and then have her show up at the end. There were pitches that would have used more of her in the finale, but her availability was limited. She only had a day. As for season four, well once again, we’ll take as much Kristen as we can get.

The first episode of The Last Man on Earth with Kristen Wiig showed the death of the Pence administration, presumably after Trump was gone. While the novel was written in the Reagan era, The Handmaid’s Tale as a television show has been seen as a cautionary tale about Donald Trump.

In another commentary on politics, during the past week we learned that hail-hydra.com redirected to the official White House web site. Bleeding Cool tracked down and interviewed the person responsible for this:

Bleeding Cool: What made you decide to do this? Did you own the domain before you decided to do the redirect or did you buy a while ago? What made you decide to buy it?

Hail-Hydra Owner: I bought the domain in April of 2014. I’d remembered the Senator played by Garry Shandling whispering “Hail Hydra!” in Iron Man 2, then is arrested at the end of Captain America: Winter’s Soldier for being a member of Hydra. His character reminded me of many GOP senators (probably a personal bias there) so I looked to see if I could come up with a good domain to redirect at Republicans. hail-hydra.com was the second I tried. Originally I pointed it at Ted Cruz‘s presidential campaign, then Trump’s campaign and finally (and depressingly) at his White House web page…

Bleeding Cool: What about the current redirect? Was it something you changed recently or was it when he was inaugurated in January? Or was this a reaction to something specific that President Trump did?

Hail-Hydra Owner: I changed it the day of the inauguration. It was the first time I knew I was going to change it and when. All the other times I’d just remembered I owned it and would pick a target based on news at the time, and then tweet a few people to try and get it to go viral. I’m not even sure what set it off this time around.

Bleeding Cool: Finally, how do you want people to react to what you’ve done here? Did you get the type of reaction that you wanted or did you want something more? Less?

Hail-Hydra Owner: Since this seems to be getting some news I’ve kept an eye on twitter reactions, most people are reacting the way I would hope. It’s funny, it’s political satire. Do I think Republicans are literal Nazis? No. Do I think they’re over-authoritarian with a complete disregard for the majority of people in the country that can’t donate a million dollars to them? Yes. Several articles say they contacted the White House for comment, I hope I don’t end up on a terror list in retaliation.

For those who prefer their artistic opposition to Donald Trump to come from music, The Hill reports:

Todd Rundgren, a singer and songwriter, warned fans not to attend his concerts if they are Donald Trump supporters, saying “buyer beware.”

“If I had the power, I’d say: If you’re a Trump supporter, don’t come to my show, because you won’t have a good time,” Rundgren said in a Variety interview released Sunday.

Rundgren collaborated with an array of artists for his new album “White Night,” including Donald Fagen. Together, Fagen and Rundgren produced an anti-Trump song called “Man in the Tin Foil Hat.”

Lyrics include: “He’s coming down the escalator with a girl from east of here, because the man in the tin foil hat is leading like a teenage girl. He put’s the ‘pluto’ in plutocrat, he hasn’t got time for losers, unless they do what he demands.”

Rundgren said his shows will contain many insulting jokes about the Republican president, warning that it could be a turnoff for the president’s supporters

“I guarantee that in this show, if you’re a Trump supporter, you will likely be offended. Let the buyer beware! I mean, if you can’t take a joke, or you can’t admit that you’ve made a mistake, you don’t belong with the rest of us,” he said with a laugh, according to the interview.

Rundgren also said he also questions the values of Trump supporters.

“And also, I don’t understand your frickin’ values. Because I’m not singing about that. If you don’t understand that basic thing, you’re just fooling yourself,” he added.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Knock Knock; American Gods; Sense8; The Flash; Ranking The Rolling Stones Songs

Knock Knock had some good moments but did not really work. Possibly the problem was timing. It attempted to be a plot-driven episode of Doctor Who and depended less on the interplay between the Doctor and Bill, but in doing so partially lost the strongest aspect of the season so far, while still having a plot which was rushed to the point of making little sense.

The story jumped too quickly from students looking for an affordable place to live to the first death. While the general premise of housing being too expensive was realistic, why did Bill suddenly need to find somewhere new to live, and why with these six people she barely knew? I’m sure students don’t read their housing contracts that closely, but I wonder if even a cursory reading might have tipped them off to what they were agreeing to. It is less plausible that not a single student would have looked into cell or internet access before quickly moving in. While I did like how they went from one student joking around to really being killed, it all felt too rushed. The student who hit on Bill this quickly was also acting in too much of a rushed manner.

There were some good scenes, but overall the threat from the bugs and the wood made little sense. Why did they keep Eliza alive, eat some students, and incorporate others into the woodwork? Things just happened without any real answers, or anyone figuring out much. While they did figure out that the Landlord must Eliza’s son and not father, this was not all that tremendous, and had little bearing on the outcome. Suddenly Eliza intervened to help, was able to control the bugs, and opened the shutters in time for the fire works. I was waiting to hear When You Wish Upon A Star as if it was the Magic Kingdom. Everyone turned out to be alive, but why did the insects release them? Presumably those eaten in previous years were too far gone, but it might have been an amusing scene to have groups of students from the past suddenly appear if they were going to show any victims come back to life.

Perhaps more time on the plot could have solved some of these problems, but that would have taken away even more time from Bill and the Doctor. The Doctor did mention regeneration, foreshadowing what we know will come later this season. He also mentioned the Time Lords. It was amusing to see the Doctor use the TARDIS to help Bill move in, but I don’t understand why Bill seemed to be embarrassed to let the others know about her relationship with the Doctor. She did claim he was her Grandfather. Is this somehow related to the pictures of Susan on the Doctor’s desk?

I’m surprised that they did not bring up the inability of the sonic screwdriver to work on wood, or make more use of its sonic abilities considering the importance of sound in controlling the bugs. Of course I don’t blame the Doctor for not being clear as to how that worked as I’m not too clear on it either after watching the episode.

At least the show sort of gets the history right, including Harriet Jones among the Prime Ministers of Great Britain.

This season we have seen a reflection and failing to smile become things to fear, and I wonder if the intent was to do the same with knocking, considering the title. If so, it didn’t work. Of course the classic example of Doctor Who creating fear is Blink, and this episode was filmed on the same property, but in a different house, as where Blink was filmed.

The episode concluded with the Doctor going inside to visit the person in the vault. The interaction we did hear has strengthened suspicion that it is The Master (very likely as Missy) inside. For that matter, is the vault the Master’s TARDIS and how big will it be on the inside?

In other Doctor Who universe news, there is a new design for K-9. There will also be a series five of Torchwood, taking place after Miracle Day, but it will be released as an audio series.

American Gods premiered last week. I wonder if this is the right format. The show is apparently very faithful to the book, while expanding on situations and characters. One review said that the entire first season covers only the first one hundred pages of the book. The show is basically set up for at least the first four episodes, making me wonder if television viewers who aren’t familiar with the book will understand what is going on and stick it out. This could be a situation in which it might not be best to be so faithful to the book. Otherwise it might be better to release this Netflix style and have it available all at once, so people can go through it more like reading a book, as opposed to watching the first episode, being confused, and possibly not returning. At very least it might have been better to release the first few episodes at once, as Hulu did with The Handmaid’s Tale.

Whether or not they understand what is going on, fans of  Bryan Fuller’s work will feel right at home with the visual. The lynching scene at the end felt like something right out of Hannibal. Fuller discussed the scene with TV Guide.

Neil Gaiman explained what the book and series is all about in an interview with Recode:

Many of you who are listening to this know what “American Gods” is because it’s a very popular book. Some of you have not read the book, so Neil, tell us what the book and the show are about.

The book — which was written in 1999, 2000 and 2001, and published in June 2001 — and the show, which is coming up, are both about America. They’re both about a man named Shadow, who is in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit and has been looking forward to getting out and getting back together with his wife, Laura, who he loves very, very much. In a one-two sucker punch, he learns that he’s being let out a few days early, and he is being let out a few days early because his wife was killed in a car crash. He’s on his way back to his wife’s funeral when he meets a peculiar old grifter on a plane, who offers him a job.

The job, which he winds up taking, throws Shadow into the middle of a battle, an oncoming battle, between all of the old gods, all of the things that people who have come to America over the years have brought with them and abandoned, whether it’s leprechauns, or the Golem, or things that people have believed in, come to America, as all of the people who are in America are the descendants of people who came here, or are people who came here, and also the new gods. The new gods are the things that demand our attention, that we give our time and our love and our attention to, whether it be the gods of podcast, or of those small glass and metal and plastic objects that we all stare at in rapt devotion…

This is a book you started writing in the late ’90s. You started making the TV show a couple of years ago, it comes out now, and it is about immigration, in large part?

Yeah.

Race is forefront. There is a lynching scene at the end of the first episode. The beginning of the second episode, it starts off on a slave ship, so obviously there is some timely stuff going on here. Do you figure that would’ve been timely no matter what?

The weird thing for me is that when I wrote the book, I did not see any of this stuff as controversial. When I wrote the book, I thought, okay, this is an immigrant country. Some of the people came here, their ancestors came here 20,000 years ago from Siberia, crossing the Bering Straights and stuff. Some people came here 400 years ago, and some people wanted to come here, and some people were sent as prisoners, sent as slaves …

Right, there’s no question mark at the end of it, it’s a full stop.

That one’s a full stop. This is an immigrant country, and furthermore, I don’t think it’s contentious or controversial to be pro Statue of Liberty, and the poem thereon. You’re going, “I think that is part of the American psyche, the American dream,” nor did it think it was, in any way, controversial or laudable to go, “I am writing a novel about immigration in America, therefore I am going to have a lot of people in my book of different races because there are a lot of different races in America. I will make a mixed-race hero, A) for plot reasons and B) because he embodies America.” That all seemed to me to be very …

Table stakes.

Yeah. It’s not controversial, and I don’t think we thought it was controversial when we were writing the scripts, and I don’t think anybody thought it was really controversial when we were shooting it.

Cut to 2017.

Suddenly, I’m describing the show … There was a point where I was describing the show to … I was on the Empire Film Awards red carpet and somebody put a microphone in my face, and I told them a little bit about the show, and I said, “You know, things have changed. We did not think this stuff was controversial, but now we seem to be occupying political territory. We’re willing to take that, but we didn’t choose it to be.” The headline, when it was published was, “Neil Gaiman, author of ‘American Gods,’ slams Donald Trump.”

I thought, “I didn’t slam Donald Trump.” If I wanted to slam Donald Trump and talk about what a peculiar, narcissistic, ineffectual joke he is, I could’ve done, but I didn’t. I don’t even think I mentioned the poor man’s name.

Empire On Line discussed the making of the show with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green:

So, what’s the story here? Do you guys go out of your way to just get weird with this stuff? Bryan, you did Hannibal, obviously, and that had its own surreal quality to it. It almost seems like you sit there saying, “How can we fuck with the audience’s mind?”

Fuller: No, not really [laughs]. I think our imaginations are fairly vivid and when we’re reading something that is as inspiring as Neil’s novel, it’s hard not to grab the baton and run. If anything, we’ve checked each other a couple of times where it’s, like, “Uh, that may be too big and too weird,” and for us to say that to each other, you know it’s big and weird.

Is this just the way your minds work?

Green: It’s more where we live and we have the opportunity to do it, but it’s also why we were drawn to Neil’s writing and specifically this book is that it allowed us to bring imagination to life, even if it was going to be lavish, difficult, expensive.

Michael, is that something that you’re naturally drawn to, that type of storytelling?

Green: Bryan and I share a lot of taste and style, but I will say as a fan of Hannibal and of Bryan’s in the intervening years when we weren’t working together, I would often get together with him and just ask him, “How do you accomplish these things?” Bryan as a producer has an incredible and enviable track record of taking the ideas in his mind and being able to share them with other people by actualizing them. That is as good a definition of producing as I can muster, where it’s one thing as a writer to take an idea in your head and get it on the page clearly so other people can experience that idea. It’s another thing to be able to do that with visual images.

There were images on the show, sequences on the show, that Bryan described to me when we were in the writing phases and I could imagine very vividly, but the process of being able to actually put that on the screen takes an incredible amount of work, dedication, clarity of purpose. Every idea can continue to get better as more time goes on. I’ve been very much enjoying working with Bryan and learning how he manages to extract from his own mind the best idea and extract from the talented artists we work with the visual representation of those ideas.

Fuller: One of the things that we’ve learned on the show is we needed a long runway, because a lot of these ideas that we’re working on required a certain amount of experimentation to get right, and there were alleys that we went down regarding some visual effects. When we got to the end, we’re, like, “This doesn’t work. We need to back up and try something else, because it’s not holding up to the standards that we have.” Or it was an ambitious idea that we thought we could pull off, but we couldn’t quite, so we had to do something that we could achieve. A lot of our conversations with the visual effects team are about, “What can we pull off? What’s too big for us to achieve in our time and budget?”

The interview went on to discuss several of the characters.

Netflix released season two of Sense8. (Technically the Christmas episode was the first episode of the season). I have a few episodes to go, which might affect my opinion, and I don’t want to say very much to avoid spoilers as this has only been available for a couple of days. Now that the first season established the back story, the plot so far does seem more coherent than in the first season, but that doesn’t matter all that much. I’d enjoy the show even if there was no real plot and we were just seeing that world for several hours. My suspicion is that the Wachowskis come up with great scenes and then J. Michael Straczynski figures out how they can be fit together into a fairly coherent plot. (Maybe the Wachowskis should have brought someone like JMS in to give a better storyline for the Matrix sequels). Like with American Gods and Hannibal, the imagery is important–with a totally different type of imagery here.

Again, avoiding spoilers, the conspiracy element reminds me a bit of Orphan Black. There is the return of Mr. Whispers, and the BPO (Biologic Preservation Organization), with more layers than in the first season, similar to how the conspiracy expanded on Orphan Black. There is more of a biological background given, and there are other clusters. While new characters are introduced, the story does continue to concentrate on the cluster seen in the first season, with their individual stories, both alone and when connected with others, continuing to be the strength of the show.

In other entertainment news, it was announced that both The Handmaid’s Tale and 13 Reasons Why have both been renewed for a second season.

Comicbook.com explains how the reveal of Savatar’s identity on last week’s episode of The Flash plays into the 2056 warning from the Flash previously played on Legends of Tomorrow. They are going to have to do a lot more to convince me that it is plausible to have a future Barry come back in time and kill Iris.

In a really ambitious project, Vulture ranked all 373 songs by the Rolling Stones. Number one is You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Lawyers, Guns & Money wants to argue over it. Vulture did point out some areas of potential controversy beyond the ranking of the songs:

The Rolling Stones have multiple songs that are lyrically reprehensible to women and people of color — often both at the same time. If I were questioned about this topic at the Pearly Gates, I’d suggest that the Stones’ offensive attitudes had more to do with a craven desire to be provocative than any fundamental malignant worldview, but maybe I’m a fool. Whatever the true motivation behind them, a handful of the band’s songs have been tarred by Jagger and Richards’s sex and race insensitivity. There’s no getting around it. Then there’s the matter of appropriation. Excepting perhaps Elvis, there is no rock act that benefited more from drawing on black music than the Rolling Stones, who have repeatedly talked with respect and deference about how much they’ve taken from their musical idols. I do think that once the band took flight, its music represents a synthesis of their influences, rather than mere mimicry or theft. That said, I don’t know what you do with all these issues other than acknowledge that they’re a problem.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Thin Ice; The Handmaid’s Tale; Catastrophe; American Gods

Thin Ice had the most complete story so far this season, but the highlight of the episode remained the relationship between Bill and The Doctor. The episode dealt serious matters including racism and class, but it was the meta discussion of time travel and the Doctor which was most interesting.

The Doctor and Bill continued in their rules of tutor and pupil with Bill asking questions throughout the episode, also providing an opportunity to give some comments on the show in Moffat’s final season. This was Bill’s first real trip into the past and, being well-aware of science fiction tropes, Bill asked what the “rules” are. “You travel into the past. There’s got to be rules. If I step on a butterfly it could send ripples through time that mean I’m not even born in the first place and I could just disappear.” Her concern was that, “Every choice I make in this moment here and now could change the whole future.” The Doctor replied with justification for the often careless manner in which he interacts with the past in pointing out that this is, “Exactly like every other day of your life. The only thing to do is to stop worrying about it.”

Except for poor Pete, written out of history, and even deleted from the memories of viewers and from recordings of the last two episodes. We haven’t seen anything like this since Cold Blood in which Rory was sucked into a crack in the universe and erased from history. Perhaps Pete will return, possibly as another Auton duplicate, as Rory later did.

There was also repetition of the Doctor being a bit of a thief, along with his his limited control over the TARDIS: “I told you, you don’t steer the TARDIS. You reason with it… and successfully most of the time… She’s a bad girl this one. Always looking for trouble.”

Bill had more serious questions and observations. She noted that “Regency England, a bit more black than they show in the movies.” The Doctor replied, “So was Jesus. History’s a whitewash.”

She realized that there was a lot more to the Doctor than a university professor after seeing his lack of a response to the death of a child. She asked him how many people he has seen die, and then how many he has killed. He had no specific answers. He did say, “I’m 2,000-years-old and I’ve never had the time for the luxury of outrage.” I wondered how long it would be until Bill saw through that lie, and it occurred later in the same episode.

The Doctor had fun with Bill beyond his reference to Pete. He allowed her to watch the lights because she was having fun, and then mentioned seeing lights as a side effect of time travel. Later he told her to let him do the talking because she has a temper. Moments later he slugged  Lord Sutcliffe (also showing his capacity for outrage).

Of course the Doctor wasn’t entirely cold about the death of the boy. He just has seen enough to know when he can and cannot do something. His overall view was more humane: “Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life, a life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age. That’s what defines a species.”

The episode took place in the Frost Fair of 1814, the last in a series of actual events when the the River Thames froze over. Being 2000 years old (or actually older if the events of past seasons are taken into consideration), and prone to hanging out on earth, it is no surprise that the Doctor was there before. A Good Man Goes to War reveals that he was there with River Song, with Stevie Wonder performing:

River: It’s my birthday. The Doctor took me ice skating on the River Thames in 1814, the last of the great Frost Fairs. He got Stevie Wonder to sing for me under London Bridge.
Rory: Stevie Wonder sang in 1814?
River: Yes, he did, but you must never tell him.

(As a totally irrelevant aside, Stevie Wonder was once dining at the same restaurant I was at while traveling to Washington, D.C.)

There was an old Companion Chronicle audio story in which the first Doctor, Vicki and Steven visited the Frost Fair of 1814. The Doctor also promised to take Clara to the Frost Fair in The Caretaker (and actually did in a novel) The Doctor’s lack of interest in rules of time travel in his discussion with Bill is consistent with his lack of concern for returning to the same place–which would be forbidden in other time travel stories. This includes the breaking of time in the Legends of Tomorrow season two finale.

Bill did verify that her trip did not brake time, and Doctor Who has already established that humans have an incredible tendency to forget the extraordinary events depicted on the show. Bill used Search-wise.net for her research–a site which actually exists for television purposes.

The Doctor and Bill returned to the Doctor’s office in time for tea, but Nardole figured out that they had been traveling in time when he saw their change of clothing. He did not appear to figure out out that he had no chance to win the coin toss. For the sake of continuity, he did make reference to how he was reassembled between The Husbands Of River Song when he was decapitated and The Return Of Doctor Mysterio. He returned to the vault where we learned that someone or something inside was knocking, perhaps the Master, except that he knocks four times. Knocking also foreshadowed a past regeneration.

The Handmaid’s Tale premiered on Hulu, with the first three episodes being released. The show displayed a very bleak future in which Christian fundamentalists have established a dictatorship. This would be more plausible in a Muslim country, especially considering recent events in Turkey. It seems more plausible here, and  especially timely, after the election of Donald Trump, with the lack of respect for reproductive right’s and a woman’s right to control her own body taken to even more horrifying extremes. (To be objective and nonpartisan, Democrats cannot totally place the blame on Donald Trump and Republicans for rightward movement in this country considering their lack of concern in nominating a candidate such as Hillary Clinton who has a terrible history on First Amendment issues, including separation of church and state. While obviously Clinton would never support the mistreatment of women in this manner, her work with The Fellowship while in the Senate did help facilitate the goals of the religious right in increasing the role of religion in public policy.)

Elisabeth Moss does an excellent job as Offred (presumably given this name as she belongs to Fred), who is forced to conform outwardly. The totalitarian society shows how those without power being under constant surveillance, appearing to have no chance to rebel, or even safely be themselves with others. Inwardly it is a different story: “My name is Offred, and I intend to survive.” Her internal thoughts provide necessary relief from the overall story. There are also breaks from the main narrative to see how America went in that direction. Martial law was initiated, supposedly on a temporary nature in response to a terrorist attack, and later women were prohibited from having money or holding jobs.

The supporting cast also does an excellent job, especially Alexis Bledel (renamed Ofglen, following the same pattern), who managed to portray with her eyes alone the horrors of what she was exposed to in the third episode. Yvonne Strahovski is also excellent. 

Showrunner Bruce Miller discussed changes in the television show from the novel, including what happened to Ofglen (with spoilers for the third episode):

You take the character of Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) in a different direction very early on in the series. Can you talk about the decision to have Ofglen forcibly undergo genital mutilation surgery and how that changes things for her character moving forward?
Miller:
In the book, Ofglen just disappears and we hear that she killed herself. There’s no real way to confirm that. This was just one of those cases where you just follow your curiosity and you say, well, what happened to her? And I was fascinated by the idea, personally, of seeing how some of the institutions were being reproduced in Gilead. And the institution of the criminal justice system seemed fascinating in a world with institutionalized sexism and misogyny and biblical laws that were being taken literally. So that kind of lead us down a path of, OK, if I want to see how all of those things go, it would be very interesting to follow those things to the end. And making the decision about the female genital mutilation was really just kind of a practical discussion. A world that happened by accident is different than a world people created on purpose and here, Gilead is a world they created on purpose. There’s motive behind it, human motive. So what we’re trying to do is say, OK, what would they do to someone like Ofglen? They don’t want to kill her or send her away. They want to maintain her fertility as part of their reproductive system and their focus on that. So how would they try to control her?

And also taking into account, Margaret Atwood has said many times and we’ve certainly took on this adage, that nothing should happen in the show that doesn’t happen in the world. We don’t want to make up cruelties just for the sake of doing it. Then it turns into pornography. It turns into violence. It’s commentary and it helps you understand the world if you take things that happened in the world. Female genital mutilation is certainly something that happens all over the world. The difference here is that it doesn’t usually happen to white girls, but it does happen all over the world. We spoke to the U.N. and we spoke to the councils they sent us to about how it happens and why it happens and what it’s used for and how it’s done. We took it really seriously. We didn’t want to do it for shock value, even though it’s very shocking. You want to do it because it seems like the thing that Gilead would do. It’s a difference in the book, but it’s also something that takes place out of Offred’s point of view, at least in the show and also in the book. So we felt like we weren’t straying so far because it was something that could have happened in the world of the book and could have happened to somebody else. But anything we did that was not in the book or anything we changed, we were incredibly serious in those discussions about why to change things.

He also discussed how timely the series is:

A lot has been said about how timely the series is. Do you feel any concern that, given the current state of our society, The Handmaid’s Tale might hit a little too close to home for many viewers who would rather avoid facing these ideas head-on?
Miller:
I’m not worried. I hope it hits a little too close to home for viewers who are feeling anxious, because I think there are some great lessons to be learned, which is that the world can change in big ways and we should be very mindful of keeping an eye on our freedoms. As in the show, we see in the flashbacks, how in big and small ways the world can change and the things that we say and the things people say, they’re going to end up mattering in people’s personal lives and that we live in a country where we enjoy lots of freedoms and that those freedoms are not to be taken for granted.

The other thing is that if it does hit close to home, it also offers some really good examples of what to do. Offred is in an incredibly difficult circumstance, and yet she finds ways to express herself, she keeps her sanity, she keeps her heart alive. She also pulls levers of power. She manipulates the people around her to both increase her chances of survival, but also to build some sort of life. She makes connections with people even when they’re scary. I think in a way that’s inspiring. If Offred can do that in that situation, maybe we can do something in this situation. I think Margaret said it in the book, which is, “just do something.” And hopefully you walk away with that. And the other part is that there is a part of doe-eyed optimism on my part, when you look in the flashbacks, the world is so jarringly different. Our messy, noisy world where people are kissing in public and on their iPhones and stuff, you learn to appreciate it, or at least I did. Spending so much time in the fictional world of Gilead, you learn to appreciate how nice it is to have a messy, noisy world and what a pleasure that is. So if you walk out of there going boy, we actually have a good thing going even though it annoys us sometimes, that’s the nerve you want to hit, which is people saying, “Oh, actually there are some good things. Let’s fight to preserve them.” As opposed to, “Things are sh–ty, let’s just throw up our hands and abandon them.

While there were changes from the book, he also discussed how he consulted Margaret Atwood in an interview with Time:

The show definitely expands on what’s happened in the book. You get more backstory. You get to see what happens from the perspective of other characters. How did you decide what to expand and why, and did you discuss those decisions with Margaret Atwood at all?

Everything’s been a conversation with Margaret. It’s very unusual with something this iconic that you would have the author still living. Margaret is an expert in her own way of seeing this particular piece of work adapted: It’s been a play, opera, movie. So she had a lot of experience with what things need to change for different forms for this story. Where I might have had trepidation changing things because of my affection for the book, she certainly did not.

If we changed something, we did it thoughtfully and for a reason. We discussed the repercussions of each change with Margaret. It’s been a very active conversation back and forth. And I’ve been through the story a lot. We’ve picked it apart in the writers’ room. Elisabeth, in particular, has been through the book and educated herself to the nth degree. She’s memorized whole sections of it. So we took great care, and most of the changes we’ve made were actually extrapolations: Taking a thing that was a sentence in the book and turning it into a whole episode.

While Handmaid’s Tale is a must-see show this season, it is disturbing and bleak. My wife and I found that comic relief was necessary after watching three episodes. Fortunately Amazon has released the third season of Catastrophe. If  you haven’t seen this, I recommend going back to the start. Each season takes under three hours to watch. It is sort of like doing You’re The Worst with older, but still highly flawed people, and setting it in the U.K.

For the benefit of those who watched the second season, the events at the end of the final episode have considerable impact as the third season began. A similar formula was used, with an event at the tend of the final episode of the third season likely to have further ramifications in the fourth. Fortunately the series was renewed for both a third and fourth season at the same time, so we will see where this goes.

Sadly, the series has become of significance for science fiction. Carrie Fisher reprised her role as Rob’s mother in an episode which ironically dealt with death and loss. This was the role she was filming before flying from London to Los Angeles the day she had her fatal heart attack. A tribute to Carrie Fisher was attacked to the episode.

The highly anticipated premiere of American Gods is on tonight. (Gillian Anderson in the above picture.) Bryan Fuller and Michael Green discussed the show with Uproxx:

The novel tackles just about every Big Theme there is: politics, religion, modernity, sexuality. Do you two think about America in these grand terms as well?

Fuller: It’s hard not to think of America in grand terms in the current political climate because the country has shit the bad. We’re facing a violent time of great crisis, and that calls into question what we believe in, where we’ve placed our faith, how we navigate the secular and the search for something more meaningful. Then there are those who are not searching, because they’ve made up their minds that they’ve experienced the extent of the world that they need to, and have no cause to look further. That’s so limited and narrow of an approach to living, so you’ve got to challenge people on what they believe. Challenge the conservative Christians who don’t understand the concept of Christianity, or else they’d never pair those two words together.

Green: The book is sexual, and that’s nothing we’d ever shy away from, but we wanted to make sure our depiction of sexuality would be relevant to the show. Where nudity becomes dicy for me, as a viewer, is when it’s cuttable. That’s the definition of ‘gratuitous,’ when it doesn’t need to be there to enhance enjoyment of the show. And that’s not the show we set out to make. We wanted all the sexuality to be grounded in character, so you can’t tell Bilquis’ story without the scene. We wanted to do the scene between Salim and the djinn with fidelity to the book, but also give a graphic depiction of gay sex that no one could say wasn’t beautiful. We wanted to show the majesty of this religious experience mediated by sex, and put it beyond judgement from those viewers who usually feel uncomfortable with same-sex depiction.

American Gods is a finite work, but the nature of TV is that when something’s going well, people want more of it. What do you think about the future of this project? American Gods has an end; does the show have one as well?

Fuller: I think the show should have an end, but that does not mean the show cannot spawn other shows that live on beyond the scope of American Gods. If we were to secure the rights to Anansi Boys, that would be our first choice for a spinoff. We love Orlando Jones and what he brings to the mythology of this series, and we love the story of that book. We’d love to get our hooks into that and branch that off if this show ends up being successful.

Den of Geek also has an interview with Bryan Fuller which tied it into contemporary politics:

Thinking about Mr Wednesday, the figure of the con man has scarcely felt more relevant to US politics.

[Laughs. Loudly]

And to the US Media.

Well, you have a con man who is saying ‘let’s make the gods great again’.  There is a certain angle of that story that is much more resonant and relevant now than it was prior to the election in November. Being in post and watching those episodes as we’re cutting and putting them together was an interesting experience – to be watching the show before the election and then watching the show after the election and realising just how resonant it has the potential to be in that climate. Particularly as an immigration story, since both the Trump election and Brexit were platforms of anti-immigration and fear of the other and exploiting that fear in citizens, it feels like we are inadvertently tapping into a conversation that we need to have and continue to have as we figure out a way to celebrate differences and not condemn them.

This story is a ripe opportunity for social comment.

Absolutely.

In particular the idea of people being whipped up into a war whose only purpose is to further the power of a couple of individuals…

It’s tragic on one level and then on another level it’s an opportunity to take a look at where we are. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forwards. It feels like with both Brexit and the Trump election, we’re two nations taking a step backwards. As disappointing as it was to see hatred and fear rule the day for both of us, it was a great disappointment to say the least, it makes it even more vital and important for us to encourage conversations and also to encourage the fundamentals of listening to somebody. That’s the biggest issue, certainly what’s happening in America, is the unwillingness to listen to somebody else’s point of view.

That’s something that I love to do, even if I violently disagree with somebody, I’m fascinated with how they’ve come to their decisions. Talking to people in the States who voted for Trump, and not wanting to shut them down, like, oh my gosh, you are supporting somebody who has bragged about sexual assaults and has a clear disdain for many groups of people, but instead wanting to find a common ground because what I think all of us found in both of our situations was that everybody made up their mind and there was nothing that was going to change them regardless.