SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The X-Files; Time Travel: Doctor Who, Timeless, and Legends of Tomorrow

With Vaulting Ambition I feel that Star Trek: Discovery has moved on from what was predictable and discussed in previous posts to new surprises. As I, and probably most of the internet, previously guessed, Ash Tyler is Voq, Lorca is from the Mirror universe and caused Discovery to wind up there, and Georgiou is the Emperor. All of this was finally confirmed, additional details provided, and new questions raised.

If you accept the logic of the Mirror Universe, most of the remaining revelations in Vaulting Ambition make total sense. In the Prime Universe Burnham was an orphan, was close to Georgiou, and betrayed her. In the Mirror Universe, the specifics are different, but this basic framework exists. As we learned last week that Sarek was not the one who adopted Burnham, it was not all that much of a surprise to learn that Georgiou was the one who adopted her.

It was already pretty obvious that Lorca had a special need for Burnham considering how he not only arranged for her to be on Discovery, but also acted very protective of her. Their connection was explained. Presumably the Lorca of the Prime Universe and the Mirror Burnham are dead, but having one or the other show up isn’t impossible. The writers sure played with the audience in both surprising us in the dinner scene with the revelations that Burnham was adopted by Georgiou, and subsequently that Burnham had betrayed her with Lorca. They also played with the viewers when Lorca was in the torture booth initially pretending not to know the name of the sister, as would be expected if he was from the Prime Universe. Then he suddenly gave it away.

There were already many clues. While there was already speculation that Lorca was the Mirror version to explain his very un-Starfleet like behavior, including leaving Harry Mudd behind with the Klingons, I became convinced of it in Lethe. The clues included him not remembering details of past actions with Admiral Cornwall and his behavior towards her, including attacking her and sleeping with a phaser. Another clue in this episode was finding that both Georgiou and Lorca eat Kelpiens, after Burhnam picked one out as we pick lobsters. Again this is consistent with Kelpiens being a prey species in the Prime Universe (even if not prey of humans). The clincher for Burnham was finding out about the shared eye problem between Georgiou and Lorca.

The confirmation that Lorca is from the Mirror Universe provides an answer for critics of Discovery who complain that what we have seen is not consistent with Star Trek. Lorca was not acting like a Starfleet Captain because he was from the Mirror Universe. The fact that his actions were found to be suspicious and he was at risk of losing his command shows that the rest of this universe is like the Star Trek universe we are accustomed to.

Burnham, who has frequently made bad decisions from her initial attack on Georgiou in the pilot to going to the planet last week, seems to have made another one in quickly informing Mirror Georgiou both that she is from a different universe and about the spore drive. Georgiou was far better at keeping secrets, including the use of her killer fidget spinner to make sure none of the witnesses to the conversation will talk. Burnham was also easily conned by Mirror Georgiou’s claims of being honorable as the Georgiou she knew was honorable, but the whole point of the Mirror Universe is that we are seeing the evil versions of Federation characters.

Also in the episode, Stamets did get to see Culber again, but it hardly left me optimistic that Culber will actually be seen alive again. The issues in the mycelial network might provide yet another reason why the technology is not being used by the time of the original show.

It was surprising that  L’Rell both revealed so much about her plan with Voq, and gave in to work on him. This still leaves the question open of what she is actually doing, and who will remain when she is done.

There are many remaining questions including the specifics of Lorca’s plan. In a battle between the Mirror versions of Lorca and Georgiou, is one preferable, or are both entirely evil? Will learning about how Lorca got into the Prime Universe provide another way home for Discovery? Regardless of how the battle between Lorca and Georgiou turns out, where does this leave Star Trek: Discovery in the future?

It is hard to see Lorca being Captain in the future, unless the Prime Universe version is locked up in Lorca’s menagerie and will be ready to retake command (after a hiatus between seasons). One of the original ideas discussed for Discovery was for it to be an anthology series. I wonder if it is even a possibility that next season will be an entirely different story with a different ship and crew. That possibility also means that we cannot even be certain that the Discovery will return to the Prime Universe. It might be stuck in the Mirror Universe, wind up in yet another universe, or leave the Mirror universe at a different point in time.

If you only watch one episode of The X-Files this season, watch The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat. The episode was written by Darin Morgan who wrote classic episodes such as Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’ and the best episode of last seasonMulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.

The episode appears to be inspired by both The Twilight Zone and Donald Trump. It is about gaps in collective memory, a phenomenon known as the Mandela effect–except in the episode it is also misremembered as the Mengele effect. Examples begin with Mulder finding evidence that his favorite episode of The Twilight Zone, The Lost Martian, doesn’t really exist. When Mulder couldn’t find it anywhere Scully suggested it might have been an episode of The Outer Limits. Mulder was shocked: “Confuse The Twilight Zone with The Outer Limits?! Do you even know me?”

Elsewhere in the episode Mulder set everyone straight as to who he is: “Do you know who I am? I’m Fox Mulder! I was fighting the power and breaking conspiracies before you saw your first chemtrail, you punks! I’m Fox Freaking Mulder, you punks! I’m Fox Mulder! Fox Mulder!”

Much of the episode involved meeting a guy named Reggie in a parking garage, with other faux historical information provided about manipulating collective memory. This included Dr. Thaddeus Q. They, who had worked on making astronauts forget home, but wound up making them think they were chimpanzees. His best scene was siting on top of the Washington Monument (as there were no other seats available) wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap. It was mocking Trump’s claims about the inaugural crowd by pretending that the public was manipulated into forgetting how many people actually attended.

This was the perfect episode for the Trump era, called the POCO age in this episode as “We’re living in a post-cover-up, post-conspiracy age.”  This might describe the POCO age:

No one will care whether the truth gets out, because the public no longer knows what’s meant by the truth. No one can tell the difference anymore between what’s real and what’s fake. Take this Mandela Effect. In the old days, I never would have come out and admitted to you that yes, I can change people’s collective memories.

Dr. They gave Trump credit: “Our current president once said something truly profound. He said, ‘Nobody knows for sure.’”

The episode had Mulder attempt to explain discrepancies in memory based upon parallel universes, while Skully explained it by faulty memory. When Mulder’s memory of watching television of a child was shown, there was a child sized Mulder with adult Mulder’s head.

The invasion of Grenada was shown to be a cover-up of an alien visit. We later later learned that, “We’re not alone in the universe, but nobody likes us.” The alien returned to say that a wall, which will be “beautiful, albeit invisible,” will be built around our solar system to keep humans from infecting the rest of the galaxy. The rationalization sounded like one from Donald Trump saying the Earth is  “not sending us your best people. You’re bringing drugs, you’re bringing crime, you’re rapists.” To make up for this restriction, Mulder was given a book entitled All the Answers, which answers all the questions raised by the X-Files. Of course Mulder did not want the book, wanting to continue his search for the truth.

Ultimately the entire series was retconned to include Reggie as a third member of the team, with scenes from classic episodes edited to include Reggie Forrest Gump style. The idea was set up earlier this season in This when Mulder and Scully were flipping through the electronic X-Files and there was a badge for Reggie. Reggie was ultimately taken away in a straight jacket. Skinner then came out asking where they were taking Reggie, adding a question as to how real his story was.

With the recent talk of a secret society in the FBI working to undermine Trump, I do hope that Gillian Anderson reconsiders and returns for another season of The X-Files so that they could do an episode on this. The likelihood that this talk is largely nonsense in no way reduces the possibility that The X-Files could use the idea for an episode.

SyFy.com interviewed Darin Morgan:

With the renewal of The X-Files for a Season 11 and your call back to write another episode, did it start with asking yourself, “What do I want to explore?”

Darin Morgan: Well, you know my last episode [“Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster”] was kind of about coming back to the show, and reflecting back on what did it all mean and how did I feel about that?

 have to say, it was a unique exploration of those themes via comedian Rhys Darby’s out-of-sorts monster.

Yeah, Rhys was great. So this one was more of like, ‘Okay, you’ve reflected, so what’s going on now with the world?” And the whole idea of, if this show’s main thing has been ‘The truth is out there’ and we have a president who…

For him there is no truth.

Right. Or you have Mulder, who’s been a conspiracy nut from the get-go, and now you have essentially his boss [President Trump] is even a bigger conspiracy nut.

Mulder actually looks sane for the first time compared to where the world is right now.

Exactly. So that was the main approach. How would Mulder respond to all that’s going on around him?

David and I talked about that too, in that over the 25-year span of the show, the world has achieved peak surreal. As a writer, how do you distill that into this world?

Good question. I don’t know. This may not directly answer you, but I found the hardest thing was in terms of Trump, every day he does something that you go, “I can’t believe he said that. I want to address that.” But a week later, no one remembers that thing. There were so many things when I first started writing that if I had referenced it I don’t think people would have remembered it now. So I ended up focusing on the wall and his lying. Those two things will always be around as long as he’s president. I sort of focused on those two things.

Having Reggie as the third partner is fantastic. Where did that idea come from, and also Brian’s casting?

Brian was great. He’s a lot of fun. I came across the… I was going to say the Mengele Effect, but it’s The Mandela Effect. (Laughs) From that it was figuring out what I was going to do with that. It’s this idea — and I think this is where the third partner idea came in — was like if someone has never had an experience, like I don’t have a memory other people do, the only way to make them understand what that might feel like is if someone was watching the show, The X-Files, and the someone goes, “There was always another character.” And you go, “Wait, no, no. It was just Mulder and Scully.” And they say, “No, no. There was Mulder and Scully and Reggie something.” That would put them in a position of going, “Oh, how would I react if a memory I have that I cherished of my past, suddenly nobody else believes me?” So that was the way to do it.

Did you come out of the other end of it feeling like the phenomena is something more?

No.

No?

I still think it’s just people misremembering. I have a really bad memory myself. It’s interesting to go, “Oh, try to come up with some theory to explain it.” But it’s just people not remembering. I guess that’s why I probably didn’t do as thorough and in-depth exploration of that phenomenon, because, to me, there wasn’t a lot to run with. Other than that, I get parallel universes, which is one explanation…

Are you doing any episodes in the back part of the season?

No. Once is enough.

After all these years, do you feel like new X-Files stories still come to you easily?

Oh, God no. No. It’s always tough. Writing for the show is so hard because you have to come up with a completely different story and it’s not in an anthology show, which in some ways makes it easier. But it’s also difficult because you have to do Mulder and Scully investigating a story on something completely different. It’s just always difficult. I’ve never had an episode where, “Oh, that one was easy.”

I am glad that the 13th Doctor won her first battle. From Digital Spy:

The BBC gender pay gap was one of the biggest stories of last year, and one person who is not afraid of fighting such inequality is Jodie Whittaker.

The actress told Digital Spy and other media outlets that she made sure that she got paid the same as her Doctor Who predecessor Peter Capaldi.

Speaking backstage at the National Television Awards, Whittaker said: “It’s an incredibly important time and the notion [of equal pay] should be supported.

“It’s a bit of a shock that it’s a surprise to everyone that it should be supported!

“I know I do not speak just on behalf of the women here, I speak on behalf of the men and the women,” she added, stating that people of both sexes believe they should be paid equally.

When asked how she was enjoying working on the iconic sci-fi show, the actress said: “Yeah, it’s great. I love it, I absolutely love it, yeah. It’s amazing! I get to see all the best places!”

Den of Geek looked at the unanswered questions of the Peter Capaldi era.

Radio Times summarized what is known about the first season of the Jodie Whittaker era here.

NBC has announced a return date for Timeless. The second season will  start on Sunday, March 11th at 10 p.m. with an episode entitled, The War to End All Wars. Needless to say, it involves a trip back to World War I. I hope they don’t give away the fact that we call it World War I as the Doctor did on Twice Upon A Time. Spoilers.

On another time travel series, Legends of Tomorrow, Wally West (Kid Flash) is going to become a series regular. Constantine will also appear on the show when it returns February 12. Following is the synopsis of the episode:

After Sara’s (Caity Lotz) encounter with Mallus, the Legends are paid a visit by John Constantine (guest star Matt Ryan), a demonologist detective.

The Legends agree to accompany him to a present-day psychiatric hospital and they are surprised to discover who Constantine is trying to help.

During the exorcism, Sara, Leo (guest star Wentworth Miller) and Constantine go missing, leaving Ray (Brandon Routh) and Zari (Tala Ashe) to try to take care of Constantine’s client.

Meanwhile, Amaya (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) and Nate (Nick Zano) once again come face to face with Kuasa. Dominc Purcell also stars.

The CW Network is staggering its superhero shows, having recently started Black LighteningMark Pedowitz, the CW’s president, realizes that there is a limit to how many superhero shows can survive at once, and has placed a limit of four. Good idea, especially considering that other networks also have superhero and comic-based series at present.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek; The Growing Berlantiverse; SHIELD; Doctor Who; Catwoman; Genre Shows Win Creative Arts Emmys; The Nix

George Takei discussed Star Trek with Stephen Colbert. Video above. Nerdist reports:

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the debut of the original Star Trek (well, in America at least: sorry to Canada that we didn’t do this two days earlier), so fittingly the tributes and odes were pouring in from fans around the globe. However, it was George Takei who best summed up what the franchise is really all about, and in doing so explained why it is so beloved and has endured for so long.

The O.G. Sulu was a guest of super nerd and Trekkie Stephen Colbert on The Late Show last night, and Takei shared his memories of the “very special” first time he went to work on the series, where franchise creator Gene Roddenberry described to him and the rest of the cast at their first table read what story the space adventure show was really telling.

“Gene explained to us what Star Trek was all about,” said Takei, “He said that the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth, and the strength of this starship lay in its diversity coming together.” Roddenbery then explained that the possibilities of “infinity diversity in infinite combinations” (IDIC) would force the crew, representing the many people of the planet, to combine their abilities to solve problems as one.

More detail on the interview at The Mary Sue.

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Majel Barrett has had both on-screen roles and has been on multiple versions of Star Trek as the voice of the ship’s computer. Her voice was recorded phonetically before she died and there is talk of using her voice on Star Trek: Discovery, along with using it Siri-like virtual assistants. I want my Amazon Echo to use her voice!

Bryan Fuller continues to slowly provide hints about other aspects of Star Trek: Discovery. He tweeted than an episode from The Original Series, Balance of Terror, is a “touchstone” for Discovery’s story arc. The episode introduced the Romulans, and TrekMovie.com speculates on what this might mean.

USA Today has an article on Rod Roddenberry.

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Greg Berlanti is working on yet another superhero show, now Black Lightning for Fox.

IndieWire has interviewed Gregg Berlanti about his multiple superhero shows. He has news on several of them, including the cross-over episodes:

As “Supergirl” leaps to The CW, how has the network move – and the relocation to Vancouver – been going?

I just saw the director’s cut of the first episode, and I’m in as much love with the show as ever. It’s been challenging to figure out all the moving parts, moving the show across cities and across networks. But the reality is, I think the show is as strong as ever and it feels really seamless. People will not be able to tell that it’s not L.A. It feels like National City still. There are some new enhancements to the set that we were going to do anyway. Obviously some new characters are coming to the show that we would have brought in anyway to the second season. And so I’m really pleased. CBS in their own wisdom recognized it, there’s no part of the show that’s fighting itself anymore. It has a youthfulness and appeal because of the age of the leading lady, and it gets to embrace that a touch more.

What more can you tell us how often we’ll see Calista Flockhart’s character, Cat Grant?

She’s recurring. We’re trying to get her for at least six episodes this year, and she’s in the first two episodes. We’re just trying to see when she can come back now.

And will we see her interact with Superman?

I don’t want to give it away, but she has a special kind of dynamic with Clark Kent.

How far along is the “Supergirl”/”The Flash” musical crossover?

We just finished writing the fall crossovers. And now we’re trying to figure out how to produce them. That’s probably the most challenging thing we do all year. And now we’re doing it across three shows! But next week we’ll have to start talking about clearing music. I have a few ideas for tone and style in my head but we’re just starting to talk about what that can be. I do want to try and get an original piece of music written. As we make a deal on that we’ll probably make some announcements on the original songs.

Perhaps written by, I don’t know, Lin-Manuel Miranda?

[laughs] I would say, pretty close. I can’t say yet because we don’t have a deal yet, but I did speak to someone we’re really excited about. There are some writers I’m incredibly excited to work with.

Back to the big CW series crossover, how difficult is that to pull off across so many series?

You really are trying to run a single production across three different productions. But they’re run as three separate entities. We have to figure out when we’re borrowing one actor from where. We’re telling one cohesive story; “Supergirl” will participate, but the storyline doesn’t actively begin there. There are some characters who show up in her episode, but the story begins with “The Flash” episode and goes to “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow.” We’re just getting into designing the bad guy for it, and we start now but it doesn’t air until the end of November. We will put a lot of time between now and then figuring out visual effects sequences. Just today I was holding the three scripts back-to-back – that’s 180 pages of material. It’s a three-hour story, almost a miniseries.

And when you place all three scripts together, it unlocks some sort of fortune.

[laughs] It’s very daunting when you hold them all together like that. Each one of these pages is 10 hours of shooting and a visual effects extravaganza. But hopefully it feels like a great kind of crossover comic book sell.

The Spoiler Room at Entertainment Weekly has news on several genre shows, including this about Felicity on Arrow:

Emily Bett Rickards has been training a lot lately. Does it mean Felicity will be involved in more action scenes in Arrow season 5? — Itakha
At first, Felicity will be dealing with the fallout of Havenrock’s destruction. “In the first five episodes, we face head-on the decision that Felicity made,” EP Marc Guggenheim says. “We are most definitely not ignoring it.” Following that, though, Guggenheim cryptically teases what could be Felicity jumping in on the action. “We’re positioning her to do something in the second half of the year that is really, really key, and that isn’t about her relationship with Oliver or even necessarily her father or her mother. It’s really new territory for her, and we’ve very excited about it. Some big things are going to happen with Felicity.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see Emily Bett Richards while watching Brooklyn last weekend. (Sorry, it was not a major role, and the movie, while excellent, is totally non-genre).

Agents of SHIELD has a promo for Ghost Rider. More at Screen Rant.

Hulu has picked up a sci-fi comedy entitled Future Man from Seth Rogen.

Vince Gilligan is producing a limited series for HBO on Jim Jones for HBO entitled Raven. My bet is that he will do a good job of showing Jones’ life, but after Breaking Bad I would prefer to see him invent more flawed characters of his own.

Netflix has renewed Narcos for season 3 and 4.

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It appears that the next season of Doctor Who will start in April based upon reports in Radio Times and a comment from Peter Capaldi. Before that, there will also be the Christmas episode. Plus in November there will be an animated version of a lost story:

It’s one of the Doctor’s most celebrated adventures and yet no complete film recordings of The Power of the Daleks are known to have survived. The master negatives were destroyed in an archive purge in 1974.

BBC Worldwide has announced that a brand new black and white animation based on audio recordings of the programme using the original cast, surviving photographs and film clips will be released 50 years to the minute after its only UK broadcast on BBC One.

The six half hour episodes feature the regeneration, or as it was then called ‘renewal’, of First Doctor William Hartnell into Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, as the Time Lord and his companions Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (Michael Craze) do battle with the Daleks on the planet Vulcan.

Anne Hathaway told Variety she would live to play Catwoman again. That might be difficult as the Christopher Nolan Batman stories, where she appeared, have concluded, but that doesn’t entirely rule out her reprising the role in a future movie.

A few genre shows have already won awards last night at the Creative Arts Emmys. Winners included Jessica Jones (Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music), Mr. Robot (Outstanding Music Composition For A Series), and Man In The High Castle (Outstanding Main Title Design and Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series). Hopefully some of these series will  also win some of the more major Emmy awards.

J.J. Abrams is working on a television adaptation of The Nix, staring Meryl Streep.

Headline of the day coming over my news aggregators which sounds more like cheap fiction than news: Sick African dictator ‘eats his enemies’ testicles and brains to boost his sexual prowess’