SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD and the MCU; Arrow; The Americans Return For Final Season; Hugo Award Nominees; Trish Walker Music Video From Jessica Jones

 

The last two episodes of Agents of SHIELD have been excellent, tying into the events of last season and fitting into the upcoming events in Avengers: Infinity War. This week’s episode, Rise and Shine, jumped back in time twenty-eight years to further tie HYDRA into the history of the MCU, including the upcoming war. TV Line has summarized Easter Eggs in the episode.

The episode did provide a compelling argument for SHIELD and HYDRA to unite, but I am appalled by HYDRA’s view on dogs. I am glad that General Hale put an end to that when it came to her daughter’s dog.

Earlier in the season I had heard speculation that SHIELD was moved into space and the future this season in order to avoid conflicting with Avengers: Infinity War. Instead they came back prior to the movie’s release, and are now tying into it. At WonderCon the showrunners gave a different reason for going into space:

Jed Whedon: Last year was a real kitchen sink year. We had a lot of stuff going on. We did alt world. We did Ghost Rider. We did LMDs. So we did two different versions of alternate versions of ourselves and so we were thinking ‘Where can we go that’s different.’

Maurissa Tancharoen: Mack’s line sort of reflects what we were thinking in the writer’s room. He turns to Coulson and goes ‘We’re in space. It’s the one thing we haven’t done yet.’ So it was definitely an area that we had been contemplating for a while.

In other words, they went into space as it is something they had not done before. Screen Rant suggests that they venture into alternate dimensions next season.

The future for the series is unknown. The show is on the bubble at ABC, and the season finale was written to be a series finale if the show is not renewed. Besides the usual factors involved in making such a decision, it is possible that the failure of Inhumans will give Disney reason to continue SHIELD with the absence of Marvel on ABC. This might not be enough with Marvel having shows on Freeform, Netflix, and Hulu.

Another factor is that Clark Gregg will be co-staring in Captain Marvel. As the movie takes place in the 1990’s, this will not conflict with his death in the Avengers movies. It does raise the question as to whether filming the movie would interfere with SHIELD returning. While they have been hinting at the possibility of Coulson’s death on SHIELD, which would bring the television show in line with the MCU, I doubt they would bring the show back without Clark Gregg.

The last two episodes of Arrow featured the return of Roy Harper and ended (spoilers) with Thea Queen leaving town with him. Many characters have left the show, and Thea did have a reduced role this year, but it was unexpected that they would eliminate one of the few remaining stars who have been with the show since the start.

Entertainment Weekly discussed the decision with Marc Guggenheim:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What came with the decision to write Thea off the show now and whose decision was it? 
MARC GUGGENHEIM: At the end of season 4, Willa had come to us and basically said that she would like some more time for herself, and would like to reduce her role on the show. And we did, we reduced the commitment that she was making to us in season 5, and carried that over in season 6. Season 6 is the end of her contract, and going into season 6, with all of us knowing it was the end of her contract, Willa expressed the desire to move on, not re-up. She expressed a desire to be written out at a certain time in the season, which is around episode 16, so we accommodated her on that front as well. Look, we love Willa, we love working with Willa, we love the character of Thea, we particularly have always loved Thea’s relationship with Oliver. That relationship is one of the things that we deviated from the comic book early on. It was one of the very first major creative decisions we made in terms of adapting the Green Arrow comic for live action television. So it’s always been an incredibly important, critical part of the show for us.

At the same time, this is what happens when a show goes past five years. Actors start to reach the end of their contracts, they start to look towards greener pastures or new opportunities. I think this is true across all the shows. We never wanna stand in the way of someone wanting to express themselves creatively in a different way, on a different show, or through a different medium. So we took Willa’s request and took it seriously, and decided “Okay, well, if this is the hand we’re dealt, how do we play it as best we can and write off Thea in the most emotional and interesting way possible?”

Instead of getting a happy ending, Thea has set out to right her father’s wrongs. Why was this the most fitting ending?
This was something that came out of the writers’ room and it excited us for a variety of different reasons. For one thing, we really like the idea of writing Thea off in a way that suggested a larger story for her. One could imagine us, at some point in some medium, exploring the story of Thea, Roy, and Nyssa working to find these other Lazarus Pits. We tend to, as writers, gravitate toward stories that suggest other stories. As a showrunner, I got enamored with the notion of writing out a series regular in a way that didn’t suggest the end of a story, but rather the beginning of a new one. That’s not something that you typically see. Normally when a character’s written off, a series regular’s written off, it always feels to me like an ending. Sometimes it’s a literal ending and you’re killing off the character, but a lot of other times it’s like, well they’re going off and just living a much quieter life and there’s no more story to tell about them. I really like the idea of actually going the opposite route and suggesting a greater and bigger story for Thea. I just think that’s both interesting and unexpected.

You’ve always said you didn’t want to kill Thea, but was that seriously considered? Were there alternate possibilities for Thea’s exit?
There were. We talked certainly about the low-hanging fruit of “Well, the simplest thing to do is bring Colton back and have her and Roy ride off into the sunset together,” sort of the way they do at the beginning of the episode. That to me was the obvious choice. That’s the thing that you would expect given the story that we’ve told with Roy and Thea since season 1. But because it’s the obvious choice, that was one of the first choices we immediately discounted, because we never wanna do something that’s so patently apparent. Killing her off was never on the table. I’ve always been very sincere and consistent in my view that Oliver just can’t lose his last remaining family member. So that was never even on the table.

Is there a chance we could see her on the show in the future? And will we get an update on the destruction of the Lazarus Pits, whether Thea returns or not?
Really, honestly, it’s totally up to Willa. One of the things that I love about Arrow — and I think this is true for the other superhero shows as well, but I think Arrow‘s really shown a capacity for it — is no one is ever gone. Even the characters who have been killed off are never gone. People can come back in a variety of different ways here. In Thea’s specific example, there’s a whole storyline left to explore. We haven’t started thinking about how to do it in season 7 or beyond. I think we know Willa’s just finished Arrow, she’s looking to see what other opportunities are out there for her. But I love this idea of Thea, Roy, and Nyssa making an unlikely trio, exploring a different part of the Arrow-verse, a different corner of the Arrow-verse. It would be a shame not to revisit it. At the same time, we’ve also shown that we can tell Arrow-verse stories in other mediums: animated, comic books, and prose novels. There are those avenues open to us as well. So I don’t know what the future holds, but there are potentials out there.

It has become commonplace on the show for characters to leave and return, so I would not be surprised if they were to do an arc with Thea returning. They even brought Katie Cassedy back after her character was killed, and now Stephen Amell is teasing that Colin Donnell (Tommie Merlin) will be returning. Supposedly this will not be a flashback, but there are all sorts of ways they could have Oliver imagine the return of people from his past, without even having to resort to either a flashback or Tommie from another earth.

Caity Lotz will also be returning in the season six finale of Arrow, in addition to her regular role in Legends of Tomorrow. There is no word what her role will be, or how she will respond to the earth-2 version of Laurel.

The Americans has returned for its final season, with a jump to 1987. Throughout the series, the speculation was that, assuming there is no happy ending for the main characters, the show might end in the arrest of the Russian agents. The season premier has raised other possibilities. Elizabeth and Philip Jennings might turn on each other. Even worse, Elizabeth’s end could come from the pill she was given now that she is in a position where she cannot be arrested. Philip has left the spy business and Paige has entered. The season premiere also showed the importance that Elizabeth places on her daughter’s safety, suggesting that this might also be the one thing which could lead her to disobey orders from Russia.

Oleg has also returned to the United States. In the past there were jokes of a Stan and Oleg spin off. Now will it be Oleg and Phillip?

No matter how things play out for the Jennings, we know that the Soviet Union is heading towards its end. Their travel agency is also an anachronism, with the internet likely to change it in the near future.

This is all just speculation as the final season can go in a number of directions. Regardless of how it plays out, I am very happy that The Americans is back. It has consistently been among the top network dramas for the last several years. Plus The Americans shows that Russian attempts to influence the United States, and vice versa, are nothing new. This is a long-standing situation which is not about why Hillary Clinton lost an election that any decent Democrat could have won, and not a reason to panic and restrict free speech. We have survived Russian attempts to influence the United States in the past and can continue to do so if we can ignore cable news hysteria.

The 2018 Hugo Award nominees are out. Television shows nominated include episodes of Black Mirror, Doctor Who, Star Trek: Discovery, and The Good Place. Following are the nominees for movies and television shows:

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

  • Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Alcon Entertainment / Bud Yorkin Productions / Torridon Films / Columbia Pictures)
  • Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Blumhouse Productions / Monkeypaw Productions / QC Entertainment)
  • The Shape of Water, written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (TSG Entertainment / Double Dare You / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm, Ltd.)
  • Thor: Ragnarok, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost; directed by Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios)
  • Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

  • Black Mirror: “USS Callister,” written by William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, directed by Toby Haynes (House of Tomorrow)
  • “The Deep” [song], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)
  • Doctor Who: “Twice Upon a Time,” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Cymru Wales)
  • The Good Place: “Michael’s Gambit,” written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • The Good Place: “The Trolley Problem,” written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, directed by Dean Holland (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • Star Trek: Discovery: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” written by Aron Eli Coleite & Jesse Alexander, directed by David M. Barrett (CBS Television Studios)

My post on USS Callister is here, Twice Upon A Time is here,  Magic to Make the Sanest Man go Mad here, and Michael’s Gambit here.

The full list of nominees is here.

Netflix has released a pop-up musical video of Trish Walker’s video hit, Want Your Cray Cray. This was seen in season two of Jessica Jones, which both more on Jessica and Trish’s earlier years and foreshadowed Trish’s future.

SciFi Weekend: Stephen Hawking, Scientist & Genre Star; The 100; Martin Freeman on Sherlock; Alexis Bledel on A Handmaid’s Tale; Double Renewal For Eric McCormack–Will & Grace & Travelers; The Americans; Nathan Fillian To Reprise Firefly Role; Saturn Award Nominees

Stephen Hawking died last week leading to recognition not only from the scientific community, tributes from many in actors due to his many appearances on genre television. He was the only historical figure to play himself on Star Trek. In the video above from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Hawking played cards with  Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Data in the holodeck. Syfy Wire has several tributes to Hawking from the cast of multiple versions of Star Trek. More at TrekMovie.com.

Sheldon Cooper met Stephen Hawking on The Big Bang Theory in the clip above. TV Line has tributes from the cast of The Big Bang Theory. IO9 has additional television cameos.

The 100 ended last season with major changes, and a quick glance of the future. An extended trailer for the the fifth season has been released, showing a new enemy to contend with. The 100 returns on April 24.

It has been a huge question as to whether Sherlock would return considering how the careers of both stars have taken off. It does not sound encouraging that Martin Freeman will want to return after he said that it wasn’t fun anymore in a recent interview:

In a new interview in The Telegraph, the Black Panther actor was asked if there were any talks about a fifth season of the BBC fan favorite.

“Not massively,” the Dr. Watson actor said. “Um… I think after series four [it] felt like a pause. I think we felt we’d done it for a bit now. And part of it, speaking for myself is [due to] the reception of it.”

Martin, the article explained, was referring to 2017’s fourth season which seemed to struggle to continue building on fans’ expectations of previous outings.

“To be absolutely honest, it [was] kind of impossible,” he explained. “Sherlock became the animal that it became immediately. Whereas even with [the U.K. version of] The Office, it was a slow burn. But Sherlock was frankly notably high quality from the outset. And when you start [that high] it’s pretty hard to maintain that.

“Being in that show, it is a mini-Beatles thing,” he concluded. “People’s expectations, some of it’s not fun anymore. It’s not a thing to be enjoyed, it’s a thing of: ‘You better f—ing do this, otherwise, you’re a c—.’ That’s not fun anymore.”

The Handmaid’s Tale returns to Hulu on April 25. Entertainment Weekly interviewed Alexis Bledel:

This season, we get to learn a lot about Emily’s life from Before. Was her backstory something you’d thought about before this episode?
Yes, I loved filming Emily’s flashbacks. [Executive producer] Bruce Miller and I had talked about what her pre-Gilead life might have been like even before I started working on the first season. I think much of her worldview is informed by her previous life as a professor of cellular biology. Life in the Colonies is a last stop. Emily does not have a great deal of hope for a future there; she knows her days are numbered.

Marisa Tomei costars with you in the second episode. What was that like?
It was amazing to work with her; she’s someone whose work I admire. We had these incredibly dark, dramatic moments to play out that she brought so much depth to.

I keep thinking/wondering what’s worse: life as a Handmaid or living in the Colonies?
Being forced to exist in either Gilead or the Colonies threatens to destroy a person’s soul in different ways. Handmaids are forced to follow an extremely limiting set of rules to comply with the mandates of the Gileadean regime, including the horrific monthly ceremony. Anyone in Gilead would be terrified to be sent to the Colonies. Everything from the soil the unwomen turn over to the water they use to wash is toxic in the Colonies, so a person’s health begins to rapidly deteriorate as soon as they get there. They know they will die there, all the while forced to do hard labor without decent food to eat or clean living conditions.

We are going to be seeing more of Eric McCormack on television next year. NBC has renewed the Will & Grace revival for a second season, and is extending it to eighteen episodes. Fewer people might be aware that Eric McCormack also stars in an excellent Canadian science fiction series called Travelers. The first two seasons were broadcast on Showcase and later shown on Netflix–although once I discovered this show I wound up downloading episodes rather than waiting for it to be available on Netflix.

Travelers has been renewed for a third season, and McCormack will be directing the first episode. However, instead of airing first on Showcase, the show will be shown exclusively on Netflix. I wonder if this was a case of Netflix saving the show if Showcase was not going to continue it, or (I suspect more likely) Netflix has business reasons and the power to take it over.

Travelers is technically a time travel show but the series takes place entirely in the present, with people from the future taking over the consciousness of people at the moments they were to have died. The characters must deal with not only their mission to save the earth , but also must deal with the personal lives of the bodies they take over. I won’t give specifics for those who have not seen it, but the second season ended with major changes for everyone, making fans eager to see a third season.

The Americans returns for its sixth and final season on March 28. FX has released the above official trailer.

Earlier in the week I had this post regarding a social credit system in China which sounds like something out of Black Mirror. It is also reminiscent of Majority Rule, an episode of The Orville.

Storing the contents of one’s brain provided for a fascinating story on Altered Carbon. A company is claiming that they can store the contents of your brain, but there is a huge catch.

Nathan Fillian is going play himself on an upcoming episode of American Housewife, and will be suiting up as Captain Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly.

(more…)

China’s Social Credit System Sounds Orwellian, And Like An Extension Of Current Facebook Censorship

Recent reports on China’s  social credit system sound Orwellian, or like something out of Black Mirror. The Verge summarized how the system works:

Starting in May, Chinese citizens who rank low on the country’s burgeoning “social credit” system will be in danger of being banned from buying plane or train tickets for up to a year, according to statements recently released by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission.

With the social credit system, the Chinese government rates citizens based on things like criminal behavior and financial misdeeds, but also on what they buy, say, and do. Those with low “scores” have to deal with penalties and restrictions. China has been working towards rolling out a full version of the system by 2020, but some early versions of it are already in place.

Previously, the Chinese government had focused on restricting the travel of people with massive amounts of debt, like LeEco and Faraday Future founder Jia Yueting, who made the Supreme People’s Court blacklist late last year.

The new travel restrictions are the latest addition to this growing patchwork of social engineering, which has already imposed punishments on more than seven million citizens. And there’s a broad range when it comes to who can be flagged. Citizens who have spread “false information about terrorism,” caused “trouble” on flights, used expired tickets, or were caught smoking on trains could all be banned, according to Reuters.

But the system, as it stands, is opaque; citizens are seemingly just as likely to be flagged for minor infractions like leaving bikes parked in a footpath or issuing apologies that are deemed “insincere” as major credit defaulters like Jia. And it’s often unclear whether they’re on a blacklist in the first place, let alone what kind of recourse is available. “Chinese government authorities clearly hope to create a reality in which bureaucratic pettiness could significantly limit people’s rights,” Maya Wang, senior researcher for the non-profit NGO Human Rights Watch, wrote in December.

Wired has further information on how the system works:

Individuals on Sesame Credit are measured by a score ranging between 350 and 950 points. Alibaba does not divulge the “complex algorithm” it uses to calculate the number but they do reveal the five factors taken into account. The first is credit history. For example, does the citizen pay their electricity or phone bill on time? Next is fulfilment capacity, which it defines in its guidelines as “a user’s ability to fulfil his/her contract obligations”. The third factor is personal characteristics, verifying personal information such as someone’s mobile phone number and address. But the fourth category, behaviour and preference, is where it gets interesting.

Under this system, something as innocuous as a person’s shopping habits become a measure of character. Alibaba admits it judges people by the types of products they buy. “Someone who plays video games for ten hours a day, for example, would be considered an idle person,” says Li Yingyun, Sesame’s Technology Director. “Someone who frequently buys diapers would be considered as probably a parent, who on balance is more likely to have a sense of responsibility.” So the system not only investigates behaviour – it shapes it. It “nudges” citizens away from purchases and behaviours the government does not like.

Friends matter, too. The fifth category is interpersonal relationships. What does their choice of online friends and their interactions say about the person being assessed? Sharing what Sesame Credit refers to as “positive energy” online, nice messages about the government or how well the country’s economy is doing, will make your score go up…

Posting dissenting political opinions or links mentioning Tiananmen Square has never been wise in China, but now it could directly hurt a citizen’s rating. But here’s the real kicker: a person’s own score will also be affected by what their online friends say and do, beyond their own contact with them. If someone they are connected to online posts a negative comment, their own score will also be dragged down…

…people with low ratings will have slower internet speeds; restricted access to restaurants, nightclubs or golf courses; and the removal of the right to travel freely abroad with, I quote, “restrictive control on consumption within holiday areas or travel businesses”. Scores will influence a person’s rental applications, their ability to get insurance or a loan and even social-security benefits. Citizens with low scores will not be hired by certain employers and will be forbidden from obtaining some jobs, including in the civil service, journalism and legal fields, where of course you must be deemed trustworthy. Low-rating citizens will also be restricted when it comes to enrolling themselves or their children in high-paying private schools. I am not fabricating this list of punishments. It’s the reality Chinese citizens will face. As the government document states, the social credit system will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”.

This sounds a  lot like what was depicted on an episode of The Orville entitled Majority Rule.

The system is voluntary now and becomes mandatory in 2020. Wired suggests that people are signing up now out of fear of reprisals if they do not, and as high scores can be a status symbol:

Higher scores have already become a status symbol, with almost 100,000 people bragging about their scores on Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) within months of launch. A citizen’s score can even affect their odds of getting a date, or a marriage partner, because the higher their Sesame rating, the more prominent their dating profile is on Baihe.

Sesame Credit already offers tips to help individuals improve their ranking, including warning about the downsides of friending someone who has a low score. This might lead to the rise of score advisers, who will share tips on how to gain points, or reputation consultants willing to offer expert advice on how to strategically improve a ranking or get off the trust-breaking blacklist.

Wired compares this to “a big data gamified version of the Communist Party’s surveillance methods.” People are also likely to seek ways around the system:

We’re also bound to see the birth of reputation black markets selling under-the-counter ways to boost trustworthiness. In the same way that Facebook Likes and Twitter followers can be bought, individuals will pay to manipulate their score. What about keeping the system secure? Hackers (some even state-backed) could change or steal the digitally stored information…

In China, certain citizens, such as government officials, will likely be deemed above the system. What will be the public reaction when their unfavourable actions don’t affect their score? We could see a Panama Papers 3.0 for reputation fraud.

While this sounds absolutely Orwellian, businesses here are regularly rated on line, and their success can be affected by the whims of anonymous reviewers.

While we do not face restrictions as severe as those described in China, this is also analogous to the current censorship we are facing on Facebook. While the internet can increase opportunities for free expression when anyone can write from their own web page,  increasingly communication is being channeled through limited sources. Facebook has become indispensable for communicating, now with over two billion active users worldwide. Facebook will often cite violation of Community Standards to justify restricting individuals, but quite often there is no evidence of violating any of the Community Standards actually posted by Facebook, and no response to appeals. This has led many people to start using social media sites including MeWe, Steemit, Minds, and Tremr. Unfortunately it is far harder for Chinese to change where they live to avoid repression based upon unclear standards than it is to use alternative social media sites here.

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

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

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

The producers discussed All That Josh with Entertainment Weekly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SH: Yeah!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did fans react?

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

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

Love has a way of telling its own story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery Returns; The X-Files; Runaways Concludes First Season; The Handmaid’s Tale Season Two; Krypton

Star Trek: Discovery returned last week with Despite Yourself, directed by Jonathan Frakes. The episode immediately provided the answers to two points which were widely predicted: Ash Tyler is Voq and the Discovery is in the Mirror universe. Of course there were new twists to keep things interesting.

As I had been discussing late in the fall season, the only way to make sense of Ash Tyler’s actions was that if he was Voq he was a sleeper agent and did not realize it. This turned out to be true, but in addition something went wrong when L’Rell tried to restore his memories. This leaves Ash/Voq in a situation where we cannot predict what he will do in the future, and we have seen that at times either could dominate.

The procedure used for Voq was quite sophisticated, initially fooling medical exams. (The Tribble was back on Lorca’s desk so perhaps it can expose Voq–except both are off the Discovery.) Ultimately Culber did figure it out, and appears to have been killed to keep him quiet. This resulted in Discovery taking heat for providing another case of part of a same-sex couple getting killed, such as on The 100 a couple of years ago. This led to quick assurances that we will see Culber again. There are many possibilities including that he can still recover (with the help of future medicine) from having his neck snapped, Stamets using time travel or other aspects of the mycelial network to reverse what happened, or the replacement of Culber with a version from the Mirror universe or another universe. It is a bit strange that there was nobody else around either sickbay or the brig when Ash was letting L’Rell out of the brig or attacking Culber.

Finding that Ash Tyler is actually a sleeper Klingon has the potential for further ramifications now that he is one of only three from the Discovery crew on the ISS Shenzhou. This came about due to a poor decision from Burnham to keep quiet about him, but it was established early that Burnham is capable of making really bad decisions. Fortunately we saw that Burnham is very capable of defending herself.

It was also revealed very early in the episode that they were in the Mirror universe from Mirror, Mirror. The data recovered from a destroyed rebel ship quickly provided them with quite detailed information about not only the Empire but about the roles of the crew on their own ship. While somewhat unrealistic that they could have received this much information, it did allow them to quickly get into the story without wasting time searching out this information. This also provided a good way to bring viewers new to Star Trek up to date without boring long time viewers. Tying this into the events of an episode of Enterprise, In a Mirror, Darkly, was also rewarding for long time Star Trek fans, while new viewers could still follow what is going on. (A synopsis of In a Mirror, Darkly can be found here).

While Captain Lorca reviewed the information they retrieved, it also felt like this was for the benefit of others, and Lorca was already aware of what was going on, having appeared to have intentionally caused the Discovery to wind up in the Mirror universe. Having learned that the Lorca of the Mirror universe has disappeared raises suspicion that possibly the Lorca we know is actually the Mirror counterpart. This would explain much of his behavior, including sleeping with a weapon. If so, Lorca is more sophisticated than Mirror Kirk, who could not keep fit in and keep his identity secret when he crossed over to our universe in Mirror, Mirror. There is also the question of what is going on with the Mirror Discovery after it crossed over into our universe.

It was entertaining to see the USS Discovery quickly convert to the ISS Discovery. Seeing a replicator-like process for making Burnham’s uniform in a previous episode makes it more plausible that they could quickly make the needed uniforms (even if not entirely consistent with the original show). As on previous Mirror universe stories, the elevator was one of the preferred places for an assassination attempt (other than the bedroom), and we got the obligatory attempted murder scene. As was foreshadowed in Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum with Stamets calling Tilly “Captain,” Tilly (or Killy) is the Captain of the Mirror Discovery. I do like how this is truly a continuing, serialized series, with little events in one episode providing a payoff in future episodes. Having Lorca portray the Engineer with a Scottish accent was also an amusing homage to the original show.

While the recovered data provided far more information than was realistic, the one missing piece of information was the identity of the Emperor. As they made a point of this, it is very likely that this will be revealed in a future episode, and it will also provide a payoff to viewers. If this was fan fiction, I might guess that it was a very old Empress Sato. While that would be satisfying to fans who remember In A Mirror, Darkly, it would mean little to newer fans, so I doubt that this will be the case. My bet is that it will be Philippa Georgiou, especially after there was no sign of her on the Shenzhou. Burnham already had a fight to the death with the Mirror version of someone she knew from the Shenzhou, and I bet she will also have to confront the Mirror Georgiou. (A confrontation with Tyler/Voq is also very likely.)

While previous Mirror universe stories were one or two episodes, it appears that the entire second half of the season will be a longer Mirror story. As I quoted in an interview with the producers last week, Discovery is gradually moving towards showing the vision of the Federation we are accustomed to from the original series. Taking place in the Mirror universe does now allow Discovery to portray what is good about the Federation through contrast with the Empire, even if we did not see it at its greatest in the first half of the season.

The same interview mentioned second chances. Being in the Mirror universe has provided a second chance for Lorca, who appears to have wanted to go there with his future uncertain in our universe. Bringing the Discovery from our universe might also be part of a bigger plan if he is really the Mirror Lorca. Bernham might also be tempted to remain now that she is the Captain of her own ship in the Mirror universe, and faces a possible return to prison in our universe. Ultimately both will have big decisions about what is important to them. The xenophobia of the Mirror universe also resonates in our present with the presidency of Donald Trump, years after the idea was first shown on the original show. It is sad that we have not progressed more since the 1960’s.

TV Line interviewed the Discovery show runners about the episode:

TVLINE | The mirror universe is a huge part of Trek mythology, dating back to the original series. How early on in the writing process did you know you wanted to go there?
GRETCHEN J. BERG | I think pretty much from the beginning.

AARON HARBERTS | Yeah, the biggest thing, frankly, was when we were going to do it. Initially, plans had been hatched to go over there in Episode 5, and we realized as we were talking about it: The mirror universe only works when you can care about the characters enough in the prime universe, so you can uncover the discovery of who people are in the alternate universe. So we realized that the mirror universe really needed to play in the back half of the [season], that it really needed to anchor the last several episodes…

TVLINE | So the crew needs to find a way out of this mirror universe with the Terrans. Is that the overriding mission for the next few weeks? Does it run through the season finale?
HARBERTS
 | We will be in the mirror universe for a little while. Episode 10 is simply the introduction. We felt like we could tell quite a bit of story in this mirror universe — not only about the mirror universe, but about our characters. Things come out about our characters in the mirror universe that wouldn’t come out in the prime universe. So we really felt like it was a great crucible for storytelling.

TVLINE | Is it giving away too much to ask if we’ll see a mirror Georgiou?
BERG
 | I find your question very interesting, but that’s a “no comment.” [Laughs]

TVLINE | Making Tilly the captain was such an inspired stroke of storytelling. How much did Mary Wiseman enjoy that twist?
HARBERTS | [Laughs] The thing that was fun is, we always knew we were going to do it. The gift that we’ve been given from CBS All Access was to allow this to be so serialized. So Tilly says “I’m going to be a captain someday” the first time we meet her. So we knew: “Mary, guess what? In the mirror universe, you’re going to be a captain!” Mary is super-dry and super-sassy, so whenever she would cop a little ‘tude — and I mean that in the most playful of ways, because we have fun and just go at each other — it would just be like, “Yeah, that’s really mirror-universe Tilly. Save that for the mirror universe!” I think she had a ball. When she takes charge of that bridge, it’s just a testament to how great she is as an actor. She can go from comedic to downright scary to fighting both instincts. She’s just truly gifted.

TVLINE | We did witness Dr. Culber’s death as well, when Tyler’s alternate personality came out. What’s the fallout going to be from that when the crew returns to the ship? 
BERG | There are so many things that are set off or started in Episode 10… there are ramifications for every action. It is a huge thing. And it’s heartbreaking, and horrifying.

HARBERTS | One of the early bits of feedback about Discovery is that it’s very dark, and very bleak. And I don’t necessarily believe that that’s true, because we know where the show is going. But I do think that scenes of forgiveness and atonement and redemption are really important in Star Trek, and we’re going to have to take that journey. On our show, no one is ever truly a villain, and no one is ever truly a perfect person. And what’s beautiful about Shazad [Latif]’s performance is, you see just how shocked and horrified he is by his actions…

TVLINE | What else is coming up in the rest of this season? Is Tyler’s alternate personality kind of the ticking time bomb that could derail this entire mission?
BERG
 | It’s looming pretty large, and it’s a huge complication to what is going on, not only personally with Burnham and everybody else.

HARBERTS | If your psyche is hanging by a thread, maybe the last thing you want to do is go on an away mission to the Terran Empire. [Laughs] What you don’t need is more stress.

BERG | Where is the couch and afghan you can climb under? They don’t have one! I would say, also, as shocking as the death of Culber is that you just witnessed at the hands of Tyler, Culber and Stamets have been in a relationship that… sort of represents the epic love story of our series. And, you know, love overcomes all. I think you can count on that it won’t be the last we see Culber. You’ll see him again.

HARBERTS | This relationship between Stamets and Culber… this death is but the first chapter. The trope of “Bury Your Gays,” which is running rampant through our television landscape, that is not something that Star Trek has ever been interested in doing. I think we’ve shown by now that we’re not interested in tropes, and that we love our characters, and we love our actors. When you’re given the gift of Wilson Cruz and Anthony Rapp, and you’ve got several gay writers on staff, you don’t just throw that away. You will see Dr. Culber again. This is a love story that’s going to transcend death, and there is much more story to tell for those two. And the science that [the real-life mycologist] Paul Stamets has provided as a backdrop for our fictional Paul Stamets, and for our show… if the audience is concerned about what’s going to happen to Culber, dig deeper into the science of the mycelial network. There are so many clues in there.

This (as with last week’s episode) has me optimistic that we are in store for a much better season of The X-Files than the previous. While much of the story might not hold up if looked at too critically (which can be said of the original run of the show), it was very entertaining. It provided, as a revival should, both something of the past (Richard Langly of The Lone Gunmen) along with an updated twist. The idea of consciousness being uploaded after death is an idea which Steven Moffat has used several times, although this was handled much more like Black Mirror than Doctor Who.

The episode also played on modern paranoia and conspiracy theories, from the use of the Russians to this exchange:

Skinner: “The bureau is not in good standing to the White House these days.”

Mulder: ‘The FBI finally found out what it’s like to be looked upon a little spooky.”

While the alien threat was potentially eliminated last week, there is a new threat. We were warned that, “life on this earth, all human life, most animal life, is about to be crushed. Burnt to the ground.” They also had to enter something very close to a real life NSA facility.

Runaways concluded its first season last week, and was an excellent origin story setting up their situation. By the end of the first season, we have learned quit a bit about the characters and their situation. Nothing really got resolved in the finale, but fortunately Hulu has renewed the series for a second season. They also renewed Future Man. I have not seen this yet, but have heard good things about the series.

Hulu has turned into a major player in streaming with The Handmaid’s Tale, including with a Golden Globe win last week. It will be interesting to see what happens when it returns on April 25 now that they are beyond the book. Reportedly the second season will go beyond the events in Gilead and show the Colonies. The above trailer was recently released.

Syfy has released the first official trailer for Krypton, which premiers March 21.

SciFi Weekend: Twice Upon A Time; Black Mirror Does Star Trek (And More) With USS Callister; Jonathan Frakes on Star Trek Discovery and The Orville; Top New Genre Shows Of 2017

Twice Upon A Time was the final episode of Doctor Who for both Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat. The episode has far more references to previous episodes than I’d attempt to list and makes it clear that it is part of a tradition starting long before either Capaldi or Moffat were involved. It goes back to the first Doctor, starting with black and white footage and the caption “709 episodes ago,” ultimately leading to the words “to be continued.”

We knew it would be continued although both the first and the twelfth Doctor threatened  not to regenerate. Of course we knew that the first had to regenerate as we have seen subsequent Doctors. It was also no surprise that Twelve ultimately decided that, “One more lifetime won’t kill anyone…except me.” Of course each Doctor will give into yet one more lifetime.

The episode differed from a typical episode in that we learned that the Testimony was not really doing anything menacing. (“I don’t know what to do when it isn’t an evil plan.”) Rather than having the universe in danger this was a smaller scale story, only giving enough plot so that we didn’t have the two Doctors, along with the Captain and Bill’s memories, do nothing but talk to each other. This also enabled Moffat to return to his earliest stories. The planet Villengard was from his first Doctor Who story, The Doctor Dances, and Rusty the good Dalek returned from Into The Dalek. The idea of memories living on after death has been seen repeatedly in Moffat’s stories in some form or another.

The year of #MeToo turned out to be the perfect year for Doctor Who to explore sexism, contrasting the first Doctor’s 1960’s attitudes with the present. When the twelfth Doctor said, “You can’t say things like that,” he was not only lecturing someone from the 1960’s, but was also pointing out what he has learned over time. It was an even bigger shock for the first Doctor when he and the Captain mentioned that they have had “some experience of the fairer sex” and Bill responded that she has too. Ultimately the glass ceiling in the TARDIS was broken (along with the entire TARDIS blowing up).

Besides the appearances by David Bradley as William Hartnell’s first Doctor (after having played Hartnell in the An Adventure in Space And Time), and the return of some form of Bill, there were brief cameos by Clara Oswald and Nardole, with the Doctor regaining his memory of Clara. The two characters out of World War I were by Mark Gatiss and Toby Whitehouse, both writers with Doctor Who experience. The Captain also turned out to have yet another role in Doctor Who history as he was ultimately identified as Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart–the grandfather of General Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart,  the Brigadier. (His exact relationship was not mentioned in the episode but SciFi Wire reports that Gatiss referred to his character as the Brigadier’s grandfather in a press Q&A).

Being a time travel story, there was the obvious slip (“Spoilers”) of the Doctor referring to the “War To End All Wars” as “World War I.”  “What do you mean ‘one’?” Plus being a Christmas episode led to the perfect resolution of the Captain’s story with the Doctor returning him a few hours later so that instead of being shot he participated in the Christmas Armistice of 1914

Of course we all knew where this was going as Peter Capaldi gave his final speech on the TARDIS, with advice for his next self:

Oh there it is. Silly old universe. The more I save it, the more it needs saving. It’s a treadmill. Yes, Yes I know they’ll get it all wrong without me. Well I suppose one more lifetime won’t kill anyone. Well, except me. You wait a moment, Doctor. Let’s get it right. I’ve got a few things to say to you. Basic stuff first. Never be cruel, never be cowardly, and never ever ever eat pears. Remember, hate is always foolish and love is always wise. Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind. Oh, and you mustn’t tell anyone your name — no-one would understand it anyway. Except children, children can hear it, sometimes if their hearts are in the right place, and the stars are, too, children can hear your name — but nobody else, nobody else, ever. Love hard, run fast, be kind. Doctor, I let you go.

Screen Rant provided an explanation as to where the various portions of this speech came from.  Den of Geek also explained:

The twelfth Doctor’s final speech, which was worked on by both Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi, contains several elements from dialogue past. “Never be cruel, never be cowardly” is a doff of the cap both to The Day Of The Doctor and to 70s script editor Terrance Dicks, who would often cite the Doctor’s lack of these two traits as one of his greatest virtues. “Never eat pears” is a reference to Paul Cornell’s novel Human Nature, in which the seventh Doctor expressed a dislike for pears before taking on human form. A similar line was cut from the 2007 tenth Doctor adaptation with the same name. In Hell Bent the Doctor told Clara never to eat pears, as “they’re too squishy and they always make your chin wet”.

“Be kind” is what the Doctor begged of the Master and Missy back in The Doctor Falls, but it was also said by the tenth Doctor to the Vashta Nerada in Forest Of The Dead. “Don’t tell anyone your name” likely refers to the kerfuffle caused by the Doctor’s name in Matt Smith’s final year, when it was revealed that saying his name on Trenzalore would have reignited the Time War. However, the Doctor did seemingly tell River Song his real name on the occasion of their ‘nuptials’ in 2011’s The Wedding Of River Song – but then, as we’ve been told, ‘the Doctor lies’… The part about the stars and one’s heart being in the right place appears to be the invention of Peter Capaldi, who expressed a similar sentiment at a special screening earlier this year.

Then there was the regeneration energy, the Doctor’s ring fell off, and we had a new Doctor. Just as we first saw Peter Capaldi’s forehead and eyes, this is what we first saw of Jody Whittaker. Apparently us Americans will have to learn to understand Jody Whittaker’s Yorkshire accent. All we heard from her so far was, “Oh brilliant.” Then there was the ultimate cliff hanger as the TARDIS exploded and the thirteenth Doctor was falling towards the earth. Presumably this will enable her to have her own look for the TARDIS, or perhaps she will be without it for a while.

More on Twice Upon A Time, and the question of the Doctor’s real name, here.

Just as Doctor Who incorporated the Doctor from the 1960’s, Black Mirror began its fourth season with an homage to the other classic science fiction show of the 1960’s, Star Trek, with USS Callister. It first appeared as an over-the-top parody of a Star Trek episode, culminating with Captain Kirk kissing all the girls. It turned out to be something completely different. Major spoilers ahead.

While Star Trek type science fiction played a key role in the story, the story was more about artificial reality and about abuse of power. Jesse Plemons played the co-head of a tech firm who did not get much respect on the job, and took it out on sentient digital clones of others in the office. Most had accepted their roles and inability to fight back until a new employee played by Cristin Milioti was brought aboard. The final straw was finding that she had been robbed of her sexuality, and her vagina. She led a successful rebellion, which included blackmailing her real self into helping with revealing pictures hidden online. It all worked out well in the end with the digital clones becoming free of Jesse Plemons and free to explore the digital universe, now with a modern JJ Abrams Star Trek look (including lens flare). Perhaps if Plemons wasn’t so concerned with exercising power and abusing others he could have had far greater adventures in his digital world.

Den of Geek interviewed Charlie Brooker and Anabel Jones about the episode:

This is a brilliant ‘have your cake and eat it’ episode, in that you start with the spoof of the ship navigating the asteroid belt, then by the end I’m watching like this [mimes learning forward, tense] thinking ‘are they going to get through the asteroid belt?!’ How did the layers of that story evolve?

Charlie Brooker: We were on the set of Playtest from the previous season and we were saying ‘we haven’t done a space episode. What’s a Black Mirror space episode?’ and quite quickly we went ‘well, it couldn’t really be in space, it would have to be in a simulation’, then quite quickly again it was like ‘what if there are people who are copied in and they’re trapped in there and it’s like a prison?’

Like White Christmas?

CB: Yeah! And then the captain is the baddie, so it’s like Playtime Fontayne from Viz, who’s a grown man who makes everyone play games like a child. It’s like a nightmare, he’s a tyrant, he’s mad! So then we started calling it Toy Story or Adult Toy Story, we kept calling it…

Annabel Jones: …which then sounded wrong! [laughs]

CB: Relatively quickly those thoughts came together. Then the notion of it being a sort of vintage show that he was obsessed by kind of came in slightly later because we thought, what’s even more unexpected? A), because the world he has created is a throwback and a simplistic interpretation of shows like that. It’s his interpretation of that show, rather than what that show would have actually been, it’s his simplistic fable version of it and it’s quite reductive and out of date. We’re not saying that shows of that nature are reductive and out of date, because they were actually very progressive at the time. His warped version of it.

Partly it also came about because we wanted to have an opening where you go ‘what the fuck is this?’…

He starts as the underdog and I thought I was going to like him, he seemed like my kind of socially awkward guy. Then you see him behaving like a cruel tyrant, ignoring the irony of the speech he gives about the utopian ideals of Space Fleet. He’s like ‘actually, it’s about ethics in space exploration!’ Was that intended as a comment on online fandom and that sort of character?

CB: Not really. It’s interesting because that is a thing that a couple of people have said. That worries me slightly because I don’t want it to be seen that we’re attacking fans of classic sci-fi, that speech is more meant to be a bit of a joke really. He delivers this speech, which presumably he has lifted from an episode of Space Fleet, about the noble ideals of this progressive UN-in-space, and then he turns around and goes “…and you arseholes are fucking it all up!” It’s meant to illustrate the gulf between his fantasy heroics—he wants to be the hero in this make-believe world—and the stupidity and tyranny of what he’s actually doing…

Speaking of influences, there are echoes of that Twilight Zone great episode with Anthony Fremont, the little kid who controls his town and turns people into Jack-in-a-box. Was that an inspiration or just somewhere in the back of your head?

CB: I think at some point I thought ‘hang on, it’s not a million miles away’ because he’s a tyrant, that kid is a dictator that everybody has to be extremely mindful of, that lives in a fantasy world so probably unconsciously there was an element of that. Certainly you could draw a parallel there.

Are you a Star Trek fan? What’s your relationship with that franchise?

CB: I was probably more of a Doctor Who fan as a kid, or Twilight Zone or Tales Of The Unexpected but Star Trek was kind of an anthology show as well in a way. I never really watched the 90s Star Trek series. Will Bridges, who co-wrote the episode, is a big, big, big Star Trek fan, so he was delighted at the chance to do all that. He knew a lot of the lingo.

The episode has a lot of fun with early Star Trek…

CB: Tropes, yes. A lot of that came from Will, he was like ‘Oh, I know! This and that can happen’, so he was having a lot of fun in that respect. I watched The Original Series when I was a kid and would find it terrifying a lot of the time. I think we wanted it to feel, generally, with classic sci-fi, we wanted it to feel more like an homage than an attack.

An affectionate ribbing?

CB: Yeah. There’s a bit of piss-taking going on but really it’s aimed at Daly.

So incurring the wrath of Star Trek fans isn’t something you’re worried about?

CB: Well it’s worrying, because you don’t want to upset people unnecessarily. We’re not saying that is a rubbish show, or it’s a throwback, because again, it was wildly ahead of its time. He says at one point that it was visionary, and that’s true!

Of course this season we have had two different interpretations of Star Trek with new the new shows, Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. Jonathan Frakes, who has past experience on Star Trek: The Next Generation, has directed episodes of both and discussed this with IndieWire:

Mimicking a variety of styles is something that the veteran director is quite used to doing. In just the last year, Jonathan Frakes directed five episodes of television, including both “The Orville” and “Star Trek: Discovery,” perhaps serving as the ultimate bridge between the two fall TV homages to the “Star Trek” franchise. And according to Frakes, there’s room for both.

“Stylistically, your responsibility as an episodic television director [is] when you do a show like ‘The Orville,’ you want that show to look like ‘Next Generation,’” he said. “And when you go to Canada to do ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ they want that show to have the feeling, and look, and vibe of the J.J. [Abrams]-era ‘Star Trek.’ Much more cinematic, a lot of crane work, and a lot of movement, a lot of dutch angles. On ‘Next Generation,’ the traditional framing, and the things we became accustomed to as fans of the show, we see in [‘The Orville’] because that’s the look.”

When it came to “The Orville,” Frakes said that “I was afraid that it was going to be like ‘Family Guy,’ and it’s not really, but it’s also not really as serious as ‘Next Generation.’ I think Seth [MacFarlane], and Brannon [Braga], and whoever else is involved in all this, they found a tone that clicks with this audience, either the millennial audience or the old school audience. Everyone is very pleasantly surprised at how well the show has been received. I’m happy to see the homage, and I’m happy to see success for whoever wants to steal good ideas.”

Added Frakes, “It was a very conscious, and I think quite successful, homage. ‘Orville’s’ coming back for a second season, so is ‘Discovery.’ There’s room, obviously, in the fans’ hearts for both types of ‘Star Trek.’”

Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville are just two of the great science fiction shows to premiere in the past year. See SciFi Weekend’s ranking of the Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017. (I’m linking to it again today as those who follow links to SciFi Weekend through Facebook groups did not get the link last week as I was back in Facebook Jail last Sunday, with Facebook increasingly interfering with posting links to groups).

SciFi Weekend: The Orville; Star Trek Discovery; Doctor Who; Legends of Tomorrow; Jessica Jones; Sense8; House of Cards

The Orville concluded its first season with Mad Idolatry, an episode which might have been better if the didn’t try to cram so much into the episode. Much of the humor came from Captain Mercer trying to find something to do after work, including learning about Moclan culture in a rather painful manner. While entertaining, it might have been better to do this in another episode and allow more time for the rather large themes of the rest of the episode.

Kelly was at the center of the two main story lines, both dealing with her relationship with Ed and her being responsible for the “cultural contamination” of an alien planet. Plus they threw in having the planet both spending time in two different universes and time passing at a vastly different rate. There was so much going on that it felt like none of the subjects received the time it deserved.

The result of Kelly’s interference was quite predictable, but resolved too easily. First the religious leader accepted her word too quickly, although it didn’t turn out very well for him. Then everything got resolved quite easily when they were visited by the most advanced version of inhabitants of the planet. The message delivered by the ambassadors from the planet, “You must have faith in reason, in discovery, and in the endurance of the logical mind,” certainly would fit in well with the Star Trek universe. The lack of consequences for her violation of what appears to be their version of the Prime Directive, along with Ed leaving it out of the report, both also fit in with many Star Trek episodes

Part of the drama of the episode was also to be Isaac being left on the planet for what 700 years, but this also turned out to be rather inconsequential to the entire story.

Kelly’s decision regarding her relationship was sensible and fit well into the story, but I also wish that this could have been given more time in the episode.

Besides seeing their version of the Prime Directive, we learned in this episode that the Orville’s shuttles have cloaking technology.

Another highlight of the episode was Sports Illustrated model Kyra Santoro as the scantily-clad Ensign Turco. (Video of her cleavage can be seen here). This beat out  Adrianne Palicki’s dress when she went out with Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane).

Overall the episode was enjoyable, but it could have been so much more.

For those who have not been watching, Blastr has 10 Reasons To Binge Watch  Star Trek: Discovery This Holiday Season. Wired questions why some hate the show. Note that CBS All Access does provide one week free, so it would be a good time to check out the entire first half of season one for free before deciding whether you want to continue into the next season.

Alice Eve, who appeared in Star Trek: Into Darkness, has been cast in the second season of Iron Fist.

Quentin Tarantino has pitched an idea for a Star Trek movie and might direct it. Deadline reports that it will be R-rated. Screen Rant speculates on Star Trek episodes he might turn into movies, including both from the original show and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Patrick Stewart has expressed interest in reprising his role as Jean-Luc Picrard:

Following the news that Quentin Tarantino was working on a new idea for the franchise alongside J.J. Abrams, with plans to direct, Patrick Stewart has thrown an unlikely hat back into the intergalactic ring.

“People are always saying to me, ‘Will you be Jean-Luc Picard again?’ And I cannot think that would be possible, but there are ways in which something like that might come about,” the iconic actor told The Hollywood Reporter, speaking from the sidelines of the Dubai International Film Festival, where he received an honorary award.

“But one of my dreams is to work with Tarantino. I admire his work so much, and to be in a Tarantino film would give me so much satisfaction. So, if he is going to direct something to do with Star Trek and there was the possibility of dear old Jean-Luc showing up again and doing that for Mr Tarantino, I would embrace it.”

Stewart said one thing was sure about a Tarantino-directed Star Trek installment: it would be gripping.

“The one thing that characterizes all of his movies is that frame by frame, it always challenges, always demands your attention, always demands a very kind of open and generous response to what he does,” he said. “I also love his sense of humor as a filmmaker. So yes, he would be my first choice.”

Netflix has released trailer for the next season of Black Mirror, including U.S.S. Callister, which has the feeling of original Star Trek. Knowing Black Mirror, it is no surprised that something will be off.

BBC America has released another trailer for Twice Upon A Time, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. Video above. Nerdist reports on another special to be aired afterwards:

 Immediately following “Twice Upon A Time,” BBC and BBC America will air an all-new special titled, Doctor Who: Farewell to Peter Capaldi. Narrated by actor Colin McFarlane (Jonathan Moran in “Under the Lake” and “Before the Flood”), the episode will feature archival footage and interviews, as well as a look back at Peter Capaldi’s era as the Twelfth Doctor—from his very first script read through to his very last. It will also feature, the BBC stated in a press release, “Steven Moffat reflecting upon his time as a writer and then later as executive producer, revealing some of his best and worst moments from his tenure, as well as his favorite episodes.”

Radio Times has an interview with Steven Moffat here, and an article on David Bradley, who will be playing William Hartnell’s role of the first doctor, here.

The entire Arrowverse concluded the fall season with good cliff hangers or episodes leading into the second half of the season a week after the excellent cross-over episodes with Crisis on Earth-X.

The biggest changes are occurring on Legends of TomorrowConstantine will, at least briefly, be joining the Legends of Tomorrow when they return. There are certainly now openings for him to stick around longer with Victor Garber and Jax Jackson both leaving recently. Wentworth Miller is only expected to be on the show for a short time.

Legends will not return until February 18, taking over Supergirl‘s timeslot for nine weeks to conclude its season. Supergirl will resume on April 16 and conclude on June 18.

Netflix has released the above trailer for Season two of Jessica Jones, which will be released March 8. Entertainment Weekly has this report:

Looks like Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is going to need a stiff drink. The super-powered PI may have killed her mind-controlling abuser Kilgrave (David Tennant) at the end of the Marvel-Netflix drama’s first season, but that doesn’t mean she’s forgotten him — or what he did. “He’s such a part of her construction and her dilemma,” showrunner Melissa Rosenberg says. “I think just having him come back and be that mirror again is really important.”

And Kilgrave’s lingering presence won’t be Jessica’s only problem in season 2. Sure, she did just (very reluctantly) help save New York City, but what happened on The Defenders was just “a blip” in her story, Ritter says. “Jessica is in a pretty dark headspace when we meet her at the top of season 2. What we’ve done again is kept the story very personal. If season 1 was in her head and in her mind, then this season will be more in her heart. It’s still a psychological thriller, but it’s more of an emotional thriller this time.” Rosenberg agrees: “She was somewhat of a mess even before Kilgrave came into her life, so [season 2] is about digging deeper into that chaos and peeling back those layers.” In the end, the mystery of Jessica herself may be her hardest case to crack.

A brief video was posted on Twitter to remind fans that there will be one more episode to wrap up Sense8 following its cancellation after the second season.

Netflix has confirmed that they do plan to resume production on House of Cards following the firing of Kevin Spacey:

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos announced the landmark original series is going into production on its final season next year, but Kevin Spacey will not be part of the show, after reports of sexual misconduct from the star.

“I can actually give you some news in the room today, because we have been in arrangement to produce a sixth season of ‘House of Cards.” It’ll be an eight episode season that’ll start production early ’18, and it will not involve Kevin Spacey,” said Sarandos at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. “It will star Robin Wright. And we’re really excited about bringing some closure to the show for fans.”

Fortunately last season did end on a good point to change the focus of the show from Spacey to Robin Wright’s character. The only downside is that I had hoped that they would wrap up the series with Frank Underwood gradually being exposed and being taken down for his crimes. Instead he will probably be killed off early next season.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Orville Does Black Mirror; Doctor Who New Cast; Veronica Mars; Mr Robot & Donald Trump; Girls Night Out On The Flash; Stranger Things

Lethe, last week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery was well plotted, with some reviewers calling it a more typical stand alone episode with both an A story line (saving Sarek) and a B story line (the visit from Admiril Cornwell). I would go further in saying that it both works as a stand alone episode and as part of the serialized story, plus as well plotted episodes generally do, the two stories wound up becoming interrelated. The A story provided more background on Vulcans and on Burnham. Both took place with the backdrop of the Klingon war. It remains to be seen how significant the capture of Admiral Cornwell is in terms of that story in the future.

The episode also had items of interest for two fan theories. Ash Tyler’s dialog takes on a different meaning if he is actually Voq. It is also notable that we have not seen Voq as Voq since he was told by  L’Rell, whose mother came from a house of spies, that he must sacrifice “everything.”

While far from conclusive, this episode has me taking the theory that Lorca is from the Mirror universe much more seriously. When I first heard this theory I hoped it was not true, thinking that a story of a star ship captain who might have gone bad is far more compelling than one of someone replaced by their evil doppelganger. There have already been clues of a connection to the Mirror universe, most notable with the reflection of Stamets in the mirror after he first used himself to navigate the spore drive. I became far more suspicious when Admiral Cornwell said how he had changed. It could be a matter of Lorca going crazy or otherwise changing, or it could mean he has been replaced. His paranoia leading him to both attack her during the night and seeing him wearing a phaser to bed both fit into what we have seen of the Mirror universe.

Another less likely possibility is that it is Lorca as opposed to Ash Tyler who was replaced after being a prisoner of the Klingons. All the evidence points towards Ash being the spy, but there could be intentional misdirection.

Whether it is because of being from the Mirror universe or flaws in Lorca’s character, we again saw signs of his ethics. I thought it was crazy for Cornwall to say that she was going to strip Lorca of his command before leaving. While I wouldn’t put it past him to shoot down her ship, that would be rather hard to convince his crew to accept. There is little doubt he did’t smell the trap and, regardless of whether he realized she would be captured, it was out of character for him to wait for Star Fleet’s orders to consider a rescue unless he had ulterior motives.

After all, we had seen Lorca ignore orders to save Sarek in the same episode, and Saru mentioned what he expected Lorca to do. While I have my doubts about the mind connection between Sarek and Burnham, it is at least consistent with what has happened so far. I thought that Sarek might have been a bit more emotional than portrayed on other series, but having him be a schmuck and seeing xenophobic Vulcans is consistent with canon, especially from Enterprise. This episode serves as a reminder that it is not that Vulcans lack emotions, but that they suppress them because of the consequences when they are emotional–now including Logic Extremists. (The contradiction in the term also reflects the contradictions in Vulcans.) Vulcan attempts at suppressing their emotions are variably successful. It is possible that Spock, with the extra pressure of acting Vulcan despite his human half, might actually be more successful in hiding his emotions than the average Vulcan.

One of the things I like about Star Trek on television as opposed to movies is that there is time to see moments of everyday life and to see more of a variety of characters. In this episode we learned that breakfast burritos will still exist, but I’m not sure what that was that they were drinking with it. Promotions are easy to obtain on Discovery if Lorca likes you, with both Burnham and Tyler moving into key positions. We also saw that Discovery has not only its own cool t-shirts (which not surprisingly are now being offered for sale), but its own holographic simulators. This was appropriately far simpler than the holodecks of STTNG, but raises the question as to why they were never seen on the larger Enterprise on the original show (along with the uniform synthesizers).

TV Line interviewed James Frain. From the interview:

TVLINE | Sarek and Burnham’s relationship is a tricky one: He’s protective of her, but also very standoffish. It’s kind of a push-pull.
I think that’s how she experiences him, for sure, and I think that’s probably how he’s experiencing himself. He has a very dynamic range, and he’s very, very bold with the way he’s chosen to live his life. He’s married a human being. That has made him a target. There are people who want to kill him for that. He adopted a human child, and there were people who wanted to kill her. So he’s put a lot of stuff on the line, and at the same time, he’s a Vulcan. He recognizes in this episode how different Vulcan and human cultures are, and how difficult a situation she was in. He never really understood that, I don’t think. And I think it’s kind of beautiful that he acknowledges that now. But there is a huge internal conflict that, in the original series, we saw in Spock, and now here we are, seeing it in Sarek. It’s kind of like Spock is his father’s son, you know?

TVLINE | Yeah, Discovery‘s Sarek is actually pretty rebellious for a Vulcan. He’s pushing back on a lot of the Vulcan ways.
Absolutely. It’s very clear, I think, in the flashback scene, when they tell him, “You’ve gone too far, and we need to rein you in,” and give him a punitive choice to make — which, obviously, is devastating for him. But he can’t not choose Spock. That’s his son. He’s half-Vulcan, and they’re basically saying, “We’d rather have the more Vulcan one of the two.” They don’t want [Michael] in, and they dump it on Sarek to bear the burden of that.

TVLINE | Sarek chooses Spock over Burnham, but then Spock rejects that and joins Starfleet instead. Does Sarek resent Starfleet, in a way, for that?
No, I don’t think resentment is quite it. He has a high regard for Starfleet, and Captain Georgiou. He handpicked her as the captain to educate Michael. It’s Michael who feels that this is some kind of demotion. But really, as he confesses in this episode, he failed her. He put her in an impossible situation, and then he places her in a much better situation where she can be with her own kind and learn who she is as a human being. He can’t do that for her.

He’s also admonished for making an emotional choice, and he has to kind of toughen up and be very clinical in how he delivers this information to her, because he’s just been told he has to be. The Vulcans, I often think of like the samurai: a very, very coded and strict, but noble and honorable society. You wouldn’t expect a samurai father to suddenly become a hippie just because he wants to make peace. He can’t step completely outside of himself. But he does give her a piece of his soul, and that’s no small thing. So it’s very, very rich and complex: his relationship to Michael, and his relationship to Starfleet.

In other recent interviews, Rainn Wilson told TV Guide that Harry Mudd will be returning soon: “He’s pretty ticked off and he’s ready to exact his revenge on Lorca,” Wilson tells TV Guide. “Sh–‘s gonna hit the fan.”

Alex Kurtzman spoke with Comicbook.com about the uncertain future for Star Trek movies.

CBS All Access has officially renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a second season. While the show is driving subscribers to the streaming service, last Sunday the service appeared to be unable to handle the traffic as many of us watching had to constantly restart the stream. Maybe having more growth than anticipated is a good thing, but they will have to provide better service if they expect people to continue to pay to subscribe.

The Orville generally feels like a copy of Star Trek: The Next Generation but Majority Rule took a story idea which was frequently used on the original show in which they find a planet developing like earth, with some major differences. While it might be questionable whether this could occur, it was no worse than what Star Trek has done. Once on this parallel to earth, the show begins with a feeling comparable to an episode of Black Mirror, which is only fair as Black Mirror will have an upcoming episode based upon Star Trek.

Unfortunately the episode does a weak job in execution as it tries to tell a light cautionary tale about social media. Of course one would think that John would realize the importance of keeping a  low profile as opposed to making a scene dry humping a stature, even if they had no knowledge of the consequences. Having the initial people from the Union arrested for failing to give a pregnant woman a seat on a bus was fairly unimaginative. It would have been more interesting if they had offered her a seat, and it turned out that the natives believed it was important for pregnant women to stand, causing this to be the violation of their social norms.

As on previous episodes, the crew got into the situation by flying down in a shuttle. With all the copying of Star Trek, I’ve been surprised that they do not use transporters. Of course that would also necessitate creating reasons why they cannot be beamed out when they get into trouble. They also apparently lack a version of the Prime Directive, as they had no problem bringing up a native to view their ship and reveal the existence of aliens.

Additional cast members have been named for Doctor Who after Jodie Whittaker takes over the TARDIS. From the BBC:

When Jodie Whittaker takes over as the Thirteenth Doctor on the global hit show next year, she will be joined by an all new regular cast.

BBC announces today (October 10, 2017) that Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill will line-up as the new regular cast on Doctor Who.

Bradley will star as Graham, Tosin will play Ryan and Mandip will play Yasmin.

Also joining the series in a returning role is Sharon D Clarke.

New head writer and executive producer Chris Chibnall, who made the decision to cast the first ever woman in the iconic role, is also shaking up who will travel with the Doctor in the TARDIS, with a team of new characters.

In more exclusive news, it is confirmed that the new series will be a ten week run of fifty minute episodes in Autumn 2018, kicking off with a feature length hour for the opening launch.

Chris Chibnall says : “The new Doctor is going to need new friends. We’re thrilled to welcome Mandip, Tosin and Bradley to the Doctor Who family. They’re three of Britain’s brightest talents and we can’t wait to see them dive into brand new adventures with Jodie’s Doctor. Alongside them, we’re delighted that Sharon D Clarke is also joining the show.”

Jodie Whittaker says : “I am so excited to share this huge adventure with Mandip, Tosin and Bradley. It’s a dream team!”

Bradley Walsh has a previous connection to the Doctor Who universe, having played a villain on an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2008.

Digital Spy looked at the history of multiple companions on the TARDIS.

There has been a strong connection between Broadchurch and Doctor Who with Chris Chibnall coming in as show runner. A second executive producer has been added from Broadchurch. There will also be a Broadchurch connection with The Crown as Olivia Coleman will be replacing Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth as she is older in the third and fourth seasons. There is also a Doctor Who connection as the Matt Smith plays Prince Phillip on the first two seasons.

Kristen Bell says that there will eventually be another Veronica Mars revival in the form of a miniseries.

Mr. Robot finally revealed where Tyrell Wellick has been in a flash back episode last week. Besides filling in details primarily involving Tyrell, the episode drew Donald Trump into the show’s conspiracies. Whiterose saw film of Donald Trump and expressed interest in endorsing him. She was asked,  “Look, the country’s desperate right now, but you can’t be serious. I mean, the guy’s a buffoon. He’s completely divorced from reality. How would you even control him?” Whiterose responded, “If you pull the right strings, a puppet will dance any way you desire.”

As we approach the wedding of Iris West and Barry Allen, there will be a Girl’s Night Out for the bachelorette party, to air on November 7. Bleeding Cool has several more pictures. Guests include Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards ) from Arrow, Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) playing AmunetBlack, and Caitlin returns as Killer Frost. Following is the episode synopsis:

Having received an ominous threat from her old boss, Amunet (guest star Katee Sackhoff), Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) fears that her past time as Killer Frost may be back to haunt her. Felicity (guest star Emily Bett Rickards) comes to Central City to help the girls celebrate Iris’s (Candice Patton) bachelorette party, while Cisco (Carlos Valdes), Joe (Jesse L. Martin) and the guys take Barry out for a night on the town.

The big genre event of the week has been the release of season two of Stranger Things. As I still have a few episodes to watch, and I’m sure others have not completed it yet, I’ll wait until next week for any specifics. The season so far, like the first season, has been highly entertaining. It is also an excellent show to binge, and hard to stop watching as every episode has ended with something happening which had me wanting to continue watching. It was hard to take a break to get this written.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Orville; Black Mirror Does Star Trek; The Tick; The X-Files; The Punisher; The Magicians; Doctor Who; Gal Gadot On SNL

The third episode of Star Trek Discovery, Context Is For Kings, was like a new pilot, with last week more of a prequel. They finally introduced the Discovery and Captain Lorca. Do Discovery’s call letters, NC1031, mean that this ship falls under Section 31? While James Kirk and Benjamin Sisco have bent the rules at times, Lorca goes far beyond what we have ever seen on Star Trek before. Typically Star Fleet captains who behaved like him have turned out to be the villain, not heroes. Lorca also has that strange menagerie, including an apparently neutered Tribble, while ten years later Kirk will know nothing about them. Perhaps he uses the Tribble as a way to detect any Klingons who might attempt to infiltrate the Discovery.

Lorca claims to have permission from Star Fleet to do whatever it takes to find a way to beat the Klingons. This appears to have included orchestrating the rescue of Michael Burhnam from the shuttle, even if it meant allowing the shuttle pilot to die. Apparently he has enough clout to keep Burnham as part of his crew if he has her on board, but not enough to simply request that she be transferred from prison to his ship. Obviously it was more dramatic this way.

Burnham did appear beaten at the start of the episode. I had expected to see the standard troupe of having her rescue the shuttle, but that did not occur. She did return to her usual self over the course of the episode. Thanks to Burnham, we see why Star Fleet abandoned the ineffective breath detector as a security device. Once on the away team, she was the one to save the rest. Beyond the breath detector dying out as a security system, it makes sense that black alerts didn’t catch on. While dramatic to hear them announced, it would be quite hard to visualize the flashing lights of a black alert.

The first two episodes provided a familiar type of Star Fleet ship, with Burnham having a conventional relationship with her Captain, until the mutiny. Even granting that Burnham was wrong in her actions, she is now being unjustly blamed for the entire war, which the Klingons appeared determined to start regardless of what she did. Lorca, Burnham, and Saru have a relationship somewhat analogous to the Kirk, Spock, McCoy threesome from The Original Show, although with major differences. They apparently have forgotten about sun glasses in the future and it is far too early for Geordi La Forge’s visor, making it difficult for Lorca to go on away missions due to the injury to his eye. With Saru also not appearing to be well suited for away missions, this makes it plausible that Burnham might lead them instead of the  more senior officers which typically (and perhaps foolishly) led them in the other series.

Burnham’s relationship with Lorca is also different from the start with Lorca believing that Burnham is forced to be loyal to her because he is the one giving her a fresh start. On the other hand, it might become significant again that Burnham was willing to defy her captain when felt to be necessary. If Lorca does turn out to be the villain, Burnham might be called on to turn against her captain once again.

There have been some complaints that this does not feel like Star Trek, but we must consider that the series is unique in taking place during wartime. Consider how different everything felt on the episode Yesterday’s Enterprise. Deep Space Nine did not feel like conventional Star Trek, either before or during the Dominion War. If this is a Section 31 vessel, it might also seem different regardless of circumstances.

Being a Section 31 ship would help explain how we are seeing things which are not known on board the Enterprise ten years later. It is also possible that their research turns out to be dead ends, too dangerous to allow many to know about, or perhaps the Discovery is destroyed like its sister ship. It does appear that the writers have considered such continuity issues in various interviews.

Jason Isaacs has discussed some of the questions I raised above in interviews, and discussed other aspects of Captain Lorca. From TV Guide:

Why does Lorca have a room full of animals?
We’re losing this war and I’ve been given license to do whatever the hell is necessary to try and see if I can in any way shift the odds. And so I have in my private study area, anything I want including weapons, gasses, poisons, creatures… Anything that, if examined correctly, might give us an edge because we need something to turn the tide in the war. And that’s why someone like me has been given this ship and given license to go off and — not under the glare of anyone else’s spotlight — see if I can come up with a solution, any kind of creative solutions to this problem of imminent destruction.

So the tardigrade might be one, some of the Klingon weapons I’ve got might be it… The spores might be it. I just need something and I need it fast and I need people to help me, and hence, one of the reasons why I get Michael Burnham to be on my team. She is someone who’s prepared to break the rules… Someone who’s really smart strategically and someone who I think will ultimately be loyal to me since I’ve given her a second chance at life.

From Entertainment Weekly:

You still get the sense that Lorca will do anything, even if it’s off-book, to accomplish the ultimate goal against the Klingons — and possibly other agendas.

He just wants to win the war. This is 10 years before the series that people fell in love with Kirk and Spock, before the Federation directive comes out, before people are exploring peacefully. This is a time when the Federation might not be there tomorrow morning. All of the high-minded ideals will go out the window once everyone around them is incinerated and Lorca thinks he sees that modern man. He thinks he’s going to win this war by any means necessary and they’ve kind of given him license to do it, because they’re terrified and they’re right to be terrified. So he’s on this science ship, which is not the ideal vessel, got some possible breakthrough technology, but there’s a lot of work to be done there, and he’s got a bunch of explorers crewing this thing who are really not battle-hardened at all and he’s going to try and do whatever he has to do to tip the tide of the war. It’s not going to be easy. Certainly, he’s not going to get there by being nice…

At the end of the episode, Lorca has the creature from the USS Glenn — the one that was terrorizing Michael and company — secretly beamed aboard the Discovery into one of his secret rooms with other contraband objects and creatures. What is he doing with all those things that he’s, presumably, illegally accumulated?

He’s got a room, a study room in which he studies war because they’re at war. In different times, he might have books of poetry, he might have an easel in there. He’s an exercise man, so at one point in time he might have been doing interplanetary yoga. Right now, he needs to work out how to defeat enemies and he’s got forbidden material in there. He’s got weapons, he’s got poisons, he’s got creatures. He’s looking for an edge in a war with a superior opponent and he’ll take anything he can get, anywhere he can get it. Sometimes he takes risks to get it.

What is Lorca’s relationship with the women on the Discovery crew, because it seemed like there was something a little extra between the captain and Commander Landry, his head of security?

I think in this tradition of Star Trek captains and these alpha males who rise to the top, he’s got a taste for the good life and he’s got an eye for his female officers. I don’t know that that’s going to work with Burnham very well, frankly. She doesn’t look like she’s up for that kind of thing, but him and Landry certainly have a relationship that goes beyond, I would think, work. But that’s how I played my scenes with all the women on board, whether or not the writers were on board with that. By the way, that’s my tribute to Shatner. I always thought, as much as the original series was born out of the civil rights struggle and the birth of feminism, some of that was [infused with a feeling of] James Bond. It was clear Captain Kirk had his way with any member of the micro-skirted crew members he wanted, so that was my subtle tribute to him. I’m playing that, even if it’s inside my head. (Laughs.)

CBS has announced that they will present episodes through November 12 (instead of November 5 as previously announced), leaving only six episodes after the show resumes in 2018.

It was revealed at New York Comic con that Michelle Yeoh will be returning as Captain Georgiou. Presumably this will be as a flash-back, unless they find a way for her to return after being killed last week.

On rare occasions we have had two different Star Trek series on at once, but the current situation is unique in having two shows inspired by Star Trek but going in such different directions. While Discovery is darker and serialized, The Orville provides stand alone stories which are more similar to those from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The series appears to be moving more towards actual science fiction stories as opposed to parody, while still incorporating humor. The last episode was the most successful to date in incorporating humor while adding to the main story. Being directed by Jonathan Frakes helped make it feel like STTNG. Plus it introduced time travel to this universe.

The episode also benefited by the guest appearance of Charlize Theron. She turned out to be different from what she first seemed to be, but she had time for casual sex with Captain Mercer and to sit around sipping drinks. While the relationship between Mercer and his ex-wife has sometimes seemed to have been used excessively to attempt humor, it worked very well in this episode as Ed initially mistrusted Kelly’s suspicion of Pria as being based upon jealousy.

One thing I always found unrealistic about the Star Trek universe was the limited existence of mass entertainment and popular culture. The Orville has had multiple references to pop culture, although it appears to have ended around our time. Previous references have included Kermit the Frog, Friends, and reality TV. This episode started with a clip from Seinfeld, which propelled the B story line. Teaching Isaac about humor and practical jokes allowed them to use humor without it appearing out of place as in some of the earlier episodes. I could easily imagine a similar story line involving Data. Of course Seth MacFarlane did take it further, with Issac amputating Malloy’s leg as a practical joke. Fortunately the limb was easily regenerated.

The episode also did a good job of incorporating the B story line into the main story, both with Malloy’s leg falling from the ceiling and with Isaac using a reference to the Seinfeld clip to tip off Malloy as to what he was doing to help save the ship.

Besides the two versions of Star Trek discussed above, there was more information at New York Comic Con on the planned Star Trek based episode from the fourth season of Black Mirror:

Titled “USS Callister,” the 74-minute adventure stars Fargo‘s Jesse Plemmons and Cristin Milioti, Jimmi Simpson (Westworld), and Michaela Coel.

While critics were barred from reviewing it, by all accounts from those in attendance it’s one of the most cinematic of Black Mirror installments, thanks to its epic production values — from sprawling desert locations and scenes set on the deck of the titular starship to the out-of-this-world outfits and expensive computer effects.

“The idea came up in conversation, and it struck us. We hadn’t done a space epic before and we thought, how would that work in the Black Mirror universe?” Brooker told The Hollywood Reporter.  “What sort of tone would it have? We ended up in this strange place.”

Naturally, the show tackles themes befitting its signature paranoid style and contains more than a few twists (and reportedly a few lens flares too, in a nod to the J.J. Abrams-helmed reboot).

Rather than releasing all the episodes at once, Amazon released only part of The Tick, hoping that buzz from the first half of the series will increase viewership before the series is completed. They announced at New York Comic Con that the show will return in February and released the above trailer. The show does effectively combine humor with a superhero story.

The above trailer for The X-Files season 11, which will premiere in January 2018, was released at New York Comic Con. More information on the upcoming season here.

Chris Carter said in an interview that he might continue the series even longer, but Gillian Anderson has said that the eleventh season will be her last. There have been attempts at bringing in other cast members, but I am skeptical as to whether the show can survive without Mulder and Scully.

Netflix cancelled promotions for The Punisher at New York Comic Con and a planned Paris event following the recent shootings in Los Vegas. They are also delaying the premiere of the series.

The next season of The Magicians will deal with restoring magic. We got some hints as to what will occur at the New York Comic Con:

“Julia and Quentin almost circle back to who they were as kids,” John McNamara notes that their reunion more or less restores their BFF status. Aside from partying with a god, we get to see them revisit a lifelong friendship and get over past grievances.

Jason Ralph and Stella Maeve spoke enthusiastically about the unexpected nature of Quentin and Julia’s relationship, which started as the tired unrequited love trope but evolved into something much more interesting. Jason Ralph said during the panel, “It’s really gratifying to get back together.”

The quest to revive magic will also lead to some unlikely pairings for the cast. Sure, we get some expected combos like Eliot with Margo or Quentin with Julia, but Sera Gamble teased during The Magicians NYCC panel that we’ll see more scenes with Julia and Alice together in Season 3. Julia’s relationship to the strange new magic she discovered evolves over the season in unexpected ways, and perhaps it’ll take Alice to help her figure it out.

Alice herself will go through the “worst quarter-life crisis ever,” according to Taylor Dudley. Alice died, became a niffin, sort of died again, and when finally reunited with her Shade, she then had magic taken away completely. Alice will be in a weird emotional spot when the season kicks off, especially considering she’s being hunted by an enemy she made while a niffin.

This year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, Twice Upon A Time, will also be shown in movie theaters, along with special features. More information here.

Nerdist reports on how Peter Capaldi learned that a woman was to be cast as the thirteenth Doctor. Capaldi also discussed why he is leaving Doctor Who at New York Comic Con:

In a retrospective session at New York Comic-Con, Peter Capaldi said that playing the title role in British TV juggernaut Doctor Who brought many pleasures but proved all-consuming. After four years, he said he felt it was best to leave before it ever felt like a routine.

 “It fills up your life,” he said. “You don’t have a second where it’s not about Doctor Who. It’s a nice way to live.” And yet, he continued, “I really never wanted to get to a place where I knew how to do this because that’s not what being creative is. The actual amount of time we were spending on the show, I realized I was getting the hang of it. And that made me frightened.”

Asked by a fan whether he would consider returning for a special or in any small role down the road, he said, “I think it’s probably time for me to go.”

The Mirror has some changes they claim will be made to Doctor Who next season under Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker. The reliability of the report is unknown.

This week has marked the 40th anniversary of the introduction of K-9 on Doctor Who and the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Mirror universe on Star Trek.

Den of Geek talked to Karen Gillan about Nebula’s role in  Avengers: Infinity War.

Gal Gadot was guest host on Saturday Night Live last night and talked about playing Wonder Woman in the opening monologue (video above). She also had the skit below about Wonder Woman:

There was also far more news at New York Comic Con than I can get to today and I will present more of it next week.