SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; The Americans; American Gods

I looked at the regular season finale of Doctor Who, The Doctor Falls, last week. The episode ended with Peter Capaldi fighting his inevitable regeneration. Peter Capaldi discussed why he is leaving the show with Radio Times:

Why make this your final series?

I love this show, but I’ve never done anything where you turn up every day for ten months. I want to always be giving it my best and I don’t think if I stayed on I’d be able to do that. I can’t think of another way to say, “This could be the end of civilisation as we know it.”

With episodic television of any genre, the audience wants the same thing all the time – but the instinct that leads the actor is not about being in a groove…

What’s the hardest part of being the Doctor?

Doctor Who is a hugely challenging show to write and to act in. It has to turn on a dime from comedy to terror to tragedy. It’s a children’s show that developed into something more complex, a bit more adult-orientated, but we have a duty to play to the seven-year-old as well as the 42-year-old. Sometimes you have to be more comic than you’d normally be comfortable with, but it’s important.

How would you describe your Doctor?

The Doctor is deeply sad – I think he always has been. When you’re wise and you’ve lived a very long time, that’s how you’d be. Although you have to be careful with very human emotions and the Doctor because he’s an alien. It’s more straightforward to play the human elements, but then it might as well be a cop show…

What can you say about your regeneration?

I can’t go into the details. I know what happens, but I don’t know how it happens. Certainly it’s not straightforward. It’s more complicated than recent ones. That’s one of the appeals of being in the show – it has death at the heart of it. He’s the only hero on TV who dies again and again.

The article also includes interviews with Michelle Gomez and Steven Moffat. From the interview with Steven Moffat:

How would you describe your Doctors?

He is someone who’s running towards everything at once because he might miss it. He doesn’t understand why anyone would do the same thing every day or sit in the same room every day. He doesn’t understand why you would live a life in safety when you could be running from fires and explosions. He doesn’t understand why we volunteer to be dull – he needs to be out there and experiencing everything at once.

Along the way, of course, he helps people and people start to think of him as this great hero, but he doesn’t understand that – he’s just running past people and seeing that they need help, so he helps. Actors either have it or they don’t. The first time I saw Matt Smith – only the second person to audition for the role – you could instantly tell that he was Doctor Who. There was nothing clever about saying, “Well, obviously it’s him.”

In another interview, Moffat discussed possibly leaving a cliffhanger for Chris Chibnall, and the problem with gender pronouns when dealing with Missy and the Master:

After talking about the — incestuous? masturbatory? — vibes between Missy and The Master, something previous Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies wanted more of when Moffat told him about his plans to bring back Simm, Moffat revealed that he thought about ending his tenure as showrunner with a cliffhanger that incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall would have to resolve.

“We concocted this whole scheme that I’d cliffhanger out of my era of Doctor Whoand hand over to Chris with Missy telling the Master and the Doctor that she’s pregnant,” Moffat revealed. “I decided not to do that. Over to you, Chibs. Sort that one out, mate.”

While Moffat admitted that the idea was just “email lunacy,” he also called for a societal change as a result of his experience talking about the character’s gender.

“We have to ban gender pronouns. I can no longer talk about the character of the Master ‘slash’ Missy without having to go ‘slash.’ It’s exhausting,” Moffat complained. “Let’s just rid of them. It’s a stupid idea in the first place. What do we need them for?”

We still have the Christmas episode to look forward to. The Doctor has sometimes seen previous companions at the time of his regeneration, and it has been reported that Jenna Coleman will be appearing in the episode. There is no information as to whether this will show what has happened since she went off to explore the universe, or if this will be a visit with Clara Oswald from earlier in her life, or perhaps just something in the Doctor’s head. Jenna Coleman currently stars on Victoria.

Of course leaving Doctor Who won’t be the end for Steven Moffat. In a recent radio interview, he left open the possibility of Sherlock returning for another season. Variety reports that Steven Moffat and Marc Gatiss are working on an adaptation of Dracula. Like Sherlock, it will consist of short seasons of feature length episodes. No word as to where and when this will be set.

Besides last week’s finale of Doctor Who, other shows have had season finales worth noting. I have recently discussed iZombie here, and The Leftovers and Fargo here. Due to traveling and other distractions, I have fallen behind on other finales and will catch up on a couple more today–The Americans and American Gods. In the near future I also hope to look back at the finales of additional shows including The Handmaid’s Tale, Gotham, Veep, and Better Call Saul. Plus there should be a lot more news on next season’s shows as we get into Comic Con.

The Americans has been one of the best dramas on television the last several years. Much of this season was to set up the final season next year, and the ending this year felt somewhat like a tease. It looked like Philip and Elizabeth might return home, but obviously that could not happen until the end of next season, if it ever does happen. Instead they were given a reason to remain at the last minute. Stan also suggested he might leave his position at the FBI, but Renee quickly argued that he should not. That is also a tease for the viewers who have been wondering (along with Elizabeth and Philip) if Renee is a Russian spy who wanted Stan to remain where he is for her own reasons. Of course Stan had no such thoughts. TV Line interviewed the producers and asked about this scene:

TVLINE | In the finale, we also saw Renee try to talk Stan into staying with the FBI. Is he starting to get suspicious of her? And will Laurie Holden be back next season?
WEISBERG | [Laughs] No comment on the latter. Nice try! But on the former, we don’t particularly think so. Stan would have no more reason to be suspicious of the woman he’s dating than he does the neighbors across the street.

Deadline also discussed the finale with Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields. Topics included where the show will be going in the final season, whether it will lead into the collapse of the Soviet Union, and whether Donald Trump will appear. Here are some excepts:

DEADLINE: So, after all that anticipation this season, a big CIA catch means Philip and Elizabeth are not heading home to the Soviet Union. So what’s next?

WEISBERG: Still not going home. They still can’t get home. It was so close though, so close. They’re not only not going home, but it sure sounds like Philip is quitting his job — at least his spy job. It sounds like he’s going to work at the travel agency full time.

DEADLINE: Well, I doubt you mean that, but it did seem like you had Keri’s character looking for a reason not to return home, which, of course, is a real turn for her from her contempt for the West that has fueled much of the series.

WEISBERG: We think that she was being sincere in what she told Philip about why she couldn’t go back. Whether she was dying to go back, having second thoughts about going back, whatever it was, it felt to us like that was classical Elizabeth Jennings that when duty calls she had to answer the call. It was certain she couldn’t go home when she and Philip now have their hooks in the new head of the Soviet division at the CIA.

DEADLINE: Which brings us to the sixth and final season for next year. With history catching up to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, will we see Season 6 pick up from the Season 5 events of 1984 or move ahead in time toward a real resolution?

FIELDS: Dominic, you know we don’t like to give away really anything, but probably one thing we’re willing to say is that there’s going to be a resolution. Sometimes people will ask about The Americans. Is it moving slowly? Is anything happening? I think we are all willing to give away that there is something that most people who speak the English language would be willing to call a real ending…

DEADLINE: For a show so authentically drenched in the 1980s, there is one real-life character I’ve always been sure we would see one day on The Americans, a certain Art Of The Deal author who really became known back in the Reagan Era. So why hasn’t Donald Trump appeared on The Americans, even in the background or as an aside?

FIELDS: You know, it’s a funny thing. Had Donald Trump not become such a prominent part of our lives today, he certainly could have appeared in the background of the show (both laugh). Joking aside, that’s exactly the sort of reference we feel we could never make in the show, because it would have a self-conscious link. We feel would take the audience out of the experience of being immersed in the show and yank them back into today, and really isn’t the whole point of watching TV today to not have to think about today?

DEADLINE: So, going into Season 6, we’ll never see Donald Trump on The Americans?

FIELDS: I think as much as we try to prevent spoilers I am confident in saying we won’t. Joe, are you OK with that spoiler?

WEISBERG: I think we can say he’s not going to be in the show. Although, if you print that, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a call from him asking to be in the show.

The Hollywood Reporter looked at the final minutes of the finale of American Gods and how they are likely to lead into the second season:

While Wednesday’s true identity is certainly an important revelation for the series, it’s not the stopping point most fans of the Gaiman novel would have expected for the season. Instead, those fans were likely expecting to see Wednesday, Shadow and some of the other deities — including Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy and Peter Stormare as Czernobog — arriving at the The House on the Rock, the site of what’s easily the single most iconic moment from the source material.

Based on the real-life Wisconsin tourist attraction of the same name, the House on the Rock is an architectural anomaly designed by Alex Jordan Jr. and originally opened in 1959. For those unfamiliar, the YouTube channel Atlas Obscura has an excellent breakdown of the “mind-tripping brain warp” nature of this extremely unusual location, which you can watch below.

In the fifth chapter of Gaiman’s book, Wednesday takes Shadow to the House on the Rock, and he explains it as “a place of power,” due to its nature as a roadside attraction. He says: “In other countries, over the years, people recognized the places of power. Sometimes it would be a natural formation, sometimes it would just be a place that was, somehow, special. They knew that something important was happening there, that there was some focusing point, some channel, some window to the Immanent. And so they would build temples, or cathedrals, or erect stone circles, or…well, you get the idea.”

…Shadow finally speaks Odin’s true name, and once he does, the whisper becomes louder and louder until it’s an undeniable echo, bellowing within a great hall in which Wednesday conducts his meeting with the other gods. From this point forward, Shadow knows that the oddities he’s experienced during his travels with Wednesday are more real than he could have ever imagined.

It’s a massive turning point in Gaiman’s novel, and given that the climactic scene occurs little more than 100 pages into the book, many fans expected to see the House on the Rock sequence in the season one finale. Instead, what they saw was Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) driving on a bus past a sign for the House on the Rock in the final scene of the season — a promise that the sequence is very much still ahead, albeit a bit further down the line than expected.

While the House on the Rock’s veritable absence from the finale is certainly disappointing for the book-reading faithful, it wasn’t without some warning. Fuller told THR before the season’s launch that due to some episode restructuring, budget that would have gone toward the House on the Rock sequence was instead repurposed to streamline the show’s narrative. What’s more, given that the first season of American Gods didn’t quite crack the first 100 pages of the book (with a total count of 541 pages in the updated and expanded 10th anniversary edition, including forewords and afterwards), fans can rest assured that the show will adapt almost every granular detail of the novel — eventually, anyway.

Deadline interviewed Michael Green and Bryan Fuller about the finale. Here are some excerpts, beginning with a question about House on the Rock:

DEADLINE: Where does the end of this season leave us, going into Season 2 and going into the rest of Neil’s book?

GREEN: Precariously. We always knew we wanted to end the season with our weight tilted towards House on the Rock. We talked a lot, early on about wanting to get there and even starting that story, then advancing the narrative that far. But we enjoyed our time with our characters so much and were doing so many things that took so much time and resources that we realized that we had a very interesting and satisfying ending with Wednesday taking his first real aggressive stance against the new gods. With him saying, ‘You were very, very unwise to count me out and to speak in those tones to me.’ So Wednesday has the upper hand in two ways, he is taking a shot across the bow that’s going to hurt the new gods and he has a believer in Shadow Moon. Those are two things that are not without significance.

DEADLINE: With where we are in terms of Neil’s book, will that play a big part in the consequences of Season 2?

FULLER: I think the bigger interpersonal dramas that are waiting for us in Season two that excites us greatly is the notion of Laura Moon versus Mr. Wednesday. We see, by the end of the season, that Laura understands that Wednesday had her assassinated, specifically, to put Shadow in this situation. We always talked about Laura becoming that metaphor for the last Catholic who can, you know, shake her fist at the sky, and say, “Fuck you, God.” But now she actually gets to say it to a real god and she’s a god that she can get her hands on so what is she going to do next?

DEADLINE: You strode into some sprawling themes in Season 1–faith, obviously, but also immigration, gun violence, race, sexism. From the reaction online and elsewhere, it felt like the audience was very receptive to those conversations and those discussions. Did that surprise you?

GREEN: I feel like the people who wouldn’t be receptive to those conversations aren’t watching the show…

DEADLINE: Speaking of anger, one of the new characters invented for the series was Corbin Bernsen’s god Vulcan. He appeared to meet a fiery end but are we going to see more newly created characters for Season 2?

FULLER: Yes but you know, there’s lots of new characters to come into this world that were part of this story in the book as well as some that weren’t that we want to include. We’re excited about Mama-Ji and we’re excited about Sam Black Crow. There were a lot of characters that we want to start weaving into the mythology of the television series, and we’re really excited about seeing characters from the first season, again, that you may not expect to see again.

DEADLINE: Obviously, a character we fully expect to see more of is Shadow Moon. Over Season 1, we’ve seen him go from a very closed, almost one-dimensional character, who is trying to find his way to someone or something, who now at the finale, has literally and figuratively seen the world open up in front of him and maybe some sense of who he really is becoming close to home now. How is that arc moving forward in Season 2?

FULLER: Well, it has to move forward in a proactive way for his character. So much of what we had in the first season was Shadow as passenger to the narrative He was in a situation where he had everything removed from him, so he didn’t know what he wanted as a character. He just knew that he had to fill his days. Now that he understands a little bit more about the world and the world of gods, we get to witness him as an apostle of sorts – and see what kind of apostle he could be.

The Wrap has more with Bryan Fuller. The Los Angeles Times has an interview with Neil Gaiman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This leaves matters open:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nerdist spoke with Rob Thomas about the changes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, World Enough and Time; Carrie Coon In Ambiguous Finales On The Leftovers & Fargo

World Enough and Time was an excellent way to move into the season finale of Doctor Who, and a near final chance for Steven Moffat to go meta. The episode began with a scene of the Doctor regenerating, which presumably will be continued next week. The actual story got underway with Missy exiting the TARDIS saying, “Hello. I’m Doctor Who.”  Moffat has often liked to play with the show’s title by setting up situations where people ask “Doctor Who?” as a question. Missy said she was “cutting to the chase,” saving time from having to go through the introduction and follow up question, but then went on to claim it is his real name.

Bill had struggled with this issue in Pilot arguing that, “The Doctor’s not a name. I can’t just call you Doctor. Doctor what?”

In recent years you could often tell that people talking about the show were not actual viewers when they made reference to the lead as Doctor Who as opposed to the Doctor. Now we have Bill questioning why Missy called herself Doctor Who. Missy claimed it was his real name and the Doctor did not deny this. DoctorWho TV says that Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Baker, Eccleston, and Tennant were all credited as “Dr. Who” or “Doctor Who.”

Moffat also played with the role of the companion. Missy called them her assistants, which was more common in the classic shows. When Bill objected to being called Missy’s “plucky assistants,” she asked what he does call them, “companions, pets, snacks?” Neither the words “assistant” or “companion” are actually used very often on the show and Bill said that the Doctor called them friends. Missy claimed that only Time Lords can be friends to each other and “anything else is cradle snatching.” Missy also saw them as “disposable” with their names not mattering. Instead they had their roles, “exposition and comic relief.”

We learned via flashbacks that this was all a test for Missy. The Doctor not only wanted Missy to be good, he has unrealistically wanted her to be like him. While Bill objected that Missy is a murderer, the Doctor showed a different moral code, noting that Bill could similarly be seen as a murderer from the perspective of the pig who died for her bacon sandwich. The Doctor decided to graze for distress calls and look for a good one, like their usual Saturday. This might also refer to how the show airs on Saturdays. The Doctor explained how Missy is “the only person I’ve met who is only remotely like me.” This could refer to them not only being Time Lords, but also both being renegades in their own way. After all, the Doctor did steal the TARDIS and has often been at odds with the Timelords.

The Doctor spoke about Missy as having been his best friend from when they first met at the Academy. “She was my man-crush.” He further explained, “I think she was a man back then. I’m fairly sure I was one too. It was a long time ago, though.” He also told Bill, “We’re the most civilized civilization in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and associated stereotypes.” Bill noted that despite this, they still call themselves Time Lords She hasn’t had the experience with them to also question how advanced the Time Lords really are.”

This might be Moffat’s answer to the controversy over whether there will be a woman playing the Doctor. The actual decision is no longer in his hands but if the regeneration of the Master as Missy was not enough, this scene firmly sets in cannon that it is possible to have a woman Doctor. It is not actually possible that the Doctor could have been anything but a man at the Academy unless he had another regeneration which we are aware of, and has not been counted like the War Doctor. While there were questions in the past whether William Hartnell played the first Doctor, the count was established during the Matt Smith era (with the War Doctor creating some wiggle room). While it is unlikely the Doctor was ever a woman, we have seen other woman in a near-Doctor role. This includes Moffat having River Song, Clara Oswald, and Ashildr (the guest role played by Maisie Williams) all pilot a TARDIS.

Bill did not feel safe playing Missy’s companion, and asked the Doctor to “promise you won’t get me killed.” He could not do that, with this flashback scene played right Missy was shot.

The first sixteen minutes of this episode were a great opening sequence. Unfortunately the ending of the show suffered because the realities of the modern world. It would be impossible for them to have filmed scenes with the Cybermen without this news getting out and spreading rapidly on line. Therefore they made no attempts to keep this a secret, announcing that both the original Mondasian Cybermen and the John Simm Master would be present. Stephen Moffat had also warned that one of the trailers would give away a lot.

The episode certainly would have been even greater when watching if we were not aware that the Cybermen were present. The episode set up a fascinating scenario in which a four hundred mile colony ship caught by a black hole had time pass at a far greater speed at the far end than at the other.  Again going meta, this later allowed Bill to view the Doctor in slow motion on a monitor and explain his actions. It also led to a situation in which people trapped on the ship were driven to drastic measures, giving a new explanation for the genesis of the Cybermen.

There were many clues throughout the episode that Cybermen were involved. The hole in Bill’s chest was fixed, with the surgeon saying, “full conversion wasn’t necessary.” Words such as “conversion” and people being “upgraded” provided clues, along with people partially through the process with Mummy-like facial covering like the original Mondasian Cyberman. Later Missy found that the ship was not from earth but from Mondas. It became increasingly obvious when the rod-like headgear was shown to be added to those converted so they would not care about the pain. If someone had not known going into the episode that it was about Cybermen, I wonder how long it took to figure it out.

The other surprise which was tipped off was that Razor turned out to be the Master in disguise. In the past, the Master has used names which were anagrams. In this case, presumably the destructive nature of razors has some meaning in the choosing of the name.

On a personal level this could be one of the most evil acts by the Master–facilitating the conversion of Bill while the Doctor was on his way to save her. She had listened to him and waited, like a tragic variation of The Girl Who Waited. This betrayal seems even more evil  on the part of the Master considering that, due to the effects of the black hole, Bill had spent years with the Master before the Doctor could make it down the elevator to come after her.

The John Simm version of the Master was certainly playing a long game here, but I imagine that is no different than Matt Smith defending a planet before his regeneration or Peter Capaldi agreeing to guard the tomb (even if he didn’t follow through with that). The Master has a lot at stake: “I’m very worried about my future.” Missy does not recall being on the ship previously. While difficult to understand, there have been similar memory issues on episodes involving multiple versions of the Doctor.

We have a certain symmetry here. Steven Moffat has seen Peter Capaldi, an older actor, as being like William Hartnell. Harnell played the first Doctor, while Capaldi is the first of the new regenerations granted to Matt Smith. There have been references to the first Doctor, such as with the picture of Susan on the Doctor’s desk at the university. The Mondasian Cybermen were introduced in the 1966 episode, The Tenth Planet, in which the first doctor died and regenerated.

A big question here is whether the Doctor dies next week, or if this is to occur in the Christmas episode. In some interviews Moffat has suggested he is going to handle the regeneration differently, and questioned if Christmas is the best time for a death. We already know that the first Doctor will be appearing in the Christmas episode, to be played by David Bradley who played William Hartnell in the documentary An Adventure In Space In Time.

It is just a guess, but I’m speculating that the Doctor really does die and go into a regeneration cycle next week. This could have his meeting with the first Doctor as an adventure inside  his own head, comparable to one’s life passing before their eyes. It could be like a longer version of Peter Davison’s regeneration scene in which his companions appear in his head begging him not to die, while the Master encouraged him to do so. Alternatively it could be a final trip through time for the Doctor in his final moments, just as David Tennant visited his past.

We also do not know for certain if Bill will be returning, but it is believed that Chris Chibnall will be starting with a clean slate. Pearl Mackie stated in a radio show that she has met with Chris Chibnall and gave no indication that her status was final, but she might have just been avoiding spoiling the season finale. Her conversion to a Cyberman could very well be Bill’s fate, although this still would not prevent her from helping the Doctor next week. On the other hand, Steven Moffat has avoided killing companions who are leaving, and also might not want a fate like this for her. Amy Pond went into the past and Clara Oswald went on to explore the universe with Ashildr despite being on her last heartbeat. River Song not only escaped death, but appeared multiple times afterwards (at earlier times in her timeline). Perhaps the conversion isn’t final for Bill. Even if she cannot become human again, maybe she can go off and travel through space and time with her friend from Pilot.

There have been multiple season finales to discuss recently, including American Gods, Gotham, and Better Call Saul. I’m going to begin with two this week, The Leftovers and Fargo, as they both have something in common. Both end with Carrie Coon sitting at a table and telling a story to a male lead on the show, with the episode ending in ambiguity. Both are in the tradition of The Sopranos in having an ending which people might be talking about for a long time afterwards.

The finale of any show by Damon Lindelof is going to be compared to the conclusion of Lost. Lindelof handled matters much better with The Leftovers. Neither series could ever have a finale which tied things up. While The Leftovers did not have anywhere near as many episodes and mysteries to tie up, it is based upon a novel which specifically avoided giving any answer for its central event–the rapture-like disappearance of two percent of the world’s population. The episode actually gave more of an explanation than I ever expected, even if not clear if true, leaving me more satisfied than after Lost, while still leaving plenty to wonder about.

For a while the series finale of The Leftovers  was very hard to figure out. After Kevin found Nora he acted as if most of what the two had gone through together on the series never occurred. Was this yet another reality, or perhaps she had gone over and there was another version of Kevin there. Were they in purgatory? Later it became clear that this was our earth when Nora spoke with Laurie on the phone. Ultimately this was explained as Kevin telling a story as a way for them to start over after being apart for several years.

The episode ended with Carrie Coon’s character, Nora, telling a remarkable story to Kevin, but not necessarily any stranger than what we have seen on the show. Two things make it hard to tell if the story is true. She went into a chamber which supposedly was going to send her to where the missing two percent were. At the final moment, as the chamber was filling up with a fluid, she opened her mouth. Was she gasping to hold her breath as instructed, or was she exercising the option of telling them to stop? Those controlling the device had made a point of saying they could hear her the whole time.

It is also not possible to determine if the story was true because we never saw any of the adventure described. All we know is what Nora said.

The description of the episode was “Nothing is answered. Everything is answered. And then it ends.” This is exactly what happened with an answer which felt good at the time but which actually left key matters unexplained, and which may or may not be true.

Nora told a story of going to another place which was exactly like our world, except that to the people there ninety-eight percent of the world had disappeared, instead of two percent like in our world. Naturally their world was changed far more.

If her story was true, we know nothing about how this happened, or about events such as the world Kevin seemed to go to in two episodes when he died and returned. However, we would know that there is a physical explanation for reality being divided in two, with a physicist even developing a way to travel between the two realities. Instead of a religious rapture, people were not divided into those taken and left behind. They just wound up in one of two possible places.

Damon Lindelof had even spoken in interviews of filming such a scene in the pilot showing everyone else disappearing from the perspective of one who disappeared from our earth, giving some plausibility to Nora’s story on a meta level. Within the episode, there are arguments both for believing and disbelieving Nora. She even seemed surprised that Kevin believed her. She said, “You do?” He responded,”Why wouldn’t I? You’re here.”

In various interviews Lindelof discussed how this was written to leave things open for interpretation, how those on set changed their minds about whether Nora was telling the truth, and also claims there was a clear intention as to whether she was telling the truth–which he will not reveal. From USA Today:

…Lindelof reveals the episode was designed in such a way that left the truth open to interpretation — one last mystery for fans to chew over. “We all came to the conclusion that Nora telling the story of where everybody went was going to be the best ending, as long as we didn’t show it. And then the audience would get to decide whether they believed her story. We have a clear intention as storytellers as to whether or not the story is true, and if you watch the episode or the season again, perhaps that intention becomes more clear.”

What matters at the end of the day? That Kevin is just glad to be in the same room again with a tearful Nora telling him, “I’m here.”

“Whether he actually believes her or he wants to believe her because this will allow them to be together, that’s the $64,000 question,” Lindelof says. “But what is very clear at the end of the series is that these two people are going to be together and they’ve suffered enough. I hope.”

However, Lindelof reveals the episode was designed in such a way that left the truth open to interpretation — one last mystery for fans to chew over. “We all came to the conclusion that Nora telling the story of where everybody went was going to be the best ending, as long as we didn’t show it. And then the audience would get to decide whether they believed her story. We have a clear intention as storytellers as to whether or not the story is true, and if you watch the episode or the season again, perhaps that intention becomes more clear.”

Watching the show I thought it is possible that Kevin only said he believed her because he wanted to be together and didn’t really care what had  happened. An interview with Lindelof at The Daily Beast  does confirm that Kevin does believe her:

They’re together, but Nora never actually reunited with her kids.

There’s a number of different ways of looking at that. One potential interpretation is that that didn’t happen at all. That she chickened out and got out of the voice and put herself in self-induced exile and made the story up because it was the story that she needed to tell herself and the story that Kevin needed to hear for them to be together. That’s a cynical interpretation, but it’s one that I’ve heard.

Yes, I’m sure there will be a lot of people who think she made it all up.

Another interpretation is that when she saw her children and they were happy that she suddenly realized, “Who am I to come jamming into their happiness after seven years. There’s not a place for me in this unit anymore.” Not to mention that her husband has been cheating on her and he’s with another woman and her children have learned to be without her. So she must learn, too.

But if you take her story at face value, there’s nobility in her gesture. I think Nora is an incredibly brave and stoic character, and the idea that she went all the way to the top of Everest and then just didn’t plant her flag there. She realized, “Oh. Why did I need to climb Everest again? I think it’s time for me to go back down to the mountain and reevaluate things.” I think there’s nobility in that, too.

Kevin says he believes her. Does he?

Yeah!

Should we believe her?

I can’t tell you what to believe and what not to believe in a show that is based on people telling insane stories. I think that Kevin does believe her and he is the audience’s proxy. Nora is surprised. She’s like, “You do?” Because the story is so incredible, if you really sit and listen to what she says happened to her and, more importantly, how she says she got back. But hopefully it becomes, over time, less and less important whether it is literally true and more and more important that it was emotionally true. I’ve learned the hard way not to tell the audience what to believe and what to think and what to feel.

Lindelof had this explanation in Esquire:

We don’t know if Nora’s story was true.

If we showed it, you would know that it was true. By not showing it, you have to believe that it’s true, if that makes any sense. I think that what’s important is Kevin says that he believes her, and she seems surprised by that. She says, “You do?” And he says, “Why wouldn’t I? You’re here.” That’s kind of everything we have to say about how relevant the truth is, because if a belief system works for you, if it brings you together with the people that you love, it’s actual veracity is secondary to what that belief system basically gets you. That’s not like self-help guru promise bullshit, that’s the way that I think things work. I think that this finale and this season and this series is packed with people who are telling stories. Part of the territory, the very rich territory that we wanted to explore was: Are any of these stories true? Or do these stories have an added veracity because they’re told in a world where this crazy supernatural event happened? Or are they all bullshit? We want the audience to be thinking and feeling and wrestling with all of those questions.

What our intention was in writing the scene is 100 percent clear. I would never be like, “Well, that’s up to you to decide. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder.” No. The writers had a clear intention. I will bring with me to my dying day exactly what our intention was in whether or not Nora’s story is true by the metric of “did it actually happen.” That said, Carrie Coon and I never talked about that. She just read the script and then played it. Mimi Leder and I never talked about whether or not it was true. She just read the script and directed it. And so the more interesting question is: When the same scene is basically interpreted by multiple artists, what is the truth, even? I think it is sort of a fascinating Rorschach test in a sense that if you’re an agnostic or an atheist and you didn’t want an answer to where all the departed people went, you’re probably not going to believe Nora’s story. Even if you had been multiple times that you weren’t going to get the answer, but when Nora gave it to you and you felt relief, you’re probably going to want to believe her story. Again, all that matters to us is that Kevin really does believe it. There’s no ambiguity about that. And his belief in her story is going to allow them to be together, because now they’re both present, probably for the first time.

There are arguments both for and against believing Nora. She certainly had this story down and was ready to tell it when Kevin arrived. At one point during this episode Nora had even said, “I never lie.” She left Kevin at the wedding after she couldn’t handle the story Kevin was making up, appearing to be opposed to dishonesty. However we have seen her lie, such as in initially denying that she knew Kevin when she was told he was looking for her. Much of the series has been about the stories people tell themselves to explain events.

I wonder if Lindelof was giving away the answer when he said in the interview from The Daily Beast that, “the story is so incredible, if you really sit and listen to what she says happened to her and, more importantly, how she says she got back.” There were  points in the story when I did question it. It is a little hard to understand how she could arrive in the other place naked and with no money, but ultimately make it from Australia to the United States, but this felt more like the type of suspension of disbelief which is commonplace in genre stories. It was a realistic touch that, with only two percent of the world’s population left, it was not possible to support an airline industry.

I found it more surprising when Nora described returning to her old house. While it was no surprise that her husband and family had moved on and were involved with someone else, it is questionable that in such a world, with its infrastructure destroyed by the loss of so many people, her family would still be living in the same house. Most likely there would be a tendency for those remaining to join up into communities with others. It is also hard to believe that the physicist would, and could in this world, remake the machine just to send her back. If two-way travel had been developed, it is also hard to believe that there would not be others coming back here and word getting out.

Many arguments can be made for whether Nora was telling the truth, and my answer would probably be that there is no answer if Lindelof hadn’t messed with our heads by claiming there is an answer.

Fargo typically ends each season, which tell an independent story, with characters receiving punishment in some form. This was more ambiguous this season, and also ended with Carrie Coon sitting at a table saying something which may or may not be true. In this case her character believed what she was saying, but we were then given reason to question if she was right.

The beginning of the end occurred when Nikki confronted Emmit Stussy and it appeared that she was going to kill him to get revenge for Emmit having killed his brother (and Nikki’s boyfriend). Instead there was a freak shoot out between Nikki and a police officer who came along, with both killing the other. This is definitely believable in the world of Fargo. Emmitt appeared to have a happy ending, until years later when he was shot in the head

This left Varga, the real villain of the story, at large. In the jump forward, Carrie Coon had moved on to another job at the Department of Homeland Security. Varga was identified at an airport and pulled into a room by Coon’s character, Gloria Burgle. Her talk with him led up to her telling him what was going to happen next:

Let me tell you what’s going to happen next. Three agents from homeland security are going to put handcuffs on you and take you to Rikers and then we’re going to charge you with felony money laundering and six counts of conspiracy to commit murder. And then I’m going to go home to my son — it’s his birthday tomorrow. I promise I’d take him to the state fair.

It appeared that justice would prevail. Then Varga responded:

No. That’s not what’s going to happen next. What’s going to happen next is this. In five minutes that door is going to open and a man you can’t argue with will tell me I’m free to go. And I will stand from this chair and disappear into the world, so help me god. Trust me the future is certain. And when he comes you will know without question your place in the world.

The camera then looked at the door and the episode ended, like The Sopranos ending by going to black without revealing what happened. We never saw whether three agents from homeland security came through next and put him in handcuffs, or if a lone man came through and ordered him to be released. Varga was right so many times during the season, and appeared to be in control. It is impossible to ignore the possibility that he could be right.

There is no correct answer here, and perhaps it does not matter. Whether or not Varga gets away with his crimes, there will always be those who do.

Deadline had this information on Noah Hawley and the finale:

Hawley said it was always his intention to leave the ending open-ended for us to decide. Typically the tragedies in Fargo have happy endings: Marge gets in bed with her husband in the movie, Molly (Allison Tolman) gets to be police chief at the end of Season 1, and Patrick Wilson’s Lou Solverson takes his daughter (the younger Molly) fishing. But for Hawley, the cliffhanger ending tonight stems from “Our living in a complicated moment in time,” he says, referring to the President Donald Trump era.

“If I present you with a choice, you have to decide how that door is going to open and if it’s going to end well. It still has a happy ending if you’re an optimist. It just becomes a more active process. It’s an allegory to the conversation we’re having at this moment. How will we treat each other? Is it American carnage?” adds the EP.

But poor Nikki. Did she really have to die? “There was a degree of playing that by ear,” explains Hawley. “I wanted to save her, but I also didn’t want it to feel like a movie twist. At the end of the day, Fargo is a tragedy.”

In regards to Emmit, he’s a standard Fargo archetype; the guy in the middle, a la Martin Freeman’s Lester or William H. Macy’s Jerry, who always has to choose between right and wrong. The accidental murder of Emmit’s criminal-like brother Ray (also portrayed by McGregor) early on urged viewers to have an ironic respect for Emmit. We only sympathize with him further as the underdog as he remains under Varga’s thumb. But with Nikki dead, Hawley relied on Mr. Wrench, a deaf henchman from Season 1, “as the final arbiter of justice. He’s not in their story, he’s an outsider, and he can dispense the cosmic justice that Nikki tried and failed.”

“There aren’t any real heroes and villains, especially if I can make you empathize with these people,” Hawley says of his storytelling technique. “It complicates the violence that’s going to come, and I don’t want people cheering for the violence.”

The article also reports that it is undetermined whether there will be a fourth season:

“I always agreed with FX that the only reason to do another Fargo is if the creative is there,” says Hawley, who at the moment is drawing a blank in regards to what Season 4 would center around.

“It took 15 months to get Season 2 off the ground, and 18 months to get Season 3 on the air. I have to turn my attention to the second season of Legion and a film potentially the winter after next. We’re looking at three years from now,” the EP about a rough timeline for a Fargo Season 4.

It  makes sense that any decision on a fourth season be based upon whether there is a story idea good enough to justify it. Many shows have been continued far longer than they should be. It  is also a good thing that there is no pressure on FX to make a decision by next season. It is better to wait until any future seasons can be done right.

The article also reveals that, in addition to his work on Legion, Hawley will be doing a limited series adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963  novel Cat’s Cradle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also discussed how timely the series is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Laughs. Loudly]

And to the US Media.

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

This story is a ripe opportunity for social comment.

Absolutely.

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Pilot & Smile; Broadchurch Series Finale; The Magicians Season Finale; The Expanse Season Finale

It was a huge week with several shows returning or ending for the season. Scheduling forced me to break from the usual pattern of reviewing the week’s episode of Doctor Who last week, so I will look at both Pilot and Smile today.

Pilot was not only a show centered around the the introduction of a new companion, but was a partial reboot. The episode did have references to past characters and events, but it would be possible to follow the show without understanding those and watch Doctor Who for the first time. This was perhaps an unusual time to do this considering that next season there will be a new show runner, new Doctor, and probably a new companion, making an even bigger break.

Instead of traveling around time and space, the Doctor is working as a university professor, where he meets his new companion Bill Potts, a worker at the university, who sits in on the Doctor’s lectures. The Doctor was intrigued by her for doing this. Plus he noticed that while most people frown when exposed to something they do not understand, Bill would smile. Although the Doctor was not yet, at least consciously, looking for a new traveling companion, this would be a necessary characteristic of a companion who is constantly exposed to new situations. Teaching was also a position which seems to go along with the various episodes in which Peter Capaldi used a chalk board to write on.

The Doctor supposedly has been lecturing for fifty years, with the TARDIS sitting in the corner of his office with an “out of order” sign. His desk also contains pictures of Susan and of River Song. Between items in his lectures, and conversations with Bill, viewers received an overview of what the Doctor, the TARDIS, and time travel are all about. Of course don’t get too concerned about the details, including details which only Bill has asked such as why an acronym in a language from another planet would still spell out TARDIS. In the end the Doctor gave the essential meaning: “Time and Relative Dimension in Space. It means what the hell.”

The episode was primarily about establishing the relationship between Bill and the Doctor, and was entertaining by having Bill ask questions, and not necessarily react as other companions do. They dragged out Bill giving the inevitable “It’s bigger on the inside” line. As for how it works: “First you have to imagine a very big box fitting inside a very small box. Then you have to make one … it’s the second part people normally get stuck on.”

They played on the “Doctor Who?” question with a new variation when Bill asked, “The Doctor’s not a name. I can’t just call you Doctor. Doctor what?”

Of course there were two other elements to this story. There is the vault which the Doctor is protecting, which provides the reason for why he is teaching at the university for fifty  years. There is no clue as to when this happens.  Perhaps the Doctor went back in time fifty years  and began his job at the university, overlapping with his existence on earth which we have seen. More likely, we are not supposed to question this.

There was also a story, but the story of the sentient oil would not have been enough to carry an episode by itself. It did give an excuse for the Doctor to take Bill on a trip in the TARDIS, going both to other places and times under the excuse of seeing if they could be followed.

The Doctor did not intend to travel with Bill and threatened to wipe her mind. Bill is aware of science fiction tropes, and realized that was his intent. She talked him out of it by questioning how he would feel if it happened to him This brought to mind both how the Doctor wiped Donna’s mind in Journey’s End, and how his own mind was wiped of memories of Clara in Hell Bent.

The second episode, Smile, had more of a story than Pilot, but it was still fairly weak in terms of plot. Again it was the relationship between the Doctor and Bill which made the episode worthwhile. There were more questions, such as “Why have you got two hearts? Does that mean you’ve got really high blood pressure?” The continuing story line of the vault was brought up again with this rather vague explanation: “A long time ago a thing happened. As a result of the thing, I made a promise. As a result of the promise, I have to stay on Earth.”

Nardole reminded the Doctor that he had promised to remain on earth, but the Doctor pointed out to Bill that they could still leave and, due to time travel, return to just after they left. “Between here and my office before the kettle boils, is everything that ever happened or ever will. Make your choice.”It was a perfect plan–if you ignored the consequences if the Doctor didn’t make it back. Perhaps we will see those consequences later this season. Bill chose to go to the future. I believe that in the new series, the second episode for every new companion other than Donna was a trip to the future.

Having the Doctor sneak out on Nardole gave a good reason to leave him out and concentrate on developing the relationship between Bill and the Doctor. Bill continued to have her questions and observations about the TARDIS. She questioned the lack of seats at a proper height to operate the TARDIS: “Oh, that’s a mistake. You can’t reach the controls from the seats. What’s the point in that? Or do you have stretchy arms like Mr. Fantastic?”

The Doctor explained how the TARDIS works: “Well, you don’t steer the TARDIS. You negotiate with her. The still point between where you want to go and where you need to be, that’s where she takes you.” This referred to what we learned in The Doctor’s Wife, and really is what occurs in most episodes. They weren’t entirely consistent. The Doctor also told Bill that he had stolen the TARDIS. However, we learned in The Doctor’s Wife that the TARDIS sees it more as if she stole the Doctor.

The story was a fairly basic science fiction story about robots both messing up their programming and developing sentience. The “skeleton crew” were turned into skeletons due to poor logic on the part of the robots, and used for fertilizer. I could easily see Captain Kirk beaming down to the same planet and solving the problem in a similar manner. I was disappointed in how easily they threw in a solution at the end, stealing from The IT Crowd in turning it off and turning it on again.

The episode, filming at the Cultural Complex in Valencia, Spain did look far better than most futuristic episodes of Doctor Who, which often take place in a cramped space ship or a quarry. It does fit into the future as established in previous episodes such as The Arc In Space and The Beast Below in which humans have left earth due to solar flares.

Besides such references to previous episodes of Doctor Who, the episode included other references. The earth ship was named Erehwon, which both spells “nowhere” backwards and is very similar to Erewhon, Samual Butler’s novel about an imperfect Utopia, also including sentient machines. The Vardy were named after Andrew Vardy, who has studies swarm robotics. Even the planet where the story occurs, Gliese 581d, is a real  potential destination for humans leaving earth in search of a habitable planet.

Although only Pilot was written by Steven Moffat, the two episodes did have some things in common. Moffat is famous for making a simple act such as blinking something to be terrified of. In Pilot, you could not look at your reflection, and in Smile you dare not frown. In both cases, the “monster” of the episode turned out to not really be evil. As the Doctor said, “Hardly anything is evil, but most things are hungry. Hunger looks very like evil from the wrong end of the cutlery. Or do you think your bacon sandwich loves you back?”

The episode ended going right into the next episode, as was done in the older shows. I liked this, but I imagine it might frustrate novelists and fan fiction writers who wish to place a story in between television episodes.

Neither of the two episodes had great stories, but they served the function of introducing us to both Bill and the presumably season long story involving the vault. I don’t know if this will extend into the Christmas episode, which will feature the Doctor’s regeneration, but we did learn a little about the episode. Perhaps this will tie into the picture of Susan on the Doctor’s desk in Pilot. Reportedly the Christmas episode will include the first Doctor, originally played by William Hartnell. David Bradley will reprise this role from An Adventure In Space In Time.

Broadchurch concluded on Monday night in the U.K. but has not been shown in the United States yet. Those planning to watch should skip to the next section as this contains major spoilers regarding both the second and third seasons.

The finale revealed the Trish had not one but two rapists (and there were many other suspects before this was revealed).  Leo bullied Michael into raping Trish while he filmed it. Leo was by far the bigger villain of the two, displaying a total lack of morals when he justified his actions. He saw it as “just sex” which didn’t matter as Trish (and the girls he raped in the past) had all previously had sex. He showed no understanding of the violence in raping them, or even of the violence in hitting Trish over the head. As Miller had said earlier in the season, “Rape is about power and control, not sex.”

Chris Chibnall will be moving on to do Doctor Who and has stated there will not be a fourth season of Broadchurch. While this was a satisfactory conclusion, if they were going to do a season about trials, I would prefer to see a trial of Leo and Michael as opposed to the second season, in which  Joe Miller was found not guilty. Michael certainly deserves punishment for his role in raping Trish, but a defense based upon claims of being coerced to rape her could have created some interesting scenes. Although Leo technically did not rape Trish himself, the show made it very easy to convict Leo, between how he knocked Trish unconscious and the revelations of his previous rapes. It could have made a more interesting trial if these events had not occurred, and he was being tried purely on psychologically influencing Michael to commit the act.

From the start, Broadchurch has been more than a show about solving a crime. It is about the people who live in Broadchurch. This included more on Mark and Beth Latimer, whose son’s murder was the main story line of the first season. Incidentally, a deleted scene revealed more about another event of the third season–how Alec Hardy’s Tinder date ended.

The Magicians had an excellent season finale, which provided more backstory from Ember’s perspective. The finale also totally changed things going into the third season after magic was turned off by the plumber–a consequence of killing gods and not realizing that gods have parents. After Julia started out the series being rejected by Brakebills, she is now the only human with magic. Perhaps this ties into what we learned earlier in the season about how she did in another life where she had been admitted.

TV Line interviewed executive producers John McNamara and Sera Gamble:

TVLINE | In a season where you had Reynard the Fox and The Beast, was Ember the alpha Big Bad?
JOHN MCNAMARA | I would say yes. While The Beast had a large effect on the misery of Martin Chatwin, Quentin and his friends, and Fillory, and Reynard really affected Julia and her circle of friends in a miserable, violent way, Ember — through whimsical, kind of careless, narcissistic boredom — was going to destroy an entire world. He’s going to commit genocide. So I don’t think badness gets bigger than genocide. [But] I could be wrong. There could be something else.
SERA GAMBLE | Tune in for Season 3! [Laughs] Just the fact that you’re asking this question at all highlights the fact that the structure of Season 2 is a little different than Season 1. When you meet The Beast in the pilot of The Magicians, it’s clear that there’s a classic Big Bad arc to that season that we followed and commented on in our meta, Magicians way. Coming into Season 2, it was very important to us to switch that up a little bit and not give you that same linear Big Bad structure. We didn’t want you to know who the endgame was when you came in for the first episode of the season…

TVLINE | Going back to Reynard, is he still a threat? Will we see him next season?
MCNAMARA | He’s alive. You never know.
GAMBLE | I think it’s fair to take Our Lady Underground at her word that she intends to deal with him. She’s certainly powerful enough to do so.

TVLINE | The guiding principle of the show is magic, so what excites you about exploring a world without magic?
MCNAMARA | The same thing that excites me in a James Bond movie where he gets into so much trouble with M that they take away his license to kill and he has to go rogue. Or the same thing that excites me when you write a love story and, suddenly, in the middle of Red Square in 1917, the two lovers are separated. The essence of drama. You give the audience what they want, you make them love it, and then you take it away. … Magic was, more or less, taken for granted [in the first two seasons]. When they get magic back — because let’s not kid ourselves, it’s called The Magicians — they’re all going to have a very different relationship to magic, informed by having lived with its absence and the quest to reinstate it.

TVLINE | Julia is the only one who still has some magical ability. After everything she’s been through these last two seasons, was it important for you to give her a little bit of happiness and hope?
MCNAMARA | I don’t really care if she’s happy, myself. I do think life is a balance of light and dark, and she’s certainly had a lot of darkness. So it makes sense that she would acquire abilities that perhaps are based on how much she’s suffered. Suffering at the hands of a god may have had something to do with it. We haven’t decided yet.
GAMBLE | I felt like after a season of seeking out Reynard at great, great personal cost and great cost to those around her who were helping her, it was important to see her turn a page. But whether or not that is one and the same with this strange ability to do a little bit of magic, that remains to be seen. At the very beginning of that scene, when Julia embraces Quentin, and they’re happy to see each other, and they have a certain dry resignation about their shared hand in what has happened to magic, it’s much more, in that moment, about the fact that you’re looking at a Julia who feels a little bit more whole than she has been throughout this season. Her shade is back, she clearly has found some coping mechanism. She doesn’t look like death warmed over in that scene. Some of that might be about her secret and about the magic she can do. To me, a lot of it is about Julia and just what she’s been through that season. So long story short, I wouldn’t hinge everybody’s happiness on that little piece of magic, because if there’s one thing you should know about Magicians, it’s that having magic doesn’t make you happy.

TVLINE | Am I correct in sensing that there’s some tension between Quentin and Alice after the time jump?
GAMBLE | Yes. Alice has a lot of secrets.

Gizmodo has interviews with the stars. Entertainment Weekly has a longer interview with Stella Maeve  (Julia).

The week also included the series finale of Girls and season finale of 24 Legacy, neither of which I was very impressed with. I am still far behind and have not seen the season two finale of The Expanse, but I hear it was excellent. I have not read this yet, but have book marked an interview with executive producer Naren Shankar on the finale. I do expect to watch next season as it airs and will be able to discuss it in future posts.

SciFi Weekend: Top Twenty New Shows Of 2016; Mary Tyler Moore and John Hurt Die; Genre Novels In The Age Of Trump; Riverdale Premieres

With over four hundred scripted shows (expected to surpass 500 in 2017) it is probably impossible for any one person to fairly rank the best of any season. Even many professional television critics, who don’t have another day job interfering, have said  how difficult it is to watch all the shows to do their end of year rankings. To make it more manageable, and to get around problems of listing the same top shows every year, I have limited this to the best new shows every season. Last year’s list is here and the top new shows of 2014 were listed here.

It got even harder this year with so many new streaming shows, some not dropping until December. In order to include more shows, I waited until the end of January to post the list. As usual, there are shows which I have heard very good things about which I have not watched at all. I put in a couple of shows towards the end of the list which I only watched parts of the season, and might rank them higher if I were to watch more. Also, as usual, it is very difficult to compare shows from different genre’s, or shows watched months apart. If you disagree with some of the rankings, it is very likely I also might agree and rank them differently if I were to do this on a different day. The real point of lists such as this is to point out shows which were worth watching.

Top 20 New Shows Of 2016

20. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (CW Network)

If based upon the premiere of the show in early 2016, this show would not have made the list, however it was much better when it returned for a second season in the fall. If you gave up on it last year, as I almost did, it is worth another look.

19. Class (BBC)

A Doctor Who spinoff aimed at an older audience than TheMary Jane Adventures. Torchwood (in its early years) remains the only spinoff I consider must see, but fans should find this enjoyable. It aired in the UK last fall, and will be shown in the U.S. this spring after Doctor Who. While I understand the decision in the U.S., I personally found it to be of more value as a fall show to fill the gap when, besides the Christmas episode, there was no true Doctor Who.

18. Fleabag (Amazon Prime)

I wasn’t as in love with this show as the critics, but if you have Amazon Prime, it is well worth checking it out and deciding for  yourself. The entire season is only about three hours, making it essentially a long movie. There is a definite payoff to some of the events of the season in the finale.

17. Atlanta (FX)

Another show which many would probably rank higher. I started watching when it premiered, but then it got forgotten in September because of a combination of being busy with personal matters and the premiers of all the fall shows. It very could rank higher after I see more.

16. Dirk Gentry’s Holistic Detective Agency (BBC America)

A fun and very quirky genre show which, by the end, definitely qualifies as science fiction.

15. Billions (Showtime)

An entertaining cable series. It’s most important benefit was to give Damian Lewis somewhere else to go to make sure they didn’t get desperate and try to bring him back to life on Homeland.

14. Speechless (ABC)

A few years ago it looked like network sitcoms were on the verge of death, beyond The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family. ABC has managed to continue to make worthwhile sitcoms with the Modern Family formula, including Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat, and now Speechless.

13. Goliath (Amazon Prime)

Billy Bob Thorton makes what could have been a run of the mill lawyer show well worth watching

12. The Crown (Netflix)

A young queen ascends to the thrown in a high budget presentation. She receives advice from the prime minister and is married to a foreigner played by Matt Smith, who adds a bit of whimsy to the show.

11. Victoria (ITV and PBS)

A young queen ascends to the thrown in a not-so-high budget presentation. She receives advice from the prime minister and is married to a foreigner. This also has strong connections to the Doctor Who world including Victoria being played by Jenna Coleman, with supporting cast including Eve Myles from Torchwood. It doesn’t have the budget of The Crown, but in deciding upon the ranking I deferred to my wife’s opinion. This aired in the UK last fall and recently started airing in the United States on PBS.

10. Luke Cage (Netflix)

The latest introduction of a Marvel character on Netflix. It could not meet the extremely high bar set last year by Jessica Jones, but was better than the second season of Daredevil.

9. The Magicians (Syfy)

Much more than an adult Harry Potter, but that would make a starting point to explain what this series is about. Yes, it did technically have an advanced showing of the pilot in 2015, but I’ll still consider this to essentially be a 2016 series. I watched the uncut episodes later in the year, and the editing for television on the premier episode of the second season last week was noticeable.

8. The Good Place (NBC)

A sitcom which has a continuing story, a genre element, discusses philosophy, plus has Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. Extra points for having one of the best plot twists on television in recent years.

7. This Is Us (NBC)

I thought that quality drama was dead on NBC with the ending of Parenthood, but this fills the gap. It had a fairly good twist of its own in the pilot but, unlike in The Good Place, I saw this one coming. The bigger surprise was that Mandy Moore could do such a good job acting. Sure it is full of old television cliches and spends most episodes tugging at the heart strings, but it does a good job of it.

6. 11.22.63 (Hulu)

Received mixed views but I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation of the Stephen King time travel novel. (No comparison between this and the messed up adaptation of  Under the Dome). More on the show here.

5. Travelers (Showcase and Netflix)

Another low budget Canadian science fiction series filmed in Vancouver. This one is well-written and highly recommended, plus now easily available in the US on Netflix. The premise is that travelers from the future send their consciousness back to our present to prevent an apocalyptic future, taking over the bodies of people at the time of their recorded death. (I was  hoping that something like this would happen on January 20.) Besides having to attend to their mission, the travelers have to cope with the lives they took over–and sometimes their information was a bit off.

4. The Night Of (HBO)

A great self-contained story which shows both problems in the criminal justice system and xenophobia.

3. The Night Manager (BBC and AMC)

An excellent adaptation of the John le Carré novel. It was such a success that BBC and AMC are planning a second adaptation.

2. Stranger Things (Netflix)

The surprise hit from last summer. The series, with explanations of the finale, was discussed here.

1. West World (HBO)

The most discussed new show of the season, with mainstream critics also falling for this science fiction series. I looked at the show at various times, with a discussion of the season finale here.

There are also shows which might make the list which I did not see. I didn’t see any point in rehashing the O.J. Simpson story, but note that The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story  (FX) has received considerable critical acclaim. Many other shows, including genre dramas such as The OA (Netflix) and comedies such as One Mississippi (Amazon Prime) are also recommended by many people.

In past years I have found shows which I did not see when new, but saw them in subsequent years and thought they deserved to be in my rankings. This year I caught up on season one and two of Dark Matter (Syfy) and loved the show. I then tried Killjoys (Syfy) and didn’t get into it. I only watched the first episode, which might not be enough to judge it. I also thought that perhaps I was expecting Dark Matter and it might be better to watch some other shows before trying it again so I could judge it on its own merit.

It is notable that, once again, cable (both basic and premium), British imports, and especially streaming, dominate the list, with very little from the major American networks.

2016 ended with the loss of one beloved actress, Carrie Fisher, and began with the loss of another, Mary Tyler Moore. Later in the week, John Hurt died. While he is more famous for other roles, among science fiction fans he might be best remembered as the War Doctor for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary.

The past two weekends also were dominated by protests against Donald Trump. Earlier this week I looked at one good thing to come from Trump’s election–people are talking about books. This includes the classic 1984, as well as two other novels in which populist authoritarians became president. Even Doctor Who has been cited in discussion of the alternative facts coming from the Trump administration.

This week included the return of several genre shows, as well as the premiere of The CW’s reimagination of Archie comics, Riverdale. After watching Riverdale, I have three questions:

1) Who killed Jason Blossom?
2) What real teen talks about Truman Capote and about Mad Men by season?
3) And the old classic question, Betty or Veronica?

SciFi Weekend: The Flash; Supergirl; Arrow; Legends of Tomorrow; Gotham; Dark Mirror; Westworld; Outlander; Falling Water; Doctor Who; SNL On The Second Presidential Debate

supergirl-season-2-trailer-superman

All four shows in the Berlantiverse have premiered on the CW Network for this season. (Spoilers ahead for those who are not up to date). The Flash returned with the long-anticipated Flashpoint story, and couldn’t keep up with the hype. Unfortunately it was all predictable that after saving his mother, some reason would come up which would force Barry to restore the time line. This combined both disasters for some of his friends with him developing the problem of losing his original memories. It was mostly resolved in the first episode, but the restored timeline did have some changes, such as Iris not speaking to her father. Almost everything was fixed by the end of the second episode. There is one change which does extend to Arrow–Diggle now has a son rather than a daughter (with the son seen in an episode of Legends of Tomorrow last season).

While The Flash got off to a mixed opening, Supergirl started the season strong with the introduction of Superman–now putting these two series out in front of the Berlantiverse shows. It was the perfect view of Superman for this series–the version from the latest movies certainly would not have fit in.

I bet nobody was surprised that Kara decided to become a reporter. The move of Winn from CatCo to the DEO is exactly the type of change which might be farfetched in the real world, but which fits into television reality. They hinted at changes for Cat Grant, which is probably a cover for Calista Flockart not going to appear as often due to the move of the show to Vancouver. It does make sense that Kara will not see her as much with the change from her personal assistant to reporter. She will have a new boss, with some information from Entertainment Weekly:

Kara’s working relationship with her new boss, Snapper Carr, is very different from the one she had with Cat Grant. “Cat — both with Kara and I think with others — is actually devoted to mentoring people,” EP Andrew Kreisberg says. “She challenges them hard, but she does that with the idea that she’s forging them and they’re going to come out the other side as stronger, better people. Snapper Carr doesn’t give a crap. He believes in the written word, in facts and ‘Are you good at your job or are you not? If you’re not good at your job, I don’t have time for you.’”

A clip from next week’s episode in which Kara meets Snapper Carr is above.

While The Flash was about Barry and Iris getting together regardless of the time line, Kreisberg has decided that Kara and Jimmy Olsen should just be friends. I just hope they stick with this decision. We have seen far too many Ross and Rachel situations on television.

Arrow has been on a downward trajectory since its superb second season, and it is too early to say whether it can move out of third place among the Berlantiverse shows. The first two episodes of the season have concentrated on building a new team, and have been rather unremarkable. Maybe once this is established the show will improve. At least the flash backs in Russia look more interesting than the flash backs from last season.

Legends of Tomorrow has been largely rebooted, but I’d still rank it as the weakest of the four seasons based upon the single episode available so far.  It appears that the team has a new leader in place of Arthur Darvill’s character Rip Hunter, but I’m not certain that he is really gone for good. On the one hand the mission first season was more personal for Rip Hunter and it might make sense to reduce the emphasis on him. On the other hand, it is Arthur Darvill who has the direct connection to the Time Masters they are replacing (along with a certain Time Lord). So far we have only had a glimpse of the Justice Society of America, but we should be seeing a lot of them next week.

Geek and Sundry has a guide to the Justice Society

Before the Justice League… Who’s the Justice Society?

So, the Justice Society of America, or JSA, was DC comics’ first all-star super group, debuting in the 1940s. Its initial roster consisted of names who should sound very familiar to followers of recent movies and shows. There was the Atom, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and the Flash, among others. Only these weren’t the same characters which viewers are familiar with today. A key aspect of DC lore is the notion of masked personas being passed down through generations, so when the company dusted off the super group concept in the 60’s with the Justice League of America, it didn’t take long for the creators to retcon the two teams as being part of a lineage.

Judging by the trailer, it seems this JSA might be the only official super group in the “Arrowverse,” and its line-up will be cherry picked from various incarnations of the team. It’ll also apparently live up to its name more by operating as a clandestine secret society. Who are the members, though?

Hourman

The first wearer of this cowl, Rex Tyler, takes his name from the Miralco Pill which grants superhuman physical prowess for an hour once ingested. As soon as time’s up, though, Hourman’s reverts back to being a normal human being. The chronal chaos seen in the trailer suggests, however, that this guy will be an amalgamation of all three heroes in the tradition, having the time-travel capability of the second Hourman, along with the black costume of the third.

Stargirl

She’s a more light-hearted heroine with ties to two superhero dynasties. Stargirl wields the powerful “cosmic staff,” which absorbs and re-directs energy, allowing her to fly, fire bolts, create forcefields, and also levitate objects.

Dr. Mid-Nite

Imagine a character somewhere between Daredevil and Riddick. All three Doctors have been actual medical doctors who turned to crime-fighting after accidents granted them night vision at the cost of near-blindness in normal light conditions. Hence, the goggles. For all doctors, the preferred tool is the noxious “black out” smoke bomb, and the preferred assistant is a deadly, trained owl.

Obsidian

The mutant son of the first Green Lantern (not Hal Jordan!), he’s born with powers that ironically invert the mighty light of his father. Obsidian can turn into a living shadow and gain all the associated qualities, like flight and intangibility. He can even sometimes build objects out of darkness, much like GL’s constructs.

Vixen

A bit like the Beastmaster, this heroine can tap into a primordial force called “the Red” which allows her to possess the abilities of any animal. This power comes from the mystical Tantu Totem, which is passed down through generations. And in fact, this Vixen is not the same one who’s previously been seen on Arrow. She’s her grandmother.

Commander Steel

A bit like Captain America, this star-spangled hero is a military man who’s granted super strength and invulnerability after a top secret experiment. (In this case, it’s meant to restore his damaged body.) Steel fights in World War II, and he makes life-long enemies with Nazi super-villains who come back to bedevil the grandsons who eventually take up his mantle.

There was even a reference to Gotham on Supergirl last week, even if not the Gotham of the Fox television show. This DC-based show also got off to a good start this season. Their election for mayor was settled far more quickly than our presidential election. Oswald Cobblepot might be as disgusting a figure in many ways as Donald Trump, and as crooked as Hillary Clinton, but if he was in a three-way race for president, I would be tempted to vote for him over our current awful choices.

Black Mirror

Just after I finished one show dropped on Netflix (Luke Cage), they are releasing another genre series on Friday. After two seasons of Dark Mirror on Channel 4 in the U.K., Netflix will be releasing a third season. TV Guide looks at the previous episodes to watch before the third season begins. The first two seasons are also available on Netflix. The New York Times spoke with the show’s creator, Charlie Brooker, and his collaborator Annabel Jones.

While I will hold off on discussing Luke Cage until a later date, of the Netflix Marvel series, I’d rank it just a bit behind Daredevil season 1, and above Daredevil season 2. Jessica Jones remains the best of the series. While there are some overlaps, and Luke Cage did have a role in Jessica Jones, each series can be watched independently without having seen the others.

Nerdist looks at how Doctor Strange fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

westworld

I was disappointed when I found that HBO was not streaming the third episode of Westworld early like they did with the first two, and I will have to wait until later tonight to watch. While I have not seen all of the new series which have premiered this season, so far it is the one I am most interested in. Assignment X has an interview with Jonathan Nolan. Here is a portion, which also compares it to Nolan’s previous series, Person of  Interest:

AX: You spent five years dealing with A.I. on PERSON OF INTEREST …

NOLAN: I think I found my subject.

AX: Did you come to any conclusions about artificial intelligence while doing PERSON OF INTEREST that have been useful in WESTWORLD?

NOLAN: It’s funny, because it’s really looking at the subject from a different perspective. PERSON OF INTEREST was relentlessly non-anthropomorphic A.I. was really the godhead, it was A.I. as a pure intelligence, not tethered to the mortal coil, an A.I. that was developed in secret. With WESTWORLD, you have really the opposite. You have A.I. that, if you consider the consciousness aspect of it, it’s almost an accident that these creatures – they’ve been programmed merely to be as lifelike as necessary for their job, and their job is to satisfy, as Lisa said, our most noble or most base desires. So they’re not supposed to be smarter than us. That’s the last thing [their makers] want.

AX: What are the WESTWORLD park’s customers like?

NOLAN: Well, the guest experience is the third point of view of the show, but it’s very much unlike the original film. We really wanted to start with the hosts, start with their limited understanding of what this world is. But there is that great point of entry. You want to know, how does this place work? As Lisa said earlier, the show is really an examination of human nature, from two different directions. From the perspective of synthetic humans, or synthetic beings, who have been coded to resemble human nature as closely as possible, and who are beginning the question, in the first season, just how worthy a model that is to follow. Every perspective of human beings, and this is the delicious part of the premise, who have been invited or made their way into a space in which they’ve been told that they have free rein. They can take their id on vacation. They can indulge in any whim, no matter how noble or dark that they want, and apparently without consequence. And so that’s a fascinating premise as well. You know, who are we when the lights are off? Who are we when we don’t think anyone’s keeping score? And then in between these worlds [of the synthetic hosts and the human guests], you have the programmers, writers, technicians, the Promethean characters who are responsible for mediating those two worlds.

AX: It seems like Ed Harris’ Man in Black gunslinger/marauder character is a guest who is indulging real darkness in himself …

NOLAN: Ed’s character features as the “ne plus ultra” guest. This is an expert-level player, someone who has been coming to the park, as he says in the second episode, for thirty years. He knows everything about [the park].

When Crichton wrote the original film, the state of the videogame business was Pong. In the forty years since then, that entire industry has grown up and evolved into this monster that’s bigger than the film business, bigger than the TV business. So our narrative had to account for that more sophisticated understanding that we have of gaming. We call them “guests,” but there is also a gaming aspect to what they do in the park. It is not just a leisurely resort. They’re here to engage in the narratives, and the narratives are increasingly sophisticated.

AX: We see that the guests can shoot the android hosts, and the hosts can’t shoot each other, but theoretically, the guests can’t shoot each other and the hosts can’t shoot the guests. Are the guns built so that they can detect human physiology as opposed to android physiology, or how does that work?

NOLAN: It’s not the guns. It’s the bullets. We thought a lot about this. In the original film, the guns won’t operate guest on guest. But we felt like the guests would want to have a more visceral experience here. So when they’re shot and it has an impact, they’re called “simunitions.” The U.S. military trains with rounds like the ones we’re talking about. There’s a bit of an impact, a bit of a sting. So it’s not entirely consequence-free for the guests.

There has been a steady stream of news, such as this casting news, to keep alive interest in Outlander until it returns, probably in April. The season two gag real was also released–audio not safe for work.

I haven’t had a chance to watch Falling Water yet, but have a few links for those who are interested. The New York Times has a review. Buddy TV has videos of interviews with cast and crew, followed by summaries of key points, here and here.

jenna-coleman-doctor-who

Den of Geek looks at the possibility of Jenna Coleman returning to Doctor Who.

While there are no firm plans yet, Steven Moffat has stated that Benedict Cumberbatch is interested in continuing with Sherlock after the fourth season. He is obviously quite busy on other projects, including Doctor Strange. Moffat also states that Peter Capaldi will be remaining on Doctor Who after he leaves as show runner.

Donald Trump is not happy with how Saturday Night Live has portrayed him. Video of their parody of the second presidential debate above, with Alec Baldwin portraying Donald Trump. Trump says that the media is rigging the election that Baldwin’s portrayal stinks. He also tweeted that it is “Time to retire the boring and unfunny show.”

SciFi Weekend: Stranger Things–Explanation of Finale And A Look Ahead; Mr Robot; Star Trek Discovery; Doctor Who

Stranger Things D&D

Stranger Things was the surprise hit of the summer. It was as close to a perfectly structured television show as I’ve ever seen, both telling a complete story in eight episodes and leaving some things open for future seasons. It has an excellent cast, a story which was compelling from the start, and a lot to bring back fond memories of both the 1980’s and previous stories in the genre. The early 1980’s was a perfect period for this story, when kids could roam freely without being immediately available by cell phone, kids would have to ask their science teacher for information rather than looking it up on line, and Cold War paranoia made the background of the story seem a bit more plausible. I briefly discussed the show last week without spoilers. In order to discuss the finale and where the second season might go, major spoilers are unavoidable.

If I had any complaints after the conclusion, it might be that questions which we might not have had time to wonder about while binging were left unanswered. I’m thinking of where the story was at even before the final few minutes when additional teasers for the future were inserted. Fortunately the producers do have an outline which presumably contains information which might answer some of my questions in future seasons.

We know something about the research being done at Hawkins Lab, and how Eleven presumably opened a portal to another dimension. There could be far more going on at the lab, and was there a one through ten?

What happened in the other dimension, which appears to be like ours with the atmosphere destroyed and people no longer alive? Some scenes which looked up to the stars led me to believe it was due to aliens, while the 1980’s time frame also makes me suspect it was the consequence of a nuclear winter. Why did we see only one Demogorgon? Perhaps such monsters, and perhaps other types, are roaming the other dimension, and only this one made it to their version of Indiana. Did such monsters destroy Earth, or were they created by radiation from a nuclear war? The kids faced a Thessalhydra while playing D&D at the end of the episode. Is this what they will encounter next? Is there a connection between their games and what is found in the Down Under? What was the egg which Hopper discovered?

What happened to Eleven and the monster? If this was a completed story we might assume she died after saying goodby to Mike.  However, as we are dealing with parallel universes and the ability to travel between them, it wouldn’t be surprising if a sequel shows that they did go to another dimension. Deaths always must be questioned if there is no body–and in this show even a body did not prove death. If two dimensions were shown this season, are there other dimensions which might come into play in future seasons?

It is plausible that Will remained alive as long as he did by hiding out in alternate versions of places he knows in his universe, but how did he communicate with the lights? Even if messing with the wires in one dimension affected them in the other dimension, he showed remarkable accuracy in turning flashing specific lights by specific letters. Barb was not so fortunate, but to maintain some degree of horror I think it was necessary for her to have been killed. Most of the characters who were put in danger did survive. Will was alive in the end. His mother and Hopper were both captured but managed to be released. The kids survived the final attack of the monster in their school Someone had to actually die for the monster to be menacing in the end, and a character such as Barb who was only in a handful of scenes was the obvious “red shirt.”

The final few minutes of the series went further in providing loose ends to tie up in the future. What happened when Hopper went in that car. Why was he leaving Eggos Waffles in the box in the woods? Either he knew that Eleven was out there and was leaving her favorite food for her, or he perhaps he was leaving them to see if she returned to take them. I think the later is more plausible as if he was actually feeding her he would have presumably left more.

The biggest sign that we have not seen the last of the Upside Down was when Will coughed up the slug and briefly saw the other dimension. Was that just a mental flash back, or was there a breakdown between the dimensions in the bathroom? Is this the original Will, or yet another type of fake, this time created in the Upside Down? What about Will’s mother and Hopper? Both were in the Upside Down and had breathed in the air.

The Duffer brothers have verified in various interviews that they are hoping to produce a second season involving the same characters, with additional ones added. There will be a time jump of one year which makes matters much simpler when dealing with children actors, and allows for the story to have advanced.

Here are some excerpts of interviews with Matt and Ross Duffer:

Stranger Things

From Variety:

How much do we know about Eleven’s true origins at this point, and how much did you want to keep a mystery?

Ross: We get the hint that her mom was involved in the experimentations back in the day resulting in her being born with these powers, but what we wanted to do with the show — and this season specifically — was mostly seeing the mystery and these extraordinary things through the eyes of these ordinary characters. By the end of the show they don’t know or understand everything. That is purposeful.

We do cut away to the government occasionally for these pops of mystery or horror, but what we didn’t want was to have a scene of the scientist just sitting down to explain everything. We wanted to slowly peel back layers of this mystery for audiences through the eyes of these very ordinary people. It’s not all solved by the end of the season. We wanted to resolve the main mystery of Will being gone, that was the story of this season.

Do you see the government or science conspiracy angle as a long-term mystery for the show?

Ross: There’s a lot there we don’t know or understand. Even with the Upside Down, we have a 30-page document that is pretty intricate in terms of what it all means, and where this monster actually came from, and why aren’t there more monsters — we have all this stuff that we just didn’t have time for, or we didn’t feel like we needed to get into in season one, because of the main tension of Will. We have that whole other world that we haven’t fully explored in this season, and that was very purposeful.

Matt: We wanted a simple drive and a somewhat simple mystery with bizarre pops of supernatural horror and then add a larger mythology behind this rift that we only know and refer to as the Upside Down because that’s what the boys decide to call it. Everything they’ve learned about it is kind of hypothetical. They’re theorizing based on their knowledge from fantasy gaming and their science teacher, Mr. Clarke. That’s as much as we get to understand it. I think part of it is us thinking in terms of horror, it’s scarier when you don’t fully understand what’s happening. If you were to encounter something from another world or dimension, it would be beyond comprehension. We talked a lot about Clive Barker and his stories. They’re very weird, and the weirder it is, the more inexplicable it is, the scarier it is.

As you head into future seasons, have you thought about how much of that 30-page document you want to reveal and explore?

Ross: We leave these dangling threads at the end. If people respond to this show and we get to continue this story — we had those initial discussions of where we might go with it. If there was going to be a season two, we would reveal more of that 30 page document, but we’d still want to keep it from the point of view of our original characters.

Even though you tell a complete story within the season, you end on a couple of major cliffhangers — the first being Eleven’s disappearance. Did you want to hint at where she’s been with the scene of Hopper leaving Eggos in the woods?

Matt: Obviously something happened to her when she destroyed and killed that monster and we don’t know what she went. Hopper is left with this guilt because he sold her out. We wanted to leave it sort of mysterious exactly what he knows… Have there been sightings in the woods or is he hoping she’s out there or has he already made contact with her? We don’t answer any of that, but we like the idea of potentially putting her and Hopper together.

It also seems that the Upside Down has changed Will or maybe he’s brought some of it back with him. What can you say about the flash he has in the bathroom?

Ross: We love the idea that [the Upside Down] is an environment that is not a great place for a human being to be living in. Will’s been there for an entire week, and it’s had some kind of effect on him, both emotionally and perhaps physically. The idea is he’s escaped this nightmare place, but has he really? That’s a place we wanted to go and potentially explore in season two. What effect does living in there for a week have on him? And what has been done to him? It’s not good, obviously.

Stranger Things Christmas Lights

They discussed more of these plot points with IGN:

IGN: What can you say about where Eleven is? That’s a very open question, of course, since there are different worlds you’re dealing with here.

Ross: It is. We wanted to leave it purposefully ambiguous. We always, from the very beginning, liked this sort of childlike idea that this escapee from this facility with these amazing powers would be able to just move into Mike’s basement and they’d have this wonderful life together and she’d go to school. It’s not that simple. The goal is to make it as complicated as possible, and without going into too much detail, to really tear them apart at the end of that season, to make things much more difficult. But we love Eleven.

Matt: But the great thing about having a portal to another dimension is that you’re not boxed in, narratively. There’s a lot we can do.

Ross: What did James Cameron say? No one’s ever dead in sci-fi.

IGN: Will clearly has been changed by this experience, it doesn’t seem in a great way. But he’s not the only one that went over there. Should we assume he might not be the only one affected?

Ross: That’s a good question. Though I will say that Will obviously was in there much longer. He had that thing hooked up to him. He went through a much more traumatic experience. A big part of Season 2 that we’ve been discussing is what is that effect? Did it affect anyone else? But specifically, is Will okay? The short answer being no.

Matt: But you’re absolutely right, three of the other characters were in there.

Ross: And they took off their helmets. And we know it’s a toxic environment. Nancy was in there too. Yeah, that’s an interesting question…

IGN: Is that the cool thing about doing a time jump? Asking what has Will been like in the year in between?

Ross: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And how have these characters moved on with their lives and not just in the plot and supernatural [aspect] but also just in terms of their characters and what have they done to fill that time?

Matt: We like that they’ve all had a very traumatic, nightmare experience together and after it’s over they kind of try to sweep it all under the rug. Season 2 would be very differently, structurally. It would be that everything seems great on the surface and then there are hints that things aren’t okay or that there are lingering effects from what happened last year. The initial instinct is to push that back and sweep that crap back under the rug but eventually it becomes impossible to ignore and so they have to confront the repercussions of everything they’ve experienced. I like to think about Stephen King’s It too. — that’s a big time jump. They jump like thirty years. But the idea that the evil is still there and comes back to haunt them and one of the characters finds out about it and kills themselves immediately. That image always stuck with me.

IGN: We see Hopper go for a little meeting at the end there. What can you say about everything he was involved in and how it might open up the world?

Ross: The intention in the scene when he gets in the car – and we want to get into this in the next season – is the clean up of what happened and the mess of all this and Will dying and coming back to life, whatever happened at the school, and the dead bodies… This is not a simple clean up job. It’s complicated. We have all these characters that know that these crazy things happen. We liked the idea that, sort of lead by Hopper, our characters are drawn closer to the government, in terms of having to make a bit of a deal with the devil. To us, that’s an exciting place to take our story.

Matt: But also the idea of going back to the laboratory and pull back the curtain a little bit. Maybe they brought someone new in. It’s not as evil and mysterious as it was in Season 1. We might start to get into what they’re doing a bit little more. Maybe they seem a little bit more friendly… as least at the beginning. A lot of the agents involved in that project are dead.

Ross: The monster and Eleven did a clean sweep of that whole operation, really.

Matt: So it would be new people which I think is cool. I think our initial instinct, when you talk about all of this stuff and “Oh god, this is all such a pain in the ass. We created such a mess.” But then we decided let’s just lean into the problems this created.

Ross: And even someone like Barb, where we left them, her poor parents think she’s just run away. There’s no closure there at this point, which I think is another reason why audiences are reacting like that. They’re like “You saved this boy, but…” What we were trying to do with that last scene in the hospital when Nancy leaves and Jonathan catches her right as she’s going is that there isn’t closure for Nancy. There isn’t closure for Barb’s parents. There is still, despite the relief that our boys are feeling, there still was tragedy here. We want to make sure that we don’t forget about that. We don’t want to forget about Barb.

Stranger Things

Collider asked about the benefits of working with Netflix:

Eight episodes was the perfect length for the Season 1 narrative. Was that your decision, to keep it that tight?

MATT: Yes, it was.

ROSS: When we first pitched it to Netflix, we said, “This is an eight-episode story,” and they were like, “Great!” That’s the amazing thing about Netflix. They do not dictate. They don’t tell anyone that it should be 10 episodes or 13 episodes. They just say, “What do you need to tell your story?,” and that’s an amazing freedom that most storytellers who are working in film or TV haven’t had. This is a very recent thing. On television, you’ve gotta have a certain number of breaks for commercials. You’re working on a very clear structure.

MATT: On Wayward Pines, we were writing to commercial breaks.

ROSS: And you know how many episodes it has to be because they’ve got so many slots. Or with a film, you know it can’t be too long ‘cause you can’t get enough showings in. You’re very locked in. So, I think it’s an exciting time. We can play around a bit with form and length, and all of that, and it really just boils down to what we need to tell the story.

MATT: But even though this show has been successful, there’s no pressure to make it 13 episodes. People say, “They need to make way more episodes,” but I like to think one of the reasons it works for people is because it’s paced and it feels like a movie, and that’s because it’s not too long. I think, if we pushed it to 13 episodes, we’d have to start coming up with all these bullshit adventures they’re going on, that aren’t directly tied to the main tension. Eight felt about right. But if we’re developing Season 2 and it feels like seven or nine or eleven, Netflix would support any of those lengths.

How long do you see this series running? Have you thought about future seasons?

ROSS: We don’t know, specifically. We’re very weary of making it go on past the point it should. You want to end on a high note. That’s the goal. We’ve had initial discussions, but we haven’t quite landed on it.

Stranger Things Eleven

They spoke more about the structure of the series with Huffington Post:

One reason “Stranger Things” is effective is because the monster is revealed slowly. At first, it’s only glimpses. That out-of-sight, fear-of-the-unknown quality feels very “Jaws.”

Ross: “Jaws” was a big one. It’s a classic. The shark not working while making that movie made it much better. Also, we looked a lot at Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” On YouTube, there’s a cut of all the instances where you see the alien in that first movie, and it’s a couple minutes long. And that’s a two-hour movie. I think the reason it’s so scary is that, when it does appear, it has a certain amount of impact. So we thought, OK, we’re going to see the shadow in Episode 1, because we knew we had eight episodes. We were trying to slowly reveal it, until you finally saw the full thing. We don’t really deal with it until Episode 8. It’s a dude in a suit, and I remember reading old interviews with Ridley Scott about “Alien.” The studio was upset with him for it because it’s an amazing alien suit and you’re not shooting it. But the reason is because so much of it will look like a guy in a suit, and so much of it is that what you don’t see is much scarier. We tried to go back to that old-school style of filmmaking…

I want to pose a logistical plot question: Why did Will survive the Upside Down but Barb didn’t?

Matt: Right, I guess we think of it as ― and this is continuing with the “Jaws” references ― it’s the other dimension, the Upside Down, where the shark lives, and every once in a while it comes out of that ocean into our world on the surface and then it grabs a victim and pulls them down to the Upside Down. You saw Barb at the top of Episode 3 in the Upside Down. Just imagine that’s a world, and Barb tried to escape and failed to escape, but Will was sneakier, so he was able to escape. He was able to hide. He goes, initially, to that cubby in Episode 3 inside the Byers’ house, which is why Joyce is able to communicate with him. We had this whole backstory for what Will is doing, but we don’t see it all.

Ross: It’s more like the monster bringing him back to the net, which is why Hopper and Joyce are able to distract Will into being held in this net like a spider caught in its web. He’s brought there by the monster for eating later. Is he there for other reasons? We don’t know. We have ideas.

The way the season ends, there are enough questions answered for it to almost stand as a complete series. But the many unresolved mysteries set up an obvious next chapter. How much of the backstory regarding Dr. Brenner’s experiments and Eleven’s history did you have in place from the get-go?

Matt: We had ideas that we were sort of feeling out. We have a lot more backstory built in for Brenner and Eleven. Every time that we were writing scenes in the Hawkins Lab, we wanted to stop writing them, just because it seemed like we wanted to experience as much of it as possible in the present day and through the eyes of our ordinary characters. We just wanted to leave that as mysterious as possible. I hope that, with the mystery, people are responding to it and it’s not frustrating. But to us, the sci-fi elements are so much more fun if we’re understanding it via our characters. I like that basically everything we understand about what is going on is pretty much through the boys. And they’re only able to understand it through Dungeons and Dragons terminology and by talking to their science teacher, Mr. Clark. It’s all sort of hypothetical. I never wanted any scenes in the laboratory where you have Brenner and the scientists sitting around discussing what’s going on. And Eleven even doesn’t fully understand how she wound up where she wound up and what their plans for her are, so there are very few scenes with Brenner without one of our other main characters. The scenes that are with Brenner and not our main characters have almost no dialogue in them.

Ross: Moving forward, we’re going to get more into detail about the monster and where it came from and what the Upside Down really is. But with this season, we talked a lot about “Poltergeist.” At the end of the day, what really matters in “Poltergeist” is that Carol Anne is missing and they have to go through a portal in the closet to get her back. That matters more than the backstory. People want explanations for all that, so while we have answers for all this, what we really wanted to get from this first season is that this gate opens to this other dimension. What it really boils down to is, Will is in there and we have to get him back. The hope was that, because we resolved that, the first season will be satisfying to people and work as a stand-alone. Hopefully we get to go back and explore more of this stuff.

Mr Robot Alf

While Stranger Things brought us back to the 1980’s, Mr. Robot had a surprising beginning by opening as if it was a 1990’s sit-com, including appearances from Alf. If you haven’t watched it yet, do not skip the commercials, as they play into the illusion of a 1990’s television show. Of course, like other less obvious examples on the show, we are seeing what is happening in Eliot’s head as opposed to reality. There was even a plausible explanation for this, which led to a reconciliation with the imaginary Mr. Robot portion of him, after attempts by each to destroy the other earlier in the season. While we still do not know what happened to Tyrell Wellick, he does have a symbolic appearance here also.

I’m still waiting for WikiLeaks to reveal ties between Evil Corp, The Clinton Foundation, and The Trump Organization–the true axis of evil (even if one is symbolic and only two are real). Actually, on some level, I think that this is what Sam Esmail is trying to tell us.

Democracy Hacked

Bryan Fuller is slowly teasing news on Star Trek Discovery. It will take place ten years before the original show, bridging events between Enterprise and the original Star Trek. There will be seven lead characters including a gay character, and a female lead who plays a lieutenant commander, providing a different perspective than leading with the Captain as on other series.

The bathroom at The Way Station bar in Brooklyn is bigger on the inside than on the outside. The video above has a tour of the TARDIS themed bathroom.

In other Doctor Who news, the 1996 movie staring Paul McGann is being released on Blu-ray later this year.

Jenna Coleman and Karen Gillan had a joint appearance at Boston Comic Con. Hopefully someone videotaped it and will upload it soon.

Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars movies, died at age 81 during the past week.

SciFi Weekend: The Americans Season 4 Finale; New Director At SHIELD; The Flash; Supergirl; Gotham; You’re The Worst; Peter Capaldi Teases Reunion With Clara Oswald;

The Americans Season 4 Finale

The Americans concluded its fourth season  (spoilers ahead) with the death of another charter, and presumably the end of the biological weapons story line. Technically William had not died by the end of the episode, but if he should survive into the next season it will only be briefly. This was a season which included the deaths of some characters, and the possible loss of others to the show. Notable deaths include Nina and Gantt, dying in quite different manners. Plus the finale introduced another character which was mentioned previously–Philip’s long lost son from before he began working with Elizabeth.

With The Americans renewed for two more seasons, we can safely predict that Elizabeth and Philip will not be discovered in the near future, but this has been a major theme since Paige revealed their secret to Pastor Tim. Over the course of the season, Paige has developed into a reluctant but effective junior spy. The risk from Pastor Tim and his wife now seems much lower, but it will always hang in the background.

While William didn’t seek to betray Elizabeth and Philip, he did provide Stan with a small amount of information: “couple of kids…American dream. You’d never suspect them. She’s pretty. He’s lucky.” This fits far too many people for Stan to suddenly think of his neighbors across the street, but if he is ever given stronger reason to suspect them, he is bound to remember this.

Gabriel did strongly advise Elizabeth and Philip to leave the country, but left the ultimate decision up to them. If they are at risk, I think the greater risk would be that Philip might reach the point where he cannot go on. EST might help him, or it might lead him to question  what he is doing even more. Of course he couldn’t fully explain his difficulties in leaving his job when he had to go with the travel agent cover. Plus the world will change for him with the Soviet Union heading closer to its collapse and the introduction of his son.

Instead of Elizabeth and Philip deciding to leave, Oleg made that decision to help his mother. Arkady appears to be leaving involuntarily. Martha has been in the Soviet Union for months. We may or may not see these characters again.

The Americans William Palm

Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields were interviewed at Speakeasy:

The finale seemed to set a lot up for the fifth season, but at the same time, a lot of stories were left in a cliffhanger-y spot. So did you know when you wrote and shot the finale that the show had been renewed?

Joel Fields: Yes. FX is very generous and communicative about that stuff. They really helped us as we were turning a corner from the end of this season toward the last couple of seasons by putting the creative choice of how to end the show in our hands. And I think in a lot of ways we were able to be thinking through that as we were finishing up Season 4.

Was any of what happened to William in the finale based on a true story, the way he infected himself with the lethal Lassa virus to get out of the mission (and to get out of spending the rest of his life in jail)? There’s got to be tons of stories about spies like William getting disgruntled after all those years.

JF: We did a lot of research into disgruntled spies, into biological weapons. We never saw a story of someone intentionally infecting himself, but, there are stories of people who actually worked on these biological-weapons programs getting accidentally infected, and the horrible, horrible way that they died. So I think that that would be the closest thing to it being based on something real.

How long had you been planning to introduce the Philip’s son plotline?  

Joe Weisberg: It’s funny, because we were reminiscing about season 1, when, in fact, [you didn’t know] whether or not Philip actually had a son. It was ambiguous. Was Irina making that up? Or was it true? And we didn’t have an answer to that, ourselves. We liked that ambiguity. We thought that was really interesting. So, introducing that plotline meant making a final decision that that was a real person and a real character, which is probably more satisfying.

JF: Yeah, and that’s that case where much of the time you really plan these things out years in advance, seasons in advance. But this part of the story unfolded organically, as the story was told, like in that first episode with Irina when she mentioned the son? That was something that blossomed out of the script, and these other pieces fell into place over the course of the seasons.

The Americans Finale

More at Vulture:

The most surprising development in the entire season for me was the relationship between the family and Pastor Tim. I’m surprised that he made it out of the season alive. But I’m even more surprised that he seems to actually be their friend now!
JF: I don’t think we ever considered killing him off. As much as everybody was speculating that he was about to go, we were really exploring the question of how these characters would deal with being in this box, and how would that [situation] unfold?

Also, Tim is a character with whom we had a lot of sympathy. He really does, on some level, want to do the right thing — that’s been his whole problem all along. And the Pastor Tim thing also was an opportunity to explore a lot in terms of these character dynamics.

JW: It was pretty apparent to us early on that [the Soviets] couldn’t kill Tim because of the effect it would have on Paige. It would destroy her parents’ relationship with her. And that was it. The question then became, with that constraint of not being able to kill him off, what else could we do? The fact that he ends up being actual friends with them did take us a little bit by surprise, but [once we figured that out], that changed our sense of who this guy was, and how we would always see him from the moment we got to know him. And so we followed that through the season, and throughout the story, he just could not open his heart up to them.

JF: But it also led to one of my favorite lines in the season, which was in episode ten, when Paige was convinced that her parents had something to do with his disappearance, and Elizabeth says, “God, why would we do something as stupid as leave Allison, and, God, she thinks we would do that? If she only knew everything we did to not kill him!”

Are we ever going to see Martha again?
JW: We’re not going to answer that!

JF: What kind of a spoiler-y question is that, Matt?

I’m sorry I disappointed you with that question, guys! I have no idea why I asked that.
JW: Come on! Why don’t you just go ahead and ask us what the last scene of the show is going to be?  [Laughs.]

Okay: So you have two more seasons to go after this one. Is two a number that FX gave you, a number that you asked for? And are you happy with it?
JF: We’re thrilled with it. They came to us some time ago and said, “As you start thinking about the end of season four, we’re all thinking about how the show’s going to wrap up. What do you need? How do you want to tell the story?” That was something they really put on our end, which was generous and allowed us creatively to figure out what we thought would be best.

The Americans William

At TV Line:

TVLINE | We’ve seen Elizabeth have some hesitation this season about the things she has to do, specifically with regards to Young-Hee. Is she starting to understand Philip’s point of view about the job?
JOEL FIELDS | Philip has gone through a major personal transformation over the course of the show, [which] on a deep level is about marriage. When you’re in a marriage with somebody, you can’t help but be affected if your partner changes. She’s started to go through her own changes, although much smaller and at a much different pace than Philip. We’ll see how all of that plays out for them as a couple, her as a mother and her as an individual.

TVLINE | We’ve said goodbye to a lot of characters recently —Nina, Martha, Gaad, Arkady and possibly Oleg now. All the departures almost made it feel like you were reaching the end of the series. But then there was a two-season renewal.
WEISBERG | We did not have any particular intention or idea [like], “Oh, let’s gets rid of a lot of characters. Oh, it’s supposed to end. Oh, let’s start over.” There was no thinking like that at all. Every bit of this is just following stories where they were going. The two major storylines of Nina and Martha were coming to their end, and they happened to be coming to their end at the same time, which is fundamentally coincidental. There is no reason one of them might not have come to an end in a different season, [but] they happened to come to an end in the same season. It is probably less coincidental, in terms of storytelling, that the Gaad storyline ended soon after the Martha storyline, but there’s certainly a world where we could have kept Gaad or not killed Gaad. But ultimately, after what happened with Martha, he just wasn’t going to survive any longer in that job. The choice to have him die and how that was going to impact other people and other elements in the story seemed like a better choice to us.

TVLINE | Martha wasn’t killed off, and you’ve had scenes in Russia with Nina and various other characters. Will we see her in that setting at some point?
FIELDS | She’s not dead. So on The Americans, that’s something to hold on to.

TVLINE | What about Oleg? What can you say about his status?
FIELDS | Also not dead.

TVLINE | But he’s leaving America? He hasn’t changed his mind?
FIELDS | We’ll see. He was pretty clear on that

agents-of-shield-tv-show-teaser
Clark Gregg has discussed his thoughts on the next Director of SHIELD, but does not seem to know very much about this and how it will play into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From Entertainment Weekly:

“Since it’s clear that Coulson is Team Cap, Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] have fiendishly put Coulson on the spot, because Hive [Brett Dalton] turned out to be the living embodiment of all the reasons why you would be afraid of Inhumans,” Gregg says. “He was the greatest argument that the people who support the Sokovia Accords could ever have for locking them all up. Coulson had to ride the line where he was trying to respect these new iterations of humanity as friends and allies, and at the same time stop Hive at all costs.” Fortunately, S.H.I.E.L.D. was able to stop Hive, but it certainly came at a steep price with Lincoln’s death, Daisy’s disappearance and Coulson’s demotion.

So, who is the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D.? The executive producers played coy ahead of the finale, which means Gregg is in the dark, too. “I was not given a clear answer,” he says. “I don’t know that it’s been determined. I thought I was going to find out when I saw Civil War, but it’s not at all clear. It all depends when the glorious Nick Fury [Samuel L. Jackson] returns from the cold and the shadows. I suspect, in the wake of the Sokovia Accords and the end of Civil War, the people involved in choosing who the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be are other than in-house S.H.I.E.L.D. people. If I know my government bureaucracies, I have a feeling it will be someone somewhat less qualified than Coulson to run S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Screen Rant has information on a new character being added on The Flash. Supergirl has had a casting call for five new characters including Lex Luthor’s sister, plus they are finally going to show Superman. Vicki Vale is being added on Gotham. As for the comics, Bleeding Cool looks at the relationship between Batwoman and Rachel Madow (who once discussed the character on Seth Meyers’ show).

FXX has announced that You’re The Worst will return on Wednesday, August 31.

The CMT has picked up Nashville following its cancellation by ABC. It sounds like a good fit. Cable and streaming services have provided multiple ways for canceled shows to return. I still haven’t given up hope that The Food Network will revive Hannibal.

doctor-who-clara-dead-1.jpeg

Screen Rant reports that Peter Capaldi has teased the possibility of the Doctor and Clara meeting again:

Speaking at a Doctor Who panel at Awesome Con in Washington, D.C., Capaldi hinted that there might be more to the Clara situation than what we saw at the end of season 9. While Clara won’t be returning as the Doctor’s companion, she may not be completely forgotten either. Capaldi stopped himself before he revealed too much, however:

“I think that the thing about the Doctor is that he’s quite mysterious – hence the name, Doctor Who – um, and I’m not sure how successfully Clara was able to wipe his mind. And in fact, I just did a… I was about to tell you something I can’t tell you yet.”

While Amy Sherman-Paladino is finishing up work on the Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls, Amazon has picked up a new pilot from her:

Sherman-Palladino’s dramedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which she wrote and executive produces, is about a 1950s housewife who decides to be one of the first female standup comics. Sherman-Palladino is currently in post-production on the four Gilmore Girls movies for Netflix, which serve as a sequel to her signature dramedy series.

Related genre post from earlier in the week: A Lanister Always Pays His Debts–But Not Donald Trump. Plus chart of which Game of Thrones character is most like 2016 candidates.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Supergirl; Agents of SHIELD; Renewals; DC Movie News; Schwarzenegger Refuses To Talk About Trump

Capaldi First Image

Peter Capaldi had previously suggested he would leave Doctor Who after the upcoming season, when Chris Chibnall will replace Steven Moffat as show runner. He has now told Radio Times that he has been asked to stay on but has not made up his mind. He also states that the new companion to replace Jenna Coleman has been cast and will be named soon.

Capaldi has told Newsweek that he is not happy with how the BBC handles the series:

Perhaps, as is the fate of so many seemingly happy marriages, the BBC has taken the Doctor for granted? “Undoubtedly,” he says. “The BBC is an incredible organization, but…sometimes people there think, That’s looking after itself. And it’s not being looked after. I think maybe their eye was taken off the ball, or the show was seen as a thing they could just push around. It’s not. It’s a special thing.”

The later time slot prompted tabloid hyperbole of a “ratings crisis,” something the star admits he begrudgingly keeps tabs on. “I have to pay attention to ratings—I’d rather not—but it’s the way the business is,” he says. “I think overnight ratings are a thing of the past. You can’t really measure the success of the show by its overnight ratings, which is what the papers do. But there’s still a place for families to sit down and watch the show—that’s still a great, fun thing to do. That’s what the show’s success has been based on. That has to be protected.”

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock (5613187u) Melissa Benoist, Calista Flockhart and Chyler Leigh 'Supergirl' TV series screening, Inside, PaleyFest 2016, Los Angeles, America - 13 Mar 2016

The cast and crew of Supergirl discussed feminism, and the upcoming Supergirl/Flash crossover episode at PaleyFest:

Much of the discussion centered on feminism, particularly on the impact of having a female superhero on television in a male-dominated field. Leigh said that’s what motivated her to take on the Alex Danvers role. “I have two girls, and right before taking this job my husband was really challenging me in the sense of like ‘think about what this opportunity is and think about what it means to you and look at our little girls and if you don’t have a resounding yes [about being on Supergirl] then you’re crazy. For little girls, there’s so much on TV that is influential especially towards the younger ages. To be a part of something that’s telling a very powerful story in many different ways from many different perspectives, especially from a women’s standpoint but also from little girl’s standpoint … is rewarding.” Added Adler, “And that’s not just confined to little girls or women. I think the most exciting thing for me is the feeling that everyone feeling the strength of Supergirl regardless of gender.”

…On why he chose The Flash to be the first comic book crossover character on Supergirl, Berlanti said: “We needed to create a way to do it. We had to introduce Superman since you’ve heard about him and you’ve heard about Supergirl, but in worlds of Arrow and Flash, they didn’t exist in that world. We introduced the multiverse in The Flash this year, and that was always our way in.” But fans shouldn’t hold their breath for a visit from the Man of Steel. “We’re so thrilled that Supergirl is our point of view,” Adler said. “We’re thrilled to continue to tell her story.”

Supergirl has been renewed for a second season.

marvels-agents-of-shield-shield

Agents of SHIELD will once again be affected by the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

After Captain America: The Winter Soldier delivered the game-changing twist that Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD from the inside, completely destroying the government organization that makes up the very core of Agents of SHIELD, the ABC Marvel drama became a completely new show in season one. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) became Director Coulson of the real SHIELD, working in the shadows to take down the Hydra agents who betrayed them, including their former friend Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). The show was never the same after that revelation, and it was clear from both critical and fan response that the series was better for it.

With Captain America: Civil War only weeks away from its box-office bow, Agents of SHIELD is set to change yet again as a result of whatever happens in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“It will definitely have a ripple effect,” executive producer Jed Whedon says. “It is one world, so if there is a giant event, it will definitely have a ripple effect on our world.”

SHIELD Palicki and Blood

There is also more information on the spinoff being considered staring Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood:

After spawning low-rated but critical darling period drama Agent Carter, ABC’s first Marvel series is laying the groundwork for pilot Marvel’s Most Wanted. Centering on the newest additions to SHIELD, Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood), the potential series would follow the two former spies and ex-spouses who are on the run with no friends, no SHIELD and a long list of enemies looking to claim a bounty on their heads.

Without any allies except each other, Bobbi and Hunter will be forced to form an uneasy alliance with Dominic Fortune (Delroy Lindo), a rogue adventurer with a wealth of resources and even more adversaries, who agrees to protect them so long as they help him with his own agenda. These two heroes will help anyone in need, all while trying to uncover the conspiracy that put their own lives in jeopardy.

They will continue to work with SHIELD this season and decisions as to Marvel’s Most Wanted and Agent Carter will probably be made in May.

Fox has renewed Gotham for a third season. In other news on the show,  Brian McManamon has been cast as  Clayface.

Person of Interest returns on May 5 with two episodes to air per week, airing on Monday and Tuesday. This is to be the final season.

Amber Herd has been cast to play Mera in the upcoming Justice League and stand-alone Aquaman movie. Both the stand-alone Aquaman movie and Flash movie will be new stories following their appearance in Justice League and will not be origin stories. Following are the planned release dates for the DC movies:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice March 25, 2016

Justice League: Part One November 17, 2017

The Flash March 16, 2018

Aquaman following July 27, 2018

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is about to take over as host of Celebrity Apprentice, walked out of an interview and refused to answer questions about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign when asked on Australia’s Weekend Sunrise. Schwarzenegger has endorsed John Kasich for the GOP nomination. Meanwhile Trump’s campaign continues like a bad reality show or movie, with more violence reported, involving his campaign manager.