SciFi Weekend: Mr Robot’s Big Reveal; Superman; Agents of SHIELD; Hugo Awards; Doctor Who

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Unlike the first season, we didn’t have to wait until the end of the season for the big reveal. (That should be a clue that a major spoiler is coming for those behind). Fans have speculated since the first episode that Eliot was really in prison or a psychiatric institution rather than living with his mother to provide more structure. This week, his psychiatrist asked Eliot where he believed he was. His mother’s townhouse faded away and he admitted to us that he had been suppressing the fact that he was in prison.

Alan Sepinwall interviewed Sam Esmail about this development:

Where did the idea come from that you were going to disguise Elliot’s surroundings in this way?

Sam Esmail: It came from a two-prong approach. We knew exactly what the fate of Elliot was at the end of the last season, and we started breaking this season’s storyline. We’re always trying to stay as authentic to Elliot as possible, what he’s going through. Knowing Elliot, from the very first episode, he definitely has interesting coping mechanisms. Even from the pilot, he has this ability to reprogram his life: E Corp was turned into Evil Corp. When we thought about him being in prison, what would be that coping mechanism, this came to mind. The other approach was his relationship to us — to his “friend” — and how we left him at the end of the first season. He basically didn’t trust us anymore, he felt we were keeping things from him. So we wanted to develop that relationship as well. That was the one approach of, “This is what Elliot would do in this situation, to cope with being in prison,” and then the other of keeping it from us because he felt betrayed by us from the first season.

When we spoke at the end of season 1 about the Mr. Robot revelation, you said you would be hesitant in the future to do things that would leave people questioning the reality of the show. Did you have any concerns about doing another big, “This is what it really is!” reveal in that way?

Sam Esmail: I did. I remember bringing it up to the room. The one thing I also told you is I wanted to stay as authentic to Elliot as possible. And the truth of the matter is, the show is about mystery, and there will always be questions and we won’t actually see the full picture all of the time. Having said that, if we can’t invest in what is happening and what is going on, that would become very frustrating, to the point where you wouldn’t feel any stakes. That was the test we ran through with this idea: is this actually happening to him? Is what he’s experiencing still real? And can the audience still buy into this after the reveal? Those answers were obviously yes: the events that we saw were still very much real, and the consequences of them are real, and what Elliot went through is real. It’s just the coping mechanism he used was not exactly what he saw. To me, it was definitely one of those things that prompted a real conversation. Like I think I told you last year, we’re not in it for gotcha moments or shocking the audience, but we’re in it for interesting reveals and deepening and enriching Elliot’s experience. We felt that him going through his prison sentence in this way was more true to life to Elliot than actually having seen it as a prison.

But you understand how fandom works. Having done this two years in a row, you’ve now conditioned them to, whatever you do next, the fans will pick it apart frame-by-frame to explain what’s actually happening.

Sam Esmail: Yeah, well, truth be told, don’t you feel like it’s already happening this season?

True. How did you feel about people having this exact theory of prison after only the season premiere had aired?

Sam Esmail: It was weird. One thing that we always do is we never want to cheat the audience. We never want it to be some extraordinarily contrived thing where we’re basically lying to the audience and what they’re seeing isn’t actually happening, and we’re fooling them. In doing that, and being honest with what is going on, even though the surroundings aren’t actually what they are, we didn’t really hide it that well, right? I didn’t expect people to catch on from the very first episode, but I thought people would start to theorize and catch on. Look, a reveal is great when it’s surprising, but it’s terrible when it feels like a cheat. To me, the fact that some people who guessed it may not be surprised, it verifies that we didn’t cheat anybody, because it adds up and makes sense to them still.

I’m sure much of this will be explained in future episodes, in terms of why Elliot was in prison to begin with, but was Ray a guard in the prison? How much of Ray’s business involved prisoners versus the outside world?

Sam Esmail: That’s going to get revealed in a couple of episodes.

By sending Elliot to prison, you also spend the first half of the season with him physically separate from the other characters, give or take a brief visit by Gideon or Darlene. What did you see as the advantages and disadvantages of having him apart from the rest of the ensemble, other than Mr. Robot?

Sam Esmail: I’m glad you asked that question. Obviously, knowing we were doing this, it was very important for Elliot to address this incredibly internal conflict that sprung on him at the end of the first season: that he has an alter ego that he can’t control. That was the first and foremost issue that I wanted to tackle with Elliot. So of course the isolation of him being in prison really helped that. It meant that we get to basically do this deep dive into his internal battle with his demons. There is not much else for him to do. He couldn’t escape it. So it was great on that level. I knew it was going to be a polarizing choice to go in this direction with Elliot, but for whatever reason, it felt organic and natural. But when I took a step back and looked at the whole season, I realized that, when I think about the sequels that I really love, or second acts of movies or larger stories, they tend to do this: to go into this inward battle after accomplishing this big Herculean hero’s journey. The one uncanny similarity — which I only realized in hindsight — is Empire Strikes Back. At the end of the first movie, you take down the big band, the revolutionaries kind of win, but the second movie opens, they’re still battling, they’re still struggling, the Empire is rebuilding, and literally Luke goes off to another planet for most of that movie to learn to become a Jedi, while his sister is still out there fighting the good fight. This wasn’t something planned, but I looked at it and realized we were literally following that same pattern. And it’s not just with Empire Strikes Back. It’s Godfather Part II. There’s a lot of introspection that happens. That’s often the next stage after this huge external conflict comes to an end. Then it’s, “Well, then what?” It’s a hangover moment, of reflection and going inward. So that direction made sense for our story.

Esmail was also interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter.

News also came out during the past week that Mr. Robot has been renewed for a third season.

Superman Black

In other genre news, Henry Cavill has teased what will happen to Superman when he returns for the Justice League movie, in light of what happened at the end of Batman v. Superman.

Agents of SHIELD will be edgier with its move to 10 pm. It is a safe bet it will still be much tamer than the far better Marvel television adaptations on Netflix (one of which won a Hugo Award).

The 2016 Hugo Awards winners have been announced. The award for Best Novel went to The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. The Martian won for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Jessica Jones: A.K.A. Smile won for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Unfortunately the awards continued to be tainted by conservative politics.

Doctor Who Capaldi and Pearl Mackie

BBC America has announced that Doctor Who and other genre shows will be represented at New York Comic Con:

Mark your calendars: BBC AMERICA is coming to New York Comic Con in a big way this year. On Friday, October 7, the network will present a block of star-studded panels at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, featuring Doctor Who, with Peter Capaldi making his NYCC debut alongside new companion Pearl Mackie at her first-ever fan appearance. Ahead of its October 22, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency will launch a world premiere screening followed by a panel with cast, showrunner, writer and executive producer. And the Doctor Who spinoff Class will have its first-ever U.S. panel with cast, executive producer, and creator of the series.

They included more on the panels including Doctor Who:

BBC AMERICA’s Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi will make his New York Comic Con debut along with the first ever fan appearance by new co-star Pearl Mackie, who joins the series as Bill, the Doctor’s new companion. When Pearl joined the cast, Emmy-winning lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat teased “a new voyage is about to begin” and “this is where the story really starts.” Fans will get a sneak peek of what’s ahead including the upcoming Christmas Special this December on BBC AMERICA and hints on what’s in store for Steven Moffat’s final season as showrunner. The panel includes stars Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It) and Pearl Mackie (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time), as well as Steven Moffat (Sherlock) and executive producer Brian Minchin (ClassTorchwood). Doctor Who is a BBC Cymru Wales production for BBC One and a BBC AMERICA co-production.

The Time Travel Question of the Week:

Hitler Time Travelers

SciFi Weekend: Network Renewals and Cancellations; New Shows; John Barrowman on Doctor Who Christmas Special?; Nebula Award Winners

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Announcements came out last week regarding the fates of network shows. With most of the shows worth watching now being on cable and streaming, this news is not as major as it once was, but there is still some news which impact genre shows. A list of renewals and cancellations from all the networks can be seen here.

As discussed last week, CBS did go ahead and cancel Supergirl, but it will be continuing on the CW Network (which CBS partially owns). This does seem where it belongs anyways. CW will most likely wind up paying less for the show than what studios charge CBS. It will also save money in moving production to Vancouver. Besides the lower costs involved in filming there, they can probably save additional money by sharing costs with the other Berlantiverse shows.

The move to Vancouver might also affect the cast if not everyone agrees to go. Most likely they did make it worthwhile for Calista Flockhart to come to Vancouver periodically. With the vast majority of her scenes occurring in her office, it might be possible to have her come out to film for a few episodes at a time, and then return home. This would also make it easier to have more cross over episodes with the other Berlantiverse series, with the casts of all four shows working in Vancouver. Supergirl takes place on a different earth, but we have already seen The Flash make it to her earth, Supergirl should be able to replicate what Barry Allen did to cross over, and the Waverider on Legends of Tomorrow can travel between the multiple earths.

In other genre series on CBS, we’ve already knew that Person of Interest has been canceled, and Limitless remains on the bubble.

Yet another series in the DC universe has made it to network television. NBC has picked up Powerless. From Entertainment Weekly:

The network has given a series order to Powerless, which stars Vanessa Hudgens (Grease Live) as a “spunky young insurance adjuster specializing in regular-people coverage against damage caused by the crime-fighting superheroes.” (Think The Office meets Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. minus Marvel).

More details about the pilot storyline: “It’s when [Hudgens’ character] stands up to one of these larger-than-life figures (after an epic battle messes with her commute) that she accidentally becomes a cult ‘hero’ in her own right … even if it’s just to her group of lovably quirky co-workers. Now, while she navigates her normal, everyday life against an explosive backdrop, Emily might just discover that being a hero doesn’t always require superpowers.”

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Marvel series have not done as well as DC on network television. While Agents of SHIELD returns on ABC, ABC has both canceled Agent Carter and decided not to pick up Marvel’s Most Wanted. The good news is that, along with cancellations of Nashville and Castle, Adrianne Palicki, Connie Britton, and Nathan Fillion are all available for new shows.

ABC did pick up Conviction staring Haley Atwell. Maybe Netflix, which has been the strongest television outlet for Marvel, will also bring back Agent Carter when Atwell’s schedule permits. Before Agent Carter was canceled, there was talk of still continuing the show and work around Atwell’s schedule. A grittier version should do well on Netflix.

Fox, where many other genre shows have died too early, didn’t have the sense that ABC did in ending Castle when with the loss of a star. For reasons nobody understands, they have renewed Sleepy Hollow. In good news from the network, Fox is also renewing Gotham.

The new genre shows appear to be primarily based upon time travel next season. The trailer for Timeless from NBC is above. The TV Addict has this description of the series

Lucy is one of the most history popular professors at her university when TIMELESS begins, but her modern teaching styles don’t really appeal to the school’s tenure committee. And while she seems very unappreciated in the world of academia, Lucy is about to get a big opportunity that perfectly fits her skills.

One night, a mysterious criminal and his henchmen steal a secret state-of-the-art time machine and they’re looking to destroy the country as people know it by changing the past. Lucy is soon recruited by Homeland Security — along with soldier Wyatt and scientist Rufus — to help retrieve the machine and stop the criminal from changing the past. To do that, they’re going to use the machine’s original prototype. Their first stop is to 1937 and the site of the Hindenburg disaster.

But in addition to preventing the past from being destroyed by this criminal, they also have to make every effort not to affect the past themselves.

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Other new shows on NBC include Blacklist: Redemption. TV Line described the series:

In the new venture, undercover operative Tom Keen teams up with Susan “Scottie” Hargrave (played by Famke Janssen), “the brilliant and cunning chief of Grey Matters, a covert mercenary organization that solves problems governments don’t dare touch,” per the series’ official description.

This suggests that if Lizzie returns from the dead on The Blacklist after Megan Boone’s maternity leave is completed, she will probably not be with Tom.

Other networks are joining NBC in premiering time travel series next season, including ABC with Time After Time. This is based upon the 1979 movie about H.G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper through time. Teaser above. Fox will have a time travel comedy, Making History. A list of the new network shows can be seen here.

John Barrowman made a statement on Facebook which has attracted a lot of attention: “I will be back in Cardiff in about a week and a half. But I’m not telling you what for…sssh!” This has led to speculation that he is returning to Doctor Who, possibly for the Christmas episode. The spin-off Class also films in Cardiff.

Nebula Awards

The Nebula Awards have been announced.  Uprooted by  Naomi Novik has won as best novel. The winner of the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation Winner was Mad Max: Fury Road.

SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Game of Thrones; The Blacklist; 12 Monkeys; Star Wars The Force Awakens; Doctor Who Spinoff Class; Suicide Squad

Beth (TATIANA MASLANY)

We knew from the preview I posted last week that Orphan Black would begin with a flash back, but it was a surprise that almost the entire episode dealt with Beth Childers and other clones prior to when the series began. Seeing Beth gave a better feel for why she jumped in front of a train in the first episode. Beside seeing her drug problem, we saw far more than we previously knew about her troubles with Mark and how close she was to Art. It was also interesting to see some of the other clones in their younger, more innocent days. Beth, whose primary role appears to be to handle the money for the clones and supply Beth with pills, has not yet shot a gun, and Cosima’s biggest concern is finding a place to live while going to school.

The most important aspect of the episode was probably the introduction of another clone, M.K., who was both more knowledgeable than the other clones about the situation, and (probably justifiably) more paranoid. She says she is only alive because they think she is dead. We don’t get until the present until the end of the episode when M.K calls Sarah, now hiding in Iceland, with the warning: “Neolution knows where you are. They’re coming for Kendall Malone….You need to run. Right now.”

Felix even had a cameo, presumably never looking up to see a clone of Sarah in the police station. Buddy TV has an interview with Jordan Gavaris which reveals that Felix’s relationship with Sarah is strained, and he has more time with the other clones.

Game of Thrones enters new territory this season, going beyond the books, and might be wrapping up sooner than many have predicted. Variety reports:

In an exclusive interview with Variety, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said they are weighing wrapping up the Emmy-winning saga of Westeros and the battle for the Iron Throne with just 13 more episodes once this sixth season is over: seven episodes for season 7; six for the eighth and potential final season.

“I think we’re down to our final 13 episodes after this season. We’re heading into the final lap,” said Benioff. “That’s the guess, though nothing is yet set in stone, but that’s what we’re looking at.”

Sources later clarified those exact numbers were premature, given that the showrunners are now just beginning to outline their plans, but said that any upcoming seasons may be shorter than the full 10 episodes of seasons past.

Trailer for the upcoming season is also above.

Blacklist wedding day

I’ve looked at a lot of deaths on genre shows the last few weeks, but the most unbelievable was on The Blacklist. (Major spoiler ahead). Even more so than on Sleepy Hollow, the female lead is too important a character to have die without a major change in the series. Possibly they do plan on a major reboot of the series, which is always possible as long as they have James Spader, but I am quite suspicious that in this case they are faking Lizzy’s death as part of a plan to keep her safe. Perhaps they will use a need for Lizzy to appear dead as a means to prevent her from being with Tom and her baby, which might have limited her actions.

12 Monkeys

Blastr has an interview with the cast and crew of 12 Monkeys and their planned 17-season arc. Here is the start of the interview:

You managed to build a layered, compelling story in the first season, which also featured quite a lot of world-building. Now that you’ve laid that creative groundwork, can you talk about what’s it like to really get to play in this sandbox you’ve built for Season 2?

Terry Matalas: It’s a lot more fun. In a lot of ways, it’s almost like Season 1 is the prequel to Season 2. Things really starts to get going, and we’re moving through time in ways we weren’t able to in Season 1. We’re able to mix and match characters and really try new things. The stakes are higher, and it’s a lot more fun. The show really finds itself in Season 2.

In the early parts of Season 2, Cassie really seems to start taking point in regards to the mission that drives the narrative of the show. In a way, she feels more like the Season 1-era Cole than the character of Cole does now. Can you talk about that change in Cassie, and how her time stranded in the future has affected her?

Amanda Schull: I think it was a slow burn to build this person, but you’re right. Her time in 2044 is what solidifies that very dramatic shift. She had only ever heard of this life that Cole was grappling with, then when she’s forced to live in it, herself, she realizes that intelligence doesn’t necessarily accomplish goals in every scenario, and it won’t help you survive every scenario. She really becomes a product of that world.

Star Wars Rey

There has been a lot of speculation that Luke or possibly Leia and Han are Rey’s parents in Star Wars The Force Awakens. I would not entirely trust anything J.J. Abrams says about character identities after he denied that Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing Kahn in Star Trek Into Darkness, but he gave the impression that these theories about Rey might not be true when he said this about Rey: “Rey’s parents are not in Episode VII. So I can’t possibly in this moment tell you who they are. This is all I will say: It’s something that Rey thinks about too.”

Abrams has since clarified the issue saying: “What I meant was that she doesn’t discover them in Episode VII. Not that they may not already be in her world.” In other words, Luke could still be her father, but she doesn’t learn that in the next movie. Or perhaps she does, and he doesn’t want to give it away.

Abrams has also discussed, once again, the similarities between The Force Awakens and A New Hope:

“[‘The Force Awakens’] was a bridge and a kind of reminder; the audience needed to be reminded what ‘Star Wars’ is, but it needed to be established with something familiar, with a sense of where we are going to new lands, which is very much what 8 and 9 do. The weird thing about that movie is that it had been so long since the last one. Obviously the prequels had existed in between and we wanted to, sort of, reclaim the story. So we very consciously — and I know it is derided for this — we very consciously tried to borrow familiar beats so the rest of the movie could hang on something that we knew was ‘Star Wars.’”

Class cast

The BBC has announced the cast of the Doctor Who spinoff, Class, which takes place at Coal Hill School. Stephen Moffat had this to say about the series:

There’s nothing more exciting than meeting stars that nobody’s heard of yet. We had the read through of the first few episodes last week, and there was a whole row of them. Coal Hill School has been part of Doctor Who since the very first shoot in 1963, but this new show is anything but history. Class is dark and sexy and right now. I’ve always wondered if there could be a British Buffy – it’s taken the brilliant Patrick Ness to figure out how to make it happen.

I wonder what he means by a British Buffy. Is it just a matter of having a cast in this age range, or will there be other similarities?

Suicide Squad

The upcoming Suicide Squad movie will apparently have a lot of Batman, which should increase interest in the movie. There are also reports that the sequel might be R-rated. Deadpool has already done well with an R-rating, and the same is planned with Wolverine 3.

SciFi Weekend: New and Returning Shows For 2016, And Other Genre News

There has been a reduced television schedule so far this year, (giving me time to watch the second seasons of Catastrophe, Mozart In the Jungle, and Tranparent), but many shows are starting or coming back soon. Blastr has a list of nine science fiction shows premiering in January. I have already discussed Legends of Tomorrow and the revival of  X-Files several times in the past. The trailer for Legends of Tomorrow,which premieres on CW on Januray 21 is above.  ScreenRant discussed Sara  Lance’s mental state on the new series with Caity Lotz.

As for the three shows I mentioned watching above, Catastrophe‘s second season was broadcast in the U.K. on Channel 4 late last year but is not availably yet on Amazon, while the second seasons of the other two shows recently became available. The first season of Catastrophe, which I ranked as the best new comedy of 2015, is available on Amazon.

Getting back to the science fiction shows premiering this month, I have heard some favorable buzz for The Shannara Chronicles which began on January 5 on MTV. Nerdist interviewed the executive producer, Miles Millar. Other shows on the list which have received the most interest so far have been The Magicians (with Syfy streaming the pilot early) and Colony (with initial reviews being better for the first). Initial buzz has been negative for Second Chance, and there are questions as to whether Lucifer can make it on a major network.

There will be many additional genre shows premiering later in the year, along with the return of other shows. What Culture has a list of original shows appearing on Netflix this year, including Daredevil, which returns on March 18 (trailer above).

Supergirl returned last week, resolving the cliff hanger of Cat figuring out her secret identity just as I predicted last Sunday.

Sherlock returned for a single episode,The Abominable Bride, on New Year’s day. Those of us expecting a self-contained story in Victorian times were surprised by what was actually done with the episode and how it actually played into last  season’s cliffhanger.

ABC has ordered a pilot for the Agents of SHIELD spinoff, Marvel’s Most Wanted. The series will center on Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood).

Among the shows I’m most interested in seeing, 11.22.63 premiers on Hulu on February 15, with new episodes being released weekly as opposed to all episodes being released at the same time as on Netflix and Amazon. (Trailer above.) There will be some changes from the Stephen King novel. More here and here, plus J.J. Abrams also addressed the controversy over the female lead in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (reviewed here) being left out of the Star Wars themed Monopoly game.

In my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens I noted how the novelization has filled in some plot holes. Mashable has more from the novelization. In addition, the script has been released which also provides further explanation of some plot points.

"YHWH" -- Finch (Michael Emerson, left) and Root (Amy Acker, right) race to save The Machine, which has been located by the rival AI, Samaritan, while Reese is caught in the middle of the final showdown between rival crime bosses Elias and Dominic, on the fourth season finale of PERSON OF INTEREST, Tuesday, May 5 (10:01-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Giovanni Rufino/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2015 WBEI. All rights reserved.

J.J. Abrams also says that Person of Interest will probably end after this season, which is no surprise considering how it is receiving a reduced thirteen episode run and has not made the schedule for this season yet. As long as it ends well this season, that is fine with me. The show gradually changed over time from primarily a procedural show to a true science fiction show, and it is better to have it end well as a great genre show as opposed to continuing indefinitely as a typical CBS procedural.

Like Person of Interest reinvented itself this year, Blacklist has also been considerably different from how it began. It was also off to an excellent start in this week’s episode. Unfortunately I don’t know  how much longer they can continue this storyline for.

The trailer above shows how the second season of Outlander will be much different from the first when it returns in April.

While not genre, another show of interest, Love, from Judd Apatow and staring Gillian Jacobs of Community will be released by Netflix on February 19.

HBO has renewed Girls for a sixth and final season. The fifth season begins on February 21.

Sundance has renewed Rectify for a fourth and final season.

Better Call Saul returns for its second season on February 15. Trailer above.

12 Monkeys will return on April 18 on Syfy.

Besides all the speculation as to the fate of Felicity, there have been rumors that Stephen Amell would leave Arrow, presumably ending the series, in the next year or two. Amell responded by saying his contract runs through 2019 (which doesn’t guarantee that CW will continue the show that long).

Laura Dern has been added to the cast of Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks. While her role has not been announced, there have been rumors that she might play Special Agent Dale Cooper’s previously unseen secretary, Diane. The cast also includes Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Sherilyn Fenn,  Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Knepper, Balthazar Getty and Amanda Seyfried. The first three were from the original cast.

Coal Hill School

Class, the Doctor Who spinoff from BBC Three taking place at Coal Hill School, will also be available on BBC America sometime in 2016, but no date has been set yet.

Doctor Who has made the short list for the National Television Awards in the Drama category. It is up against Downton Abbey, Broadchurch, and a show I am not familiar with named Casualty. Humans is among the nominees for New Drama. Downton Abbey has completed its run in the U.K. (doing a good job of concluding the series) and has resumed in the United States.

BBC America is also working on a new television adaptation of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently series.

There is now hope that Parenthood will return in some form, with Jason Katims being inspired by the movie Boyhood to return to the lives of the major characters over time. (Review of the finale here). It is interesting that two of the shows which might return in such a manner both star Lauren Graham, with a revival of Gilmore Girls now being filmed. Katims made it sound unlikely that the rumored follow up of his other show, Friday Night Lights, will return.

Yahoo Screen has been discontinued, making it even less likely that Community will ever return.

Sylvester Stallone discussed running for office and Donald Trump with Variety.

Update: News came in overnight that David Bowie died of cancer. The New York Times reports:

David Bowie, the infinitely changeable, fiercely forward-looking songwriter who taught generations of musicians about the power of drama, images and personas, died on Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday.

Mr. Bowie’s death was confirmed by his publicist, Steve Martin, on Monday morning.

He died after having cancer for 18 months, according to a statement on Mr. Bowie’s social-media accounts.

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family,” a post on his Facebook page read.

His last album, “Blackstar,” a collaboration with a jazz quartet that was typically enigmatic and exploratory, was released on Friday — his birthday. He was to be honored with a concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats.

Following is a video of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station in 2014:

SciFi Weekend: Continuum; Doctor Who; Agents of SHIELD; X-Files; Orphan Black; Jennifer Lawrence on Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton on SNL

Continuum s04e04

Zero Hour, the fourth episode of the final season of Continuum, was by far the most significant episode so far this season. After my teasers last week, I will go ahead with a more detailed discussion now that it has aired in the United States. The episode answered some questions going back to the first season, while suggesting where the final episodes are headed. I suspect that a lot was crammed into this episode due to the cancellation of the series and need to compress everything planned into only six episodes. Considering these limitation, they did an excellent job of providing a tremendous amount of information while keeping the story flowing well.

The Traveler was introduced last season and I suspect that little more has been done with the character due to the limited time left. The episode revealed both the role of The Traveler and how Curtis was bought back. The Traveler had apparently meddled in time, causing his future timeline to be eliminated. In some ways The Traveler is much like Kiera, trying to find a way back their own timeline.

The question of whether Kiera can go back to her timeline has not only been raised by fans over the course of the season, but even characters on the show have suggested to her that she cannot go home because her future no longer exists. Knowing about The Traveler provides contradictory arguments. On the on hand, if even the Traveler is having trouble making things right, wouldn’t this suggest that there is nothing which can be done for Kiera unless the timeline is fixed?

This matter changed entirely when The Traveler created a paradox during this episode in which both young and old Alec met together.  The original timeline with old Alec must still exist in some form in order for this meeting to occur. While the Freelancers worked to stop time travelers like Liber8 and Kiera, by arranging this meeting it appears that The Traveler was now working to ensure that they were sent back in time by old Alec. Even if he previously objected to meddling in time by others, does this now mean that the presence of the time travelers is necessary for The Traveler to fix the timeline? The contradiction might be another effect of having to speed up the ending of the show. If there was more time, it might have been possible to provide an explanation for The Traveler appearing to change his agenda.

At this meeting we learned that old Alec was considering sending the prisoners from Liber8 back in time but had not yet decided, or put any plan into effect yet. It was young Alec who actually encouraged his older self to proceed. This also excludes the possibility of a single timeline in which this always happened, and old Alec was sending people back in time with memories of having encountered Kiera and Liber8 when young (although this theory had already been contradicted by other events on the show).

Another question raised previously came up when old Alec recognized Kiera’s name in an early flash forward scene taking place before they were sent back in time. We now know that old Alec recognized her name not because sending her was part of his original plan, but because young Alec mentioned Kiera.

Continuum Zero Hour

When Alec lost Emily in season two, he wound up going back in time to try to save her, causing the destruction of an entire timeline. This time when Emily left him, his actions were not as destructive. After Alec demanded it, Jason took Alec to see his mother (and Alec’s future wife) Annie, but said she had died in Jason’s past. Alec received a different explanation from his future self, who said Annie committed suicide to get away from the monster he became. Young Alec could prevent this by staying away from Annie. I wonder if instead Alec will decide he can still meet Annie, and could change her fate by not becoming that monster. This might also be a storyline which would have a better chance of playing out if there were more episodes left.

In this episode both viewers and Kellogg learned what the Time Marines were up to, and learned he better not trust his future self. As expected, they are building a time portal which more people from the future could use to escape. This includes relatives of Brad, if we can trust Zhorin–a big if. Brad thought the relatives were already dead but Zhorin stated they were on the list to come back. Maybe Brad was mistaken about their deaths, maybe Zhorin is lying, or maybe when Brad came back in time, his actions changed the timeline which led to his relatives not being killed as he remembered. This does complicate any decisions by Brad as to which side to take.

Things are more ominous for Kellogg. Vasquez revealed that future Kellogg has renal failure, which can be cured. Presumably the cure is the transplantation of one or both of young Kellogg’s kidneys. It has already been established that time travel on Continuum is not like time travel in the movie version of 12 Monkeys. The removal of younger Kellogg’s kidneys will not cause them to disappear in old Kellogg, and the death of young Kellogg will not affect old Kellogg. Continuum has always been a show with changing alliances, and this discovery led Kellogg to reach out to Kiera to join forces.

The other question about alliances involves Dillon, who has qualms about acts he is being asked to perform as the new security chief for Piron. Will this lead to him changing sides again, and what exactly would this mean should Kellogg and Kiera wind up on the same side?

I will avoid any spoilers on episode 5, The Desperate Hour but the name does fit the episode. There are not the same sort of major revelations as in Zero Hour, but there are major advances seen in the storyline based upon what we learned the previous week, and  some of the questions I raised above are at least partially answered.

Doctor Who Under-the-Lake-1

Under The Lake is reminiscent of older Doctor Who stories featuring a monster of the week, except that it is a two-part story with a real cliffhanger. The full story, written by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse,  cannot be judged yet, but like the first two episodes of this season was enjoyable regardless of whether the full plot ultimately holds up well.

As is usual with many episodes of Doctor Who, it is all the little moments  which make the episode enjoyable. After leaving a planet which has been celebrating New Year’s for two centuries (I’m not sure if this is fun or a real horror), the TARDIS brought the Doctor and Clara to an  underwater mining facility in Scotland of 2119 where there appear to be real ghosts. The ghosts disturb the TARDIS, and the Doctor wonders why the TARDIS brought them here. This reminds us of The Doctor’s Wife by Neil Gaiman, in which the TARDIS said that while she didn’t always take the Doctor where he wanted to go, she always took him to where he needed to be.

The Doctor saved time by not having to earn the trust of those on the mining facility by saying he was with UNIT. He did continue to have other problems relating with humans, which have been present since his last regeneration. Clara tried to help him by writing out index cards with things for the Doctor to say in certain circumstances, but his delivery was a problem. Some examples:

“I’m very sorry for your loss. I’ll do all I can to solve the death of your friend slash family member slash pet.”

“No one is going to get eaten slash vaporized slash exterminated slash upgraded slash possessed slash  mortally wounded slash turned to jelly. We’ll all get out of this unharmed.”

Well, not everybody got out of this unharmed. It was obvious from the moment we met him that Pritchard, the  corporate lackey who was looking for ways to  profit from the situation, would be one of the first to die.

The index cards also did not prevent the Doctor from saying other things which some might be offensive, even if viewers might have sympathized with the first of these two examples:

“So who’s in charge now? I need to know who to ignore.”

“Surely just being around me makes you cleverer by osmosis”

The episode did address the question of why characters stick around when it is getting dangerous by giving reasons why they couldn’t leave. Before it turned out they could not leave, their options were considered: “You can stay and do the whole Cabin In The Woods thing…”

The episode had a couple of things in common with the initial two parter of the season, The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witches Familiar. Both raised the prospect of the death of the Doctor–in this case seen in the ghost Doctor at the end of the episode. Both also used going back in time as a plot point. It certainly makes sense for the Doctor to use the TARDIS to go back into time to change things or find out information when he is in trouble, but this very rarely occurs. I wonder if this is coincidence or a plan to make this season more timey wimey.

Use of time travel does complicate story telling as it then becomes necessary to create reasons why time travel cannot be used. Otherwise the Doctor could go back in time and rescue himself before he ever gets in trouble. There must be rules which are only understandable to Time Lords. The most notable example in recent years were the rules which prevented him from rescuing Amy and Rory after the Weeping Angels sent them back in time in The Angels Take Manhattan.

In other Doctor Who news, a young adult spin off to Doctor Who taking place in Coal Hill School, entitled Class, has been announced.

Agents of SHIELD Simmons Planet

Agents of SHIELD was off to a good start this season, turning to concentrating on the Inhumans. There were also references to other aspects of the Marvel universe. Bobbi both mentioned when”Sokavia fell out of the sky” in Age of Ultron and used her PhD which was established in the comics. Coulson mentioned Pym Technologies from Ant-Man. In a recent interview, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige did also say that events on television shows such as Daredevil  will be mentioned in the movies. This is in line with the usual Disney synergy between its various products as television shows, movies, theme parks, and merchandise all help sell each other.

The biggest surprise of the season premiere was to find that Simmons is now on another planet. Jed Whedon discussed this with Entertainment Weekly:

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wasted no time in revealing exactly where Simmons is during Tuesday’s season premiere — but that doesn’t mean she’ll be reuniting with the team anytime soon.

Missing in action for most of the premiere, Simmons was finally revealed to be in the desert … on another planet, that is, and definitely not in our solar system. “It can’t be because of the terrain and what you see,” executive producer Jed Whedon tells EW. “There’s very few planets that have that configuration that she would not be dead if she were there.”

During the season 2 finale, the recently discovered Kree monolith suddenly turned into liquid form, absorbing Simmons before reforming as if nothing ever happened — causing S.H.I.E.L.D. fans to spend the summer pondering what happened to the intrepid scientist. “It was so cool,” Elizabeth Henstridge says of her first reaction to the planet reveal. “I hadn’t thought of that. Everything that happens, I hadn’t thought of that as an option.”

Because she’s been stranded there for six months, executive producer Jeffrey Bell says this is a “profoundly different” Simmons than the one we last saw in the finale. “She’s definitely still her essence — she doesn’t just completely change,” Henstridge says. “But she’s been through so much. She’s hardened. She’s had to face things that she never would’ve imagined, also by herself without Fitz [Iain de Caestecker], so she’s definitely changed, stronger and kind of damaged.”

Finding out how Simmons landed in a galaxy far, far away won’t be revealed right away, though. “There will be some breadcrumbs, and then at some point we will fully explore what’s happened to her in a way that is maybe the craziest thing we’ve done,” Bell says. “We’ve very excited. It’s a different kind of episode for us — to give Elizabeth and Simmons the chance to really show what she went through seems really cool.”

The interview also notes that Simmons is running from something suggesting “She thinks she’s not alone.” There will be more on the planet in future episodes.


The above trailer was released last week for the six episode revival of The X-Files.

The BBC has started filming on season 4 of Orphan Black and have released this summary:

Sarah, reluctantly return home from her Icelandic hideout to track down an elusive and mysterious ally tied to the clone who started it all — Beth Childs.  Sarah will follow Beth’s footsteps into a dangerous relationship with a potent new enemy, heading in a horrifying new direction. Under constant pressure to protect the sisterhood and keep everyone safe, Sarah’s old habits begin to resurface. As the close-knit sisters are pulled in disparate directions, Sarah finds herself estranged from the loving relationships that changed her for the better.

Returning this season is Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s battle-worn foster brother Felix; Maria Doyle Kennedy as Sarah and Felix’s foster mother Mrs. S; Kristian Bruun as Donnie, Alison’s partner-in-crime and husband; Kevin Hanchard as Art, Beth’s detective partner who’s torn between his job and his loyalty to the clones; Skyler Wexler as Sarah’s long-suffering daughter Kira; Ari Millen as a mysterious new Castor clone, the likes of which we’ve never seen before; and Josh Vokey as Scott, Cosima’s lab partner. Also returning this season is James Frain as Ferdinand, an intimidating “cleaner” for shadowy organization, Topside; Allison Steadman as Kendall Malone, “the original”; and Rosemary Dunsmore as Susan Duncan, Rachel’s adoptive mother and one of the leading scientists of Project Leda. Joining the Orphan Black cast this season is Joel Thomas Hynes as Dizzy, an edgy, self-reliant hacker who doesn’t conform to group mentality. Additional casting for the series will be announced in the coming weeks.

Jennifer Lawrence warns that if Donald Trump becomes president, “that will be the end of the world.”

It seems Jennifer Lawrence’s thoughts on Donald Trump echo Katniss Everdeen’s feelings toward President Snow. For the uninitiated, that means she’s not a fan. During a lively conversation with the three leads of the final installment of The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay — Part 2, the Republican presidential candidate became the topic of conversation.

“If Donald Trump becomes president, that will be the end of the world,” says Lawrence.

Her co-star Liam Hemsworth feels the same: “I’ll back you up on that,” he adds.

Josh Hutcherson, the third lead in the massive franchise, can’t quite believe Trump’s run for the presidency is legitimate. “It’s a publicity stunt,” he says. “It can’t be real.”

Lawrence doesn’t seem quite sure of his validity either. “I genuinely believe that reality television has reached the ultimate place where now even things like this might just be for entertainment,” she says. “It’s either that or it’s Hillary’s brilliant idea.”

Hillary Clinton appeared on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live opposite Kate McKinnon, doing her Clinton impersonation. The skit made fun of Clinton’s delay in supporting gay rights ( “I could’ve supported it sooner”), and Hillary did an impersonation of Donald Trump.