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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nardole: “What could do that?”

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

Nardole: “Death by Scotland.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Empress of Mars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who and The Two Masters; Legends of Tomorrow Breaks Time; Surprises On The Magicians; A Wedding On Orphan Black?; Hugo Award Finalists; Netflix Marvel Shows; Renewals and Returning Shows


Thanks to time travel, there have been many episodes of Doctor Who which featured two or more Doctors from different regeneratons. In the upcoming season, not only will there be the return of Missy, but John Sims will be returning as The Master. The BBC reports:

John Simm will return as the Master to battle the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), new companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) in the forthcoming series of Doctor Who.

John Simm says: “I can confirm that it’s true, thanks to the power of time travel I’m back. It’s always a pleasure to work with this great team of people and I can’t wait for you all to see what the Master gets up to in the next series. “

Steven Moffat, writer and executive producer, says: “Nothing stays secret for long on Doctor Who but you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to see exactly what the Master is up to and how he makes his return to face the Doctor. It’s been a huge pleasure to have fan favourites John Simm and Michelle Gomez face to face in the same role! It’s not often you get to see a solo personality clash.”

John Simm was last seen as the Master on New Year’s Day 2010. Viewers will have to wait to see exactly when and how the Master will return to the new series, which starts on Saturday 15 April at 7:20pm on BBC One.

As previously announced, Doctor Who series 10 will also star Michelle Gomez as Missy – a later regeneration of the Master. Other returning foes include the Daleks, the Ice Warriors and – returning for the first time in over 50 years – the Mondasian Cybermen. An exciting line up of new faces and adversaries will debut across the series, including adorable-but-deadly Emojibots and David Suchet as the Landlord.

Steven Moffat has also been teasing a huge spoiler, to be revealed in a trailer to one of the episodes:

“This is just a public warning,” said a playful Moffat. “Some people hate spoilers and some people love spoilers – and everybody hates me whatever way they think about it. So this is my last attempt in this role to avoid hatred.

“At the end of the episode there will be yet another awesome trailer for Doctor Who… at the very end of the trailer there is, frankly, an enormous spoiler, a spoiler that may actually melt your brains. But I promise you, you’d be better off not knowing because awesome though it will be here, it will be even more awesome in a few weeks’ time. So we’re gonna give you the option, in our frankly camp and ridiculous way…

“There will come up a warning and then there will be a countdown to the spoiler, and then there will be a warning to ‘blink now’. If at that point you close your eyes and wait until you hear the cliffhanger noise, you will have a better experience in a few weeks’ time.”

Den of Geek has a spoiler-free review of the season premier.

Series ten will finally reveal the location of the TARDIS toilet. (“It’s down there. First right, second left, past the macaroon dispenser.”) It remains unseen.

Doctor Who TV has links to series ten interviews with Steven Moffat and the cast. In an interview elsewhere,  Peter Davison discussed how the regeneration scenes were hard for both himself and David Tennant.

There have already been shows such as Broadchurch and Victoria which include at least two actors who had previously appeared in the Doctor Who universe. Another example is coming. Look at the cast in this show discussed at Deadline:

Netflix has come on board BBC Two’s contemporary thriller Collateral as co-producer and will release globally outside the UK. As Deadline revealed last month, Carey Mulligan is starring in the David Hare created drama that explores the spiraling repercussions surrounding the fatal shooting of a pizza delivery man. New cast includes John Simm (Life on Mars), Nicola Walker (Spooks) and Billie Piper (Doctor Who, Penny Dreadful).

Rose and The Master, plus staring Carey Mulligan, who played Sally Sparrow in Blink.

Legends of Tomorrow was considerably improved in the second season. After an apparently happy ending, the Legends wound up in a Los Angeles with a changed skyline with futuristic buildings and buildings from Victorian England, and dinosaurs. I wonder if they are intentionally using things which the Legends have encountered previously.  Screener discussed the aftermath of breaking time with showrunner Phil Klemmer:

It’s no secret that the Legends revisiting an event they’d already changed is bad news — and now in the Season 2 finale, that’s exactly what’s happening. What can you tell us about the episode?

I guess I’ll say this: We have to follow through on our promise. I think people would hate us if the Legends were able to perform this feat without any consequence… If this were a typical “Legends” episode, and ended with, “Alright, we didn’t get a lot of style points but we succeeded.” This really has to be different than a random episode throughout the season.

As a show, it’s always been designed to reinvent itself at the end of every season, whether that’s with the mythology or the characters or the stakes. The blocks that we build with are not designed to last from one season to the next. We’ve loved Season 2 and could continue writing this forever, but I don’t think that would be true to the spirit of the show, which is supposed to be wildly unpredictable and zany.

We had to have a seismic shift for our story, and one that will leave people scratching their heads for the next five months or whatever. I think the show is at its best when you watch an episode and honestly don’t know how the hell you got there. We never could have predicted that we would do an episode about George Lucas, or “Land of the Lost” dinosaurs. You can get a little too comfortable and we got good at doing the Season 2 thing. That’s precisely the moment where you have to blow the canon up again, you know? Crash this beautiful ship of ours and see where you land.

It’s scary — but it’s a challenge that I know, when we all sit down in the writers’ room for the first day of work, everybody’s going to be on the edge of their seat and eager to start talking, because nobody knows where we’re headed. And that’s exciting and terrifying.

While ‘Legends’ is telling a unique story, it still exists in a shared universe — your actions can be felt on other shows. Is that a line you have to walk — debating how much to blow up so it doesn’t impact ‘Arrow’ or ‘The Flash’?

It is funny. Kevin Smith said at Paleyfest how Barry has suffered endlessly for making one mistake, and we’ve sort of made a habit out of it. Usually when we’re in the Waverider and we’re traveling through time, we’re thinking the crossover is really the only time we have to make our worlds harmonious.

But you’re right, we have maybe made a really difficult challenge for ourselves. You’ll see in the last 45 seconds a different kind of mistake than we’ve ever made before — and the challenge of Season 3 is going to be coming up with a new mission-of-the-week… Because it’s not as easy as going back in time and keeping George Lucas in film school. That’s going to seem like a very two-dimensional surgical strike, compared to the historical messes that we have to clean up as a result of what we do in this finale. It’s exponentially more complicated.

Despite the changes on Legends of Tomorrow, Marc Guggenheim says we will not see dinosaurs in Central City on The Flash next season.

Last week’s episode of The Magicians had a dragon, a visit to the underworld (with bowling), and a lot of surprises. Eliot was surprised to find he was not going to get laid because a bunch of Fillorians and Lorians were turned into rats on Eliot and King Idri’s wedding day. Margo surprised Eliot when the truth serum forced her to confess, but then, surprisingly did something risky to try to fix everything. Eliot was also surprised to return to Brakebills. Senator John Gaines was surprised to learn why some people did what he wanted, and further surprised when he gave another Senator a heart attack. Julia was surprised to learn that Elysium is run by Miss Persephone. The biggest surprise was the sacrifice Julia made for Quenton, presumably now opening the door to bringing Alice back.

The Dragon got the best lines of the episode:  “You have 24 hours to return to the portal.” “Or…” “I sit patiently, waiting for you to come back. No, I eat you, I’m a fucking dragon, what do you expect?”

Deadline had a panel with cast and crew, and had some teasers for the final two episodes of the season:

With just two episodes to go, the team promised to go out with a bang (“They’re insane,” said Maeve. “Quite insane”). Added McNamara: “There’s been something for the entire season, and there’s a perpetrator behind these things that are going on, and you don’t know who it is… It’s kind of a giant whodunit.” Ralph confirmed that the April 19 finale will pull the rug out from under its characters, saying, “Just as these people think that they have real control over their lives and have made real decisions and have forward momentum and feel like they’re taking responsibility for things for the first time, we draw back the curtain and reveal that they’ve had no control – they’ve been pawns.” Gamble smiled. “Don’t you love a cliffhanger?”

Orphan Black returns for its fifth and final season on June 10. Several pictures and clips have been released, including this one which suggests that Cosima and Dephine are getting married:

 

The 2017 Hugo Award finalists are out. The awards will be presented on August 11, 2017. Here are the nominees for the two categories which include television shows and movies:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)
  • Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment)
  • Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company)
  • Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment)
  • Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)
  • Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Ed Bazalgette (BBC Cymru Wales)
  • The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)
  • Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (HBO)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Door”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Jack Bender (HBO)
  • Splendor & Misery [album], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

Screenrant has looked at how the television version of Legion differed from the comics.

On a somewhat similar topic, Vulture compared how the ending of Big Little Lies compared to the book.

Netflix has revealed that The Defenders will be released on August 18, 2017.

Daredevil will start filming season three later this year, to be released in 2018.

Iron Fist has received a number of poor reviews, but I doubt I will go entirely without seeing it before watching The Defenders. Nerdophiles has a possible solution–listing the must see episodes and recommendations for those to skip. They even have a synopsis of the episodes they recommend skipping. It won’t save all that much time, only recommending skipping three episodes (the second, third, and twelfth). The first also also gets a poor review, but I assume the author recommends watching as it is the first episode and presumably does set up the show. In other words, it appears that the series doesn’t really become all that watchable until the fourth episode.

In this era of peak TV, there are many shows I have not had a chance to see which others say are worthwhile. I’ve heard a few people say great things about Wynonna Earp. Screen Rant gives fifteen reasons to watch. The first season recently became available on Netflix, and the second season begins on Syfy on Friday June 9. Syfy has announced that Dark Matter will also return on June 9 with two episodes. Killjoys will return on  June 30. I finally manged to binge watch Dark Matter in December, when other shows were on hiatus, and really enjoyed it. I didn’t get into Killjoys, but I only watched one episode and will give it another chance if there is another slow period.

Hulu has released the first three episodes of an anthology series entitled Dimension 404, which appears to be influenced by The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror. I09 says these episodes are bingeworthy.

Netflix has renewed A Series of Unfortunate Events for both a second and third season. USA has renewed Colony for a third season.

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: Hannibal Canceled By NBC; Humans Premieres; Catastrophe And Other Summer Television Choices; Death Of An Avenger; Another Superhero Crossover; Heroes Reborn

Hannibal Aperitivo

This season forth episode of Hannibal, Aperitivo, dealt more with aftermath of the second season finale.  The biggest surprise was that Dr. Chilton is alive, and out for revenge against Hannibal. It even turned out that many of the lines initially shown to occur between Will and Abigail earlier in the season actually happened when Chilton visited Will in the hospital. Chilton also compared notes with Mason Verger on making up their face–if you show yours I’ll show you mine. Jack and Alana are also both alive. Will confessed to Jack that he had called Hannibal hoping he would flee. Alana met with Verger, warned by Margot,  “If my brother offers you chocolate, politely refuse.” Hannibal was not seen in the episode, but the the set up has now been completed to have each of these characters come after him.

This week NBC announced plans to cancel Hannibal after this season and there is a scramble to find a replacement network. There has been talk about both Netflix and Amazon but it does not sound likely that Netflix is much of a possibility due to the deal with Amazon to stream previous seasons. Hopefully Amazon will be interested in picking up the show. If not, The Food Network sounds like a good match.

Even if Hannibal is renewed, Bryan Fuller will have a reduced role due to becoming show runner of American Gods.

Humans

Humans premiers in the United States on AMC tonight but the first three episodes have already been shown on Channel 4 in the U.K. After downloading episodes I highly recommend it. Unlike far too much science fiction on television, this show is not satisfied with a clever idea. It handles both characters and plot well, and as a result is likely to be enjoyed even by people who do not normally watch science fiction. This review avoids major spoilers but those who want to be entirely surprised in watching the show might not want to read this before watching the first episode as some minor events are mentioned.

Humans looks at the implications of something which could really happen in the not so distant future. The premise is that synthetic humans, known as Synths, start doing our mundane work, both in industry and the homes. This leads to issues such as a wife, played by Katherine Parkinson, whose many television roles included Jen from the IT Crowd. I see a certain irony in her having played Jen, the computer-ignorant woman placed in charge of the IT Department, to now play a woman who is skeptical about the Synths. Her daughter questions the point in studying if Synths could do anything. A man with Alzheimer’s uses his Synth to help him remember the past. The twist is that his Synth is a first generation one, slated for replacement, which has memory problems of its own.

Naturally the sexual implications are also explored, including Synths used as prostitutes. In one scene Parkinson’s husband looked at the directions which came with their beautiful Synth for those 21+ , and in another scene his son received a warning about inappropriate touching.

Besides looking at the sociological ramifications of the Synths, the show is also a thriller. Some of the Synths are secretly self-aware and communicating with each other. Also, while most of the Synths act in a characteristic way, don’t be so certain that everyone who appears human really is.

Catastrophe

Incidentally, besides Humans, another recent show from Channel 4 has become available in the United States. Catastrophe recently became available on Amazon. Think of it as if Welcome to Sweden took place in the U.K. and was written by the people who wrote You’re The Worst. While not genre, it did include one genre reference. In one scene a character is wearing a shirt saying, “Where is Jessica Hyde,” referring to a genre show on Channel 4, Utopia. I have also watched Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell from the BBC beyond what has been available in the United States and recommend this miniseries based upon the book.

In other summer television news, Extant returns this week, reportedly with major changes from the first season. Under the Dome returned last week, but I have not had time to watch the two-hour season premiere. I also have not had time to watch Mr. Robot yet. Apparently Humans is about robots, but Mr. Robot only has humans and no robots. I have held off on watching True Detective following poor reviews. The first season was only worth watching, despite a weak plot, due to the excellent work by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

Over on Syfy, Defiance is much better in its third season. I still couldn’t call it a must-watch show for science fiction fans, but if anyone has seen the first two seasons was undecided about watching the third I would say to go ahead. It is much better having eliminated some of the characters and bringing in a new big-bad for the season. I have not watched their other Friday night show, Dark Matter, after hearing from several people that it is awful.

Avengers BBC

The “original Avenger” has died. Patrick Macnee of the 1960’s British spy series, The Avengers, has died at 93. Initially the show is well known for the role played by Diana Rigg.

Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers might not be the only ones with a superhero universe including crossovers from other characters. Marvel Studios has The Avengers (obviously different from The Avengers  pictured above. Warner has separate universes of DC superheroes both on television, and in with Justice League of America.   20th Century Fox, which owns the rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four, is rumored to be doing a crossover of these two franchises.

Emma Watson and Tom Hanks will be staring in the movie adaptation of The Circle, an excellent novel about current trends in social media going too far.

The Guardian looks inside Amy Schumer.

Joel McHale has been interviewed by Esquire, including about Community and his upcoming appearance on The X-Files. He has been predicting a Community movie but not a seventh season. #sixseasonsandamovie

A trailer has been released for Heroes Reborn: