SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Orville; Superhero Shows; Stranger Things; Runaways; Good Omens; The Man In The High Castle; Electric Dreams; Doctor Who: Shada

Episode 4 of Star Trek DiscoveryThe Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry, continues what will presumably be a redemption arc for Burnham. Her defense of the tardigrade, arguing that it should not be judged entirely for its actions on one particular day, is a clear reference to her own situation. The tardigrade was also reminiscent of the creature in the first season episode of the original show, Devil in the Dark.

Unfortunately Landry was not as wise as Burnham, both in seeing the tardigrade only as a potential weapon to be studied (as did Lorca), and in forgetting how dangerous it was. We now know that the killing of apparent main cast was not limited to the first two episodes.

Last week I noted that Georgiou had filmed more material. I hope this means more than just the message seen in this episode. After my speculation as to how she might reappear on the show last week, I thought of another situation where it might make sense to see her alive–an episode in the Mirror universe.

In yet another interview a writer for Star Trek: Discovery insists that the show will not violate canon and the events of the original series, which takes place ten years later. Seeing the necessity of enslaving a sentient species to operate the spore drive suggest at least two reasons why we might never see this again. After the war, Star Fleet principles might come into play again, leading this to be banned. Or possibly any ship trying this is ultimately destroyed by the tardigrade.

The episode had the feeling of continuity with our world and the Star Trek universe by dropping names such as the Wright Brothers, Elon Musk, Zefram Cochrane, and Zaphod (Beeblebrox)?

Polygon discussed the militarization of science with the cast of Discovery.

TrekMovie.com has the episode titles through November when the show goes on hiatus until January.

Last week’s episode of The Orvill, Krill, showed both the strengths and the weaknesses of the series. Of course some might disagree as to which features are strengths and weaknesses. The episode once again captured the feel of an old episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, and did include a moral dilemma. This was interspersed with a number of jokes, often involving the name of the Krill god, Avis, and the car rental company. While the jokes were somewhat amusing, it is a matter of opinion as to how much they distract from the episode or make it more amusing.

The episode also did subtly mock common tropes seen in Star Trek, such as with Mercer speaking before Alara had a communications channel open.

One nitpick is that they had to take a picture of every page of the book they were seeking. Couldn’t they find an ebook version?

The episode also repeated a common issue in episodes of The Orville with problems being solved in simple and unrealistic ways. If they were elsewhere I could see light being used as a weapon, but I found it less plausible that their ships own lights could easily be turned up so bright as to kill most of the crew. Other episodes had similarly questionable solutions, such as seeing Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer being enough to change a character’s long standing views.

This week I will try to catch up with some of the news from New York Comic Con which I couldn’t get to last week, along with genre news from other sources. As there remains too much news to fit in again this week, I will limit to links in many cases. I am also postponing most of the news on the DC superhero shows on CW, which did return last week. One reason to cut back, at least for now, on coverage of them is that interest appears to be declining, with ratings for their return episodes down.

I think that the problems include having too many superhero shows, and that there have been too many episodes of the DC series to maintain quality and interest. This is especially difficult when we have the Netflix series for comparison. I think that CW would be better off reducing these series to a maximum of thirteen episodes a year, both tightening up each series and reducing to two at a time. Guest appearances can keep the other series in the minds of viewers when they are off.

The one additional news item on the CW shows I will mention today is that Victor Garber will be leaving Legends of Tomorrow to return to Broadway. Of course the nature of this show makes it easy for him to return should he become available and interested in the future.

At the moment I like Gotham the best of the network superhero shows, now surpassing the CW series. One reason is that they are continuing where last season left off with the gradual development of Bruce Wayne into Batman. Syfy Wire has information on the Gotham panel at New York Comic Con.

Information on the Agents of SHIELD panel at New York Comic Con here.

Two different X-Men type series have also started. The Gifted appears to show promise after two episodes, teaming up Vampire Bill and Root (aka Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker). I have not watched The Inhumans after reading a number of terrible reviews. As it is only eight episodes, I figure I can binge it later if it improves.

Netflix has done an excellent job of developing their own superhero universe (existing with other Marvel superheroes who are left off screen). After their team up in The Defenders, Iron Fist will be appearing in Luke Cage season 2.

Netflix has posted the final trailer for Stranger Things season 2, which will be released on October 27. The producers are now talking about extending the show beyond four seasons.

Screen Rant discussed the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Kevin Feige.

Dirk Gently has returned for a second season. Review here.

Hulu will be releasing their own Marvel series. Teaser for Runaways above. Engadget has some background information:

For all those unfamiliar with the source material, Runaways follows a dysfunctional group of six teens who band together to fight their evil parents. Judging by the trailer, the show draws its influences from late-nineties genre fare, like The Craft and The Faculty. And, it comes from the creative team behind The O.C. and Gossip Girl, so you can also expect plenty of snappy dialogue, self-deprecating humor, and pop-culture references. The series is reportedly set within the Marvel cinematic universe, but tonally sits closer to the likes of Freeform’s upcoming Cloak and Dagger TV show, and ABC’s The Inhumans. So, don’t go expecting The Punisher to make a cameo.

Amazon’s World of Philip K. Dick panel at New York Comic Con revealed that the third season of The Man In The High Castle will deal more explicitly with parallel universes–and the attempts by the Nazis to conquer them. Trailer above and more information here. Syfy Wire notes how timely the anti-Nazi message of the show is.

More information on Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, another upcoming show from Amazon, was also revealed at the New York Comic Con. Instead of being based upon a single story like The Man In The High Castle, it will be a series of ten movies. IO9 has more information:

…each episode has different writers and directors, and they were given creative freedom to take the short stories and interpret them in whatever way they saw fit. This is in addition to the rotating cast, which includes stars like Steve Buscemi, Bryan Cranston, Janelle Monae, and Liam Cunningham, the only actor who appeared at the panel. Executive producer (and Philip K. Dick’s daughter) Isa Dick Hackett said she felt this was the best way to approach Dick’s short stories, which she called “the gems of his ideas,” in a way that both honored his work but also made the messages relatable to a modern audience.

It was already impressive that Michael Sheen and David Tennant would be staring in Amazon’s upcoming series Good Omens based upon the Neil Gaiman novel. John Hamm has now been added to the cast. Syfy Wire has more on the series, including others who have been cast.

A teaser (video below) has been released for an animated version of Shada, a Doctor Who serial written by Douglas Adams. The serial was never completed due to a BBC strike. The original actors will be returning to do the voices. Shada will be available for digital download from BBC Worldwide on November 24, then released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 4.

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: Mad Men Ends In Perfect Harmony; The Flash Season Finale; Orphan Black; David Letterman’s Final Show; Gilmore Girls Reunion; Community’s Homage To The Captain America Elevator Scene; John Nash

Mad Men Don Meditating

 Mad Men really did end somewhat like I discussed last week–Don Draper on the California coast, analogous to the season finale of Arrow with Oliver and Felicity driving up the coast.  Don even traveled with a woman from Arrow–Caity Lotz, the Black Canary. In this case she played Stephanie, Anna Draper’s niece. The choice was probably because of Stephanie knowing Don as Dick Whitman. Spending the episode being called Dick culminated the trend of the last few episodes with Don symbolically as the falling man in the opening titles. By this time Don had given up virtually everything involved with this identity. During the finale he was rejected by his family, who thought that others should raise his sons after Betty dies, and hit rock bottom after talking with Peggy.

In the end Mad Men might be called an eight-year anti-smoking public service announcement and coke ad. Don was moved when he heard Leonard speak. While not as bad off, Leonard’s talk of being the person nobody wanted to take out of the refrigerator resonated with Don. In the final scene Don was meditating on a cliff and came up with the idea for the classic coke ad, which even included two girls who looked  like the receptionist at the retreat. Up until this point I had one complaint about how the series appeared to be ending. The first half of the final season was all about Don losing his position in advertising  and then moving back to the top. It seemed strange to then have Don walk out on it all, even if not comfortable with how the larger company does business, along with being wrong about the future of light beer.

Don’s return to advertising was foreshadowed, as was Betty’s development of cigarette cancer. The promos showed a previous scene of Roger shrugging off Don’s disappearance by saying simply that, “He does that.” Stan reassured Peggy by pointing out that “He always does this, and he always comes back.” Peggy told Don that he could return and that McCann Erickson would take him back. She even asked, “Don’t you want to work on Coke?”  Don was asked to fix a coke machine in another recent episode. The coke ad also was the culmination of Don’s difficulties over the years understanding hippy subculture. He may or may not really get it at the end, but he understood enough of the philosophy to develop the message of the ad. It clicked with him while meditating. While the message of a coke ad might on one level be somewhat superficial, this was a series which revolved around the advertising industry after all.

While Matthew Weiner has given support to the interpretation that the ending does mean Don returned to do the coke ad, while watching the show it does appear valid to come to other conclusions, such as that Don reached a spiritual awakening which was analogous to the message of the ad, giving him the strength to do other things, as opposed to actually writing the ad. If the show is seen as ending with an open ended question as to whether Don did create the ad, then in some ways the ending could be even more ambiguous than the ending of The Sopranos. With The Sopranos, Tony Soprano was either killed in the diner or lived to continue as he had previously lived. If Don did not create the coke ad, then things were left wide open. He could have returned to advertising, possibly return to raise his children, take a new job elsewhere, or just remain on the road for an indefinite period of time.

Mad Men ended with a happy ending for almost everybody. Pete Campbell wound up far better than expected after he realized he did not have to be a philanderer like his father, and convinced his wife to return to him. (Perhaps they have a daughter who grows up to attend Greendale Community College who looks just like her mother). Joan, who was never the type to live off someone’s money to use cocaine in the Florida Keys, returned to work. Her company may or may not succeed, but if Mad Men were to continue we know that Joan would be working somewhere regardless of how long it were to run. While providing an ending, the show also left things open for the characters to move on in other ways in the future. Joan’s business may or may not succeed, and things may or may not work out for Roger and Marie in long term.

Two characters who might have the most interesting futures should we see them on a sequel such as Better Call Sally are Sally and Peggy. Sally’s future is most in question due to her age. Short term she will help care for her younger brothers while her mother is dying, but we know she will accomplish more long term. A couple of scenarios were already outlined by others for Peggy. She might succeed in becoming Creative Director by 1980, or she might take the route suggested by the head hunter in a previous episode and move on to a great job in a few years after having McCann Erickson on her resume.

In a way even Betty wound up with a good ending for her character. After being disliked by many viewers over the years, she became far more sympathetic after we learned on Mother’s Day that she is dying of  lung cancer. She is also dying on her own terms, rejecting treatment which in 1970 was probably of little value.

The final moments of Mad Men, which includes where the key characters were at the time, can be seen in the video above, which concludes with the classic coke commercial after Don smiled and a bell went off in his head.

Matthew Weiner discussed the finale at the New York Public Library a few days after it aired. Here are some excerpts from a report on the event from The Hollywood Reporter:

Yes, Don Draper created the Coke ad. The last scenes of the series features Don hugging a stranger at a retreat and meditating with hippies before the episode cuts to the 1971 Coca-Cola “Hilltop” commercial. Viewers can infer that Don returns to McCann-Erickson and creates that ad. “I have never been clear, and I have always been able to live with ambiguities,” said Weiner. “In the abstract, I did think, why not end this show with the greatest commercial ever made? In terms of what it means to people and everything, I am not ambiguity for ambiguity’s sake. But it was nice to have your cake and eat it too, in terms of what is advertising, who is Don and what is that thing?”

That commercial shouldn’t be read cynically. “I did hear rumblings of people talking about the ad being corny. It’s a little bit disturbing to me, that cynicism. I’m not saying advertising’s not corny, but I’m saying that the people who find that ad corny, they’re probably experiencing a lot of life that way, and they’re missing out on something. Five years before that, black people and white people couldn’t even be in an ad together! And the idea that someone in an enlightened state might have created something that’s very pure — yeah, there’s soda in there with a good feeling, but that ad to me is the best ad ever made, and it comes from a very good place. … That ad in particular is so much of its time, so beautiful and, I don’t think, as — I don’t know what the word is — villainous as the snark of today.”

Leonard was “probably the most important role in the series.” The post-war period in which the beginning of the show is set, “the word ‘depressed’ was not part of the vocabulary except for doctors, and men certainly didn’t express their feelings other than in bar fights,” Weiner explained. In casting Evan Arnold, “I needed someone who’s not famous and can cry, and really do it. … We believe it right away that he’s invisible.” He played the role of the everyman, “even if they’re not veterans, the alienation that was created by success, political racial tension, the technology — which is, I think, what’s happening right now — the isolation, these guys, they’re gonna crack. … I don’t think there’s enough empathy right now in the world.”

That hug between Don and Leonard had two meanings. “I hope the audience would feel either that he was embracing a part of himself, or maybe them, and that they were heard. I don’t want to put it into words more than that. … I liked the idea where he’d come to this place, and it’d be about other people and a moment of recognition. I don’t think I can put it into words, but I knew.”

Don’s road trip was inspired by The Fugitive. “I thought, ‘I want to see Don on his own. I want to do an episode of The Fugitive where Don comes into town and can be anyone,'” Weiner said, pointing to the ’60s series. “That netherworld of being on the run — I don’t know about you, but I think everyone has dreams of committing a crime and being on the run. Am I the only one? I think it’s very common. You’re lying!” he told the audience with a smile.

In the history of television, Mad Men is the real thing.

The_Flash_S01_finale_TVGM-1431462169

The season finale of The Flash left many things open due to the effects of time travel. Barry went back in time with the intent to save his mother but was quickly waived off by his future self, and he decided not to change the events which led to him becoming the Flash. I was disappointed by this aspect of the episode as presumably Barry gave a lot of thought to this decision. Considering the risks which he had accepted, I would think it would have taken more to convince him to change his mind. Regardless, he decided against changing history at this time, but after he returned history was changed by another event. Eddy shot himself, making his descendant, appear to cease to exist. (It is a shame that Eddy hadn’t previously thought to get a vasectomy instead.)

As far as we could see, after Eddy shot himself and Thawne faded away everything seemed the same, other than for the time travel having caused the development of  a singularity which threatens to destroy the planet. The annual threats to Starling City which culminate every season of Arrow now seem so trivial. Theoretically once Thawne disappeared everything should have been different and the group wouldn’t have been together at Star Labs, but this timey whimy stuff can be unpredictable. We did see a brief image of an alternate Earth Flash helmet from the DC comics and Kaitlin as Killer Frost. Both or neither might ever be seen in the timeline of the television show. There was also an homage to Douglas Adams with Cisco saying, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” Plus his memories of the alternate timeline were explained as being a power he gained when the particle accelerator exploded, possibly foreshadowing him turning into the Vibe as in the comics.

One consequence of this could be that the real Harrison Wells is still alive, never having been killed and having his body snatched by Thawne. Plus should the Reverse Flash return (and does anyone really doubt this will happen) instead of Wells under the mask it might be the face we say before he disappeared.

The Flash Jay Helmet

Andrew Kreisberg discussed the season finale with The Hollywood Reporter:

When did you know Eddie would make this sacrifice?

When we decided to name him Thawne, we hoped the audience would suspect Eddie was the Reverse-Flash because of his last name. We always knew Eddie would be his ancestor, but we weren’t quite sure how we would end the season. The way things were moving forward, it felt like it was the best thing to do for his character. Like with Colin Donnell [whose character Tommy died in Arrow‘s season one finale], it was literally the worst thing we could do to ourselves as writers, producers and friends, because we all love Rick so much both personally and professionally, and we think he’s crushed it as Eddie all season. We’ve all become very close. It’s one of those terrible things. The story sort of tells you what it wants to be and as much as it broke our hearts, we knew this was the way the season needed to end…

Will Eddie be back?

The great thing with our show — you saw it with Colin Donnell and with Caity Lotz [whose deceased Sara is returning for spinoff Legends of Tomorrow] — is just because you are dead doesn’t mean you’re not coming back. Especially in the world of The Flash, which involves time travel and real hardcore science fiction, there’s always a way for Eddie to return, and we hope Rick will.

How does Eddie’s sacrifice work? Eobard disappears — but everything he did up until the finale still happened?

Our time travel hopefully holds together as much as it can. It doesn’t completely obliterate all of their memories of Eddie and everything, but it has the desired effect of “harm to Eddie means harm to Tom Cavanagh’s character.”

How did you lay the groundwork for Eddie to make this choice?

Eddie has been struggling these last few weeks, hearing about the future and about how there is no place for him in the future. He wasn’t going to believe in Wells’ interpretation of the future. He was going to make his own decision and he basically decided to recommit to Iris, which only makes his sacrifice that much more heartbreaking. He didn’t do it because he didn’t have anything to live for. He did it because he had everything to live for.

What does this mean for Tom Cavanagh’s future on the show?

Tom Cavanagh will be back. That is not in question. Tom Cavanagh will continue to be a regular…

You’ve said season two will introduce more Speedsters. Is that going to be a major theme akin to the Rogues in this season?

Yeah. We are going to introduce a few more speedsters next year and a bunch more villains. How they and those villains come about is part of the surprise of season two. We’re really excited. [Executive producer] Greg [Berlanti] and myself and [executive producer] Geoff Johns and the writers, the cast, the crew, the directors — we are so proud of this season of television. It really is a high mark for all of us, and we feel a great deal of pressure and anxiety to live up to it because it’s been so well received. As proud as excited as we are about everything we’ve done this year, we really are just as proud and excited for all the things we are planning coming up. Hopefully people will continue to take this ride with us.

Alison (TATIANA MASLANY) and Donnie (KRISTIAN BRUUN)

This week’s episode of Orphan Black, Certain Agony Of The Battlefield, gave viewers the pay off for the set up of the previous couple of episodes which had many slow moments. This included two deaths, Paul and Pupok the Scorpion. Paul’s death was foreshadowed in television logic by the manner in which the episode returned to his role in the first season, along with the dream sequence which brought Sarah face to face with Beth. After having ambiguous motives for much of the series, Paul was shown as the good guy. If that wasn’t enough to foreshadow his death, the clincher was his admission to Sarah that, “It was never Beth I loved.”

In other key developments, Helena returned to help Sarah, after eating the scorpion. Rachel has the key to decoding Duncan’s code in the margins of The Island of Dr. Moreau (poroviding references to H.G. Wells in two of the shows I am reviewing this week). Allison and Donnie have gone Breaking Bad-lite, with their daughter walking in on their bedroom celebration in a scene reminiscent of Paige walking in on Elizabeth and Phillip in the 69 position on The Americans (picture here). There will be a longer version of the sequence on the DVD.

John Fawcett discussed the episode with The Hollywood Reporter:

  1. The loss of Paul is one of the more significant character deaths the show has done. What made the timing right now, and is there anything you’d like to tell fans about making that decision?That’s what drama’s about — having characters that can sacrifice themselves, and open new doors, and throw themselves on bombs, and reveal themselves emotionally, and elicit big reactions from people. That’s what makes great storytelling, and what Graeme and I have strived to do. Also, [to] keep people off-guard, and never certain. I don’t like people getting too comfortable. We like that people tune in to our show, and they don’t know what they’re going to get. They don’t know where we’re going to take them. That’s part of the fun of the show, and something we can continue to do. Because I really do think people get all tense and excited about watching the show, and what’s going to happen. This is an element of the way we tell stories on Orphan Black. … Was it necessary we kill a character? I don’t know. But what it does is it’s such a big emotional explosion for Sarah, and it sends her on a different course. This teamed with the fact that she’s had this strange vision of Beth, this is pushing her towards the end of the season. It means big things to help push her towards the drama of the finale.Up until now, viewers were left to draw their own conclusions about Paul’s feelings for Beth and Sarah. What discussions were there about him saying, pre-death, so concretely that he didn’t love Beth, but he did love Sarah?We talked about so many different aspects of that. I was always a little worried about introducing a dream sequence into the show. But it kind of worked so well with Paul, and Paul’s departure from the show, and [resolving] the thread we left kind of hanging a little bit. Does Paul actually have feelings for Sarah? Does Sarah actually have feelings for Paul? It was nice to hear him voice it. It was just one of those big epic lines, where you get some clarity before he dies.Paul sacrificed himself with the intention of taking down as much of Castor as possible. How successful was he in destroying the samples, etc.?

    The point of it was to corral all of the Castor [operatives], all of the DNA, all of their research into one room and blow the f—ing shit out of it. So that was his point. Beyond that, you have to see the remainder of the season.

Sarah (TATIANA MASLANY) and Paul (DYLAN BRUCE)

More in that interview, as well as in an interview at TV Line:

TVLINE | Is Paul definitely dead?
I don’t know, man… [Laughs] He blew himself up. I think that’s cool. I like the fact that Paul is a character that we have not really been able to trust. We never knew where we stood with him. Was he a good guy? Was he a bad guy? Why is he doing the things he’s doing? And we’ve come through the last bunch of episodes to realize why he’s making the decisions he’s making. And, at the end of the day, he makes the right choice and heroically throws himself on the bomb. Literally. It was the way we wanted to see that character depart.

TVLINE | This is the first series regular character to be killed off. What was it like deciding to say goodbye to Paul and Dylan?
[This] was our plan from the beginning [of] plotting out Season 3. We knew. Dylan knew. It was a bit sad on set, though, I have to say. It was a little sad to see him go. [There were] a lot of feels on set, if you know what I mean.

TVLINE | Should we be questioning whether Dr. Cody and Rudy were actually taken out by that grenade? ‘Cause we didn’t see any bodies…
[Laughs] Yeah, you should question everything, of course.

TVLINE | Now more than ever, Sarah has so much information about herself and her sisters. What does that mean for her going forward? I felt like Beth, in a way, was telling her to step back. But does knowing all this just make her want to look for answers even more?
Absolutely. It’s more important than ever that Sarah gets to the bottom of this — and not just for herself and for the safety of her immediate family. The driving force with Sarah is that she’s really had to step up and become the leader. She’s gone from being a teenage-runaway-reluctant mother, to having to be not just a responsible mother, but a leader. The one who is keeping the sisters together, and the driving force behind trying to find a cure for Cosima.

TVLINE | There was another death in this episode. Have we seen the last of Pupok the Scorpion?
I can’t say that. Listen, Pupok’s not really real. Pupok’s a spirit animal. Can you really kill a spirit animal? I don’t know.

This has been a big year for saying good-by. Not only was it the end for the world of Mad Men, it was the end for Pawnee, the Bravermans, and last week was the final show of Late Night With David Letterman. I’m not giving up hope of seeing Dave on television again–I remain hopeful that he will still get The Tonight Show.  He probably will not be hosting the Oscars, but now he does have more free time to hang out with Oprah, and maybe Uma. So far since the finale I have been watching some of the great interviews and Top Ten lists he did in his last month on You Tube. Terry Gross had an excellent interview with his producer Rob Burnett on Fresh Air. You can read highlights or listen to the interview here. I heard it on a downloaded podcast which had an extra not present on the show–an interview with David Letterman from 1981. Among the highlights was Letterman talking about the great comedians of the time as well as new comedians who showed promise, including Jay Leno. David Letterman’s last sign off is in the video above, followed by highlights of the show which were aired as the Foo Fighters performed Everlong after David Letterman said good night for the last time on a television program.

While we will not see Pawnee, the Barvermans, the various manifestations of Sterling Cooper, or David Letterman, Scott Patterson has hinted that we might be able to return to another place which is missed–Stars Hollow. A Girlmore Girl reunion remains possible.

Community featured an homage to the elevator scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Both scenes above.

A Beautiful Mind

There was one unexpected additional farewell this week. John Nash, whose life inspired the movie, A Beautiful Mind, along with his wife were killed in a traffic accident. The New York Times reports:

John F. Nash Jr., a mathematician who shared a Nobel Prize in 1994 for work that greatly extended the reach and power of modern economic theory and whose decades-long descent into severe mental illness and eventual recovery were the subject of a book and a 2001 film, both titled “A Beautiful Mind,” was killed, along with his wife, in a car crash on Saturday in New Jersey. He was 86.

Dr. Nash and his wife, Alicia, 82, were in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike in Monroe Township around 4:30 p.m. when the driver lost control while trying to pass another car and hit a guard rail and another vehicle, said Sgt. Gregory Williams of the New Jersey State Police.

Jennifer Connelly as Alicia Nash and Russell Crowe as John Nash are in the picture above from the movie.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Girl Who Waited; Torchwood Blood Lines; Shada Completed; Michigan Beats Notre Dame 35-31

It was a great weekend for television, with an excellent episode of Doctor Who, the season finale of Torchwood: Miracle Day, and a Michigan vs. Notre Dame football game which not only once again wound up being settled by four points scored in the last thirty seconds, but also had three touchdowns in the last seventy-two seconds. In the final second Notre Dame also lost the ball and I believe that if the Michigan player pushing it into the end zone had actual possession it would have been counted as a fourth touchdown in the last seventy-two seconds.

The Girl Who Waited was the economy episode of Doctor Who, having less of the Doctor and minimal use of other cast. While not as great as another Doctor-lite episode, Blink, it was an excellent episode with an interesting timey-whimey idea. A planet with a plague, which killed beings with two hearts, including Time Lords, in one day, set up a Two Stream facility. Those infected with the plague lived in one time stream where they could live out their entire life in one day, while family could watch them from the other time stream over twenty-four hours. After their arrival to the planet,  Amy ran back to the Tardis to get her phone. The Doctor, who so far thought they were just at a recreational facility, had the first of two great lines during the episode: “I bring you to a paradise planet two billion light years from Earth and you want to update… Twitter?”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht6wBPidk4g&feature=player_embedded

When Amy caught up, she pushed the wrong button and wound up in the wrong time stream. She had to beware of being killed with kindness as medications from this planet would be fatal to her. There were certainly a number of holes in this setup, and a bit of timey-whimey technobabble to try to explain it, but that didn’t prevent enjoyment of the show. After all, as the Doctor explained, “Come on Rory, it’s hardly rocket science, it’s just quantam physics.”

This setup provided for an interesting look at the character dynamics, and gave Karen Gillan the opportunity to play an older version of herself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj9Dcrr4AJo&feature=player_embedded

It was not surprising to see Amy Pond become bitter about her raggedy man after being left behind for thirty-six years. It was logical for her to prevent the Doctor and Rory from saving the younger version of herself, making her disappear, but in the end there were stronger arguments to the contrary. There was never any doubt that Rory would choose the younger version of Amy over the older, but Rory did realize the cost as he told the Doctor, “You’re trying to turn me into you.” We also saw again that the Doctor lies. I bet that will be important when we see how the Doctor avoids his impending death.

The episode appeared to be totally stand-alone (with it continuing to be strange that Amy and Rory so easily gave up on the idea of rescuing Melody as an infant). I wonder if a show which dealt so strongly with the relationship between Amy, Rory, and the Doctor might wind up having ramifications to be seen later this season.

The Blood Line, the finale of Torchwood: Miracle Day, was a pretty good episode, but still it didn’t have enough payback for a ten-episode story. Considering that there is no real explanation, they did a fair job of explaining how the Miracle came about, using Jack’s immortal blood. I wasn’t clear on why this would make Jack (and cancer cells) mortal, or why they brought Oswald Danes along. The episode did leave a couple of plot threads open, including the tree families moving on to their next plan, with Jilly Kitzinger helping with public relations. A transfusion of Jack’s blood allowed Rex to recuperate as quickly as Jack. I hope that this is a temporary effect of the transfusion, possibly aided by occurring at the same time as the Blessing was reset. Otherwise it wouldn’t be realistic to have Torchwood continue with some many people close to Jack getting killed.

It was a good idea to take a  high concept and attempt to make a single-season arc. Children of Earth worked as a third-season story over five days, but ten episodes was too long this year. The writers tried to get around this problem by having a number of subplots. This did not work as the show was set up around solving a single problem, and the subplots often felt like needless distractions.

Sooner or later I also hope to see Torchwood reestablished as a real organization with additional characters. Torchwood might work better modeled somewhat after how Dexter or Fringe have been handled. I would like to see a fifth season in which Torchwood is reestablished. Episodes could deal with building a new team and solving some individual mysteries, while also having a “big-bad” to contend with all season. That way it is not necessary to come up with a monster of the week every week, but individual stories could be mixed with the season-long arc.

We 

We know that Doctor Who will have another thirteen-episode season, but it won’t start until next fall. The future of Torchwood is unknown, despite a tag at the end of the final episode in Australia saying Jack will be back in four months. There is, however, hope of seeing another Tom Baker episode of Doctor Who.  Shada, the 1980 Tom Baker episode of Doctor Who written by Douglas Adams, has finally been completed, with a couple of twists:

Given that it has been three decades since the cameras last rolled on the story, the actors involved would never have been able to convincingly play the same age, so Shada has been completed via animation, using only their voices.

The other twist is that this hasn’t been paid for by the BBC, nor even their commercial arm 2|entertain (responsible for the Doctor Who DVD releases). The animation has been privately funded by record producer and fan Ian Levine, and as things stand, the wider public might never get to see it.

Which isn’t Levine’s intention, of course; now that Shada has been finished, he’s hopeful an agreement can be reached with 2|entertain and the story released into the public domain.

Wait a minute. The Doctor and Romana are Time Lords and would hot have aged. The real problem is that they have regenerated into different forms.

SciFi Weekend: There Are No Monsters In The White House (Doctor Who); Torchwood; Fringe; The Event; No Ordinary Family; How District 9 Should Have Ended

A brief prequel for the upcoming season has been released (video above), including Richard Nixon claiming, “There are no monsters in the White House.”

A long-lost episode of Doctor Who written by Douglas Adams, Shada, returns. The episode was never aired as it was not completed due to a television strike. The Guardian reports that a novelization based upon the planned episode is going to be released next March:

The story features the Time Lord coming to Earth with assistant Romana (Lalla Ward) to visit Professor Chronotis, who has absconded from Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet, and now lives quietly at Cambridge college St Cedd’s. (The Doctor: “When I was on the river I heard the strange babble of inhuman voices, didn’t you, Romana?” Professor Chronotis: “Oh, probably undergraduates talking to each other, I expect.”)

Chronotis has brought with him the most powerful book in the universe, The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey – which, in a typical touch of Adams bathos, turns out to have been borrowed from his study by a student. Evil scientist Skagra, an escapee from prison planet Shada, is on its trail.

Large parts of the story had already been filmed on location in Cambridge before industrial action at the BBC brought production to a halt. The drama was never finished, and in the summer of 1980 Shada was abandoned – although various later projects attempted to resurrect it.

Douglas Adams’s Doctor Who series are among the very few which have never been novelised, reportedly because the author wanted to do them himself but was always too busy. Gareth Roberts, a prolific Doctor Who scriptwriter, has now been given the job.

Publisher BBC Books declared the book “a holy grail” for Time Lord fans. Editorial director Albert De Petrillo said: “Douglas Adams’s serials for Doctor Who are considered by many to be some of the best the show has ever produced. Shada is a funny, scary, surprising and utterly terrific story, and we’re thrilled to be publishing the first fully realised version of this Doctor Who adventure as Douglas originally conceived it.”

Blastr has a guided tour to explain how the TARDIS works.

The premiere date for Torchwood has been released by Starz. The show will begin July 8. I am not surprised that the initial rumors of a July 1 start date were false considering how many American viewers might be traveling for the 4th. Those at Cannes will get to see an early promotion, along with two stars, John Barrowman and Bill Pullman, and executive producer Julie Gardner.

The big news of the week is that Fringe was renewed for a fourth season. Has the Friday night course ended? This week Fringe returned to the alternate universe. Having an alternate universe makes it easier to invent one of those television disease which provides exactly the dilemma which is desired for the story line. In this case we found that Fauxlivia has a viral/genetic disease (Fringe never has been great on actual science) which might require her to abort her baby to save her life. She was abducted by people who accelerated her pregnancy so that the baby developed more quickly than the virus could do harm, allowing both mother and baby to live.

For a while it wasn’t clear as to the motives of those who captured Fauxlivia, and it was never answered whether saving Fauxlivia along with the baby was also a goal or just a fortunate result. It turned out that Walternate was behind it all in order to save his grandson. Apparently the birth of this baby was also a major event with the Observers keeping a close watch. At the end, one Observer announces, “It is happening.” Unfortunately the show now goes on a hiatus, with very little left from American genre shows.

On the other American genre shows still airing, The Event is quickly turning into yet another alien invasion show. They decided to give up the flashbacks because  fans did not like them. I’m not so sure that the show still even has any fans, but the problem was not that there were flashbacks, but that they were handled so badly. This is in contrast to  Lost which was able to have two meaningful story lines per episode with the far more effective use of flashbacks. 

No Ordinary Family has an episode featuring time travel this week after Stephanie received an injection from Dr. King which increased her speed allowing her to travel through time. We all know that when someone on a science fiction television show goes forward in time and sees what is happening with them they will never just find themselves sitting on a couch watching television. It’s the same phenomenon which ensured that when anyone had a FlashForward they usually would up seeing something of monumental importance.

And, finally, the video above shows how District 9 should have ended.

Happy Towel Day

Happy Towel Day, a holiday to celebrate the works of Douglas Adams. As The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy explains:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

SciFi Friday: Kara Thrace is Still Dead, Veronica Mars Might Warp Into The Future, and Extermination by Chocolate

No news might not necessarily be good news, but this week no news was bigger news than any real news. That’s no news on Starbuck’s fate. Katee Sackhoff’s name is off the credits for Battlestar Galactica, but otherwise we found out nothing beyond the hints mentioned last week. There was something about preparation for a big trial, but was anyone really paying that much attention beyond searching for clues as to whether Kara will be back? My bet is that we’ll get a teaser in the season finale to keep people guessing over the summer. Maybe we’ll see her eating lunch with Elvis in a restaurant at the edge of the galaxy.

Those who recognize the allusion to Douglas Adams might also be interested in this collection of quotes in honor of his birthday last Sunday. Other recent science fiction posts include this listing of classic science fiction novels.

While Starbuck’s fate remains a mystery, hints about the cast of Heroes are being released, most likely to keep the attention of fans while the show is on a brief hiatus. Slice of SciFi and SciFi Wire reveal that “Linderman has superpowers of his own, that he was once a member of a group of heroes, that the members of the group eventually used their powers for personal gain—and that he is behind the plot to blow up New York as a way to engender widespread fear, which he believes will bring the nation together in hope. Linderman also reveals a prophecy that Nathan will eventually wind up in the White House.”

Looking into the crystal ball with regards to the CW Network is very hazy. Nothing is official, and as of now Veronica Mars might wind up remaining a student as she solves mysteries, the show might be cancelled, and there is yet another possibility. Kristin Veich reports that the show might leap four years into the future and show Veronica as an FBI agent after graduation. This scenario makes it less likely that many of the regulars will return (with some minor characters already getting parts on other shows).

The rumor is that negotiations are not going well for another season of Gilmore Girls. Melissa McCarthy, who plays chef Sookie St. James, has already signed for a role on a comedy pilot on ABC. Alexis Bledel apparently isn’t very interested in another season, and Lorelei says she won’t return without Rory. If this must be the end, at least Dave Rosenthal has managed to pull off something that Amy Sherman-Paladino and Dan Paladino could not. Rory’s idol, Christiane Amanpour, has agreed to appear on the season (series?) finale. Speaking of Rory, anyone else notice that, now that she’s back living with Paris, she has a poster for Fahrenheit 911 up in her bed room?

While I hope to see Vernoica Mars and Gilmore Girls return, even if this wasn’t the greatest season for either, hopefully CW will do the right thing and put Seventh Heaven out if its misery. If they don’t end the show after this year I suspect that God might personally intervene to end it. (Incidentally, to get this back to SciFi, Katerine Hicks, who plays Annie Camden, also played Dr. Gillian Taylor in Star Trek IV.) For those who haven’t been watching this year, Eric Camden finally died of heart disease, but was sent back to earth after an episode in heaven, which appears strangely like Glen Oak. The other big crisis of the year is that Ruthie Camden got a tatoo with the name of the homeless guy she fell in love with going across her rear end. As I said, put this show out if its misery.

Rory’s sign for Fahrenheit 911 isn’t the only sign for anti-government ideas on television this week. I already noted last week that the new character on Lost is named after Russian anarchist Mikhali Bakunin. There must be some meaning to having seen Bakunin killed as a result of Locke’s actions beyond the obvious that destruction seems to follow Locke around ever since his actions led to the destruction of the hatch. Also in last week’s episode we saw Sawyer sitting on the beach reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

Finally, for those who enjoy various “death by chocolate” recipees, this one takes it to a new level–Extermination by Chocolate. ChocaBlog has the recipe.

Classic Science Fiction Novels

There sure are a lot of science fiction geeks in the blogosphere. It looks like I have a little reading to do. This list of classic Science Fiction books is being posted around the blogosphere, with bloggers placing ones they’ve read in bold. I’ve read the majority, and fortunately, should I decide to finish the list, at least seven others are in the piles of books around home that I want to read but never got around to.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Dune, Frank Herbert
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
Cities in Flight, James Blish
The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
Gateway, Frederik Pohl
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
Little, Big, John Crowley
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
On the Beach, Nevil Shute
Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
Ringworld, Larry Niven
Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Timescape, Gregory Benford
To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

Happy Birthday Douglas Adams

Today is the birthday of Douglas Adams, author of the classic five volume trilogy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I thought I’d celebrate with some quotes from his work:

The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.

He hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn’t an afterlife.

Humans are not proud of their ancestors, and rarely invite them round to dinner.

It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an Airport’ appear.

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

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