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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Entertainment Weekly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Dr. Cotton’s Bizarre Ideas, Boardwalk Empire & The Knick; DC and Marvel Movie Plans; Twin Peaks; The IT Crowd & Other British Adaptations

DoctorWho Flatline

Flatline managed to provide an episode of Doctor Who which successfully combined elements of both horror and humor. While not a totally original idea, it was something not seen on Doctor Who before, and realistically few television shows manage to come up with ideas which have not been influenced by other works. Think of it as if the residents of Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott were to invade earth, with a touch of The Adams Family thrown in.

Besides the idea of two dimensional beings invading, there was the added component of the TARDIS shrinking when the “structural integrity is compromised.” This did contradict The Name of the Doctor which showed such leaking to cause the TARDIS to swell in size, not shrink. The shrinking of the TARDIS, with the Doctor trapped inside, did enable Clara to take a leading role in this episode. This whole situation was quite difficult for the Doctor: “I mean this is just embarrassing. I’m from the race that built the TARDIS. Dimensions are kind of our thing.”

The Doctor did win out in the end. Ultimately the aliens from the two dimensional world were defeated by their inability to distinguish a two dimensional picture of a door from a real three dimensional door.

With the Doctor separated from the action for most of the episode, Clara took on the role of the Doctor, including taking on a companion, Rigsy, and calling herself the Doctor:

Rigsy: “What are you the doctor of?”
The Doctor: “Of lies.”
Clara: “Well, I’m usually quite vague about that. I think I just picked the title because it makes me sound important.”
The Doctor: “Why, ‘Doctor Oswald,’ you are hilarious.”

Clara did show Rigsy the inside of the shrunken TARDIS leading to the classic comment, “It’s bigger on the inside.” This set up the Doctor’s response:  “I don’t think that statement has ever been more true.”

Doctor Who Flatline1

Clara also showed that she can act like the Doctor, from using the Sonic Screwdriver to using his tactics:

Clara: “I just hope I can keep them all alive.”
The Doctor: “Ha. Welcome to my world. So, what’s next, ‘Doctor Clara’?”
Clara: “Lie to them.”
The Doctor: “What?”
Clara: “‘Lie to them.’ Give them hope. Tell them they’re all going to be fine. Isn’t that what you would do?”
The Doctor: “In a manner of speaking. It is true that people with hope tend to run faster, whereas people who think they’re doomed …”
Clara: “Dawdle. End up dead.”
The Doctor: “So, that’s what I sound like?”

Ultimately, when Clara asked if she did a good job, the Doctor did respond, “You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara. Goodness had nothing to do with it.” We still have the question from the start of the season as to whether the Doctor is a good man, and whether they are doing good.

The most amusing gag of all in the episode was seeing the Doctor’s full sized hand emerge from the tiny TARDIS to walk it away from an oncoming train.  The episode was very light on Danny Pink, but we did have another amusing scene with Clara talking on the phone with Danny, hiding the fact that she was in danger. The previews do show him taking an active part next week, but it still remains unclear whether we will ultimately see a return to two teachers from Coal Hill School being companions aboard the TARDIS as was teased last summer.

The ending scene with Missy took a different turn from her previous scenes, with Missy saying, “Clara, my Clara. I chose well.” It has already been suggested that it was Missy who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number back in The Bells of Saint John, but we still have no idea as to what Missy’s overall plan is. Also uncertain is whether this has any connection to Clara’s role in The Name of the Doctor to become fragmented in time and have a role in each of the Doctor’s regenerations.

The writers this season do seem to be writing as if some of the past events have not taken place, almost starting fresh with Clara and the Peter Capaldi Doctor. Even going back to the season premiere in Deep Breath, the Clara who saw each regeneration in The Name of the Doctor should not have been as surprised by seeing the changes in the Doctor after his regeneration. Perhaps the events of The Time of the Doctor, with the Doctor gaining additional regenerations and not dying on Trenzalore, also mean there was never a giant TARDIS tomb for the Doctor and Clara never was fragmented in time. The Missy story line might wind up providing a completely different version of Clara’s life.

The Doctor Who Extra for Flatline is above.

While both the Doctor and now Clara having claimed to be a doctor without formal qualifications, there are some actual doctors who have done considerable harm despite having true medical degrees. One example, Dr. Henry Cotton, has appeared on cable television shows in the past week both on The Knick (at the start of his career and Boardwalk Empire (near the end). He was a real person. Henry Cotton believed that psychiatric problems were based upon infections and his treatment often began with pulling the teeth of psychiatric patients. If this did not provide a cure, then he would proceed to remove other organs which he believed were the cause of the infection. Needless to say, in an age before antibiotics, such unnecessary surgery could have catastrophic results. At one point during his career Cotton even had a nervous breakdown. He responded by pulling his own teeth, then proclaimed himself to be cured and returned to work.

Knowing the factual basis behind Dr. Cotton’s life leaves me concerned about Gillian Darmody’s fate after she told Dr. Cotton that she felt she was cured. We already saw another woman at the asylum undergo surgery, and Cotton would not be likely to accept Gillian’s assessment that she is cured without surgically removing what he believes to be the site of her infection. Being the final season,  Boardwalk Empire does have the ability to show tragic endings for its characters. This included the deaths of two long time characters last week. While Boardwalk Empire is ending, The Knick just ended its first season and has done an excellent job of showing what medical care was like back in 1900 and the development of new ideas such as transfusions.

News came in last week that a cable series which debut last summer, Manhattan, was renewed. While I have not seen the series, I feel comfortable in recommending this show about the development of the atomic bomb based upon several favorable reviews. (Although I have not seen Manhattan yet, do I get any points for reading Joseph Kanon’s novel, Los Alamos, several years ago?)

Still no news on whether Continuum will be renewed.

Episode 101

I would also recommend another new cable series which I did see the premiere of last weekend, The Affair. The main story involves an affair from the viewpoint of both parties, each telling their version for half the episode. We have narrators who are unreliable at least due to the faults in human memory. There might be additional reason for intentional deceit as we found that the stories are being told as part of a possible criminal investigation years afterwards, similar to in the first season of True Detective. It also reminds me of William Landay’s novel, Saving Jacob, in which there are glimpses of future questioning but we don’t know who the accused is or the crime until the end of the novel.

The creator of The Affair, Sarah Treem, discussed the dual narratives in an interview at The Hollywood Reporter:

With Noah and Alison remembering different accounts of the same stories, the series explores the notion of objective truth. Do you think there’s such a thing?

I think there is such a thing as objective truth. There are events that actually happen. As individuals our understanding of what happens is often quite limited. Sometimes the only way to get at objective truth is to have multiple people tell their own version of the same event. It is the job then of the interrogator, the therapist, the audience member, whomever, to basically try to find the commonality between the accounts in order to figure out what actually happened. That’s basically what we’re trying to do with this show. We’re not saying there’s no such thing as truth — there absolutely is — but we don’t think that one person is usually the arbiter of the truth. We think that it comes forward in conversation. There’s this quote, I think it’s from Hegel, but it’s the idea that all understanding is dialectic, meaning that nothing gets understood unless it’s as a result of a conversation. That’s how I think of the two sides of this show, that it’s a conversation from which the audience gains an understanding.

Will we see the perspectives of other characters besides Alison and Noah?

Not this season but maybe in subsequent seasons, if we get them.

We see a lot of overlapping stories that vary slightly depending on who’s telling them. What’s it like to have to regularly write two versions of the same event?

It’s a really fun exercise for a writer. It’s just about putting yourself in another character’s perspective, seeing the scene through the other character’s eyes. For the scene at the end of the pilot [where Alison and Cole have sex on their car], I was interested in writing a scene that looked like an attack on one side, and then coming back into it knowing more about what was actually happening to where all of the sudden the scene plays as a very different negotiation. Writers are trained at this because you’re always approaching the story through somebody’s eyes so it’s just a great, enjoyable exercise to go back and think, “Well, I wrote it this way the first time and now let me jump into a different character’s body and a different character’s mind and let me try it again and just see what happens.”

super-movies

Both Warner (DC) and the various studies which own the rights to Marvel characters have recently released news on their upcoming movie plans. Comics Alliance has more information and has put together the above infographic.

Here is an ambitious list from Warner Brothers:

  • “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” directed by Zack Snyder (2016)
  • “Suicide Squad,” directed by David Ayer (2016)
  • “Wonder Woman,” starring Gal Gadot (2017)
  • “Justice League Part One,” directed by Zack Snyder, with Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams reprising their roles (2017)
  • “The Flash,” starring Ezra Miller (2018)
  • “Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa (2018)
  • “Shazam” (2019)
  • “Justice League Part Two,” directed by Zack Snyder (2019)
  • “Cyborg,” starring Ray Fisher (2020)
  • “Green Lantern” (2020)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice producer Charles Roven recently gave an interview with more information on the movie, including the origin story for Wonder Woman which is being used.

Unlike Marvel, DC is keeping their movie and television universes separate. While Gotham will probably need to be kept in a separate world of its own, Green Arrow, The Flash, and next Supergirl are forming their own television universe. Many fans are angry that Stephen Amell and Grant Guston won’t be appearing as Green Arrow and The Flash in the  Justice League movie. While fans would probably prefer such continuity, it does make it easier to wrote both the television shows and the movies if there is not a need for consistency. We saw how Agents of SHIELD was harmed by a need to postpone mention of HYDRA taking over SHIELD until after Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released.

avengers-captain-america-iron-man

Marvel fans are getting more excited by what appears to be planned. While Robert Downey, Jr. has not agreed to do another stand alone Iron Man movie, he may be appearing in Captain America 3, which reportedly involves the two being on opposing sides over the Superhero Registration Act. This could also be the end of Chris Evans as Steve Roberts. of There have also been rumors of Marvel making a deal with Sony, which owns the cinematic rights to Spider-Man, to allow him to appear, which sounds plausible as Spider-Man had a role in this storyline in the comics. Several other Marvel characters are also rumored to be appearing.

Emma-Stone-Cabaret_612x830

Meanwhile Emma Stone, when not playing the role of Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man, will be playing Sally Bowles on Broadway in Caberet.

With Twin Peaks coming back we have twenty-five years to catch up on. Mark Frost is writing a book to fill in this gap. I am looking forward to see what they do with the series and which characters return. I do hope that Audrey Horne returns and has a daughter who can tie a knot in a cherry stem with her tongue.

The IT Crowd

NBC has commissioned Bill Lawrence (Scrubs) to do a remake of the fantastic British sit-com, The IT Crowd. I have mixed feelings about such attempts to remake UK shows here. NBC’s first attempt at a remake, with cast including Joel McHale, was reportedly a total flop and never aired. NBC also failed in adapting Coupling, another excellent British sit-com written by Steven Moffat.

Fox has  had their own problems in attempting to remake British shows, both with Gracepoint (a remake of Broadchurch) and Us and Them (a remake of Gavin and Stacey).

SciFi Weekend: Sleepy Hollow & Other Cliffhangers; Doctor Who & Sherlock Win At National Television Awards; The Americans; Arrow; Wonder Woman; Revolution; Hannibal; SHIELD

SLEEPY-HOLLOW-FINALE

Sleepy Hollow ended its first season with several cliffhangers, placing virtually all the major characters in some sort of danger. If they had known how successful the show would be, perhaps they wouldn’t have had to resort to such gimmicks. Get the viewers to return the next season based upon the quality of the show rather than ending with cliffhangers for the sake of cliff hangers. With all the shows now on, people aren’t even likely to recall all the cliffhangers, especially with the longer wait following a show with only a thirteen episode run.

This isn’t to say I oppose all cliff hangers. Back when Dallas first ran the Who Shot JR? storyline, this was somewhat unique for network television, and the buzz around it was a major television event. Star Trek The Next Generation had a great cliffhanger in Best of Both Worlds with Riker ordering the Enterprise to fire on Borg Picard.  The buzz over that summer helped make the show. Most cliffhangers are not this good and do not provide comparable benefits.

An alternative to the cliffhanger which I prefer is for a show to tie up the major story lines at the end of a season and then foreshadow what is coming next. Once Upon A Time did an excellent job with this. The show has been mixed quality-wise, but the old Lost writers on the show manage to keep things interesting by changing things every season. The Peter Pan story from the fall season was drawn out too long, but if you take out the middle episodes where everyone seemed to just wander around Neverland, it did end well. After concluding the story, there was a great final scene taking place a year later which sets up the show when it returns. They got the benefit of favorable publicity and talk about what is happening next without making the viewers wait to see the current story tied up.

Sleepy Hollow didn’t need a bunch of cliffhangers in the finale to create discussion among the fans. Without putting everyone in immediate danger, there was a major revelation and change for the show via John Noble’s character. It was like having him change from Walter to Walternate on Fringe but remain the same person. I was happy to see Captain Irving’s wife find out what is going on so he will no longer need to make lame excuses for not being home, but now we have to see him get off on the charges he confessed to to protect his daughter when processed. On top of all this, we got a flashback to see Zombie George Washington!

Doctor Who did well at the National Television Awards. The show won as Best Drama, beating Broadchurch, Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. Matt Smith won for Best Drama Performance, beating  Miranda Hart (Call The Midwife), Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) and Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey). He was not present to accept the award in person. Instead it was accepted by Steven Moffat and Jenna Coleman (video above). Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) won the award for Best TV Detective.

russell-americans_opt

The Americans returns February 26. Here’s some information released about the second season during a panel at the Television Critics Association press tour:

This season will turn the focus back on the family.
“We felt like [season 1] had been so focused on the marriage,” says EP Joe Weisberg, “and the natural place to go next was the family.” Particularly with Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth’s (Keri Russell) marriage on more solid ground, they wanted to move on to exploring “the next point of fracture” — the family unit.

Paige’s curiosity continues
At the end of the first season, the Jennings’ teenage daughter started to show signs of increasing curiosity about her parents and their ongoings, and this season, questions will start being asked and “it’s not going to go great,” says EP Joel Fields. “Teenagers are hard,” adds Weisberg. “They’re all tough on mom and dad.”

Margo Martindale returns
The actress will be back for several episodes this season as KGB handler Claudia. The fate of her CBS comedy The Millers will not determine what comes next for that character, as The Americans will be done filming the second season in March — well before broadcast network renewals are typically announced. That said, if Martindale finds herself available full time and the show gets a third season, “It’s hard to argue with more Margo Martindale,” says Fields. “We love that character and we love her.”

Martha will get a backbone this season!
Martha’s faux-marriage with Philip will actually serve to strengthen the character, who is widely thought of as insecure, the producers said. “Who she was was extremely lonely and extremely vulnerable and she’s less lonely this season, so it’s allowing her to grow,” says Weisberg. “It’s a law of unintended consequences,” adds Fields.

There’s a racy scene in the premiere
Without giving away too much, a racy scene in the season premiere had critics buzzing. According to Weisberg, the purpose was to depict a show of love between Philip and Elizabeth that was “powerful, shocking, and funny.” You’ll see.

Stan is in a power struggle.
“He’s got such an interesting season coming up,” says Weisberg. “Nina is getting ahead of him. You see that at the end of the first season, and that’s such an interesting place for him to be in and so true and so real for what happens to people when you’re playing this back-and-forth game. People who are smart and good can have people get ahead of them because they are also smart and good at what they do too.” And while Stan is a man who is used to a certain amount of pressure, what it does to him will be “great” to watch, he says.

BONUS BURNING QUESTION: Is the show ever heading to Russia?
The producers said they have “half-joked” about having a season that takes place in Russia, later admitting that such a task would require heaps of funding. But, they said, “I think we’re going to eventually have some storylines there,” teases Weisberg. In fact, he added, there will, like season 1, be some material set in Russia. But filming in the country remains on their to-do. “It would basically be a budget question,” he said.

Tremors

Arrow star Stephen Amell says that episode 15, The Promise, is “grandest, most challenging and most difficult episode” of the series:

“Episode 15 that we have coming up – and this is breaking news – it’s an island-centric episode,” he revealed to Entertainment Weekly Radio. “We take our usual format of 75% of the time in Starling City and 25% of the time on [the island], and we flip it upside down.”

He continued: “[In this episode], there is a shot where we establish where we are and it’s the biggest shot that we’ve ever done on the show. There’s people getting blown up. There’s people getting thrown overboard.

“There are all of these incredible things happening, and then the camera zooms from way, way, way out and it comes in to end on a close-up of me. And all I had to do was evade a punch and bang a guy’s head into the wall. I was super nervous!”

Gal Gadot2

Gal Gadot has been signed to appear as Wonder Woman in three movies: the Superman vs. Batman movie, a Justice League movie, and a Wonder Woman standalone movie. Presumably this might be extended further if the character does well.

I don’t know if this is the official final storyline, but this synopsis  (spoiler) of the Fantastic Four reboot leaked out from casting calls:

“The Fantastic Four’ will tell the story of two very young friends, Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. After an event transforms the boys, they find themselves empowered with bizarre new abilities. Reed becomes a scientific genius who can stretch, twist and re-shape his body to inhuman proportions. Ben becomes a monstrous, craggy humanoid with orange, rock-like skin and super strength. However, the two end up being owned by the government and used as weapons. But after they mature, two others with powers come into the picture – Sue Storm “The Invisible Girl” and Johnny Storm “The Human Torch.”

I’m glad I stuck with Revolution. The show still has its flaws, but when it gets away from the daddy issues of major characters, the current story lines are getting better. (Along these lines, when will they reveal that Miles is Charlie’s father? This is so obvious, even if it isn’t intended by the writers.) One good thing about the show from the start has been that the story does advance and they are not constantly repeating similar stories. Now there are the Patriots who are getting into eugenics. I thought the story line with Aaron and the nanobots was pretty dumb last fall, but suddenly that is becoming interesting. Of course any storyline with Giancarlo Esposito has hope due to the quality of his acting. Currently Tom and Julia Neville/Doyle are in Washington, D.C. but unfortunately for Tom his plot has been exposed. I’m sure he will recover from his current setback, but should they ever decide to end his time on the show, I hope he goes out in a scene where half his face is blown off, as happened with his character Gus on Breaking Bad.

A longer trailer for Season 2 of Hannibal, which starts February 28, has been released–video above.

Two characters will be killed in the first episode when Under the Dome returns. I’m having a tough time getting down to only two characters who I would like to see get killed. Maybe they can kill two characters every week. That might help the show.

HBO has renewed The Newsroom for a third and final season. I’m glad that Aaron Sorkin’s show will be returning, but wish there would be more than one season to go.

CHLOE BENNET

Maybe I’m getting softer, but I also think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has improved. I am glad to hear that there will be more than has been revealed so far on the mysteries surrounding two of the characters according to an interview with Chloe Bennett:

Though “Seeds” and its “SHIELD Hogwarts” storyline was one of the series’ more playful episodes, Bennet says that the end of episode 13 “TRACKS” is “f***ing crazy” and will leave viewers “very worried.” Henstridge backs her up, saying that the rest of this season gets very serious and very intense.

“The thing about the next few episodes that we’re about to film and that are about to be shown, it starts getting very serious and the tone goes a lot darker,” Henstridge says. “There’s less kind of comedic things for us to do. The stakes just go through the roof. With Coulson having been kidnapped, things start to get very scary. So I think it’s more focused on the mission and there’s a lot of mystery around Skye, and that starts to be explored. So that’s kind of the main mystery.”

In terms of the mystery surrounding Coulson’s death, Bennet also acknowledges that there is a lot left fore viewers to find out — and that she thinks we’ll find out those answers before the end of Season 1.

“We found out what Tahiti was — or lack thereof — but we didn’t know why. Why is it a huge secret?” Bennet asks. “There’s a couple big question marks. There’s: What am I? Where am I from? Why the f*** are they not telling Coulson why he died? And then there’s: Who’s the Clairvoyant? Who’s the head of Centipede? What is happening? Basically starting next episode, it’s bam bam bam bam bam from here on, so it will be a lot of answers and a lot of drama.”

Jamie Alexander will be appearing on an upcoming episode reprising her role as Lady Sif from the Thor movies. There are also upcoming guest appearances from Stan Lee and Bill Paxton.

Parks and Recreation has been renewed for a seventh season, and it is looking hopeful that Community will return for a sixth season.

Colin Jost has been named to replace Seth Meyers as the anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

Mr. Selfridge returned last week for a second season on ITV. It picks up four years after season one, but the events of the end of the season still have ramifications.

SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; Daredevil; Terminator And Other Dangers of Artificial Intelligence; Orphan Black; Continuum; Doctor Who; Veronica Mars; Superman; Batman; Wonder Woman and More

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Arrow is in the middle of a two-part story which introduces Barry Allen, who will later become The Flash. The steady introduction of new characters, who then leave before they have overstayed their welcome, has been a strong point of the series. There is also a potential reversal in Oliver’s relationship with Felicity. I just hope they don’t turn this into another Laurel storyline. There are some pictures and minor spoilers from next week’s episode posted here.

While the show is far from perfect, and sometimes lapses into CW-style soap opera, it has been an admirable attempt to portray a super hero story in live action. The show has received considerable notice this season, including a recent article in The New York Times which refers back to another excellent review which I mentioned in a previous post:

There is a consensus, among fans, critics and network executives that with “Arrow,” Mr. Berlanti seems to have found the right formula for making a comic book hero work as a television protagonist. (A headline in The Hollywood Reporter asked, “Is Arrow the Best Live-Action Superhero Show Ever?”) The episodes are peppered with references from the comic books — adversaries with names like Deathstroke and Count Vertigo — but not so many as to confuse viewers who might not know the source material.

“Greg does not tend to do projects he does not really believe in,” said the CW president, Mark Pedowitz. “‘Arrow,’ in a way, was contrary. It’s not ‘Smallville.’ It’s a much darker, grittier version of a comic book character. That was not normal CW programming.”

When he pitched “Arrow” two years ago, Mr. Berlanti, who got involved with DC in 2007, when he wrote the original draft of the “Green Lantern” feature film, said he envisioned the series less as a superhero tale than a “Bourne Identity” type thriller: a continuing story of a privileged playboy who finds himself shipwrecked, held captive and tortured on a remote island, where he must acquire new skills — and a new sense of himself — to survive. That playboy, Oliver Queen (played by Stephen Amell) returns to Starling City five years later a different, better but still in some ways tortured man. And he’s become really good with a bow and arrow.

“The story of that transformation” — told through flashbacks to the island — “will continue through the whole series,” Mr. Berlanti said. “The beginning of the show (Oliver being rescued and returning to civilization) will be the end of the show as well. That was always the pitch.”

The article also compares the show to Agents of SHIELD, with The Guardian being clearer in the difference between the two with an article under the headline: Superhero TV: Agents of SHIELD could learn a lot from Arrow.

Agents of SHIELD will be introducing two new characters:

Episode 14 will introduce two recurring characters: an African-American agent who specializes in combat/weapons, and a high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent/munitions expert who has past ties to both Coulson and Ward.

Any hope that this means they will be eliminating two (or more) of the current weak characters?

While the Daredevil movie had terrible reviews, Blastr provides considerable hope that the Daredevil television show will be far better:

The pattern of Whedon-adjacent creators taking on Marvel properties continues. Not that we’re complaining.

Daredevil is slated to be the first Marvel character that Netflix will be releasing into the wild world of instant streaming sometime in 2015. If you were wondering who the boss is going to be, wonder no more — it’s Drew Goddard.

Just in case the name doesn’t immediately fire off all your geeky synapses, let’s run through his credits — Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Alias, Lost, Cabin in the Woods, World War Z, and the list goes on. Goddard is the one-man link between the two most powerful men in sci-fi — Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams. And now he’ll be writing and directing the Daredevil pilot in addition to executive-producing it.

As choices go, that’s about as good as both Netflix and we can hope for. What his vision is? That remains to be seen.

Based on his body of work, though, we’d say Daredevil is in good hands.

Terminator-Sarah-Connor-Chronicles-reboot

Not only is there planned reboot of the Terminator movies. The Hollywood Reporter has a story on a planned television series based upon the upcoming movie:

The producers behind the upcoming fifth installment have tapped Thor and X-Men: First Class writers Zack Stentz and Ashley Miller to write and executive produce a new Terminator television series that will be a companion piece to the rebooted trilogy.

The TV series will follow a critical moment from the first Terminator film (1984), and where the film’s story goes one way, the upcoming series will take the same moment in a completely different direction. As the rebooted film trilogy and the new TV series progress, the two narratives will intersect with each other in surprising and dramatic ways.

I wish they would have produced a conclusion for the cliffhanger which ended The Sarah Connor Chronicles before going on to a new series. Still, the idea of following different time lines in the continuation of the series does sound intriguing if done well.

The Drudge Retort has an interesting discussion on the potential risk of artificial intelligence:

Documentarian James Barrat, author of Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era, is worried about robots too. Only he’s not worried about them taking our jobs. He’s worried about them exterminating the human race. In Barrat’s telling, we are on the brink of creating machines that will be as intelligent as humans. Specific timelines vary, but the broad-brush estimates place the emergence of human-level AI at between 2020 and 2050. “intelligence explosion” — an onrushing feedback loop where an intelligence makes itself smarter thereby getting even better at making itself smarter. This is, to be sure, a theoretical concept, but it is one that many AI researchers see as plausible, if not inevitable. Through a relentless process of debugging and rewriting its code, our self-learning, self-programming AGI experiences a “hard take off” and rockets past what mere flesh and blood brains are capable of.

orphanblackseason2-600x337

The first new picture from season 2 of Orphan Black teases us with some girl on girl action, with Tatiana Maslany in both positions. Entertainment Weekly spoke with show’s creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson about the second season and the pictured conflict between Sarah Manning and Rachel Duncan, the clone seen at the end of season one who was working with the Neolutionists:

EW: What else, if anything, can you tell us about this image here and what it means for season 2?
MANSON: Probably that if Rachel launched the first volley in this war, this is one of Sarah’s steps in this war.

FAWCETT: Our launching framework for season 2 is really the war between Sarah and Rachel.

EW: You guys just scratched the surface with what we saw with Rachel last season. She’s clearly not a clone we’re not rooting for at this point, nor are we really sympathetic toward her, as we became somewhat sympathetic to Helena over the course of season 1. Where are you planning to go with her in season 2?
FAWCETT: For us, using Helena as an example, it was very interesting to draw a character that began really as one thing — for example, a serial killer — and then through the course of a few episodes become able to add layers and add flesh to the point where you could understand her and be sympathetic to her. So, to me, that was about creating a really dynamic deep interesting character that wasn’t just a cartoon. And I think we feel the same about Rachel. I think you could probably tell from the end of season 1 that Rachel’s got a little bit of heavy to her. And I think what’s interesting to us is that we’re having fun creating a new character this season who isn’t just a heavy. There’s other aspects to her. And that’s been a really fun developing a new girl.

MANSON: No one is just who they seem on Orphan Black. That’s the most important thing. Maybe things get set up as kind of a cliché or as one thing, but we’re always trying to bend it and find the layers to keep it fresh and original.

FAWCETT: Even as a villain, Rachel is going to hold a lot of surprises for us. She’s been a really fun nemesis for Sarah.

EW: Season 1 on any show is all about introducing the story and the characters, and it’s essentially setting the table. And if you do it right, a lot people want to come sit down at that table. But now, in season 2 what do you do to keep them sitting there?
MANSON: Right off the bat we’ve really hit the ground running. We left a lot up in the air, so it’s been a lot of fun figuring out how and when and where those balls land and how they land in unexpected ways. As for Rachel, we did leave last season knowing that Rachel was a child of Neolution, therefore much connected to the origins of the experiment. So I think Rachel is going to help to open a window for us and we ’re going to begin to understand a lot more about the conspiracy.

FAWCETT: Plus, I also think one of the big things we’re going to have to deal with in season 2, which is finding its own twists and turns, is Cosima’s illness. And that is a very pressing bit of drama that is not just straight ahead. It’s got a lot of mystery to it. It’s got a lot of twists and turns to it and it is thematically a big part of season 2 also.

MANSON: It’s a genetic mystery. It’s a genetic biological mystery and it feeds into some of our body horror and it feeds into our science mystery.

Season two of Orphan Black returns on BBC America and on Space on April 19, 2014.

rachel_nichols_continuum_3

Showcase has announced that filming has begun and they will air the third season of Contiuum starting in March, 2014. More from their press release:

In season three of Continuum, Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols; Criminal Minds, Alias) faces the immediate consequences of Alec Sadler’s (Erik Knudsen; Jericho, Scream 4) betrayal at the end of season two – when he disappeared in a flash of light with the time travel device Kiera hoped might send her home. Alec’s impulsive decision sets in motion a chain of events, which pushes Kiera into a shocking alliance with a former enemy.

Kiera must also contend with a newly strategic Liber8 organization, and a growing darkness in her police partner, Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster; Castle, MelrosePlace). Ultimately, all roads lead through young Alec Sadler, and with his genius never having been more tested, his choices force Kiera – and everyone – to examine all they hold dear.

“Season three of Continuum will raise the stakes and expand the universe of our show in ways that will surprise and engage our fans,” said creator/executive producer Simon Barry. “Kiera’s journey brings her experiences that test her beliefs and challenge her resolve. The future is not what it used to be.”

“We could not be happier about the phenomenal success of the show over the first two seasons, with a very loyal and enthusiastic fan base that continues to expand worldwide,” said Reunion Pictures’ Tom Rowe.  “The third season, under the creative direction of Simon Barry, along with fellow Executive Producer/Director Patrick Williams, the first-rate writing team and our exceptional cast, again promises to exceed all expectations.”

New to the cast this season is Rachael Crawford (Alphas,The Firm) who joins as a guest star in a multiple episode arc. Returning cast include Stephen Lobo (Smallville, Little Mosque On The Prairie), Lexa Doig (V, Stargate SG-I), Omari Newton (Blue Mountain State, Sophie), Luvia Petersen (The L Word) and Terry Chen (Bates Motel, Combat Hospital).

SyFy has the rights to air the show in the United States. An air date has not been announced. I hope that they start when Showcase does in Canada. However, SyFy has several shows starting in mid-January and I wouldn’t be surprised if they wait until their thirteen-week runs end before starting another series. Such delays cause a real problem with blogging about shows after downloading upon airing when most US fans have not viewed the show yet.

Disney has bought the rights to Indiana Jones, with a fifth movie now planned. Disney has already been using Indiana Jones themed exhibits in their theme parks and we can assume there will be far more synergistic use of the characters with other Disney marketing.

Jenna Coleman-death-comes-to-pemberley

Jenna Coleman seen above as Lydia Wickham in Death Comes to Pemberley  “BBC One’s Pride and Prejudice follow-up – based on the novel by PD James – is a murder mystery set six years after the events of Jane Austen’s classic.” It will air in the UK later this month with US air date not set yet.

Moffat and Gatiss plan to release a mini-episode of Sherlock on December 25, taking place two years after Sherlock’s “death” in The Reichenbach Fall. The series returns in the UK on New Year’s Day and later in January in the US.

The BBC has announced the air time for the Doctor Who Christmas Special–The Time of the Doctor. It will be on at 7:30 pm. BBC America won’t be airing it until 9 pm in the US, meaning that with the difference in time zones it will be available for download several hours before it airs in the US.

Rebecca Mader, Charlotte on Lost, will join other former actors from Lost as the new villain on Once Upon A Time. Unfortunately they dragged on the Peter Pan plot line for too long. Meanwhile, there sure were a lot of daddy issues this week on Once Upon A Time in Wonderland (which I currently find to be the better of the two).


The Veronica Mars movie will be released on March 14, 2014, about a year after the Kickstart campaign made it a reality. The above video shows the ten-year reunion at Neptune High.

NBC has renewed The Blacklist for a second season.

Netflix has announced that they will be releasing season two of House of Cards on February 14.

Three Breasted Woman Total Recall

ComicBookMovie.com looks at various designs for the three-breasted hooker from Total Recall.

Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, will be appearing in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, scheduled for release in 2015.

I have questioned whether there was any point in having a show about Gotham City before Batman but Fox apparently is interested in airing Gotham, a show about “the origin stories of Commissioner James Gordon and the villains that made Gotham famous.” Now there are reports that Bruce Wayne will appear–but as a ten-year-old.

Is Superman a Fascist? Andrew Sullivan posted all sides of the debate.

***STRICTLY EMBARGOED FOR ALL USAGE IN PRINT AND ONLINE UNTIL 00.01 ON 5 DECEMBER, 2013, GMT*** DOCTOR WHO XMAS 2013

And, finally, another tease for the upcoming Christmas Special, The Time of the Doctor