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: The Defenders; David Tennant Returning To Jessica Jones; Krysten Ritter on Season 2 of Jessica Jones; Karen Gillan; Sense8; Dick Gregory And Jerry Lewis Die

The Defenders was the big event of the week. Considering what a major event it was, along with only being eight episodes and being released in the summer without much competition, I am going to assume that most who are interested have already viewed it and will vary from my usual practice of holding off on spoilers about Netflix shows until after they have been out for a while. Before getting into spoilers in the rest of the review, I will say that the series was mixed in terms of plotting and pace, but certainly worthwhile to see all four stars of the Netflix Marvel series together. Just hearing Krysten Ritter’s wise cracks made up for slow moments. I would advise those who held off on watching Iron Fist due to its weak reviews to watch this first. The villains in The Defenders are from the Hand, with this story being largely a continuation of Iron Fist. While it therefore has some of the weaknesses of Iron Fist, it is improved by the character interactions of the other characters.

The Defenders starts with Danny Rand and rapidly makes the final scene at K’un-Lun almost irrelevant, at least for now, as he quickly returned to New York. Even worse, they quickly dispensed with the ending of Luke Cage as he was quickly released from prison. The show had all four leads in New York City, and there were enough connections between the four shows to make it plausible for their paths to begin to cross. Still, it wasn’t until the fourth episode that all four were together as a team.

The series did benefit from cutting down from thirteen to eight episodes, but there were still problems with the plot. Dealing with the Hand did not feel entirely like a rehash of Iron Fist by bringing in Sigourney Weaver along with the other heroes. There was also good use of the supporting characters from the other series, most significantly with a resurrected Electra. It was surprising to see Sigourney Weaver’s character only lasting through the first six episode, similar to the change in villain midway through Luke Cage.

The final fifteen minutes took place after the main event with the apparent death of Matt Murdock becoming the focus. This did not work very well as, even if it wasn’t already know that at third Daredevil series was planned (including news earlier in the week of plans to start shooting in October),they would not be likely to kill off the most well known member of the team. Plus fans of the genre know that if  you don’t see a body, the character is undoubtedly alive–and in this series even being seen as dead is no guarantee that this state will persist. Finally, Matt Murdock was seen in the final seconds, likely setting up matters for the next series.

The belief that Matt Murdock was dead also placed Iron Fist in a situation where he was asked to protect the city, and he did appear like Daredevil in his final scene. We don’t know for sure if the Hand is really destroyed, but this does provide for an alternative type of story line for his second season in a more traditional super hero role.

Being Marvel, there was even a scene after the credits (which I had to search for as my setup of Netflix on a Roku tried to skip past the credits). The scene involved Frank Castle, the Punisher. More on that scene at Screen Rant.

Entertainment Weekly interviewed Defenders showrunner Marco Ramirez:

Let’s start not at the beginning, where Jessica likes to begin her interrogations, but at the ending. Is this the definitive end to the Hand? What can you tell me about the status of everybody in the organization who didn’t get decapitated? That includes Gao, Murakami, and Elektra.
Well, in the Marvel world — and as Jeph Loeb, the Marvel TV head, would say — in the comic-book world, you can always find a way. The story finds a way, so who knows? But we definitely felt like we wanted this to be the end of this specific show, so while I don’t know if it’s the end of the Hand forever — who knows what will happen in the future — it just felt like it’s the end of this story in the lore. Particularly for Iron Fist, we wanted to close that chapter [of the Hand’s story]. I don’t know what the future holds. That’s a Jeph Loeb question [laughs] but for me and for the writers’ room, it felt right to end the story here.

That dragon skeleton — that wasn’t Shou-Lao the Undying’s, is it? It’s just a pile of bones implying that there had been dragons all over the world and one wound up buried under New York?
Yeah, it’s the second one. The idea of that was that there had always been this kind of mystery that the Hand can bring people back from the dead, but we never knew exactly how, and it made sense to connect the life-force idea of the chi in the Iron Fist to the idea of the life force [the Hand members] use for various purposes, so we’re just saying it’s dragon bone that they use, that that’s the substance. That felt like the cleanest way to tie everything in.

And it’s been set up since Daredevil season 1; Gao operates in the background of New York with drugs made from that ground into powder. It felt like we could make back alley drug deals in New York and dragon mythology all part of the same story, so that was my way of trying to tie them all in.

But then, do we know where the city of K’un-Lun went? A part of me thought that was Shou-Lao only because K’un-Lun disappeared, and New York did have a conveniently huge hole in the middle of it.
That’s a question for the Iron Fist showrunner, not me. Honestly, I don’t know where they’re going with that…

I’m running with it. Moving on to Matt’s near-death, why did he find it so important to stay behind to fight Elektra, knowing that he would probably not make it out alive?
To me, Matt and Elektra always felt like Edward Norton’s character and Tyler Durden in Fight Club except with a more overt sexual dynamic. [Laughs] And so, in the end, it felt more like the end of Fight Club…  Emotionally, Matt knows and has to embrace the fact that she’s his burden to deal with, and though he’s fought for three episodes alongside Luke, Jessica, and Danny, Elektra is his problem, his cross to bear. That’s very Matt Murdock to say “Don’t worry about it, I’ll do this. I’m going to die for this.”

How exactly did he make it out alive in the end? Can you tell me?
I can’t. I can’t say anything.

You’re back to keeping secrets!
I know, I know.

Well, can you confirm for me that the Maggie mentioned at the end of the series is Matt’s mom?
[Laughs] I can’t confirm anything! I can say that visually that shot at the end of Daredevil’s story was definitely an homage, as were a couple of other scenes, to the comics. That’s one of my favorite Daredevil images, so regardless of who any of the characters are, I went to the production meeting saying this is the image we’re going for, we’re going to feel like this, and that came from that image that I purposely borrowed from the comics.

Let’s go back to The Defenders. Before the Midland Circle showdown, Elektra brutally murdered Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, literally stabbing her in the back with her preferred sai. Why did you kill off who we thought was the Big Bad of the entire series at the end of episode 6?
Well, part of it was just about giving the audience a little something unexpected. Audiences I think sometimes expect that a major storyline or major character is going to end in the ultimate or penultimate episode so they go, “Oh all right, something’s going to happen here at the end of the story,” so it just felt like a jolt, and it was exciting to write. The second part was really in a way we introduced Sigourney’s character a little bit to highlight Elektra’s story. I like to think that we wrote a really fun cool character for Sigourney but really it was also a way for us to say this is the journey that Elektra is going on…

Back when the series was still filming, Jeph Loeb had said this series could end with these characters telling each other they never want to see each other again. So to you, at the end of this season, what would you call the Defenders? Are they teammates? Friends? Acquaintances?
I think of them mostly as like people who were on the same bus when it got in an accident, and then they all filled out paperwork together, and they all went to the hospital together, and now they’re going home. And it’s kind of like, “This was a great adventure to have with you, I’d be okay with seeing you again, I’d also be okay with never seeing you again.” It’s more like a bond that happens in a crisis. People are intimate now, but it’s not like you’ll be inviting them over for dinner every Tuesday. [Laughs] We designed it so they could go back to their individual worlds, but it’s not like they’re apart permanently in any way.

This week’s Doctor Who news overlaps with characters involved in The Defenders. David Tennant was the best of a handful of strong villains in the Netflix shows, and I had wondered if a second season of Jessica Jones will be as strong without him. There was surprise news this week that David Tennant will be returning to the second season, with no word as to the specifics. It is possible it could be as flashbacks or as something in Jessica’s head. I also wonder if perhaps he only made Jessica (and the audience) think he was killed, or if surviving a broken neck is another one of his abilities.

David Tennant is also going to star with Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) in an adaption of the Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett novel Good Omens on Amazon.

As I noted last week, David Tennant has been speaking out in favor of Jodie Whittaker being cast as the thirteenth Doctor. The Sunday Express also looked at that, along with the news on how her father was kept in the dark about the role.

Krysten Ritter discussed the second season of Jessica Jones with Bustle:

Ritter emphasizes that the key topic of the second season will be exploring “more of why Jessica is the way she’s is” (which could also lend itself to some therapy sessions). She argued we shouldn’t assume that the superhero’s personality is just about Kilgrave: “Even in the source material, so much stuff has happened to her. You feel for her … Every time, you’re just like, ‘Ugh, she’s been through so much.’ Yet she still fights. Which is what we love about her.”

And if you’ve been wondering what could have led to the character’s pessimism and cynicism, it sounds like this is going to be the season we’ll get plenty of answers. Which is a lottery win of a plot development, right? But the actor also warns audiences that while she has been hoping to recreate Season 1, that this is a radically different beast, summarizing the evolution in where each installment took place. “The first season was in her head and the second season is in her heart,” offers Ritter.

Karen Gillan already has a character in the Marvel Universe in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and she has a definite role which she desires in the DC universe–The Joker. From ComicBook.com:

karen Gillan is best known across the pop culture landscape for her roles as Doctor Who‘s Amy Pond and Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Nebula. But if she had a chance to lend her talents to another corner of geek culture – the live-action DC Comics universe – there’s one character she would like to play.

During a panel at Florida SuperCon, Gillan was asked what character she would be willing to play in another fandom. And to the surprise of comic fans, she had a noteworthy DC Comics antagonist – The Joker – in mind.

“Oh, can I say something DC?” Gillain asked. “Okay, I’m going to say something DC, and I’m going to play the Joker. Maybe a female Joker.”

A fan then informed Gillan that there is comic precedent for a female Joker, with Martha Wayne taking on the mantle in DC’s 2011 event Flashpoint.

“This is my calling!” Gillan said with a gasp. “Somebody make a call for me and let them know I’m available.”

…At the end of the day, Gillan might not end up playing the DCEU’s version of Flashpoint Joker, largely because she’s busy filming Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity WarAvengers 4, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. But you have to admit that it’s pretty easy to picture her playing the fan-favorite role in some capacity.

In other cross-genre casting news, Susie Abromeit, who played Jeri Hogarth’s girlfriend Pam in Jessica Jones, has been cast to play Ray Palmer’s mother on Legends of Tomorrow. The episode goes back to Ray’s childhood in the 1980’s

Last week I noted that Lana Wachowski is writing a third season of Sense8 in the hopes that it will be picked up somewhere. The porn site xHamster has made an offer to continue the series in a letter posted here. I have my doubts as to whether having fans go to a porn site will be an acceptable option, but maybe that would mean that the annual orgy scenes would be more explicit.

Two comedians who were otherwise quite different now have one thing in common–having died this weekend. Dick Gregory died yesterday. The Washington Post reports:

The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

“A Southern liberal?” he once said. “That’s a guy that’ll lynch you from a low tree.” Another: “When I get drunk, I think I’m Polish. One night I got so drunk I moved out of my own neighborhood.” On segregation: “I know the South very well. I spent 20 years there one night.”

Mr. Gregory, 84, died Aug. 19 in Washington. His son, Christian Gregory, announced the death on Mr. Gregory’s official social media accounts. The cause was not reported.

Jerry Lewis died this morning. Variety reports:

Jerry Lewis, the brash slapstick comic who became a pop culture sensation in his partnership with Dean Martin and then transformed himself into an auteur filmmaker of such comedic classics as “The Nutty Professor” and “The Bellboy,” has died in Las Vegas. He was 91.

Lewis died at his home in Las Vegas at about 9:15 a.m. Sunday morning, his agent confirmed.

For most of his career, Lewis was a complicated and sometimes polarizing figure. An undeniable comedic genius, he pursued a singular vision and commanded a rare amount of creative control over his work with Paramount Pictures and other studios. He legacy also includes more than $2.5 billion raised for the Muscular Dystrophy Association through the annual Labor Day telethon that he made an end-of-summer ritual for decades until he was relieved of the hosting job in 2011.

But Lewis’ brand of humor did not always wear well as times and attitudes changed. Over the last 10 years of his life, his reputation soured slightly as he was forced to apologize for making a gay slur on camera during the 2007 telethon, continued to make racist and misogynistic jokes, and didn’t hesitate to share his right-wing political views.