SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Pilot & Smile; Broadchurch Series Finale; The Magicians Season Finale; The Expanse Season Finale

It was a huge week with several shows returning or ending for the season. Scheduling forced me to break from the usual pattern of reviewing the week’s episode of Doctor Who last week, so I will look at both Pilot and Smile today.

Pilot was not only a show centered around the the introduction of a new companion, but was a partial reboot. The episode did have references to past characters and events, but it would be possible to follow the show without understanding those and watch Doctor Who for the first time. This was perhaps an unusual time to do this considering that next season there will be a new show runner, new Doctor, and probably a new companion, making an even bigger break.

Instead of traveling around time and space, the Doctor is working as a university professor, where he meets his new companion Bill Potts, a worker at the university, who sits in on the Doctor’s lectures. The Doctor was intrigued by her for doing this. Plus he noticed that while most people frown when exposed to something they do not understand, Bill would smile. Although the Doctor was not yet, at least consciously, looking for a new traveling companion, this would be a necessary characteristic of a companion who is constantly exposed to new situations. Teaching was also a position which seems to go along with the various episodes in which Peter Capaldi used a chalk board to write on.

The Doctor supposedly has been lecturing for fifty years, with the TARDIS sitting in the corner of his office with an “out of order” sign. His desk also contains pictures of Susan and of River Song. Between items in his lectures, and conversations with Bill, viewers received an overview of what the Doctor, the TARDIS, and time travel are all about. Of course don’t get too concerned about the details, including details which only Bill has asked such as why an acronym in a language from another planet would still spell out TARDIS. In the end the Doctor gave the essential meaning: “Time and Relative Dimension in Space. It means what the hell.”

The episode was primarily about establishing the relationship between Bill and the Doctor, and was entertaining by having Bill ask questions, and not necessarily react as other companions do. They dragged out Bill giving the inevitable “It’s bigger on the inside” line. As for how it works: “First you have to imagine a very big box fitting inside a very small box. Then you have to make one … it’s the second part people normally get stuck on.”

They played on the “Doctor Who?” question with a new variation when Bill asked, “The Doctor’s not a name. I can’t just call you Doctor. Doctor what?”

Of course there were two other elements to this story. There is the vault which the Doctor is protecting, which provides the reason for why he is teaching at the university for fifty  years. There is no clue as to when this happens.  Perhaps the Doctor went back in time fifty years  and began his job at the university, overlapping with his existence on earth which we have seen. More likely, we are not supposed to question this.

There was also a story, but the story of the sentient oil would not have been enough to carry an episode by itself. It did give an excuse for the Doctor to take Bill on a trip in the TARDIS, going both to other places and times under the excuse of seeing if they could be followed.

The Doctor did not intend to travel with Bill and threatened to wipe her mind. Bill is aware of science fiction tropes, and realized that was his intent. She talked him out of it by questioning how he would feel if it happened to him This brought to mind both how the Doctor wiped Donna’s mind in Journey’s End, and how his own mind was wiped of memories of Clara in Hell Bent.

The second episode, Smile, had more of a story than Pilot, but it was still fairly weak in terms of plot. Again it was the relationship between the Doctor and Bill which made the episode worthwhile. There were more questions, such as “Why have you got two hearts? Does that mean you’ve got really high blood pressure?” The continuing story line of the vault was brought up again with this rather vague explanation: “A long time ago a thing happened. As a result of the thing, I made a promise. As a result of the promise, I have to stay on Earth.”

Nardole reminded the Doctor that he had promised to remain on earth, but the Doctor pointed out to Bill that they could still leave and, due to time travel, return to just after they left. “Between here and my office before the kettle boils, is everything that ever happened or ever will. Make your choice.”It was a perfect plan–if you ignored the consequences if the Doctor didn’t make it back. Perhaps we will see those consequences later this season. Bill chose to go to the future. I believe that in the new series, the second episode for every new companion other than Donna was a trip to the future.

Having the Doctor sneak out on Nardole gave a good reason to leave him out and concentrate on developing the relationship between Bill and the Doctor. Bill continued to have her questions and observations about the TARDIS. She questioned the lack of seats at a proper height to operate the TARDIS: “Oh, that’s a mistake. You can’t reach the controls from the seats. What’s the point in that? Or do you have stretchy arms like Mr. Fantastic?”

The Doctor explained how the TARDIS works: “Well, you don’t steer the TARDIS. You negotiate with her. The still point between where you want to go and where you need to be, that’s where she takes you.” This referred to what we learned in The Doctor’s Wife, and really is what occurs in most episodes. They weren’t entirely consistent. The Doctor also told Bill that he had stolen the TARDIS. However, we learned in The Doctor’s Wife that the TARDIS sees it more as if she stole the Doctor.

The story was a fairly basic science fiction story about robots both messing up their programming and developing sentience. The “skeleton crew” were turned into skeletons due to poor logic on the part of the robots, and used for fertilizer. I could easily see Captain Kirk beaming down to the same planet and solving the problem in a similar manner. I was disappointed in how easily they threw in a solution at the end, stealing from The IT Crowd in turning it off and turning it on again.

The episode, filming at the Cultural Complex in Valencia, Spain did look far better than most futuristic episodes of Doctor Who, which often take place in a cramped space ship or a quarry. It does fit into the future as established in previous episodes such as The Arc In Space and The Beast Below in which humans have left earth due to solar flares.

Besides such references to previous episodes of Doctor Who, the episode included other references. The earth ship was named Erehwon, which both spells “nowhere” backwards and is very similar to Erewhon, Samual Butler’s novel about an imperfect Utopia, also including sentient machines. The Vardy were named after Andrew Vardy, who has studies swarm robotics. Even the planet where the story occurs, Gliese 581d, is a real  potential destination for humans leaving earth in search of a habitable planet.

Although only Pilot was written by Steven Moffat, the two episodes did have some things in common. Moffat is famous for making a simple act such as blinking something to be terrified of. In Pilot, you could not look at your reflection, and in Smile you dare not frown. In both cases, the “monster” of the episode turned out to not really be evil. As the Doctor said, “Hardly anything is evil, but most things are hungry. Hunger looks very like evil from the wrong end of the cutlery. Or do you think your bacon sandwich loves you back?”

The episode ended going right into the next episode, as was done in the older shows. I liked this, but I imagine it might frustrate novelists and fan fiction writers who wish to place a story in between television episodes.

Neither of the two episodes had great stories, but they served the function of introducing us to both Bill and the presumably season long story involving the vault. I don’t know if this will extend into the Christmas episode, which will feature the Doctor’s regeneration, but we did learn a little about the episode. Perhaps this will tie into the picture of Susan on the Doctor’s desk in Pilot. Reportedly the Christmas episode will include the first Doctor, originally played by William Hartnell. David Bradley will reprise this role from An Adventure In Space In Time.

Broadchurch concluded on Monday night in the U.K. but has not been shown in the United States yet. Those planning to watch should skip to the next section as this contains major spoilers regarding both the second and third seasons.

The finale revealed the Trish had not one but two rapists (and there were many other suspects before this was revealed).  Leo bullied Michael into raping Trish while he filmed it. Leo was by far the bigger villain of the two, displaying a total lack of morals when he justified his actions. He saw it as “just sex” which didn’t matter as Trish (and the girls he raped in the past) had all previously had sex. He showed no understanding of the violence in raping them, or even of the violence in hitting Trish over the head. As Miller had said earlier in the season, “Rape is about power and control, not sex.”

Chris Chibnall will be moving on to do Doctor Who and has stated there will not be a fourth season of Broadchurch. While this was a satisfactory conclusion, if they were going to do a season about trials, I would prefer to see a trial of Leo and Michael as opposed to the second season, in which  Joe Miller was found not guilty. Michael certainly deserves punishment for his role in raping Trish, but a defense based upon claims of being coerced to rape her could have created some interesting scenes. Although Leo technically did not rape Trish himself, the show made it very easy to convict Leo, between how he knocked Trish unconscious and the revelations of his previous rapes. It could have made a more interesting trial if these events had not occurred, and he was being tried purely on psychologically influencing Michael to commit the act.

From the start, Broadchurch has been more than a show about solving a crime. It is about the people who live in Broadchurch. This included more on Mark and Beth Latimer, whose son’s murder was the main story line of the first season. Incidentally, a deleted scene revealed more about another event of the third season–how Alec Hardy’s Tinder date ended.

The Magicians had an excellent season finale, which provided more backstory from Ember’s perspective. The finale also totally changed things going into the third season after magic was turned off by the plumber–a consequence of killing gods and not realizing that gods have parents. After Julia started out the series being rejected by Brakebills, she is now the only human with magic. Perhaps this ties into what we learned earlier in the season about how she did in another life where she had been admitted.

TV Line interviewed executive producers John McNamara and Sera Gamble:

TVLINE | In a season where you had Reynard the Fox and The Beast, was Ember the alpha Big Bad?
JOHN MCNAMARA | I would say yes. While The Beast had a large effect on the misery of Martin Chatwin, Quentin and his friends, and Fillory, and Reynard really affected Julia and her circle of friends in a miserable, violent way, Ember — through whimsical, kind of careless, narcissistic boredom — was going to destroy an entire world. He’s going to commit genocide. So I don’t think badness gets bigger than genocide. [But] I could be wrong. There could be something else.
SERA GAMBLE | Tune in for Season 3! [Laughs] Just the fact that you’re asking this question at all highlights the fact that the structure of Season 2 is a little different than Season 1. When you meet The Beast in the pilot of The Magicians, it’s clear that there’s a classic Big Bad arc to that season that we followed and commented on in our meta, Magicians way. Coming into Season 2, it was very important to us to switch that up a little bit and not give you that same linear Big Bad structure. We didn’t want you to know who the endgame was when you came in for the first episode of the season…

TVLINE | Going back to Reynard, is he still a threat? Will we see him next season?
MCNAMARA | He’s alive. You never know.
GAMBLE | I think it’s fair to take Our Lady Underground at her word that she intends to deal with him. She’s certainly powerful enough to do so.

TVLINE | The guiding principle of the show is magic, so what excites you about exploring a world without magic?
MCNAMARA | The same thing that excites me in a James Bond movie where he gets into so much trouble with M that they take away his license to kill and he has to go rogue. Or the same thing that excites me when you write a love story and, suddenly, in the middle of Red Square in 1917, the two lovers are separated. The essence of drama. You give the audience what they want, you make them love it, and then you take it away. … Magic was, more or less, taken for granted [in the first two seasons]. When they get magic back — because let’s not kid ourselves, it’s called The Magicians — they’re all going to have a very different relationship to magic, informed by having lived with its absence and the quest to reinstate it.

TVLINE | Julia is the only one who still has some magical ability. After everything she’s been through these last two seasons, was it important for you to give her a little bit of happiness and hope?
MCNAMARA | I don’t really care if she’s happy, myself. I do think life is a balance of light and dark, and she’s certainly had a lot of darkness. So it makes sense that she would acquire abilities that perhaps are based on how much she’s suffered. Suffering at the hands of a god may have had something to do with it. We haven’t decided yet.
GAMBLE | I felt like after a season of seeking out Reynard at great, great personal cost and great cost to those around her who were helping her, it was important to see her turn a page. But whether or not that is one and the same with this strange ability to do a little bit of magic, that remains to be seen. At the very beginning of that scene, when Julia embraces Quentin, and they’re happy to see each other, and they have a certain dry resignation about their shared hand in what has happened to magic, it’s much more, in that moment, about the fact that you’re looking at a Julia who feels a little bit more whole than she has been throughout this season. Her shade is back, she clearly has found some coping mechanism. She doesn’t look like death warmed over in that scene. Some of that might be about her secret and about the magic she can do. To me, a lot of it is about Julia and just what she’s been through that season. So long story short, I wouldn’t hinge everybody’s happiness on that little piece of magic, because if there’s one thing you should know about Magicians, it’s that having magic doesn’t make you happy.

TVLINE | Am I correct in sensing that there’s some tension between Quentin and Alice after the time jump?
GAMBLE | Yes. Alice has a lot of secrets.

Gizmodo has interviews with the stars. Entertainment Weekly has a longer interview with Stella Maeve  (Julia).

The week also included the series finale of Girls and season finale of 24 Legacy, neither of which I was very impressed with. I am still far behind and have not seen the season two finale of The Expanse, but I hear it was excellent. I have not read this yet, but have book marked an interview with executive producer Naren Shankar on the finale. I do expect to watch next season as it airs and will be able to discuss it in future posts.

SciFi Weekend: Season Finales For Arrow, The Flash, and Gotham; The Americans, Limitless, Doctor Who

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Both The Flash and Arrow concluded their seasons with the hero defeating the big-bad of the season. The ending of Arrow was rather disappointing, with Damien Darhk being defeated far too easily after previously looking unbeatable. Team Arrow was broken up, but it would be an easy matter to reunite some or all of them.

It was gimmicky to have The Flash end the season with a race, but it does fit into the series. There was a little trickery involved in defeating Zoom, but it was far better than how the Arrow defeated Darhk. (Major spoilers ahead). We learned the identity of the main in the iron mask–Jay Garrick of Earth 3, played by John Wesley Shipp who played the Barry Allen Flash in the 1990’s series. I assume we will see  him again, possibly playing into the plans to tie the Justice Society of America into Legends of Tomorrow. It will also be interesting for Barry to have a copy of his dead father–assuming his father remains dead.

The ending of the episode had major ramifications (and more spoilers ahead) for the future of the series as Barry went back in time to save his mother, and saw another remnant of himself disappear. Possibly this means that he never becomes the Flash. On the one hand, this would change the scene between Barry and Iris before he went back in time. On the other hand, if Barry never lived with the Wests, there would no longer be the feeling of incest (even if not biological) in their relationship.

There are reports that Tom Cavanagh will be returning to the third season of The Flash. His first season character was killed at the end of the season and his Earth 2 character returned home at the end of this season. One logical explanation for Cavanagh being present seems to be that if Barry’s mother remained alive things were changed so that the original Harrison Wells was not killed by Eobard Thawne.

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There is further speculation that the third season will start with a version of the Flashpoint storyline from the comics. Screenrant has further discussion of the finale. There is more at Den of Geek, including this summary of the Flashpoint story:

All signs point to Flashpoint, a Geoff Johns-penned comic book arc from 2011 that saw Barry waking up in a present day that he didn’t recognise. His mother was still alive, Captain Cold was the big shot hero of Central City and The Flash did not exist (neither does Superman or The Justice League, and Thomas Wayne is Batman instead of Bruce).

Barry does not have his powers. America is at war with Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Cyborg is the world’s biggest superhero, and is failing to unite a strong enough defence. Essentially, the whole world has gone to hell.

This timeline was spawned – you guessed it! – by Barry going back in time to save his mum. It’s the ultimate worst-case scenario, when Barry thought he’d been doing a good thing. For season 3 of The Flash, it seems logical to expect a similar chain of events.

Obviously there would need to be a scaled-down version for television, but it is easy to see Barry returning home to an entirely different world. They could possibly also use this to bring about the collapse of other Earths into Earth 1, bringing Supergirl into the same earth to facilitate the planned cross over after the show moves to the CW Network next season.

Gotham Finale

The second season finale of Gotham left the city an even stranger place than it has been. Comic Book Resources interviewed executive producer John Stevens. While the interview took place before the finale, it still provides information leading into season three:

CBR News: Throughout the season, Hugo Strange has been playing Dr. Frankenstein. What exactly is his endgame?

John Stephens: We’re going to understand his endgame in the finale. We’re going to understand that he received a directive from his employers, who gave him a very specific directive, specifically about reanimation. That is something which his employers, who we know are the Court of Owls, is going to be paid off in Season 3 when we understand why they wanted him to do this thing. We will understand in this season what exactly he was supposed to achieve, although part of that we will pay off next year, too. It plays into our overarcing Court of Owls’ mythology.

Strange refers to his employers as “masters.” Who are the Court of Owls, and how much are we going to learn about them in the finale?

The Court of Owls is like an Illuminati. They are a shadowy group of powerful people who have controlled Gotham for centuries. They might, or might not, be behind the Wayne murders. They have financed and directed Indian Hill and Hugo Strange’s research. We will not learn all that much about them in the finale, save for the fact they are the people behind Hugo Strange and are most likely the culprits behind Martha and Thomas Wayne’s murders. Bruce will learn of their existence, but not necessarily their name. That will obviously push him forward.

As part of Strange’s experiments, he brought Fish Mooney back to life. What makes the resurrected Fish deadlier than before?

Hugo Strange had to modify Fish’s DNA in order to being her back to life, and it had the side effect of giving her certain abilities. Those abilities are going to manifest in the finale. She goes from the real of reality to grounded sci-fi, becoming a quasi-supernatural character in the finale.

THE AMERICANS -- "Dinner for Seven" Episode 411 (Airs, Wednesday, May 25, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Marceline Hugot as Theresa, Frank Langella as Gabriel, Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings, Rob Yang as Don. CR: Eric Liebowitz/FX

The Americans has been one of the best written shows on television in recent years. The writers have taken a long view, with situations often not playing out for many episodes, or sometimes seasons later. Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, the co-showrunners, have indicated in various interview that they have about two more years of story left. Now that is official. FX has renewed The Americans for two additional seasons beyond the current season. While I hate to see it end, it is quite satisfying to know that the show will be ending based upon the ideas of the writers, and the story will be allowed to continue until it is completed.

Limitless has been officially canceled by CBS. While not at the level of The Americans (few shows are), it is entertaining and there is certainly more story to tell. There is still the possibility of it being picked up elsewhere.

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Steven Moffat responded to a question about the lady in the barn in the season 9 finale of Doctor Who, Hell Bent:

Responding to a fan question in issue 496 of Doctor Who Magazine as to whether the old barn lady was the Doctor’s mother, Moffat answered:

“We’ve no idea who she is, nor should we. But a quick glance at the evidence, would remind you that the Doctor is a ‘high born Gallifreyan’ so that would seem unlikely. So what was he doing in that barn, and who were those people? The Doctor won’t tell me. It’s almost like that nameless wanderer in time and space likes a bit of mystery…”

The showrunner added:

“Oh, it’s funny, writing stuff about the Doctor’s past. You always have to leave options – you can’t be definitive. Or at least that’s how I feel about it. I like the audience to have a choice. If, in ‘Listen,’ you’re happy that the little boy in the bed is the Doctor, then great. But if you’re not, that’s fine too. I keep saying, Head Canon is important, because that’s where the show really happens: in the hearts and minds of all the people watching.”

When I saw her on Hell Bent, and previously on The End of Time, I saw this more as a Gallifreyan version of a boarding school, as opposed to showing his home and mother.

In other Doctor Who news, John Barrowman has shot down rumors that he will be returning to play Captain Jack Harkness in the Christmas special.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Hell Bent; Batman v. Superman; The Expanse; Transparent; Outlander; Supergirl; Fargo; You’re The Worst

Doctor Who Hell Bent

The season finale of Doctor Who, Hell Bent, concluded the three part story which began with the death of Clara Oswald in Face the Raven. It turned out that the ending of last week’s episode, Heaven Sent, contained some misdirection about where the finale was going. While the Doctor did return to Gallifrey, this was not at all what the episode was really about.

The Doctor returned to Gallifrey as a war hero, and used this return to save Clara. While the leaders on Gallifrey were concerned with the identity of the Hybrid, it turned out that the Doctor did not really know the answer. His priority was in saving Clara.

Face the Raven appeared to end with the Doctor allowing Clara to die as there was way to prevent her death. Now he was willing to break all the rules and risk the fracturing of time to save her. Clara was pulled out of time just before the moment of her death,  in between heartbeats and lacking  a pulse, not really living. She was informed of her condition by a general on Gallifrey: “Although you are conscious and aware, in fact you died billions of years ago. We have extracted you at the end of your time stream. Once you have finished here, you will be returned to your final moments. Your death is an established, historical event.”

The Doctor was willing to break the rules of time, as he had done on occasions before, and to defy the leadership on Gallifrey. He killed a general to demonstrate how far he would go to save Clara.  They escaped through the Matrix, one of several references for things established in old episodes, and escaped in an old school TARDIS. As he had started out, the Doctor escaped Gallifrey in a stolen TARDIS, this time with a functioning Chameleon Circuit. They escaped the Time Lords by going to the last hours of the universe, where they met up with Ashildr, who the Doctor had made immortal earlier this season in The Girl Who Died.

While the identity of the Hybrid was never definitively revealed, Ashildr had what came closest to an answer. She theorized, “‘What if the hybrid was to people.‘A passionate and powerful Time Lord and a young woman so very similar to him – companions willing to push each other to extremes?” The Hybrid might have been the Doctor and Clara working together.  Whether this is the actual answer, it was still a meaningful description of who the Doctor is.

The problem now is Clara was only alive in a form with some very timey-whimey stuff which threatens the space-time continuum. Plus at any moment she could be returned to the moment of her death. The Doctor believed that Clara had to have her memory wiped to return to earth and lead a normal life, where she could not be found from her memories of being with the Doctor. (I’m not sure what would have happened the first time she had any type of medical exam and was found to be lacking a pulse). It would be a sort of repeat of how things ended with Donna Noble, although the need to wipe Donna’s memory was more straight forward on Journey’s End.

Clara was watching in on the Doctor’s conversation with Ashildr and was not willing to give up the best years of her life, or her memory of them. Ultimately matters were left to chance, and it turned out that it was the Doctor, not Clara, whose memories of the other were wiped. This might make Clara safer as nobody could use the Doctor to get to her. Perhaps it also made sense for the Doctor’s memories to be erased if they were not going to remain together. As we saw on The Snowmen, it took him on hundred years to get over the loss of Amy and Rory, and after over four billion years he has not gotten over what appeared to be the death of Clara.

On the other hand, this is not the first time that the Doctor has lost a companion. Is  Clara that much more important to the Doctor than Rose Taylor, Donna Noble, or Amy Pond? Plus it is never clear why the Doctor and Clara could not continue to travel together.

Doctor Who Hell Bent 2

Throughout the episode, scenes were interspersed with the Doctor at an diner speaking to a waitress played by Jenna Coleman. By the end, we finally realized the meaning of these scenes, with Clara knowing who the Doctor was, but the Doctor not remembering her. The Doctor told Clara what he recalled of this story, even believing that he would remember Clara if he saw her, but he did not. He did see an image of her when he got his TARDIS back due to Rigsy’s memorial graffiti, plus The Doctor got a new sonic screwdriver.

Despite the matters left unanswered on this episode, it was all worthwhile for the ending in which Clara, who had already become like a Time Lord, ended up in her own TARDIS with her own companion, Ashildr. Again, it is not clear why Clara can travel with Ashildr, but not with the Doctor. While we will probably not see Clara again on the show, I bet this will launch a lot of fan fiction.

Doctor Who Extra videos for Hell Bent can be seen here.

Doctor Who returns on Christmas Day with The Husbands of Rive Song. The synopsis has been released:

It’s Christmas Day on a remote human colony and the Doctor is hiding from Christmas carols and comedy antlers. But when a crashed spaceship calls upon the Doctor for help, he finds himself recruited into River Song’s squad and hurled into a fast and frantic chase across the galaxy. King Hydroflax (Greg Davies) is furious, and his giant robot bodyguard is out of control and coming for them all! Will Nardole (Matt Lucas) survive? And when will River Song work out who the Doctor is?

The Batman v. Superman trailer was shown on Gotham last week. As I know some superhero fans are not watching Gotham due to the lack of superheroes, I’m posting it above for those who might have missed it.

The Expanse officially states on December 14, but the first episode can be seen online here.

Amazon will be releasing season two of Transparent on December 11, but the first episode was made available early.

The second season of Mozart in the Jungle will be released by Amazon on December 30.

Outlander returns for a second season this spring. Teaser above.

Supergirl has been picked up CBS for a full season. The show still seems to be trying to figure out where it is going without being too much a clone of The Flash, and sometimes struggles to be in Superman’s shadow while contractually being unable to show him as an adult (with a younger version of him to be seen this season). Now that it has a several episodes under its belt, it is starting to show more promise.

Meanwhile on CBS’s sister network, The CW Network, the annual cross over episodes of The Flash and Arrow has aired. It served largely to set up Legend’s of Tomorrow, but was a fun two hours with the casts of both current shows getting together again. During the week there was also another round of rumors of a cross over episode between Supergirl and The Flash, with this once again denied (but not ruled out for the future).

Fargo season three will take place a couple of years after the first season, and could include some of the same characters.

FXX has renewed You’re The Worst for a second season. While an argument could be made that the show had stronger dramatic material from Aya Cash this season, I do hope that she gets over her depression and the third season returns to the dynamic between Gretchen and Jimmy of the first season.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Heaven Sent; Legends of Tomorrow; Arrow; The Flash; Supergirl; Captain America: Civil War; Jessica Jones; Sleepy Hollow

Doctor Who Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent was an ambitious episode of Doctor Who, following the death of Clara Oswald. The Doctor is in a castle with moving walls and stalked by a monster who represents his greatest fears. Only confessing his deepest, darkest secrets will slow it down, but he ultimately dies and starts over, like Bull Murray in Groundhog Day. Before dying, he would retreat to a version of the TARDIS in his mind, and discuss his plans with a version of Clara, who also was only in his mind. Sometimes answers were provided on chalk boards. His escape might be in the twelfth room, once again giving more meaning to his artificial designation as the twelfth Doctor. He eventually realizes that every one hundred years a bird pecks on a diamond wall which is preventing his escape. He manages to reverse-teleport allowing a version of himself stuck in the hard drive to start over. (This might raise the question as to whether at the end he is really the same Doctor who we started out with, but considering that the entire universe has already been rebooted and recreated, this hardly matters.)  The rooms in the castle all revert to their previous state (automated room service). After billions of years, of doing this, the wall would break down.

You really must see this for it to make any sense, and I would recommend a second viewing.

As the Doctor confesses, we learned that he did not leave Gallifrey because he was bored, but because he was scared. The Timelords knew that the time war was coming. After escaping the castle, the Doctor sees Gallifrey off in the distance. He contradicts what he claimed before and confesses that nothing is half-Dalek. The Daleks would not allow it. He admits, “The Hybrid destined to conquer Gallifrey and stand in its ruins is me.”

The meaning of this remains unclear. Maybe they are returning to the claims in the 1996 movie that the Doctor is half human, but I suspect there will be a different meaning. There are also other questions especially what will happen when he gets to Gallifrey? There are also questions about the recent past, give or take several billion years. Who trapped the Doctor and sent him to Gallifrey? What exactly is the confession dial? How does Ashildr fit in? These question may or may not be answered next week in Hell Bent.

Doctor Who Extra videos for Heaven Sent can be seen here.

A full length trailer for Legends of Tomorrow has been released, giving a far better idea of what the first season will be about. There are some minor spoilers out for the DC superhero shows. There are rumors that Constantine will be in season two of Heroes of Tomorrow, with a different cast from the first season. Other reports say that this might be a single season show, possibly replaced with a different show next year.

Constantine might also have further impact on Arrow this season:

Constantine’s parting gift to Oliver — a magical tattoo? — will come back to play soon. “Basically Constantine says to him that this is insurance against Reiter, and we’re going to deliver on that promise entirely,” EP Wendy Mericle says. “It’s going to help Oliver when he’s in a very dark place and time when he has no other way out. It’s going to be the thing that pulls him out of a very dark spot and literally saves him.” But whether he’ll be able to use it on Damien Darhk is another story. “The mysticism that Reiter is practicing may or may not sync up with what Damien Darhk is doing,” Mericle adds.

Stephen Amel told what he knows about the flash forward to a graveyard scene in Arrow (and it is not very much):

Amell initially joked, “It’s not me.”

He then added, “I don’t. That’s not for me to know. That’s for our producers to know. It’s only for me to know if and when I need to do something if we end up doing another flash forward in the show. I needed to know certain things about the scene without knowing who it actually was when we did the initial flash forward. I just needed to simply know that the person I wanted to kill was a him and that the person that was in the grave was someone I cared a lot about. That’s all I needed to know. I don’t need to know the specifics until if and when we shoot another flash forward scene if there was something else that I had to say.”

We will also be seeing more of Jay Garrick and Harrison Wells on The Flash:

When Jay Garrick returns, he may actually find some common ground with Wells for once, though it won’t be easy. “Jay is summoned to S.T.A.R. Labs in an urgent matter from Wells,” Teddy Sears tells EW. “Jay shows up only to find out that Wells wants Jay to be his guinea pig. He is toying with a substance that has its history in the lore of The Flash, so it’s something from the comics. He wants to try it on Jay to see if it works because he wants to use this on Barry in their fight to bring down Zoom. Jay doesn’t react very well to that. He doesn’t want to be a part of Wells’ schemes. There will be some life threatening moments in there and we have to use a combination of science and ingenuity and Wells’ mysterious substance to get to a safe conclusion.”

There are rumors of a meeting between Supergirl and The Flash. They do have a lot in common in their first seasons. Both were mentored by a head of an organization or lab who were keeping secrets. I suspect both were evil, but we don’t know very much yet about Hank Henshaw.

New scenes from Batman v. Superman will be shown during the Gotham season finale on Monday.

Over on the Marvel side,the above trailer was released for Captain America: Civil War, with the movie to be released May 16. Some fans have been disappointed by the lack of Spider-Man in the trailer despite his planned presence in the movie now that Marvel Studies and Sony have come to an agreement. There is also the possibility that Captain America and Iron Man will appear in the next Spider-Man movie.

I finished Jessica Jones on Monday, and it maintained the quality I noted last week. Unlike Daredevil, which did often have distinct stories within its general arc, the episodes flowed together like one long (and highly enjoyable) movie. Jessica Jones has a lot of Easter eggs related to the rest of the Marvel universe. If they ever decide to move beyond the Marvel universe, I recently noted aspects of Donald Trump which would work well to make him the evil supervillian in one of these future shows set in New York.

The other major streaming series to premier the same day, Man In The High Castle, also looks quite promising but I haven’t gotten too far into this one yet. Both of these  recent shows to start streaming might be good topics to write more about in December after most of the genre shows have gone on hiatus. Incidentally, TV Line has a handy chart of when shows are ending for the holidays, and when they are returning in 2016.

Fargo has been renewed for a third season by FX, but Fox is moving Sleepy Hollow to Friday nights, where genre shows go to die. While better than last season, Sleepy Hollow still has not recaptured the quality of the first season. Some shows are better suited for more limited runs than is common on network television. I don’t think Fargo is as good as the first season (very few shows ever have been as good as the first season of Fargo, but the second season is still very good. It does benefit from having an entirely different story each year.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Face the Raven; Jessica Jones; Arrow Flash Crossover; 11/22/63; Lost In Space; New Show From Bays and Thomas

Doctor Who Face the Raven

Only four companions had previously died in the long history of Doctor Who, with none in the new series. This changed on Face the Raven with the death of Clara Oswald.  The episode took place on Trap Street, a hidden street in London like something out of Harry Potter, except in this case Maise Williams’ immortal character returned as mayor, providing sanctuary for aliens. Clara’s friend Rigsy (previously seen in Flatline, when Clara was acting as the Doctor) was sentenced to die, with a Chronolock tattooed on his neck, counting down the minutes until his death. The Doctor tried, unsuccessfully, to turn to his index cards to express his condolences, but Clara pushed him to try to save him.

Unfortunately it turned out to be Clara who saved him by transferring the Chronolock from Rigsy to herself. Maise Williams’ character, Me,  had already guaranteed Clara’s safety on Trap Street, so she thought this would buy them time. What Clara did not know is that Me never really intended for Rigsy to die. However, once the Chronlock was transferred from Rigsy to Clara, the terms of Me’s deal with the quantum shade, which controlled the execution, were changed and Me could not save her.

Clara assumed the Doctor could save her once again, but he could not, and the two said their dramatic farewells. It did seem  questionable that the Doctor couldn’t at least try to save her. After all, it was already established that there was a stasis machine nearby. If that couldn’t work, there was also a teleport bracelet, not to mention the TARDIS, which might take Clara to safety.

Clara’s death was actually guaranteed by the decision for Jenna Coleman to leave the series. Steven Moffat discussed writing Clara out in an interview with Blogtor Who:

“What we’re gonna do with Clara’s departure was ‘Plan A’. This is what I wanted to with Clara from very, very early on in Clara’s run but Jenna said that she wanted to leave at the end of Series 8. And I sort of knew she didn’t really want to leave, I think she just felt she ought to leave at the end of Series 8, despite my various attempts to tell her what she was thinking – which never goes down well I find with human beings! [Laughs]

She decided to leave so I wrote her out of the end of Death In Heaven, that was her last episode. I was halfway through Christmas [Last Christmas] without Jenna and she said, ‘Actually, I’d like to be in Christmas,’ so I discreetly threw away the script I was writing and started again. [Laughs] Never told her that – should’ve.

I wrote her out of the end of Christmas but this time I sniffed a wind and wrote two endings; one version where she actually is the old lady and we last see her going up the spiral staircase. At the read through we did the big heart-rending departure and she changed her mind.

Peter and I did perform every form of emotional manipulation known to people on the world tour, badly and ineptly I might add. I like to think in the sheer ineptitude of out apparent subterfuge we were charming.

But what we’re doing now is the right way for her to go, in my view.”

Doctor Who Face The Raven Clara

There might theoretically be a way in which Clara did not die and could return for some of the final episodes of the season, but now that Jenna Coleman had her big exit scene it would be better to leave her character dead. That does not mean that Jenna Coleman might not show up again. A form of Clara has been involved with all Doctors we have seen so far, and the way in which she was fragmented should mean that she will also be involved with future Doctors, although that does not mean that either the Doctor or the audience will see her

The Doctor has met Clara in different forms. He met Oswin Oswald, the soufflé girl, in Asylum of the Daleks, and met the Victorian barmaid and governess Clara Oswin Oswald  in The Snowmen.  He also came close to meeting Clara as a child but did not recognize her.

There are still questions left from Face the Raven. The Doctor was teleported off, and is on his own, leading into the final episodes of the season (which will be extended length). Will he return to face Me, after warning her “You’ll find that it’s a very small universe when I’m angry with you”? Who was Me working with? It was apparently someone who knew about the Confession Dial, which might mean Davros, or Missy. Incidentally, it was Missy who put Clara in touch with the Doctor in The Bells of St. John, so it might be fitting that she was also indirectly involved in her death. (Incidentally Michelle Gomez, who plays Missy, also appeared on Gotham last week).

The portion of the season prior to the Christmas episode will end with another two-parter. Heaven Sent will air on November 28th and run fifty-five minutes.  Hell Bent will air on December 5th and run sixty-five minutes.

Behind the scenes videos of Face the Raven can be seen here.

Marvel's Jessica Jones

It was a tough decision with both Jessica Jones and The Man in The High Castle both becoming available for streaming on Friday night. Ultimately a show staring Krystin Ritter, David Tennant, and Carrie-Ann Moss won out. In addition to these three, Rachel Taylor does an excellent job as  Trish Walker and Mike Colter is excellent as Luke Cage. Besides appearing in Jessica Jones prior to appearing in his own show, Luke Cage has been teased in a trailer for the second season of Daredevil.

While I have not finished the series yet, I have seen enough to say that this is excellent. It is possibly the best superhero show ever on television, and possibly the best television show or movie with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Vulture has a collection of excerpts from the many excellent reviews of the series. I will have no spoilers of the individual episodes in discussing the series.

Jessica Jones has started out even stronger than Daredevil. While set in the same Hell’s Kitchen background, it is not entirely as dark and gritty, with more of New York City seen. There are brief mentions of other events in the Marvel universe, but it is not necessary to have seen any as long as you are just aware that New York City was under attack in The Avengers movie.

Krystin Ritter is excellent as the damaged superhero. She plays a strong female lead, but the tone of the show is entirely different from the other superhero series with a female lead, Supergirl. Ritter’s dramatic acting abilities were clear in Breaking Bad, and she showed she could handle being the lead for a show in Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. She further shows her acting talent as the lead in this complex dramatic role in which her character underwent a traumatic experience in the past, leading to the season-long arc with the big-bad Killgrave, played by David Tennant.

Jessica Jones Trish Walker

Krystin Ritter discussed playing Jessica Jones at Speakeasy:

Unlike a lot of superhero shows, she doesn’t seem to rely on her superpowers that often.

That’s how I always approach the character. Just a woman and a girl first, with her feet on the ground and with real issues. Her struggle is so personal and so relatable and so grounded. I just focused on that and the superpower thing second. I just felt like it was an extension of who she is – because internally, she’s so strong.

What unique issues are being explored in “Jessica Jones”?

I felt like it was groundbreaking material in how it handles some of the darker stuff that happens to her. We never actually see, literally, [her] history with [villain] Kilgrave. But we see the effects of it. Ultimately, this is a story about coming to terms with something internally with yourself. I also enjoyed that she wasn’t sexualized. She’s never putting on high heels and the tight skirt to seduce somebody like your typical P.I. So there were all these things in there that felt a lot bigger. I felt like it was a great conversation starter. It has the potential to be an iconic character.

The Los Angeles Times spoke with Kristin Ritter and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, who was also head writer on early seasons of Dexter:

“[For Jessica] the superpowers are just a matter of fact. She doesn’t advertise them, but she doesn’t deny them. She doesn’t hide them,” show runner Melissa Rosenberg explains. “What I love about this character is she’s so unapologetically who she is. She’s unapologetic about her sexuality, about her powers, about her drinking, about just about anything. She is who she is.”

Her sexuality, and drinking, along with other aspects of Jessica Jones, are certainly not hidden. While there is no nudity, this is not a superhero series for children.

I have also been bookmarking material on The Man In The High Castle but will wait until I have hopefully had time to start the series.

An extended promo has been released for this season’s crossover episodes of The Flash and Arrow, starting December  1 (video above).

The season finale of The Flash is part of the crossover event with Arrow and introduces Wally West. There has been speculation this season that when Iris’s mother turned up and there was mention of another child, this would be Wally West. The following synopsis has been released.

“Running to Stand Still” — MARK HAMILL, WENTWORTH MILLER AND LIAM MCINTYRE RETURN; KEIYNAN LONSDALE JOINS THE CAST AS WALLY WEST — When Mark Mardon AKA The Weather Wizard (guest star Liam McIntyre) returns to break Leonard Snart AKA Captain Cold (guest star Wentworth Miller) and James Jesse AKA The Trickster (guest star Mark Hamill) out of Iron Heights, Barry (Grant Gustin) must stop these rogues from taking over Central City during Christmas. Meanwhile, Joe (Jesse L. Martin) and Iris (Candice Patton) meet Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale). Kevin Tancharoen directed the episode written by Andrew Kreisberg (#209). Original airdate 12/8/2015.

We have already seen the first glimpses of Hawkgirl on The Flash, as the various characters for Legends of Tomorrow have been put place on Arrow and The Flash. Legends of Tomorrow will debut on Thursday, January 21. In addition to bringing back old characters on Arrow in preparation for this, Roy will be returning to Arrow in episode 412.

The above teaser has been released from 11/22/63 from J.J. Abrams, based upon the book by Stephen King. It is to be released on Hulu on Presidents Day, 2016.

Danger Will Robinson: Netflix is planning a reboot of Lost in Space.

CBS has signed a deal with Carter Bays and Craig Thomas to produce another comedy set in New York. Deadline reports that the show, named New York Mythological, “centers on a Midwestern girl who moves to Manhattan and experiences firsthand the magic of New York.” It sound like quite a few other shows done over the years but it is the execution which matters. There have also been a lot of shows about friends in New York City, but few did them as well as Bays and Thomas did with How I Met Your Mother.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Jessica Jones; Supergirl; Limitless; Star Wars; Blindspot; Childhood’s End

Doctor Who Sleep No More

I don’t want to spend too much time on an episode of Doctor Who which I really did not like very much.  Sleep No More did not have the usual intro sequence to the show but did start with a character giving this warning: “You must not watch this! I’m warning you. You can never unsee it.” Viewers should take his advice and apply it to the episode.

It is hard to say exactly what to make out of an episode where the Doctor says he’s confused and that it doesn’t make sense. Perhaps this was written to lead into future events of the season. We know Jenna Coleman is leaving, and we are told that the Morpheus process has already begun in Clara. I hope that this is not the episode which leads into Clara’s departure, especially if it means she dies. A major character deserves to go out better than this. This could be the worst exit for a character (even if not the final episode for her) since Tasha Yar’s death on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Mark Gattiss warns that a sequel is planned. He should not be judged primarily on this episode after all the great writing he has done. Fans might be more interested in this interview with Tor, released earlier this week

Doctor Who Extra videos can be seen here. (I have not watched them–I have no further interest in this episode).

Doctor Who Magazine Clara

While the show itself was weak, presumably it inspired the great cover for Doctor Who Magazine. More on the contents of the issue here.

Next week Fear the Raven features the return of Maisie Williams.

The BBC has released the synopsis for the Hell Bent, the final episode of Doctor Who before the Christmas episode:

If you took everything from him, betrayed him, trapped him, and broke both his hearts…how far might the Doctor go?

Returning to Gallifrey, the Doctor faces the Time Lords in a struggle that will take him to the end of time itself. Who is the Hybrid? And what is the Doctor’s confession?

These trailers for Jessica Jones continue to create considerable interest in the show, premiering November 20 on Netflix.

CBS has pulled episodes of Supergirl and NCIS scheduled for Monday following the terrorism in Paris as they deal with terrorist attacks. The episode planned for next week has been moved up.

I09 reports that Georgina Haig of Fringe will have a recurring role on Limitless:

Georgina Haig is set for a recurring role as Piper. Per the producers, Piper was once like Brian, naive and sheltered—then she lost everything. Now, self-trained in many forms of combat, she has a mission to stop the man who took it from her—with Brian as either her ally or her enemy.

This TV spot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has also been released.

J.J. Abrams has some comments on Luke Skywalker.

NBC has renewed Blindspot for a second season. That is good news, but also means there is no hope for an explanation this year.

The above featurette was released on Syfy’s upcoming adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End.

Julian McMahon and Charles Dance, who star in Syfy’s new Childhood’s End talk about what it means to be a part of a utopian society. Childhood’s end looks at a peaceful alien invasion of Earth by the mysterious “Overlords.” The group’s arrival begins decades of apparent utopia under indirect alien rule…but at the cost of human identity and culture.

Vincent Margera has died. TMZ reports:

Vincent Margera — the uncle of Bam Margera who appeared in “Jackass” — has died … TMZ has learned.

Vincent became famous for pranks he pulled off with Bam on the TV show and later the “Jackass” movies as well as “Viva La Bam”.

It’s a double blow for Bam, who lost his best friend and co-star Ryan Dunn, who was killed in a car crash.

Vincent has been struggling with kidney and liver failure for several years. He fell into a coma last month and has been in bad shape ever since.

Bam’s mom tells us, Vincent passed away Sunday at 6:45 AM.

Vincent was 59.  RIP.