SciFi Weekend: More News From Comic Con Including The Orville, Star Trek Discovery, Doctor Who, The Expanse and CW Shows; Game of Thrones; Altered Carbon Renewed

Last week I began coverage of this year’s San Diego Comic Con, concentrating on Star Trek: Discovery, The Orville, and Doctor Who. This week I will add some additional information which came out at Comic Con on these shows, some information on other shows, and some news which came out later in the week.

Marina Sirtis will be guest staring in an episode of The Orville, which will be directed by Jonathan Frakes. John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox) is yet another former Star Trek actor who will be appearing in an upcoming episode of The Orville. More on plans for season two of The Orville in last week’s post and at TrekMovie.com.

Rod Roddenberry premiered a short film at San Diego Comic Con, which can be viewed here. More information at SyFy Wire.

Alex Kurtzman says that a new Spock has already been cast.

Last week I wondered whether Anson Mount would be taking command of the Discovery for the entire season, or just as an arc part of the season. This does not entirely answer the question of whether he will be in command of Discovery the entire time, but Mount did say how long he will be appearing on Star Trek: Discovery in this interview with TrekMovie.com:

They’re still shooting, so was it an arc or are you a season 2 character?

Oh yeah. I’m contracted.

For the whole season, I meant. Main cast, whole season?

Yep.

13 episodes.

Yep.

There’s something a little jaded about Pike when we meet him early on in “The Cage.” Would you say that maybe some of what he experiences in this is part of his arc that takes him to that point?

Editor’s note: The question was intended to touch on how “The Cage” informed Mount’s performance, and how it affects where Pike is now. The fast pace of the red carpet means sometimes questions aren’t phrased perfectly. To clarify, the events of “The Cage” took place in 2254, three years prior to DSC season two (2257).

You’re going to see some easter eggs that you’ll recognize about Pike, I can tell you that.

Michael Dorn says that there hasn’t been any talk yet about a Worf spinoff among the new Star Trek projects, but he is working on it:

“I think this Worf thing would be perfect — I mean, really perfect,” he says. “It’s just a matter of getting the phone number of the right guy or getting the email of the right person that can actually get you in there. It’s a little early in the game right now, but I still think there’s hope for it.”

Even though there’s a powerful mystique to being a Starfleet captain, Dorn’s idea isn’t to put Worf in charge of the Enterprise. Dorn is fascinated with Klingons and feels the race of warrior aliens could be explored even further. His idea is to put Worf in charge of a Klingon ship during a period of cultural change for their fictional empire. There would be different aliens — including humans — on the ship, and the shift toward diversity and inclusion would be a painful one for the Klingons.

“I’ve always liked the Klingons. I’ve always thought that they were the most interesting aliens outside of the Vulcans and all that,” Dorn says. “There’s a certain Shakespearian bent with the Klingons. They’re very nationalistic — there’s coups, there’s assassinations, there’s takeovers, there’s all these kind of things. Interestingly enough, they talk kind of Shakespearian.”

Chris Chibnall told Digital Spy why the upcoming season of Doctor Who will have three companions and be more of an ensemble:

“I love Doctor Who as a big, popular, mainstream, accessible show,” Chibnall said. “So I wanted to make sure that every member of the audience felt they had a relatable character, an access point. Hopefully it means that the show can resonate with the broadest possible audience.

“And of course, three companions with the Doctor… we’re really going back to 1963 – that’s the format of the show! You’re not changing the format, that’s how it started, really – which I only realised afterwards.”

The Doctor’s new friends – Chibnall says not calling them “companions” just feels “a bit more natural” but “is in no way a rule or edict from now on” – include Yaz (Mandip Gill), who is “in absolute awe of the Doctor” and Ryan (Tosin Cole), who “challenges the Doctor from time to time, gets it right sometimes, but wrong a lot of the time”.

“Ryan’s 19, Yaz is 19, and then you’ve got Graham who’s the oldest of the bunch, so we’ve got different generations, different genders,” Cole told us.

“People have an ‘in’, in three different ways,” Gill added. “We all bring something different to the group, with gender, race, everything. And just the personalities of the three characters are very different.

“They each have a very individual voice, where I think certain people will be able to instantly relate to Bradley Walsh’s character, instantly relate to Tosin’s… and hopefully just love us all!”

Walsh completes the trio as Graham, with Chibnall confirming that he thought of casting the star having worked together on ITV’s Law & Order: UK in 2009.

“He’s an amazing actor and that’s what I learned working with him on Law & Order,” he added. “He has an incredible emotional range. He’s able to be really funny, and break your heart. And these guys [Gill and Cole] are exactly the same, as is Jodie. It means you have a range of emotional flavours in the show.”

Io9 interviewed Naren Shankar, showrunner of The Expanse at Comic Con, and asked about the move to Amazon:

io9: Will fans be able to tell the difference with the shift to Amazon?

Shankar: I think we’re in real strong continuity at this point. Anybody who’s read the books know that the books change pretty radically, sort of season by season. We’re in book four now, and if you’ve read book four, that is set entirely on one of the alien worlds beyond the rings. We’re not going quite that far, to, just completely do that as the entire season. But I think one of the strengths of the show is that it keeps changing. But—hopefully we’re doing our jobs right.

It’s not like Ty [Franck] and Daniel [Abraham, who co-author the Expanse books as James S. A. Corey] stopped being involved in the show. [laughs]. So, it’s not that. [Show writers] Georgia Lee and Robin Veith have both moved on to other projects, but they’re still friends of the show and they’ll be part of it again, I have no doubt.

io9: Will working with Amazon give you more creative freedom, or at least release you from having to do things like bleep out swear words?

Shankar: Absolutely. None of those restrictions have to come into play, because those are all basic cable issues. What’s weird about it is that on Syfy all of that stuff was bleeped out, but if you happened to be watching it on Space in Canada, none of that’s bleeped out. It’s going to be, I think, terrific for the show, because we don’t have language restrictions, we don’t have nudity restrictions, we don’t have all of these things that conspire a lot of times to make, especially genre shows, not feel as adult as they should be. Not to feel real. In my mind, it sort of infantilizes genre [TV series] even more so. But that goes away on Amazon.

We also don’t have to jam the individual episodes into 43-minute chunks. There were a lot of times over the last few seasons that I’ve gotten a show through post, and it’s been like, “Man, it would much better if I could just open this thing up by two minutes.” But you can’t. That isn’t a problem on Amazon either. So I think there’s huge creative advantages. And honestly, this show was made for streaming. It was made for bingeing. That’s just what it is. And everybody [who works on The Expanse], I think to a person, would say the same thing. We kind of have found our home. This is the right place for the show…

io9: The third season had events from both book two and book three guiding its plot. Will there be any of book five in season four?

Shankar: Without giving too many spoilers [laughs]—there’s so much that is juicy from this point on. One of the great frustrations when we thought we’d been canceled at the end of season three was that the end of the third book is really the end of the first big movement of the series. Which is, after spending a lot of time inside the solar system, this gigantically important thing happens that opens up an entirely new frontier for humanity. And that starts happening in book four.

Yeah, the book itself is completely restricted to the storyline on this new planet, Ilus, and a huge portion of the new season [is based on] book four. But we’re also creating material [that takes place] back in the solar system, that reflects on the events on Ilus. It’s stuff that isn’t in the book, but it actually bridges books four and five going forward. There’s a whole bunch of things happening that are sort of referred to, obliquely, in the text, but we’re bringing them to life and actually playing storylines back in the solar system simultaneously.

io9: Can you name a couple of examples from past seasons when the show has added or changed material from the books?

Shankar: There’s a few examples, even going back as far as the pilot. Chrisjen Avasarela, she’s not in book one of the series. She actually comes into book two. Very early on, that decision was made to pull her into the original narrative to give Earth’s perspective of the events, so it’s not just Holden and Miller, which is the entire book one. Similarly, the character played by Elizabeth Mitchell, Anna Volovodov, she’s in book three but she’s not in book two at all. So because we knew that we would be bridging the end of book two and book three in the third season, we launched Anna at the beginning of season three—the backstory of Errinwright and her on Earth, that’s not in the books or the novellas. So we’re teeing up the narrative for future seasons of the show, but we’re creating new stuff that’s not in any of the published stuff. Ty and Daniel are right there with us, so we’ve talked a lot about how to bridge it. But I think people are going to be pretty psyched by what we do.

io9: Is the ultimate goal to finish the books?

Shankar: I would love to take the show to the end of book nine. Ty and Daniel have written a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That is the perfect version of this for me—if we can keep the show going, and people like it, I think it would be remarkable to tell, because they are telling a story about the evolution of a species and sort of the fate of humanity in very, very big terms with a very particular point of view. I’d love to be able to take it to the end. That would be amazing.

Nora Allen said she made a “big mistake” at the end of last season, but it turns out that she made multiple mistakes per this report from ComicBook.com:

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend, Helbing said that Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy) has more than one mistake to deal with and that those additional mistakes are well on their way.

“There’s a bunch of big mistakes and they’re coming,” Helbing said. “It’s not just one.”

While Helbing didn’t elaborate on exactly what those mistakes were, during the show’s SDCC panel Helbing also revealed that the show, whose overall theme for season five is the concept of legacy, would be doing a younger version of The Rogues. If Nora, whose heroic codename is XS, is operating as a super heroic speedster in the future it would make sense that she would also have her own version of the Rogues, the iconic group of Flash villains in comics.

On top of the possibility of a Young Rogues, the season’s big bad, Cicada, has also been teased as art of Nora’s big mistake. A tease about the villain was supposed to factor into The Flash’s season four finale, but was ultimately cut for time, though it was confirmed that Cicada won’t be a speedster, something Helbing told ComicBook.com gave the show a way to change up the obstacles for Barry and the team.

TV Line looked at Legends of Tomorrow, including why they are not being included in next season’s Arrowverse crossover.

Supergirl will have feature television’s first transgender superhero next season.

Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger has been renewed for a second season.

It was revealed at Comic Con that the third season of The Man In The High Castle will premiere on October 5, with the entire season being released that date. Amazon has also renewed the show for a fifth season.

The final six episodes of Game of Thrones will air in the first half of 2019. A pilot for one of the prequel series will also start filming early in 2019. At present there are only plans to proceed with one series, with previous stories discussing several possible spinoffs.

TV Line has information on The 100.

Altered Carbon has been renewed by Netflix for a second season. Like Doctor Who, the show lends itself to the “regeneration” of the main character, or at least having a different appearance and star every season. Anthony Mackie, who has played The Falcon in Captain America and Avengers movies will play Takeshi Kovacs next season. It is not known if other characters from the first season will return.

Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits is being made into a television series by Apple.

SciFi Weekend: News From San Diego Comic Con On Star Trek Discovery, The Orville, & Doctor Who

We learned from the Star Trek: Discovery panel at San Diego Comic Con that Christopher Pike will be taking command of Discovery, but it is not how much of the season this will apply to. Even before the second season of Star Trek: Discovery returns, CBS All Access will be showing more Star Trek in the form of shorts. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Called Star Trek: Short Treks,each of the four-episode series will run between 10-15 minutes and feature deeper storytelling surrounding the characters and themes from Discovery and the expanding Star Trek universe. The series will launch in the fall and roll out monthly, helping to keep awareness of Discovery high before its return in January 2019.

Rainn Wilson will reprise his role as Harry Mudd in a short he will direct. Aldis Hodge (Hidden Figures, Showtime’s upcoming City on a Hill) will star in another installment as Craft, a man who finds himself the only human on board a deserted ship. Additional episodes will explore Saru’s (Doug Jones) backstory as the first Kelpien to join Starfleet and Tilly’s (Mary Wiseman) journey aboard the USS Discovery and her friendship with an unlikely partner.

“There is no shortage of compelling stories to tell in the Star Trek universe that inspire, entertain and either challenge our preconceived ideas or affirm long-held beliefs, and we are excited to broaden the universe already with Short Treks,” Discovery showrunner Alex Kurtzman said. “Each episode will deliver closed-ended stories while revealing clues about what’s to come in future Star Trek: Discovery episodes. They’ll also introduce audiences to new characters who may inhabit the larger world of Star Trek.”

This should serve two purposes–keeping alive interest in Star Trek until Discovery returns, and giving fans a reason to continue their subscription to CBS All Access as opposed to only subscribing during the months when Discovery is on.

The following trailer was released:

Other news includes an announcement that Rebecca Romijn (X-Men) will guest-star as Number One. While Spock will be on the show, there is no answer as to whether it will by young Spock in flashbacks or Spock serving on the Enterprise. The trailer does indicate that Spock will be on leave at the start of the season, but will be involved in the problem which leads to Pike taking command of Discovery.

Alex Kurtzman was evasive when asked if Lorca will return after his apparent death last season. Culmets will be back, but we don’t know how. There was a hint that it had something to do with mycelium.

The video of the Star Trek: Discovery panel can be seen in the video above. Alex Kurtzman also discussed canon:

We know we owe you a lot of answers how Discovery connects to canon, and you will get a lot of those answers this season. Guaranteed. You’re just not going to get them the way you expect them. A lot of what the first season was about was about the crew finding each other, and coming together, and forming the foundation of a family. Now they really are a family. And so much of what’s will happen over the course of season 2 is going to test them constantly. And they’re even going to have to make choices between their real family and their starship family. So a lot of family pain is going to be a major part of it. As you may have seen in the trailer, there are these mysterious signals that appear. The signals are very significant, and form a lot of the investigative trail of why the Enterprise is here, and where they’re heading. And it will lead to a lot of surprises.

Earlier in the month I noted the plans for  James T. Kirk Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The next in the line of Star Trek themed spirits was introduced at SDCC: Ten-Forward Vodka. The manufacturer plans to send a batch into space, which will be blended with the larger stock so they can promote this by saying that every bottle contains a tiny bit of space-bound booze.

Star Trek Discovery will be returning in early 2019 with exact date not yet announced.

Seth MacFarlane said at The Orville panel that the initial marketing for the show gave the wrong idea about it. From TV Guide:

“Initially, I think the show was a little misrepresented in Season 1. It was marketed as a comedy, a hard comedy. I’m not sure why. I think there was a little bit of worry that this was so new and weird and different that it wouldn’t land if it wasn’t put into a box. It wasn’t necessarily representative of the show,” he said. “The nice thing is that the fans stuck with it and saw what we were, the tonal balance that we were riding and they embraced it.”

MacFarlane clarified that the marketing team for Season 2 was staying more in line with what he believes is the core ethos of the show.

“The show was always intended to be what it is now. I’ll start this by saying that I think the work that the marketing team at Fox did on the season is stellar. They just did a knockout job with [the Season 2] trailer,” he explained.

The feel of Season 2 is going to be a lot bigger in Season 1 as MacFarlane says the writing team is taking more risks in their sophomore season.

“There are two huge changes — the experiment was a success so in Season 2 the storytelling is more assertive and bold. There’s some narratively bold stuff that was just amazing to make,” MacFarlane teased. “What you’re going to see in Season 2 is a show that’s even more comfortable in its footing as far as existing in that Goldilocks zone [between sci-fi and comedy]… Every episode feels like a movie.”

IndieWire adds:

“This show was a tonal experiment of sorts,” MacFarlane said. “Comedy and sci-fi when you blend them together, they don’t always mix well. In features they do, but television is kind of hard to sustain. The pleasant surprise for me was that fans and viewers were willing to let us tell a story. They weren’t waiting for the next joke to come.”

MacFarlane said “different stories call for different tones,” just like life has different tones, and the comedy in “The Orville” was always meant as a “garnish” more than the main course. To that end, he said early advertisements for the hourlong series weren’t in line with the final product.

“Initially, I think the show was a little misrepresented,” MacFarlane said. “It was marketed as a comedy… I’m not sure why. Maybe there was a worry this was so new and weird and different it wouldn’t land.”

Video from The Orville panel above.

The Orville will return on December 30. More on the second season here, including that the second season will be at least one episode longer than the first as one episode was held back.

We have known for a while that we will have a new set of faces when Doctor Who returns, and Den of Geek has some additional information. This includes that, “Chibnall is writing five episodes and that two of the five guest writers on this series are women, including the first-ever woman of colour to contribute to the TV show.”

Deadline interviewed Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker:

DEADLINE: Jodie, besides this being your first Comic-Con, you are the first female Doctor Who. What is the significance of that for you?

WHITTAKER: Oh, it’s huge, really. I mean, your whole mind-set is programmed from being a kid that to play the Doctor, you have to be a man, and if you’re a girl you can be, could be a companion. So as an actor, for those rules to be thrown out the window at this kind of perfect time is really exciting.

DEADLINE: Why?

WHITTAKER: Because for the first time, the Doctor regenerates, but regenerates in this completely brand new way, which is really liberating. For me, now approaching the part it’s really liberating because there’s no rules for me in this way. Also, it’s a perfect job for any actor because even though there’s the 12 previous shoes that you’re filling, you’re able creatively to make it your own. So, I think rather than feeling the pressure of that, I feel the excitement of that.

DEADLINE: Was the heritage of the show an advantage?

WHITTAKER: Well, no season of Doctor Who is like the previous in many ways and neither is a new Doctor, so coming at it with fresh eyes was helpful in so many ways because nobody knows the character before born into this new body. I just wanted to, I suppose, use my newness in myself to be able to bring that energy to the show. Then also, you know, there’s so many references. You’re never going to have a Doctor Who series without references to things that have gone before. So, I obviously have done enough research to know what I’m talking about.

DEADLINE: Clearly, you know the 10th Doctor, David Tennant, from your mutual work on Broadchurch. Did you discuss the role and the show with him or other of your Gallifreyan predecessors?

WHITTAKER: (Laughs) I’ve known David for years, but at first, I wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone because I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone that I got the job. So, it was the only the weekend before it was officially announced that I was able to speak to, very briefly, Peter, Matt Smith and David.

DEADLINE: Did they have any words of Time Lord wisdom?

WHITTAKER: I think the thing that was the overriding message was that you are going to have the time of your life. Also, that this is like no other job, and it’s completely unique for every single person who plays the part.

DEADLINE: Speaking of playing the part, Chris, the two of you obviously worked together on Broadchurch and you have penned a number of Who episodes in the past. But what is it like working with Jodie on Doctor Who?

CHIBNALL: Actually Dominic, that was the brilliant thing about it, really. Having known Jodie and worked with her previously, I know that she is limitless as a performer and is incredibly funny and full of energy, which something that many people haven’t had a chance to see. Often, and some of this is my fault, she’s been crying in shows for years on British television.

So, now, I think what’s been brilliant is knowing how amazing she is as an actress, is to try and give her as much variety, and as much range, and as many challenges as possible to reveal her range and skills. Because the part of the Doctor can go anywhere and should go anywhere. So, in terms of us working together again, that’s been the joy of it on a show that, I think we can all agree, is pretty much the polar opposite of Broadchurch.

DEADLINE: Jodie, not just in terms of gender but generationally, you are a different Doctor than say Peter was. In that context, do you approach this with a clean slate point of view or as a continuation of the greater narrative that Doctor Who has built up over the decades?

WHITTAKER: It’s not so much of a clean slate because you take what’s gone before, and you honor it. But to make it your own season, and for me, to make it my own Doctor, I want to take those elements that’ve gone before in a new direction without losing any of the rich history of show.

DEADLINE: How do you mean?

WHITTAKER: Well, the way we’ve been operating is that if you’ve been a fan of this show for the last 20 years or 50 years, then this will absolutely carry on your passion, and engagement, and excitement. But if you’re brand new to it, that’s OK too. You don’t need to have an encyclopedic knowledge to come into this with fresh eyes, and that’s of any age or gender. I think that’s what’s been exciting for me, because I didn’t come at this as a Whovian, and this is a show that’s inclusive rather exclusive and that’s great.

The official trailer is above and video of the Doctor Who panel is below. So far the BBC is only saying that Doctor Who will return in Autumn 2018.

There was, of course, far more news from San Diego Comic Con which I will return to next week.

SciFi Weekend: The Handmaid’s Tale Controversial Second Season Finale; Discovery Shows The Enterprise Bridge; Emmy Nominations For Genre Shows; Doctor Who Teaser; HBO Picks Up New Show From Joss Whedon; Sweetbitter Renewed; Downton Abbey Movie Announced

The second season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale was quite controversial. I had mixed feelings when I saw June/Offred decide not to flee to Canada. It was frustrating, and unexpected, that she did not take advantage of this opportunity, but I was also concerned while watching the minutes leading up to this that we might be seeing a replay of the first season finale–June on the verge of escaping and then being dragged back again. At very least I am glad that they wound up doing something different.

The question is whether the surprise ending is believable with what we know about June. We would expect anyone to want to escape that country if possible. Last season, when given the opportunity to try to escape, June attempted to do so.  However, some things are different. She saw her first child, and had to face the question of why she did not try harder to remain with her. She even has information about her daughter, giving her a chance at finding her again. While fighting the system in Gilead appears to be too dangerous to risk, seeing that the Marthas have united to rebel does give more hope.

It might be argued that she was attempting to escape when she tried to get the car earlier in the season, however we don’t really know that her plan was to try to escape to Canada. She might have planned to try to free her first daughter first. Plus at that time she was pregnant, and escaping Gilead with her soon to be born daughter would be motivation to try to escape. At the end of the second season she had the opportunity to both send her second daughter to safety and remain behind to fight.

Ultimately whether I accept the conclusion of the second season as a realistic choice will depend upon what we learn was in June’s head in the time and what she winds up doing. After two bleak seasons, I hope that the third season does show further rebellion. Of course with this show there is no guarantee of success. There is the danger that June winds up being captured and in an even worse situation, or even that the entire series ultimately ends with the execution of the characters in Gilead who we care about. Hopefully we will get a more optimistic ending than that.

There are also questions about several other characters. Will Emily actually make it to Canada and, if so, what does she do there. How far will Serena go in opposing the system? Will Aunt Lydia survive her wounds? I bet she will be back. What happens to the relationship between Nick and Commander Waterford now that it is clearer that Nick is involved with the resistance? There must be a limit to how useful Nick’s knowledge of Waterford’s secrets are against a guy cruel enough to have his own wife’s finger cut off for reading the Bible. What will Commander Lawrence do now that we know where his sympathies actually lie? Will the authorities realize that the Marthas were rebelling, and what action will they take? It will be far easier to have a mass execution of Marthas than of handmaidens (as they threatened at the start of the season).

We have some hints as to the answers in this interview executive producer Bruce Miller had with TV Guide:

Did you know from the beginning that Offred was not going to escape at the end of the season? And did you get push back from anyone else about whether or not she should escape or stay?Bruce Miller: There was incredible amount of push back from me and from everybody else. All we want is for her to get out. So even though storywise you want to do one thing, emotionally all you want is the other answer. So I guess we all wanted her to get out personally. But yeah, I mean, I knew from the middle of Season 1 that this would happen. So because of that, we were working toward this. I mean, once we started to feel the kind of deep vein of regret that Offred was feeling, or June was feeling at the prospect of leaving Hannah behind and how it was tearing her apart, we felt like [that] after she saw her. And after she kinda was faced with the idea of, “I am going to be able to get one child to safety, and now I just have to decide what to do myself.” I don’t think it’s a choice about whether you’re gonna stay behind to try to rescue your child, I think it’s a needto. I wouldn’t be able to leave one of my children behind… When we got to it, it felt very natural to the character. It is an impossible choice but we are faced with those all the time, so it is interesting to see what she does.

Have we seen the last of Emily and baby Nicole or is there more story to tell for those two characters?
Miller: We have not seen the last of Emily and Nicole. I don’t know that we’re gonna see Nicole going to her first prom very soon, or Emily for that matter, but we have not seen the last of them. We’ll follow them on their journey after they leave Offred in the tunnel, in the finale, we will be following them… I think that Nicole is quite a popular young girl. There’s lots of people who want her including a whole country of Gilead if she happens to get out… It’s a huge, huge puzzle piece of our world. It’s June’s child, and just as much as Hannah has been a huge part of our show Nicole’s going to be a huge part of our show whether it’s in influence or whether it’s in corporeal reality with someone holding her in their arms. She is the force to be reckoned with. She is the next generation that they’re all doing all of this for.

Will Bradley Whitford’s character be coming back in Season 3, and what are we gonna learn about him and why he helped Emily escape?
Miller:
 Yes, Bradley’s coming back for Season 3. He was exactly the kind of character we wanted to start building in Season 2. We were hoping his schedule would work out that he could come back for Season 3. I think we’re gonna learn a ton about him. I mean, I think the fact is he’s our Oppenheimer character. The man who designed an atomic bomb and then saw what it could do. I mean, he’s a designer of Gilead, and now he’s seen what it can do. So he is a mass of contradictions and dangers, so you never know what he’s willing to do, what he’s not willing to do. He’s been protecting himself for a very long time. And his adventure to keep himself alive certainly is not always an adventure that’s going to keep the people around him alive. But now that June has crossed paths with him, she’s going to cross paths with him a lot more in Season 3.

What you can tell us about Aunt Lydia and her future? We don’t see her actually die but it looks really bad at the end of the season.
Miller: Aunt Lydia doesn’t die. I don’t think Aunt Lydia can die. I don’t think there are forces in the world strong enough to kill Aunt Lydia. And by extension the incredibly strong, fabulous Ann Dowd, I think is with us for a long, long time as well. Aunt Lydia doesn’t die, she’s transformed by this event. The fact that one of her girls who — [she thinks] that there’s a love between her and her girls — has literally stabbed her in the back. I think that that alters your workplace feelings on a day-to-day basis. You don’t wanna turn your back. So I think that in some ways there’s a lot of possible effects. But I think in her case, it makes her double down that she feels like she just wasn’t strong enough in her discipline. So she, I think, has decided it’s time to get tough.

It was exciting to see Rita take a decisive action in the finale. What can we expect from her character moving forward?
Miller: Amanda Brugel, has really done a remarkable job with Rita. The fact that she’s both incredibly strong and invisible in the house is just, it’s a miracle of acting that she really has made her both a powerful force and you just completely forget that she exists. And I mean, and that’s supposed to be mirroring the way the Waterfords and the people in Gilead just let her fade into the woodwork, on purpose, because that’s the role that she’s supposed to play. But it’s great that she uses it strategically, and so everybody forgets about her, and then all of a sudden she has this freedom to build this network with all the other Marthas. They trade things back and forth, information and cinnamon and cheese and all sorts of stuff. And so they have a life going on there and a resistance network. You know it’s used for other things, black-market things, gossip, but now she’s turning it and using it as a resistance network.

I think she’s gonna have to do some very deft dancing to get around her comeuppance for her complicity in this, and I don’t know whether she will, but she is our representative of this group of women who have been pushed into invisible domestic roles like so many women in real society, in our society. She is, but she is not invisible, and she’s not domestic. She is a woman in full, and you get to see kind of the power that brings to bear. And I think, in [Season 3], we’re going to see some of the results of her coming out of her shell and becoming a little more visible. But I think the key for me is that she is a very smart survivor, and that’s what she’s going to continue to be.

We saw Nick, too, take a stand against Fred (Joseph Fiennes) in the finale to help Offred escape. What are the consequences for that choice are going to look like for him next year?
Miller: Nick did take a stand and impulsively, which is not his best — not a Crayola crayon he does do very often. He’s not an impulsive guy in general. And I thought is was such a kind of a measure of the closeness of his relationship with Fred and how much he was willing to risk… But yes, there will be repercussions for Nick. The interesting thing about Nick and Fred is that power dynamic between the two men and the two positions that they hold. One is kind of outwardly a leader of Gilead, and the other, Nick, is quite a powerful person behind the scenes because he’s a spy, and because he has dirt on people, and because he knows all the good and bad things people are doing, going to Jezebel’s and all those things. So I don’t think it’s a hammer that the commander can bring down so easily on Nick, or would want to…

Is there a happy ending to this story? Is that in any way the end goal or is everything always going to be terrible?
Miller: I think there is a happy ending, and I don’t think everything’s always going to be terrible… I believe in June, and I believe that if The Handmaid’s Tale is the story we’ve decided to tell from this imaginary place of Gilead, if June’s story is the story we tell, we’ve told it because it’s a story of hope. I do feel like every episode where it ends and Offred is alive, June is alive, it’s a huge victory and a story worth telling. To see how someone in this world doesn’t just survive, but in their own way, find ways to live, find ways to actually have a life, have intimacy. She sees her daughter, which she never thought would happen. So all of these things are huge victories for me.

But in terms of an ending, I think this is a story of a woman getting out of bondage. So I think in the end that’s the story, whether she is able to get out herself or whether she’s able to get one or more of her children out, or reunite with her husband. Those are all details, but I think the story is bending, I hope, because it exists, it’s bending towards a happy ending because this account of what happened exists means that somehow some way, June got that account out. That to me sets a story of kind of the triumph of the human spirit and hope.

Miller had more to say about why June stayed in this interview with Deadline:

DEADLINE: I often like to start these at the end, so why does June stay in Gilead at the end of the finale?

MILLER: Because she’s a mother. She has one child who’s going off to safety and one child that’s still here so she stays for her daughter Hannah. Whether she’s going to help her daughter or whether she’s going to try her hardest to injure Gilead, it really comes from two things. One is her mom saying you’re stronger than you think, which is something she realized about herself throughout the season. The other is her daughter saying why didn’t you try harder?

When she finally sees Hannah, Hannah says why didn’t you try harder to find me?

And she’s going to try harder and I think that after having a season where all these things that were seemingly impossible have come to pass I think she’s willing to take a chance. She’s not so willing to leave her eldest daughter behind.

Elisabeth Moss also supported her character’s decision in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

“Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Moss explained her take on the season finale and the game-changing decision for June to stick around in Gilead, saying there are two primary reasons for the development.

“There’s really a couple answers to this, and they are equally important,” she says when asked why June’s decision feels like the right way to end season two. “Hannah is the first one. It’s as simple as that. She cannot leave her daughter there. She doesn’t know if she can get back in if she leaves. What can she do from the outside? She doesn’t know. But here’s what she does know. She just discovered that there’s a legitimate and strong underground network of Marthas working for the resistance. The wives led by Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) just rebelled against the men and government of Gilead. They are starting to resist. And she just saw a commander (Lawrence, played by Bradley Whitford) help his handmaid and her dear friend Emily escape. A commander. How deep does this underground network of resistance go? She knows now she isn’t alone. She doesn’t want to leave Hannah, but when she sees Emily and the commander, she realizes she can get her baby Holly out and stay to try to do the same for Hannah. And she doesn’t have a lot of time to make that decision. She does the riskier thing, which is stay, but she literally cannot leave Hannah in that place.”

(For what it’s worth, Moss weighs in on why June told Emily to refer to Holly as Nicole, the name Serena gave the baby: “It’s a show of love for Serena and a thank you for what Serena did in letting June get her out. It’s June’s baby, but it’s June’s way of acknowledging Serena’s true love for that child.”)

In terms of why June’s decision to stay was the right way for season two to end, Moss says, “She is staying to fight to save all the children of Gilead. It’s bigger than her now. It’s bigger than her and Holly and Hannah. It’s all about the sons and especially daughters of Gilead, and fighting for their lives. Seeing the Martha network and the commander have opened her eyes. She is no longer alone. She has an army, and she’s going to fight back.”

“I don’t want to fight from the outside,” she adds. “I think it would kill June. To feel helpless like that. There are people doing the work that needs to be done in other countries, particularly Canada of course, that we show legislatively and trying to find their families and fighting Gilead in that way. There are very few people who can fight from the inside, and you have to have both. There are very few people who are as smart and experienced with Gilead as June is, who are as connected to a high ranking commander such as Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) or Lawrence, who know the ins and out, who have someone connected like Nick (Max Minghella), who knows that there’s a network of Marthas. She has very particular qualities that make her the one who should lead the resistance. Being in Canada, trying to change things from the outside, would just be extremely frustrating for her. And there’s probably no one who gives less fucks about what she has to do to get her daughter Hannah out than June does.”

The final moment of the season sees June pulling her handmaid hood over her head, more iconically cloaked in Gilead than ever before. And yet, Moss agrees that it signals an end for June’s life as “Offred,” even if it also means the birth of someone new.

“It’s not the June that was captured and brought to Gilead,” she says. “It’s not the June in the flashbacks. It’s a new June. She has become stronger, smarter, braver. She has learned a lot. She has experienced indescribable physical and emotional pain. She has changed forever, and not necessarily for the better, but in a way that she needs to have changed to be able to lead the resistance. She has hardened. She’s gotten very tough. She’s maybe colder. But that’s what she needs to be. She will never lose her humanity, and she will never lose the capacity to love as a mother, but that mother’s love can be the fiercest thing you’ve ever seen.”

Promotional pictures for season two of Star Trek: Discovery are showing the inside of the Enterprise.  The above picture is of Burnham walking onto the bridge of the Enterprise. Sonequa Martin-Green is quoted as saying,  “…we’re really going to be digging into family. A lot of questions are going to be raised; some are going to be answered.” Will that include showing Spock? There has also been a picture released of a Saurian, an alien species first seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Star Trek: Discovery, with two nominations, is just one of several genre shows to receive Emmy nominations. Discovery’s nominations are in the categories of  Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup (Series, limited series, movie or special) and Outstanding Sound Editing For A Comedy or Drama (One Hour).

Other Emmy nominations of note include Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black),  for Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Jesse Plemons (Black Mirror: USS Callister) for Lead Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie, and multiple nominations for Westworld, Game of ThronesThe Handmaid’s Tale, and The Americans. The full list is available here.

The official teaser for Doctor Who series 11 was released during the BBC’s coverage of the World Cup Final. We got a look at Jodie Whitaker as the Doctor, the Doctor’s new companions, and perhaps a timey wimy way to replenish a pizza box.  From Entertainment Today’s cover story on Doctor Who:

The choice of Whittaker to play the lead role on Doctor Who represents a massive gamble on the part of new showrunner Chris Chibnall — who’d previously cast Whittaker as a grieving mother on his cop drama Broadchurch — and the BBC, which successfully revived the sci-fi series in 2005 following a lengthy hiatus. More than 18 million Doctor Who DVDs have shipped, 12 million action figures have been sold in the 13 years since its relaunch, and in 2013 a 50th-anniversary episode was screened in 94 countries. In the U.S., the show has become the flagship series for BBC America, which will premiere the new season this fall, simulcasting the first episode so it screens at the same time as in the U.K. There is a lot riding on Whittaker’s ability to make audiences around the world fall in love with a female Doctor, as the actress is well aware.

“There’s no rules, and it’s liberating,” she says. “But it’s equally terrifying.”

EW spent two days on the set of Doctor Who for this week’s cover story, hanging out with Whittaker and the trio of actors who are playing the Doctor’s new companions: Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole. Your writer also spoke with Chibnall who explained why he had made the decision to make the Thirteenth Doctor female once Whittaker’s predecessor, Peter Capaldi, decided to leave the series.

“I just felt the time was right,” said Chibnall. “I think if the show hadn’t done it, we would have been behind the world, and Doctor Who has got to be out front leading the world, and being a great example of all the amazing things that are in the world. So, it wasn’t even a question in my mind.”

Above is a cross over episode I’d love to see (via Doctor Who Today).

HBO has picked up a new series from Joss Whedon. TV Line reports:

The Whedonverse is expanding to HBO.

The premium cabler on Friday gave a series order to Joss Whedon‘s The Nevers, which is described as an “epic science-fiction drama about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.”

Whedon — who previously toyed with creating a “Victorian female Batman” for the stalled comic book series Twist— will write, direct and executive-produce the HBO drama, as well as serve as showrunner. His previous live-action TV forays include, of course, Buffy the Vampire SlayerAngel and Firefly, as well as Dollhouse and the co-creation of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (where his brother Jed serves as co-showrunner).

Totally non-genre (unless you consider the abundance of shows about someone moving to the big city or restaurant shows a genre), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that STARZ has renewed Sweetbitter for a new season. I won’t say it is must see, but at times shows with short seasons come in handy, sort of as a long movie. The first season is six thirty minute episodes, making it easy to watch in one or two sittings. It was the inclusion of Caitlin Fitzgerald in the cast which caught my attention.

In the historical television genre, a Downton Abbey movie is now official.

SciFi Weekend: The Magicians Musical Episode; Black Mirror Renewed; Timeless Returns; Michelle Gomez on Returning To Doctor Who; The Expanse; Agents of SHIELD; Gotham; Lost In Space; Jessica Jones; Altered Carbon; Episode of Black-ish Too Controversial For ABC

Last season The Magicians went into battle with a musical number from Les Miserables (video here). This season they topped that in an episode with four muscical numbers, which also revealed where Josh has been.  The most talked about musical scene was Under Pressure where the entire cast was involved but my favorite was Kady (Jade Tailor) singing All I Need Is the Boy (adapted from All I Need Is the Girl from Gypsy). While most of the cast members have no experience singing, Jade Tailor does have experience with burlesque.

I have not been able to find a stand alone video of Jade Tailor’s song. Video of the entire cast singing Under Pressure follows:

The producers discussed All That Josh with Entertainment Weekly:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In approaching the episode with so many musical numbers, where do you start — with the songs or the story? 
JOHN MCNAMARA: God, I wish it was that linear. [Laughs]
SERA GAMBLE: John, I remember you talking about the David Bowie song, like, the previous season. Am I remembering this right, that you kind of had this image in your head of everybody singing that song long before we got to this episode?
MCNAMARA: Yeah, I think the music was first. Initially, I think it was a much looser, even lighter, less menacing plot. At first, the design was almost going to be like a singing contest where there are high stakes to be lost. That didn’t really hold water, it just didn’t seem to work. [We realized] it had to sit in the serialized narrative of the show, it had to be about the quest, it had to be about something and someone you really cared about, and it had to also serve several ongoing threads that had nothing to do with this musical pocket universe. That just took a lot of trial and error. This was one of those episodes — you have one every season — where the normal episode will take anywhere from three days to two weeks to break the story, get all the beats on the board, and my recollection is this took six weeks. It stopped the [writers’] room. It literally stopped all forward momentum. Fortunately, we’d been on schedule with our other scripts and we kind of planned out. This was the knot to untangle at the end of the second third of the season. All hands were on deck. I give a lot of credit (or blame, depending) to my two co-writers Jay Gard and Alex Raiman. This was their debut professional script.

For me, one of the breakthroughs — which fortunately happened while I was out of the room, so it wasn’t my idea, but I immediately approved it — was the idea that it was a universe where there were dangerous consequences if you didn’t behave exactly the way the leader, Todd/the demon, wanted you to behave. That was a really important breakthrough, I think, for all the writers because it gave it a lot of bottom. It wasn’t just going to be like jazz hands.

When I got to this episode, I was surprised that it became about the group uniting. How did you land on taking it in that specific direction, where it’s about Josh feeling left out? 
MCNAMARA: Part of it was just an accident. We realized we hadn’t had Josh in a bunch of episodes. He sort of got bumped out of a block of episodes through no fault of his own, just that we have a lot of characters and a lot of plot, and that in a way felt fortuitous, that you could then make the show about what happened to Josh.
GAMBLE: Whether or not the episode we’re working on happens to have half a dozen musical numbers in it, we are always playing within the structure of a classic fairy-tale quest this season. Quentin especially is very, very cognizant of how these epic quests work and how each step of the quest challenges the quester in a different way. From the beginning in this case, the quest has been a group effort, and when Eliot is given the quest in the first episode, he’s both encouraged and warned by the fact that everybody is part of one whole, and that means that these different keys, as you try to get them, will challenge you in different ways. If they’re a team and they forgot Josh, that’s a problem for the quest. So that was really one of the first things that we could sink our teeth into. Unlike John, I really don’t have a brain for musical theater. There are a lot of hilariously ardent musical theater fans in The Magicians writers’ room, as you can tell, starting with John, and I am not one of them. I am sort of the grumpy person in the corner who’s drinking coffee and saying, “Explain to me how this would work if no one was singing.”

You had “Under Pressure” in the back of you head for a while, but how did you pick the other three songs for the episode?
MCNAMARA: We knew the opening number would have to reintroduce Josh in a big way. It would have to be a big, inexplicably well-choreographed number that tells you why he’s so happy to be here, how integrated he is into this universe. The dance tells you something nonverbally about the world and the character: He is the center of this whole little universe. He’s the lead singer, he’s the lead dancer, and Todd is kind of his enabler, and we later learn why. That to me felt like we needed something big and upbeat and party-ish. We listened to a lot of songs, I can’t remember the titles of all of them. Some of them were insanely expensive and popular, and the song “Wham Bam” I thought was really catchy and a lot of fun. I thought it was like a really good introduction. It then gave Alice, Quentin, and Kady something to stare incomprehensibly at.

Another [type of musical number] that I’m very fond of is cabaret, where most of the musical numbers take place on a stage, so that you’re seeing a character perform for an audience that isn’t the audience in the theater, it’s the audience of the Kit Kat Klub, and character and milieu are revealed through a little more of a sideways way in. On the surface, it’s not as revealing of character, but if you do it right, it’s very revealing of character. So that informed the decision to have Kady sing her song. All I knew about that song early on was I wanted it to be a Sondheim song, because I love his work and I think it’s really intelligent and it always has layers to it, and I knew that it had to be a torch song because I had an instinct early on that we do a kind of classic Mata Hari move wherein she would do something outrageous to distract all of these creatures, and mollify and entertain them while our heroes were off doing something nefarious upstairs with Josh. I thought the [“All I Need Is the Boy”] lyrics were just as good if not better than “All I Need Is the Girl,” which has pretty good lyrics. I thought that’s the perfect torch song and definitely for our really hardcore musical theater aficionados, who may number in single digits, it’s kind of a treat to hear what is kind of, for 99% of the world, a brand new Stephen Sondheim lyric and, in my opinion, does not disappoint when you want cleverness, emotion, and a not-sentimental emotion and depth from Sondheim.

Then I came to discover with Sera, Jay, and Alex was now we have to explain why it is Kady would choose to sing this song and do a striptease. Then we thought, well, her mom, who we met in season 1 and was a bit of free spirit, might have had a year where she decided to be a stripper and maybe she did this burlesque number and Kady remembers it and recreates the dress. Without necessarily intending to, suddenly the song and the number and the moment and even the suspense it creates all illuminates Kady’s character to a greater degree.

“Car Wash” was just that we wanted something fun for Josh to use to distract, but also to slowly reveal to him how empty and repetitive this life has become and how false it is. I thought disco was a pretty good route to get to the death of the soul. If you’re just doing disco for months and months and months, you’re going to see the emptiness of it. As I said, “Under Pressure” was always in the back of my head before there was anything like a story as something that all eight characters could sing as we intercut between their various worlds and their various problems. None of us started out knowing how or why. That was just always on the board as the big number. In a weird way, the only one that we planned ahead of time was “Under Pressure.” Everything else was kind of trial and error, and selected to either illuminate character or move the story forward.O

Inside the Magicians (video above) has more on the episode, including a very brief look at Jade Tailor singing All I Need Is the Boy.

Black Mirror was officially renewed for a fifth season. There is no word yet as to how many episodes

Timeless returns tonight. Spoiler TV has a preview of the episode here.

In an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, Michelle Gomez says she might return to face Jodie Whittaker’s version of the Doctor. She had this to say about the character:

I think it’s going to be really hard to shake this one off. Missy has made quite a big impression on me, and hopefully on the fans as well. She was such a great fit. Even though, for now, she has been laid to rest. I don’t think she’s ever going to be that far away. I loved playing this character so much, and it was really hard to see her go. But I think that in many different shapes and forms, she will be back. I can’t really say much more than that. I have never had this response to anything else that I’ve done, and I’m really grateful for that.

While her character appeared to be killed and left unable to regenerate, the Master has a long tradition of returning from apparent death. Plus time travel would allow for seeing her at a different point in her time line.

Syfy has released the above trailer for The Expanse season three, which returns April 11.

There were big moments last week for the 100th episode of Agents of SHIELD (discussed and spoiled here), and on Gotham. Although it was during a drug induced hallucination caused by Poison Ivy, Bruce Wayne had a vision of his future, with might be the only view of Batman we are likely to see on the show:

The Librarians has been cancelled by TNT, with there some talk of trying to have it picked up elsewhere.

Netflix will be releasing another remake of Lost in Space on April 13, and released the following trailer:

Jessica Jones is out on Netflix now. I have a four more episodes to go, but so far it has been excellent, showing more about Jessica’s backstory. While the series is slow moving, I haven’t minded. I would much rather spend time with Jessica, Patsy, and the rest of this cast than in the far less interesting world created in Iron Fist.

Altered Carbon is another show highly worth binging which came out recently on Netflix. It also starts out a little slow, but once I got to the second half it was hard to stop until the end.  While it has not been renewed for a second season, I would not be surprised if it returns after the success of the first season. They have the options of adapting the sequels to the novel, or writing new stories set in the universe created.  Joel Kinnaman, star of the current season, will be staring in Hanna on Amazon, and may or may not be available to return for a future season. However, somewhat analogous to Doctor Who, this series has a built-in way to cast a new lead. In this case, as occurred in the novels, Takeshi Kovacs could receive a new sleeve and have his consciousness placed in a new body, played by a different actor. If desired, they could continue this series with a different lead actor every year.

Black-ish has often dealt with political matters, but the episode originally scheduled for February 27 was not shown due to “creative differences.” Variety has some information on the episode:

Shot in November and directed by Barris, “Please, Baby, Please” features Anthony Anderson’s patriarch Dre caring for his infant son on the night of an intense thunderstorm that keeps the whole household awake. Dre attempts to read the baby a bedtime story, but abandons that plan when the baby continues to cry. He instead improvises a bedtime story that, over the course of the episode, conveys many of Dre’s concerns about the current state of the country.

The episode covers multiple political and social issues. In one scene, Dre and oldest son Junior (Marcus Scribner) argue over the rights of athletes to kneel during the performance of the national anthem at football games.

SciFi Weekend Time Travel Edition: Legends of Tomorrow Does The Time Loop; Doctor Who News; Timeless Season 2

Having the characters of a science fiction show enter a time loop as on Groundhog Day has been a common trope on science fiction shows. Last week’s attempt at this on Legends of Tomorrow might not have been the best version, but it turned out to be a great homage to the sub-genre. Tala Ashe (Zari) did an excellent job of expressing her frustration of repeating the same events repeatedly.

In some ways this was most like the version seen earlier this year on Star Trek: Discovery. The overall scenario was quite different from Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad, but they were similar in having one character realize they were in a time loop, and having their ship explode at the end of each cycle. On both shows, one person realized what was going on, but had a hard time convincing others.

On Discovery, Stamets beat the time loop by convincing Burnham that he was telling the truth by showing that he knew everything she was going to say, and subsequently others were brought in.

On Legends, Zari initially had no success convincing others she was telling the truth. I was actually thinking at one point that time loops are such a common science fiction trope that the obvious thing to do is to tell people that things were happening like on Groundhog Day. Moments later Zari came close to this in a conversation with Nate. Actually she explained the scenario and Nate recognized it as Groundhog Day. Having it explained like Groundhog day was enough for him to believe her, and he and suggested that she only had to tell him that to get him on board next time. She did botch by saying Hedgehog Day, but she ultimately got the message across.

Groundhog Day is hardly the only example of this. Subsequently Ray was brought in, except that he related the scenario to Cause and Effect, an episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation. Other recent shows to use this trope have included the fourth episode of season three of Dark Matter, and the movie Edge of Tomorrow. While I did not watch the show, I also recently read that Xena: Warrior Princess had their own version entitled Been There, Done That. With this being such a common trope, it really should not be hard to explain what is going on if one encounters a science fiction fan while in a time loop.

The episode used the time loops partially for fun, and showing more about the characters. This included another rare occurrence of seeing Amy Pemberton give Gideon a human form. Other fun aspects including learning that Mick writes romance novels (and goes to great lengths to keep this secret). One time Nate suggested that Zari take a break and go though a cycle and just have fun, knowing she would have another chance to try to prevent the Waverider from exploding afterwards.

When Doctor Who returns next fall, major changes in how the show looks and feels are inevitable, between a new show runner (Chris Chibnall) and the first female Doctor (played by Jodie Whittaker). The show will also have a new logo, pictured above. A BBC America press release states that, “all official Doctor Who merchandise featuring the new logo will be available at selected retailers from February 20th, 2018.”

There will also will might be significant changes to the sound of Doctor Who. Murray Gold, who has been composing the music for Doctor Who since its return in 2005, is leaving.

Another rumored change might be moving the show from Saturday to Sunday. I hope this is the case as I regularly download Doctor Who as soon as possible after airing in the UK, except for when it conflicts with college football–as it inevitably will when moved back to the fall.

There are also rumors that an episode next season will deal with Rosa Parks.

Now that old television shows are easy to watch I suspect that there is far less interest in novelizations of episodes, but if people are still interested, Russel T. Davies and Steven Moffat are writing novelizations of some of the episodes they wrote.

For those interested in podcasts about both science fiction and Doctor Who, I recently discovered one worth subscribing to. Imaginary Worlds deals with a wide range of science fiction topics, and is currently running a series on Doctor Who. The first episodes was on the Doctor, the second was on the companions, and the third is on the Daleks, with briefer mention of other villains. The stories have a feel sort of as if This American Life was covering Doctor Who. The coverage includes both the original run and the new series. The podcasts would be great for someone new to the show to get a feel for its background, but long time viewers are also likely to find it interesting.

Another time travel show, Timeless, returns March 11. This was a rare case of a show being cancelled, and then the network reversing the decision and renewing it. Any chance someone went back in time to change the future for the show?

As Timeless ended on a big cliffhanger, which I looked at here, I am happy that it will be returning.

Following is the official synopsis of the season from NBC:

From Eric Kripke (“Revolution,” “Supernatural”) and Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), season two of this thrilling action-adventure series will pick up right where we left off with our heroes. We continue to race throughout history with our beloved team: Rufus (Malcolm Barrett), a scientist; Wyatt (Matt Lanter), a soldier; and Lucy (Abigail Spencer), a history professor, in an attempt to prevent the destruction of our world as we all know it. This season they’ll find an unlikely ally in their quest to ruin Rittenhouse, a deadly organization with plans to change history and reshape reality — even though Lucy’s family has been a part of Rittenhouse for centuries. Still making every effort not to affect the past themselves, they will visit 1692, 1917, 1941, 1981 and more.  We’ll be introduced to the likes of Marie Curie, Hedy Lamarr, William Randolph Hearst and a multitude of other influential people throughout history. 

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The X-Files; Time Travel: Doctor Who, Timeless, and Legends of Tomorrow

With Vaulting Ambition I feel that Star Trek: Discovery has moved on from what was predictable and discussed in previous posts to new surprises. As I, and probably most of the internet, previously guessed, Ash Tyler is Voq, Lorca is from the Mirror universe and caused Discovery to wind up there, and Georgiou is the Emperor. All of this was finally confirmed, additional details provided, and new questions raised.

If you accept the logic of the Mirror Universe, most of the remaining revelations in Vaulting Ambition make total sense. In the Prime Universe Burnham was an orphan, was close to Georgiou, and betrayed her. In the Mirror Universe, the specifics are different, but this basic framework exists. As we learned last week that Sarek was not the one who adopted Burnham, it was not all that much of a surprise to learn that Georgiou was the one who adopted her.

It was already pretty obvious that Lorca had a special need for Burnham considering how he not only arranged for her to be on Discovery, but also acted very protective of her. Their connection was explained. Presumably the Lorca of the Prime Universe and the Mirror Burnham are dead, but having one or the other show up isn’t impossible. The writers sure played with the audience in both surprising us in the dinner scene with the revelations that Burnham was adopted by Georgiou, and subsequently that Burnham had betrayed her with Lorca. They also played with the viewers when Lorca was in the torture booth initially pretending not to know the name of the sister, as would be expected if he was from the Prime Universe. Then he suddenly gave it away.

There were already many clues. While there was already speculation that Lorca was the Mirror version to explain his very un-Starfleet like behavior, including leaving Harry Mudd behind with the Klingons, I became convinced of it in Lethe. The clues included him not remembering details of past actions with Admiral Cornwall and his behavior towards her, including attacking her and sleeping with a phaser. Another clue in this episode was finding that both Georgiou and Lorca eat Kelpiens, after Burhnam picked one out as we pick lobsters. Again this is consistent with Kelpiens being a prey species in the Prime Universe (even if not prey of humans). The clincher for Burnham was finding out about the shared eye problem between Georgiou and Lorca.

The confirmation that Lorca is from the Mirror Universe provides an answer for critics of Discovery who complain that what we have seen is not consistent with Star Trek. Lorca was not acting like a Starfleet Captain because he was from the Mirror Universe. The fact that his actions were found to be suspicious and he was at risk of losing his command shows that the rest of this universe is like the Star Trek universe we are accustomed to.

Burnham, who has frequently made bad decisions from her initial attack on Georgiou in the pilot to going to the planet last week, seems to have made another one in quickly informing Mirror Georgiou both that she is from a different universe and about the spore drive. Georgiou was far better at keeping secrets, including the use of her killer fidget spinner to make sure none of the witnesses to the conversation will talk. Burnham was also easily conned by Mirror Georgiou’s claims of being honorable as the Georgiou she knew was honorable, but the whole point of the Mirror Universe is that we are seeing the evil versions of Federation characters.

Also in the episode, Stamets did get to see Culber again, but it hardly left me optimistic that Culber will actually be seen alive again. The issues in the mycelial network might provide yet another reason why the technology is not being used by the time of the original show.

It was surprising that  L’Rell both revealed so much about her plan with Voq, and gave in to work on him. This still leaves the question open of what she is actually doing, and who will remain when she is done.

There are many remaining questions including the specifics of Lorca’s plan. In a battle between the Mirror versions of Lorca and Georgiou, is one preferable, or are both entirely evil? Will learning about how Lorca got into the Prime Universe provide another way home for Discovery? Regardless of how the battle between Lorca and Georgiou turns out, where does this leave Star Trek: Discovery in the future?

It is hard to see Lorca being Captain in the future, unless the Prime Universe version is locked up in Lorca’s menagerie and will be ready to retake command (after a hiatus between seasons). One of the original ideas discussed for Discovery was for it to be an anthology series. I wonder if it is even a possibility that next season will be an entirely different story with a different ship and crew. That possibility also means that we cannot even be certain that the Discovery will return to the Prime Universe. It might be stuck in the Mirror Universe, wind up in yet another universe, or leave the Mirror universe at a different point in time.

If you only watch one episode of The X-Files this season, watch The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat. The episode was written by Darin Morgan who wrote classic episodes such as Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’ and the best episode of last seasonMulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.

The episode appears to be inspired by both The Twilight Zone and Donald Trump. It is about gaps in collective memory, a phenomenon known as the Mandela effect–except in the episode it is also misremembered as the Mengele effect. Examples begin with Mulder finding evidence that his favorite episode of The Twilight Zone, The Lost Martian, doesn’t really exist. When Mulder couldn’t find it anywhere Scully suggested it might have been an episode of The Outer Limits. Mulder was shocked: “Confuse The Twilight Zone with The Outer Limits?! Do you even know me?”

Elsewhere in the episode Mulder set everyone straight as to who he is: “Do you know who I am? I’m Fox Mulder! I was fighting the power and breaking conspiracies before you saw your first chemtrail, you punks! I’m Fox Freaking Mulder, you punks! I’m Fox Mulder! Fox Mulder!”

Much of the episode involved meeting a guy named Reggie in a parking garage, with other faux historical information provided about manipulating collective memory. This included Dr. Thaddeus Q. They, who had worked on making astronauts forget home, but wound up making them think they were chimpanzees. His best scene was siting on top of the Washington Monument (as there were no other seats available) wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap. It was mocking Trump’s claims about the inaugural crowd by pretending that the public was manipulated into forgetting how many people actually attended.

This was the perfect episode for the Trump era, called the POCO age in this episode as “We’re living in a post-cover-up, post-conspiracy age.”  This might describe the POCO age:

No one will care whether the truth gets out, because the public no longer knows what’s meant by the truth. No one can tell the difference anymore between what’s real and what’s fake. Take this Mandela Effect. In the old days, I never would have come out and admitted to you that yes, I can change people’s collective memories.

Dr. They gave Trump credit: “Our current president once said something truly profound. He said, ‘Nobody knows for sure.’”

The episode had Mulder attempt to explain discrepancies in memory based upon parallel universes, while Skully explained it by faulty memory. When Mulder’s memory of watching television of a child was shown, there was a child sized Mulder with adult Mulder’s head.

The invasion of Grenada was shown to be a cover-up of an alien visit. We later later learned that, “We’re not alone in the universe, but nobody likes us.” The alien returned to say that a wall, which will be “beautiful, albeit invisible,” will be built around our solar system to keep humans from infecting the rest of the galaxy. The rationalization sounded like one from Donald Trump saying the Earth is  “not sending us your best people. You’re bringing drugs, you’re bringing crime, you’re rapists.” To make up for this restriction, Mulder was given a book entitled All the Answers, which answers all the questions raised by the X-Files. Of course Mulder did not want the book, wanting to continue his search for the truth.

Ultimately the entire series was retconned to include Reggie as a third member of the team, with scenes from classic episodes edited to include Reggie Forrest Gump style. The idea was set up earlier this season in This when Mulder and Scully were flipping through the electronic X-Files and there was a badge for Reggie. Reggie was ultimately taken away in a straight jacket. Skinner then came out asking where they were taking Reggie, adding a question as to how real his story was.

With the recent talk of a secret society in the FBI working to undermine Trump, I do hope that Gillian Anderson reconsiders and returns for another season of The X-Files so that they could do an episode on this. The likelihood that this talk is largely nonsense in no way reduces the possibility that The X-Files could use the idea for an episode.

SyFy.com interviewed Darin Morgan:

With the renewal of The X-Files for a Season 11 and your call back to write another episode, did it start with asking yourself, “What do I want to explore?”

Darin Morgan: Well, you know my last episode [“Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster”] was kind of about coming back to the show, and reflecting back on what did it all mean and how did I feel about that?

 have to say, it was a unique exploration of those themes via comedian Rhys Darby’s out-of-sorts monster.

Yeah, Rhys was great. So this one was more of like, ‘Okay, you’ve reflected, so what’s going on now with the world?” And the whole idea of, if this show’s main thing has been ‘The truth is out there’ and we have a president who…

For him there is no truth.

Right. Or you have Mulder, who’s been a conspiracy nut from the get-go, and now you have essentially his boss [President Trump] is even a bigger conspiracy nut.

Mulder actually looks sane for the first time compared to where the world is right now.

Exactly. So that was the main approach. How would Mulder respond to all that’s going on around him?

David and I talked about that too, in that over the 25-year span of the show, the world has achieved peak surreal. As a writer, how do you distill that into this world?

Good question. I don’t know. This may not directly answer you, but I found the hardest thing was in terms of Trump, every day he does something that you go, “I can’t believe he said that. I want to address that.” But a week later, no one remembers that thing. There were so many things when I first started writing that if I had referenced it I don’t think people would have remembered it now. So I ended up focusing on the wall and his lying. Those two things will always be around as long as he’s president. I sort of focused on those two things.

Having Reggie as the third partner is fantastic. Where did that idea come from, and also Brian’s casting?

Brian was great. He’s a lot of fun. I came across the… I was going to say the Mengele Effect, but it’s The Mandela Effect. (Laughs) From that it was figuring out what I was going to do with that. It’s this idea — and I think this is where the third partner idea came in — was like if someone has never had an experience, like I don’t have a memory other people do, the only way to make them understand what that might feel like is if someone was watching the show, The X-Files, and the someone goes, “There was always another character.” And you go, “Wait, no, no. It was just Mulder and Scully.” And they say, “No, no. There was Mulder and Scully and Reggie something.” That would put them in a position of going, “Oh, how would I react if a memory I have that I cherished of my past, suddenly nobody else believes me?” So that was the way to do it.

Did you come out of the other end of it feeling like the phenomena is something more?

No.

No?

I still think it’s just people misremembering. I have a really bad memory myself. It’s interesting to go, “Oh, try to come up with some theory to explain it.” But it’s just people not remembering. I guess that’s why I probably didn’t do as thorough and in-depth exploration of that phenomenon, because, to me, there wasn’t a lot to run with. Other than that, I get parallel universes, which is one explanation…

Are you doing any episodes in the back part of the season?

No. Once is enough.

After all these years, do you feel like new X-Files stories still come to you easily?

Oh, God no. No. It’s always tough. Writing for the show is so hard because you have to come up with a completely different story and it’s not in an anthology show, which in some ways makes it easier. But it’s also difficult because you have to do Mulder and Scully investigating a story on something completely different. It’s just always difficult. I’ve never had an episode where, “Oh, that one was easy.”

I am glad that the 13th Doctor won her first battle. From Digital Spy:

The BBC gender pay gap was one of the biggest stories of last year, and one person who is not afraid of fighting such inequality is Jodie Whittaker.

The actress told Digital Spy and other media outlets that she made sure that she got paid the same as her Doctor Who predecessor Peter Capaldi.

Speaking backstage at the National Television Awards, Whittaker said: “It’s an incredibly important time and the notion [of equal pay] should be supported.

“It’s a bit of a shock that it’s a surprise to everyone that it should be supported!

“I know I do not speak just on behalf of the women here, I speak on behalf of the men and the women,” she added, stating that people of both sexes believe they should be paid equally.

When asked how she was enjoying working on the iconic sci-fi show, the actress said: “Yeah, it’s great. I love it, I absolutely love it, yeah. It’s amazing! I get to see all the best places!”

Den of Geek looked at the unanswered questions of the Peter Capaldi era.

Radio Times summarized what is known about the first season of the Jodie Whittaker era here.

NBC has announced a return date for Timeless. The second season will  start on Sunday, March 11th at 10 p.m. with an episode entitled, The War to End All Wars. Needless to say, it involves a trip back to World War I. I hope they don’t give away the fact that we call it World War I as the Doctor did on Twice Upon A Time. Spoilers.

On another time travel series, Legends of Tomorrow, Wally West (Kid Flash) is going to become a series regular. Constantine will also appear on the show when it returns February 12. Following is the synopsis of the episode:

After Sara’s (Caity Lotz) encounter with Mallus, the Legends are paid a visit by John Constantine (guest star Matt Ryan), a demonologist detective.

The Legends agree to accompany him to a present-day psychiatric hospital and they are surprised to discover who Constantine is trying to help.

During the exorcism, Sara, Leo (guest star Wentworth Miller) and Constantine go missing, leaving Ray (Brandon Routh) and Zari (Tala Ashe) to try to take care of Constantine’s client.

Meanwhile, Amaya (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) and Nate (Nick Zano) once again come face to face with Kuasa. Dominc Purcell also stars.

The CW Network is staggering its superhero shows, having recently started Black LighteningMark Pedowitz, the CW’s president, realizes that there is a limit to how many superhero shows can survive at once, and has placed a limit of four. Good idea, especially considering that other networks also have superhero and comic-based series at present.

SciFi Weekend: The X-Files Returns; Star Trek Discovery Starting Second Half Of Season; Jodie Whittaker On Doctor Who

The X-Files returned last week and, after so many good seasons, there was no question but to give it another chance despite a disappointing season two years ago. My Struggle III wound up retconning much of what occurred in part II (last season’s cliff hanger season finale). The events, including the plague, the breakdown of civilization, and the alien spaceship at the end, apparently are prophesies while Scully is actually in a coma, and none of it has happened yet (if ever). Normally I might object to getting out of a cliff hanger in such a manner, but it is probably better for the show that they reset like this. It just lowers my view of the tenth season a bit more, while giving me more hope for this season.

Overall it was a good episode, and I hope that they do include more of the mythology, as opposed to going to stand-alone monster of the week episodes until the season finale as they did last season. Besides the retcon of cliff hanger, they went back and revised more of what we thought about the show, spending a lot of time on events dealt with during the regular run of the series. This included a lot with the Cigarette Smoking Man (always a plus for an X-Files episode), and especially with his involvement with William’s birth. If he sees himself as William’s father, I guess this means that William is Mulder’s half-brother rather than son.

Other developments include finding that Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) is working quite closely with the Cigarette Smoking Man, and there are new characters involved in the big conspiracy. Jeffrey Spender is also more important, as long as the season involves the search for William. The entire end-game has also changed, with the aliens no longer wanting to colonize the earth as we have made it too hot. Apparently there is some good to come from global warming.

The episode also showed the moon landing as being faked, which I was disappointed in, finding this to be a bit too much tin-foil-hat even for The X-Files. Yes, part of X-Files is accepting a lot of alien conspiracy stuff as real for the fun of the series. I wouldn’t have minded if they did something like having aliens on the moon at the time of the landing. However X-Files is about believing that a lot of science fiction stuff is real, not denying space travel which has actually occurred.

Where ever they go this season, I do hope that they end with a satisfactory conclusion (even if leaving some things open), especially as Gillian Anderson says she will not return to The X-Files (or American Gods), and Chris Carter doesn’t plan to continue without her. Of course actors have been convinced to change their mind in the past about returning to a role.

Star Trek:Discovery returns tonight–but why couldn’t CBS stream it a little earlier so we could watch it before the Golden Globes start? Tonight’s episode, Despite Yourself, will be the one directed by Jonathan Frakes, and is rumored to involve the Mirror universe. The producers are teasing what we will see in the second half of the season, via AV Club:

The Discovery EPs talked about keeping the workplace safe for women and promoting greater representation on and off screen, which remained a part of the discussion even when reporters were green-lit to go off topic and ask about what viewers can expect from the second half of the show, which returns January 7.

Berg advised fans to “buckle up,” because the show is “introducing a huge new development.” “It’ll be fun for Trek fans,” Harberts chimed in, teasing a “nice nod to stuff from [The Original Series]. This back half—what happens tomorrow night firmly anchors the back half to the season. It’s definitely again a war story, as far as how it’ll play out, but our characters find themselves in a place where their identities are challenged. It’s an emotionally wrought back half. Very intense. The cast has done some amazing work.”

As far as what thematic arc we can expect from the Trek series that the EPs and network have regularly touted for its more serialized storytelling, Berg invoked the “discovery and self-discovery” themes that have been a part of Burnham’s story this season. “She had a big hole to climb out of emotionally, spiritually, and how she feels she fits in the world. [This second half] is about getting her back to a place we saw her in in the beginning.”

“Redemption’s a huge theme,” Harberts adds, which is something the show’s producers and writers are probably hoping for after the first half of season one was deemed not quite Trek enough by some viewers. “The other thing that’s a huge theme for us is taking the Federation from the darkness into the light. Everybody wants this optimistic version of Star Trek right out of the gate. And I feel that our show has a lot of hope in it from episode to episode, depending on storyline we’re tracking.” So if you’ve found the show somewhat grim (this particular writer hasn’t), stay tuned, because Harberts says “by season’s end, people will see the Federation they’ve come to know and love from TOS on.”

When The A.V. Club asked Berg and Harberts about Georgiou’s sudden departure, the EPs pointed to the upcoming episode. Berg calls the relationship between Georgiou and Burnham “such a core relationship for the entire spine. Our goal was always to keep Captain Georgiou alive on the show.” Cutting herself off to avoid revealing too much, Berg then says, “The joy is in the journey. I’d say, keep watching, because Georgiou is such a huge part of the heart who was Michael Burnham. If that’s something you’re invested in, keep watching because I think you hopefully will enjoy what we’re going to do.” “Once you watch episode 10, you’ll see the context that we’re playing in,” Harberts adds. “Another theme for the back half is second chances. As people are consuming the back half, keep that in mind.”

As for what we can expect from the back half of season one, the war story will continue, but there will be less Klingon and subtitles. “We still stand behind that decision,” Berg says, because it made sense for the story of the nativist Klingons. But Harberts also indicates there will be “a little less reading involved” going forward.

I previously speculated that we might see Captain Georgiou alive in the Mirror universe, or some other parallel universe. Perhaps we will find out if that is the case tonight.

Doctor Who Magazine has an interview with Jodie Whittaker which includes the above picture of her as she will be dressed on Doctor Who. Whittaker also discussed the significance of her new role on Doctor Who in an interview with Total Film, calling it “fucking brilliant.” A synopsis from Digital Spy:

In an interview with Total Film, Jodie acknowledges how the very act of her casting as The Doctor may already have opened up doors for other actresses.

“This is the defining moment of my life,” she tells the magazine. “I feel old enough for it. And I feel like I understand how important it is, and I’m so excited that the role models for young children, boys or girls… or teenagers, or adults, come in different forms.

“There’s nothing unattainable about me. I don’t look like I’ve been carved out of rock. I don’t sound like I’ve had the extraordinary glamour.”

The actress then explained: “For me, knowing what I thought were my limitations as a person and an actor, because this industry is about, ‘You sound like this, you look like this’… but I’m normal.

“And that was exciting to [Broadchurch co-star and former Doctor] David [Tennant] – it was a superhero he could play. And now it opens it a little wider, to women as well.

“It’s amazing to be a milestone, but how wonderful if it wasn’t, if it was just accepted, embraced. I’m not dissing the moment – it’s f**king brilliant – but hopefully when other people grow up, it’s not so much of a surprise.”

SciFi Weekend: Twice Upon A Time; Black Mirror Does Star Trek (And More) With USS Callister; Jonathan Frakes on Star Trek Discovery and The Orville; Top New Genre Shows Of 2017

Twice Upon A Time was the final episode of Doctor Who for both Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat. The episode has far more references to previous episodes than I’d attempt to list and makes it clear that it is part of a tradition starting long before either Capaldi or Moffat were involved. It goes back to the first Doctor, starting with black and white footage and the caption “709 episodes ago,” ultimately leading to the words “to be continued.”

We knew it would be continued although both the first and the twelfth Doctor threatened  not to regenerate. Of course we knew that the first had to regenerate as we have seen subsequent Doctors. It was also no surprise that Twelve ultimately decided that, “One more lifetime won’t kill anyone…except me.” Of course each Doctor will give into yet one more lifetime.

The episode differed from a typical episode in that we learned that the Testimony was not really doing anything menacing. (“I don’t know what to do when it isn’t an evil plan.”) Rather than having the universe in danger this was a smaller scale story, only giving enough plot so that we didn’t have the two Doctors, along with the Captain and Bill’s memories, do nothing but talk to each other. This also enabled Moffat to return to his earliest stories. The planet Villengard was from his first Doctor Who story, The Doctor Dances, and Rusty the good Dalek returned from Into The Dalek. The idea of memories living on after death has been seen repeatedly in Moffat’s stories in some form or another.

The year of #MeToo turned out to be the perfect year for Doctor Who to explore sexism, contrasting the first Doctor’s 1960’s attitudes with the present. When the twelfth Doctor said, “You can’t say things like that,” he was not only lecturing someone from the 1960’s, but was also pointing out what he has learned over time. It was an even bigger shock for the first Doctor when he and the Captain mentioned that they have had “some experience of the fairer sex” and Bill responded that she has too. Ultimately the glass ceiling in the TARDIS was broken (along with the entire TARDIS blowing up).

Besides the appearances by David Bradley as William Hartnell’s first Doctor (after having played Hartnell in the An Adventure in Space And Time), and the return of some form of Bill, there were brief cameos by Clara Oswald and Nardole, with the Doctor regaining his memory of Clara. The two characters out of World War I were by Mark Gatiss and Toby Whitehouse, both writers with Doctor Who experience. The Captain also turned out to have yet another role in Doctor Who history as he was ultimately identified as Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart–the grandfather of General Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart,  the Brigadier. (His exact relationship was not mentioned in the episode but SciFi Wire reports that Gatiss referred to his character as the Brigadier’s grandfather in a press Q&A).

Being a time travel story, there was the obvious slip (“Spoilers”) of the Doctor referring to the “War To End All Wars” as “World War I.”  “What do you mean ‘one’?” Plus being a Christmas episode led to the perfect resolution of the Captain’s story with the Doctor returning him a few hours later so that instead of being shot he participated in the Christmas Armistice of 1914

Of course we all knew where this was going as Peter Capaldi gave his final speech on the TARDIS, with advice for his next self:

Oh there it is. Silly old universe. The more I save it, the more it needs saving. It’s a treadmill. Yes, Yes I know they’ll get it all wrong without me. Well I suppose one more lifetime won’t kill anyone. Well, except me. You wait a moment, Doctor. Let’s get it right. I’ve got a few things to say to you. Basic stuff first. Never be cruel, never be cowardly, and never ever ever eat pears. Remember, hate is always foolish and love is always wise. Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind. Oh, and you mustn’t tell anyone your name — no-one would understand it anyway. Except children, children can hear it, sometimes if their hearts are in the right place, and the stars are, too, children can hear your name — but nobody else, nobody else, ever. Love hard, run fast, be kind. Doctor, I let you go.

Screen Rant provided an explanation as to where the various portions of this speech came from.  Den of Geek also explained:

The twelfth Doctor’s final speech, which was worked on by both Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi, contains several elements from dialogue past. “Never be cruel, never be cowardly” is a doff of the cap both to The Day Of The Doctor and to 70s script editor Terrance Dicks, who would often cite the Doctor’s lack of these two traits as one of his greatest virtues. “Never eat pears” is a reference to Paul Cornell’s novel Human Nature, in which the seventh Doctor expressed a dislike for pears before taking on human form. A similar line was cut from the 2007 tenth Doctor adaptation with the same name. In Hell Bent the Doctor told Clara never to eat pears, as “they’re too squishy and they always make your chin wet”.

“Be kind” is what the Doctor begged of the Master and Missy back in The Doctor Falls, but it was also said by the tenth Doctor to the Vashta Nerada in Forest Of The Dead. “Don’t tell anyone your name” likely refers to the kerfuffle caused by the Doctor’s name in Matt Smith’s final year, when it was revealed that saying his name on Trenzalore would have reignited the Time War. However, the Doctor did seemingly tell River Song his real name on the occasion of their ‘nuptials’ in 2011’s The Wedding Of River Song – but then, as we’ve been told, ‘the Doctor lies’… The part about the stars and one’s heart being in the right place appears to be the invention of Peter Capaldi, who expressed a similar sentiment at a special screening earlier this year.

Then there was the regeneration energy, the Doctor’s ring fell off, and we had a new Doctor. Just as we first saw Peter Capaldi’s forehead and eyes, this is what we first saw of Jody Whittaker. Apparently us Americans will have to learn to understand Jody Whittaker’s Yorkshire accent. All we heard from her so far was, “Oh brilliant.” Then there was the ultimate cliff hanger as the TARDIS exploded and the thirteenth Doctor was falling towards the earth. Presumably this will enable her to have her own look for the TARDIS, or perhaps she will be without it for a while.

More on Twice Upon A Time, and the question of the Doctor’s real name, here.

Just as Doctor Who incorporated the Doctor from the 1960’s, Black Mirror began its fourth season with an homage to the other classic science fiction show of the 1960’s, Star Trek, with USS Callister. It first appeared as an over-the-top parody of a Star Trek episode, culminating with Captain Kirk kissing all the girls. It turned out to be something completely different. Major spoilers ahead.

While Star Trek type science fiction played a key role in the story, the story was more about artificial reality and about abuse of power. Jesse Plemons played the co-head of a tech firm who did not get much respect on the job, and took it out on sentient digital clones of others in the office. Most had accepted their roles and inability to fight back until a new employee played by Cristin Milioti was brought aboard. The final straw was finding that she had been robbed of her sexuality, and her vagina. She led a successful rebellion, which included blackmailing her real self into helping with revealing pictures hidden online. It all worked out well in the end with the digital clones becoming free of Jesse Plemons and free to explore the digital universe, now with a modern JJ Abrams Star Trek look (including lens flare). Perhaps if Plemons wasn’t so concerned with exercising power and abusing others he could have had far greater adventures in his digital world.

Den of Geek interviewed Charlie Brooker and Anabel Jones about the episode:

This is a brilliant ‘have your cake and eat it’ episode, in that you start with the spoof of the ship navigating the asteroid belt, then by the end I’m watching like this [mimes learning forward, tense] thinking ‘are they going to get through the asteroid belt?!’ How did the layers of that story evolve?

Charlie Brooker: We were on the set of Playtest from the previous season and we were saying ‘we haven’t done a space episode. What’s a Black Mirror space episode?’ and quite quickly we went ‘well, it couldn’t really be in space, it would have to be in a simulation’, then quite quickly again it was like ‘what if there are people who are copied in and they’re trapped in there and it’s like a prison?’

Like White Christmas?

CB: Yeah! And then the captain is the baddie, so it’s like Playtime Fontayne from Viz, who’s a grown man who makes everyone play games like a child. It’s like a nightmare, he’s a tyrant, he’s mad! So then we started calling it Toy Story or Adult Toy Story, we kept calling it…

Annabel Jones: …which then sounded wrong! [laughs]

CB: Relatively quickly those thoughts came together. Then the notion of it being a sort of vintage show that he was obsessed by kind of came in slightly later because we thought, what’s even more unexpected? A), because the world he has created is a throwback and a simplistic interpretation of shows like that. It’s his interpretation of that show, rather than what that show would have actually been, it’s his simplistic fable version of it and it’s quite reductive and out of date. We’re not saying that shows of that nature are reductive and out of date, because they were actually very progressive at the time. His warped version of it.

Partly it also came about because we wanted to have an opening where you go ‘what the fuck is this?’…

He starts as the underdog and I thought I was going to like him, he seemed like my kind of socially awkward guy. Then you see him behaving like a cruel tyrant, ignoring the irony of the speech he gives about the utopian ideals of Space Fleet. He’s like ‘actually, it’s about ethics in space exploration!’ Was that intended as a comment on online fandom and that sort of character?

CB: Not really. It’s interesting because that is a thing that a couple of people have said. That worries me slightly because I don’t want it to be seen that we’re attacking fans of classic sci-fi, that speech is more meant to be a bit of a joke really. He delivers this speech, which presumably he has lifted from an episode of Space Fleet, about the noble ideals of this progressive UN-in-space, and then he turns around and goes “…and you arseholes are fucking it all up!” It’s meant to illustrate the gulf between his fantasy heroics—he wants to be the hero in this make-believe world—and the stupidity and tyranny of what he’s actually doing…

Speaking of influences, there are echoes of that Twilight Zone great episode with Anthony Fremont, the little kid who controls his town and turns people into Jack-in-a-box. Was that an inspiration or just somewhere in the back of your head?

CB: I think at some point I thought ‘hang on, it’s not a million miles away’ because he’s a tyrant, that kid is a dictator that everybody has to be extremely mindful of, that lives in a fantasy world so probably unconsciously there was an element of that. Certainly you could draw a parallel there.

Are you a Star Trek fan? What’s your relationship with that franchise?

CB: I was probably more of a Doctor Who fan as a kid, or Twilight Zone or Tales Of The Unexpected but Star Trek was kind of an anthology show as well in a way. I never really watched the 90s Star Trek series. Will Bridges, who co-wrote the episode, is a big, big, big Star Trek fan, so he was delighted at the chance to do all that. He knew a lot of the lingo.

The episode has a lot of fun with early Star Trek…

CB: Tropes, yes. A lot of that came from Will, he was like ‘Oh, I know! This and that can happen’, so he was having a lot of fun in that respect. I watched The Original Series when I was a kid and would find it terrifying a lot of the time. I think we wanted it to feel, generally, with classic sci-fi, we wanted it to feel more like an homage than an attack.

An affectionate ribbing?

CB: Yeah. There’s a bit of piss-taking going on but really it’s aimed at Daly.

So incurring the wrath of Star Trek fans isn’t something you’re worried about?

CB: Well it’s worrying, because you don’t want to upset people unnecessarily. We’re not saying that is a rubbish show, or it’s a throwback, because again, it was wildly ahead of its time. He says at one point that it was visionary, and that’s true!

Of course this season we have had two different interpretations of Star Trek with new the new shows, Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. Jonathan Frakes, who has past experience on Star Trek: The Next Generation, has directed episodes of both and discussed this with IndieWire:

Mimicking a variety of styles is something that the veteran director is quite used to doing. In just the last year, Jonathan Frakes directed five episodes of television, including both “The Orville” and “Star Trek: Discovery,” perhaps serving as the ultimate bridge between the two fall TV homages to the “Star Trek” franchise. And according to Frakes, there’s room for both.

“Stylistically, your responsibility as an episodic television director [is] when you do a show like ‘The Orville,’ you want that show to look like ‘Next Generation,’” he said. “And when you go to Canada to do ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ they want that show to have the feeling, and look, and vibe of the J.J. [Abrams]-era ‘Star Trek.’ Much more cinematic, a lot of crane work, and a lot of movement, a lot of dutch angles. On ‘Next Generation,’ the traditional framing, and the things we became accustomed to as fans of the show, we see in [‘The Orville’] because that’s the look.”

When it came to “The Orville,” Frakes said that “I was afraid that it was going to be like ‘Family Guy,’ and it’s not really, but it’s also not really as serious as ‘Next Generation.’ I think Seth [MacFarlane], and Brannon [Braga], and whoever else is involved in all this, they found a tone that clicks with this audience, either the millennial audience or the old school audience. Everyone is very pleasantly surprised at how well the show has been received. I’m happy to see the homage, and I’m happy to see success for whoever wants to steal good ideas.”

Added Frakes, “It was a very conscious, and I think quite successful, homage. ‘Orville’s’ coming back for a second season, so is ‘Discovery.’ There’s room, obviously, in the fans’ hearts for both types of ‘Star Trek.’”

Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville are just two of the great science fiction shows to premiere in the past year. See SciFi Weekend’s ranking of the Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017. (I’m linking to it again today as those who follow links to SciFi Weekend through Facebook groups did not get the link last week as I was back in Facebook Jail last Sunday, with Facebook increasingly interfering with posting links to groups).

SciFi Weekend: Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017; Doctor Who News On The Eve Of “Twice Upon A Time”

Doing top of the year lists in television has become increasingly difficult in this age of peak television when there are around 500 scripted shows and it is impossible to watch everything new which is on. I’ve even heard some of the professional television critics admit to this problem and that their lists should realistically be called the Top X Shows Which I Have Watched. As each season adds to the number of shows which deserve to be ranked which I have not seen, I have annually limited my lists to the top new shows of the year. (The Top Twenty New Shows Of  2016 is posted here). In past years I have included all types of television, with a bias towards genre in the rankings. I found that this year I have seen most (but certainly not all) of the new genre shows which I believe are worth seeing, but when all types of shows are considered the percentage drops significantly. Therefore I decided to make the main list the Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017 and will mention some additional shows afterwards.

Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017

10. The Gifted (Fox)

One of three new X-Men or mutant related shows (with the X-Men and Inhumans possibly to be united if the Disney purchase of Fox goes through). This is definitely the more conventional of the two included on this list, and the mid-season finale opens hope that the show will be expanded from what we have seen so far. It is worth seeing with the combination of Root (Amy Acker) and Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer), both obviously in new roles.

9. The Defenders (Netflix)

The team-up of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist was more worth watching to see the interactions of these four than for the battle against The Hand. I previously reviewed the series here.

8. The Tick (Amazon Prime)

This was a far better than NBC’s attempt at superhero comedy with Powerless. More on the show here.

7. The Punisher (Netflix)

Technically there are no superhero or science fiction elements in the show but I will include it as it overlaps with the Marvel universe, with Karen Page playing a significant role, and with the Punisher having been introduced in Daredevil. Like the other Marvel shows which are set up as one long story, it might have been better if cut to eight to ten episodes as opposed to thirteen, but they did do a good job of intermixing two related stories in the present along with flashbacks to set up the backstory. I did prefer the government conspiracy story line over The Hand as in the other two new Marvel series on Netflix this year.

6. Runaways (Hulu)

Yet another show based upon a Marvel comic, Runaways in tone is somewhere between the network-friendly Agents of SHIELD and the more adult shows on Netflix. So far it has done a good job of setting up a conflict between a group of teens and their villainous parents.

5. American Gods (Starz)

Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have done an excellent job of adapting the first portion of Neil Gaiman’s novel, but it is now questionable as to whether this will survive with their departure from the show. There is a look at the season finale here.

4. The Orville (Fox)

The show initially appeared questionable when billed as a parody, but over the course of the season Seth MacFarlane learned how to tell serious science fiction stories while mixing in humor. I had brief reviews of each episode, often looking at how well humor was incorporated into the episode, in each week’s post. My review of the season finale was here, with a follow-up look at the first season here. The show is strongly based upon Star Trek: The Next Generation, and many who prefer more conventional Star Trek, as well as episodic television, might prefer this over the other new Star Trek show.

3. Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)

While many fans feel more comfortable with The Orville, Star Trek: Discovery is the more ambitious of the two. Discovery does a far better job than Enterprise did in making a Star Trek show with a more modern television feel, including a serialized format. This is also different from previous Star Trek series in taking place during a time of war, and having a Captain who is far more morally ambiguous. There are also questions regarding continuity which I discussed here. I had weekly reviews of each episode while the show was on, with the review of the fall finale here.

2. Legion (Fx)

Noah Hawley provided a quite original take on the X-Men universe, providing something new and unique to prevent superhero fatigue. My post on the season finale was here.

1. The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

This excellent dramatization of Margaret Atwood’s novel about a dystopian future could have been a great series any year, but its treatment of women seemed so much more relevant at the start of the Trump administration–at time when its horrors seemed a bit more plausible. More on the series here.

Among the shows which I saw but did not make the cut was Iron Fist, the weakest of the Netflix Marvel series. While flawed, it is watchable and does lead directly into The Defenders. If you still have a lot of Marvel shows to watch, put this off. If you plan to watch them all, it might make sense to still watch it before The Defenders.

Two genre series which debuted in 2017 were remakes of past series. The X-Files (Fox) was generally disappointing, but with all the excellent episodes in the past I will still give the next season a try. I previously discussed the show here and here. There was also the return of Twin Peaks (Showtime), which competed with Legion as strangest series of the year. I previously looked at the series here.

There are also some genre shows which I have not seen but which might be worth checking out, such as the time travel comedy Future Man and the anthology series Dimension 404, both on Hulu. The genre show which I haven’t seen which is receiving the most favorable publicity is the German series Dark, available in the United States on Netflex.

There were also a few genre flops in 2017. I gave up on Powerless (NBC) midway through the season. I didn’t watch The Inhumans (ABC) after numerous poor reviews. If interested, Io9 summarizes what happened on The Inhumans for those who stopped watching. Time After Time (ABC) was cancelled before I had a chance to give it a try.

Moving beyond genre, there were also many excellent shows in 2017. There were two excellent dramas dominated by women, Big Little Lies (HBO) and Godless (Netflix), which I am currently in the midst of watching. The three top comedies from 2017 which I have watched also are led by women: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime) from Amy-Sherman Palladino, GLOW (Netflix), staring Allison Brie, and SMILF (Showtime).

While not genre, the CW also premiered another comic based series in 2017, Riverdale, which presents a new take on the Archie comics.

Tomorrow we have a major television event with Peter Capaldi having his last appearance before regenerating into Jodie Whittaker on Doctor Who. Doctor Who News has an interview with Steven Moffat about the show:

What does Twice Upon A Time have in store for us?

There are some new eerie creatures of glass haunting the Doctor and his friends throughout this story – but what their purpose and what their plan is, and what their time traveling machinations are, is going to be a big surprise to the Doctor.

Were there any sets or locations that you particularly enjoyed working on?

There’s a real range of spaces that we visit across the special. We have the inside of a giant stone spaceship full of creepy glass creatures. We’re in the first Doctor’s TARDIS – recreated and brought back from the 1960s to stand proud in the Welsh studios. We’re on a First World War battlefield. And at long last we go to a location that I mentioned in my very first episode of Doctor Who back in 2005, as we visit the ruins of Villengard.

How would you describe the tone of this episode?

This episode is somewhere between a coda and drumroll. It’s a coda to the time of the Twelfth Doctor played by Peter Capaldi, and a drumroll to usher in the Thirteenth Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. Approaching it, one issue I had was that The Doctor Falls (this year’s series finale) was the end of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. That episode saw the Twelfth Doctor stating what he stands for and standing on the hill on which he was prepared to die.

That was the end of his story. But – as often happens in stories and real life – it didn’t end there. He kept going, he started to regenerate, so at Christmas what we’re going to see is a man weary and tired and, having made his point and having made his stand and given his life for something that matters, he has to learn just how to carry on after that. But of course this being Doctor Who and Christmas it’s much warmer and hopeful than that, so in perfect timing walking towards him out of the snow he meets earliest incarnation. The William Hartnell version of the Doctor – played now by David Bradley in an astonishing performance – and the two of them are about to regenerate. Tonally it’s about saying “to hell with dying, let’s get on with living”. And what’s more Christmassy that that? It’s the turn of the year, a time for new beginnings, it’s the time when we start climbing back towards the light.

How does the First Doctor look at the Twelfth Doctor?

Well the Doctor never gets on with himself. Arguably he doesn’t get on with himself when it’s just him alone – we had the whole plot of Heaven Sent (in series nine) about that – so he doesn’t get on with himself even when it’s just him. But here I think we have perhaps one of the most interesting instances of the Doctors meeting, because the First Doctor as we know from the show is quite different from the Doctor we know now.

Ultimately he’s the same person – he has the same set of impulses and ideals – but he hasn’t yet become at home with what he’s becoming. If you look at the original William Hartnell series, the Doctor’s starting to fight the good fight, but he’ll arrive in a spot of trouble and generally speaking he’ll only help others out because he needs to get back to the TARDIS. So often there’d be a plot contrivance to stop William Hartnell’s Doctor getting back to his TARDIS and flying out of danger. Slowly that started changing as the Doctor developed as a character. He’d start saying “No I can’t leave yet – not because I can’t get to the TARDIS, but because these people are still in trouble and this evil is still in control. I have to help these people.”

Without noticing it, or it ever being his plan or his intent, he’s starting to engage with the universe and he’d be horrified to think that he’s starting to become its protector. Now, at the end of that lifetime when the First Doctor is facing his end, he doesn’t yet realise that’s what he already is. He’s already the man who rides to the rescue, the saviour of the oppressed, but he doesn’t own up to that. Now he meets the Twelfth doctor, and the Twelfth doctor has been doing this for so long. He’s used to the idea that he’s already Earth’s protector – an idea that completely bewilders his younger – except kind of older self. The thing to focus on this time, alongside the flourishes that distinguish the two doctors – it that they are at very different moments in their lives. The First Doctor is not quite yet the hero we are used to.

How did you feel to be writing your final episode of Doctor Who?

The truth about writing anything is that it’s always difficult. You can change the reason why it’s difficult, but the fact is it’s just always difficult! Throughout writing this I wanted to feel more about the fact it’s the last one I’ll ever write, and I wanted to feel more about it’s the last one Peter will ever play, but the truth is that the technicality and the difficulty and the demands on your creativity – all that overwhelms you to the point where you’re just trying to write a great Doctor Who story! That’s enough to contend with – you can’t have the real life drama of two old Scotsmen making their way to the door.

Once we got into shooting it, however, and especially when we approached filming Peter’s last moments as the Doctor which were done at the end of the shoot, we did talk more about how exactly he should meet his end. We were both very pleased with that final section of the script already, but as we went through piece by piece we thought there were ways to improve it so I’d be banging out new pages each night for us to discuss on set each day. That was so enjoyable and exciting to do – to really feel that we were getting his send off right – that in a way it took whatever emotions we were both having about leaving and put them on screen where they belong. By the time we got to that part of filming I think Peter and I were probably the least emotional on set because we’d put it all in the show!

David Bradley has some advice for Jodie Whittaker:

“Keep it light. Keep it funny,” he offered, adding poignantly: “Have a sense and wonder about the universe and everything in it.”

David Bradley previously told Digital Spy that he had high hopes for his former Broadchurchco-star Jodie’s tenure as the denizen of the TARDIS.

“I was delighted [by the casting],” Bradley told us. “I was wondering if [showrunner] Chris [Chibnall] would pick someone from the Broadchurch cast.

“As we saw in Broadchurch, she’s got this emotional reserve that… there’s no limits. She’s capable of great emotion and passion.”

The TARDIS Yule Log video has some glimpses of Twice About A Time.

Yahoo TV talked with Pearl Mackie about her year on Doctor Who. Here is a portion:

What were the characteristics about Bill that jumped out at you right away?
Well, she’s quite cheeky, which I liked. But she’s also intelligent and doesn’t feel the need to brag about it. It’s very much a part of her, and she’s not ashamed to just say things. She has this confidence that I really engaged with; she doesn’t let her life or experiences get the better of her. She also wants to learn more and is very inquisitive.

We see that in the way she challenges the Doctor from their first meeting. That’s a different dynamic from past companions.
Yeah, and that’s the energy that I felt when I first read the script. There’s an irreverence between her and the Doctor, even though there’s also a lot of respect and they grow to be very close by the end of the series. She’d never be like, “I bow to your superior knowledge.” It’s more akin to, “Well, actually I don’t agree with that. What about this?” I think he respects her for that; they both enjoyed the verbal sparring they had. It’s enjoyable to watch that dynamic.

How quickly did you establish that rhythm with Peter Capaldi?
I met him for the first time in my second audition — my callback essentially. Before that, I’d been reading the script on my laptop with the Facetime camera on, responding to a recording I’d made of myself doing a version of Peter Capaldi reading his lines! The real Peter is a much better actor than that — much more dynamic. [Laughing] When I went into the room, I was absolutely terrified because Peter is not only an incredible actor, but he’s also been playing this character for a long time. We read the first scene of Episode 1, this mammoth six-page scene, and I spent most of it standing there just hoping that what I was doing was right or at least interesting.

Then we did the scene where Bill goes into the TARDIS for the first time, and Peter said, “Do you want to stand up?” I went, “What? OK, sure.” In auditions, you’re supposed to sit still and keep your face as still as possible, but if you’re me, your face tends to move of its own accord. Steven enjoyed that and used it a little bit in the first episode when Bill is standing at the window in the Doctor’s office and says, “I see my face all the time. I never liked it; it’s all over the place — it’s always doing expressions when I’m trying to be enigmatic.” But, yeah, I mainly remember standing there aghast at being in a room acting with Peter Capaldi. Luckily, Bill was supposed to be pretty aghast when she walked in the TARDIS, otherwise we may not be having this conversation today! I think we were both responding to each other quite honestly and seemed to work in a very harmonious fashion.

BBC America posted this thank-you video for Peter Capaldi.

CinemaBlend said Capaldi had this to say about the Doctor’s real name: “I also know his real name. It’s not pronounceable to humans. It’s a frequency that can only be heard of people with good heart.” They went on to add:

To date, that’s one of the best answers someone connected with Doctor Who has given to the question. It’s far better than Matt Smith’s answer from long ago that it was “Drasicanawhocius” or some long name similar that is easily abbreviated by saying “Doctor Who.” It’s also more interesting than the some diehard fans’ explanations that the Doctor’s name is actually a rather hard-to-pronounce set of Latin letters to varying powers. Given that, Peter Capaldi’s response to Radio 2’s Access All Areas (via Digital Spy) should win as it gels with the awesomeness of the Doctor and doesn’t risk the spraining of the tongue muscle trying to pronounce.

While he has some very interesting ideas regarding the Doctor’s name, Peter Capaldi also holds an opinion that may sound like hot take to many Doctor Who fans. In fact, it may trigger some of those fans fans who have battled to keep those outside the fan community from referring to him in a certain way. Capaldi may indeed ruffle some feathers with this statement:
We can get into a fight about whether he’s called The Doctor, or Doctor Who. The reason I call him Doctor Who is because when you’re in the street, people don’t shout out, ‘There’s The Doctor!’ They go, ‘Hey, Doctor Who!’ That’s his street name. His street name is Doctor Who.

SciFi Weekend: CW’s Crisis On Earth-X; Agents of SHIELD; Doctor Who; The Orville; The Avengers Infinity War; American Gods; Stranger Things

Crisis on Earth-X was both the best of the CW cross-overs and was a lot more fun than the DC movie team-ups. They did an excellent job of using most of the characters over the entire four hours, and making a true four hour story as opposed to four related episodes of each CW series. The event ended with Legends of Tomorrow and did include more members of the team as only some had good reason to spend the entire time at the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West, which started the story. Despite having good reason for the rest of the Legends to only appear in the fourth episode, some of the Legends were important throughout the four hours, especially with many scenes involving Stein and continuing the story line involving his separation from Firestorm.

While the crossover did continue plot lines from the individual shows, it was more notable for the combinations who do are not normally together. This included the hook up between Alex and Sara prior to the wedding, and later having Felicity and Iris team up. There were also plenty of pop culture and genre references, especially with The Man In The High Castle plot line. Comicbook.com has a list of Easter Eggs.

I was surprised that Crisis on Earth-X advanced some major plot threads in the various series, rather than leaving them for the individual shows. (Major spoilers ahead.) While we knew that the marriage of Iris an Barry would eventually occur, Felicity and Oliver turned it into a double wedding. The Stein’s story line not only progressed, but his previously-announced departure from the show (baring further appearances thanks to time travel) also occurred. Bleeding Cool has Victor Garber talking about his time on Legends of Tomorrow.

The event also may have started new story lines. There was the introduction of one new character,  The Ray, and the return of Leonard Snart , except as his good doppelganger, Citizen Cold. Presumably the mystery girl at the wedding was there for a reason–with some speculation as to her identity here.

Of course there were many plot holes and questionable elements. Rather than an infinite number of parallel earths, there are exactly fifty-three, which all have agreed-upon numbers. While people from other earths seem to have far more contact with each other than people from our earth, we are still designated Earth One. A major plot device involved preventing the destruction of the installation used to transport the heroes to Earth-X, but at other times it seems relatively easy to go from one earth to another (or send wedding invitations).

The major villains included doppelgangers of Oliver and Kara, but instead of a Barry’s doppelganger there was a version of Eobard Thawne. It is already quite convoluted to explain how he is around, thanks to time remnants, despite having been removed from existence at the end of season one when his ancestor killed himself. It is even harder to explain why the version seen was from when he appeared like Harrison Wells, other than to give more air time to Tom Cavanagh. Plus when did he learn how to do heart transplants?

Overall it was an enjoyable four hours which was never intended to be thought about very deeply, with the time passing much more quickly than most of the DC movies, which often feel like they are far more than four hours long. Plus, with my daughter’s wedding now less than six months away, it provided me with important warnings of things to be careful about–guests who fail to RSVP and, of course, the danger of a wedding being interrupted by Nazis from a parallel earth. I will be certain to take the proper precautions.

There is behind the scenes information available here.

Jed Whedon’s goal for Agents of SHIELD this year was to “throw them on the craziest roller coaster adventure we could think of.” While we knew since the last season that the season would take place in space, we did not learn the real twist until the season premiere on Friday (spoiler’s head). Not only are they in space, but they have been pulled into the future, and are on a space station with the last remnants of humanity, under Kree rule. Most of human history has been wiped out to help keep humans subservient, except a version of the Framework is still around.

The specifics are vague but the earth has been destroyed, supposedly by Daisy (who does not fall for future pick-up lines). The members of SHIELD were brought due to a legend that they will help save the remaining humans. As we don’t really know the rules of time travel in effect here, I wonder if the ultimate victory will be helping them get out from under Kree rule, or if the end-game will be to prevent this future from happening.

The cast discussed being in space here. Elizabeth Henstridgeand Iain De Caestecke discussed having Simmons and Fitz being separated yet once again here. Screen Rant has a list of Easter eggs.

The BBC has released a teaser poster for Twice Upon A Time, this year’s Christmas episode of Doctor Who, with a motion version here. The official synopsis:

The magical final chapter of the Twelfth Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) journey sees the Time Lord team up with his former self, the first ever Doctor (David Bradley – Harry Potter, Game of Thrones) and a returning Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), for one last adventure. Two Doctors stranded in an Arctic snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. Enchanted glass people, stealing their victims from frozen time. And a World War One captain destined to die on the battlefield, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story. An uplifting new tale about the power of hope in humanity’s darkest hours, Twice Upon A Time marks the end of an era. But as the Doctor must face his past to decide his future, his journey is only just beginning…

Doctor Who will have both new cast and crew next season. The show will also have a different look. Radio Times reports:

If it’s not exciting enough to get the first female Time Lord on screen, then Doctor Who bosses have further surprises in store: a brand new cinematic look for Jodie Whittaker’s adventures.

The production is being supplied with brand new cameras and lenses which will add a touch of big screen dazzle to the look of the new series according to trade magazine Broadcast

Production house Films at 59, which supplies the BBC’s Doctor Who studios in Roath Lock in Cardiff, is using Cooke anamorphic Prime lenses and Angenieux Optimo anamorphic zooms that will be used with Arri Alexa XT and Alex Mini cameras for series 11.

The intention is to bring an increased cinematic look to the show which started production at the end of October.

According to Bristol-based Films at 59’s Dave Wride this means a whole new visual feel to the show.

“The BBC have made a monumental leap here to enhance the look of Doctor Who and I’m sure the fans will not be disappointed with the distinctly cinematic results that this lens and camera combo will afford them,” he said.

New Dimensions was another solid episode of The Orville. It also helped remedy one of the problems which was seen in a previous episode, Majority Rule. John LeMarr played a key role in that episode, which also served to make it apparent that we really did not know very much about him. We learned that there is much more to him in this episode.

There were the usual references to current and recent literature and pop culture, including Flatland, Doctor Who, Oscar the Grouch’s can, Snoopy’s doghouse, and Dumbo.

The episode also did a good job of mixing humor in the episode. This included yet more practical jokes, leading to Yaphit having to explore Bortus’ GI tract for a portion of himself: “Ah, dude, it stinks down here, what the hell have you been eating?  Is that a boot?”

While we have one more episode to go, I09 has already accumulated a list of the funniest and most surprising moments from The Orville so far. TV Guide has information on this Thursday’s season finale.

The official trailer for Avengers: Infinity Wars is now available, with the movie to be released May 4. Discussion here, here, and here.

The talks between Disney and Fox are back on. While I am concerned about yet further media consolidation, this does have interesting ramifications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Bad news for American Gods with show runners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green leaving. While there have been no specifics, most of the reports center around disputes with Starz regarding the budget for the show.

Surprising nobody, Netflix has officially renewed Stranger Things. (Last night I was out for a walk and saw holiday light effects outside of a neighbor’s house which made it look like it was in the Upside Down. Just to be safe, I didn’t get too close.)