SciFi Weekend: Westworld, Mr. Robot, Humans, Doctor Who

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This week I’ll start with two shows which a lot of time could be spent on to interpret their full meaning–Westworld and Mr. Robot. Both deal with technology, but only one is really about robots. Westworld started out with a slow presentation of the story over the first five episodes and then a lot more happened in the last two, with another episode on tonight. Spoilers ahead related to the first seven episodes, along with fan theories which may or may not be true.  Last week’s episode Trompe L’Oeil confirmed what many of us suspected about Bernard being a host–and at times I wonder if even more characters we see as people are actually robots.

For the more casual viewers, here’s some clues to watch for which gave Bernard away, and are worth watching for regarding other characters.  Hosts are programmed not to see some doors that humans can see. Hosts are also literally blind to other things as well and it was a huge clue earlier in the season when Ford showed Bernard a picture which Bernard said didn’t look like anything. Episodes typically begin with scene involving a  host waking up for the day but they only seemed to break with this by showing Bernard waking up.  The big question remains as to whether Bernard is in the image of Arnold.

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The last episode also confirmed what was widely suspected–that Ford is evil, and provided more evidence of the theory that we are seeing at least two different timelines, with William later becoming the Man in Black. It is notable that the scenes from when William first arrived show what appears to be an older version of a Westworld logo. They both use the same knife, and they both wear collarless shirts. William’s white hat is getting dirtier, and darker, the longer he is in Westworld. We have been told that disease has been eradicated in the outside world in The Man in Black’s time, but William was asked about pre-existing health conditions when he first arrived. William’s said things to Delores in the last episode which were remarkably like what The Man in Black said in an earlier scene in the series.

The fan theories regarding William becoming the Man in Black and Bernard being a host (possibly based upon Arnold) are two of the most discussed ideas, but there are many more floating around, such as this about Mauve’s escape plan. The show also has a tremendous number of Easter eggs. Some are obvious, such as an image of Yul Brynner from the original movie in the background. There are others which I would have never picked up on if I wasn’t tipped off by others. For example, the meaning of the robotic player piano is fairly obvious. What is less obvious, as the lyrics are not heard, is that the lyrics to many of the songs played are directly related to what is happening on the show (giving a reason for why modern songs are often played).

In actual news, Ed Harris has confirmed that he will be returning for the second season of Westworld. I hope that this doesn’t blow up anyone’s favorite theory about the show.

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Recode Decode interviewed Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, with full transcript here. The conversation includes the hacker world, technology, Westworld, and Donald Trump. Here are some excerpts:

What was the impetus for you when you were writing it? What were you trying to do there?

There were three things. Initially, it was, I just need to write something about the hacker culture and tech culture that I didn’t think was being represented. So that was in the back of my head for years, since I was 14 and I was like, “Oh, that will be a great movie. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m going to come up with the idea.”

I always start with characters, so I started thinking about the character of Elliott. And then 2008 happened, the financial crisis. And I was like, “Oh, it’s gotta be …” And you know, Anonymous, the hacking group, had just come out. And LulzSec. So I was like, “Okay, this is kind of like the sort of group that Elliott might be involved in or might partake in.”

And then the 2008 financial crisis happened. I was like, “Okay, this is awesome, it’s going to be an anti-capitalist, anti-establishment character who’s angry and who wants to take down the system.” And then I cooled off a little bit because I was like, “Who wants to hear a guy rant about that for hours and hours?” I thought that would get a little grating. And there wasn’t a humanity to it. So I went away from that. It stayed in there, but the character wasn’t complete yet.

And then the Arab Spring happened and, you know, I’m Egyptian, so I have a lot of family out there, a lot of cousins. I went out there about nine months after the revolution happened to just talk to my cousins, who were young, who were online, who were part of that whole movement, using technology and honestly just channeling that anger that they had against their country, against the way their society was being run, in a really positive way. That was the missing piece. That was the thing that really moved me…

I was watching “Westworld” and it’s again, technology — although it’s humanity in that particular series. But go ahead.

So to me, I feel like obviously, as younger writer/directors come up and they kind of understand it and then want to represent it more authentically, hopefully that mindset will change in Hollywood. Because in terms of just the old-fashioned thing, and then we talked about Donald Trump, those rules just don’t apply anymore. There aren’t 400-pound guys who are devilishly sitting behind a keyboard wanting to change the traffic lights, you know?

I think a lot of it came from the original Matthew Broderick movie, “War Games.” You know what I mean? That really had an impact on people of how the hacking culture [worked]. To me that was the biggest success, I guess.

Well, “Sneakers.” Although I don’t know if “Sneakers” …

With Robert Redford.

But that’s a great movie.

It is a great movie.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But one of the things that is important to me is that technology is also a situation that’s ruining their business. The Rubicon has been crossed. People are streaming on phones. Amazon and Netflix are disrupting their business incredibly, so there’s a real fear of the technology, too.

It’s the fear that’s going to kill them, not the technology. Look at Netflix. They’ve pounced on that. They’ve taken that as an opportunity to say, “Well, if no one else wants to embrace the technology, if no one else wants to say ‘hey, no, this isn’t something to be scared of but an opportunity to expand and offer entertainment in a way that wasn’t offered before,’ then we’ll do it.”

And they’re doing it really well. And I think that’s the thing. Even the way films are made right now, they’re talked about as universes, franchises, right? So it’s not just about one movie anymore, it’s about how many movies can you make off that one movie, and how many toys can you make and how many video games. You know, it’s now this whole kind of universe.

See, to me, it’s still an antiquated way of thinking. Because when you watch all movies … I think I watched “Mr. Robot” on my phone, the whole time. How do you, as a creator, how do you think about that? Are there creators like you? You’re obviously illuminated about technology. But do they understand what’s happening? When Google becomes a studio, when Facebook becomes critically important to distribution of entertainment.

I don’t know if they do. And this is the worrisome part. For example, we’re doing a book, but the book is not a marketing opportunity, the book is its own standalone thing, and it’s an interactive thing. It’s not just a book you read, there’s layers to it. A little bit like that J.J. Abrams book “S.” So that’s a thing.

And then we had a mobile game that we released, which is awesome and that is a story. So it’s not just a game that you play and again, not just a marketing fodder for the show, it’s its own story and all these little pieces you can embrace. That’s sort of the universe-building, that’s the world-building of the future. That’s why when/if Google becomes a studio, or Facebook becomes a studio … Oh, we also did a VR film, which is also another story that’s kind of like in between a couple episodes…

And then my last question: I interviewed Elon Musk earlier this year at our Code Conference, and he talked about a lot of things. He talked about going to Mars, he talked about his cars, a bit of everything. But then we moved into the idea of artificial intelligence and whether we’re all in a big game. He believes this is all fake.

Simulation.

Simulation. But he was talking about the idea of artificial intelligence, and that the best case scenario, given your stories about the power of technology, is that we’re all going to end up in the most benign sense, as house cats to computers. And they will take our places.And the only way we can battle it is by attaching neural networks to our own brains.

This is the whole singularity thing: Will machines evolve faster than us? And honestly, you can’t avoid saying yes to that question, because why wouldn’t they? They would just have much more power, much more processing power. And so it’ll come down to that spiritual question, and it’s a tough one: Is there something different about us that a machine won’t have? Is there that soul that a machine might not … I mean, they might have the faster brain, but are we just neurons and electrical impulses, or is there something more to us than that? I don’t know the answer to that.

Because I think your show is about humanity, it’s not about tech at all.

Well, exactly right. I think we tried to. In a weird way, we try and fight against our humanity. I don’t see my friends anymore. I don’t even call them anymore. I text them. We’ve devolved our communication. I remember when texting came out and it was so popular and I was like, “Wait a minute, we used to call each other on the phone, we used to hear each other,” and we would get so much more information out of that, but now we’d just rather text because of our own whatever, I don’t know what it is. Is it just easier or more efficient or too neurotic to get on the phone? I don’t know.

Sam Esmail has also “leaked” a page from a Mr. Robot script in which Elliot’s psychologist asked why he is so disappointed in society. Elliot’s answer: “Oh, that’s easy. Donald Trump was just elected president of the United States.”

Westworld is not the only current television show dealing with artificial intelligence. Humans is already into its second season on Channel 4 in the U.K. I’m currently behind (and even if I wasn’t I would avoid spoiling it for those who are waiting for it to be more easily available in the United States), but it did get off to a good start. So, to keep this all straight, Westworld and Humans are about robots, but Mr. Robot is not.

A sneak peak of the Doctor Who Christmas special was released at Children in Need (video above). Radio Times listed what we have learned.

In other Doctor Who news this week, Steven Moffat might create some controversy with his argument that the Doctor’s companion should always be a female:

Science-fiction is notoriously male. You can tell that because everyone wears uniforms and marches around talking about rules. But Doctor Who has always felt to me, rather female. It’s full of kindness and compassion and eccentricity and wisdom instead of violence. And from that point of view it is important that the main character, the Doctor’s best friend, should be female. I think it would be damaging to Doctor Who if that voice and viewpoint were not represented.

There have been male companions such as Rory and Captain Jack, but there were also female companions at the time. Classic Who also included some male companions, including Ian at the beginning and later Harry Sullivan and Adric. Generally there were also female companions along with male ones. (I am only speaking of companions present for a prolonged period of time, not isolated events such as Christmas episodes).

This argument also does not answer what will happen if there is ever a female Doctor.

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Moffat was also asked recently whether the Doctor’s daughter, as played by Georgia Moffat, will return. He has no idea. He said it is doubtful that David Tennant’s duplicate Doctor would even return as, should they have the opportunity to use Tennant again, “then we would bring back David playing the real Doctor, and not a substitute Doctor.”

Karen Gillan has explained why she used such a husky voice in Guardians of the Galaxy.

The major show business story of the week was the duel between the cast of Hamilton and Trump/Pence.

After the final curtain calls that night, Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who portrays Aaron Burr, stepped forward with a microphone to directly address Mr. Pence, who was leaving the theater. “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us,” he said. He added that he hoped “this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”

Mr. Trump quickly made it clear on Twitter, his social medium of choice, that Mr. Dixon and the “Hamilton” team had been “rude and insulting” and owed Mr. Pence an apology. At first, a part of me could see Mr. Trump’s point, or at least feel a shudder of embarrassed empathy for Mr. Pence. If someone were to single me out for a direct plea from the stage in a large theater, I would no doubt want to run home, dive into bed and bury myself under the covers. (Mr. Pence, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said he was not offended by Mr. Dixon’s words.)

I posted more on this yesterday.

SciFi Weekend: Stranger Things; Timeless; Rectify; The Good Place; CW Genre Shows; Doctor Strange; Doctor Who; Matt Smith Back In The Past With New Companion on The Crown

A 1980’s news cast (video above) reports on the disappearance of Barb, as seen during the first season of Stranger Things. The newscast also provides further evidence that Eleven is still around. It should come as no surprise that she is returning, despite the first season finale leaving things ambiguous.

NBC has extended Timeless from thirteen to sixteen episodes, to run in two blocks, between November 14 and December 12 and from January 16 to February 20.

Showrunner Ray McKinnon explains why you can’t multitask and keep up with Rectify, and discusses the upcoming fourth and final season

Parks and Recreation predicted the victory by the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. Since the series ended, Michael Schur has moved on to new show, The Good Place. It returns for its four final episodes of the season on January 5. Michael Schur discussed what will be happening with Entertainment Weekly. Think love quadrangle.

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Last week’s episodes of The Flash revealed the secret behind the new version of Harrison Wells, as well as dealing far more with Caitlin’s powers–which should be a major focus for the upcoming episodes. More at The Nerdist.

Besides the major crossover involving all of the Berlantiverse shows, there will be a Glee reunion with Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin doing a musical crossover between Supergirl and The Flash. Now there is talk that Legends of Tomorrow might get involved to at least include Broadway veteran Victor Garber.

Lexa Doig has been cast as alia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul and half sister to Nyssa al Ghul, on Arrow.

Spoiler TV has some teasers regarding season four of The 100.

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The biggest genre event of the week was the opening of Doctor Strange. It is too early to have any spoilers about the movie here, but here are a number of links for those wanting to read more:

Hitflix wrote about Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange,’ ‘Inhumans,’ and the connected MCU (no spoilers until the end, with spoiler warning). Also at Hitflix, ‘Doctor Strange’ writer Jon Spaihts talks about blowing the Marvel Cinematic Universe wide open

Time on Doctor Strange and What We’ve Learned From Superhero Movies in 2016. Plus How Doctor Strange Hints at Big Changes for the Marvel Universe and Demystifying Doctor Strange‘s Curious Mid-Credits Scene.

Nerdist asks How Will DOCTOR STRANGE Change the MCU?

Spoilers from AV Club with Doctor Strange’s writer on [REDACTED]’s fate and that final credits sequence

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Moving on from Doctor Strange to another Doctor, I previously posted about plans for an animated version of a lost Doctor Who story, The Power of the Daleks. Inverse calls it essential viewing, and has updated information.

When the BBC purged their archives in 1974 to make room for more film, “The Power of the Daleks,” the Second Doctor’s introduction to the show, was lost in the process. “The Power of the Daleks” is not the only serial or episode lost to time; there are dozens of episodes that have never been seen by modern audiences. But “The Power of the Daleks” is the first one to be made in what is assumed to be a shot-for-shot remake. It’s animated and, of course, in black and white, but Troughton’s Doctor and Anneke Wills’s Polly will probably be no less charming.

Matt Smith is back playing a character in the past on television, with Netflix releasing The Crown last week. Claire Foy (who previously played Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall) makes an excellent companion for him as Queen Elizabeth. Much of Matt Smith’s character can be seen in his portrayal of Prince Phillip. I was not surprised to see him handle an elephant in Nairobi, expecting him to pull out a sonic screwdriver or explain handling the elephant by saying, “I speak elephant.” When he protested playing second fiddle after Elizabeth became Queen, I half expected him to protest that he is a Time Lord of Gallifrey.

The series starts with Elizabeth and Phillip before Elizabeth became (spoiler?) Queen and was forced to fulfill what was expected of the role. They have great chemistry together and someday I would like to see Foy and Smith together again, possibly in another period piece, in which they can remain young and carefree, without having to fit into their historical roles on this show. The actual history along with a look at the series are discussed at The Guardian.

Matt Smith was able to get some tips on playing royalty from Jenna Coleman, who is staring in ITV’s Victoria. This means that Smith is playing Coleman’s great-great-grandson-in-law. It will take a TARDIS to get them back together.

While Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman are busy playing members  the royal family, Karen Gillan is preparing to direct, as well as write and star in, and independent movie named Tupperware Party, which is being filmed in Scotland.

Also in the Doctor Who universe, I got a chance to watch the first three episodes of Class while flying home last weekend. I was impressed that each episode was better than the previous. I have not seen the fourth yet, but have heard it couldn’t continue that trend, but look forward to further episodes.

SciFi Weekend: Emmy Awards; Mr Robot Season 2 Finale; The Flash; Legends Of Tomorrow; Peter Capaldi On Class; Karen Gillan

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The Emmy Awards last week had a couple of pleasant surprises with Tatiana Maslany winning for Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Orphan Black) and Rami Malek winning for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Mr. Robot). Malek accepted his award acting like his television character in saying, “Please tell me you’re seeing this too.” Other wins for genre shows include the expected wins for Game of Thrones, along with Sherlock: The Abominable Bride winning for best TV Movie.

Mr. Robot concluded its second season last week, but unfortunately the season was not up to the level of the first. Perhaps it has problems comparable to the second movie in a trilogy, leaving cliffhangers without the dramatic events which concluded the second season. Sam Esmail discussed the finale with The Hollywood Reporter:

The climax of the finale comes before the final scene: Tyrell shooting Elliot. It effectively ends the argument about whether Tyrell is still real or imagined by Elliot. How important was it to you to definitively answer that question by the end of season two?

That was, to me, the season’s arc. After Elliot’s head-trip, that he goes inside himself and inside this illusion that he uses to cope with the fact that he’s been in prison and inside all of this battle and all of the battles he’s had with Mr. Robot, it’s like the game is over. Elliot has to snap back to reality and literally, it happens with a gunshot, with a bang, by Tyrell.

It brings the season full circle, too, with Mr. Robot repeatedly shooting Elliot in the head in season one, and of course the gun in the popcorn at Coney Island. Chekov rules dictate that this gun had to go off at some point.

Exactly. And it was imperative that this was the defining real — and I kind of want to underline that (laughs) — moment for Elliot, because he’s actually been shot twice in the show now. He was shot in episode four of the first season in that fever dream hallucination, and was obviously continually shot in the beginning of this season. This one, we wanted to make it feel very different.

Mr. Robot tells Elliot that he’s willing to go “all the way.” Apparently, that means allowing himself to be shot. Throughout the series, Mr. Robot has always read as an entity very much interested in self-preservation. What does it say about Mr. Robot and his commitment to the cause that he’s willing to make a sacrifice play?

It redefines the stakes. Mr. Robot was all about self-preservation. Up until this point, that kind of included Elliot, because obviously self-preservation includes Elliot’s body, if you look at it that way. Now? All bets are off. In fact, everything to him is about the plan, and he’s willing to die for this cause. That’s how extreme his passion is for this whole project, for this whole revolution. It kind of realigns the stakes for us. Now Elliot cannot even trust his life with Mr. Robot, which happens to also be Mr. Robot’s life. It also raises the stakes in terms of the extremes Mr. Robot is willing to go through in order to pull off this plan. It’s two different levels that have been kick-started and raised a lot higher for next season…

Esmail discussed the structure of each season,the return of Tyrell, and the cliffhangers in Season 2 with Entertainment Weekly:

So let’s dive in, by the end of the episode, we’re seeing what Stage Two is — or at least what a part of Stage Two is. When was the concept of what Stage Two would be brought up in the writers room? Was that discussed hand-in-hand with how season 1 ended?
That was actually brought up in the writers room — if you can believe it or not — during the first season. That was something that was worked out in my head when I was just thinking about the feature. It was intentionally in that feature stage. We obviously talked about it in the writers room, but if the endgame of the first season was hacking Evil Corp, the endgame of the second season would be to take down their paper records. Once you take down their digital property, you would know that they would then try to rebuild the database and go to analog. That would be the executional plan for the season 2 arc. The way we kind of went about it in the second season was very, very roundabout. One thing that I knew heading into the second season — knowing that was our endgame — was that I did not want this to feel like this was the first season redux: Here’s the new plan, here’s the new arc of the season, here’s the new plot, so let’s watch our guy struggle and figure out how to bring down the building where they’re housing all of these paper records. Going through the conversations, we talked a lot about how to really keep it with Elliot’s storyline and his emotional journey, his struggles with Mr. Robot. We thought that was the most authentic and organic next step to Elliot’s journey anyway. After the big realization, he’s not just going to ignore that and continue on with the plot. That’s how it all folded up with the structure that we came up with for the second season…

Tyrell came back into the picture last week, long after we expected him. What was the conversation like when deciding at which point he reenters?
The decision to keep him out of the season had a lot to do with Elliot. Like I said, going into the second season, we wanted to have Elliot reconcile this relationship with Mr. Robot. He made this damning realization about himself at the end of the first season. Any notion of dismissing that in an episode or two — “Oh, I’m seeing this hallucination, and sometimes he takes over. Okay, now let’s move on and get to the plot” — felt completely disingenuous. It honestly always felt to us that the only way Elliot could proceed is to get into this battle with Mr. Robot, to reconcile how he’s going to live with this, how he’s going to negotiate with this, how he’s going to work through this. That all was predicated on Tyrell’s absence, because once he comes back in, it blows up the whole thing. Whether Mr. Robot lied to Elliot or what he withheld from him, all of the sudden, the show becomes about that and the plot machinations of that and not about what Elliot’s emotionally going through in terms of this serious disorder that he’s discovered about himself. Tyrell’s absence was a byproduct of what we felt Elliot’s journey needed to be for the entire season. Once we Tyrell came in, it went back to those plot machinations, folding Elliot back into the overarching journey of the revolution.

Season 2, arguably, has a bigger cliffhanger than season 1. What do you think are the big questions fans are going to be asking heading into season 3?
I think the one big one will be “What happened to Angela? Has she really been flipped? Or is she now playing some other motivation?” And I think that’s great. I know that people sometimes get frustrated that we leave Angela’s motivations in the dark, but I think that’s what adds to the intrigue of her. That’s why I’m so continually fascinated by her character: You can’t quite nail her down to which side she’s playing. It feels like she’s always playing both sides. I think that’s going to be a big question.

What else? Obviously, Leon and the coda and what will become of our affable heroes, Mobley and Trenton. Darlene and what will become of her relationship with Dom and how that will transpire, especially as that relates to Elliot. I think those will be the questions, but the fans and all of the viewers have always surprised me with the questions they ask. Sometimes they’re questions I didn’t even think we were asking.

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Here are a couple of excerpts from an interview which Vulture held with Sam Esmail:

MZS: Why did you make the decision to delay the revelation of the real nature of Mr. Robot until late in the first season, and why did you wait to confirm that Elliot was in fact behind bars in the second season? Why didn’t you just let us in on that from the beginning?

SE: We talked about that. We said, okay, let’s just tell the audience, right? And then he’ll be in prison and then he’ll imagine it away and go into his reprogramming mind, similar to what we did in the pilot. And then someone was like — that someone was probably me [laughter] — what if we didn’t tell the audience? Okay, all right, what does that mean? What do we get out of that? Is there some added value to that, and if not, we shouldn’t do it.

I started looking at it as, well, if we start hinting something is going to be off here, we’re not going to hide it that well. It’s gotta be real. It’s gotta be like, no, there is something a little off, we’re hinting at it, we’re really in his coping mechanism, what Elliot would do, but the audience is going to sense it and is going to maybe predict it, maybe not. I mean, I didn’t really know, but I didn’t really care either way.

In our show, reality becomes our subtext. So if you have a scene with two characters, one of them loves the other, it’s more interesting for that person to hate that person on the surface but subtextually you feel, oh, well that person actually loves them. And you sense that maybe or maybe you don’t, and then you’re surprised when that comes out. Either way, there is another layer of engagement. It’s a lot more interesting. If everybody is saying on-the-nose dialogue to each other, if everything is on the surface, that becomes less intriguing, that doesn’t let me engage on it on a level that I think could be deeper and richer.

We have this opportunity with our character, who is obviously narrating to us and considers us a friend, felt betrayed by us the first season. What if he feels like, well, I’m gonna lie back, I’m gonna withhold from you and I’m not gonna tell you everything. I mean, I’ve not seen this done before, but now we’re developing this weird relationship with the audience. Whether you saw the prison coming or not, that’s not the point. The point is that now you’re having this subtextual relationship with him that you didn’t have in the first season. And then to add that now, under the unreliable narrator device, not only do we see it through his eyes, but he could also be lying to you. That’s another storytelling device that we could throw in…

GE: You’ve talked about how the Arab Spring has inspired the show a bit in terms of the theme of revolution. And, along those lines, this season we see the revolution not working out. But it’s also a very American story in how it focuses on what it feels like to be an outsider. Your star, Rami Malek, is Egyptian-American, as are you, and one of the members of fsociety, Trenton, is an Iranian-American. Are you partly trying to play on the feeling of being an immigrant in America, in terms of building the mood and tone of the show?

SE: Yeah. The thing about it is, when I made those choices, some of them in the screenplay, some of them in casting, which then inspired certain character choices, it was never to talk about it. Elliot is obviously of mixed race, his mother and father are different ethnicities, but we do not talk about it. Trenton, we dip our toe into it, but we do not talk about it, we let it just inform it.

And the reason why, and I did that very deliberately, because when I wrote Elliot I didn’t know, right? I didn’t know who it was gonna be and it didn’t really matter to me. And then when I cast Rami, who is obviously brilliant and perfect for the part, how do I reconcile his ethnicity — is he Egyptian, not Egyptian? I mean is there something here, should I be diving into that? And then I felt like there’s some reverse racism going on here. Wait a minute, I can’t cast Rami unless I address the fact that he is Egyptian in some way? I didn’t want that to now all of a sudden dictate anything about the character that would’ve happened had I cast someone white.  But I couldn’t just ignore it either, right? Because it needed to inform who he was.

And then that’s when it grew out, what you were saying, this outcast status or this outcast look about him, that then felt intrinsic to how Rami plays Elliot and how potentially I wrote Elliot. And it all becomes a more subconscious choice. Even when I wrote the Trenton character, and I wrote her in as Iranian-American, I didn’t do that because I wanted to explore Iranian-Americans, I did that because I was thinking about what kind of people would join this group from all walks of life. I’m also kind of reflecting on my own reality, my own circle of friends … that this type of person felt that way, that it felt right to be in this group.

And so it all came from this really genuine place of what organically makes sense, what informs this character that I’m trying to write, or trying to come across in the best way without it being about like, okay, here is this really diverse cast. And honestly, I think that’s really important because one of the things I get worried about with this diversity thing that’s going on right now, I don’t want people to look at it as homework. I don’t want people to write something and say, well, now we’ve gotta make them black and we gotta make them Native American.

Technology producer and writer Kor Adana has more at The Hollywood Reporter:

Another season of Mr. Robot is in the books. Now that it’s over, what, to you, were the ultimate goals and purpose of this season, as far as evolving the stories of Elliot, fsociety, E Corp, the Dark Army, and everyone else involved in this complicated web?

Ultimately, I believe we succeeded in creating a cohesive second chapter that organically fleshes out the world that fsociety essentially destroyed at the end of the first season. Elliot’s discovery of the Mr. Robot personality opened the door for us to experience his inner conflict and his longing to regain control of himself. Even though he enacted the 5/9 hack, him reconciling his relationship with Mr. Robot was at the top of his priority list. The quest for control and grip on reality is a large component of Elliot’s journey this season. The consequences and repercussions of the hack heavily influenced the other storylines. Price, Whiterose, Darlene, and Angela are all navigating this new world and are forced to confront questionable decisions they made previously.

In the finale, Stage Two is finally revealed, and it has fiery ramifications for Evil Corp. As best as you can, can you summarize what the plan involves, for those who haven’t yet wrapped their heads around it?

Rebuilding their records of loans and debt is the goal here. E Corp is transferring all of their paper financial records — titles, deeds, statements, transactions, credit records — to one of their processing facilities. Their plan is to digitize all of the paper content in an effort to recreate their databases. Knowing this, Elliot/Mr. Robot, Tyrell and the Dark Army have collaborated on a plan that would set off a large explosion in the datacenter of that processing facility. If they’re successful, anything stored in that building (paper documents included) would be destroyed. Stage Two is the logical next step of the original E Corp plan. Remember when Mr. Robot said that you have to take a conglomerate down limb by limb before they can unravel? The paper documents represent another one of E Corp’s limbs.

The Flash returns on October 4. The extended trailer above shows more about the Flash Point story.

Legends of Tomorrow will be much different next season–which is a good thing. Here is the synopsis of the first episode, which guest stars Stephen Amell and airs on October 13:

After the defeat of the immortal villain Vandal Savage and the exposure of the corrupt Time Masters, a new threat emerges. Dr. Nate Heywood (Nick Zano), an unconventional and charming historian, is thrust into the action. After making a shocking discovery, Nate seeks out Oliver Queen (guest star Stephen Amell) for help in finding the scattered Legends. Once reunited, the Legends continue their new mission to protect the timeline from temporal aberrations – unusual changes to history that spawn potentially catastrophic consequences. Their first stop is 1942 to protect Albert Einstein from being kidnapped before the Nazis destroy New York City with a nuclear bomb. Meanwhile, Ray (Brandon Routh) notices that Sara (Caity Lotz) has a mission of her own, which leads them both to face her nemesis, Damien Darhk (guest star Neal McDonough). Victor Garber, Arthur Darvill, Dominic Purcell and Franz Drameh also star. Dermot Downs directed the episode written by Marc Guggenheim & Phil Klemmer and Greg Berlanti & Chris Fedak.

One aspect of the upcoming season which is of interest, the Justice Society of America, is not seen in the trailer.

SciFi Now looks at ARQ, a time travel movie which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and is now available on Netflix.

The Rock Instagram EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK: #JUMANJI Our dope 90's vintage costumes

The BBC is doing the obvious to get attention for the first episode of Class. Peter Capaldi will have a cameo. This will air on the BBC in October, and be paired with Doctor Who next spring in the United States.

In other Doctor Who related news, The Mary Sue looked at the controversy over what Karen Gillan’s Jumanji costume (picture above).

Maybe it is because I’m used to timey wimey plot lines, but I predicted the twist in This is Us well before it was revealed in the pilot. Now we will have to see where the show goes after this setup. I’m looking forward to checking out all the actual time travel shows premiering this season. There were three episodes of The Good Place, staring Kristen Bell and Ten Danson, last week. The comedy, which does have a genre aspect, was off to an entertaining start.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; Westworld; Aftermath; Stranger Things; Supergirl; Agents of SHIELD; Doctor Who News

Star Trek Discovery

Bryan Fuller has explained the name Discovery was chosen for the upcoming Star Trek series:

“This ship is called the Discovery for a few reasons,” Fuller explained. “Not the least of which is Stanley Kubrick’s contribution to the Discovery on 2001: A Space Odyssey, NASA’s vessel the Discovery, and also the sense of discovery.” He added that the title of Star Trek: Discovery was also about “what the word ‘discovery’ means to Star Trek audiences who have been promised a future by Gene Roddenberry where we come together as a planet and seek new worlds and new alien races to explore and understand and collaborate with.” Fuller went on to say that sense of discovering would manifest as the show reintroduces new and familiar aliens, ships, and technology to the Star Trek universe.

 TV Guide reports that there will be more than just a television series:

Star Trek: Discovery is going really, really big when it debuts on CBS — before moving to CBS’ All Access portal in January of 2017: not just with a new ship, new aliens and new planets; but a novel and comic book series, too.

Kristen Beyer, who’s overseeing a line of Star Trek novels, announced the big plans for the series at the Star Trek: Mission New York convention this weekend, where she and Nicholas Meyer, writer and director of the acclaimed movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, celebrated the franchise’s 50-year milestone.

At the gathering, Beyer said that longtime Star Trek author David Mack will write the Discovery tie-in novel, while writer Mike Johnson will have a hand in developing the comic series. “We’re creating these in real time [with the show],” Beyer said, according to a report from Yahoo. “They’re going to support the story in a way we don’t normally have the chance to do.”

HBO has a new trailer for Westworld.

Westworld looks quite promising but looking at the trailer, I have my doubts about Aftermath. It looks like they tried to throw in far too much, but we won’t know until actual episodes are on, and perhaps others will find this above trailer more compelling  than I did.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Alex Glen/REX/Shutterstock (5585090cg) Alison Brie 'How To Be Single' film premiere, London, Britain - 09 Feb 2016 WEARING DAVID KOMA

Netflix has picked up season two of Stranger Things. The second season will contain nine episodes and take place in 1984. That is not the only Netflix series to take place in the 1980’s. Netflix has also picked up G.L.O.W., a ten-episode comedy by Jenji Kohan of Orange Is The New Black. The series about a 1980s female wrestling league is primarily of interest as it will star Alison Brie of Community and Mad Men.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow fortunately is being largely redone for the second season. Trailer above. The addition of the Justice Society of America gives another reason to give the series a second chance.

Superman Supergirl

Supergirl will finally show Superman on screen second season. The first set pictures of Superman (played by Tyler Hoechlin ) with Supergirl have been posted this week.

Among the changes on Agents of SHIELD include the addition of Ghost Rider. More at The Hollywood Reporter.

Grimm has been renewed for a thirteen episode final season.

Karen-Gillan-karen-gillan-13197795-450-650

Radio Times reports that Doctor Who has had a huge influence on names in England and Wales:

Amelia – the dearly departed Amelia Pond of course – is the most popular girls’ name in England and Wales for 2015. Even more significantly, Clara entered the top 100 for the very first time in 2015 – the same year as Clara Oswald’s final moments in the Tardis.

Rose (Tyler), Martha (Jones), Sarah (Jane), Victoria (Waterfield – an assistant to the second Doctor) and Grace (Holloway – pal to the eighth Doctor) all feature in the top 100 names for girls.

In fact, according to our calculations, 3 per cent of all girls born in 2015 were named after Doctor Who companions.

And the boys? Well, Rory (Williams) and Michael (‘Mickey’ Smith) both have a place in the top 100. Jack (Captain Harkness) meanwhile, is the second most popular name for boys in 2015.

I’m not so sure that we can attribute the Michaels and Jacks to Doctor Who, but is is far more likely that others such as Clara, Amelia, and Rory were influenced by the show.

Amelia Pond is also quite busy in new roles. Karen Gillan has been cast in the remake of Jumanji. This is among other upcoming roles including returning as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and a role in the movie version of The Circle.

In other Doctor Who related news, the spin-off Class has completed filming.

SciFi Weekend: Stranger Things–Explanation of Finale And A Look Ahead; Mr Robot; Star Trek Discovery; Doctor Who

Stranger Things D&D

Stranger Things was the surprise hit of the summer. It was as close to a perfectly structured television show as I’ve ever seen, both telling a complete story in eight episodes and leaving some things open for future seasons. It has an excellent cast, a story which was compelling from the start, and a lot to bring back fond memories of both the 1980’s and previous stories in the genre. The early 1980’s was a perfect period for this story, when kids could roam freely without being immediately available by cell phone, kids would have to ask their science teacher for information rather than looking it up on line, and Cold War paranoia made the background of the story seem a bit more plausible. I briefly discussed the show last week without spoilers. In order to discuss the finale and where the second season might go, major spoilers are unavoidable.

If I had any complaints after the conclusion, it might be that questions which we might not have had time to wonder about while binging were left unanswered. I’m thinking of where the story was at even before the final few minutes when additional teasers for the future were inserted. Fortunately the producers do have an outline which presumably contains information which might answer some of my questions in future seasons.

We know something about the research being done at Hawkins Lab, and how Eleven presumably opened a portal to another dimension. There could be far more going on at the lab, and was there a one through ten?

What happened in the other dimension, which appears to be like ours with the atmosphere destroyed and people no longer alive? Some scenes which looked up to the stars led me to believe it was due to aliens, while the 1980’s time frame also makes me suspect it was the consequence of a nuclear winter. Why did we see only one Demogorgon? Perhaps such monsters, and perhaps other types, are roaming the other dimension, and only this one made it to their version of Indiana. Did such monsters destroy Earth, or were they created by radiation from a nuclear war? The kids faced a Thessalhydra while playing D&D at the end of the episode. Is this what they will encounter next? Is there a connection between their games and what is found in the Down Under? What was the egg which Hopper discovered?

What happened to Eleven and the monster? If this was a completed story we might assume she died after saying goodby to Mike.  However, as we are dealing with parallel universes and the ability to travel between them, it wouldn’t be surprising if a sequel shows that they did go to another dimension. Deaths always must be questioned if there is no body–and in this show even a body did not prove death. If two dimensions were shown this season, are there other dimensions which might come into play in future seasons?

It is plausible that Will remained alive as long as he did by hiding out in alternate versions of places he knows in his universe, but how did he communicate with the lights? Even if messing with the wires in one dimension affected them in the other dimension, he showed remarkable accuracy in turning flashing specific lights by specific letters. Barb was not so fortunate, but to maintain some degree of horror I think it was necessary for her to have been killed. Most of the characters who were put in danger did survive. Will was alive in the end. His mother and Hopper were both captured but managed to be released. The kids survived the final attack of the monster in their school Someone had to actually die for the monster to be menacing in the end, and a character such as Barb who was only in a handful of scenes was the obvious “red shirt.”

The final few minutes of the series went further in providing loose ends to tie up in the future. What happened when Hopper went in that car. Why was he leaving Eggos Waffles in the box in the woods? Either he knew that Eleven was out there and was leaving her favorite food for her, or he perhaps he was leaving them to see if she returned to take them. I think the later is more plausible as if he was actually feeding her he would have presumably left more.

The biggest sign that we have not seen the last of the Upside Down was when Will coughed up the slug and briefly saw the other dimension. Was that just a mental flash back, or was there a breakdown between the dimensions in the bathroom? Is this the original Will, or yet another type of fake, this time created in the Upside Down? What about Will’s mother and Hopper? Both were in the Upside Down and had breathed in the air.

The Duffer brothers have verified in various interviews that they are hoping to produce a second season involving the same characters, with additional ones added. There will be a time jump of one year which makes matters much simpler when dealing with children actors, and allows for the story to have advanced.

Here are some excerpts of interviews with Matt and Ross Duffer:

Stranger Things

From Variety:

How much do we know about Eleven’s true origins at this point, and how much did you want to keep a mystery?

Ross: We get the hint that her mom was involved in the experimentations back in the day resulting in her being born with these powers, but what we wanted to do with the show — and this season specifically — was mostly seeing the mystery and these extraordinary things through the eyes of these ordinary characters. By the end of the show they don’t know or understand everything. That is purposeful.

We do cut away to the government occasionally for these pops of mystery or horror, but what we didn’t want was to have a scene of the scientist just sitting down to explain everything. We wanted to slowly peel back layers of this mystery for audiences through the eyes of these very ordinary people. It’s not all solved by the end of the season. We wanted to resolve the main mystery of Will being gone, that was the story of this season.

Do you see the government or science conspiracy angle as a long-term mystery for the show?

Ross: There’s a lot there we don’t know or understand. Even with the Upside Down, we have a 30-page document that is pretty intricate in terms of what it all means, and where this monster actually came from, and why aren’t there more monsters — we have all this stuff that we just didn’t have time for, or we didn’t feel like we needed to get into in season one, because of the main tension of Will. We have that whole other world that we haven’t fully explored in this season, and that was very purposeful.

Matt: We wanted a simple drive and a somewhat simple mystery with bizarre pops of supernatural horror and then add a larger mythology behind this rift that we only know and refer to as the Upside Down because that’s what the boys decide to call it. Everything they’ve learned about it is kind of hypothetical. They’re theorizing based on their knowledge from fantasy gaming and their science teacher, Mr. Clarke. That’s as much as we get to understand it. I think part of it is us thinking in terms of horror, it’s scarier when you don’t fully understand what’s happening. If you were to encounter something from another world or dimension, it would be beyond comprehension. We talked a lot about Clive Barker and his stories. They’re very weird, and the weirder it is, the more inexplicable it is, the scarier it is.

As you head into future seasons, have you thought about how much of that 30-page document you want to reveal and explore?

Ross: We leave these dangling threads at the end. If people respond to this show and we get to continue this story — we had those initial discussions of where we might go with it. If there was going to be a season two, we would reveal more of that 30 page document, but we’d still want to keep it from the point of view of our original characters.

Even though you tell a complete story within the season, you end on a couple of major cliffhangers — the first being Eleven’s disappearance. Did you want to hint at where she’s been with the scene of Hopper leaving Eggos in the woods?

Matt: Obviously something happened to her when she destroyed and killed that monster and we don’t know what she went. Hopper is left with this guilt because he sold her out. We wanted to leave it sort of mysterious exactly what he knows… Have there been sightings in the woods or is he hoping she’s out there or has he already made contact with her? We don’t answer any of that, but we like the idea of potentially putting her and Hopper together.

It also seems that the Upside Down has changed Will or maybe he’s brought some of it back with him. What can you say about the flash he has in the bathroom?

Ross: We love the idea that [the Upside Down] is an environment that is not a great place for a human being to be living in. Will’s been there for an entire week, and it’s had some kind of effect on him, both emotionally and perhaps physically. The idea is he’s escaped this nightmare place, but has he really? That’s a place we wanted to go and potentially explore in season two. What effect does living in there for a week have on him? And what has been done to him? It’s not good, obviously.

Stranger Things Christmas Lights

They discussed more of these plot points with IGN:

IGN: What can you say about where Eleven is? That’s a very open question, of course, since there are different worlds you’re dealing with here.

Ross: It is. We wanted to leave it purposefully ambiguous. We always, from the very beginning, liked this sort of childlike idea that this escapee from this facility with these amazing powers would be able to just move into Mike’s basement and they’d have this wonderful life together and she’d go to school. It’s not that simple. The goal is to make it as complicated as possible, and without going into too much detail, to really tear them apart at the end of that season, to make things much more difficult. But we love Eleven.

Matt: But the great thing about having a portal to another dimension is that you’re not boxed in, narratively. There’s a lot we can do.

Ross: What did James Cameron say? No one’s ever dead in sci-fi.

IGN: Will clearly has been changed by this experience, it doesn’t seem in a great way. But he’s not the only one that went over there. Should we assume he might not be the only one affected?

Ross: That’s a good question. Though I will say that Will obviously was in there much longer. He had that thing hooked up to him. He went through a much more traumatic experience. A big part of Season 2 that we’ve been discussing is what is that effect? Did it affect anyone else? But specifically, is Will okay? The short answer being no.

Matt: But you’re absolutely right, three of the other characters were in there.

Ross: And they took off their helmets. And we know it’s a toxic environment. Nancy was in there too. Yeah, that’s an interesting question…

IGN: Is that the cool thing about doing a time jump? Asking what has Will been like in the year in between?

Ross: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And how have these characters moved on with their lives and not just in the plot and supernatural [aspect] but also just in terms of their characters and what have they done to fill that time?

Matt: We like that they’ve all had a very traumatic, nightmare experience together and after it’s over they kind of try to sweep it all under the rug. Season 2 would be very differently, structurally. It would be that everything seems great on the surface and then there are hints that things aren’t okay or that there are lingering effects from what happened last year. The initial instinct is to push that back and sweep that crap back under the rug but eventually it becomes impossible to ignore and so they have to confront the repercussions of everything they’ve experienced. I like to think about Stephen King’s It too. — that’s a big time jump. They jump like thirty years. But the idea that the evil is still there and comes back to haunt them and one of the characters finds out about it and kills themselves immediately. That image always stuck with me.

IGN: We see Hopper go for a little meeting at the end there. What can you say about everything he was involved in and how it might open up the world?

Ross: The intention in the scene when he gets in the car – and we want to get into this in the next season – is the clean up of what happened and the mess of all this and Will dying and coming back to life, whatever happened at the school, and the dead bodies… This is not a simple clean up job. It’s complicated. We have all these characters that know that these crazy things happen. We liked the idea that, sort of lead by Hopper, our characters are drawn closer to the government, in terms of having to make a bit of a deal with the devil. To us, that’s an exciting place to take our story.

Matt: But also the idea of going back to the laboratory and pull back the curtain a little bit. Maybe they brought someone new in. It’s not as evil and mysterious as it was in Season 1. We might start to get into what they’re doing a bit little more. Maybe they seem a little bit more friendly… as least at the beginning. A lot of the agents involved in that project are dead.

Ross: The monster and Eleven did a clean sweep of that whole operation, really.

Matt: So it would be new people which I think is cool. I think our initial instinct, when you talk about all of this stuff and “Oh god, this is all such a pain in the ass. We created such a mess.” But then we decided let’s just lean into the problems this created.

Ross: And even someone like Barb, where we left them, her poor parents think she’s just run away. There’s no closure there at this point, which I think is another reason why audiences are reacting like that. They’re like “You saved this boy, but…” What we were trying to do with that last scene in the hospital when Nancy leaves and Jonathan catches her right as she’s going is that there isn’t closure for Nancy. There isn’t closure for Barb’s parents. There is still, despite the relief that our boys are feeling, there still was tragedy here. We want to make sure that we don’t forget about that. We don’t want to forget about Barb.

Stranger Things

Collider asked about the benefits of working with Netflix:

Eight episodes was the perfect length for the Season 1 narrative. Was that your decision, to keep it that tight?

MATT: Yes, it was.

ROSS: When we first pitched it to Netflix, we said, “This is an eight-episode story,” and they were like, “Great!” That’s the amazing thing about Netflix. They do not dictate. They don’t tell anyone that it should be 10 episodes or 13 episodes. They just say, “What do you need to tell your story?,” and that’s an amazing freedom that most storytellers who are working in film or TV haven’t had. This is a very recent thing. On television, you’ve gotta have a certain number of breaks for commercials. You’re working on a very clear structure.

MATT: On Wayward Pines, we were writing to commercial breaks.

ROSS: And you know how many episodes it has to be because they’ve got so many slots. Or with a film, you know it can’t be too long ‘cause you can’t get enough showings in. You’re very locked in. So, I think it’s an exciting time. We can play around a bit with form and length, and all of that, and it really just boils down to what we need to tell the story.

MATT: But even though this show has been successful, there’s no pressure to make it 13 episodes. People say, “They need to make way more episodes,” but I like to think one of the reasons it works for people is because it’s paced and it feels like a movie, and that’s because it’s not too long. I think, if we pushed it to 13 episodes, we’d have to start coming up with all these bullshit adventures they’re going on, that aren’t directly tied to the main tension. Eight felt about right. But if we’re developing Season 2 and it feels like seven or nine or eleven, Netflix would support any of those lengths.

How long do you see this series running? Have you thought about future seasons?

ROSS: We don’t know, specifically. We’re very weary of making it go on past the point it should. You want to end on a high note. That’s the goal. We’ve had initial discussions, but we haven’t quite landed on it.

Stranger Things Eleven

They spoke more about the structure of the series with Huffington Post:

One reason “Stranger Things” is effective is because the monster is revealed slowly. At first, it’s only glimpses. That out-of-sight, fear-of-the-unknown quality feels very “Jaws.”

Ross: “Jaws” was a big one. It’s a classic. The shark not working while making that movie made it much better. Also, we looked a lot at Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” On YouTube, there’s a cut of all the instances where you see the alien in that first movie, and it’s a couple minutes long. And that’s a two-hour movie. I think the reason it’s so scary is that, when it does appear, it has a certain amount of impact. So we thought, OK, we’re going to see the shadow in Episode 1, because we knew we had eight episodes. We were trying to slowly reveal it, until you finally saw the full thing. We don’t really deal with it until Episode 8. It’s a dude in a suit, and I remember reading old interviews with Ridley Scott about “Alien.” The studio was upset with him for it because it’s an amazing alien suit and you’re not shooting it. But the reason is because so much of it will look like a guy in a suit, and so much of it is that what you don’t see is much scarier. We tried to go back to that old-school style of filmmaking…

I want to pose a logistical plot question: Why did Will survive the Upside Down but Barb didn’t?

Matt: Right, I guess we think of it as ― and this is continuing with the “Jaws” references ― it’s the other dimension, the Upside Down, where the shark lives, and every once in a while it comes out of that ocean into our world on the surface and then it grabs a victim and pulls them down to the Upside Down. You saw Barb at the top of Episode 3 in the Upside Down. Just imagine that’s a world, and Barb tried to escape and failed to escape, but Will was sneakier, so he was able to escape. He was able to hide. He goes, initially, to that cubby in Episode 3 inside the Byers’ house, which is why Joyce is able to communicate with him. We had this whole backstory for what Will is doing, but we don’t see it all.

Ross: It’s more like the monster bringing him back to the net, which is why Hopper and Joyce are able to distract Will into being held in this net like a spider caught in its web. He’s brought there by the monster for eating later. Is he there for other reasons? We don’t know. We have ideas.

The way the season ends, there are enough questions answered for it to almost stand as a complete series. But the many unresolved mysteries set up an obvious next chapter. How much of the backstory regarding Dr. Brenner’s experiments and Eleven’s history did you have in place from the get-go?

Matt: We had ideas that we were sort of feeling out. We have a lot more backstory built in for Brenner and Eleven. Every time that we were writing scenes in the Hawkins Lab, we wanted to stop writing them, just because it seemed like we wanted to experience as much of it as possible in the present day and through the eyes of our ordinary characters. We just wanted to leave that as mysterious as possible. I hope that, with the mystery, people are responding to it and it’s not frustrating. But to us, the sci-fi elements are so much more fun if we’re understanding it via our characters. I like that basically everything we understand about what is going on is pretty much through the boys. And they’re only able to understand it through Dungeons and Dragons terminology and by talking to their science teacher, Mr. Clark. It’s all sort of hypothetical. I never wanted any scenes in the laboratory where you have Brenner and the scientists sitting around discussing what’s going on. And Eleven even doesn’t fully understand how she wound up where she wound up and what their plans for her are, so there are very few scenes with Brenner without one of our other main characters. The scenes that are with Brenner and not our main characters have almost no dialogue in them.

Ross: Moving forward, we’re going to get more into detail about the monster and where it came from and what the Upside Down really is. But with this season, we talked a lot about “Poltergeist.” At the end of the day, what really matters in “Poltergeist” is that Carol Anne is missing and they have to go through a portal in the closet to get her back. That matters more than the backstory. People want explanations for all that, so while we have answers for all this, what we really wanted to get from this first season is that this gate opens to this other dimension. What it really boils down to is, Will is in there and we have to get him back. The hope was that, because we resolved that, the first season will be satisfying to people and work as a stand-alone. Hopefully we get to go back and explore more of this stuff.

Mr Robot Alf

While Stranger Things brought us back to the 1980’s, Mr. Robot had a surprising beginning by opening as if it was a 1990’s sit-com, including appearances from Alf. If you haven’t watched it yet, do not skip the commercials, as they play into the illusion of a 1990’s television show. Of course, like other less obvious examples on the show, we are seeing what is happening in Eliot’s head as opposed to reality. There was even a plausible explanation for this, which led to a reconciliation with the imaginary Mr. Robot portion of him, after attempts by each to destroy the other earlier in the season. While we still do not know what happened to Tyrell Wellick, he does have a symbolic appearance here also.

I’m still waiting for WikiLeaks to reveal ties between Evil Corp, The Clinton Foundation, and The Trump Organization–the true axis of evil (even if one is symbolic and only two are real). Actually, on some level, I think that this is what Sam Esmail is trying to tell us.

Democracy Hacked

Bryan Fuller is slowly teasing news on Star Trek Discovery. It will take place ten years before the original show, bridging events between Enterprise and the original Star Trek. There will be seven lead characters including a gay character, and a female lead who plays a lieutenant commander, providing a different perspective than leading with the Captain as on other series.

The bathroom at The Way Station bar in Brooklyn is bigger on the inside than on the outside. The video above has a tour of the TARDIS themed bathroom.

In other Doctor Who news, the 1996 movie staring Paul McGann is being released on Blu-ray later this year.

Jenna Coleman and Karen Gillan had a joint appearance at Boston Comic Con. Hopefully someone videotaped it and will upload it soon.

Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars movies, died at age 81 during the past week.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Beyond & Star Trek Discovery; Sherlock & Doctor Who News; Adrianne Palacki Cast On Seth MacFarlane SF Show; Gilmore Girls Trailer; Sense8

Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond is the third installment since J.J. Abrams took over Star Trek. Like the first two movies, it is fun to watch, and in this one there is more of an effort (only partially successful) to make this movie actually be Star Trek. There will be some spoilers here, but not to the point of giving away anything which isn’t becoming obvious in the first half of the movie.

The movie has a lot of action, but also makes an effort to get a feel for the characters early in the movie. The Enterprise is now on the third year of its mission in deep space which began at the end of Star Trek Into Darkness. This work mean that, although James Kirk took over the Enterprise at an earlier point in his life, that they have been in deep space for approximately as long as the crew on the original show. (The original series ended in its third season, but they had already been on their five year mission for some time when the show began). In this universe, we also know that they have encountered Tribbles and Khan earlier.

Whatever they have experienced, Kirk now feels that “things have started to feel episodic” and is contemplating a desk job. It should be no spoiler to say that he doesn’t go through with it. There was a reference to the original when he complained that his shirt got torn on an away mission. There was also time for Kirk and the rest of the crew to take  break when they traveled to a space station. Again, it should be no spoiler that something happened there which pulled the Enterprise into an adventure.

Before going off to fight another villain, and meet another memorable character, Spock also had to deal with both romantic problems with Uhura and learning of the death of Ambassador Spock, his future self from the origianl Star Trek universe. That is obviously an homage to the death of Leonard Nimoy. The ending of the movie also had a tribute to the death of Anton Yelchin, who plays Chekov. While a fourth movie has already been approved, a decision has been made to not replace Yelchin. Chris Hemsworth will reprise his role as Kirk’s father in the fourth movie, despite having died in the first movie. No word whether that will involve time travel, a revelation that he somehow survived, or some other means.

Spock contemplated leaving Star Fleet to continue Ambassador Spock’s work and his people following the destruction of Vulcan. This provided no more drama than Kirk contemplating taking a desk job. While at this star base we also learned that a ship even bigger and more powerful than the Enterprise was being built. Do I need to label it a spoiler to say that this guaranteed the repeat of what didn’t occur to the Enterprise in the prime universe until its third movie?

While no longer directed by J.J. Abrams, his influence was seen. I have some of the same nit picks as I did with Star Trek Into Darkness. Everything must be bigger, including getting yet a bigger and better version of the Enterprise and the incredible size of the space station out in deep space (which seemed partially modeled on Epcot). Once again, distance did not seem to matter. The Enterprise has gone where no one has gone before, but is not far from a station of this magnitude, and right around the corner from an almost unexplored nebula.

The most important thing about the Star Trek movies is that they have kept Star Trek around in some form. Star Trek has always worked better as a television show than movie series, and it will return to television early in 2017. Bryan Fuller announced at Comic Con that the next series will be named Star Trek Discovery, (referred to as DSC rather than the initials STD). The series will premiere on CBS television but subsequently be shown on CBS All Access, a paid streaming service. Episodes will also be available internationally on Netflix within twenty-hours making me wonder if it will be accessible in the US if using a VPN. With such limited availability, I bet it will also be heavily pirated.

Star Trek Discovery will tell a single story in thirteen chapters, with episodes released weekly. The series will take place in the prime timeline, but it has not been announced when. There has been speculation that the registry number of NCC-1031 for the Starship Discovery suggests it could take place before the original show, but that is far from definitive.

The above trailer for Sherlock season 4 was presented at San Diego Comic Con.

That naturally leads to recent news related to that other show run by Steven Moffat. Moffat predicts that Peter Capaldi will be remaining with the show after he leaves as show runner in 2017.

Karen Gillan has been cast as the female lead in All Creatures Here Below, an indie drama written by and starring David Dastmalchian. (I just thought of Amy Pond earlier today when I was walking by a house with a small angel on its lawn. I did not blink).

Jenna Coleman will be playing Queen Victoria for ITV. She has not ruled out returning to Doctor Who some day, but told Collider she will probably not return “for a good while”  if she ever does.

Adrianne-Palicki

Adrianne Palacki has been cast in Seth MacFarlane’s upcoming show for Fox:

Set 300 years in the future, the untitled show — MacFarlane’s first live-action TV series — follows the adventures of the Orville, a not-so-top-of-the-line exploratory ship in Earth’s interstellar fleet. Facing cosmic challenges from without and within, this motley crew of space explorers will boldly go where no comedic drama has gone before.

MacFarlane plays Ed, captain of Orville. Palicki plays Kelly Grayson, Ed’s ex-wife and the newly appointed First Officer of the Orville. Grimes plays Gordon, Ed’s best friend whom he hires to pilot the Orville.

This should answer the question as to whether Palacki will return to Agents of SHIELD after ABC decided against picking up the proposed spin-0ff which she was to star in. While she was written out of SHIELD, the manner in which it was done did not make it too difficult to have her return.

The Last Ship has been renewed by TNT for a fourth season. It has taken a different approach for the third season, reminding me of previous post-apocalyptic shows such as Jericho and Revolution. It is like rebuilding society in Revolution, with a recent plague being far more plausible than the loss of electricity on Revolution.

There is no question I will be binging on Gilmore Girls Thanksgiving weekend until I hear the four final words which Amy Sherman-Palladino has always planned to end the series with. She had hoped to have the show released in individual episodes to avoid spoiling the ending, but Netflix insisted on releasing all four episodes on November 25. I can’t think of any better place than Stars Hollow to spend Thanksgiving weekend. Trailer above. John Oliver did respond to Lorelei’s question while appearing on Stephen Colbert’s show:

Then on Christmas we can get more of Sense8 as opposed to watching it for the eighth time. ONTD has these items from the J. Michael Straczynsk’s panel at Comic Con:

– He confirms they’re filming in more cities because the Sense8 will be meeting more Sensates and some of them might be evil.
– There’s a lot more action than in Season 1.
– They’re gonna dig a lot deeper into the company searching for Sensates.
– Kala/Wolfgang storyline evolves a lot from S1.
– He confirms Sun gets out of jail ‘but not in the way you’d expect’.
– They’re working more like a group and having more scenes together.
– Netflix revealed that most Netflix shows are re-watched once at most. Sense8’s rewatchability index is off the charts. People rewatch Sense8 up to 7 times in average (end to end).
– Season2 is more ‘hopeful’ about LGTB people, privacy and relationships
– Riley’s gonna be the one leading the agenda to meet more sensates and she uses her DJ concerts to do so.
– Christmas movie airs on Christmas Day and the rest of the season shortly after in 2017.

SciFi Weekend: Steven Moffat Leaving Doctor Who; Jessica Jones; Legends of Tomorrow; Charlotte Rampling On The Academy Awards

Moffat TARDIS

Steven Moffat is stepping down as show runner of Doctor Who after the upcoming tenth season (since the show’s revival) and Chris Chinball, best known for Broadchurch, will be taking over. Chinball is a long time fan of Doctor Who and also wrote these episodes: 42, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Power of Three. He was also a producer and writer on Torchwood.

The tenth season of Doctor Who will not air until the spring of 2017, and the only episode to air in 2016 will be the annual Christmas special. I wonder if Moffat will introduce the next companion in the special or wait until the show returns on a regular schedule in 2017.

After Broadchurch, I also cannot help but wonder if, should David Tennant return for an episode of the show, if Chinball will have him talk in an often incomprehensible accent.

Following is the BBC press release:

BBC announces Steven Moffat’s next series of Doctor Who will be his last and confirms Chris Chibnall as new Head Writer and Executive Producer.

After six incredible series at the helm, the multi-award winning Steven Moffat has decided to step down as the lead writer and executive producer of Doctor Who.

Steven took over the reins on Series 5 in 2010 and during his tenure the show has become a truly global success. He has been responsible for introducing the Eleventh and the Twelfth Doctors in Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi; as well as two companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) and iconic characters and monsters including River Song (Alex Kingston), Missy (Michelle Gomez), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and the terrifying Weeping Angels. Plus, the smash hit 50th Anniversary special in 2013 which saw fans around the world celebrate the world’s longest running sci-fi series with the Doctors, Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt battling the deadly Daleks in a feature length episode. Steven’s final series will air on BBC One in Spring 2017 and there will be a Christmas Special in 2016.

Steven Moffat says: “Feels odd to be talking about leaving when I’m just starting work on the scripts for season 10, but the fact is my timey-wimey is running out. While Chris is doing his last run of Broadchurch, I’ll be finishing up on the best job in the universe and keeping the TARDIS warm for him. It took a lot of gin and tonic to talk him into this, but I am beyond delighted that one of the true stars of British Television drama will be taking the Time Lord even further into the future. At the start of season 11, Chris Chibnall will become the new showrunner of Doctor Who. And I will be thrown in a skip.”

Like Steven, Chris Chibnall is also a lifelong Doctor Who fan and a multi-award winning writer and executive producer. He has most recently achieved huge success with the triple BAFTA winning hit ITV series Broadchurch. His other credits include BAFTA nominated The Great Train Robbery, United, Law & Order: UK, Life on Mars and Torchwood. Chris Chibnall’s debut series will launch in 2018.

Chris Chibnall, new Head Writer and Executive Producer : “Doctor Who is the ultimate BBC programme: bold, unique, vastly entertaining, and adored all around the world. So it’s a privilege and a joy to be the next curator of this funny, scary and emotional family drama. I’ve loved Doctor Who since I was four years old, and I’m relishing the thought of working with the exceptional team at BBC Wales to create new characters, creatures and worlds for the Doctor to explore. Steven’s achieved the impossible by continually expanding Doctor Who’s creative ambition, while growing its global popularity. He’s been a dazzling and daring showrunner, and hearing his plans and stories for 2017, it’s clear he’ll be going out with a bang. Just to make my life difficult.”

Charlotte Moore, Controller, BBC One says : “I want to thank Steven Moffat for everything he has given Doctor Who – I’ve loved working with him, he is an absolute genius and has brought fans all over the world such joy. I will be very sad to see him leave the show but I can’t wait to see what he will deliver in his last ever series next year with a brand new companion. I have decided to schedule Steven’s big finale series in Spring 2017 to bring the nation together for what will be a huge event on the channel. 2016 is spoilt with national moments including the Euros and Olympics and I want to hold something big back for 2017 – I promise it will be worth the wait! I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Chris Chibnall, a wonderfully talented writer who I know will bring something very special to the hit series.”

Polly Hill, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning says : “Like Charlotte I would like to thank Steven for his brilliance, which has made Doctor Who a global hit under his tenure. Chris Chibnall is the perfect successor to take over the reins of this incredible show, so I am delighted that his love for Doctor Who has made it impossible for him to resist! Chris is an incredible writer and his vision and passion for Doctor Who gives it an exciting future and promises to be a real treat for Doctor Who fans across the world.”

AKA Jessica Jones

Variety discussed plans for season two of Jessica Jones with show runner Melissa Rosenberg and star Krysten Ritter:

Rosenberg shared that she doesn’t know when work on the new season will start, or whether she’ll be collaborating with writers from any of the other Marvel-Netflix series (“Daredevil,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist”) leading up to “The Defenders” crossover, but said that she intends to continue utilizing story ideas from Brian Michael Bendis’ series of “Alias” comics, where Jessica Jones debuted.

“I will always use as much as I possibly can from the comic book,” Rosenberg said, noting that they’ll have to allow for deviations given the differences in the mythology between the Marvel comics and ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe. “The MCU is very different in terms of its mythology. In the books, everyone knows superheroes are walking around, there’s a lot of things building toward Secret Wars. We’re probably not going to be able to do a totally parallel storylines. But I take every little piece I can because it’s so good.”

While Rosenberg admitted that it was both intimidating and exciting to think of having to come up with a villain to follow Kilgrave, she didn’t consider keeping him around past season one, since “the show is about Jessica Jones; the story is about Jessica’s arc,” and thus everything had to be in service to her journey.

When asked about Jessica’s mental state at the end of the season, given her final defeat of Kilgrave, star Krysten Ritter said, “For Jessica, that final moment, that victorious triumphant moment, I found that very conflicting in terms of her headspace. He’s the reason why she got up every day. He’s the reason why she went out in the world… it really gave her a purpose, and the past trauma doesn’t go away with his death.”

Arthur Darvill Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow premiered this week and we found that there was some misdirection in both what the characters were told when recruited and in the trailers for the show. This might be for the better. If they really were already known to become legends, it would imply that they were successful and this was future history. The outcome of their mission would already be known. Of course with time travel a lot of questions can come up. For example, why not go after Vandal Savage when he was reduced to dust at the end of the Arrow/Flash episode and prevent him from being revived?

I suspect that this will turn out to be the sort of show which can be a lot of fun to watch as long as you don’t think too much about the time travel implications. It even has Rory (Arthur Darvill) as sort of a renegade Time Lord. Screen Rant has a list of additional Easter eggs.

KUDOS FILM AND TELEVISION PRESENTS BROADCHURCH SERIES 2 Images are under strict Embargo not to be used before the 18th December. PICTURED : CHARLOTTE RAMPLING as Jocelyn Knight. Copyright ITV/Kudos.

Charlote Rampling, who appeared with David Tennant and Arthur Darvill in Broadchurch, has addressed the controversy over lack of diversity in the Academy Award nominees. Rampling had initially spoken about boycotting the awards, but has backed away from this:

In an interview with Europe 1 Radio earlier this week, Rampling said calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards because all of the nominees were white “was racist to white people.”

Today Rampling told CBS News’ “Sunday Morning”:

“I regret that my comments could have been misinterpreted this week in my interview with Europe 1 Radio. I simply meant to say that in an ideal world every performance will be given equal opportunities for consideration. I am very honored to be included in this year’s wonderful group of nominated actors and actresses.”

Rampling also said:

“Diversity in our industry is an important issue that needs to be addressed. I am highly encouraged by the changes announced today by the Academy to diversify its membership.”

SciFi Weekend: The 100 Season Finale; 12 Monkeys; Better Call Saul; Twin Peaks; Karen Gillan; Cristin Milioti; The Jinx

the-100-lexa-clarke

The 100 ended with a two part season finale which concluded the Mount Weather storyline. While overall I enjoyed the show, that story did get dragged out a bit too long. After things looked bleak last week after Lexa betrayed Clarke, it was suddenly so easy to kill all the Mountain People and escape. From the beginning the show has been about making difficult decisions to survive, and their consequences. One of the strengths of the show is also becoming a bit of a weakness. The show has deserved praise for not taking the easy way out and for showing people getting killed in multiple episodes. However that also makes the show predictable. There was never a question as to whether Clarke would kill all the people from Mount Weather when she had the chance. It doesn’t matter that there were concerns for both those who had helped them and for the innocent children.

Because of these issues, I don’t think the second season was as good as the first, but despite its faults  the show is certainly one of the best genre shows currently on television. I have mixed feelings about where the show is going from here with different people in different places, including Clarke going off on her own. At least they are showing consequences for her decision in the finale, along with her decision in a recent episode to allow people to get killed from a missile Bellamy,  so that her spy inside Mount Weather, would not be suspected. The success of the third season will depend upon where they are going with the story lines started in the finale, and a story which gets into what happened to create the nuclear holocaust could certainly be interesting.

MTV interviewed showrunner Jason Rothenberg about the finale and where the show is headed:

MTV: What went into your decision to have Clarke make so many awful decisions this year? Between Tondc, killing Dante, and all of those kids, she sure has had a rough go of it.

Jason Rothenberg: Going into this season I knew that this season was about, thematically, how far you will go to survive. I wanted to push Clarke, and really everybody, to the brink of having to do the unthinkable in order to save their people, and see who was willing to cross it, and who wasn’t. Literally from day one of this season, I knew Clarke was going to do it. She was going to get her people back, but she was going to have to do something so dark, so intense, that she would be broken by it… She was going to look at herself as a monster.

So, that was literally from day one going into this season, and that’s how it played out. Everyone involved at the leadership level in the triangle between Dante, Lexa and Clarke — forget about Cage, obviously, he was a stooge that was in over his head — but Lexa, she was faced with a really awful choice, which was save your people, but to do that, you have to give up the woman that you love… And she did it… So it comes down to Clarke, where in order to save her people she has to kill every man, woman and child in Mount Weather. I made it very clear, defining the fact that there were good people there. As intense as it is, I wanted the camera to find the kids as much as possible, because I wanted the stakes of what she did to really land.

MTV: Oh, it landed. And here I was thinking that Maya was going to be a series regular next year.

Rothenberg: I was tempted to keep her on the show. The truth is, Mount Weather is only there because of this sin that they’ve been committing for 50 years to the Grounders. Without that, they’d have been gone long ago. So none of them, even the children who had no choice in the matter — they didn’t ask to be born, and they didn’t ask to take the blood — they wouldn’t be there without that sin. To let Maya live just because we loved her felt like the wrong choice, creatively, for the show. Certainly, I don’t think it would be the way we do things if only the people in Mount Weather who were bad died, and Clarke somehow managed to save the people we like — like Maya, Maya’s father and the children.

MTV: What’s next for Clarke, now that she’s on her own?

Rothenberg: She’s broken. She’s devastated in many ways by what she had to do, and what she’s lost. She lost Finn, she lost Lexa, she lost Bellamy — she lost everything in order to get this accomplished, and now she needs to get away from it all. She can’t live around these people that she saved, because it will remind her of what she had to do to get them there. So she’s going on walkabout like a good Aussie, and we’ll see how long that walkabout lasts. There’s another agenda in her mind that takes center stage by the time we catch up with her in season three…

MTV: Well, I’m hoping and assuming we haven’t seen the last of the Grounders.

Rothenberg: The Grounder-Sky Person alliance is definitely broken… Lexa, when she made the deal, was assuming that the 44 would be killed and that Clarke would probably die, and she would still have Mount Weather there to keep her people united. She was probably — master strategist that she is — thinking several moves ahead. Thinking she could keep her alliance together, the 12 clans, because they would still have this evil empire out there to unite them.

Then Clarke goes ahead and single-handedly defeats that evil empire. On the one hand, it means the legend of Clarke of the Sky People grows. Everywhere she goes it’s like, ‘I heard it was 5,000 people! No, I heard it was 10,000 people!’ Everywhere she goes, she’s a legend now. That means that Lexa will probably have to deal with that legend in some way going forward. Certainly it means that her alliance now no longer has a real reason to be held together. I should probably stop in terms of what it means for season three, but I’m really excited to play out the ramifications of all of that.

MTV: And what of this so-called Promised Land? I don’t really get what that AI woman was doing, but I’m excited to find out.

Rothenberg: The idea of ending the season on them is a way to foreshadow where we’re going in season three, just like how the white room foreshadowed where we were going in season two. It was really important for me to tell the story of how the world ended. We’ve never really dealt with that before. The scene in the bunker where Murphy sees the video of someone who was in some way involved with the creation of the AI known as Ali, and he’s killing himself for the guilt of the end of the world… Ali, you can assume, had something to do with that. [This] becomes part of the focus of the story in season three.

More at Zap2It.

Richard Harmon (Murphy) has been promoted to a regular for next season. In the meantime, he will be enjoying himself in that bunker he stumbled upon. I hope that doesn’t prevent him from appearing in the final season of Continuum.

12 Monkeys Tomorrow

12 Monkeys is getting darker and the last episode also dealt with hard decisions by a leader. We now have two factions using technology–one to attempt to cure the virus and one attempting to change history and prevent the plague. Dr. Jones is willing to go to any lengths to proceed with her plan, but what are her motives? Initially it looked like she was taking this course because she did not think a cure would work due to the virus mutating. By the end of  Tomorrow it looked more like it is because she wants to reverse both the death of her daughter and the horrible decisions she has made by reseting the time line. However it does look like the cure could actually work, despite what she was telling others.

We also see events at other points in time. Initially, in 2041 when  Ramse and Cole first met Dr. Jones, Cole thought she was crazy and Ramse insisted upon working with her. In 2043, their roles become reversed. Cole also wound up in 2017 in time to see Cassie die, but it is clear that he will be seeing Cassie at other points in time beyond when she first thought she was dead. Of course Cassie cannot tell him anything out of fear of changing the time line  and interfering with what Cole will learn. He has plenty of time to learn more as the show has been renewed for a second season.

Syfy has decided against renewing Ascension. It did show promise and I wish they had at least finished the story.

Better Call Saul had an excellent episode, concentrating on Mike’s back story. If there are any Breaking Bad fans not watching Better Call Saul, this would be a good, essentially stand-alone, episode to watch.

Arrow Ra

At Paleyfest, Stephen Amell said there will be dire consequences if Oliver doesn’t accept Ra’s Al Ghul’s offer.

“It’s an offer in name only. It’s not really an offer,” Amell said. “It’s a demand. If Oliver says no, there will be incredibly dire consequences.”

In mulling the offer, Oliver will take stock in what he’s accomplished in the time he’s been back in Starling City — and he will determine that what he’s accomplished isn’t that impressive.

The CW has released the finale dates for their other shows. Arrow will end the season on May 13 and The Flash will have its season finale on May 19. Both are returning next season.

After all the hype of Twin Peaks returning, David Lynch now says it might not return due to complications with contract negotiations.

Karen Gillan is joining the cast of The Devil You Know, a show on the Salem witch trial for HBO, co-written by Orange Is The New Black creator Jenji Kohan.

Cristin Milioti of How I Met Your Mother and the short-lived A to Z has been cast for the second season of Fargo. Please don’t kill her again.

Robert Durst, subject of The Jinx on HBO, was arrested for murder. Gawker has more background for those not watching the show.

SciFi Weekend Part 2: The Best of 2014

Part 1 of SciFi Weekend looked at shows from the past week, including Last Christmas, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. Part II lists some of the top and most improved shows of the year. The point is not really to rank them so much as to highlight shows worth watching. Really, how do you compare Cosmos to Penny Dreadful? I am at a disadvantage compared to professional television critics as I have neither the professional obligation nor time to watch nearly everything. Therefore this is limited to the shows I have actually watched, and I will address this after the first list.

Rather than list the overall best shows, as most sites are doing, my first list will be limited to shows which premiered in 2014. Lists of all the best shows drive out most of the new shows, and I’m sure you are aware of Game of Thrones by now. I have limited this to shows available in the United States, including a couple which were primarily British shows but available here on cable or streaming. This list is not limited to genre but is biased by my preferences.Therefore Jane the Virgin (CW), listed by many television critics among the best of the year, did not make the list as, regardless of its quality, I still stopped watching after a few weeks due to the large number of quality shows which I’m more interested in.

Top 15 New Shows Of 2014

About A Boy

15.  About A Boy (NBC)

Family friendly sitcoms (or actually sitcoms of any nature) have not done very well on the networks recently. For that matter, relatively few network shows made this list at all. About A Boy, the second attempt to adapt the Nick Hornby novel, finally gets it right, also being a rare case of the television version being better than the movie version. The shows combines saccharin and snark, and can be highly entertaining in episodes where it gets the right percentage of each. Besides an excellent regular cast, Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights and Agents of SHIELD has had a recurring role.

14. The Knick (Cinemax)
Think of this Steven Soderbergh show as being like ER, except set early in the 20th century. I don’t know if they got all the facts right, but it is an authentic look at medicine of the era.

13. Black-ish (ABC)
Another of the rare successful sitcoms premiering recently. It came along at just the right time, when Bill Cosby is no longer on his pedestal

12. Penny Dreadful (Showtime)
Imagine if the main characters of classic horror novels all lived in the same city and interacted with each other. I am  hopeful of an even better second season now that the main characters and situations were introduced.

11. Silicon Valley (HBO)
Comedy is doing much better on cable than network television these days. Silicon Valley does a great job of mocking the tech industry.

The Honorable Woman

10. The Honorable Woman (BBC Two/Sundance)
The original story has the feeling of what it might be like if John le Carré were to write a spy novel on the middle east directly for television.

9. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Fox)
Neil deGrasse Tyson was inspired by Carl Sagan as a student. Now he tries to cure some of the scientific-illiteracy which has become a serious problem in this country.

8. True Detective (HBO)
The story had moments of brilliance, and moments when it dragged, but the performance by Matthew McConaughey earned it a spot on most top ten lists.

Transparent

7. Transparent (Amazon Prime)
Jeffrey Tambor leads an excellent cast in a story about an already dysfunctional Jewish family which now must deal with the father coming out as trans-gender. This is the story which Jill Soloway has been wanting to do since Six Feet Under, and she does an excellent job.

6 .Last Week Tonight (HBO)
This new comedy take on the news came along at the right time, with Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update being awful with the loss of Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert ending his show. John Oliver has done a better job than many others who have attempted to satirize the news with in-depth segments which are likely influence opinions.

5. The Flash (CW)
The best of this year’s attempts to enter the superhero genre. Lighter than Arrow but so far this season more compelling with its ongoing story line.

4. Happy Valley (BBC One/Netflix)
This British crime mystery does a far better job than most of the American counterparts, being far more successful than most other attempts at combining  the personal story of the main character with the mystery.

3. The Affair (Showtime)
Showing the events before the murder from the perspective of two people involved in an affair is a gimmick which works well for the story. When their stories differ are we seeing failings in memory, one or both characters lying, or even the plot of one of the protagonist’s novels?

Youre-The-Worst-690

2. You’re The Worst (FX)
The best new comedy in ages, with an often hilarious look at a couple of flawed individuals, frequently skewering millennials. The show is especially impressive in both gradually developing the supporting characters and telling a story over the course of the season. The season can easily be watched in one or two sittings as one of the best romantic comedies to come along in years, even by those who normally don’t like romantic comedies. It might also be worth rewatching this time of the year as a reminder of how good television can also be educational, showing why it is not a good idea to plug a vibrator into a string of Christmas lights. The more you know.

Billy Bob Thornton stars as Lorne Malvo in the Emmy award-winning series Fargo

1. Fargo (FX)
A dark comedy and crime drama which does justice to the movie which inspired it, and easily stands on its own. There is both outstanding writing and an excellent cast led by Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, and Colin Hanks.

Honorable Mention:
Among shows which did not make this list, and which aren’t mentioned elsewhere in this post, there are a some other good shows with a genre element: Gotham (Fox), Outlander (Starz),  How To Get Away With Murder (ABC), The Last Ship (TNT), Leftovers (HBO) (which has made many lists of both best and worst of the year), and Resurrection (ABC).

Some of the new genre shows which were left off this list were intentionally omitted.  Extant (CBS) might have made at least honorable mention if they stuck to the story of the AI child and stayed away from the ludicrous alien plot. Some shows couldn’t be ranked as I have not seen them, but reliable sources have recommended others to me which very well deserve to be highly ranked, and which I will hopefully catch up on later. These include The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). There are also two limited run shows which I have recorded and have heard excellent things about but have not seen yet: Olive Kitteridge (HBO)  and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (PBS).

Most Improved Shows Of 2014

Some shows do better in their first year, often due to first raising a situation, but are not able to sustain the quality for a second season. Sleepy Hollow (Fox) has not been able to maintain the quality of the first season, but perhaps it will improve now that they appear ready to move on to a  new storyline. Orphan Black (BBC America) also couldn’t maintain the quality of the first season, when everything was still a mystery, but still remains better than most shows on television. House of Cards (Netflix) also did not have as great a second season as first but remains worth watching.

There are six shows which many consider better in their second season, or at very least did not deteriorate a bit going into their second season, listed in alphabetical order:

Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
The show was mediocre until Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released. It became much better late in the first season as it mirrored the movie developments, and has become even better this season as it is now ahead of planned Marvel releases.

the-americans-fx

The Americans (FX)
This was one of the best television shows of 2013 when it premiered, and was even better in its second season. The season was successful for both its season-long mystery and for how it combined the personal and professional lives of the main characters. It did one thing far better than other shows such as Homeland: making good use of a teen-aged daughter.

Arrow (CW)
The second season of Arrow started in 2013 but extended into 2014, allowing the show onto this list.  The second season surpassed the second season. The third season, starting in fall 2014, isn’t as good, but I’m still hoping it will return to the level of the second season.

Hannibal (NBC)
It is just amazing that a show of this quality can be shown on network television.

Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Actually a close call between the first and second season, with both worth watching.

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
Another example of a great show becoming even better in its second year, as the show successfully went beyond Piper to tell major stories with other characters.

Once again this list is limited to shows I have actually watched. Based upon recommendations from others, I hear that Rectify (Sundance) was another show with an excellent first season and an even better second season in 2014.

There are a couple shows which might not make a list of the best of the year, but these two shows which improved tremendously from their pilots in 2014:

Selfie Karen Gillan John Cho

Selfie (ABC)
The pilot was awful and the show never recovered, but it has gotten much better over the course of the season. Unfortunately this wasn’t soon enough as the show was canceled. The remaining episodes are being shown on Hulu and, with one left to go, have been worth watching.

Married (FX)
This show initially received more hype than You’re The Worst which followed it, but it was soon apparent that this was by far the weaker of the two. Still Married did manage to improve after a weak pilot and, being on cable during the summer when low ratings were expected, was able to survive to get renewed for a second season.

While I concentrated on second season shows in order to provide more coverage to relatively new shows in the list above, there are a few longer-running shows which have improved this season which are worth noting, also in alphabetical order:

Homeland (Showtime)
The show was at its best with the Brody storyline of the first season and they managed to stretch it out through a second season. The third season was just too much, and they finally let it go. The fourth season was mixed as they tried to reestablish the show with only a cameo from Damian Lewis in a hallucination. Some episodes dragged, including the season finale, but there were also some excellent moments during the season. Homeland not only must contend with the loss of Brody. Now it being criticized by Pakistani officials who are furious about how their country was portrayed.

New Girl (Fox)
I had stopped watching around the time that Nick and Jess were getting together, but heard it is much better with the two broken up but saying dumb things to each other, and I have resumed watching.

Person of Interest (CBS)
This was a good show from the start but every season gets better as the show has successfully transitioned from a procedural mystery of the week with a genre gimmick to a true genre show, which is also topical with current controversies over surveillance.

I added the networks to the show listings after I compiled these lists and find it notable that FX has the top two new shows along with one of the best shows of 2013. As expected, HBO and Showtime are well represented, with CW also doing quite well. Amazon has joined Netflix as a valuable streaming service with original shows. The broadcast networks are represented, partially due to having some successes among the larger quantity of original programing than any other source, but are frequently being beaten in quality by cable and streaming sources, which in some cases are owned by the broadcast networks. Showtime and CW now have better shows than CBS as FX has better shows than Fox.

SciFi Weekend: Arrow; The Flash; Doctor Who; The Fall; More Genre Novels Receiving TV Adapatations; Ascension; Community; Mrs. Wolowitz Dies; Porn Stars Explain Net Neutrality; Bill Cosby Rape Allegations

Arrow Black Canary Katie Cassidy

By now  most fans must have figured out that Katie Cassidy’s character is training to replace her sister Sara as the Black Canary, so there is no point in keeping this a secret. Publicity pictures have been released of Cassidy as the Black Canary. Marc Guggenheim has answered questions about when we will find out who killed Sara and has shot down another fan theory in a recent interview. The mystery over Sara’s killer won’t be dragged out over the entire season, but he is not telling exactly when we will find out.

The CW Network has released the synopsis of the cross over episodes of The Flash and Arrow, which will air on December 2 and 3.

Part 1: “Flash vs. Arrow”

“Barry is thrilled when Oliver, Felicity and Diggle come to Central City to investigate a case involving a deadly boomerang. Excited about teaming up with his friend, Barry asks Oliver if he’d like to help him stop Ray Bivolo (guest star Patrick Sabongui), the meta-human Barry is currently tracking. Bivolo causes people to lose control of their emotions and has been using that skill to rob banks. Unfortunately, the superhero partnership doesn’t go as smoothly as Barry expected. When Oliver tells Barry he still has a lot to learn, Barry sets out to prove him wrong by attempting to stop Bivolo alone. However, when Bivolo infects Barry and sets him on a rage rampage, everyone is in danger, and the only one who can stop him is the Arrow. Meanwhile, Iris is furious when Eddie tries to get a task force to stop The Flash, Joe and Dr. Wells agree the Arrow is a bad influence on Barry, and Caitlin and Cisco deal with a new team in S.T.A.R. Labs.”

Part 2: “The Brave and The Bold”

“Oliver, Arsenal and Diggle track down the location of a boomerang-wielding killer named Digger Harkness (guest star Nick Tarabay) but are surprised when they come face to face with an A.R.G.U.S. team. Diggle asks Lyla why A.R.G.U.S. is involved but she defers until Harkness attacks the building, killing several agents and targeting Lyla. The Arrow joins the fight and gets help from an old friend – The Flash. Harkness manages to get away and Oliver teams up with Barry again to find him before he can get to Lyla. When Harkness plants five bombs in the city that are timed to explode at the same time, both teams must come together to save the city.”

The above clip from this year’s upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special was played at Friday’s Children in Need special. Jenna Coleman is shown appearing again as Clara, and we do not know if this means whether Clara is continuing with the show next season or exiting the series as previously rumored.

Steven Moffat has discussed the past season of Doctor Who. With it uncertain as to whether there will be a new companion coming, there has been a lot of attention paid to his discussion of “changing it up with the companion.”

We actually have changed it up quite a lot, look how different those girls have been. Wait and see.

What we have is probably the most enduring form of the show and I think will always tend back to it for whatever reason, but there’s no reason you couldn’t tend away from it and there’s no diktat or special rule book left by Verity Lambert or something.

We absolutely could vary it. The times they’ve varied it, it makes them work hard – you can see them struggling with Leela. She was a great character but they had to civilize her fast because it was getting hard to fit her into stories – but it’s not a hard and fast rule at all.

Some of the bloggers at The Mary Sue disagree that they have changed it up all that much. Comments included, ” I know! Amy’s hair was red, and Clara’s was dark brown! So different“followed by, “And they were played by different women and it wasn’t the same actress in a wig so, right there.” Other comments included, ““And one wasn’t in love with the Doctor” followed by “Yes. One of them only flirted with the doctor. The others flirted and had feelings!” Maybe we’ll see “something really, really different” such as “curly hair.” On the other hand, the current formula works, so why be concerned about changing anything up?

The past season has received mixed reviews from fans, with more criticism of the plot holes in Moffat stories. What Culture has compiled a list of their top “face palm” moments in Doctor Who. While some fans are swearing that Moffat is destroying the show, to be fair to Moffat there were plenty of plot holes in stories before he took over. Examples can be found here, here, and here. Similarly, plot holes can be found during any typical evening of watching television. The nature of the show increases the risk of some plot holes on a show such as Doctor Who, but I also think the number is increased because Moffat often throws far too many clever ideas into some episodes, as he did in Death in Heaven. I feel he did a better job on episodes such as Blink in which he devoted the episode to just one clever idea and fully developed the story around it.

Michelle Gomez is hinting she will return to Doctor Who next season. She did too good a job as Missy to not consider using her again.

The Fall has started its second season, receiving excellent reviews, and Gillian Anderson hints there might be a third season. Netflix, which has the first season of this British series, will release all six episodes of the second season on January 16. The trailer is above.

There seems to be quite a few genre novels being turned into television series. Jonathan Nolan, creator of Person if Interest, is doing an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series for HBO. I could see this working as either adaptations of the books or as stories set in the universe Asimov created. Amazon has announced their planned pilots for 2015 and the list includes a series based upon The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. The alternative history creates a world twenty years after World War II in which the allies have lost. This could be another example of a series which might work by either adapting the novel or writing original stories in the universe created by the novel.

Ascension, a three night mini-series starting on Syfy on December 15 sounds like it could be awesome. Trailer above. From what I’ve read at various sources, the premise is that during the Kennedy years there were fears that humanity would not survive so an interstellar life boat was sent into space with a wide variety of people. The series takes place in the present, but the culture has not changed from the 1960’s, sort of giving us Mad Men in space. The mini-series reportedly deals with problems ranging from a murder to reaching the point of no return and having to decide whether to go on or to return to earth. Cast includes Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica as the scheming wife of the Captain.

Paget Brewster

Community finally starts production next week and will be adding two new cast members following the loss of some regulars over the years. The new members of the cast will be Paget Brewster (above) and Keith David.

Carol Ann Susi, who provided the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory, died last Tuesday. No word yet as to how this will be handled on the show.

Glen A. Larson, creator of the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,  Magnum P.I., and multiple other shows has died.

Karen Gillan’s new series Selfie has apparently not received enough “likes” and has been canceled by ABC. CBS has canceled The Millers, which means that Margo Martindale might now have more time to reprise her role as Claudia on The Americans.

If you heard the rumors last week about Spider-Man’s Aunt May getting her own movie, they aren’t true. The biggest problem with the rumored concept was that the movie was going to take place when she was younger. If the concept had any chance of succeeding, they’d be better sticking with Sally Field, who just  might be able to pull it off.


Funny or Die used porn stars to explain net neutrality in the video above. Consumerist summarizes:

…three adult actresses — Alex Chance, Mercedes Carrera, and Nadia Styles — explain what it would mean if the FCC passes compromised neutrality rules.

“Without net neutrality, Internet service providers could create special fast lanes for content providers willing to pay more,” says Carrera.

Adds Chance, “That means slow streaming, slow social networking, and yes, slow porn.”

Ms. Styles slam neutrality critic, Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas, saying he “doesn’t want me to get naked for you.”

She also points out that the anti-neutrality drive is being led by wealthy older men and says that doesn’t make any sense since, “Old rich guys watch the weirdest porn.”

Ms. Chance compares the current, neutral state of the Internet to “a giant sex party where everyone gets to have sex with anyone they want,” but Ms. Carrera contends that, “Without net neutrality, that sex party is only for rich people.”

 Bill Cosby’s attorney has issued a statement regarding the recent rape allegations:

Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced. The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment. He would like to thank all his fans for the outpouring of support and assure them that, at age 77, he is doing his best work. There will be no further statement from Mr. Cosby or any of his representatives.

Response from The Washington Monthly:

As I’ve previously noted, I certainly hope the allegations—some of which date back years—against Cosby turn out to be false; if true, every bigot who thinks African-American men, regardless of accomplishments, are sex fiends at heart will say, “See! I told you so!” However, as Boston Globe columnist Renee Graham notes, Cosby’s credibility appears to be compromised:

“Cosby settled a lawsuit in 2006 filed by a woman who claimed the comedian drugged and raped her in 2004, and he has never been charged with any crime connected to the allegations. Yet from comedian Hannibal Buress, who straight up called him “a rapist,” to countless slings and arrows on Twitter, there’s a sense that Cosby won’t emerge from this mess unscathed…

“Howard Bragman, a longtime celebrity public relations consultant, insisted on CNN that Cosby has “got to be willing to go on the air and go on the record, and say ‘These charges are not true, this is nothing I would do.’ ” So far, Cosby has done no such thing, perhaps already realizing his reputation is a lost cause.”

Cosby’s attorney says his client’s lips will remain sealed. We’ll see about that. Meanwhile, I don’t quite get why Rush Limbaugh is leaping to Cosby’s defense; does he think Cosby is a Republican? (By the way, remember when the right went after Cosby’s wife Camille in 1998 after she claimed that American racism played a role in the 1997 murder of their son Ennis?)

Again, I hope these allegations against Cosby turn out not to be true. However, if these allegations are meritorious, I think the lesson to be learned is: stop making celebrities out to be heroes.