SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who (Twice Upon A Time, Jodie Whittaker, Matt Smith, and Shada); Star Trek Discovery (Captain Lorca, Ash Tyler, and Continuity); The Orville; The Arrowverse Crossover; Agents of SHIELD; The Magicians

The upcoming regeneration in the Christmas Episode of Doctor Who, Twice Upon A Time,  might be the most anticipated episode ever due to Jodie Whittaker becoming the first female lead. Typically regeneration scenes only involve the outgoing Doctor with little, if any, of the new Doctor seen until the subsequent episodes are aired. With the degree of interest in this regeneration it would be a mistake to not show at least a little of Jodie Whittaker in the Christmas episode. It does appear that she probably does have at least one significant scene as Radio Times reports that Chris Chibnall will be present for her appearance in the episode. From Radio Times:

“There is a little bit of like ‘I want to see Jodie now!’” episode director Rachel Talalay admitted on the Radio Free Skaro podcast.

“What I do hope is, for Christmas you don’t have your Christmas pudding and your brandy, and say ‘OK, let’s just get to the regeneration!’ I hope you can actually enjoy the story too.”

Still, Talalay wasn’t shy about discussing some aspects of the pivotal final scene, which she shot both Capaldi and Whittaker’s parts for on different days under the direction of current showrunner Steven Moffat and new boss Chris Chibnall.

“I knew I was going to shoot both parts of the regeneration, but I did say to Chris Chibnall if you want a different director to introduce Jodie, you should have a different director,” she recalled. “Because he’s creating a whole new world.

“[But] he too was absolutely lovely and said no, we’re absolutely delighted it’s going to be you, and no-one else. And so we sat down and talked about the Jodie portion of the regeneration, and it was wonderful.

She added: “The thing I would love to talk about, and look forward to talking about in the future is how I planned Peter’s portion of the regeneration versus how I planned and shot Jodie’s.

“Because as a director, that was a really satisfying, interesting, fun challenge, and I’m really pleased with both sides of it.”

Of course, the side Talalay COULD talk about was Capaldi’s, with the director revealing that the Scottish actor had played a big part in the planning of his final scene.

“When it came to the regeneration in the Christmas episode, Peter has a big scene about it, as one would expect,” she said.

“And he and I spent some time alone on the Tardis, which is his place to sit when he wants to be quiet. We just sat there, in that space, alone, talking through that whole scene. Talking through in his happy space.

“He had a hundred notes on his script. Again, I view myself as a guide. But he was deeply into it.”

And apparently the collaboration paid off handsomely, with Talalay full of praise for the Twelfth Doctor’s last stand.

“It’s absolutely a Peter Tour-de-force as you can imagine,” she said. “I was so lucky to get to do it.”

In other words, then, it seems like we’re in for a simultaneously sad, exciting, nostalgic and forward-thinking episode of Doctor Who that contrasts with itself just as much as it does with anything else on the telly.

Radio Times has some speculation about the episode here. I posted a video from the episode last week in which the first Doctor commented on changes to the TARDIS.

The first pictures of  Jody Whittaker and Bradley Walsh filming next season have been released. More pictures are here.

Last week I mentioned rumors that Matt Smith might appear in the Christmas special (although it is also possible he just visited the set to see Doctor Who history and/or the final episode by Stephen Moffat). Smith has also discussed the possiblity of returning to Doctor Who, and has had some advice for Jodie Whittaker. From Digital Spy:

The Eleventh Doctor revealed that he wanted to come back to the franchise a few years down the line, once the new Time Lord Jodie Whittaker had settled in, that is

“Why not?” Matt told MTV. “I’d come back. Yeah, if the timing was right.

“I think we’ve gotta give a few years to Miss Whittaker to get the TARDIS under her belt, as it were, and then yeah – one day.”

However, he then dashed our hopes just a little by teasing that it probably won’t be until he’s “old and grey”, but joked that that “isn’t far off”.

When pressed on any advice he had for the Thirteenth Doctor when she heads into the TARDIS, Matt added: “Yeah, I will tell Jodie what I told Peter [Capaldi] – listen to no-one.”

The Crown star has also spoken about the next series of Doctor Who, arguing that the show should be “bold and inventive”.

“I think Doctor Who is a bit like Shakespeare,” he told press, including Digital Spy. “It needs expression and it needs courage and bold ideas – and I think Chris [Chibnall, new showrunner] and his team will bring all that to theshow, so I just sit back as a fan and watch what happens.

He added: “I absolutely don’t see why [the Doctor] can’t be a girl.”

It would make sense to have a two Doctor or multi-Doctor episode bringing him back but I wonder about this being “a few years down the line” considering that most actors playing the Doctor only stick around a few years at most. He better not wait too long.

Shada is now becoming available in various formats and a trailer (video above) has been released. Radio Times spoke with Tom Baker about returning to Doctor Who:

“I think it was, you see, that probably it never left me,” Baker said in a new interview to commemorate the BBC Worldwide release of the newly-completed Shada (which combines original footage with new animation).

“I think it was, you see, that probably it never left me,” Baker said in a new interview to commemorate the BBC Worldwide release of the newly-completed Shada (which combines original footage with new animation).

“And that’s why I can never stay away from it, you know – it was a lovely time of my life.

“I loved doing Doctor Who because it was life to me,” he went on. “It’s an amazing thing to be in something that was more important – my real life was really rather drab compared to the life of Doctor Who when we were making it.”

“Sometimes, when it would get near 5 o’ clock, I used to dread the end of rehearsal. Because then, real life would impinge on me.

“Doctor Who for me was an asylum. When I was in Doctor Who in full flight, making silly suggestions and pulling funny faces to make the other actors laugh, then I was happy.

“But then of course came five o’clock – and like everyone at five o’ clock, they’re leaving work – another reality impinges. Life – I wasn’t very good at that.”

In other words, then, Baker was more than happy to return to the world of Who – and he even has a theory as to why his particular Doctor has stood the test of time (and space) to remain popular to this day.

“Well I suppose actually because I was the silliest!” he suggested. “I was the most alien, I think.

“When I got it, I felt this benevolent alien personality, which was part of me. I embraced it and it took me over.”

Den of Geek spoke with “Star Trek‘s Ash Tyler and Captain Gabriel Lorca, aka Shazad Latif and Jason Isaacs, about their Discovery characters, shared trauma, fan theories and more.” Here are some excerpts:

There are a lot of purist fans out there, how have you reacted to some of the negative feedback?

SL: When we make it I’m enjoying what we’re doing and the rest we don’t have any power over. It’s like a painting, if people don’t like it then they don’t like it. We can’t really do much about that.

JI: I thought it was just a sign of how unbelievably passionate and protective they were of this legacy, and before we were on the air they were reacting to a trailer or something. Micro-analysing every frame of it. Now that we’re on, I’m a bit disappointed that the dissent has died down. I liked when people were outraged by things, and mostly everyone’s loving it all over the world now. I seek out those people who are upset because they’re always more passionate, first in line to watch it and first to hit the internet afterwards. They’re probably more die hard fans that anybody else.

Every new series that came along was hated instinctually by everybody and slowly they were won over. I think we’ve won them over. Quickly, which is a bit of a shame…

Shazad, you’ve probably been asked this by everyone today, but are you a Klingon?

JI: I can’t believe you’re not asking me – there’s a fan theory that I’m a Romulan!

SL: That’s not the same thing. There are crazy fan theories which is, like you were saying, the power of Star Trek fandom, they’re great detectives and some things they get right and some they get wrong.

JI: I love it. The madder they are the better – superb!

How do you feel about that way of watching TV now, where it’s kind of a detective game?

SL: I don’t know why you’d want to know so much before, I get that it’s because they love it.

JI: Well it’s a mystery that they’re trying to guess. The big thing for me, not the theories because one of the great things about this Star Trekparticularly in our dark and troubled times, our credits run and the debate starts. The worst thing you can be is something where the credits run and people say “What shall we eat?”. It actually affects people and they’re thinking about it. Although it’s on Netflix it’s not bingeable so there’s a week to talk about things like there is with Game Of Thrones. The thing that bothers me – networks have asked me to live tweet shows I’ve been in before, and I want people to watch the telly not look down at their phones or iPads. Watch it and talk about it afterwards.

Is one of the reasons you signed on because of how prevalent those issues that Star Trek has always been about are right now?

SL: It wasn’t really that I was interested, I didn’t really get to choose. I had to take the job (laughs). I’m not in that position yet. But yeah that’s the whole point of Star Trek.

JI: Yeah you take good acting jobs that are interesting and challenging, and something you haven’t done before. But I’ve got two teenage girls and if they’re looking at the news and reading newspapers, they’re being told – unlike when we were growing up – that people in charge are childish or racist or homophobic or sexual predators. The world seems a very unsafe place and more and more divisive. There’s the rise of the right and so to get to do the job that we love but also be part of telling a story that sends a message of optimism. It says that maybe in the future, if we get it right, we won’t be judged by gender or the colour of our skin or our sexuality. Even species on our show. There’s an extra bonus for us that you’re putting something good out in the world when we’re getting pumped some very toxic stuff from powerful people.

Many of the complaints from purists center around how Star Trek: Discovery fits into canon. Syfy Wire looked at some of the issues.

I’ll just comment on a couple of other aspects, and I’ve also raised some of these points in more detail in my weekly reviews of the episodes.

Many of the differences come down to the look, and to a considerable degree I’d give them some leeway to take advantage of modern special effects even if this gives a more modern look than the original series which takes ten years later. Questions regarding uniforms and details of the ships could be handled with explanations such as type of ships or perhaps different services within Star Fleet. Realistically if you look at the changes from the original show to the movies, which were produced years later with a higher budget, there were also considerable differences.

The Klingons have been a problem since Star Trek: The Next Generation. While I’m not going to allow this to reduce my enjoyment of Discovery, I think that it might have been better to have them look like the Klingons of STTNG. This allows viewers to go with one of two explanations–either the genetic manipulation theory that the Klingons actually did change temporarily, or the obvious meta explanation that they have used more expensive makeup since TNG.

The bigger issue is the technology, primarily with the spore drive. I’ve mentioned a variety of possible explanations in the past including reasons that it could no longer be feasible to be used by Star Fleet, no longer allowed, or perhaps that the technology is lost. I’m not particularly concerned about finding that Spock never mentioned his half-sister since Star Trek V also showed him to have a brother we never knew about. Spock was never the most talkative character.

Executive producer Aaron Harberts had these comments regarding continuity quoted by Metro:

‘We have ten years until the original series comes into play. It is a challenge creatively because we have lots of choices, in terms of how do we reconcile this [Spore] drive? This surrogate daughter of Sarek? How do we reconcile these things the closer we get to the original series? ‘That’s going to be a big discussion that we have in season two. What’s so fun about the character of Michael, just because she hasn’t been spoken about, doesn’t mean she didn’t exist. A lot of the writers on our show are deeply involved in Star Trek, their knowledge is some of the finest around, they really do help us find areas where we can steer around things.

‘But the Spore drive? Who knows. It could be classified. There are many options. Some of the best ideas come from all over the place, not just in our writers room so I love hearing about the fan ideas and theories. We’ll have to see.’ After initially creating the show’s concept, Bryan Fuller departed the series, and the question surrounding his decision to make it a prequel is still a mystery to Aaron, who was too busy catching up on Star Trek canon to question it. ‘I’m glad that it is because it set up parameters for us. Let’s say we set it 100 years after Voyager, the canvas is so broad. To try to contemplate, you’re creating a whole new mythology really,’ Aaron says.

‘I think Bryan [Fuller] was interested in the original series and I think he was interested in the lead up to where the original series is. I think he was very interested in the Klingon federation conflict, but I don’t know definitively why he picked that.’

While I agree that it should be possible to reconcile the continuity questions Aaron discussed, I find it interesting that, instead of already having a specific plan in mind, they are leaving the explanation for the writers to come up with next season. This also means that it is probably pointless to spend too much time analyzing episodes for hints as to the ultimate explanation as the show’s writers have not yet decided how things will turn out. Fortunately they do have writers with a good knowledge of Star Trek canon, leaving me confident that, even if the explanations are not one hundred percent airtight, they will be no worse than what we have already experience in following Star Trek continuity.

The Orville was off last week for Thanksgiving and will soon be completing its first season. The final episode of the shortened season will air December 7. Here is the official synopsis of the episode, entitled  Mad Idolatry:

Ed and Kelly seriously reconsider getting back together. However, while Kelley is on a mission with Isaac and Gordon to investigate the origins of an uncharted star, they suddenly crash-land on a planet from another universe. Kelly then makes a decision with unforeseen long-term consequences for the planet, putting Ed in a difficult position in the all-new “Mad Idolatry” season finale episode of THE ORVILLE airing Thursday, Dec. 7 (9:01-10:00 PM ET) on FOX. (ORV-113) (TV-14 L, S, V).

The relationship between Ed and Kelly has dominated many of the episodes. While I think it has often been overdone, it will be interesting to see how things have changed now that they have both been working together, and Ed realizes that Kelly might have slept with Darulio due to pheromones she could not resist per Cupid’s Dagger.

TV Guide has eleven teases for next week’s Arrowverse crossover. Here are the first few:

1. Earth-X is full of baddies

As if being controlled by nazis wasn’t enough of a clue about how evil Earth-X is, this world is also home to some very sinister versions of the heroes we know and love. So far, we know the Reverse Flash (Tom Cavanagh), the Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) and Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) all have counterparts on Earth-X that are aligned with the regime.

2. Citizen Cold

Wentworth Miller has returned to the Arrow-verse, this time as the Earth-X version of himself: Citizen Cold. We can only assume he’s part of the Earth-X resistance movement, and it’s about time we got to see Miller kick some nazi butt.

3. Kara busts out those pipes again

You didn’t think the CW would just let Melissa Benoist’s amazing singing voice go to waste did you? Thanks to their little journey into musical theater last year, Barry decides to have Kara sing at his wedding, and we guarantee you’re not prepared for how awesome it is.

Stephen Amel discussed the Arrowverse crossover in an interview here.

Melissa Benoist discussed her role in an interview here.

Agents of SHIELD returns with a two-hour premier on December 1 but if you cannot wait that long, the first seventeen minutes have been released–video above. A trailer for season five can be seen here. We know from last season’s finale that the season involves going into space. Comicbook.com has some information on the aliens which will appear.

The Magicians returns on January 10. Trailer above showing them starting their quest to restore magic, after it was turned off in last season’s finale.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery Midseason Finale; The Orville Does Horror; Doctor Who; The Arrowverse And Crisis On Earth-X; Wonder Woman Easter Egg; You’re The Worst Renewed

CBS made a good decision in extending the fall season of Star Trek: Discovery by one episode to make Into the Forest I Go the final fall episode. Using last week’s episode as a cliff hanger with battle with the Klingons imminent would have been too much like the first episode. This episode seemed like a good way to wrap up the first chapter while leaving much more interesting questions hanging.

Initially Lorca was protective of Burnham, not wanting her to go on the dangerous mission (with Lorca also showing considerable concern for Burnham’s safety in Lethe). Once Bunham convinced Lorca that her few minutes aboard the Klingon ship previously made her more qualified, she was able to return to the Klingon ship where things went wrong at the start of the series. That mission did not go as intended, including the death of Captain Georgiou, leading to Burnham (probably unfairly) receiving the blame for the entire war. This time Burnham managed to bring everyone home, including Admiral Cornwell after her apparent death last week. Plus L’Rell also returned with her. Burnham’s was successful  despite Tyler suffering from PTSD, and them having to plant a pair of over-sized and noisy sensors without being seen.

Aboard the Klingon ship, we also learned that Klingons did not like the universal translator.

Once the sensors were in place, Discovery made 133 jumps to find a way to see through the Klingon cloaking. It was revealed on After Trek that the number was an homage to 33, the title of the first episode of the rebooted  Battlestar Galactica. This was a fitting homage as often Star Trek: Discovery has had more of the feel of Battlestar Galactica than much of Star Trek. This ability leads to more questions of continuity as the Federation is not able to detect cloaked Klingon ships in future series. Two possibilities are that this technology never reached the Star Base (and never will), or it is plausible that the Klingons improved their technology to prevent detection.

When the news came out that the series would be streamed instead of being on network television, there were questions as to how much further they would go than is allowed by network censors and the FCC. They previously dropped f-bombs, and in this episode had the first scenes containing nudity in a sex scene explicitly showing bare Klingon breasts. The episode also included the first kiss between two men on Star Trek.

It was clear that the relationship between L’Rell and Ash Tyler is important, but not clear as to exactly what the relationship was. Was it looked like rape as he has already stated had occurred, interspersed with torture, or were we seeing Voq being surgically transformed into Tyler? The ambiguity was increased later in the episode when Tyler confronted L’Rell in her cell. He asked, “What did you do to me?” She responded with,  “Do not worry. I will never let them hurt you.” This already suggested some connection between the two, which was made even stronger when she added, “Soon.”

If Tyler is Voq it does appear most likely that, as I suggested previously, he is a sleeper agent and does not realize it. As the conversion includes having human internal organs, as seen in the medical scan last week, I also wonder if Ash Tyler actually is a separate person and that somehow Voq’s mind was placed in his head, with plans to be activated at a future time.

With the success in defeating Kol’s ship, Discovery was preparing to return to the Star Base. While officially Lorca was returning as a hero, he still might have had concerns about losing his ship with Cornwell back. (Presumably his disobeying the Vulcan admiral’s orders earlier in the episode was not a concern as it is standard practice on Star Trek for captains to ignore admirals.) Stamets agreed to one last jump, saying he would never do it again. We know from virtually any genre that a statement such as this, along with him declaring his love for Culber, was a clear sign that something would go very wrong.

While something did go wrong, it appeared like it was due to Lorca tampering with the jump. With the preceding talk from Stamets about being able to see “all the permutations,” it does sound like they could have traveled to another dimension or through time, as opposed to simply jumping elsewhere in space.

We have already seen hints on the show about the Mirror universe. The upcoming episode is entitled Despite Yourself, which could have multiple possible meanings, but I wonder if it suggests meeting other versions of oneself. It is being directed by Jonathan Frakes, who already revealed that Discovery will include the Mirror universe.  A single Mirror universe with the evil doppelgangers of the main characters first appeared in the original series on Mirror, Mirror. It appeared frequently on Deep Space Nine and again on Enterprise (which showed it  splitting from our universe with First Contact going badly.  The Mirror universe was never used on The Next Generation, but the series did show thousands of parallel universes in Parallels, raising another possibility for Discovery.

If they are in the Mirror universe, this leads to the question of whether the Lorca we see is the evil version returning home. If not, would the Mirror version of Lorca be far more evil than the one we have seen? Perhaps Captain Georgiou or Kol is still alive in the Mirror universe. There could even be another version of Ash Tyler who has no connections to Voq.

While the second chapter sounds like it could be starting out like Voyager, an interview with showrunners suggests that it will not be another sequence of a ship trying to get home, disconnected from the rest of the Star Trek universe. From an interview at IndieWire with showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts

The Discovery may have found itself marooned in unfamiliar territory, but the showrunners aren’t worried about potential comparisons to “Star Trek: Voyager.”

The 1995-2001 spinoff starred Kate Mulgrew as the captain of a Federation ship catapulted into an entirely different quadrant. But Berg said that “You can’t help but tread into territory that some fans recognize, but I think that our characters are distinct. Our show is our show. And I think that the way that we’re going to handle the back half of the season is going to feel true to ‘Discovery.’”

For one thing, while the Discovery might be far from the front lines, Berg promised that “the war will continue in Chapter 2. It’ll be in there for sure. The Klingon war is this crisis where Burnham was there when it set off and she feels responsible for setting off. That is her arc for Season 1, and that is what will be paying off by the end of the season.”

Herberts added that “the war is always alive and always a motivator, but we also really wanted to try to tell some stories that stop down from the war. And I think that Chapter 2 will open in a place where as much as the war is weighing on our characters’ minds, they’ve got a bigger problem to solve.”

The Orville got scarier than usual in Firestorm. To some degree this episode centered around Alara was a bit of a cheat in turning out to be a simulation, but it remained enjoyable, and no more of a cheat than many actual Star Trek episodes. Being directed by Brannon Braga probably helped it feel like Star Trek. Directive 38 was exactly the type of scenario I could see him dealing with on Star Trek: The Next Generation or in some form on 24.

The show also included the first cameo by a former Star Trek star with Robert Picardo playing Alara’s father, calling humans the “hillbillies of the galaxy.”

The humor was more low key in this episode. Some of it centered around Bortus, such as him entering the simulator in costume asking, “Am I early?” while others are present. There was their over-used commentary on marriage, this week comparing it to purgatory. Isaac might have had the best line once again. Kelly was going to propose a wild idea starting out with, “This is going to sound like I’m talking out of my ass…” Isaac played Data’s role in not fully understanding humans in responding, “Then please try to enunciate.”

It was also announced that The Orville‘s planned thirteenth episode will be moved to next season. There will only be twelve episodes this season, with the season concluding December 2.

There will also be no new episode of The Orville this Thursday due to Thanksgiving, and Star Trek: Discovery is on hiatus until January 7. Many readers of SciFi Weekend have been coming from links at Discovery and Orville groups. Scifi Weekend will continue to be posted every week. I will continue to include links on Discovery and Orville groups if there is news on these shows when not on (with such links sometimes limited by restrictions from Facebook). If you are interested in additional genre coverage beyond these shows, I suggest you check directly for the post if you do not see a link. Among other features planned for the end of the year, there will be the annual list of top new genre shows, and naturally both Discovery and The Orville will be included. (Spoiler: as of now, neither is ranked number one).

A sneak preview of Twice Upon A Time, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, has been released. The first Doctor doesn’t particularly like the changes to the TARDIS while Mark Gatiss has a more traditional response to seeing the inside for the first time:

Radio Times looked at fan reaction to the clip.

There are also rumors that Matt Smith might be returning for the episode.

In other Doctor Who news, both Steven Moffat and Russel T. Davies will be writing adaptations of Doctor Who stories. Radio Times reports:

Though Steven Moffat may be exiting as Doctor Who showrunner this Christmas, that doesn’t mean he’s done with the wonderful world of the Whoniverse.

RadioTimes.com has learned that the screenwriter is teaming up with former Who boss Russell T Davies and novelists Jenny Colgan and Paul Cornell to write a series of Doctor Who novelisations.

Based on the iconic Target novelisations that retold classic Doctor Who episodes from the 1970s to the 1990s, this new ‘Target Collection’ will be published by BBC Books and Penguin Randomhouse, and will see Davies and Moffat adapt one of their own episodes each while Colgan adapts the first full episode featuring David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor and Cornell adapts Peter Capaldi’s final episode.

Davies will adapt Rose, the very first episode of the revived Doctor Who, which aired in 2005 and introduced the world to Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler and Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor. Meanwhile, frequent Who novelist Colgan is penning the novelisation for Davies’ 2005 festive special The Christmas Invasion, the first full outing for Tennant’s popular Tenth Doctor which saw the Time Lord face off against the Sycorax.

Following on from this, Moffat is set to adapt one of his own episodes – 2013 50th anniversary spectacular The Day of the Doctor, which united Tennant and Matt Smith’s Doctors with John Hurt’s previously-unseen War Doctor…

This year’s Arrowverse crossover event is being described as being a four hour movie with all the shows combined, as opposed to related episodes of each individual show. Promo above, and many more pictures available at TV LineCrisis on Earth-X will air November 27-8 and the storyline centers around villains, as well as evil versions of some of the heroes from another dimension, with a doomsday weapon. Plus it all starts with Barry and Iris’s wedding.

Prior to this, next week’s episode of Supergirl will have the return of Mon-El, who has Saturn Girl along with him. There will be even more of the Legion of Super Heroes in future episodes.

Last week Legends of Tomorrow had a huge Wonder Woman Easter egg.

You’re The Worst just completed a rather mixed season. It has been renewed for a fifth and final season. Keeping Jimmy and Gretchen apart was a huge mistake. Now that the main characters are back together, hopefully the series will return to what made it so great in previous seasons.

Unfortunately Difficult People has been canceled by Hulu after three seasons.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Orville; Doctor Who Reveals Jodie Whittaker’s Costume; Disney Plans And Genre; Mr. Robot; Felecia Day On The Magicians; Supergirl; Legends Of Tomorrow

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum was an episode of Star Trek: Discovery which hopefully satisfied those who complain that Discovery doesn’t feel like Star Trek to them. The bulk of the episode centered around an away mission which could have been on either TNG or the original show. Probably the most similar episode was the original series episode This Side of Paradise.

There are further references to Star Trek history with Ash Tyler using Vulcan pick up lines on Michael Burnham, with a variation of “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Tyler was so smooth that I was questioning if he was really a Klingon spy per the fan theory I have discussed in previous posts. Seeing the away team receive physical exams in sick bay with their internal organs showing on the screen also casts doubt about the theory. Presumably he was also examined when he first came aboard the Discovery after being a Klingon prisoner. Lorca would have been in a better position to refuse such a scan.

Saru wound up being in a position analogous to Burnham in the pilot in being the mutineer, even if under alien influence. We also learned that Saru is both fast and strong, unless the communicators are extremely flimsily built. If Saru is a member of the prey species, just imagine what the predictor species must have been like.

Stamets came out of the spore drive calling Tilly “Captain.” Was this momentary confusion on his part or was Stamets seeing into the future? We already know that Tilly aspires to be the Captain. Alternatively, was he seeing the Mirror universe where somehow a Mirror version of Tilly already is the captain aboard a version of the Discovery where advancement is based upon assassination?

The Klingon side story was also getting more interesting last week. L’Rell tried to free Admiral Cornwell and defect with the specific goal of getting to Discovery. Was this an attempt to join up with Ash Tyler if he really is Voq? She was certainly not telling the full truth when she referred to him as being gone. If Tyler is Voq then they would be revealing this on air at some point. A meeting between L’Rell and Tyler might reveal something. On the other hand, if Tyler is not Voq, he would not be all that happy to see L’Rell if he was truly her abused prisoner. Similarly, if the counter-theory that Voq replaced Lorca is true, there could also be some clue regarding that if L’Rell comes aboard. (It is curious that the Tribble has not been seen on Lorca’s desk anymore.)

Cornwell appears to be dead, which would make it impossible for her to take the command of the Discovery away from Lorca as she threatened. Of course it is not uncommon in genre for apparently dead characters to return. There is an interview with Jayne Brook, who played Admiral Cornwell here.

Tonight we have the midseason finale with some teases about the episode at Radio Times. Star Trek: Discovery is returning on January 7.  The official synopsis says, “In Chapter 2, while in unfamiliar territory, the U.S.S. Discovery crew is forced to get creative in their next efforts to survive opposing and unprecedented forces and return home.” I wonder whether this is intended for the opening of Chapter 2 or if the entire second half of the season will be a Voyager/Lost In Space scenario. Alternatively, instead of being elsewhere in space, could they be in the Mirror universe, which we do know will play a part in the series?

The bickering between Ed Mercer and Kelly Grayson over Kelly’s infidelity was a highly over-used attempt at humor in early episodes of The Orville. There was finally some degree of pay-off in Cupid’s Dagger. Darulio, the alien Kelly slept with, was aboard the Orville, and we now know that her infidelity could have been because of pheromones she could not resist. Will this knowledge change the relationship between Ed and Kelly in the future?

The Orville has had mixed success in combining humor with science fiction. Their most successful attempts have been when the humor wasn’t forced and they were not just throwing in jokes at times when it made no sense in the story. Their best successes have included a couple of episodes with Isaac trying to understand humans. The humor worked again on Cupid’s Dagger after Darulio’s pheromones caused Ed to fall in love with him, with Ed’s actions being both humorous and fitting into the plot of the story. There was a parallel story with Dr. Finn and Yaphit (who has also been a frequent source for comedy on the series). The fairly explicit sex scene between the two was unforgettable.

While it was karaoke, the episode did show an improvement in musical taste from Barry Manilow last week. Unfortunately we did not get to hear Bortis sing.

The BBC has released a picture showing how Jodie Whittaker will look as the 13th Doctor, along with some minor modifications to the exterior of the TARDIS. Elements of the outfit have been compared to previous Doctors as wall as to Mork on Mork and Mindy. While the stripes most likely come from Tom Baker’s scarf, they are also similar to a shirt worn by Wesley Crusher. I wonder if the change in color of the TARDIS is real or just a matter of the lighting in this picture.

Incoming companion Bradley Walsh has discussed how he obtained the role without having to audition with the Sunday Express.

Netflix has released the official trailer for season two of The Crown, staring Claire Foy and Matt Smith. Season 2 premieres December 8th, 2017.

There has been a tremendous amount of news about Disney recently which impacts genre. They probably intend to make money off of Star Wars forever, now announcing yet another trilogy. From the Star Wars web site:

For director Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was just the beginning of his journey in a galaxy far, far away.

Lucasfilm is excited to announce that Johnson will create a brand-new Star Wars trilogy, the first of which he is also set to write and direct, with longtime collaborator Ram Bergman onboard to produce. 

As writer-director of The Last Jedi, Johnson conceived and realized a powerful film of which Lucasfilm and Disney are immensely proud. In shepherding this new trilogy, which is separate from the episodic Skywalker saga, Johnson will introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.

Disney is also moving ahead with their plans to start their own streaming service. They certainly have a far more impressive library than CBS, which is citing its library, along with new shows such as Star Trek:Discovery, in promoting CBS All Access. However one ramification is that new Marvel shows like the ones on Netflex such as Jessica Jones and Daredevil are more likely to appear on Disney’s own streaming service. If this is the case, I hope that Disney doesn’t decide to tone them down to fit in better with other shows on the service.

Disney has also been in talks to buy Fox. While the creation of such a huge studio has massive repercussions, one being discussed by genre fans is that this means that the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises will be under the same ownership as Disney’s other Marvel characters. This opens the way for cross-over movies between the Avengers and the X-Men, but also might mean that these franchises will receive less attention.

Mr. Robot has been mixed in its second and third season, but last week’s episode was one of the better ones. The episode include significant progress for the plot. More on the episode at Vulture.

Felecia Day has been cast in a key role on The Magicians season three.

We will be seeing the Legion of Superheroes later this season on Supergirl. Laurie Metcalf will also have a guest appearance later this season, playing Winn’s mother.

Damien Darhk has returned to life on Legends of Tomorrow. Screen Rant explained his rather convoluted time line.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Orville Does Black Mirror; Doctor Who New Cast; Veronica Mars; Mr Robot & Donald Trump; Girls Night Out On The Flash; Stranger Things

Lethe, last week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery was well plotted, with some reviewers calling it a more typical stand alone episode with both an A story line (saving Sarek) and a B story line (the visit from Admiril Cornwell). I would go further in saying that it both works as a stand alone episode and as part of the serialized story, plus as well plotted episodes generally do, the two stories wound up becoming interrelated. The A story provided more background on Vulcans and on Burnham. Both took place with the backdrop of the Klingon war. It remains to be seen how significant the capture of Admiral Cornwell is in terms of that story in the future.

The episode also had items of interest for two fan theories. Ash Tyler’s dialog takes on a different meaning if he is actually Voq. It is also notable that we have not seen Voq as Voq since he was told by  L’Rell, whose mother came from a house of spies, that he must sacrifice “everything.”

While far from conclusive, this episode has me taking the theory that Lorca is from the Mirror universe much more seriously. When I first heard this theory I hoped it was not true, thinking that a story of a star ship captain who might have gone bad is far more compelling than one of someone replaced by their evil doppelganger. There have already been clues of a connection to the Mirror universe, most notable with the reflection of Stamets in the mirror after he first used himself to navigate the spore drive. I became far more suspicious when Admiral Cornwell said how he had changed. It could be a matter of Lorca going crazy or otherwise changing, or it could mean he has been replaced. His paranoia leading him to both attack her during the night and seeing him wearing a phaser to bed both fit into what we have seen of the Mirror universe.

Another less likely possibility is that it is Lorca as opposed to Ash Tyler who was replaced after being a prisoner of the Klingons. All the evidence points towards Ash being the spy, but there could be intentional misdirection.

Whether it is because of being from the Mirror universe or flaws in Lorca’s character, we again saw signs of his ethics. I thought it was crazy for Cornwall to say that she was going to strip Lorca of his command before leaving. While I wouldn’t put it past him to shoot down her ship, that would be rather hard to convince his crew to accept. There is little doubt he did’t smell the trap and, regardless of whether he realized she would be captured, it was out of character for him to wait for Star Fleet’s orders to consider a rescue unless he had ulterior motives.

After all, we had seen Lorca ignore orders to save Sarek in the same episode, and Saru mentioned what he expected Lorca to do. While I have my doubts about the mind connection between Sarek and Burnham, it is at least consistent with what has happened so far. I thought that Sarek might have been a bit more emotional than portrayed on other series, but having him be a schmuck and seeing xenophobic Vulcans is consistent with canon, especially from Enterprise. This episode serves as a reminder that it is not that Vulcans lack emotions, but that they suppress them because of the consequences when they are emotional–now including Logic Extremists. (The contradiction in the term also reflects the contradictions in Vulcans.) Vulcan attempts at suppressing their emotions are variably successful. It is possible that Spock, with the extra pressure of acting Vulcan despite his human half, might actually be more successful in hiding his emotions than the average Vulcan.

One of the things I like about Star Trek on television as opposed to movies is that there is time to see moments of everyday life and to see more of a variety of characters. In this episode we learned that breakfast burritos will still exist, but I’m not sure what that was that they were drinking with it. Promotions are easy to obtain on Discovery if Lorca likes you, with both Burnham and Tyler moving into key positions. We also saw that Discovery has not only its own cool t-shirts (which not surprisingly are now being offered for sale), but its own holographic simulators. This was appropriately far simpler than the holodecks of STTNG, but raises the question as to why they were never seen on the larger Enterprise on the original show (along with the uniform synthesizers).

TV Line interviewed James Frain. From the interview:

TVLINE | Sarek and Burnham’s relationship is a tricky one: He’s protective of her, but also very standoffish. It’s kind of a push-pull.
I think that’s how she experiences him, for sure, and I think that’s probably how he’s experiencing himself. He has a very dynamic range, and he’s very, very bold with the way he’s chosen to live his life. He’s married a human being. That has made him a target. There are people who want to kill him for that. He adopted a human child, and there were people who wanted to kill her. So he’s put a lot of stuff on the line, and at the same time, he’s a Vulcan. He recognizes in this episode how different Vulcan and human cultures are, and how difficult a situation she was in. He never really understood that, I don’t think. And I think it’s kind of beautiful that he acknowledges that now. But there is a huge internal conflict that, in the original series, we saw in Spock, and now here we are, seeing it in Sarek. It’s kind of like Spock is his father’s son, you know?

TVLINE | Yeah, Discovery‘s Sarek is actually pretty rebellious for a Vulcan. He’s pushing back on a lot of the Vulcan ways.
Absolutely. It’s very clear, I think, in the flashback scene, when they tell him, “You’ve gone too far, and we need to rein you in,” and give him a punitive choice to make — which, obviously, is devastating for him. But he can’t not choose Spock. That’s his son. He’s half-Vulcan, and they’re basically saying, “We’d rather have the more Vulcan one of the two.” They don’t want [Michael] in, and they dump it on Sarek to bear the burden of that.

TVLINE | Sarek chooses Spock over Burnham, but then Spock rejects that and joins Starfleet instead. Does Sarek resent Starfleet, in a way, for that?
No, I don’t think resentment is quite it. He has a high regard for Starfleet, and Captain Georgiou. He handpicked her as the captain to educate Michael. It’s Michael who feels that this is some kind of demotion. But really, as he confesses in this episode, he failed her. He put her in an impossible situation, and then he places her in a much better situation where she can be with her own kind and learn who she is as a human being. He can’t do that for her.

He’s also admonished for making an emotional choice, and he has to kind of toughen up and be very clinical in how he delivers this information to her, because he’s just been told he has to be. The Vulcans, I often think of like the samurai: a very, very coded and strict, but noble and honorable society. You wouldn’t expect a samurai father to suddenly become a hippie just because he wants to make peace. He can’t step completely outside of himself. But he does give her a piece of his soul, and that’s no small thing. So it’s very, very rich and complex: his relationship to Michael, and his relationship to Starfleet.

In other recent interviews, Rainn Wilson told TV Guide that Harry Mudd will be returning soon: “He’s pretty ticked off and he’s ready to exact his revenge on Lorca,” Wilson tells TV Guide. “Sh–‘s gonna hit the fan.”

Alex Kurtzman spoke with Comicbook.com about the uncertain future for Star Trek movies.

CBS All Access has officially renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a second season. While the show is driving subscribers to the streaming service, last Sunday the service appeared to be unable to handle the traffic as many of us watching had to constantly restart the stream. Maybe having more growth than anticipated is a good thing, but they will have to provide better service if they expect people to continue to pay to subscribe.

The Orville generally feels like a copy of Star Trek: The Next Generation but Majority Rule took a story idea which was frequently used on the original show in which they find a planet developing like earth, with some major differences. While it might be questionable whether this could occur, it was no worse than what Star Trek has done. Once on this parallel to earth, the show begins with a feeling comparable to an episode of Black Mirror, which is only fair as Black Mirror will have an upcoming episode based upon Star Trek.

Unfortunately the episode does a weak job in execution as it tries to tell a light cautionary tale about social media. Of course one would think that John would realize the importance of keeping a  low profile as opposed to making a scene dry humping a stature, even if they had no knowledge of the consequences. Having the initial people from the Union arrested for failing to give a pregnant woman a seat on a bus was fairly unimaginative. It would have been more interesting if they had offered her a seat, and it turned out that the natives believed it was important for pregnant women to stand, causing this to be the violation of their social norms.

As on previous episodes, the crew got into the situation by flying down in a shuttle. With all the copying of Star Trek, I’ve been surprised that they do not use transporters. Of course that would also necessitate creating reasons why they cannot be beamed out when they get into trouble. They also apparently lack a version of the Prime Directive, as they had no problem bringing up a native to view their ship and reveal the existence of aliens.

Additional cast members have been named for Doctor Who after Jodie Whittaker takes over the TARDIS. From the BBC:

When Jodie Whittaker takes over as the Thirteenth Doctor on the global hit show next year, she will be joined by an all new regular cast.

BBC announces today (October 10, 2017) that Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill will line-up as the new regular cast on Doctor Who.

Bradley will star as Graham, Tosin will play Ryan and Mandip will play Yasmin.

Also joining the series in a returning role is Sharon D Clarke.

New head writer and executive producer Chris Chibnall, who made the decision to cast the first ever woman in the iconic role, is also shaking up who will travel with the Doctor in the TARDIS, with a team of new characters.

In more exclusive news, it is confirmed that the new series will be a ten week run of fifty minute episodes in Autumn 2018, kicking off with a feature length hour for the opening launch.

Chris Chibnall says : “The new Doctor is going to need new friends. We’re thrilled to welcome Mandip, Tosin and Bradley to the Doctor Who family. They’re three of Britain’s brightest talents and we can’t wait to see them dive into brand new adventures with Jodie’s Doctor. Alongside them, we’re delighted that Sharon D Clarke is also joining the show.”

Jodie Whittaker says : “I am so excited to share this huge adventure with Mandip, Tosin and Bradley. It’s a dream team!”

Bradley Walsh has a previous connection to the Doctor Who universe, having played a villain on an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2008.

Digital Spy looked at the history of multiple companions on the TARDIS.

There has been a strong connection between Broadchurch and Doctor Who with Chris Chibnall coming in as show runner. A second executive producer has been added from Broadchurch. There will also be a Broadchurch connection with The Crown as Olivia Coleman will be replacing Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth as she is older in the third and fourth seasons. There is also a Doctor Who connection as the Matt Smith plays Prince Phillip on the first two seasons.

Kristen Bell says that there will eventually be another Veronica Mars revival in the form of a miniseries.

Mr. Robot finally revealed where Tyrell Wellick has been in a flash back episode last week. Besides filling in details primarily involving Tyrell, the episode drew Donald Trump into the show’s conspiracies. Whiterose saw film of Donald Trump and expressed interest in endorsing him. She was asked,  “Look, the country’s desperate right now, but you can’t be serious. I mean, the guy’s a buffoon. He’s completely divorced from reality. How would you even control him?” Whiterose responded, “If you pull the right strings, a puppet will dance any way you desire.”

As we approach the wedding of Iris West and Barry Allen, there will be a Girl’s Night Out for the bachelorette party, to air on November 7. Bleeding Cool has several more pictures. Guests include Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards ) from Arrow, Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) playing AmunetBlack, and Caitlin returns as Killer Frost. Following is the episode synopsis:

Having received an ominous threat from her old boss, Amunet (guest star Katee Sackhoff), Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) fears that her past time as Killer Frost may be back to haunt her. Felicity (guest star Emily Bett Rickards) comes to Central City to help the girls celebrate Iris’s (Candice Patton) bachelorette party, while Cisco (Carlos Valdes), Joe (Jesse L. Martin) and the guys take Barry out for a night on the town.

The big genre event of the week has been the release of season two of Stranger Things. As I still have a few episodes to watch, and I’m sure others have not completed it yet, I’ll wait until next week for any specifics. The season so far, like the first season, has been highly entertaining. It is also an excellent show to binge, and hard to stop watching as every episode has ended with something happening which had me wanting to continue watching. It was hard to take a break to get this written.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Orville; Twin Peaks; Blade Runner; Sarah Jane Adventures Tenth Anniversary; Emmys By Network; Batman Takes A Knee

CBS has not released any screeners for Star Trek: Discovery, and has placed an embargo on reviews until the show airs. They did release the full title sequence today:

Despite the episode not being available, sites such as IO9 have posted guides like Everything You Need to Know About Star Trek: Discovery Before It Premieres based upon the information which has been released so far.

The first episode will air on CBS at 8:30 pm tonight, with the second episode following on their paid streaming service CBS All Access.  Season 1 will have fifteen episodes with the first eight episodes running September 24 through November 5. The season will return for the remaining episodes in January. CBS All Access is allowing one week free to check out the service. If you are undecided, consider waiting until later tomorrow, which will allow you to watch both the second episode this week and the third episode next week. Some people are thinking about waiting until towards the end, and then binging on each half of the season or the who season while only paying for one to two months.

Discovery will be available outside of the US and Canada on Netflix. I had contemplated using a VPN to stream the UK edition of Netflix, but Netflix has become very aggressive in blocking VPN’s.

A four-part comic will provide further backstory on the Klingons prior to the events of Discovery.

In preparation for tonight’s premiere, CBS arranged to have the U.S.S. Discovery fly above New York City. Video above. (Yes, there have been posts on line about how they staged this, but why ruin the fun?)

In unrelated Star Trek news, TrekMovie.com reports that Quentin Tarantino has expressed interest in directing a Star Trek movie.

The Orville has been difficult to characterize as it is neither straight drama or consistently humorous. While Star Trek: Discovery reportedly will be serialized, The Orville is basically stand-alone episodes heavily modeled after Star Trek: The Next Generation. Like classic Star Trek, The Orville has even made an attempt at looking at contemporary issues.

About A Girl received advanced publicity for tackling gender reassignment surgery. Just as the show has its limitations as both dramatic science fiction and as a parody, the handling of the controversial issue was also somewhat simplistic. Vox looked in more detail at how the issue was handled.

Of course we must keep in mind that Star Trek: The Next Generation was also weak through most of the first two seasons, until it ended the second season with the excellent cliffhanger, Best of Both Worlds. I’m hoping that Seth MacFarlane has the clout to keep the show alive to buy time for them to better figure out what to do with this series.

Kyle MacLachlan and Judi Dench brought the red room from Twin Peaks to The Late Late Show, frustrating host James Corden in the video above.

Wired has a look at Blade Runner 2049.

Bill Clinton is writing political fiction, just like Hillary. Bill is working on a novel with James Patterson entitled The President Is Missing. Hillary wrote a fictional account of the 2016 election in which Bernie Sanders was the villain and a character with her name was a progressive. Showtime has announced a deal to do a television adaptation of Bill’s book.

It is the tenth year anniversary of the release of The Sarah Jane Adventurers. To celebrate, the BBC is rebroadcasting three episodes and has an article posted entitled 5½ Reasons Why EVERYBODY should watch The Sarah Jane Adventures. From the article:

The show’s essential premise was simple. Take one former companion of the Doctor. Add some young sidekicks; season with familiar foes like Sontarans and the Slitheen and for good measure, throw in the Doctor himself for a couple of stories. Then stir them all together in two-part adventures where the planet’s in peril but our heroes still have time for a few one-liners and a group hug at the end.

Except, of course, it’s not as easy as that. SJA worked because it hit just the right blend of alien scares and human drama. The childless Sarah Jane gets a family. Her alien son learns what it means to be human. The cocksure Clyde Langer finds there’s more to this world than he ever imagined… Just like Doctor Who, it was a show that revelled in adventure but always found time to explore and celebrate its characters without patronising its audience.

The article noted appearances by both Matt Smith and David Tennant.

The Handmaid’s Tale was among the big winners at the Emmy Awards last week. I looked at the best political jokes from the awards ceremony earlier in the week. This included a video of the skit with Stephen Colbert and Jeffry Wright based upon Westworld. 

By now I’m sure everyone interested has already seen the full lists of winners and read plenty about the awards so I will not say much more here. I did find these lists interesting, showing the expected superiority of cable and streaming. Here is a list compiled by Deadline of those winning awards at last week’s ceremony:

HBO: 10
NBC: 6
Hulu: 5
Netflix: 4
FX: 2

The second list includes all those who won three or more awards, including the Creative Arts awards which were presented earlier:

HBO: 29
Netflix: 20
NBC: 15
Hulu: 10
ABC: 7
FX Networks: 6
Fox: 5
Adult Swim: 4
CBS: 4
A&E: 3
VH1: 3

Francesco Francavilla has tweeted a picture of Batman taking a knee, showing support for the NFL players who have been protesting racial injustice and police brutality by taking a knee when the National Anthem is played before the start of an NFL game. Donald Trump has demanded that the players be fired or suspended. This statement has been protested by players and owners, but now Trump also has to deal with Batman. Besides Batman, Trump is also opposed by the next best thing, Jim Harbaugh, who said, “No, I don’t agree with the president. That’s ridiculous. Check the Constitution.”

Update: Adding to responses from Michigan football heroes, Tom Brady said, “I certainly disagree with what he said. I thought it was just divisive.”

SciFi Weekend: The Orville; Star Trek Discovery; The Magicians; Saving Dark Matter; Legends of Tomorrow; Game of Thrones; Doctor Who

I probably agree with most of the criticism of The Orville. Although flawed, as a long time Star Trek fan (as Seth MacFarlane is), I intend to give the show longer. The pilot did rely too much on jokes about the Captain and first officer’s divorce, but there were some other amusing moments. The episode introduced the major officers by having most of them being new to the Captain. Here’s one exchange as he met the second officer:

All right, uh, Lieutenant Commander Bortus, our second officer. You know, I’ve never met a single-gender species before. Your entire species is male, isn’t it?
That is correct, sir.
So, there’s probably not a lot of arguments about leaving the toilet seat up and that kind of thing, right?
No. Moclans urinate only once per year.
Really? That’s Me, I’m-I’m up two, three times a night.
That is unfortunate.
It is.

My favorite exchange was this parody of the technobabble often seen on Star Trek as the crew encounters something new. They saw a device which aged a banana a month, causing its destruction:

Janice has been experimenting with temporal fields and has made well, a breakthrough would be an understatement.
So, it’s an anti-banana ray?
It’s really interesting. We need no longer fear the banana.
Does it work on all fruit?
What about salads?

Obviously there are other uses for such a device.

Some previous Star Trek actors are interested and have agreed to cameos, including Wil Wheaton.

TrekMovie.com has interviewed Seth MacFarlane regarding his plans for the show. Information on tonight’s episode here.

Obviously there will also be some cross over between Star Trek: Discovery and previous series. Jonathan Frakes has directed an episode, and revealed that Discovery will be doing a Mirror Universe episode.

Trekmovie.com looks at the latest trailer for the show, giving some of the biggest clues as to what the series will be like one week before its September 24th premiere.

Netflix has listed the ten most rewatched episodes of Star Trek. They are not the ones I would choose, with a heavy concentration on Voyager.

Critics will not be able to review Discovery until after it airs, with no screeners being released. Some shows might suffer from reduced hype by taking such an action, but I don’t imagine this will happen as this is Star Trek. Plus it probably doesn’t matter to CBS whether people watch when first aired as with other shows. Their goal is to get people to subscribe to their streaming service, which will allow them to catch up after the original episode airs.

Netflix has listed the ten most rewatched episodes of Star Trek. While I agree with some choices, such as The Best of Both Worlds, they are not the tenI would choose, with a heavy concentration on Voyager.

Entertainment Weekly has this news on the upcoming season of The Magicians:

EW can exclusively reveal that Candis Cayne will return as the Fairy Queen in season 3 (see the exclusive photo below), which finds magic-free Fillory under full but secret occupation by the fairies. In the new state of affairs, Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Margo (Summer Bishil) are the unwilling pawns of the Fairy Queen, who has her own dark vision for Fillory’s future and whose demands on Margo tend to be particularly baffling and hilariously humiliating — which is what you’d expect from this typically whimsical, mysterious, and at times sadistic species.

I have grown to like Margo, but seeing her tormented by the Fairy Queen could be amusing.

Dark Matter fans continue to push to keep the show alive, including with Twitter storms. Several campaign links here. I wish them luck. This is a show which is well worth continuing for the entire planned story arc.  The Mary Sue gave several good reasons for saving Dark Matter.

Legends of Tomorrow went from a weak series its first season to being the best of the CW DC shows last year. This was partially due to other series weakening with time, but Legends also did become much more fun the second season. Third season premiers on October 10. Promo above.

Game of Thrones will be going to great lengths to avoid spoilers of the ending of the series, including shooting multiple endings

The BBC has released the synopsis for the Christmas episode of Doctor WhoTwice Upon A Time:

Two Doctors stranded in a forbidding snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. And a British army captain seemingly destined to die in the First World War, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story.

This is the magical last chapter in the Twelfth Doctor’s epic adventure. He must face his past to decide his future. And the Doctor will realise the resilience of humanity, discovering hope in his darkest frozen moment.

It’s the end of an era. But the Doctor’s journey is only just beginning.

Mark Gatiss will be playing the British army captain and David Bradley will play the first Doctor. This episode will also introduce Jodie Whittaker as the thirteenth Doctor.

As I led with Star Trek and related news this week, it is worth noting that it was recently revealed that Peter Capaldi had once auditioned to play Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine. It is hard to see him in the role in place of Avery Brooks. If the audition tape ever is released, it will be interesting to watch.

Pearl Mackie has been cast in her first role for after she leaves Doctor Who following the Christmas episode.  She will play Lulu in Harold Pinter’s 1957 play The Birthday Party. The link includes an interview with Mackie.

Karen Gillan has revealed the disguises she used, along with Matt Smith and Arthur Davill, to blend in at a convention.

Claire Foy, who stars with Matt Smith in The Crown, has been cast as Lizbeth Salander for The Girl in the Spider’s Web. It will be interesting to see her in such a completely different type of role.

SciFi Weekend: Game Of Thrones Finale (Tear Down This Wall); Dark Matter Cancelled; Killjoys Renewed; Twin Peaks Finale Tonight; Doctor Who News; Walter Becker Dies

The seventh season of Game of Thrones moved far more rapidly than previous seasons despite its shorter length. Plot lines which I suspected might be carried over into the eighth and final season were quickly wrapped up–which made sense when we say just how huge the cliff hanger in the final minutes was. Major spoilers ahead.

Seeing Jon and Daenerys wind up in the cabin together (in an intentionally simple scene) was no surprise, and their incest was not all that shocking considering that, as opposed to Cersei and Jaime, they were not as closely related, didn’t grow up together, and had no idea of their relationship. Targaryens have a strong tradition of incest so this probably won’t bother Dany when she finds out, but it might come as a shock to Jon.

Dany is far more likely to be concerned about the impact the news will have on her claim to the iron throne than the incest, although at this point I question if the revelation that Jon has a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than Daenerys matters all that much. Two dragons might trump lineage. The winner, if there is one, is likely to be whoever can survive as opposed to who has the stronger claim. Besides, we don’t even know for sure if there will be another monarch sitting on the Iron Throne at the end, or if the events of the series will bring about bigger changes.

One thing we can be certain about is that Littlefinger will not  manipulate his way into ruling. The story line of the discord which Littlefinger tried to develop between Sansa and  Arya  concluded rather rapidly, obviously with events occurring off screen beyond the last meeting we saw between the two sisters. Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plans Bran Stark, described a deleted scene which explained how Sansa figured out Littlefinger’s plan:

We actually did a scene that clearly got cut, a short scene with Sansa where she knocks on Bran’s door and says, “I need your help,” or something along those lines. So basically, as far as I know, the story was that it suddenly occurred to Sansa that she had a huge CCTV department at her discretion and it might be a good idea to check with him first before she guts her own sister. So she goes to Bran, and Bran tells her everything she needs to know, and she’s like, “Oh, s—.”

If anyone has any sympathy for Littlefinger, Sophie Turner has been countering their arguments on Twitter.

Many more things happened. Cersei’s betrayal was no surprise, but it did increase the growing rift between her and Jaime. Less importantly, Theon gets his redemption arc.

Plus there were those final moments at the wall.

Of course nothing is perfect, with Game of Thrones getting sloppy about following its rules, which is important for good fantasy to seem believable. The most obvious example this season was the speed in which the raven got the message to Daenerys and she showed up with a dragon. Of course the consequences of this were quite serious, but did anyone really think that the mission beyond the wall was a good idea?

The season three finale of Dark Matter was titled Nowhere to Go and it wound up having an unfortunate meta meaning. Ryo remained alive despite things looking grim in the final moments the previous week, and I wonder if the long term plan was to be another mind wipe. Instead this episode might have been the start of his redemption. Other characters are in serious danger. Many other story lines remained left open for the next season. And then the Black Ships arrived in a moment which, while of a much lower scale, is a bit like the also previously predicted invasion beginning at the end of Game of Thrones. 

This left so much to look forward to, and ultimately be resolved through the conclusion of the planned five year arc for the show. Then there was yet another television shocker this week. The sad news came that Syfy has cancelled Dark Matter after its third season.

The show’s co-creator Joseph Mallozzi commented in a blog post:

It is with great sadness that I confirm the news.  Syfy has cancelled Dark Matter after three seasons.

To say that I’m incredibly disappointed would be an understatement.

I’ll save my comments and field your questions in a future blog entry.  For today, I just want to extend a heartfelt thanks to my amazing crew, my wonderful cast, and to all of you, our incredible fans.

You all deserved better.

In a follow up post, Mallozzi described the economic reasons why the show was not renewed, and concluded with his long term plans, and immediate plans post cancellation. He concluded:

The nature of the show I created and developed over many years wouldn’t allow for a nice, neat wrap up at season’s end.  Dark Matter’s narrative was designed as a series of set-ups, developments, and payoffs, with multiple parallel storylines that would eventually cross and converge.  Season 1 begins with our crew discovering they are criminals and ends with them being hauled off to prison.  Season 2 begins with them inside the Hyperion-8 galactic prison and ends with their failing to head off a corporate war and deny a former ally.  Season 3 begins with the crew facing off against that former ally amidst the backdrop of corporate war and ends with the alien invasion. Season 4 will begin with our crew, and humanity’s, response to the alien threat… The fact that I have a five year plan (rather than just making it up as I go along) means I know exactly where the various stories are headed.  I know all the answers to all of the questions.  And having that foreknowledge allows for a much more satisfying narrative when all of the pieces of the puzzle finally fall into place. It also means that no matter how much I could try to wrap things up in a season finale, many questions would remain unanswered.  Still, I figured as a final alternative, I could try my damnedest and offer fans some degree of closure by pitching SYFY a 6-episode miniseries to wrap it up.  This, unfortunately, was not an option either.

We, on the Dark Matter production team, tried our damnedest.  And you, the fans, tried your damnedest.  We ALL tried our damnedest.  And still we were cancelled.

So, where does that leave us?  Besides cancelled of course?  Well, as many of you have pointed out, there are other options we could pursue, although finding someone to step in and take SYFY’s place is easier said than done (for reasons I’ll save for another blog entry).

For now, know that we’re doing everything possible to save the show.  It may take weeks before we have our answers but I promise to let you know as soon as I hear anything.  In the meantime, do you part by keeping Dark Matter alive.  Tweet, retweet, post and respond!  Let ’em know what they’re missing!

The news was better for fans of Killjoys. The series was renewed for two additional seasons before the series ends.

The finale of the Twin  Peaks revival is on tonight. I’m not even going to attempt to describe where the show is going into the finale, but AV Club has a short video to bring you up to date.

Rolling Stone wrote on the choice of Jodie Whittaker to become the next lead on Doctor Who:

“I’m the type of person that you’d walk past and go, ‘I think I went to school with her,’ or ‘I know her and I can’t quite place it.’” says Jodie Whittaker, calling from the kitchen of her London flat. “It certainly isn’t, ‘I know her full name, and I can tell you who she is.’

For the British actress, that’s probably about to change. On July 16th, it was announced that she would be playing the next Dr. Who – the 13th incarnation of the time-traveling alien, and the first female to ever take on the iconic role since the debuted in 1963. “I remember walking through London after that going, ‘What the fuck?!?'” she says, recalling a coffee date with Dr. Who showrunner Chris Chibnall – the one in which he had asked her if she would consider auditioning for the part. “I was like, ‘I want to audition now!'” she says. “As a young girl, I did not think that ‘Time Lord’ would ever be on my CV.”

Whittaker – who grew up hooked on Eighties movies (“I’m from that Spielberg era of wonderful make-believe”) in Huddersfield, a Yorkshire town in the north of England – had already made a name for herself in a number of feature films (from Venus, opposite Peter O’Toole, to the cult sci-fi flick Attack the Block) and the breakout BBC hits Broadchurch and Black Mirror. Still, she had to fight for the part, going through multiple rounds of auditions. And Whittaker says she was heartened by the fact that the casting search was not a scattershot one. “I have no idea who, but I know I was up against other actresses,” she claims. “It was very much that [Chibnall] was auditioning people for the first female Doctor.”

Since then, she has already been hailed as a feminist icon and become the target of Internet trolls who view her casting as a form of sacrilege (i.e. “Nobody wants a Tardis full of bras”). “I’m playing an alien,” Whittaker scoffs, “and gender is not a part of that.” In fact, to her mind, the genderlessness of the role only makes the iconic part more feminist. “A moment like this of being the first woman cast as something,” she says, “it makes you really think about your sex, whereas actually what you want to do is play a part where your gender is irrelevant. I am a woman, so I don’t need to play that. And so for me, this was the most freeing experience because there’s no right or wrong way to do it. The rules went out the window.'”

Last week I quoted newspaper reports that Bradley Walsh has been picked to be the 13th Doctor’s companion. This has not been officially announced or confirmed by the BBC.

Karen Gillan has put up pictures on Instagram showing her reunion with Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill at Dragon Con.

In other entertainment news, Walter Becker, co-founder of Steely Dan, has died at 67. The New York Times reports:

Walter Becker, the guitarist, bassist and co-founder of the rock duo Steely Dan, one of the most successful and adventurous groups of the 1970s and early ’80s, died on Sunday. He was 67.

His death was announced on his official website, which gave no other details. He lived in Maui, Hawaii.

Mr. Becker had missed performances in Los Angeles and New York earlier this year. Donald Fagen, the band’s other co-founder and lead singer, told Billboard last month that Mr. Becker had been “recovering from a procedure, and hopefully he’ll be fine very soon.” He gave no other details.

Steely Dan had little use for rock’s excesses, creating instead a sophisticated, jazz-inflected sound with tricky harmonies. Mr. Becker was the primary arranger.

Starting in 1972, after Mr. Becker and Mr. Fagen had met at Bard College, the group produced hit singles like “Do It Again,” ‘Reelin’ In the Years,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” and “Deacon Blues,” as well as a raft of critically lauded albums, including “Pretzel Logic,” “The Royal Scam,” “Aja” and “Gaucho,” the latter two widely regarded as their most artistically accomplished.

SciFi Weekend: Jodie Whittaker Cast As The 13th Doctor; Game of Thrones Returns; George A. Romero and Martin Landau Die

After fifty-four years there will be a female lead on Doctor WhoJodie Whittaker shows that glass ceilings can be broken, especially when you have the right woman. News came out earlier in the week  that the identity of the thirteenth doctor would be revealed with a video which featured the number 13:

We finally saw who held the key to the TARDIS in another video earlier today:

Jodie Whittaker was revealed to be the thirteenth Doctor, and Chris Chibnall said he had always wanted his first lead to be a woman:

“I always knew I wanted the 13th Doctor to be a woman, and we’re thrilled to have secured our No. 1 choice. Her audition for the Doctor simply blew us all away. Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role.”

In retrospect this is should not come as a surprise. While Jodie Whittaker has had more genre-oriented roles, the most important one leading to getting this role must have been playing Beth Latimer in Broadchurch, which Chibnall was show runner for. He showed that he thought Whittaker was important by giving her a new position in the third season to provide for significant on screen time even though the focus of the show had changed.

Her role on Broadchurch also enabled Whittaker to work with both a former Doctor (Peter Tennant) and a former companion (Arthur Darvill).

The BBC has posted an interview with Jodie Whittaker about taking this new role:

1) What does it feel like to be the Thirteenth Doctor?
It’s very nerve-racking, as it’s been so secret!

2) Why did you want the role?
To be asked to play the ultimate character, to get to play pretend in the truest form: this is why I wanted to be an actor in the first place. To be able to play someone who is literally reinvented on screen, with all the freedoms that brings: what an unbelievable opportunity. And added to that, to be the first woman in that role.

3) Has it been hard to keep the secret?
Yes. Very hard! I’ve told a lot of lies! I’ve embroiled myself in a whole world of lies which is going to come back at me when this is announced!

4) Who was the first person you told when you got the role?
My husband. Because I was allowed to!

5) Did you have a codename and if so what was it?
In my home, and with my agent, it was The Clooney. Because to me and my husband, George is an iconic guy. And we thought: what’s a really famous iconic name? It was just fitting.

6) What does it feel like to be the first woman Doctor?
It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be. It feels incredible.

7) What do you want to tell the fans?
I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.

8) What are you most excited about?
I’m most excited about becoming part of a family I didn’t even know existed. I was born in 1982, it’s been around longer than me, and it’s a family I couldn’t ever have dreamed I’d be part of.

9) How did Chris sell you the part?
We had a strange chat earlier this year where he tricked me into thinking we were talking about Broadchurch. And I started to quiz him about his new job in Wales, and asked him if I could be a baddie! And he quickly diverted the conversation to suggest I should consider auditioning to be the 13th Clooney.

It was the most incredible chat because I asked every question under the sun, and I said I’d take a few weeks to decide whether I was going to audition. He got a phone call within 24 hours. He would’ve got a phone call sooner, but my husband was away and there was a time difference!

10) Did he persuade you?
No. There was no persuasion needed. If you need to be persuaded to do this part, you’re not right for this part, and the part isn’t right for you. I also think, for anyone taking this on, you have to want to fight for it, which I certainly had to do. I know there will have been some phenomenal actors who threw their hats in the ring.

11) What are you going to wear?
Don’t know yet.

12) Is that your costume in the filmed sequence which introduced you as the new Doctor?
No.

13) Have any of the other Doctors given you advice?
Well they can’t because they haven’t known until now, but I’m certainly expecting a couple of calls – I’ve got a couple of mates in there. I’m mates with a companion [Arthur Darvill], I’m mates with a trio of Doctors. I know Matt Smith, Chris Eccleston and obviously David Tennant. Oh! And let’s throw in David Bradley! Four Doctors! So I’m hoping I get some calls of advice.

I first heard Whittaker’s name as a front runner yesterday, and was excited by the prospect of an actress of her ability taking on the role. Being an American who watches some, but limited, British television, this was only the second time (after Peter Capaldi) I was familiar with an incoming Doctor’s work at the time they were cast. I had previously gotten accustomed to the idea of a woman receiving the role when another British actress I’m familiar with, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was often being called the front runner.

In retrospect I suspect that Steven Moffat was helping Chris Chibnall set up for this transition. The first mention I can recall that a Time Lord can regenerate into a man or woman occurred in The Doctor’s Wife. There have been minor characters who changed gender as Time Lords, but the most significant was when The Master regenerated into Missy, played by Michelle Gomez. The possibility of the Doctor being a woman was further foreshadowed this season. The Doctor suggested that he might have been a woman in the past in World Enough And Time. In the season finale, The Doctor Falls, there was an exchange in which the Master asked, “Will the future be all girl?” and the Doctor answered, “We can only hope.”

There has been some negative reaction among fans, but reaction has generally been positive among reviewers (such as here) and those involved with the show. Peter Capaldi had this to say: “Anyone who has seen Jodie Whittaker’s work will know that she is a wonderful actress of great individuality and charm. She has above all the huge heart to play this most special part. She’s going to be a fantastic Doctor.”

The Guardian had additional comments:

Emily Cook, editorial assistant at Doctor Who magazine, said: “I am very excited about this. As soon as I saw Jodie Whittaker appear on the video in the BBC clip announcing her, it just felt right – she just felt like the Doctor. Having a female Doctor is really exciting and significant. I cannot wait to see what she does with the role and where she takes the show.

“She will bring a freshness. She is younger than Peter Capaldi and, being a woman, she will have a different approach to the role. It’s completely new territory for the show and that is very exciting. Whittaker has worked with David Tennant on Broadchurch and St Trinian’s so there is a strong Doctor Who connection there.”

Erica Lear, the social secretary at the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, said: “I think it’s very brave but she is a brilliant actress. I did not expect it but I think it’s brilliant. My only wish was that we have a good actor and that is what we have.”

But Lear noted that the appointment might divide opinion. “It will spark debate and split fandom; there will be lots of people not happy with the decision but it’s up to the new series to change their mind.”

It will be interesting to see what direction the show goes in beyond naming a woman Doctor. While they can take the show in multiple directions, I suspect that her portrayal of the Doctor might be more conventional beyond the gender change, while it would have probably been more off beat if they had gone with Phoebe Waller-Bridge. In order to save time in getting to the action, it is commonplace for the Doctor to go to new surroundings and quickly take control. Will this stay the same or will they show a woman having more difficulty here? Will the Daleks recognize her as the Doctor? What will be her relationship with her companion or companions?

It could also be interesting to bring back some past characters. Doctor Who has had a female Time Ladies in the past, including two different regenerations of Romana. Maybe Romana can return, possibly regenerated into a male Roman. For that matter, will she be called a Time Lord or Time Lady?

The most interesting match up could be if they bring back River Song. There were two different situations in the Star Trek universe in which aliens changed sex in situations somewhat comparable to regeneration involving Beverley Crusher and Dax. In both of those situations, romances were not continued when the gender of both partners became female, although different reasons than being the same sex were given. Society has changed a lot since then. Today I think the best way to handle River Song meeting Thirteen would be for her to just say “hello sweetie” and totally ignore the gender change.

Game of Thrones has also returned tonight. In the spirit of today’s lead story I’ll direct your attention towards a story at Wired entitled, This Is How GAME OF THRONES Ends In Total Matriarchy.Of course there are some major characters who are male who are not likely to give up without a fight.  Incidentally, Sophie Turner does not think that Sansa Stark should sit on the Iron Throne. She sees Sansa as taking control of Winterfell while Jon Snow ultimately sits on the Iron Throne.

There was news of two deaths. George A. Romero, creator of  Night of the Living Dead, died at age 77. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Legendary filmmaker George A. Romero, father of the modern movie zombie and creator of the groundbreaking “Night of the Living Dead” franchise, has died at 77.

Romero died Sunday in his sleep after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” according to a statement to The Times provided by his longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald. Romero died while listening to the score of one his favorite films, 1952’s “The Quiet Man,” with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, at his side, the family said.

Romero jump-started the zombie genre as the co-writer (with John A. Russo) and director of the 1968 movie “Night of the Living Dead,” which went to show future generations of filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter that generating big scares didn’t require big budgets. “Living Dead” spawned an entire school of zombie knockoffs, and Romero’s sequels included 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead,” 1985’s “Day of the Dead,” 2005’s “Land of the Dead,” 2007’s “Diary of the Dead” and 2009’s “George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead.”

The original film, since colorized, has become a Halloween TV staple. Among other notable aspects of the cult classic was the casting of a black actor, Duane Jones, in the lead role, marking a milestone in the horror genre.

Martin Landau died at age 89. Deadline reports:

Academy Award winning actor of Ed Wood, Martin Landau has died at the age of 89. Also known for his versatile roles in classic films like Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and for his role in the Mission: Impossible television series as master of disguise Rollin Hand , the actor died Saturday of “unexpected complications.”

…His career in television, film, and stage spanned over five decades.  “Martin Landau is living proof that Hollywood will find great roles for great actors at any stage of their careers,” said Guttman in a release.

He made his big screen debut the Gregory Peck war film Pork Chop Hill in 1959, but his first major film appearance was North by Northwest, a role he nabbed when Hitchcock after saw his stage performance with Edward G. Robinson in Paddy Chayefsky’s Middle of the Night. In addition to the classic film and TV’s Mission: Impossible, he starred opposite Jeff Bridges in Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man His Dream in 1988, where he received his first Oscar nomination. The following year he earned his second Oscar nod for his role as Judah Rosenthal in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. In 1994, when he received a third nom and won for Best Supporting Actor in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood where he played Bela Lugosi.

His performance in Ed Wood also earned him a Golden Globe Award the Screen Actor Guild’s first annual award, The American Comedy Award, The New York Film Critics Award, The National Society of Film Critics Award, The Chicago Film Critics Award, The Los Angeles Film Critics Award, and every other award for Best Supporting Actor in 1994. He collaborated with Burton again as a voice actor for his animated features 9 and Frankenweenie.

Landau also stared in the science fiction television show, Space 1999 in 1975-6.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; The Americans; American Gods

I looked at the regular season finale of Doctor Who, The Doctor Falls, last week. The episode ended with Peter Capaldi fighting his inevitable regeneration. Peter Capaldi discussed why he is leaving the show with Radio Times:

Why make this your final series?

I love this show, but I’ve never done anything where you turn up every day for ten months. I want to always be giving it my best and I don’t think if I stayed on I’d be able to do that. I can’t think of another way to say, “This could be the end of civilisation as we know it.”

With episodic television of any genre, the audience wants the same thing all the time – but the instinct that leads the actor is not about being in a groove…

What’s the hardest part of being the Doctor?

Doctor Who is a hugely challenging show to write and to act in. It has to turn on a dime from comedy to terror to tragedy. It’s a children’s show that developed into something more complex, a bit more adult-orientated, but we have a duty to play to the seven-year-old as well as the 42-year-old. Sometimes you have to be more comic than you’d normally be comfortable with, but it’s important.

How would you describe your Doctor?

The Doctor is deeply sad – I think he always has been. When you’re wise and you’ve lived a very long time, that’s how you’d be. Although you have to be careful with very human emotions and the Doctor because he’s an alien. It’s more straightforward to play the human elements, but then it might as well be a cop show…

What can you say about your regeneration?

I can’t go into the details. I know what happens, but I don’t know how it happens. Certainly it’s not straightforward. It’s more complicated than recent ones. That’s one of the appeals of being in the show – it has death at the heart of it. He’s the only hero on TV who dies again and again.

The article also includes interviews with Michelle Gomez and Steven Moffat. From the interview with Steven Moffat:

How would you describe your Doctors?

He is someone who’s running towards everything at once because he might miss it. He doesn’t understand why anyone would do the same thing every day or sit in the same room every day. He doesn’t understand why you would live a life in safety when you could be running from fires and explosions. He doesn’t understand why we volunteer to be dull – he needs to be out there and experiencing everything at once.

Along the way, of course, he helps people and people start to think of him as this great hero, but he doesn’t understand that – he’s just running past people and seeing that they need help, so he helps. Actors either have it or they don’t. The first time I saw Matt Smith – only the second person to audition for the role – you could instantly tell that he was Doctor Who. There was nothing clever about saying, “Well, obviously it’s him.”

In another interview, Moffat discussed possibly leaving a cliffhanger for Chris Chibnall, and the problem with gender pronouns when dealing with Missy and the Master:

After talking about the — incestuous? masturbatory? — vibes between Missy and The Master, something previous Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies wanted more of when Moffat told him about his plans to bring back Simm, Moffat revealed that he thought about ending his tenure as showrunner with a cliffhanger that incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall would have to resolve.

“We concocted this whole scheme that I’d cliffhanger out of my era of Doctor Whoand hand over to Chris with Missy telling the Master and the Doctor that she’s pregnant,” Moffat revealed. “I decided not to do that. Over to you, Chibs. Sort that one out, mate.”

While Moffat admitted that the idea was just “email lunacy,” he also called for a societal change as a result of his experience talking about the character’s gender.

“We have to ban gender pronouns. I can no longer talk about the character of the Master ‘slash’ Missy without having to go ‘slash.’ It’s exhausting,” Moffat complained. “Let’s just rid of them. It’s a stupid idea in the first place. What do we need them for?”

We still have the Christmas episode to look forward to. The Doctor has sometimes seen previous companions at the time of his regeneration, and it has been reported that Jenna Coleman will be appearing in the episode. There is no information as to whether this will show what has happened since she went off to explore the universe, or if this will be a visit with Clara Oswald from earlier in her life, or perhaps just something in the Doctor’s head. Jenna Coleman currently stars on Victoria.

Of course leaving Doctor Who won’t be the end for Steven Moffat. In a recent radio interview, he left open the possibility of Sherlock returning for another season. Variety reports that Steven Moffat and Marc Gatiss are working on an adaptation of Dracula. Like Sherlock, it will consist of short seasons of feature length episodes. No word as to where and when this will be set.

Besides last week’s finale of Doctor Who, other shows have had season finales worth noting. I have recently discussed iZombie here, and The Leftovers and Fargo here. Due to traveling and other distractions, I have fallen behind on other finales and will catch up on a couple more today–The Americans and American Gods. In the near future I also hope to look back at the finales of additional shows including The Handmaid’s Tale, Gotham, Veep, and Better Call Saul. Plus there should be a lot more news on next season’s shows as we get into Comic Con.

The Americans has been one of the best dramas on television the last several years. Much of this season was to set up the final season next year, and the ending this year felt somewhat like a tease. It looked like Philip and Elizabeth might return home, but obviously that could not happen until the end of next season, if it ever does happen. Instead they were given a reason to remain at the last minute. Stan also suggested he might leave his position at the FBI, but Renee quickly argued that he should not. That is also a tease for the viewers who have been wondering (along with Elizabeth and Philip) if Renee is a Russian spy who wanted Stan to remain where he is for her own reasons. Of course Stan had no such thoughts. TV Line interviewed the producers and asked about this scene:

TVLINE | In the finale, we also saw Renee try to talk Stan into staying with the FBI. Is he starting to get suspicious of her? And will Laurie Holden be back next season?
WEISBERG | [Laughs] No comment on the latter. Nice try! But on the former, we don’t particularly think so. Stan would have no more reason to be suspicious of the woman he’s dating than he does the neighbors across the street.

Deadline also discussed the finale with Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields. Topics included where the show will be going in the final season, whether it will lead into the collapse of the Soviet Union, and whether Donald Trump will appear. Here are some excepts:

DEADLINE: So, after all that anticipation this season, a big CIA catch means Philip and Elizabeth are not heading home to the Soviet Union. So what’s next?

WEISBERG: Still not going home. They still can’t get home. It was so close though, so close. They’re not only not going home, but it sure sounds like Philip is quitting his job — at least his spy job. It sounds like he’s going to work at the travel agency full time.

DEADLINE: Well, I doubt you mean that, but it did seem like you had Keri’s character looking for a reason not to return home, which, of course, is a real turn for her from her contempt for the West that has fueled much of the series.

WEISBERG: We think that she was being sincere in what she told Philip about why she couldn’t go back. Whether she was dying to go back, having second thoughts about going back, whatever it was, it felt to us like that was classical Elizabeth Jennings that when duty calls she had to answer the call. It was certain she couldn’t go home when she and Philip now have their hooks in the new head of the Soviet division at the CIA.

DEADLINE: Which brings us to the sixth and final season for next year. With history catching up to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, will we see Season 6 pick up from the Season 5 events of 1984 or move ahead in time toward a real resolution?

FIELDS: Dominic, you know we don’t like to give away really anything, but probably one thing we’re willing to say is that there’s going to be a resolution. Sometimes people will ask about The Americans. Is it moving slowly? Is anything happening? I think we are all willing to give away that there is something that most people who speak the English language would be willing to call a real ending…

DEADLINE: For a show so authentically drenched in the 1980s, there is one real-life character I’ve always been sure we would see one day on The Americans, a certain Art Of The Deal author who really became known back in the Reagan Era. So why hasn’t Donald Trump appeared on The Americans, even in the background or as an aside?

FIELDS: You know, it’s a funny thing. Had Donald Trump not become such a prominent part of our lives today, he certainly could have appeared in the background of the show (both laugh). Joking aside, that’s exactly the sort of reference we feel we could never make in the show, because it would have a self-conscious link. We feel would take the audience out of the experience of being immersed in the show and yank them back into today, and really isn’t the whole point of watching TV today to not have to think about today?

DEADLINE: So, going into Season 6, we’ll never see Donald Trump on The Americans?

FIELDS: I think as much as we try to prevent spoilers I am confident in saying we won’t. Joe, are you OK with that spoiler?

WEISBERG: I think we can say he’s not going to be in the show. Although, if you print that, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a call from him asking to be in the show.

The Hollywood Reporter looked at the final minutes of the finale of American Gods and how they are likely to lead into the second season:

While Wednesday’s true identity is certainly an important revelation for the series, it’s not the stopping point most fans of the Gaiman novel would have expected for the season. Instead, those fans were likely expecting to see Wednesday, Shadow and some of the other deities — including Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy and Peter Stormare as Czernobog — arriving at the The House on the Rock, the site of what’s easily the single most iconic moment from the source material.

Based on the real-life Wisconsin tourist attraction of the same name, the House on the Rock is an architectural anomaly designed by Alex Jordan Jr. and originally opened in 1959. For those unfamiliar, the YouTube channel Atlas Obscura has an excellent breakdown of the “mind-tripping brain warp” nature of this extremely unusual location, which you can watch below.

In the fifth chapter of Gaiman’s book, Wednesday takes Shadow to the House on the Rock, and he explains it as “a place of power,” due to its nature as a roadside attraction. He says: “In other countries, over the years, people recognized the places of power. Sometimes it would be a natural formation, sometimes it would just be a place that was, somehow, special. They knew that something important was happening there, that there was some focusing point, some channel, some window to the Immanent. And so they would build temples, or cathedrals, or erect stone circles, or…well, you get the idea.”

…Shadow finally speaks Odin’s true name, and once he does, the whisper becomes louder and louder until it’s an undeniable echo, bellowing within a great hall in which Wednesday conducts his meeting with the other gods. From this point forward, Shadow knows that the oddities he’s experienced during his travels with Wednesday are more real than he could have ever imagined.

It’s a massive turning point in Gaiman’s novel, and given that the climactic scene occurs little more than 100 pages into the book, many fans expected to see the House on the Rock sequence in the season one finale. Instead, what they saw was Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) driving on a bus past a sign for the House on the Rock in the final scene of the season — a promise that the sequence is very much still ahead, albeit a bit further down the line than expected.

While the House on the Rock’s veritable absence from the finale is certainly disappointing for the book-reading faithful, it wasn’t without some warning. Fuller told THR before the season’s launch that due to some episode restructuring, budget that would have gone toward the House on the Rock sequence was instead repurposed to streamline the show’s narrative. What’s more, given that the first season of American Gods didn’t quite crack the first 100 pages of the book (with a total count of 541 pages in the updated and expanded 10th anniversary edition, including forewords and afterwards), fans can rest assured that the show will adapt almost every granular detail of the novel — eventually, anyway.

Deadline interviewed Michael Green and Bryan Fuller about the finale. Here are some excerpts, beginning with a question about House on the Rock:

DEADLINE: Where does the end of this season leave us, going into Season 2 and going into the rest of Neil’s book?

GREEN: Precariously. We always knew we wanted to end the season with our weight tilted towards House on the Rock. We talked a lot, early on about wanting to get there and even starting that story, then advancing the narrative that far. But we enjoyed our time with our characters so much and were doing so many things that took so much time and resources that we realized that we had a very interesting and satisfying ending with Wednesday taking his first real aggressive stance against the new gods. With him saying, ‘You were very, very unwise to count me out and to speak in those tones to me.’ So Wednesday has the upper hand in two ways, he is taking a shot across the bow that’s going to hurt the new gods and he has a believer in Shadow Moon. Those are two things that are not without significance.

DEADLINE: With where we are in terms of Neil’s book, will that play a big part in the consequences of Season 2?

FULLER: I think the bigger interpersonal dramas that are waiting for us in Season two that excites us greatly is the notion of Laura Moon versus Mr. Wednesday. We see, by the end of the season, that Laura understands that Wednesday had her assassinated, specifically, to put Shadow in this situation. We always talked about Laura becoming that metaphor for the last Catholic who can, you know, shake her fist at the sky, and say, “Fuck you, God.” But now she actually gets to say it to a real god and she’s a god that she can get her hands on so what is she going to do next?

DEADLINE: You strode into some sprawling themes in Season 1–faith, obviously, but also immigration, gun violence, race, sexism. From the reaction online and elsewhere, it felt like the audience was very receptive to those conversations and those discussions. Did that surprise you?

GREEN: I feel like the people who wouldn’t be receptive to those conversations aren’t watching the show…

DEADLINE: Speaking of anger, one of the new characters invented for the series was Corbin Bernsen’s god Vulcan. He appeared to meet a fiery end but are we going to see more newly created characters for Season 2?

FULLER: Yes but you know, there’s lots of new characters to come into this world that were part of this story in the book as well as some that weren’t that we want to include. We’re excited about Mama-Ji and we’re excited about Sam Black Crow. There were a lot of characters that we want to start weaving into the mythology of the television series, and we’re really excited about seeing characters from the first season, again, that you may not expect to see again.

DEADLINE: Obviously, a character we fully expect to see more of is Shadow Moon. Over Season 1, we’ve seen him go from a very closed, almost one-dimensional character, who is trying to find his way to someone or something, who now at the finale, has literally and figuratively seen the world open up in front of him and maybe some sense of who he really is becoming close to home now. How is that arc moving forward in Season 2?

FULLER: Well, it has to move forward in a proactive way for his character. So much of what we had in the first season was Shadow as passenger to the narrative He was in a situation where he had everything removed from him, so he didn’t know what he wanted as a character. He just knew that he had to fill his days. Now that he understands a little bit more about the world and the world of gods, we get to witness him as an apostle of sorts – and see what kind of apostle he could be.

The Wrap has more with Bryan Fuller. The Los Angeles Times has an interview with Neil Gaiman.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, World Enough and Time; Carrie Coon In Ambiguous Finales On The Leftovers & Fargo

World Enough and Time was an excellent way to move into the season finale of Doctor Who, and a near final chance for Steven Moffat to go meta. The episode began with a scene of the Doctor regenerating, which presumably will be continued next week. The actual story got underway with Missy exiting the TARDIS saying, “Hello. I’m Doctor Who.”  Moffat has often liked to play with the show’s title by setting up situations where people ask “Doctor Who?” as a question. Missy said she was “cutting to the chase,” saving time from having to go through the introduction and follow up question, but then went on to claim it is his real name.

Bill had struggled with this issue in Pilot arguing that, “The Doctor’s not a name. I can’t just call you Doctor. Doctor what?”

In recent years you could often tell that people talking about the show were not actual viewers when they made reference to the lead as Doctor Who as opposed to the Doctor. Now we have Bill questioning why Missy called herself Doctor Who. Missy claimed it was his real name and the Doctor did not deny this. DoctorWho TV says that Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Baker, Eccleston, and Tennant were all credited as “Dr. Who” or “Doctor Who.”

Moffat also played with the role of the companion. Missy called them her assistants, which was more common in the classic shows. When Bill objected to being called Missy’s “plucky assistants,” she asked what he does call them, “companions, pets, snacks?” Neither the words “assistant” or “companion” are actually used very often on the show and Bill said that the Doctor called them friends. Missy claimed that only Time Lords can be friends to each other and “anything else is cradle snatching.” Missy also saw them as “disposable” with their names not mattering. Instead they had their roles, “exposition and comic relief.”

We learned via flashbacks that this was all a test for Missy. The Doctor not only wanted Missy to be good, he has unrealistically wanted her to be like him. While Bill objected that Missy is a murderer, the Doctor showed a different moral code, noting that Bill could similarly be seen as a murderer from the perspective of the pig who died for her bacon sandwich. The Doctor decided to graze for distress calls and look for a good one, like their usual Saturday. This might also refer to how the show airs on Saturdays. The Doctor explained how Missy is “the only person I’ve met who is only remotely like me.” This could refer to them not only being Time Lords, but also both being renegades in their own way. After all, the Doctor did steal the TARDIS and has often been at odds with the Timelords.

The Doctor spoke about Missy as having been his best friend from when they first met at the Academy. “She was my man-crush.” He further explained, “I think she was a man back then. I’m fairly sure I was one too. It was a long time ago, though.” He also told Bill, “We’re the most civilized civilization in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and associated stereotypes.” Bill noted that despite this, they still call themselves Time Lords She hasn’t had the experience with them to also question how advanced the Time Lords really are.”

This might be Moffat’s answer to the controversy over whether there will be a woman playing the Doctor. The actual decision is no longer in his hands but if the regeneration of the Master as Missy was not enough, this scene firmly sets in cannon that it is possible to have a woman Doctor. It is not actually possible that the Doctor could have been anything but a man at the Academy unless he had another regeneration which we are aware of, and has not been counted like the War Doctor. While there were questions in the past whether William Hartnell played the first Doctor, the count was established during the Matt Smith era (with the War Doctor creating some wiggle room). While it is unlikely the Doctor was ever a woman, we have seen other woman in a near-Doctor role. This includes Moffat having River Song, Clara Oswald, and Ashildr (the guest role played by Maisie Williams) all pilot a TARDIS.

Bill did not feel safe playing Missy’s companion, and asked the Doctor to “promise you won’t get me killed.” He could not do that, with this flashback scene played right Missy was shot.

The first sixteen minutes of this episode were a great opening sequence. Unfortunately the ending of the show suffered because the realities of the modern world. It would be impossible for them to have filmed scenes with the Cybermen without this news getting out and spreading rapidly on line. Therefore they made no attempts to keep this a secret, announcing that both the original Mondasian Cybermen and the John Simm Master would be present. Stephen Moffat had also warned that one of the trailers would give away a lot.

The episode certainly would have been even greater when watching if we were not aware that the Cybermen were present. The episode set up a fascinating scenario in which a four hundred mile colony ship caught by a black hole had time pass at a far greater speed at the far end than at the other.  Again going meta, this later allowed Bill to view the Doctor in slow motion on a monitor and explain his actions. It also led to a situation in which people trapped on the ship were driven to drastic measures, giving a new explanation for the genesis of the Cybermen.

There were many clues throughout the episode that Cybermen were involved. The hole in Bill’s chest was fixed, with the surgeon saying, “full conversion wasn’t necessary.” Words such as “conversion” and people being “upgraded” provided clues, along with people partially through the process with Mummy-like facial covering like the original Mondasian Cyberman. Later Missy found that the ship was not from earth but from Mondas. It became increasingly obvious when the rod-like headgear was shown to be added to those converted so they would not care about the pain. If someone had not known going into the episode that it was about Cybermen, I wonder how long it took to figure it out.

The other surprise which was tipped off was that Razor turned out to be the Master in disguise. In the past, the Master has used names which were anagrams. In this case, presumably the destructive nature of razors has some meaning in the choosing of the name.

On a personal level this could be one of the most evil acts by the Master–facilitating the conversion of Bill while the Doctor was on his way to save her. She had listened to him and waited, like a tragic variation of The Girl Who Waited. This betrayal seems even more evil  on the part of the Master considering that, due to the effects of the black hole, Bill had spent years with the Master before the Doctor could make it down the elevator to come after her.

The John Simm version of the Master was certainly playing a long game here, but I imagine that is no different than Matt Smith defending a planet before his regeneration or Peter Capaldi agreeing to guard the tomb (even if he didn’t follow through with that). The Master has a lot at stake: “I’m very worried about my future.” Missy does not recall being on the ship previously. While difficult to understand, there have been similar memory issues on episodes involving multiple versions of the Doctor.

We have a certain symmetry here. Steven Moffat has seen Peter Capaldi, an older actor, as being like William Hartnell. Harnell played the first Doctor, while Capaldi is the first of the new regenerations granted to Matt Smith. There have been references to the first Doctor, such as with the picture of Susan on the Doctor’s desk at the university. The Mondasian Cybermen were introduced in the 1966 episode, The Tenth Planet, in which the first doctor died and regenerated.

A big question here is whether the Doctor dies next week, or if this is to occur in the Christmas episode. In some interviews Moffat has suggested he is going to handle the regeneration differently, and questioned if Christmas is the best time for a death. We already know that the first Doctor will be appearing in the Christmas episode, to be played by David Bradley who played William Hartnell in the documentary An Adventure In Space In Time.

It is just a guess, but I’m speculating that the Doctor really does die and go into a regeneration cycle next week. This could have his meeting with the first Doctor as an adventure inside  his own head, comparable to one’s life passing before their eyes. It could be like a longer version of Peter Davison’s regeneration scene in which his companions appear in his head begging him not to die, while the Master encouraged him to do so. Alternatively it could be a final trip through time for the Doctor in his final moments, just as David Tennant visited his past.

We also do not know for certain if Bill will be returning, but it is believed that Chris Chibnall will be starting with a clean slate. Pearl Mackie stated in a radio show that she has met with Chris Chibnall and gave no indication that her status was final, but she might have just been avoiding spoiling the season finale. Her conversion to a Cyberman could very well be Bill’s fate, although this still would not prevent her from helping the Doctor next week. On the other hand, Steven Moffat has avoided killing companions who are leaving, and also might not want a fate like this for her. Amy Pond went into the past and Clara Oswald went on to explore the universe with Ashildr despite being on her last heartbeat. River Song not only escaped death, but appeared multiple times afterwards (at earlier times in her timeline). Perhaps the conversion isn’t final for Bill. Even if she cannot become human again, maybe she can go off and travel through space and time with her friend from Pilot.

There have been multiple season finales to discuss recently, including American Gods, Gotham, and Better Call Saul. I’m going to begin with two this week, The Leftovers and Fargo, as they both have something in common. Both end with Carrie Coon sitting at a table and telling a story to a male lead on the show, with the episode ending in ambiguity. Both are in the tradition of The Sopranos in having an ending which people might be talking about for a long time afterwards.

The finale of any show by Damon Lindelof is going to be compared to the conclusion of Lost. Lindelof handled matters much better with The Leftovers. Neither series could ever have a finale which tied things up. While The Leftovers did not have anywhere near as many episodes and mysteries to tie up, it is based upon a novel which specifically avoided giving any answer for its central event–the rapture-like disappearance of two percent of the world’s population. The episode actually gave more of an explanation than I ever expected, even if not clear if true, leaving me more satisfied than after Lost, while still leaving plenty to wonder about.

For a while the series finale of The Leftovers  was very hard to figure out. After Kevin found Nora he acted as if most of what the two had gone through together on the series never occurred. Was this yet another reality, or perhaps she had gone over and there was another version of Kevin there. Were they in purgatory? Later it became clear that this was our earth when Nora spoke with Laurie on the phone. Ultimately this was explained as Kevin telling a story as a way for them to start over after being apart for several years.

The episode ended with Carrie Coon’s character, Nora, telling a remarkable story to Kevin, but not necessarily any stranger than what we have seen on the show. Two things make it hard to tell if the story is true. She went into a chamber which supposedly was going to send her to where the missing two percent were. At the final moment, as the chamber was filling up with a fluid, she opened her mouth. Was she gasping to hold her breath as instructed, or was she exercising the option of telling them to stop? Those controlling the device had made a point of saying they could hear her the whole time.

It is also not possible to determine if the story was true because we never saw any of the adventure described. All we know is what Nora said.

The description of the episode was “Nothing is answered. Everything is answered. And then it ends.” This is exactly what happened with an answer which felt good at the time but which actually left key matters unexplained, and which may or may not be true.

Nora told a story of going to another place which was exactly like our world, except that to the people there ninety-eight percent of the world had disappeared, instead of two percent like in our world. Naturally their world was changed far more.

If her story was true, we know nothing about how this happened, or about events such as the world Kevin seemed to go to in two episodes when he died and returned. However, we would know that there is a physical explanation for reality being divided in two, with a physicist even developing a way to travel between the two realities. Instead of a religious rapture, people were not divided into those taken and left behind. They just wound up in one of two possible places.

Damon Lindelof had even spoken in interviews of filming such a scene in the pilot showing everyone else disappearing from the perspective of one who disappeared from our earth, giving some plausibility to Nora’s story on a meta level. Within the episode, there are arguments both for believing and disbelieving Nora. She even seemed surprised that Kevin believed her. She said, “You do?” He responded,”Why wouldn’t I? You’re here.”

In various interviews Lindelof discussed how this was written to leave things open for interpretation, how those on set changed their minds about whether Nora was telling the truth, and also claims there was a clear intention as to whether she was telling the truth–which he will not reveal. From USA Today:

…Lindelof reveals the episode was designed in such a way that left the truth open to interpretation — one last mystery for fans to chew over. “We all came to the conclusion that Nora telling the story of where everybody went was going to be the best ending, as long as we didn’t show it. And then the audience would get to decide whether they believed her story. We have a clear intention as storytellers as to whether or not the story is true, and if you watch the episode or the season again, perhaps that intention becomes more clear.”

What matters at the end of the day? That Kevin is just glad to be in the same room again with a tearful Nora telling him, “I’m here.”

“Whether he actually believes her or he wants to believe her because this will allow them to be together, that’s the $64,000 question,” Lindelof says. “But what is very clear at the end of the series is that these two people are going to be together and they’ve suffered enough. I hope.”

However, Lindelof reveals the episode was designed in such a way that left the truth open to interpretation — one last mystery for fans to chew over. “We all came to the conclusion that Nora telling the story of where everybody went was going to be the best ending, as long as we didn’t show it. And then the audience would get to decide whether they believed her story. We have a clear intention as storytellers as to whether or not the story is true, and if you watch the episode or the season again, perhaps that intention becomes more clear.”

Watching the show I thought it is possible that Kevin only said he believed her because he wanted to be together and didn’t really care what had  happened. An interview with Lindelof at The Daily Beast  does confirm that Kevin does believe her:

They’re together, but Nora never actually reunited with her kids.

There’s a number of different ways of looking at that. One potential interpretation is that that didn’t happen at all. That she chickened out and got out of the voice and put herself in self-induced exile and made the story up because it was the story that she needed to tell herself and the story that Kevin needed to hear for them to be together. That’s a cynical interpretation, but it’s one that I’ve heard.

Yes, I’m sure there will be a lot of people who think she made it all up.

Another interpretation is that when she saw her children and they were happy that she suddenly realized, “Who am I to come jamming into their happiness after seven years. There’s not a place for me in this unit anymore.” Not to mention that her husband has been cheating on her and he’s with another woman and her children have learned to be without her. So she must learn, too.

But if you take her story at face value, there’s nobility in her gesture. I think Nora is an incredibly brave and stoic character, and the idea that she went all the way to the top of Everest and then just didn’t plant her flag there. She realized, “Oh. Why did I need to climb Everest again? I think it’s time for me to go back down to the mountain and reevaluate things.” I think there’s nobility in that, too.

Kevin says he believes her. Does he?

Yeah!

Should we believe her?

I can’t tell you what to believe and what not to believe in a show that is based on people telling insane stories. I think that Kevin does believe her and he is the audience’s proxy. Nora is surprised. She’s like, “You do?” Because the story is so incredible, if you really sit and listen to what she says happened to her and, more importantly, how she says she got back. But hopefully it becomes, over time, less and less important whether it is literally true and more and more important that it was emotionally true. I’ve learned the hard way not to tell the audience what to believe and what to think and what to feel.

Lindelof had this explanation in Esquire:

We don’t know if Nora’s story was true.

If we showed it, you would know that it was true. By not showing it, you have to believe that it’s true, if that makes any sense. I think that what’s important is Kevin says that he believes her, and she seems surprised by that. She says, “You do?” And he says, “Why wouldn’t I? You’re here.” That’s kind of everything we have to say about how relevant the truth is, because if a belief system works for you, if it brings you together with the people that you love, it’s actual veracity is secondary to what that belief system basically gets you. That’s not like self-help guru promise bullshit, that’s the way that I think things work. I think that this finale and this season and this series is packed with people who are telling stories. Part of the territory, the very rich territory that we wanted to explore was: Are any of these stories true? Or do these stories have an added veracity because they’re told in a world where this crazy supernatural event happened? Or are they all bullshit? We want the audience to be thinking and feeling and wrestling with all of those questions.

What our intention was in writing the scene is 100 percent clear. I would never be like, “Well, that’s up to you to decide. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder.” No. The writers had a clear intention. I will bring with me to my dying day exactly what our intention was in whether or not Nora’s story is true by the metric of “did it actually happen.” That said, Carrie Coon and I never talked about that. She just read the script and then played it. Mimi Leder and I never talked about whether or not it was true. She just read the script and directed it. And so the more interesting question is: When the same scene is basically interpreted by multiple artists, what is the truth, even? I think it is sort of a fascinating Rorschach test in a sense that if you’re an agnostic or an atheist and you didn’t want an answer to where all the departed people went, you’re probably not going to believe Nora’s story. Even if you had been multiple times that you weren’t going to get the answer, but when Nora gave it to you and you felt relief, you’re probably going to want to believe her story. Again, all that matters to us is that Kevin really does believe it. There’s no ambiguity about that. And his belief in her story is going to allow them to be together, because now they’re both present, probably for the first time.

There are arguments both for and against believing Nora. She certainly had this story down and was ready to tell it when Kevin arrived. At one point during this episode Nora had even said, “I never lie.” She left Kevin at the wedding after she couldn’t handle the story Kevin was making up, appearing to be opposed to dishonesty. However we have seen her lie, such as in initially denying that she knew Kevin when she was told he was looking for her. Much of the series has been about the stories people tell themselves to explain events.

I wonder if Lindelof was giving away the answer when he said in the interview from The Daily Beast that, “the story is so incredible, if you really sit and listen to what she says happened to her and, more importantly, how she says she got back.” There were  points in the story when I did question it. It is a little hard to understand how she could arrive in the other place naked and with no money, but ultimately make it from Australia to the United States, but this felt more like the type of suspension of disbelief which is commonplace in genre stories. It was a realistic touch that, with only two percent of the world’s population left, it was not possible to support an airline industry.

I found it more surprising when Nora described returning to her old house. While it was no surprise that her husband and family had moved on and were involved with someone else, it is questionable that in such a world, with its infrastructure destroyed by the loss of so many people, her family would still be living in the same house. Most likely there would be a tendency for those remaining to join up into communities with others. It is also hard to believe that the physicist would, and could in this world, remake the machine just to send her back. If two-way travel had been developed, it is also hard to believe that there would not be others coming back here and word getting out.

Many arguments can be made for whether Nora was telling the truth, and my answer would probably be that there is no answer if Lindelof hadn’t messed with our heads by claiming there is an answer.

Fargo typically ends each season, which tell an independent story, with characters receiving punishment in some form. This was more ambiguous this season, and also ended with Carrie Coon sitting at a table saying something which may or may not be true. In this case her character believed what she was saying, but we were then given reason to question if she was right.

The beginning of the end occurred when Nikki confronted Emmit Stussy and it appeared that she was going to kill him to get revenge for Emmit having killed his brother (and Nikki’s boyfriend). Instead there was a freak shoot out between Nikki and a police officer who came along, with both killing the other. This is definitely believable in the world of Fargo. Emmitt appeared to have a happy ending, until years later when he was shot in the head

This left Varga, the real villain of the story, at large. In the jump forward, Carrie Coon had moved on to another job at the Department of Homeland Security. Varga was identified at an airport and pulled into a room by Coon’s character, Gloria Burgle. Her talk with him led up to her telling him what was going to happen next:

Let me tell you what’s going to happen next. Three agents from homeland security are going to put handcuffs on you and take you to Rikers and then we’re going to charge you with felony money laundering and six counts of conspiracy to commit murder. And then I’m going to go home to my son — it’s his birthday tomorrow. I promise I’d take him to the state fair.

It appeared that justice would prevail. Then Varga responded:

No. That’s not what’s going to happen next. What’s going to happen next is this. In five minutes that door is going to open and a man you can’t argue with will tell me I’m free to go. And I will stand from this chair and disappear into the world, so help me god. Trust me the future is certain. And when he comes you will know without question your place in the world.

The camera then looked at the door and the episode ended, like The Sopranos ending by going to black without revealing what happened. We never saw whether three agents from homeland security came through next and put him in handcuffs, or if a lone man came through and ordered him to be released. Varga was right so many times during the season, and appeared to be in control. It is impossible to ignore the possibility that he could be right.

There is no correct answer here, and perhaps it does not matter. Whether or not Varga gets away with his crimes, there will always be those who do.

Deadline had this information on Noah Hawley and the finale:

Hawley said it was always his intention to leave the ending open-ended for us to decide. Typically the tragedies in Fargo have happy endings: Marge gets in bed with her husband in the movie, Molly (Allison Tolman) gets to be police chief at the end of Season 1, and Patrick Wilson’s Lou Solverson takes his daughter (the younger Molly) fishing. But for Hawley, the cliffhanger ending tonight stems from “Our living in a complicated moment in time,” he says, referring to the President Donald Trump era.

“If I present you with a choice, you have to decide how that door is going to open and if it’s going to end well. It still has a happy ending if you’re an optimist. It just becomes a more active process. It’s an allegory to the conversation we’re having at this moment. How will we treat each other? Is it American carnage?” adds the EP.

But poor Nikki. Did she really have to die? “There was a degree of playing that by ear,” explains Hawley. “I wanted to save her, but I also didn’t want it to feel like a movie twist. At the end of the day, Fargo is a tragedy.”

In regards to Emmit, he’s a standard Fargo archetype; the guy in the middle, a la Martin Freeman’s Lester or William H. Macy’s Jerry, who always has to choose between right and wrong. The accidental murder of Emmit’s criminal-like brother Ray (also portrayed by McGregor) early on urged viewers to have an ironic respect for Emmit. We only sympathize with him further as the underdog as he remains under Varga’s thumb. But with Nikki dead, Hawley relied on Mr. Wrench, a deaf henchman from Season 1, “as the final arbiter of justice. He’s not in their story, he’s an outsider, and he can dispense the cosmic justice that Nikki tried and failed.”

“There aren’t any real heroes and villains, especially if I can make you empathize with these people,” Hawley says of his storytelling technique. “It complicates the violence that’s going to come, and I don’t want people cheering for the violence.”

The article also reports that it is undetermined whether there will be a fourth season:

“I always agreed with FX that the only reason to do another Fargo is if the creative is there,” says Hawley, who at the moment is drawing a blank in regards to what Season 4 would center around.

“It took 15 months to get Season 2 off the ground, and 18 months to get Season 3 on the air. I have to turn my attention to the second season of Legion and a film potentially the winter after next. We’re looking at three years from now,” the EP about a rough timeline for a Fargo Season 4.

It  makes sense that any decision on a fourth season be based upon whether there is a story idea good enough to justify it. Many shows have been continued far longer than they should be. It  is also a good thing that there is no pressure on FX to make a decision by next season. It is better to wait until any future seasons can be done right.

The article also reveals that, in addition to his work on Legion, Hawley will be doing a limited series adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963  novel Cat’s Cradle.