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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is behind the scenes information available here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; F-Bombs In Genre; Mr. Robot; Arrow; Batman In The Arrowverse; Gotham; Doctor Who; Will & Grace

With Choose Your Pain, Star Trek: Discovery revealed more about Captain Lorca, went where Star Trek has never gone before, and raised new questions. Controversies raised included two incidents on which to further question Lorca’s ethics.

We learned that Lorca had destroyed his previous ship and killed the entire crew to keep them from being captured and tortured by the Klingons, while he alone managed to survive. It may have sounded reasonable when explained by Lorca, but Star Trek fans know that Kirk or Picard would have found a way to save their crews, and would have risked death to achieve this. Lorca’s decision to leave Harry Mudd (played by Rainn Wilson) behind as a Klingon prisoner was also morally questionable, and not something Star Fleet captains we are accustomed to would have done.

While Lorca did leave Mudd behind, he did bring Ash Tyler after what seemed like too easy an escape. Was this just yet another example of a show’s protagonists having unrealistic success which has happened very frequently on television, or were they allowed to escape? There is considerable grounds to suspect that this was a trick with Ash Tyler being a Klingon spy. One popular fan theory that he is actually Voq is explained here. Of course if he is a Klingon spy, he is unlikely to get past Lorca’s pet tribble.

Discovery had the first f-bomb ever on Star Trek after Staments told Tilly of his idea to transfer Tardigrade DNA into his body. Tilly responded to the idea by saying, “You guys, this is so fucking cool.” She apologized for her language but Stamets replied, “No, Cadet. It is fucking cool.”

There was no softening of the word such as with changing it to “fraking” as on Battlestar Galactica. This sure goes beyond McCoy saying, “Damn it, Jim.” AV Club has posted a history of swearing on Star Trek.  Of course such language is common on pay cable, with basic cable being more mixed. Syfy has cut the frequent f-bombs from The Magicians in the initial showing, but later showed the first season again uncut. Presumably the second season will be released in an uncut form in the future. On the other hand, I noticed such language being left uncut on Mr. Robot last week.

After Trek also showed a sneak peak of tonight’s episode with Burnham and Tilly wearing Disco t-shirts. Is disco still alive, or (more likely) is this a shortened form for the name of their ship?Possibly the producers are hoping that fans refer to Star Trek: Discovery as Disco as opposed to the abbreviation STD. Last week’s episode also had a very rare (but not the first) scene of a Star Trek bathroom. Plus we learned that they have not yet learned a more modern, futuristic way to fight tooth decay than brushing, and the suspicions about Stamets and Dr. Culber were confirmed.

The DNA transfer done by Stamets might actually not be all that cool based upon what we saw in the mirror at the end of the episode. Does this mean that the spores connect not only throughout the universe, but also into the Mirror universe? If so, this could be yet another reason why the spore drive is not used (or mentioned) on subsequent series.

Besides the introduction to Harry Mudd and telling us more about Lorca, Stamets, and Culber, the episode also revealed more about  Saru, who does have difficulties assuming the role of Captain, even if all worked out in this episode. There was another nod to continuity in the list of decorated captains which came up: Robert April, Jonathan Archer, Matthew Decker, Christopher Pike, and Captain Georgiou.

Besides including f-bombs as I mentioned above, Mr. Robot was notable last week for Elliot getting the cairn terrier back. As for the even more meaningful aspects of the show, Sam Esmail was interviewed by The Guardian.  The article began:

When Mr Robot first aired, two years ago, it was hailed for its timeliness. A serial drama about a nefarious hacking group taking on corporate power felt right for the age of Anonymous and banking failure. Now, in 2017, the existing two seasons can look a little dated; why spend ages plotting to bring down the west when the US president can do it with a tweet?

While a lot has changed in two years, there is a sense of vindication for Mr Robot creator Sam Esmail. The ideas the 40-year-old wanted to explore in this drama – his first TV show, which he wrote, directed, produced and edited himself – are still playing out in reality.

“One thing I’ve noticed about the show is that it feels like a period piece of today,” Esmail says. “The world is so heavily influenced by technology and it has started to feel like it’s not on solid ground. The world has become unreliable, unknowable. Facts are vulnerable and things you have come to rely on are no longer there. It’s an overlap that I’m not going to be so bold as to say I predicted, but that was what I was thinking about when I constructed the character of [protagonist] Elliot [Alderson].”

Included among the unreliable and unknowable elements of Mr Robot are the following: whether Elliot is good or bad; whether he hacked the biggest corporation in the US under instruction from the Chinese government; whether he is living at his mother’s house or in prison; whether his father is alive and, if so, why he wants to kill him; and, finally, whether or not he is really friends with 80s sitcom puppet ALF.

Should we also worry about Flipper the dog after learning about the allegedly Russian run web page full of those puppie pictures?

Oliver Queen made a reference to Bruce Wayne on Arrow last week. Having Bruce Wayne exist in his world does not mean that he is also Batman, but it does raise the question. It is more likely that Batman exists on Supergirl’s earth. After all, if Batman existed in Oliver’s world, there would be no reason for him to spend so much time fighting Batman’s foes.

TV Guide has complied a list of other references to Batman in the CW Arrowverse.

Right now Fox has the television rights to Bruce Wayne, but they have only been able to show him as partially growing into becoming Batman. Gotham is also showing the origins of other Batman characters, sometimes changing the details. Gotham introduced Solomon Grundy last week. Screen Rant reviewed his back story and how Gotham is varying from the comics.

Getting back to Arrow, Entertainment Weekly has spoken with Stephen Amell about the big changes in last week’s episode:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Oliver actually gives up the mantle of being the Green Arrow. Game changer! Can you talk about how that might affect him moving forward? Does he still get the urge to go out there? 
STEPHEN AMELL: That’s been the cool thing about this season is that he can’t. You say him giving up the mantle is the game changer, but William is the game changer. The father-son dynamic can’t possibly can’t get any stronger than that. For all of the things that Oliver’s dad did wrong, and for all the things that we have since learned about him, Oliver still reveres him and holds him up to such a high standard, so that relationship is so important. I give it to Diggle; I don’t give it to him with a heavy heart, I give it to him with a full heart. I give it to him expecting him to be able to handle it. I like the idea that I give it to him because the city needs a Green Arrow, right? The Green Arrow can be more than one person. The Green Arrow is a symbol and his team is a symbol. The fact that we are pushing Star City in the right direction is something that is important to me because I don’t want the city to get destroyed every year, because then what’s the point of what we’re doing? We’re a team of vigilantes that are the definition of insanity, because we’re just doing things over and over again and hoping for a different result. Obviously I don’t know what’s going on with Diggle, but I give it up and there’s not a lot of angst.

It’s been a very strange time for me on the show, because we’re talking about going on four episodes now where I’m really out of the mix, and that’s been challenging for me, because I prep myself to work all the time, but we had — without getting into details — a story line last year where in the aftermath of Oliver being tortured by Chase — the big torture, making him reveal his animal instincts and that he enjoyed killing at one point — the producers and I had a lot of back and forth after that about how long that should affect him, because in one iteration, he just jumped right back on the horse. I was like, “Well, if we don’t follow the through line of that affecting him, then what was the point? What was the point of it happening if it doesn’t have consequences?” So I like that he’s given the mantle to Diggle and that’s been the show since then. That, to me, is really cool.

Realistically, do you see Oliver really never suiting up again?
No. Look, I remember one season of 24 when Jack Bauer had been taken prisoner, Jack was in China. They’re like, “Well, how long of this season is Jack going to be in China for?” and the producers were like, “He’s landing like six minutes after it starts. The show is the show.” Our show’s the show, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t surprise people. If he suits back up again, it doesn’t mean that all of a sudden it goes back to the status quo.

In Doctor Who news this week, Matt Lucus has hinted that he might not be done with Doctor Who after the Christmas episode.

Comic Book Resources has accumulated what we know, along with rumors, about upcoming changes on Doctor Who.

Doctor Who has won an Ally Award for LGBT inclusiveness. Pearl Mackie accepted the award and made this statement:

It’s lovely to be able to accept this Award on behalf of Doctor Who. I feel quite honoured to even have been invited, let alone for Doctor Who and the character of Bill.

It’s testament to how well she was received. I met a couple of young girls who were BAME, and talked to me about how watching Bill on Doctor Who enabled them to come out and feel comfortable with their own sexuality. For me, that’s a massive achievement.

The thing that I liked most about Bill was that she wasn’t grappling with her sexuality, she didn’t need to come out, it wasn’t an issue! It was always just about, I’m gay and happy and this is who I am, this is who I like and this is who I’m in love with.

Victoria, staring Jenna Coleman, concluded its second season on ITV last week, with a Christmas episode also announced. Presumably it will be combined with the other episodes into a nine episode series when it shows in the United States. Victoria will premiere on Masterpiece on PBS on January 14, 2018.

Will & Grace had an excellent episode last week dealing with gay conversion camps. A clip is above.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Orville; Doctor Who

Overall I was very impressed with the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery. While there are some aspects I question, overall it did feel like Star Trek, both modernized by the improved special effect available and the more serialized story telling common on television today.

I do question both whether the Vulcan salute would have been effective in this situation against the Klingons and whether someone, after serving for seven years on a Federation Starship, would disobey the captain in this manner. For now I will accept the premise that an implausible but possible event did occur and give the writers the opportunity to see where they take this. From various interviews (such as here) it does appear that they have given this matter, and sticking with established Star Trek canon, considerable consideration.

Michael Burnham does follow in a long Star Trek tradition of characters with identity issues, including Spock, Data, Seven of Nine, and the Emergency Medical Hologram. Captain Georgiou’s quick recovery from the Vulcan nerve pinch was important to the plot, but also has me wondering what we will see in the future in terms of both Burnham acting as a Vulcan and the limitations of a human doing so. The first two episodes seemed to summarize what could have been another seven year series about the Shenzou, with Burnham showing considerable growth from how she appeared in the flashback at the start of the second episode.

There was a tendency to use special effects because they could, sometimes benefiting the episode, and sometimes being unnecessary. I did question seeing Burnham flying to the Klingon ship in only in her spacesuit. On the other hand, there is no question that they should modernize the look of the bridge from the 1960’s instrument panels of the original show. Despite the modernization of the ship, they had the old style sound effects down perfect. The changing look of Klingons over time has been around since The Next Generation moved beyond the simplistic look from The Original Show and it is best not to question this.

The use of holograms for communication seemed an unnecessary change from the on screen communications we are accustomed to. It is important that this does fit within Star Trek canon, but there are also limits to the degree fans should demand this be true of every detail. Once something is shown on Discovery, by definition it does become canon. As holograms are based upon science already existing this could be explained as Star Fleet experimenting with this, abandoning it for a while, and then trying again in the Deep Space 9 era when it was seen again. (My theory to make this all consistent is that Star Fleet admirals had taken up working with their pants off between the years of Discovery and The Original Show and therefore demanded communications based upon above-the waist view screens as opposed to full body holograms.)

I also had my doubts about the communication between Burnham and Sarek, and unless this becomes important for future episodes, the story could have easily been written without utilizing this.

Despite such nitpicks, the show looks very promising. While I have some doubts about the details of the issue, it is typical Star Trek to raise the question of whether the Federation would shoot first even if more expedient. Even if less extreme, there is also a long history of Star Trek heroes breaking the rules. While some of the scenes with Klingon subtitles did get a little long, I am glad they are showing the Klingons as more than a one dimensional villain.

They did an excellent job both with production values and in keeping the story interesting, including ending each of the first episodes with a cliff hanger which should make viewers want to keep watching. If this was on Netflix instead of CBS All Access and the full season was available, I would have kept watching longer.

Despite small elements which some might argue violate canon, at least they did not destroy Vulcan as J.J. Abrams did with the flimsy excuse that it was s different timeline. Even if we might question Michael’s existence in Sarek’s family, it appears this series will be well tied into other aspects of canon related to Vulcans. This includes the addition of Sarek’s wife Amanda to the series, with Mia Kirshner cast for the role.

I have been rooting for The Orville to succeed, but have also recognized it problems. The show has received considerable criticism, with there being no need to repeat that once again. The show also does have its fans. For balance I’ll link to this reviewSeth MacFarlane’s ‘The Orville’ Is The ‘Star Trek’ Show Fans Have Been Waiting For. Some excerpts follow:

By not having a budget (or requirements) for wall-to-wall spectacle, the hour-long Fox show is forced to focus on character, chemistry, sci-fi plotting and moral debates that have partially defined Gene Roddenberry’s property for generations. Yes, to a certain extent it’s fan fiction, but then so is so much of our current pop culture entertainment. But by being a network television show, it is forced to be the kind of Star Trek that fans claim the recent movies have neglected in favor of four-quadrant blockbuster thrills. The Orville is not a spoof, but rather a straight-faced Trek show with characters who are funny and can laugh at funny events…

Sans the pressure to be bigger, bolder, faster, and free from the budget and expectations that demand big-scale action sequences and “the world is in peril” plotting, The Orville uses its adventure of the week format to explore modern-day social issues and tackle current moral dilemmas in a sci-fi venue. I like its characters, and I like that they are good at what they do and seem to like each other. The show is refreshingly progressive in its politics, and optimistic to its core. It is a Star Trek show for folks who want something a bit old-school.

Again, I haven’t seen the third episode of Star Trek Discovery, and I frankly don’t wish to make it a competition. The best-case scenario is that the CBS show, with a superb lead in Sonequa Martin-Green, offers high-quality, big-scale Star Trek while Fox’s “homage” offers a more traditional Trek which emphasizes cast chemistry and social issues of the day. For those fans who were turned off by the jokey previews and commercials, I’d suggest giving The Orville another shot, starting perhaps with the second episode which begins to spotlight the supporting cast.

The irony is that, by ripping off rather than revamping and by being hamstrung by network television production values and thus putting an emphasis on character and social parable over sci-fi action, The Orville has a pretty good shot at becoming the kind of Star Trek that fans claim to want so badly. I’m hoping this variation indeed lives long and prospers.

The review is rather generous, but I do want to give The Orville the chance to correct its flaws. I do agree with Screen Rant that, No, The Orville Is Not Better Than Star Trek: Discovery. Of course it does not have to be a competition and we can enjoy each series for the different things it tries to accomplish.

While we are now getting two versions of one of the great science fiction franchises which started in the 1960’s, we have to wait until December to see more of Doctor Who. I still plan to try to post Doctor Who news regularly while we wait. This week Pearl Mackie has told Radio Times that the Christmas episode will be an emotional farewell for Peter Capaldi:

The final farewell of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, the departure of well-loved companion Bill Potts, the groundbreaking introduction of the first ever female Doctor – the signs were always there.

But just in case you were in any doubt, Pearl Mackie can confirm that, yes, this is indeed going to be an emotional Doctor Who Christmas special…

“I’d say have a box of tissues close at hand,” Mackie tells RadioTimes.com. “As to be expected: it’s Peter’s last episode as the Doctor and my last episode as well.”

But is it? Given that Mackie’s character Bill had supposedly made her last appearance at the end of series ten – only to be handed a comeback in the special immediately afterwards – should we even trust that this is the last we’ll see of her?

“One of the wonderful things about Doctor Who is that the world of possibilities is endless,” teases Mackie, “so I guess, never say never…”

We can also hope to see the return of others beyond Bill. Radio Times also reports that Alex Kingston would like to see a reunion with Captain Jack:

Both time-travelling lotharios who love conning their way around the galaxy with a vortex manipulator, we can’t help but feel they’d do well in their own Doctor Who spin-off, or even just an episode where they finally meet – and now it turns out that River Song actor Alex Kingston feels the exact same way.

“I think it’d be great if she met with Captain Jack Harkness,” Kingston said at Edmonton Expo in Canada. “It’s funny because John and I, we talk about, we imagine, fantasise about all the possibilities.”

She also said, “Not necessarily a spin-off show, but it kind of would be great if even the Doctor happened upon a bar in the universe where River and Captain Jack happened to be sitting, having a drink or something. I think it’d be cool!”

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: The Return Of Kahn; Mr. Robot; Doctor Who Deals With Chauvinism; Legends of Tomorrow; The Handmaid’s Tale; Patrick Melrose; Will and Grace; Audrey Horne Returns To Twin Peaks

It looks like Star Trek: Discovery might not be the only Star Trek television coming up. Geek Exchange reports that Nicholas Meyer is working on a limited television series based upon Kahn:

According to the sources, Meyer’s new project takes him back to Khan Noonien Singh, the “genetically superior” villain played by Ricardo Montalban in the original series episode “Space Seed” and in The Wrath of Khan, and by Benedict Cumberbatch in the J.J. Abrams-helmed Star Trek Into Darkness. Meyer will reportedly be developing a prequel miniseries, or limited series that would take place on Ceti Alpha V and chronicle Khan and his followers struggling to survive in the years between when Kirk dropped him off on the planet at the end of “Space Seed” and when the crew of the U.S.S. Reliant finds them early in The Wrath of Khan.

The directors cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn is going to have a theatrical release in September to mark the 35th anniversary of the movie:

The Director’s Cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, widely considered the best Star Trek film, is getting a special theatrical release this September to celebrate its 35th anniversary! I had a chance to sit down with writer/director Nicholas Meyer to discuss his experiences making the movie and its long-lasting success. But first, some exclusive details regarding the big screen re-release…

The digitally remastered Director’s Cut of Wrath of Khan will show for two days on Sunday, September 10th and Wednesday, September 13th in more than 600 theaters across the U.S. at 2pm and 7pm local time. Fans can buy advance tickets starting today. Screenings will be preceded by a brand new 18-minute interview with William Shatner about the making of the film. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting FathomEvents.com or at participating theater box offices.

A very creepy trailer was released for the third season of Mr. Robot with this description: “MR. ROBOT follows Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a cyber-security engineer who, along with Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) and fsociety, starts a revolution to change the world. Picking up immediately following the Season 2 cliffhanger, Season 3 will explore each character’s motivations and the disintegration between Elliot and Mr. Robot.” The show returns October 11 with new cast members including Bobby Cannavale.

Considering all the noise made about Jodie Whittaker being cast as the thirteeth Doctor, it is fitting to learn that the Doctor Who Christmas special will deal with chauvinism:

David Bradley is set to appear as the First Doctor in the Doctor Who Christmas special lined up for the end of the year, and he’s recently revealed at the London Film & Comic Con that he and outgoing Doctor Peter Capaldi are set to clash over their attitudes toward women during Steven Moffat’s final episode.  

“What we did emphasise,” Bradley explained, “was the old fashioned nature and how he is from the 60s. He goes into the Twelfth Doctor’s Tardis and says ‘it’s a bit dusty around here, it’s in an awful state isn’t it? Where’s Polly? Shouldn’t she give it a spring clean?’ And then Peter’s saying ‘you can’t say that’.”  

Bradley added that his character “brings all his 60s sensibilities, what’s lovingly called casual chauvinism. He’s just talking [as if] the [companions] are there just to help out, and do the dusting and do all the domestic chores – his attitudes to a lot of things come right from the 60s, so there’s a lot of conflict between Hartnell’s Doctor and Peter’s Doctor about how things have changed in the last 50 years… we had quite a bit of fun with that.”

LGBT Nation takes matters even further in questioning if the new Doctor will be bisexual:

Michelle Gomez, who plays Missy in the hit sci-fi show Doctor Who, dropped on heckuva spoiler in an interview with the UK’s Daily Star.

While male versions of the Doctor have had female companions, Pearl Mackie’s character Bill Potts, was the first lesbian companion on the show. The character “died” last season when she left to continue her relationship with an old flame who turned into an alien during her first plotline.

Missy, however, paved the way for Whittaker’s role, as the newest incarnation of the Doctor’s longstanding nemesis, the Master. Gomez’ character proved that a Time Lord could regenerate as the opposite sex.

“Now we have a got a female Doctor so there is going to be girl on girl,” Gomez said. “It might work. Dunno. Obviously it might be awful.”

While producers have reportedly pushed for a male companion next season, Mackie for her part says she’d love to see a lesbian relationship develop between the Doctor and her companion. “It could work,” she said.

Asked if she’d be willing to return to the show to be the object of the Doctor’s affection, Mackie was quick to reply.

“Who wouldn’t? It is Doctor Who. Never say never.”

Buddy TV has this news on the third season of Legends of Tomorrow (trailer above):

Legends of Tomorrow season 3 will continue the trend started in season 2 of having a group of villains terrorize the heroes. It won’t be the Legion of Doom this time but a much larger and more diverse group. Klemmer did announce that among this group will be Damien Darhk, Arrow‘s season 4 villain and one of the original members of Legends of Tomorrow’s Legion of Doom.

Legends of Tomorrow season 2 had Darhk travel from the past to participate in adventures with Reverse Flash and Malcolm Merlyn. This will no longer be the case in season 3. Darhk will be resurrected from the dead after being killed by Oliver Queen’s hands in season 4 of Arrow. There will be a power behind Darhk, who the show has yet to reveal, but Damien will be the face of the organization.

“Damien Darhk is going to be the leader of this group in the way Thawne was sort of the boss last year for the Legion of Doom. This group is distinctly led up by Damien,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim explained.

As for the mysterious head honcho, Klemmer promised that they would be unlike anything the show has seen before. At the head of the group of villains will be a “non-human entity” as Legends of Tomorrow plans to get more into the occult and magic side of the DC universe. Klemmer confirmed that they are actively pursuing getting Matt Ryan’s Constantine on season 3.

One non-human on the evil crew however will be The Flash‘s Gorilla Grodd. Much like Damien Darhk, Legends will introduce a Grodd that has not yet been seen on The FlashLegends‘ Grodd will be older, wiser and much more dangerous. “It will be a version of him that we have not met yet on any of the shows. It will be the most evolved and powerful form of Grodd,” Klemmer said.

While the group of villains will form the spine of the season on an episode-to-episode basis, Legends of Tomorrow will be dealing with anachronisms, not aberrations. Following the season 2 finale where time “broke,” figures from history will start appearing in the wrong eras. One example that was teased was Helen of Troy showing up in the 1940s and become a movie star. The head of the villainous group of season 3 will be using these changes to exploit and further their own purpose.

Deadline reports on a new cast member:

Mistresses alumna Jes Macallan has signed on for a recurring role in the third season of the CW’s superhero drama DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

 Macallan will play Special Agent Ava Sharpe, a hard working agent for a secret branch of the Federal Government (the Time Bureau) dedicated to the regulation of time-travel and the protection of history. She is very smart and incredibly ambitious and always believes she is the smartest person in the room. She is often quite ruthless in obtaining her goals and her drive for perfection has left many discarded friendships (and relationships) in her wake.

The Handmaid’s Tale has been the best new show so far of 2017, ending the first season in an ambiguous manner. The story now goes beyond the book, and the fact that there will be a second season indicates that Offred survives after being taken away. There were also other small signs of hope and rebellion in the first season finale.

We also know that Alexis Bledel’s character not only survives, but has been promoted to a series regular.

Beyond this we know very little, and Elizabeth Moss warns against trying to guess how the second season begins. She told TV Guide:

“Don’t try to guess what happens in that first scene of Episode 1 in Season 2,” she said. “You will never get it, and I mean that objectively as a viewer. You just won’t guess, and I love that so much.”

 

TV Line reports that Allison Williams has been added to Benedict Cumberbatch’s upcoming Showtime series, Patrick Melrose:

The former Marnie Michaels will guest-star on Patrick Melrose, Benedict Cumberbatch’s upcoming Showtime limited series, TVLine has learned.

The five-part project, formerly called Melrose, is based on Edward St. Aubyn’s novels and stars Cumberbatch as the title character, “an aristocratic and outrageously funny playboy” who turns to substance abuse to erase bad childhood memories of his abusive father.

Williams will play Marianne, someone Patrick runs into during his time in New York City.

The drama’s cast also includes Hugo Weaving, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Anna Madeley.

Will and Grace has not only been extended for sixteen episodes next season, but was also renewed for a tenth season before the revival even began. The revival plans to retcon the original series finale and have the cast back as we remember them (such as without the children shown in the original finale). Things have also been brought up to date, with Karen having voted for Donald Trump. Eric McCormack discussed this:

“One of the hardest things we’ve all had to deal with is realizing that some of the people around us didn’t vote for who we voted for and they might’ve been friends or they might still be friends, and how do we maintain that friendship?” McCormack told reporters at the Television Critics’ Association on Thursday. “We know that’s the case here as a result of that video we did in September. We know that Karen, of course, voted for her friend Donald. So that is going to lead the conversation. That is not inherently about the politics of today or even yesterday; it’s about the politics of friendship and how you navigate that. And it can be quite hysterical, how you navigate that.”

I wouldn’t dream of attempting to do recaps of Twin Peaks, or in any way try to explain what is going on, but I will note that last week’s episode had the return of  Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn). Picture from last week’s episode above. Or as we remember her:

SciFi Weekend: News From Comic Con Including CW Shows, Stranger Things, Star Trek Discovery, 12 Monkeys, Outlander, & Doctor Who; Briefs On Orphan Black and Other Current Genre Shows

There is a lot of news, and lots of videos, from San Diego Comic Con. Here are some of the highlights, with more likely to be posted next week.

The video above was released at the panel for The 100. TV Line has this information:

 “The prison ship [from the season finale] is from Earth,” Rothenberg revealed. “They’re from before the first apocalypse. They were in hyper-sleep for 100 years. They’ve come back to this planet that they don’t recognize. All that’s left is this Garden of Eden that Clarke’s been living in with her daughter.”

“It’s nice to be playing someone a little closer to my age,” Taylor said of the time jump. “It’ll be exciting to see her as a 24-year-old woman who’s been through so much, and is now taking on this maternal role.”

“Octavia doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing,” Avgeropoulos admitted, “but she doesn’t want to set off chaos with 1,200 people in the bunker. … You’ll see what her plan is to keep the peace and how she reprimands others in her own special way.”

“Raven is so special because she’s so smart,” Morgan said. “She’s a key ingredient in the mix for their survival. Her heart weighs on her a lot. The only reason everyone is in space is because of Raven.”

“All of us have to change up [in space],” Harmon said. “It’s freeing in a lot of ways. Over six years, a lot of therapy can happen. Murphy’s definitely going to change.”

“Harper is Monty’s main lifeline at the current moment,” Larkin said. “He owes her his life. She chose him. I don’t know if they’re still together. … Maybe Monty and Murphy are together. It’s been six years!”

New series regular Tasya Teles also arrived on stage to talk about Echo’s future: “I think about it a lot. Who will she become friends with? … I was thinking she’d get close to Raven for some reason. They’re girls who get things done. I see those two having an alliance.”

Rothenberg wouldn’t say whether any new couples have formed during the time jump, but he reminded us that “six years is a long time.”

Supergirl has new show runners, and it sounds like there will be more of Calista Flockhart. Entertainment Weekly reports:

Calista Flockhart will return as Cat Grant in the Supergirl season 3 premiere, new showrunners Jessica Queller and Robert Rovner told reporters ahead of the Supergirl panel at San Diego Comic-Con Saturday. She is expected to recur on the CW drama in the new season.

“The way that Calista appears in the first episode is really clever,” star Melissa Benoist told reporters.

Supergirl also intends to give up being Kara Danvers and be Supergirl full time, but I bet she changes her mind regarding this.

The trailer for The Flash shows a new team while Barry is in the speed force, with Iris left in charge. Caitlin Snow also appears to be back with the team, and the trailer does hint at Barry returning. SyFy Wire has this information from producer Todd Helbing:

According to Helbing, this season picks up six months after the events of the finale. Iris will be stepping up as team leader, trying to do what Barry told her to do. According to star Candace Patton, that means stepping back from her journalism career and taking over as leader of Team Flash at Star Labs. She’ll be playing a similar role to Felicity/Overwatch on their sister show, Arrow.

Wally will also be taking on new responsibilities this season as he goes from Kid Flash to just The Flash. That transition is a big challenge, though, says Keiynan Lonsdale. Wally’s relationship with Iris will also deepen as the two work through their respective grief over losing Barry.

And what about Barry? Well, it turns out we won’t be seeing him in the speed force at all, but we will see the effect the experience had on him. According to Grant Gustin, Barry spent his time in the speed force watching his life from start to end, and he’ll have much better insight into himself. He’ll also be a much lighter version of Barry in a much lighter season, a welcome reprieve from the darkness that has overtaken the show in recent years. Welcomed by both the audience and the actor. Gustin said Season 3 was hard on him, admitting that he sometimes went home and cried in the shower.

Helbing also stressed the lightness of the new season, saying they’ll also be taking a break from time travel this year.

The rest of the crew will be back too. Cisco will be further exploring his relationship with Gypsy this season, but he won’t be getting a new suit. Says Carlos Valdez, “My ass feels great in the pants.” Of course, the season won’t be entirely happy for Cisco. He’s feeling the loss of his friends and is working to bring them back.

Cisco isn’t the only one with romance in his future. Joe’s relationship with Cecile will also grow more. But, as always, Joe’s focus will be his children. According to Jesse L. Martin, while Joe is very proud that Wally was able to step into Barry’s shoes, he’s worried about all the pain Iris is going through.

Caitlyn fans, though, will apparently be the happiest of all this season. After succumbing to her Killer Frost instincts, Caitlyn ended Season 3 by leaving her friends to go soul searching, finding the balance between Caitlyn Snow and Killer Frost. Danielle Panabaker was particularly tight-lipped about what’s to come for her character, but she did say that she’s enjoying the opportunity to bridge light and dark.

Speaking of the darkness, what of this year’s villain, The Thinker? According to Helbing, he’ll be the big theme of the year. He did not elaborate, though, so anything beyond that will have to be left to the imagination.

Michael Emerson of Lost and Person of Interest will have a recurring role on Arrow next season, but there is no word about his role.

BuddyTV has this information on Legends of Tomorrow:

The quartet of villains who terrorized the group in season 2, The Legion of Doom is a large part of why Legends of Tomorrow was received so well in its second year. It is no surprise then then that in season 3, two of the four member of the group will make their reappearance. After the trailer which opened the panel, embedded below, the show confirmed that Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold and Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk will be back.
Miller and McDonough will both be series regulars for season 3 but their characters won’t be exactly as people remember them. The Darhk of season 3 will less “silly” than the version from season 2. As for Cold, Dominic Purcell who plays Mick Rory, cautioned that the Snart of season 3 won’t be exactly be the same friend that Mick lost in season 1 (and to a lesser extent season 2).

While Miller and McDonough will stay on the show as series regulars, Arthur Darvill won’t be quite as prominent. The actor who played Rip Hunter, the team’s original leader, will still appear in season 3. Darvill will just be a recurring role rather than a series regular one, which is not that surprising since Rip did give up his spot on the team in the season 2 finale. Rip will still play a big part in the season as he is mentioned to have some big secret that he is hiding in the trailer.

E! summarizes Marvel news from Comic Con here. The trailer for Thor:Ragnarok is above.

A trailer for the second season of Stranger Things was released with this description: It’s 1984 and the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana are still reeling from the horrors of the demogorgon and the secrets of Hawkins Lab. Will Byers has been rescued from the Upside Down but a bigger, sinister entity still threatens those who survived.

TV Guide has this information from the Stranger Things panel:

1. The Duffer Brothers wanted to do TV because it’s more like movies now. “We were big movie nerds, and we started to get into television as it got more cinematic,” Matt Duffer told the room, crediting shows like True Detective. They thought about what would be the best “long movie,” and decided a Spielberg homage was the way to go.

2. They knew what the title font should be, before they even started. Producer Shawn Levy credited the Duffer Brothers’ clarity of vision coming in to the project as the reason Netflix decided to take a chance on the unknown filmmakers, citing that they even knew what they wanted the now iconic title to look like from their first meeting.

3. More Will in Season 2! Will was offscreen most of last season, but from Schnapp we learned that not only will, uh, Will show up more, but he’ll be “braver” and we’ll learn more about how the Upside Down affected him.

4. Eleven had less lines, but a harder job. Millie Bobby Brown cited the difficulty of acting with a minimal amount of lines — particularly around “boys who like to play pranks.” But ultimately it was about concentrating, and feeling inside what needed to be expressed — and then letting that come through just with her facial muscles.

5. Hopper may be connecting with Eleven. Harbour stated that his character’s arc in Season 2 is definitely “very different” than it was in Season 1, and “it all begins with some Eggos he’s leaving in the woods.” The actor added that we know he has some daughter issues from Season 1, and that may play out in Season 2. Chances are, Hopper and Eleven are gonna team up, right?

6. Meet the new guys! Dacre Montgomery is playing Billy, Sadie Sink is Max (“a.k.a. Mad Max” quipped Keery), and Paul Reiser is Dr. Owens. Max moves from California, Owens may or may not be evil (though he’s definitely brought in to “clean up Dr. Brenner’s mess”)… And that’s all the info we got on the new folks. This show is a big secret!

7. The new trailer dropped! The new trailer showed off bigger monsters, Halloween costumes, some Michael Jackson music — and Eleven is back! You can watch it right here.

8. No, Barb is not coming back. The first audience question was from — surprise! — Shannon Purser, who played fan-favorite Barb on the show. She asked if Barb was coming back for Season 2, which was, sadly, a resounding “no.” That said, Season 2 will deal with Barb’s death, and give us some #Justice4Barb. “She will be avenged,” swear the Duffer Brothers.

More at USA Today.

Star Trek Discovery trailer. From ScreenRant:

Viewers are told in the teaser that Klingons have been submerged in chaos for a number of years, but are coming back to the surface for a battle against Starfleet. They also get their first look at Rainn Wilson in the role of Harry Mudd, and it’s revealed that the invention of warp drive will somehow also play into the series. It’s a lot to take in, but Star Trek fans will be thankful for it.

The trailer for the final season of 12 Monkeys was released last week with discussion at SDCC covered here.

The cast of Outlanders took questions at SDCC with video here. Deadline interviewed Ron Moore:

MOORE: It’s a transitional season. You know, the franchise kind of pivots from this point because, it’s not really a huge spoiler, but essentially, the show will relocate to the American colonies after this season. So they’ll always have a foot in Scotland, because there’s always a piece of the story that will continue to play out in Scotland, but Claire and Jamie and their family really do kind of relocate to North America after this season and establish a place called Fraser’s Ridge, which is up in the mountains of North Carolina — and that’s where the rest of the season in the books takes place.

So this is a really important year because it’s leaving sort of one setting, traveling literally across the Atlantic Ocean. You know, we went down and shot on the Black Sails ships and sets in South Africa to do that section of the story, and then end up in the Caribbean, and then eventually into the American colonies. It’s a big transitional year for this show…

Looking at some of the genre shows currently airing, Orphan Black is moving towards its end game, and had probably its goriest scene ever this weekend. There has been some real change for the better with Rachel, and change which I’m undecided about with Allison. Krystal Goderitch finally returned the previous week. (Was the actress who played her unavailable until then?) Recent highlights also include Cosima and Delphine at a strange dinner party on the island. Pictures of Delphine released before the season led to rumors that the two were getting married. While that did not turn out to be the explanation, there are still a few episodes left.

I hope that the writers on Dark Matter aren’t running low on original ideas. In recent weeks we’ve had their takes on Groundhog Day and The Mattrix. There are a lot of interesting threads being developed which will hopefully culminate in something great (and original).

Syfy has renewed Wynonna Earp for a third season.

Now that Game of Thrones is back we can explain the last election in terms which fans of the show will understand. We were spared having Cersci Lannister take over, but got stuck with Joffrey Baratheon. For those disappointed that we did not get a female president, keep in mind that should the earth fall under alien invasion after the regeneration to the 13th Doctor on Doctor Who, she will become the President of Earth to deal with the invasion (if Chris Chibnall keeps this rather silly idea from the Moffat era).

Unfortunately there have been some complaints about Jodie Whittaker being given the role of the thirteenth doctor. The BBC has issued this response to complaints:

Since the first Doctor regenerated back in 1966, the concept of the Doctor as a constantly evolving being has been central to the programme. The continual input of fresh ideas and new voices across the cast and the writing and production teams has been key to the longevity of the series.

The Doctor is an alien from the planet Gallifrey and it has been established in the show that Time Lords can switch gender.

As the Controller of BBC Drama has said, Jodie is not just a talented actor but she has a bold and brilliant vision for her Doctor. She aced it in her audition both technically and with the powerful female life force she brings to the role. She is destined to be an utterly iconic Doctor.

We hope viewers will enjoy what we have in store for the continuation of the story.

It is impressive that the BBC has a site to take such complaints and that they do respond. It is less impressive that this casting decision about a fictional alien is bothering so many people.

There is help for those men who cannot handle a female lead despite having thirty-six seasons with a male lead, The Doctor Who Help Line. For those who don’t want to watch the full video above, the funniest lines include a man calling in saying he hoped that at least Jodie Whittaker will only be paid  seventy-nine cents on the dollar of what Peter Capaldi was paid, and a suggestion that she get her own show about a time traveling nurse. The BBC says that Jodie Whittaker will be paid as much as Peter Capaldi. At least as of now this will be her last appearance:

 “That’s it,” said Mackie. “The Christmas special is your last chance to see Bill. But I mean, hey, it’s Doctor Who, so never say never.”

The trailer for the Christmas episode released at SDCC, entitled Twice Upon A Time, reveals that, in addition to two Doctors played by Peter Capaldi and David Bradley, the cast includes Mark Gatiss and Pearle Mackie, returning as Bill.

Deborah Watling, who played the second Doctor’s companion Victoria Waterfield, died last week.

Update: More news from San Diego Comic Con here.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Doctor Falls; iZombie Ends Season 3 With Game Changing Episode; Sense8 To Return For A Two Hour Special

The Doctor Falls allowed both Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat to leave Doctor Who with an excellent season finale, but unfortunately it is a long way until Christmas to see how this concludes. Among the highlights were seeing two versions of the Master, with Michelle Gomez and John Simm doing an excellent job of playing off of one another. This included seeing Missy change sides between the Master and the Doctor based upon what was to her benefit at the time, gags such as Missy knocking herself out, their seemingly incestuous (?) relationship, a timey-wimey solution for the Master’s damaged TARDIS, and ultimately Missy deciding to be good.

This seemed to lead to both Missy and the Master killing each other, leaving the Master to regenerate and Missy’s fate unknown. The Master claimed that he shot Missy with enough force to prevent further regenerations, but the Master has a long history of coming back from apparent death. Plus we don’t know for sure if Missy was the regeneration directly after the John Simm Master. We might wind up seeing other regenerations between the two as it is hard to believe that the Master will never return in some form, even if Missy cannot regenerate.

Bill seemed to be heading towards  a tragic ending at the end of World Enough and Time last week. When the description of the creation of Cybermen was discussed, including the discarding of parts, it became clear that the Doctor could not save her. As I predicted last week, Steven Moffat would not leave her to suffer such a fate and, like Clara Oswald who escaped her death by going off with Ashildr before her last heart beat, Bill went to explore the universe with Heather from Pilot. This was foreshadowed with her tears. (“Where there’s tears, there’s hope.”) While most likely Bill will be leaving the series in this form, this does give Chris Chibnall the option of returning her to human form, either temporarily or permanently, to return as a guest or companion should he desire.

At least Pearl Mackie got to return for this episode as she saw herself in human form and was portrayed this way in many of her scenes. One minor nitpick is that if her brain showed her in human form when she looked at herself directly, why would her brain also not show her human self to her when she looked in a mirror or at her reflection?

Steven Moffat explained why he did not kill companions like Clara and Bill, and why Bill was not left as a Cyberman:

I’ll just say this and I’ll get into terrible trouble with certain people…I don’t think Doctor Who is that kind of show. Doctor Who is a big hearted, optimistic show that believes in kindness and love and that wisdom will triumph in the end. I don’t believe it’s the kind of show that says there are bitter, twisted, nasty endings because it’s not. It’s not gritty; it’s aspirational. It says, ‘It can work. And wisdom and kindness will triumph. And love will always come through in the end.’ I think there aren’t enough people or enough shows saying that and I’m damned if Doctor Who is going to join in with the general chorus of despair.

This leaves matters open:

So, she doesn’t die. She nearly dies. She nearly dies and she becomes something else. And we leave it in such a way that, again, I don’t know future plans, I’ve kept away from them, I put it such that, because Heather does say ‘Look, I can put you back on Earth if you want to go back and make chips,’ she could. So any of those are [possible]. I kind of think in my head she flies around the universe with Heather. That’s what she does.

We saw an origin of the Cybermen, but don’t know if this will be a separate group, or if they will ultimately escape the black hole and spread through the galaxy. The different origins seen so far for Cybermen is explained by this being the inevitable action of humans when put in a desperate situation and they wind up misusing their technology: “Like sewage, smartphones and Donald Trump, some things are just inevitable.”

This was hardly the first time that Doctor Who solved a seemingly impossible problem with an easy solution. It was too easy for the Doctor to reprogram the Cyberman in a matter of seconds to include two hearts in their definition of human. If the Doctor could do this, why not remove humans with only one heart from danger? It was also too easy for them to make things explode, even if they were on a space ship with such material under the floor. It would have made matters much simpler if they could create such explosions on the hospital floor where the Cybermen were being created. We did get to see the ultimate apple upgrade in one of many fun scenes. While it was shown to be impossible to return to the TARDIS for most of the episode, this was also solved too easily at the end.

Nardole had the simplest ending, taking the place of the Doctor to protect a group of humans. However, it is hard to believe that the Cybermen will not continue going upwards floor by floor.

The biggest question is what happens next with the Doctor. Moffat has said in interviews he wanted the Christmas special to be more positive than showing the death of the Doctor. Instead he had the Doctor receive his deadly wounds in the season finale as opposed to the Christmas episode. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor did not want to go (like David Tennant’s) but also did not want to return in a different form. Presumably the Christmas episode will have the a more uplifting story line with the Doctor deciding to go on.

The final scene also confirmed reports that the first Doctor would also appear, and it appears this might be around the time of his own regeneration. The scene also allowed both Peter Capaldi and  David Bradley (playing William Hartnell’s Doctor) to declare at different times in the episode that they were not just a doctor but the Doctor. The first Doctor introduced himself with: “You may be a Doctor. But I am the Doctor. The original, you might say.”

With this concluding on Christmas, this leaves open the question of whether, if the first Doctor is the ghost of the Doctor’s past, will we also see a version of the Doctor’s future in a story along the lines of It’s a Wonderful Life. If so, this conceivably could be a Doctor in a far distant regeneration, allowing Chris Chibnall to have a different actor play the Doctor when he takes over. This could also account for casting rumors. There could be different actors being considered for this role in the Christmas episode and for next season.

Steven Moffat has done a lot to set up the possibility of a female Doctor in previous episodes as I discussed last week. This was teased further when the Master asked, “Will the future be all girl?” The Doctor answered, “We can only hope.” Moffat has no say as to the next Doctor, but perhaps he is trying to nudge Chibnall in that direction. Maybe he will show a future regeneration as a female Doctor in the Christmas special.

iZombie also concluded the season with an excellent two-part episode. It was inevitable that Fillmore Graves (great name) would not act in a totally benign manner, and having all those people line up for a vaccine would lead to tragedy. While Doctor Who will be changing with a different show runner and cast, the season finale of iZombie also set up the show to move in a new direction now that the public is aware of the existence of zombies, and many more people are on the verge of becoming zombies.

Nerdist spoke with Rob Thomas about the changes:

“In some ways, some things will be familiar,” Thomas tells Nerdist. “Liv [Rose McIver] and Clive [Malcolm Goodwin] will still be solving murders in Seattle. But beyond that, the show is going to feel very different. Seattle is going to be a very different place next year. Zombies will be living side-by-side with humans, with each of them knowing that. There will be places where zombies hang out publicly. Human-zombie relations will be a very touchy thing. Seattle is going to become a walled city, much like Berlin. It’s going to be very different.”

In building to this point  zombies going public — this season and pretty much the whole series has essentially been like a prequel to the potential zombie apocalypse. But Thomas promises that we haven’t gotten to that point yet. “Everyone’s trying to prevent the apocalypse,” he says. “What I think it feels like is the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

He laughs, then adds, “Like right on the edge. There are people high up in the U.S. government, probably a lot of world governments, that would be in favor of nuking Seattle and just taking care of the zombie problem. It’s a tense, tense situation. Essentially, the card that Chase Graves has to play is, ‘I’m holding a half million human citizens hostage. If you’re going to nuke all the zombies, we’re going to take a half million innocent humans with us.’ We’re in a standoff.”

However, all these radical changes doesn’t mean we’re letting go of what makes iZombie, well, iZombie.

“Even if you lived in a city like that, life would have to go on,” Thomas says. “There’s this no-mans-land between Seattle and the rest of the United States, but murders still have to solved, the garbage still has to be picked up, food has to be delivered and most importantly, the rest of the U.S. has to deliver brains to Seattle, otherwise the zombies will go hungry and if the zombies go hungry, the apocalypse will start. Just as Chase Graves said in the video in the finale, ‘Send us your brains and everything will be okay.’”

Given the fact that Chase Graves has alerted the rest of the country to Seattle’s ever-growing zombie population, it would seem pretty reasonable to expect things to grow to a national—if not global—scale in the future, but Thomas gets pretty real about why the scope of the series isn’t going to grow all that much.

“Given our budget and the fact that we film in Vancouver, it’s always going to feel very Seattle-ish,” he says with a laugh. “We don’t quite have the Game of Thrones budget where we could do desert shots or anything. We might be able to put up a Chinese flag behind us and a couple Chinese actors and fake a call to China but I think that’s about all we could manage. We’ll have largely a Pacific Northwest bent to it.”

Like people returning from the dead on iZombie, television shows sometimes also return from the dead after they are cancelled. We saw this with Timeless, with NBC reversing their decision to cancel the show. Not long after Netflix cancelled Sense8 they agreed to have a two hour episode to resolve the cliff hanger from the season two finale. It certainly makes sense for Netflix to do this. They currently own two seasons of the show along with a Christmas special which bridged the seasons. Offering a conclusion will make it more likely people will watch Sense8 in the future, whether on Netflix, DVD’s or syndicated elsewhere. It would be much harder to maintain interest in a show which ends on a cliff hanger, and a two hour episode to wrap it up will cost far less than another full season. Will this also include a third orgy scene?

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.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Eaters of Light Review and Chris Chibnall Hints At Plans For Next Season

Eaters of Light was a filler episode of Doctor Who before we get into the two-part season finale. It was written by Rona Munro, who wrote Survival, the last serial of classic Doctor Who. Some elements of the old serials could be seen compressed into this episode. Munro has also been working as a play write, and this could be seen in the excellent dialog of the episode, which helped make up for the weakness of its plot.

In some ways I felt like I was watching a different version of last week’s Empress of Mars. Like last week’s episode, it began with a brief scene in the present or near-future which raised a question–this time the TARDIS engraved on a stone. The story then went back to resolve the mystery. Like last week, the plot was pushed forward by Bill falling. Again there were the themes of redemption for cowardice, the folly of war, and the need for enemies to work together for their common survival.

Besides the minor mystery of the TARDIS being engraved on the stone, two other common ideas from Doctor Who were seen. An old mystery, in this case what happened to the Ninth Roman Legion  in the second century AD, was “answered.” We also “learned” a lot about crows and how they communicate.

Bill showed her science fiction geekiness in figuring out the telepathic autotranslation functions of the TARDIS, although this revelation would have made more sense earlier in the season. This came into play in also allowing the previously warring parties to communicate and settle their differences in order to work together. Bill’s sexual preferences were easily understood by a Roman soldier. Bill also played a role in motivating the others, which ultimately set them up for their sacrifice at the end: “If you come with me, I can’t promise that you won’t die but, I can promise you this: you won’t all die in a hole in the ground.”

Nardole played comic relief, initially going around in his bathrobe like Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Later he changed clothes and did some face painting to fit in with the natives.

The plot did have its problems. I was bothered early on when Bill just went off on her own with no weapons, no way to communicate, and no way for anyone to track her. This did propel the plot, and everyone did get together after being separated, as often happened over and over again in the classic serials.

The entire enemy creature was weakly described. After other episodes in which the “monster” turned out to not be entirely evil, with motivations which made sense, we had a rather simple monster here. It is best to ignore much of the explanation and settle with this:

The Doctor: “It’s as if his bones disintegrated.”

Nardole: “What could do that?”

The Doctor: “A complete and total absence of any kind of sunlight.”

Nardole: “Death by Scotland.”

It was predictable that the Doctor might be willing to spend eternity battling the monster to protect earth, but hardly clear how the gate works or how the humans, with their brief lifespans and no regenerations, could accomplish this. It is best to just move on and get back to the TARDIS where we were surprised by the presence of Missy. The Doctor has upset both Bill and Nardole by allowing her out, but for the moment it appears she is trying to be good. Unfortunately for the Doctor, that does not mean she sees things the same way as he does.

Missy: “Those little people, trapped in a hill, fighting forever – – is that really up to your bleeding-heart standards?

The Doctor: “You understand the universe, you see it, you grasp it, but you never learn to hear the music.”

We should learn soon whether Missy really is good, and the previews reveal (as was already known) that both the John Simm version of the Master and the Mondasian Cybermen play a part.

The upcoming two part episode and the Christmas episode will also mark the end of Steven Moffat’s tenure as show runner, and the end of the current configuration the Doctor and his current companions. We may have learned something interesting about next season from incoming show running Chris Chibnall:

Season 11 of Doctor Who is going to be new… very new. There will be a new Doctor, a new showrunner, and apparently a new format. Chris Chibnall, who is slated to come on board as showrunner in 2018, has hinted at going away from the monster of the week format and into a more broad series storyline. As long as the TARDIS allows.

The writer/producer, who is coming off of the blazing BBC hit Broadchurch is fond of season-long storytelling, proven through the compelling, addictive crime drama. As the new head honcho, the style could easily bleed into Doctor Who, giving the season one single storyline…

Though Chibnall stayed mum on most Doctor details (ahem, like who is going to play the Doctor), he did respond to the question if he would be allowed to do a whole-season story­line, like Broadchurch, rather than individual episodes. To which he responded: “Yes. What the BBC was after was risk and boldness.”

Considering how difficult it must be to come up with a fresh story every week, this might be a good idea. Chibnall showed that he can keep a season long story arc interesting on Broadchurch (with the first and third seasons far better than the second). More on Chris Chibnall here.

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Much more has happened in genre beyond Doctor Who, but I have had to limit the last couple of posts due to traveling. I still want to get to the question of whether Nora was telling the truth in the series finale of The Leftovers. Gotham ended the season with major character development for many characters, including Bruce Wayne. Dark Matter has continued from where last season left off, and is pushing some of its characters in new directions. Wynonna Earp has also returned on Syfy. I have not seen this series yet, but based upon recommendations of others it is now high on my list of series to catch up on. Orphan Black has also had major developments in its first two episodes, including the death of a clone. We are well into the revival of Twin Peaks, but still have not seen the real version of Special Agent Dale Cooper in the real world. I also just completed House of Cards, which is struggling to be even more outrageous than real life politics these days.

I am hoping to get caught up by next weekend to review some of these shows in greater detail.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Empress of Mars

Empress of Mars felt like an old style Doctor Who story which pays homage to both classic Doctor Who and modern movies. Mark Gatiss does’t know if he will be invited back to write for Doctor Who after Steven Moffat leaves, and had requested this opportunity to write one more story about the Ice Warriors.

The story began with a quick visit to NASA in the near future when Americans land on Mars with everyone surprised to see the message, “God Save The Queen” written in stone on the surface of Mars. The Doctor, along with Bill and Nardole, went back in time to find the origin of this on Mars, which involved Victorian soldiers and Ice Warriors. The episode was written before Nardole became a companion, and he was quickly written out of the story by having the TARDIS disappear with him for no good reason other than to take him out of the story. There was no explanation of the change in his attitude to be willing to leave Missy unguarded in the vault.

The story questioned the wisdom of war, which is a common topic of stories on Doctor Who. There were the type of scenes which we have become accustomed to on Doctor Who, such as an Ice Warrior serving Victorian soldiers. This is no stranger than seeing the Daleks serve tea to the British during World War II in a past episode.

Bill raised her usual science fiction references, such as to The Terminator and The Thing. Once again it is clear that Bill travels with the Doctor because she is a sci-fi nerd. Bill is also a woman, which raised issues for the older soldiers. This led to one of the best lines of the episode: “I’m going to make allowances for your Victorian attitude…because you actually are Victorian.”

The episode has additional girl power as the Empress recognized Bill as another woman, and asked for her advice. “What do you say? I would value your opinion. We are both surrounded by noisy males.”

The twist in this episode is that the British soldiers were the invaders, claiming Mars for the British empire. They failed to see the threat from a couple of  “upright crocodiles,” unaware that others were about to awaken. There was also a side story about one soldier having almost been executed for cowardice, and alliances crossed species lines.

The Ice Warriors are like the Klingons of the Doctor Who universe, not necessarily good or bad, but concerned about honor in battle. This played well into the side story mentioned above, giving a satisfying ending for the soldier mentioned.

The Doctor forced an end to the conflict by pointing out that firing their weapon would lead to them all being trapped under the ice, like Frozen, which he pointed out is a movie. He was not going to let Bill be the only one to drop movie references. Beyond the movie reference, his message was that we all live together or die together.

The episode contains a lot of Doctor Who history, from the sonic screwdriver still being unable to work on wood to references to the Peladon stories of the third Doctor from the 1970’s. It also fills in a gap in the history of Mars, or as the Doctor said, “This may be the beginning of the Martian Golden Age.”

Nardole returned at the end and had done something even more surprising than to agree to travel with the Doctor off earth. He turned to Missy for assistance, and she was piloting the TARDIS. It appears she is trying to uphold her promise to learn to be good–at least for now. She did possibly foreshadow the end of the season  and upcoming regeneration by repeatedly asking the Doctor if he was okay.

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Due to traveling this weekend I am limiting this week’s SciFi Weekend to the review of Doctor Who, and will have to hold off on other major subjects such as the return of Orphan Black and Dark Matter.  I also have a post on last week’s finale of The Leftovers partially written, but I want to do that fantastic episode justice and not rush the post. Depending upon how much free time I have this week, I will either post a second science fiction installment, or hold these topics for the future.

I also have to at least mention in passing the death of Adam West, best known for playing Batman not long after Doctor Who began.