SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Rosa Review And Spoiler-Free Comments On  Arachnids In The UK; Timeless Finale; Star Trek Jumps Ahead 1000 Years, And Other ST News; The Orville Season 2 Trailer; Two Series With David Tennant

I will avoid spoilers for today’s episode of Doctor Who, Arachnids In The UK, as it has not yet been seen by those in the United States who wait to view it legally. The episode, like many episodes of Doctor Who, has its faults, but was still thoroughly enjoyable. It is best viewed not as a stand-alone episode but as part three of a trilogy which establishes the new Doctor and companions, beginning with The Woman Who Fell To Earth and The Ghost Monument. During the events of this trilogy, the group underwent an unknown number of adventures as the TARDIS failed to return home until Arachnids In The UK. We only saw one of these adventures, but Rosa is certain to become a classic episode of Doctor Who.

Rosa is a return to historical episodes of Doctor Who. It could be seen as a children’s educational show, including a recap of the significance of the story at the end. Then, being Doctor Who, there was a trip to see the asteroid named after Rosa Parks. However, it does not tone down the issues for children, showing the horrors of racist socient. The episode realistically shows racism as not being something isolated to certain evil individuals, but as the atmosphere of the time and area.

The companions worked well with the story, starting with Ryan experiencing racism when he simply tried to give a woman her dropped glove. Racism was similarly seen in other situations including in a restaurant, a white-only hotel, and, obviously for this story, on the bus. Racism was shown to be different with Yasmin, with the locals not being as clear as to where she fits in, with Yasmin even being mistaken for a Mexican. Yasmin was not welcome in the restaurant, but could sit with the whites in the front of the bus. Racism was as illogical in the episode as in real life.

Strangely nobody seemed disturbed that a woman was dressed like the Doctor in pants and an unusual shirt in 1955 Alabama.  Rather than deal with this, the episode did include a joke about the Doctor being the street artist Bansky. Plus Graham identified himself as Steve Jobs.

As with many historical Doctor Who episodes, there is an outside villain, but Krasko really isn’t all that memorable. (Similarly, does anyone recall the monster from Vincent and the Doctor?) Krasko just served to set up the situation of forcing the Doctor and her friends to make sure history played out correctly. Krasko did also show that Chris Chibnall isn’t totally ignoring the Moffat years, even if he is avoiding his characters. Krasko was recently released from Stormcage, where River Song was also imprisoned. A neural restrictor in his brain prevented him from directly killing–even if he could still conspire to do evil. His weapon was a version of how the Weeping Angels dispose of people, sending them to another time. Theoretically Krasko could appear again, but it is questionable as to whether there is any point in it.

One challenge in a story such as this was that the Doctor could not be the hero as usual. Rosa Parks had to be the star, and Vinette Robinson handled this very well in a story written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall. In many ways this felt more like an episode of Timeless than Doctor Who, with the stars concentrating on thwarting the efforts of someone who was trying to change the course of history.

The episode required an unusual victory, with the arrest of Rosa Parks hardly being a positive outcome unless viewed in its historical context of sparking protests. Graham was upset with being a part of this, being one of the whites on the bus who led to Rosa Parks being put in a situation where she was ordered to give up her seat, crying “No, no, I don’t want to be a part of this!” Graham actually seemed to have less understanding of racism and the civil rights movement than might be expected after he was married to a black woman. The episode even began with Graham first thinking of Elvis as opposed to racism when he learned they were in the south in the 1950’s.

Yaz clearly understood the significance of the events they were involved in: “I can be a police officer now because people like Rosa Parks fought those battles for me. For us. And in fifty-three years, they’ll have a black president as leader. Who knows where they’ll be fifty years after that? That’s proper change.”

As I mentioned above, last week’s episode of Doctor Who was structured more like an episode of Timeless than a typical episode of Doctor Who. Unfortunately Timeless will only be around for a tiny fraction of the time Doctor Who has been on the air. At least NBC has agreed to a television movie to wrap up the series, and the air date was announced last week. From Entertainment Weekly:

Timeless will air one last, well, time, on Thursday, Dec. 20 from 8 to 10 p.m. on NBC.

We’re told the episode is “an epic, unforgettable thrill ride through the past, present and future, with a healthy dose of Christmas spirit. Spread across three centuries and two continents, the finale will test Lucy, Wyatt and the entire Time Team like never before as they try to #SaveRufus, preserve history and put a stop to Rittenhouse once and for all.”

The next Short Trek jumps to one thousand years after Discovery, placing it beyond anything we have seen so far in the Star Trek time line. The above trailer has been released with the episode to be released on CBS All Access on November 8.

Following is the synopsis for the episode, written by Michael Chabron: After waking up in an unfamiliar sickbay, Craft (Aldis Hodge) finds himself onboard a deserted ship, and his only companion and hope for survival is an A.I. computer interface.

Not all of the upcoming series will be as big as a new series staring Patrick Stewart. Another new series has been announced, this time an animated comedy. From TrekMovie.com:

For the first time since the 1970s, Star Trek is getting animated. This morning CBS announced they have given a two-season order for Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is being developed by Mike McMahan, who recently won an Emmy for his work on the popular animated series Rick and Morty.

Star Trek: Lower Decks will be the first animated series for CBS All Access, and will be a half-hour comedy focused on the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships. There are no details yet on what Star Trek era the show will be set in.

Mike McMahan also wrote the upcoming Harry Mudd-centric Star Trek: Short Treks. A longtime fan, back in 2015 he published the officially licensed Warped: An Engaging Guide to the Never-Aired 8th Season, which arose from @tng_s8 his popular parody Twitter account about an imagined eighth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

We have seen some of the technology from Star Trek become real, and now there is an effort to make a working holodeck. From TrekMovie.com:

Roddenberry Entertainment, owned by Rod Roddenberry, son of Gene Roddenberry, is teaming up with a number of technology companies working to make the Star Trek holodeck a reality. The partnership will leverage Light Field Lab’s revolutionary headgear-free holographic displays and OTOY’s ORBX Technology, the industry’s first open source and royalty-free format for rendering media and real-time graphics on Light Field Lab’s holographic display panels.

Original holographic content for the new system is in active development, spearheaded by Ari Emanuel, CEO of Endeavor, and Rod Roddenberry, CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment, and also an executive producer on Star Trek: Discovery.

“The concept of the Holodeck was extremely important to my father as well as the Star Trek Universe,” said Rod Roddenberry about his late father, Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. “I want to see Star Trek’s technologies made real, and for the very first time, now believe that a real Holodeck is no longer limited to science fiction. Although it’s early days, my father would be beyond excited to know his vision is coming into reality thanks to OTOY’s trailblazing light field rendering, and the revolutionary holographic display systems created at Light Field Lab.”

The Orville was the last Star Trek related series billed as comedy before Lower Decks, but has turned out to be more. The above trailer for season two was released along with information on the release date. The season will premiere on December 30 after a football double header, and then return to Thursday nights.

ComicBook.com added:

The series is adding Jessica Szohr as a new series regular and Chris Johnson in a recurring role in its second season. A veteran Star Trekwriter was also brought on board as an additional executive producer, and multiple Star Trekactors will guest star.

Star Trek: The Next Generation star and director Jonathan Frakes will also contribute to the new season of The Orville. At a convention, Frakes spoke about the series in comparison to CBS All Access’s Star Trek: Discovery.

“The Star Trek that we have has really found its voice, and Discovery has really found its voice,” Frakes explained earlier this year. “And The Orville has filled in a void. For a lot of people, The Orville is their new Star Trek because it does tell stories like [The Next Generation], and it’s got wild humor in it.

“[Seth MacFarlane] clearly wanted [The Orville] to look like [The Next Generation].” Frakes added. “So, he hired the cinematographer [Marvin Rush] and the camera operator, and Brannon Braga, who wrote First Contact among other things that are fabulous. Robbie Duncan McNeill, one of our wonderful directors from Voyager, James Conway, who directed a bunch of great Next Gen episodes; he hired me. He filled the room with Next Gen people so that the show would look and feel like it. I think he did it.”

So far I’ve only watched the pilot for Camping, but the show looks like a terrible waste of the talents of Jennifer Garner and David Tennant. At least Garner’s role, while wasting her talents, was the dominant character in the pilot, while Tennant was totally wasted. Fortunately David Tennant will be appearing in other roles. This includes staring with Martin Sheen in an adaption of Neil Gaiman’s book Good Omens. Amazon has released the following trailer:

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Star Trek Shorts; Timeless Movie; Handmaid’s Tale; Veronica Mars

Doctor Who returns on October 7, and another trailer (video above) has been released. We will have a new Doctor and new companions. However, the new showrunner, Chris Chibnall, says we will not see other familiar faces:

In an interview with the Times Magazine, Chibnall revealed that the likes of Alex Kingston’s River Song, Michelle Gomez’s Missy (aka the female regeneration of longtime villain the Master) and the Paternoster Gang (including Neve McIntosh’s Madame Vastra and Dan Starkey’s Strax) won’t be included this time around, and while it’s not a massive shock – we might have heard by now if any of those figures were making a reappearance, and both Missy and River are technically dead at this point – it’s a definite sign of the vision Chibnall has for the show.

“I want this to be a recruiting year for Doctor Who to bring in that next generation of audiences,” he explained.

Chibnall also confirmed that other recurring monsters like the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Weeping Angels had been banished for the time being, with series 11 instead focusing on new baddies and threats to be enjoyed by new and old fans alike.

While it is hard to believe that we will not eventually see the return of classics like the Daleks, the Cybermen, and some version of the Master, I have wondered if Chibnall would use many of the characters which were creations of Steven Moffat. Perhaps there will be one similarity to the Moffat years. It was a common claim that Moffat lies–in order to attempt to have some surprises in this internet age when surprises are difficult. Syfy Wire has a good point that this could be similar misdirection from Chibnall:

The thing is, for those fans who have been around the block with the TARDIS once or twice, there’s every reason to believe this boast from Chibnall is actually a fib designed to protect spoilers and curb expectations. And that’s because the tools of misdirection, concealment, and outright lying are all time-honored traditions right before a new season of Doctor Who.

Way back in 2011, before Season 6 of the current run of Doctor Who, then-showrunner Steven Moffat made a similar claim, saying the Daleks would not appear in that season. “They aren’t going to make an appearance for a while… We thought it was about time to give them a rest,” Moffat said. And, then, in the finale of that season, “The Wedding Of River Song,” the Doctor fights a Dalek. True, the appearance of that Dalek was brief, but a big deal was made of the scene, complete with the Doctor calling his most dreaded enemy by name while looking right at the camera.

And then, there’s the supposed final appearance of River Song in the 2013 Season 7 episode “The Name of the Doctor.” Most fans considered her long-gone, and Moffat deflected the idea she would ever appear by saying that the former showrunner Russel T. Davies was going to write a raunchy episode called “Sex Storm” if she ever came back. Basically, the idea of a River Song return was laughed off by Moffat, publically. But then, in the 2015 Christmas Special, “The Husbands of River Song,” River Song returned, perhaps in her most poignant episode ever.

Steven Moffat also concealed the identity of Michelle Gomez’s character Missy back in 2014, insisting she was a new character to the show, when she was, in fact, not, and left it for the big Season 8 reveal that she was really the Master.

Jodie Whittaker discussed the controversy over being the first woman Doctor, and that she is confident that she is being paid the same as a male lead, in an interview with Variety:

When the new Doctor’s hood slowly dropped and Whittaker was revealed as the Time Lord on July 16, 2017, the world of sci-fi stood still for a moment, and fandom went a bit berserk. Not that Whittaker noticed, telling the BBC at the time that she’s not on social media. But “Avengers” and “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch struck a note for common sense. “It’s an alien,” Cumberbatch says. “Why can’t it be a woman? Why can’t it be any gender?”

Whittaker reports that the furor has since died down. “It’s not as [scary] as everyone maybe imagined when they took the hood down and it was a girl,” she tells Variety from Roath Lock, the studio in the Welsh capital of Cardiff where the series is shot.

The change, she says, is a long time coming: “It’s 2018. Women are not a genre. We are just the other half of the population, so to see us doing things should not be such a surprise.”

The gender debate strikes a personal chord. The leads Whittaker saw in series growing up were “white guys running about, saving the day doing really cool stuff,” while women were relegated to applauding their heroics.

When Whittaker started drama school at age 20, women were told their paths would be harder than for men because there were fewer roles. She hopes her Doctor can help remedy the problem. “It is a moment and I’m part of it and I’m proud of it,” she says. “But I can’t wait for it not to be a moment as well, so that when someone is going to drama school at 18 they don’t need to think, ‘There aren’t any jobs for me.’”

And with the gender pay gap also in the spotlight, Whittaker is confident a “Crown” moment isn’t coming. “I absolutely know I am not being paid less than any other Doctor,” she says. “This show is not the show that’s going to do that and have that revelation be the sidebar

The Wrap quotes Whittaker talking about role models:

“It’s someone’s opinion that boys can’t look up to women,” she said. “Role models and heroes come in all different shapes and sizes, and I’ve never needed to look like mine for me to be able to relate to them.”

Whittaker added that “Doctor Who” has always been “an inclusive” show, and that it’s “about embracing change.” “It’s not making the show to exclude, it’s making the show to include,” she said. “And the fact that a woman is playing an alien over a man playing an alien kind of is irrelevant to the qualifications. It’s playing an alien, and so the gender is irrelevant.”

We have also seen controversy when others were first cast to play the Doctor. When Matt Smith first started to play the Doctor, some complained that he was too young. Radio Times reports that it is possible Smith might have played a different role instead as Merlin. However, Smith ultimately lost the role to Colin Morgan as Smith was felt to be too old:

“Casting Merlin was really really hard because you needed to find an actor who had a really big, broad playing range, but also could handle the fact that it’s not naturalistic drama,” Johnny Capps, the co-creator and executive producer of the BBC fantasy series, tells RadioTimes.com in our in-depth feature on the making of Merlin, which will be available to read this weekend.

“So you couldn’t have an actor who was just going to play it in an incredibly earnest, real way. You wanted somebody that could find the truth, but also find the truth as it exists in that kind of fantasy world.”

And on the final shortlist for that part alongside Colin Morgan? Matt Smith, who apparently got down to the last two actors to play the boy wizard.

“Interestingly, in the early days Matt Smith was in the frame for Merlin,” recalls Julian Murphy, another co-creator and executive producer on the magical series.

“I think there’s a certain kind of actor who has the lightness and skill to play that sort of family drama, and I think both Colin Morgan and Matt Smith are that kind of actor. It’s a mercurial quality. And they’re light on their feet. That’s the skill they had.”

However, in the end Colin Morgan clinched it for one simple reason – the casting team felt like the younger Morgan would be better suited to play the adolescent wizard than Smith.

“We just felt that he was too old – not that he wasn’t great,” Murphy said. “And he was too old, really.”

Further information has been released about the Short Treks on CBS All Access this fall. From Deadline:

Runaway – Thursday, Oct. 4

Onboard the U.S.S. Discovery, Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) encounters an unexpected visitor in need of help. However, this unlikely pair may have more in common than meets the eye.

Written by Jenny Lumet & Alex Kurtzman. Directed by Maja Vrvilo.

Calypso – Thursday, Nov. 8

After waking up in an unfamiliar sickbay, Craft (Aldis Hodge) finds himself on board a deserted ship, and his only companion and hope for survival is an A.I. computer interface.

Teleplay by Michael Chabon. Story by Sean Cochran and Michael Chabon. Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi.

The Brightest Star – Thursday, Dec. 6

Before he was the first Kelpien to join Starfleet, Saru (Doug Jones) lived a simple life on his home planet of Kaminar with his father and sister. Young Saru, full of ingenuity and a level of curiosity uncommon among his people, yearns to find out what lies beyond his village, leading him on an unexpected path.

Written by Bo Yeon Kim & Erika Lippoldt. Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski.

The Escape Artist – Thursday, Jan. 3

Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson), back to his old tricks of stealing and double-dealing, finds himself in a precarious position aboard a hostile ship – just in time to try out his latest con.

Written by Michael McMahan. Directed by Rainn Wilson.

Rainn Wilson discussed the shorts, along with his previous appearances on Star Trek: DiscoveryChoose Your Pain and Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.

You’ll be acting in and directing one of the Short Treks installments…

There’s going to be that 10, 15% of fans that go, “Oh, no way. I’m not going to watch a short film about Star Trek. This isn’t how it works.” But I love that they’re breaking molds and breaking new ground, and it’s a terrific mini Harry Mudd adventure. It goes to a lot of different places, from different aliens to a  lot of fun situations, with some great twists and turns, and I get to direct it and star in it. It’s like a dream come true. It’s like, “Write me a dream job.”

Is this a stepping stone to directing more?

Possibly, yeah. This is a great way to cut my teeth as a director. I directed three episodes of The Office, and I directed some short films and digital shorts, but this is special effects and visual effects. I’ve got my work cut out for me

In other Star Trek news, TrekMovie.com has the plot outline of a proposed story for Star Trek: The Next Generation which would have had Spock meet a younger version of himself:

They were going to go back to what was now the most forbidden place in the galaxy, which was that time portal, and they were going to have to actually violate the rules about non-interference, and it was going to create a Pandora’s box with a whole terrible, unforeseen thing which only the Spocks from the two different time periods coming together could actually fix.

Collider spoke with Eric Kripke about the upcoming Timeless movie to wrap up the series:

“It’s basically the equivalent of two episodes. As a matter of fact, we tried, at one point, to do one long historical period to last over two hours, and then eventually, Arika wisely said, ‘Why are we doing this? Why don’t we just do what we always do, which is spend an hour in two different time periods?’ And so, though they’re connected and though it’s one long mythology story that plays over both, they really are, in effect, two time periods of Timeless that they visit, and we’ll shoot each one. We shot 8-day episodes, and this will be a 16-day shoot. It will be exactly like two more episodes of the show.”

Kripke did leave open the possibility of continuing the story (in the unlikely event that someone picks up the show):

The short answer is that I don’t know if there’s anything we can do that will make them finally say, ‘Oh, that’s great! I’m gonna close that chapter of my life.’ There’s a certain amount of shocking turns, and we tried to let it build to something and provide a certain amount of closure, and give you a sense of where these characters go. We tried to put a period at the end of the sentence, but not so much that the door isn’t open for further adventures, down the road.”

This “sexy” Handmaid’s costume really misses the point of The Handmaid’s Tale. Yandy wound up pulling the costume from their site in response to the inevitable complaints from everyone who has any idea what the show is about.

The Handmaid’s Tale received multiple Emmy nominations. TV Guide interviewed the producer and asked about the third season:

TV Guide caught up with executive producer Bruce Miller on the red carpet of the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, and what he had to say about June’s (Elisabeth Moss) upcoming storyline has us hungry for a closer look at the underground resistance within Gilead. “I think overall Season 3 is a lot more rebellious, outwardly rebellious than Seasons 1 and 2. I think June’s taken a lot, and I think it’s time for her to give back some,” Miller said.

Last we saw June, she was handing her newborn baby off to Emily (Alexis Bledel) so they could escape to Canada, while she stayed behind to try to find her other daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake). It was a bold move, but does that mean June’s officially joining the resistance? Miller didn’t confirm how active a part June will take in the fight against Gilead (though we hope she gives them everything she’s got and more), but he did hint that her mindset will have changed drastically when we return to her story in Season 3.

“I think I’m most excited by what happens to June now that she’s chosen to go back to Gilead, that she isn’t forced,” Miller said. “That’s a huge, powerful choice. What changes in your psychology when you’ve chosen to be in a place like that and you’ve chosen to stay on the inside and fight as opposed to go to the outside? I think that’s a very different psychology so that’s been very interesting.”

 Sc

The Veronica Mars revival is now official on Hulu with the show premiering in 2019. Deadline has this plot synopsis:

In the revival, spring breakers are getting murdered in Neptune, thereby decimating the seaside town’s lifeblood tourist industry. After Mars Investigations is hired by the parents of one of the victims to find their son’s killer, Veronica is drawn into an epic eight-episode mystery that pits the enclave’s wealthy elites, who would rather put an end to the month-long bacchanalia, against a working class that relies on the cash influx that comes with being the West Coast’s answer to Daytona Beach.

SciFi Weekend: Pike and Spock on Discovery; Why The Enterprise Looks Different; Robert Picardo Returns To The Orville; Steven Moffat Fills In Plot Holes In Doctor Who; Legends of Tomorrow; The Arrow; Jessica Jones Renewed; Killing Eve

Anson Mount has been cast to play Captain Christopher Pike on Star Trek: Discovery. We don’t know much of the Enterprise will be seen on Discovery next season, but did get some clues from Jonathan Frakes, who will be directing two episodes next season. Last season he was the first to reveal that Discovery would be going to the Mirror universe. Frakes more recently revealed at the El Paso Comic Con that he will be directing the second episode of season two. The episode will include both Captain Pike and Spock.

The catch is that Spock will appear in a flashback of his childhood years, including a view of Michael Burnham. There is no word about whether an adult Spock will ever appear on Discovery, but the producers have expressed reservations about recasting Spock in past interviews. I suspect that they will be keeping adult Spock off screen, whether or not he is aboard the Enterprise at the time, but it is also possible they are hiding their plans.

We also learned why the Enterprise looked slightly different than the original Enterprise in the season finale of Discovery, to the frustration of some purists. (My review of the season one finale was here). The reasons came down to the changes in ownership rights to Star Trek, requiring these changes.  John Eaves, one of the designers for Discovery, explained the process on Facebook last week:

Back in April of 2017 the task of the Enterprise making an appearance came to be and work was to start right away. The task started with the guideline that the Enterprise for Discovery had to be 25% different otherwise production would have most likely been able to use the original design from the 60’s but that couldn’t happen so we took Jefferies original concepts and with great care tried to be as faithful as possible. We had the advantage of a ten year gap in Trek history to retro the ship a bit with elements that could be removed and replaced somewhere in the time frame of Discovery and the Original series…

The changes between the two enterprises are as follows. The new ship has more TMP struts than TOS struts, the main hull and nacelles are shorter and more plump, the deflector dish now has one antenna vs two, the impulse module is thinner from side to side, the overall ship has a heavier plating detail, and the exterior has a more broader range in lighting and nacelle glow. I am sure there are subtle differences but I have not seen any more than you have to make a more detailed comparison so look at the calendar as concept art and all will be good and hope this quick breakdown helps.

He added in a comment:

After Enterprise, properties of Star Trek ownership changed hands and was divided,, so what was able to cross TV shows up to that point changed and a lot of the crossover was no longer allowed. That is why when JJ’s movie came along everything had to be different. The alternate universe concept was what really made that movie happen in a way as to not cross the new boundaries and give Trek a new footing to continue.

If the recent attempt by CBS to purchase Viacom had been successful, there could have been a resolution of some of the problems caused by this division in ownership rights. Perhaps Vulcan could be saved.

Update: After multiple blogs and media outlets posted similar stories, CBS issued a statement saying that the changes to the Enterprise were for creative and not legal reasons, and that CBS does have the rights to use the original design of the Enterprise.

Also in Star Trek news, Star Trek: Discovery has been nominated for a Peabody Award.  Star Trek: The Next Generation previously won a Peabody in its first season, for the episode The Big Goodbye.

ComicBook.com has a look at Robert Picardo’s return to The Orville during the second season and recaps his appearance during the first season.

Radio Times reports that Steven Moffat has cleared up a few plot holes from Doctor Who in his novelization of The Day of the Doctor. This includes sort of bringing the Peter Cushing movies into cannon. No, he did not add yet another unknown Doctor like the War Doctor. Instead he brought in the movies:

In one of the new novel’s more meta moments, Moffat also explains away one of the greatest canonical issues in Doctor Who history – where, exactly, do the 1960s Peter Cushing films fit in?

For those not in the know, these films (called Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 AD) were a remake of some early William Hartnell Doctor Who stories, starring Star Wars and Hammer horror icon Cushing as a human scientist who actually invented the Tardis (losing the “the” to become just Tardis) and battled alien nasties.

Obviously, Cushing can’t be counted among the official line-up of Doctors, but fondness for the films has led Who fans to keep him in their hearts – and now the new book finally explains his place in the canon.

According to Moffat’s Day of the Doctor adaptation, the Cushing Doctor Who films do exist in the main Whoniverse, with the actor playing a fictionalised version of the real-life Doctor with the blessing of the man himself. The new book shows posters from Cushing’s films actually hanging in the Black Archive, which Moffat has previously said he wanted to do in the episode that aired on TV – plans which were scuppered when the BBC were unable to get the rights to the artwork.

“Seen them? He loves them,” UNIT boss Kate Stewart explains to Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald in the episode when discussing the films.

“He loaned Peter Cushing a waistcoat for the second one, they were great friends. Though we only realised that when Cushing [started] showing up in movies made long after his death.”

That last bit, of course, is a reference to how the late Cushing was included in 2016’s Star Wars prequel Rogue One using cutting-edge CGI – though apparently it was just Tardis trickery instead.

Other questions answered include earlier meetings between River Song and the Doctor and why the stories about the first two Doctors were in black and white.

Legends of Tomorrow co-showrunner Phil Klemmer discussed last week’s season finale with TV Line and gave a hint about next season in a question about Mallus:

TVLINE | What is his agenda? What does he “want” most in the world?
He is a sort of bellwether of bad guys to come in Season 4. Up until this point, we’ve been dealing with earthly and historical bad guys, and we certainly had fun with all of that, but this year we dabbled in the world of the occult, through Damien Darhk and his enterprises. But you know that Constantine is coming onto the show [as a regular] next season, so we want to go deeper, we want Mallus to be used as “the tip of the iceberg.” He is not human, and we want to start playing with the idea that Earth hasn’t always belonged just to our kind.

We want to get into the world of fantastic myths and monsters a bit more. It’s kind of presumptuous for anybody to think they have ownership of this Earth or any part of it. Not to get deep into immigration metaphors, but Mallus is an ancient evil, he doesn’t understand humans and doesn’t understand why we have any claim to controlling this world of ours.

Of course this will work out well with the addition of Matt Ryan (Constantine) to the cast.

Arrow still has a few weeks to go, but I do like the idea of Oliver going more solo as we saw last week (as long as Felicity is still around, of course). Marc Guggenheim discussed the upcoming finale with Entertainment Weekly. ComicBook.com summarized:

“It’s gonna be interesting,” Guggenheim said. “It’s very, you know, I’ve been saying it’s an unconventional kind of finale. It still feels very much like a season finale. When I first started talking about it we hadn’t written the darn thing yet, but now we’ve written it and we’re in prep on it and on Monday we start shooting. And it’s a real game-changer.”

To a certain extent, the season five finale was also a game-changer for the show with Adrian Chase/Prometheus’ (Josh Segarra) end game resulting in Lian Yiu being blown up, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) becoming a single parent after the murder of his son’s mother, as well as setting into motion some of the events this season — Thea (Willa Holland) in a coma, Oliver trying to find a work-life-vigilante balance, and the splintering of Team Arrow. However, what’s coming for the season six finale will go even further and Guggenheim teased that the aftermath of “Lian Yu” as seen in the season six premiere will play a role as they’ve been plotting up to this game-changer from premiere.

“The show fundamentally changes in the finale and I think you’ll see there’s stuff that we were seeding back in the season premiere that finally comes to fruition here in the season finale, so you’ll see that there was a very specific plan to the entire season,” Guggenheim said. “We always knew that this is where we were headed to. So, hopefully in subtle ways have been teasing this all along without you realizing it. My hope is that people are surprised, but also look back and are like oh, that was kind of the only way that they could have ended the season.”

There are also reports that Colton Haynes is returning to Arrow, which is a bit odd after Thea left the show to supposedly go with Roy.

Jessica Jones has officially been renewed for a third season on Netflix.

HBO has renewed Silicon Valley for a sixth season

SciFi Weekend has frequently gone beyond science fiction. At present two of the hottest new shows on are not science fiction, but instead both deal with killers, the reluctant hitman on Barry and the much more enthusiastic assassin played by Jodie Comer on Killing Eve. A discussion with the creator of Killing Eve,  Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and its stars,  Sandra Oh, and Jodie Comer, can be seen at Vulture.

One reason Killing Eve works so well is by the acting job done by Jodie Comer. Collider has an interview with her:

Will we get to know more about why she ended up in this profession?

COMER: Yeah, you do. As the story goes on, you definitely do see a little bit more of an insight into that. As the investigation progresses and they find out more information, you do learn a little bit about her. I don’t think her past excuses what she does, but I think it definitely gives you a little bit more of an understanding, as to who she is and where she’s come from, definitely.

It’s one thing to kill people and it’s another thing entirely to enjoy it, which she seems to do.

COMER: Yeah, absolutely! It’s like a life force for her. I feel like her job gives her purpose, for sure, and she wants to do a good job. She’s had so many conversations with Konstantin (Kim Bodnia), where she’s like, “Did you see what I did?! Did you see how good that was?! Are you impressed with me?! Because I’m impressed with me!” She’s so self-confident. She’s brilliant.

Do you think that will also get her in trouble?

COMER: Yeah, absolutely! I think she become quite careless. Konstantin is certainly in charge of her, and he sees this going on, so she loses a little bit of her independence and she can’t deal with that. Konstantin says, “Listen, you do what you’re told, and you don’t ask any questions.” She doesn’t abide by that, and there are consequences to that. What’s so lovely about their relationship is that he’s the only person who understands her and sees through her games. He’s like a father figure, in a lot of ways. It’s nice to see her actually have what seems to be a genuine relationship with someone, who she may actually care about, maybe.

Do you think she would still kill him, if need be?

COMER: I don’t know. I wouldn’t put anything past her, at this point.

Does she have a moral code? Is there somewhere that she would draw the line?

COMER: First off, I think she puts herself first, so if her life was threatened, then she would absolutely do anything. I think her independence is what’s most important to her, and why that is, you will discover.

How threatened does she feel by being looked into?

COMER: At the beginning, she thinks it’s just a game. She feels invincible. Maybe there’s a realization that they are actually getting information. She doesn’t speak Russian anymore. That’s the part of her life that she wants nothing to do with, and yet it’s getting dragged up by everybody else. That is not something that sits well with her, at all. What she does about it, you’ll have to see.

What does Villanelle think of Eve, and what can we expect from how that dynamic develops?

COMER: Villanelle lives this luxurious life, and I think she’s intrigued at how ordinary Eve is. She lives her life with her husband. The narcissist in Villanelle is like, “This chick wants to know about me? I’m gonna show her!” She wants to make sure that Eve gets to her. She wants to make sure that they meet. It’s a funny relationship. I feel like Villanelle is seeking something from Eve. Nothing material, but spiritually, there’s something. There’s a connection there that they’re both not sure of, but it’s undeniable. It’s there. There is a connection with Eve, on a personal level for Villanelle, because she reminds her of someone who is very close to her, in her past. It brings all of these emotions up.

Above is the official trailer to Killing Eve. At present it is still easy to catch up with both of these shows if you have not seen them. The second episode of Killing Eve airs tonight and the first episode remains available on line. The fourth episode of Barry will be on HBO later tonight, but as episodes are only slightly over thirty minutes it won’t take long to catch up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like White Christmas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An affectionate ribbing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery Does Groundhog Day; Holodeck Technology On Discovery; The Orville; The Flash; Stranger Things; Doctor Who News

Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad  was the Groundhog Day episode of Star Trek: Discovery, along with featuring the return of Harry Mudd. This has become a common theme in science fiction, including the Next Generation episode Cause and Effect, the fourth episode of season three of Dark Matter, and the movie Edge of Tomorrow.

For these stories to work there will be someone who realizes what is going on, generally to learn from it. This version had two such people. Harry Mudd intentionally used the time loop to learn how to take over Discovery and what was special about it. Having Stamets be the only crew member to realize what was happening worked well in light of his connection to the spore drive.

Having become a common science fiction trope made it easy to progress the story rapidly with viewers understanding with only brief views of each repetition. Stamets first got Burnham’s attention by speaking along with her, knowing what she would say. That led to her telling him a secret which nobody else would know so that she would believe him the next time.

If I had any complaints about the episode is that once they established that they could make plans for the next time they had to progress rapidly off screen. By the final time they had multiple people involved and doing quite a lot for only thirty minutes. They did have a plausible explanation for beating Mudd, who took over essential systems but was defeated by the use of non-essential systems such as the Captain’s chair.

The episode ended with Harry Mudd closer to the situation we saw him in on the original show, stuck with his wife Stella. As much as he hates Stella, he did get off pretty lightly considering how many times he murdered Lorca and others. Of course in the final time loop he did not commit the murders and probably could not be convicted of those, he was still trying to steal a starship. Fitting into Star Trek continuity won out here.

We saw more daily life on Discovery, including a party which was much livelier than the typical party seen on The Next Generation. We Trying To Stay Alive fit in especially well. The episode progressed the relationship between Michael Burnham and Ash Tyler, except that they will not remember most of it. There were no clear clues regarding the theory that Tyler is actually a Klingon spy, but if he was I wonder whether he might have taken advantage of the situation to take control of Discovery and turn it over to the Klingons. Perhaps he has a longer game, influenced by the rivalries between different Klingon Houses. Another idea I had is that maybe when he had to give up everything, this included his memories. He might be a sleeper agent without realizing it, and will not regain his memories until a later date, allowing him to more easily fit into Discovery’s crew.

There was little development for Lorca. He did not do anything absolutely evil, but it was amusing to see how he differed from the typical Star Fleet captain in expressing how he did not care what was done regarding the space whale.

There have been some complaints about Discovery appearing to have more advanced technology than they should, including the holographic gallery on last week’s episode. One of the writers of the episode, Ted Sullivan, was interviewed by TrekMovie.com:

The holographic shooting gallery has spurred a lot of fan discussion, can you explain how the Discovery holographic gallery differs from a TNG era holodeck?

Look, they never physically interact with the Klingons. Yes, Tyler “hits a virtual button,” but you do the same thing playing Star Trek: Bridge Crew on the PS4. What you’re seeing here is a step toward the development of holodecks. It’s not a fully realized holodeck.

We talked about this a lot in the room. It’s honestly not that far removed from today’s VR experience. Are we supposed to pretend that technology just disappeared or stopped evolving? This is basically a high tech laser tag. And honestly – it was in The Animated Series. So I don’t get what the big controversy is.

Technology doesn’t just suddenly materialize overnight. You evolve slowly from punchcard machines to desktop computers to laptops to smartphones. What you’re seeing here is a step in the journey of the development of holodecks. That’s all.

That still leaves open the question as to why we never saw anything comparable on the original show. Presumably they had them but we never saw them.

The Monkey Cage column at The Washington Post discussed how The new ‘Star Trek’ has gotten darker and more pessimistic — just like our politics.

Last week we learned that CBS All Access has renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a second season and this week we learned that The Orville has also been renewed. I am glad that for a second year we will have two versions of Star Trek. One dark and one light. One closer to the original show, and one based more on The Next Generation.

Into The Fold could largely be one of those episodes of STTNG which concentrated on a limited number of crew members beyond the Captain. Being written by Brannon Braga and Andre Bormanis certainly accounted for this feeling so much like such an episode. Humor also works best in episodes involving Isaac (as was the case on a previous episode). These scenes work best with Isaac as they seem less forced, with Isaac struggling to understand humans in a manner comparable to Data.

My favorite scene had Isaac, seeing Dr. Finn having difficulties with her two young children, advise her that on his planet “when a program is not working properly it is deleted.” He then offered to vaporize the children. By the end of the episode he was helping to save the children and even said he had grown fond of them.

Like on Discovery this week, we also saw the crew listening to music. Discovery won on this comparison, with the crew of the Orville listening to Barry Manilow. To be fair, this was actually Seth MacFarlane’s way to mock Manilow.

Just as this episode looks into specific characters. Screen Rant looked into the characters with a set of interviews.

Elsewhere on genre television this week, the Elongated Man was an excellent addition to The Flash. Screen Rant has background information on the character.

Legends of Tomorrow also had a fun episode, between seeing Zari join the crew and the time travel adventure to save Ray Palmer from being killed as a child.

The third season of Stranger Things is already in the works but probably will not be seen until late in 2018. The ending of the second season certainly left open many possibilities. There are many questions about events of the first two seasons (some of which are discussed here), but they also had enough of an ending to move on to different stories if they like.

One thing which made the second season so bingeable was how most episodes ended with a major event which led directly into the next episode. The one difference was in the controversial seventh episode, which had Eleven go off elsewhere. The Duffer Brothers have defended the episode against some of the criticism. Personally I liked the episode as it addressed the question of whether people with powers like Eleven would abuse their powers, providing Eleven with a means to confront the issue.

Stranger Things has multiple pop culture references. IndieWire has a guide.

In Doctor Who news, Jenny, the Doctor’s Daughter, is back, in a set of audio dramas from Big Finish.

I would love to see River Song meet Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor. I don’t know if that will happen, but Alex Kingston will reprise the role and meet two additional Doctors in radio dramas.

Bernard Cribbin, who played Wilfred Mott, Donna Noble’s grandfather, has expressed interest in returning to travel with the Doctor when Jodie Whittaker takes over.

Dalek operator Nicholas Pegg has been fired for putting a crude message in a column he also wrote. The Mirror reports:

Under pen-name The Watcher, he launched an extraordinary attack on BBC Worldwide , which distributes the sci-fi show, and Panini, who publish the magazine.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, Pegg has included a coded message in the current edition of Doctor Who Magazine.

The first letter of each sentence in his column spells out, “Panini and BBC Worldwide are c***s.”

The digital version of the page has been altered and Pegg will not be returning to either job.

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: Twin Peaks Finale; Star Trek Discovery Tackles The Trump Era; The Orville; Doctor Who News

As Damon Lindelof said during the Twin Peaks panel at Comic-Con, “Without Twin Peaks, there would be no Sopranos, no X-Files, no True Detective, no Fargo, no Lost…” continuing to list the shows which have changed television.  Twin Peaks: The Return went beyond these in being unusual and something we have never seen before on television. We saw exactly what David Lynch would do with eighteen hours in which he could do whatever he desired, unedited. Some who are huge fans of David Lynch had great reviews. Television reviewers, probably along with most viewers, were more negative, expecting something more like television, and seeing a need for at least some boundaries on the imagination of David Lynch.

It is difficult to truly recap what occurred in either the series or two-hour finale last week. The series was slow, and often confusing. It included fake versions of major characters, including three different versions of Dale Cooper (or at least those who looked like him), and time travel. We also saw Diane, the off screen secretary from the original series, but of course things were not as they seemed with her. Perhaps most disappointing was how little there was of Audrey Horne, and with major questions about her left unanswered. An earlier disappointment was that Madeline Zima’s character, who I initially thought might be the Audrey Horne of the revival, was killed shortly after she took her clothes off.  Many things throughout the series seemed to make no sense, but to criticize the show for this would miss the point in a David Lynch creation.

In the finale, Cooper went back in time to prevent the murder of Laura Palmer, and was as almost as confused as the viewers when the series ended with him asking, “What year is this?” This was followed by a scream from Laura Palmer, who perhaps was recalling her murder in another time. If the interpretation at IndieWire is correct, the better question for Cooper to ask might have been whether he was in an entirely new time line (perhaps created when he attempted to save Laura). The episode then ended, leaving many questions open. Kyle MacLachlan has said there have been no discussions related to another season, and I wonder how many of those of us who made it through eighteen episodes of this series would do so again.

We also might ask, as Dale Cooper, did, what year this is when watching television. Just as we recently returned to Twin Peaks, soon we will be watching Star Trek once again. In the original series, produced during the Cold War, the Klingons represented the Soviet Union. Entertainment Weekly reports that Star Trek Discovery will tackle the political divide in the Trump era:

Star Trek: Discovery will continue the venerated sci-fi tradition of using a fantastic setting to tackle real-world issues — only in a bigger way than any Trekseries has done before.

The upcoming CBS All Access drama tells the serialized story of a war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. The show is set a decade before 1966’s original series — which premiered 51 years ago today — during which the Federation and Klingons were in a Cold War standoff that reflected yesteryear’s U.S.-Soviet relations. In Discovery, war breaks out and the Klingons leading the charge have some ideological ideas inspired by the 2016 electoral divide.

“The allegory is that we really started working on the show in earnest around the time the election was happening,” showrunner Aaron Harberts says. “The Klingons are going to help us really look at certain sides of ourselves and our country. Isolationism is a big theme. Racial purity is a big theme. The Klingons are not the enemy, but they do have a different view on things. It raises big questions: Should we let people in? Do we want to change? There’s also the question of just because you reach your hand out to someone, do they have to take it? Sometimes, they don’t want to take it. It’s been interesting to see how the times have become more of a mirror than we even thought they were going to be.”

Of course we have already seen another genre show deal with a Trump presidency–Game of Thrones with King Joffrey.

Discovery only takes place ten years before the events of the original show, meaning that we already know what some of the characters were doing at the time. TrekMovie.com reviewed where the TOS characters were.

There will be another show paying homage to Star Trek premiering tonight, Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville. It was originally billed as a spoof, but many reviews are negative, along with saying it is neither a true drama or comedy. Vox compares it (negatively) to fan fiction. I had planned to summarize some of the other reviews, but now see that The Mary Sue has already posted excerpts from several.

Once I heard that Jodie Whittaker was to become the thirteenth Doctor, I had hoped that River Song would get a chance to meet her. Alex Kingston also expressed interest in returning to Doctor Who for such a meeting a Dragon Con:

…she also mentioned that she was going to “call the BBC and let them know River is ready to meet her second wife.” To which, of course, the audience exploded. “Why not?  She (River) said it!”

Billie Piper also says that Rose would be in love with the thirteenth doctor.

It was previously announced that the Doctor Who spinoff Class would not be renewed for a second season, but the possibility was left open that it might continue if it did well in the United States, where it did not air for several months after on in the UK. The cancellation is now official.

Sian Brooke, who played Eurus in season four of Sherlock, teases the possibility of a fifth season. Hopefully it really is made.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian had additional comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Landau died at age 89. Deadline reports:

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, 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, Extremis; Agents of SHIELD Season Finale; Legends of Tomorrow; The Flash; Arrow; Star Trek Discovery; Seth MacFarlane’s Spoof, The Orville; Gotham; The Magicians; Twin Peaks

Extremis was the best episode of Doctor Who so far this season, and it is just the first part of a three part story. There was a lot of misdirection in the episode, which is part of what made it so interesting.

The episode appeared to have two different story lines, but the conclusion revealed there were actually three. There were the flashbacks to the execution and the scenes with the Doctor outside the vault. It wasn’t reveled until the end that all of the other events were actually taking place in the shadow world, their version of the Matrix.

Even the execution scene had misdirection, as it was unclear whether the Doctor was intended to be the victim or executioner. Once it finally became clear that it was Missy to be executed, things did not turn out as planned. This gave plenty of opportunity for Missy to be Missy: “Please, I’ll do anything. Let me live. Teach me how to be good. I’m your friend.” She also had some words for her captors: “Get off, I’ve just been executed. Show a little respect” and “Knock yourself out. Actually, do that. Knock yourself right out.”

I am glad that they didn’t drag out the reveal as to who is in the vault any longer as pretty much everyone probably realizes by now that it is one of the versions of the Master. The Doctor is keeping his word to watch over her body, even if he mislead Missy’s captors in not going through with executing her. His decision to spare her life is consistent with the relationship which as developed between the two.

Any episode in which the events are in some way not real is vulnerable to criticism, but I was willing to accept it here. Being only the first part of a three part story helps minimize the problem the events being in the shadow world. There is also a legitimate pay off to the situation in which the Doctor outsmarted the Monks and got out a warning by email to the “real” Doctor. Or as the Doctor in the shadow world put it, “I’m doing what everybody does when the world’s in danger. I’m calling the Doctor.”

This reveal also allowed for some other genre references. This included the second Star Trek reference in two weeks, this time with Nardole saying the shadow world is like “like the Holodeck on Star Trek, or a really posh VR without a headset.” I also liked the explanation of people seeming to commit suicide when they realized the truth: “it’s like Super Mario figuring out what’s going on, deleting himself from the game, because he’s sick of dying.” There was also a reference to Harry Potter and portions of the episode felt like they were out of a Dan Brown novel.

Besides the simulation leading to the Doctor getting the warning about the invasion, it also gave the Doctor reason to encourage Bill to ask Penny out, reassuring her that she is not out of her league, knowing how it worked in the shadow world. While it only happened in the shadow world, presumably this accurately reflected the real world with Bill’s foster mother not realizing she is a lesbian, and therefore not realizing what was going on between the two girls. This included the exchange with Bill’s foster mother telling her “I have very strict rules about men” and Bill replying, “Probably not as strict as mine.”

The shadow world also gave us scenes at the Vatican, briefly at the Pentagon, at CERN, and with a dead president. This led the Doctor to wonder, “Particle physicists and priests–What could scare them both?” Plus there was the Pope in Bill’s bedroom: “Doctor, here’s a tip. When I’m on a date, when that rare and special thing happens in my real life, do not, do not under any circumstances put the Pope in my bedroom.”

There is plenty of additional grounds to nitpick, such as questioning whether a simulation so complex could not come up with a better random number generator. I am far more willing to accept potential plot holes which come up with thinking about an episode as opposed to glaring ones which cause a distraction while watching, such as with Knock Knock.

Continuity was also handled fairly well in this episode. They might have initially had the Doctor regain his vision at the end of Oxygen, but it worked out better to extend his blindness into this episode. This could also play into the upcoming regeneration, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if he encountered the Weeping Angels while unable to see.

The episode also showed how Nardole remained with the Doctor following the events of The Husbands of River Song, with him there at River’s request to prevent the Doctor from taking extreme actions following her death. Nardole even used a passage from her diary to influence the Doctor. While not seen on camera, Steven Moffat has said that one of the stories in his mind that he will not get a chance to tell is of the Doctor having Nardole going to the library after the events of The Forest of the Dead to recover River’s diary. There are also rumors that River will be returning this season. If so, this, along with her pictures on the Doctor’s desk, provides a good set up.

Agents of SHIELD also spent a lot of time in a version of the Matrix this season before the framework was destroyed in the season finale. IGN spoke with the producers about that space cliff hanger and that new role for Coulson:

IGN: Going back to the cliffhanger, that diner scene at first very much reminded me of the shawarma scene at the end of Avengers. Was there ever version of that sequence that didn’t have the cliffhanger, in case for whatever reason you didn’t get picked up?

Bell: It’s what it is. There was not a nice quiet shawarma version of it where they go, “Oh, it’s nice to be together.” It was always supposed to be, “Oh look, we’re finally together. Oh no, something bad happens.”

IGN: Which is sort of how it always goes for these guys, right?

Bell: It is!

Whedon: Man, SHIELD is not the coziest place to work, you know? I think they have a pretty good health plan, but other than that, it’s kind of up in the air all the time.

IGN: Well I hope so. They do keep coming back from the dead or near death at all points. I am excited we’re going back to space, though! Can you say how long it’s been in the show between when the team gets taken and when we pick back up with Coulson at the end?

Whedon: [silence] We can’t say.

Bell: We acknowledge there’s a time jump…

IGN: Going back a little bit, how long have you been planning for Coulson to be the Ghost Rider — and what was Clark Gregg’s reaction to finding out that news?

Bell: To say he was happy, it would be an understatement.

Whedon: I think what he said when we told him was, “I didn’t think I could geek out more,” but he was like, “It seems I can.”

Bell: Yeah, that was what he said.

IGN: Can you clarify: did Coulson make a deal with the devil to take on the Ghost Rider identity, or will we find out a bit more of the logistics of that deal that’s alluded to soon?

Whedon: We’ll find out more about it, but I think it’s safe to say he made a deal with the Ghost Rider, or the powers behind him. We’ll see what it all means, but it didn’t come for free. It wasn’t like, “Hey bro, can I borrow that? Can I just borrow that Ghost Rider thing for a second?”

Bell: Right, like borrowing a T-shirt.

IGN: Are you leaving the door open for more Ghost Rider?

Whedon: Well, first of all, he’s not dead — not that that means anything in our world. He also has shown that he has the ability to move in and out of realms and dimensions or planets or wherever he’s going. He’s a threat to pop up at any moment. Whether or not he will, I can’t say, but he’s out there…

IGN: I want to talk a bit about Fitz and Simmons. You’ve put them through the wringer over the past couple seasons, and my working theory is it’s because Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge always deliver such fantastic performances of those traumatizing events. Considering what they’ve gone through this year, are you considering them as a couple who will remain rocks for each other, or are you still planning to throw a bunch more terrible things at them?

Whedon: First of all, it’s the nature of the world. I think even this year with the flashbacks of May and Coulson and the rules we’ve stated through many seasons, that there are rules about agents not getting together for this very reason. Your love will be tested. That’s sort of the nature of the business. I think it’s safe to say from these past two episodes that they love each other and won’t love anyone else, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to repair their relationship and all that pain in between. One would hope that they could because everybody roots for FitzSimmons and the fans do and we do. We love the two actors, and so I think that seeing them together is a reward that the audience deserves, but how that happens, we’ll have to wait and see if it does.

Bell: I think the thing is people can have the forever love, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they get to end up together. They might, but you don’t know.

Whedon: But theirs is a forever love.

The CW Network has released a synopsis for the third season of Legends of Tomorrow, including the return of Rip Hunter and establishment of the Time Bureau, after they fractured time in the season finale:

After the defeat of Eobard Thawne and his equally nefarious Legion of Doom, the Legends face a new threat created by their actions at the end of last season. In revisiting a moment in time that they had already participated in, they have essentially fractured the timeline and created anachronisms – a scattering of people, animals, and objects all across time! Our team must find a way to return all the anachronisms to their original timelines before the time stream falls apart. But before our Legends can jump back into action, Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) and his newly established Time Bureau call their methods into question. With the Time Bureau effectively the new sheriffs in town, the Legends disband – until Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell) discovers one of them in the middle of his well-deserved vacation in Aruba. Seeing this as an opportunity to continue their time traveling heroics, Sara (Caity Lotz) wastes no time in getting the Legends back together.  We reunite with billionaire inventor Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), the unconventional historian-turned-superhero [Nate] Heywood (Nick Zano), and Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Franz Drameh), who together form the meta-human Firestorm. Once reunited, the Legends will challenge the Time Bureau’s authority over the timeline and insist that however messy their methods may be, some problems are beyond the Bureau’s capabilities. Some problems can only be fixed by Legends.

Last week’s episode of The Flash appeared to show that Iris did die in the scene we’ve been seeing all season. It might have been premature for The CW Network to release this synopsis of season four, which appears to have a major spoiler as to  how the season ends (not that I’m all that surprised considering how this show has involved changing timelines, not to mention the imaging tool used):

Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) lived a normal life as a perpetually tardy C.S.I. in the Central City Police Department.  Barry’s life changed forever when the S.T.A.R. Labs Particle Accelerator exploded, creating a dark-matter lightning storm that struck Barry, bestowing him with super-speed and making him the fastest man alive — The Flash.  But when Barry used his extraordinary abilities to travel back in time and save his mother’s life, he inadvertently created an alternate timeline known as Flashpoint; a phenomenon that gave birth to the villainous speed god known as Savitar, and changed the lives of Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Wally West (Keiyan Lonsdale) forever.  With the help of his adoptive father, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), his lifelong best friend and love interest Iris West (Candice Patton), and his friends at S.T.A.R. Labs — Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), C.S.I Julian Albert (Tom Felton), and an Earth-19 novelist named H.R. Wells (Tom Cavanaugh) — Barry continues to protect the people of Central City from the meta-humans that threaten it.  Based on the characters from DC, THE FLASH is from Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television, with executive producers Greg Berlanti (“Arrow,” “Supergirl”), Andrew Kreisberg (“Arrow,” “The Flash”), Sarah Schechter (“Arrow,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”) and Todd Helbing (“Black Sails”).

They have also released the synopsis of Arrow season six:

After a violent shipwreck, billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) was missing and presumed dead for five years before being discovered alive on a remote island in the North China Sea.  He returned home to Star City, bent on righting the wrongs done by his family and fighting injustice.  As the Green Arrow, he protects his city with the help of former soldier John Diggle (David Ramsey), computer-science expert Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), his vigilante-trained sister Thea Queen (Willa Holland), Deputy Mayor Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), brilliant inventor Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum), and his new recruits, street-savvy Rene Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez) and meta-human Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy).  Oliver has finally solidified and strengthened his crime-fighting team only to have it threatened when unexpected enemies from his past return to Star City, forcing Oliver to rethink his relationship with each member of his “family”.  Based on the characters from DC, ARROW is from Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television, with executive producers Greg Berlanti (“The Flash,” “Supergirl”), Marc Guggenheim (“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” “Eli Stone”), Wendy Mericle (“Desperate Housewives,” “Eli Stone”), Andrew Kreisberg (“The Flash,” “Eli Stone,” “Warehouse 13”) and Sarah Schechter (“The Flash,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”).

CBS has released the above trailer for Star Trek Discovery, which is to premiere this fall. Breakdown at TrekMovie. com and at Cult Movie News. Producer Ted Sullivan has reassured fans that it is definitely a prequel to TOS, and not a reboot or re-imagining.

The trailer for Seth MacFarlane’s spoof of Star Trek for Fox The Orville, is far more amusing.

Bruce Wayne’s transition to become Batman finally starts in season four of Gotham.

Trevor Einhorn (Josh) and Brittany Curran (Fen) have been promoted to regulars for the third season of The Magicians.

Twin Peaks returns tonight. The New York Times has a guide to where everyone was left after the original series. There’s another guide at Vulture.

Netflix has confirmed a fifth season of Arrested Development.

A revival of How I Met Your Mother in some form also continues to look possible.