A Doctor Who Christmas Special is different from a regular episode. While there have been some exceptions, generally they are lighter and disconnected from the story lines of a particular season, making them something the entire family might watch even if they do not watch Doctor Who regularly. Keeping this in mind will answer some of the criticism I’ve seen of The Return of Doctor Mysterio, which worked fine as a Christmas story, even if light. It was not, and was not intended to be, a major story with profound ramifications for the mythology of the show. The show broke ratings records for BBC America.
The episode got its name because Peter Capaldi loved to refer to his character as he is referred to in Mexico, and it fit as it did include two times in which the Doctor returned to see Grant after he accidentally turned him into a superhero. Having the Doctor be responsible allowed for Steven Moffat to play with many troupes of superhero comics and movies without fully including superheroes as part of the Doctor Who universe. Instead it is superhero comics, and generally not superheroes, which are a part.
This was the first appearance of the Doctor (other than his brief cameo in Class) since last year’s Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song. While it was not necessary to have seen it, this episode is a direct continuation. Both episodes included a key situation involving not recognizing someone else. They also both involved aliens exchanging heads or brains, and has the return of Matt Lucas as Nardole. Fortunately the Doctor’s many skills include the ability to reassemble Nardole’s head on his body, allowing him to become a valuable assistant after the twenty-four year night he spent with River Song before she met her fate in the library. Matt Lucas will remain a semi-regular in the upcoming season.
Moffat took advantage of his experience in writing the romantic sit-com Coupling. This was seen when he had the entire body of the adolescent superhero who couldn’t control his x-ray vision levitate, obviously representing the rise of something else. It was seen again in scenes with Grant and Lucy, especially when they had dinner on the roof, while Grant had to be in two places at once.
The roof-top dinner was a clear homage to the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve Superman films. There were even panels from a Superman comic displayed early in the episode. How many collectors felt ill to see the Doctor deface what would now be a rare old comic by drawing glasses on Superman to show off how he figured out that Clark Kent is Superman, oblivious to the fact that everyone else already knows this (except for Lois Lane). It is just something we accept that wearing glasses keeps most people from figuring out his secret identity, but to the Doctor, “there are some situations which are too stupid to be allowed to continue.”
There were other ways in which this was a homage to Superman, including the double-L name of Lucy Lombard to match the names in DC comics. Moffat worked in the names of Siegel and Shuster, the creators of Superman, as names of employees at Harmony Shoals. There is a globe on top of the building reminiscent of The Daily Planet.
Moffat didn’t limit himself to Superman comics. There are items from multiple DC and Marvel comics all over young Grant’s bedroom. The Ghost had aspects also comparable to Batman, including the look of the Ghost, his voice, and a reference to the bat signal. The advice, “With great power comes great responsibility,” comes from Uncle Ben’s advice to Peter Parker in Spider-Man. The Doctor reacted to Spider-Man’s origin in being bitten by a radioactive spider by expecting the signs of radiation poisoning. He considered himself to be the inspiration for superheroes with Doctor in their name.
There were other great moments in the episode, such as Lucy interrogating the Doctor by squeezing Mr. Huffle. I bet the BBC will be selling those toys in the future. I also liked the earlier scene when the Doctor came across Lucy, also spying on the aliens: “It’s okay. I’m an intruder too. Yeah, I brought snacks – mark of a pro. Keep listening.” Plus there was the Doctor’s comment on the situation: “Brains with minds of their own? No-one will believe that – this is America.”
Yes, there was also an alien invasion, but this was a trivial aspect of the show, present to provide a backdrop for Grant’s story. This did make the episode seem a little disjointed at times, but the pleasure of seeing the classic superhero triangle of Grant, The Ghost, and Lucy made up for this.
The episode ended with a teaser of the next season, and the new companion, Bill, played by Pearl Mackie.
Bill met the Doctor at a University and, contrary to previous rumors, is from the present. The trailer above does give some clues as to her personality and relationship with the Doctor. At this time we don’t know yet whether she will encounter the strangest aspect of being a companion to the Doctor, witnessing a regeneration.
The biggest genre related news of the week was the death of Carrie Fisher, followed the day later by her mother, Debbie Reynolds, dying, presumably of a broken heart. Carrie Fisher’s death was too big a story to wait for SciFi Weekend, and I posted about this story in greater detail here: Carrie Fisher Dies At 60, May The Force Be With Her Always.
Netflix dropped a hint raising speculation that there will be more of Gilmore Girls after the cliff hanger ending of A Year In The Life.
Bot Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman played British royalty in The Crown and Victoria in 2016. While Matt Smith’s role was not as big as Jenna Coleman’s, his portrayal of Prince Phillip was an entertaining aspect of The Crown. Radio Times reports that Matt Smith will continue to have a major role in season two of The Crown:
You might think you know what’s coming next in Netflix’s The Crown: after all, the life of the most famous family in the country is not exactly untold history and requires no spoiler alerts.
But with the making of season two, creator Peter Morgan has revealed how he plans to continue the story of Elizabeth’s reign – and the focus will shift away from the Queen herself as other royals take centre stage.
“We start to focus on Charles as a young boy and his education, and on Philip and his back story,” Morgan told People magazine.
Matt Smith’s Prince Philip was one of the most engaging characters in the first season as he struggled to adjust to his wife (played by Claire Foy) becoming Queen. The production team has recently been in South Africa, filming part of Philip’s Commonwealth tour which took him away from his wife and young family for months.
Executive producer Suzanne Mackie teased: “We glance backward to Philip’s childhood and his upbringing, and how that might have impacted him as a man, a father and as Prince Consort – which is fascinating.”
We’ve watched the first episode and we really felt as though something bad was going to happen… Mark: It’s prefigured. You start with the sharks and then you go into lots of light-hearted fun. But it’s important to think: ‘This is not going to end well.’ I was listening to people sobbing in our first press screening – that’s a very good reaction.
Are you two still moved to tears, despite knowing what’s coming up? Mark: Oh, I cry every time with episode one. That one shows what fun the duo have, but that events have consequences… It’s about the past coming to get you. And there are at least two scenes in episode two that make me cry. And I always cry at a certain point in episode three… Steven: Episode three is the finale of finales…
You have said that this is not the last series. Have you got the next one mapped out? Steven: It’s slightly early to be talking about season five when season four hasn’t been on yet. But no one can really end the story of Sherlock Holmes, can they? Mark: We’d like to carry on. We just don’t know.
Finally in show business, including Hollywood, news, someone changed the famous Hollywood sign to read “Hollyweed” last night. This happened once before in 1976 following the passage of a California marijuana law.
Steven Moffat is stepping down as show runner of Doctor Who after the upcoming tenth season (since the show’s revival) and Chris Chinball, best known for Broadchurch, will be taking over. Chinball is a long time fan of Doctor Who and also wrote these episodes: 42, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Power of Three. He was also a producer and writer on Torchwood.
The tenth season of Doctor Who will not air until the spring of 2017, and the only episode to air in 2016 will be the annual Christmas special. I wonder if Moffat will introduce the next companion in the special or wait until the show returns on a regular schedule in 2017.
After Broadchurch, I also cannot help but wonder if, should David Tennant return for an episode of the show, if Chinball will have him talk in an often incomprehensible accent.
Following is the BBC press release:
BBC announces Steven Moffat’s next series of Doctor Who will be his last and confirms Chris Chibnall as new Head Writer and Executive Producer.
After six incredible series at the helm, the multi-award winning Steven Moffat has decided to step down as the lead writer and executive producer of Doctor Who.
Steven took over the reins on Series 5 in 2010 and during his tenure the show has become a truly global success. He has been responsible for introducing the Eleventh and the Twelfth Doctors in Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi; as well as two companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) and iconic characters and monsters including River Song (Alex Kingston), Missy (Michelle Gomez), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and the terrifying Weeping Angels. Plus, the smash hit 50th Anniversary special in 2013 which saw fans around the world celebrate the world’s longest running sci-fi series with the Doctors, Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt battling the deadly Daleks in a feature length episode. Steven’s final series will air on BBC One in Spring 2017 and there will be a Christmas Special in 2016.
Steven Moffat says: “Feels odd to be talking about leaving when I’m just starting work on the scripts for season 10, but the fact is my timey-wimey is running out. While Chris is doing his last run of Broadchurch, I’ll be finishing up on the best job in the universe and keeping the TARDIS warm for him. It took a lot of gin and tonic to talk him into this, but I am beyond delighted that one of the true stars of British Television drama will be taking the Time Lord even further into the future. At the start of season 11, Chris Chibnall will become the new showrunner of Doctor Who. And I will be thrown in a skip.”
Like Steven, Chris Chibnall is also a lifelong Doctor Who fan and a multi-award winning writer and executive producer. He has most recently achieved huge success with the triple BAFTA winning hit ITV series Broadchurch. His other credits include BAFTA nominated The Great Train Robbery, United, Law & Order: UK, Life on Mars and Torchwood. Chris Chibnall’s debut series will launch in 2018.
Chris Chibnall, new Head Writer and Executive Producer : “Doctor Who is the ultimate BBC programme: bold, unique, vastly entertaining, and adored all around the world. So it’s a privilege and a joy to be the next curator of this funny, scary and emotional family drama. I’ve loved Doctor Who since I was four years old, and I’m relishing the thought of working with the exceptional team at BBC Wales to create new characters, creatures and worlds for the Doctor to explore. Steven’s achieved the impossible by continually expanding Doctor Who’s creative ambition, while growing its global popularity. He’s been a dazzling and daring showrunner, and hearing his plans and stories for 2017, it’s clear he’ll be going out with a bang. Just to make my life difficult.”
Charlotte Moore, Controller, BBC One says : “I want to thank Steven Moffat for everything he has given Doctor Who – I’ve loved working with him, he is an absolute genius and has brought fans all over the world such joy. I will be very sad to see him leave the show but I can’t wait to see what he will deliver in his last ever series next year with a brand new companion. I have decided to schedule Steven’s big finale series in Spring 2017 to bring the nation together for what will be a huge event on the channel. 2016 is spoilt with national moments including the Euros and Olympics and I want to hold something big back for 2017 – I promise it will be worth the wait! I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Chris Chibnall, a wonderfully talented writer who I know will bring something very special to the hit series.”
Polly Hill, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning says : “Like Charlotte I would like to thank Steven for his brilliance, which has made Doctor Who a global hit under his tenure. Chris Chibnall is the perfect successor to take over the reins of this incredible show, so I am delighted that his love for Doctor Who has made it impossible for him to resist! Chris is an incredible writer and his vision and passion for Doctor Who gives it an exciting future and promises to be a real treat for Doctor Who fans across the world.”
Variety discussed plans for season two of Jessica Jones with show runner Melissa Rosenberg and star Krysten Ritter:
Rosenberg shared that she doesn’t know when work on the new season will start, or whether she’ll be collaborating with writers from any of the other Marvel-Netflix series (“Daredevil,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist”) leading up to “The Defenders” crossover, but said that she intends to continue utilizing story ideas from Brian Michael Bendis’ series of “Alias” comics, where Jessica Jones debuted.
“I will always use as much as I possibly can from the comic book,” Rosenberg said, noting that they’ll have to allow for deviations given the differences in the mythology between the Marvel comics and ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe. “The MCU is very different in terms of its mythology. In the books, everyone knows superheroes are walking around, there’s a lot of things building toward Secret Wars. We’re probably not going to be able to do a totally parallel storylines. But I take every little piece I can because it’s so good.”
While Rosenberg admitted that it was both intimidating and exciting to think of having to come up with a villain to follow Kilgrave, she didn’t consider keeping him around past season one, since “the show is about Jessica Jones; the story is about Jessica’s arc,” and thus everything had to be in service to her journey.
When asked about Jessica’s mental state at the end of the season, given her final defeat of Kilgrave, star Krysten Ritter said, “For Jessica, that final moment, that victorious triumphant moment, I found that very conflicting in terms of her headspace. He’s the reason why she got up every day. He’s the reason why she went out in the world… it really gave her a purpose, and the past trauma doesn’t go away with his death.”
Legends of Tomorrow premiered this week and we found that there was some misdirection in both what the characters were told when recruited and in the trailers for the show. This might be for the better. If they really were already known to become legends, it would imply that they were successful and this was future history. The outcome of their mission would already be known. Of course with time travel a lot of questions can come up. For example, why not go after Vandal Savage when he was reduced to dust at the end of the Arrow/Flash episode and prevent him from being revived?
I suspect that this will turn out to be the sort of show which can be a lot of fun to watch as long as you don’t think too much about the time travel implications. It even has Rory (Arthur Darvill) as sort of a renegade Time Lord. Screen Rant has a list of additional Easter eggs.
Charlote Rampling, who appeared with David Tennant and Arthur Darvill in Broadchurch, has addressed the controversy over lack of diversity in the Academy Award nominees. Rampling had initially spoken about boycotting the awards, but has backed away from this:
In an interview with Europe 1 Radio earlier this week, Rampling said calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards because all of the nominees were white “was racist to white people.”
Today Rampling told CBS News’ “Sunday Morning”:
“I regret that my comments could have been misinterpreted this week in my interview with Europe 1 Radio. I simply meant to say that in an ideal world every performance will be given equal opportunities for consideration. I am very honored to be included in this year’s wonderful group of nominated actors and actresses.”
Rampling also said:
“Diversity in our industry is an important issue that needs to be addressed. I am highly encouraged by the changes announced today by the Academy to diversify its membership.”
The Force Awakens was the sequel to Star Wars we were looking for after the original trilogy. While J.J. Abrams has never understood Star Trek, he is a perfect fit for a franchise such as Star Wars which centers more on action and mythology than the type of ideas which characterize Star Trek when done well. Rather than rejecting parts of of the original as with Star Trek, J.J. Abrams made a sequel to Star Wars which was a true homage to Star Wars: A New Hope. The movie has many parallels to the original, but does introduce a new generation of characters and mix things up enough to keep it fresh. It avoided the mistakes of the second trilogy. There was no Jar Jar Banks, and it presented a cuter version of R2-D2 for a new generation. This review contains major spoilers, along with looking at some of the questions left unanswered in the movie.
In many ways, The Force Awakens was a retelling of the original story for a new generation. Both The Force Awakens and A New Hope have much of the early action on a desert planet with a droid carrying important information playing a major part. Therefore it did not came as a surprise that the escape was on The Millennium Falcon. Having it sitting there unused for years but all fueled up and ready to fly is just one of many plot holes which are easily ignored. Nor was it a surprise that Han Solo showed up. Many of the scenes on The Millennium Falcon felt quite familiar. Rather than repeating one classic scene, Harrison Ford did provide another reference to the original when asking about a garage chute.
The biggest surprise of the movie was that Rey turned out to be the character with the Force. We saw this when Rey found Luke’s lightsaber at Maz’s watering hole (reminiscent of the Cantina scene), with no explanation of why it was there. The producers did an excellent job of keeping this secret, such as showing the rare scenes in which Finn held the lightsaber in previews and posters.The experience would have been quite different if the previews showed the battle between Rey and Kylo Ren, or showed Rey holding out the lightsaber for Luke at the end.
Once we learned that Rey was really the main character with the Force, her path in the movie became clear. She would fight the movie’s villain, be tempted by and resist the dark side, and ultimately find Luke–after this movie’s version of the Death Star was destroyed (including flights through the trenches).
Once we saw the bridge in this part of the universe where hand rails have never been invented, it was also obvious that Han Solo would reprise Obi Wan Kenobe’s death scene. J.J. Abrams explained that this was also done to establish how evil Kylo Ren was so that he could be at the level of a Darth Vader. Of course moments later in the movie R2-D2 woke up, so that viewers wouldn’t be sad for too long.
The movie introduced other characters. One of the new characters, Poe, was intended to die but instead he turned up later in the movie. This isn’t the first time that Abrams planned to kill a character who seemed like a major character and later changed his mind. The original plan was to for Jack to be killed on Lost. While it might have been a surprise to see him later in the movie, most genre fans know that if you don’t see the body, the character most likely isn’t dead. I would have preferred it if there were brief scenes of Poe surviving but getting separated, and showing how he escaped from the planet.
Abrams also repeated an error he made in Star Trek in ignoring how big space is. The Enterprise seemed to travel from Vulcan to Earth in minutes, and in the alternate universe it is possible to beam by transwarp onto a starship traveling at many times the speed of light. The hyperlight weapon in The Force Awakens seems implausible, undoubtedly as a result of a desire to have a weapon even more powerful that the Death Star. The weapon was capable of destroying four distant planets as if they were nearby, with the four planets also appearing to be very close to each other.
The politics of the movie was also puzzling. It looked like we had a civil war between the Republic and the First Order. If that was the case, why weren’t the forces under Leia’s command the military for the Republic, as opposed to a rebel group? While I’ve seen explanations on line such as a peace treaty between the Republic and the First Order which made it necessary for the Republic to hide their actions against the First Order, the meta reason is most likely to be reminiscent of the rebel forces in the original trilogy. I suspect that having had its capital and a few other planets destroyed, we won’t see much more of the Republic, except possibly at the conclusion.
If a big moment in the second movie of the first trilogy was Darth Vader telling Luke that he was his father, I wonder if the second movie of this trilogy will be Luke saying the same to Rey. While I think that this is the most likely reason for Rey having the force, there are other possibilities. Maybe Leia is her mother, making Ren her brother, but this would require an explanation for Leia giving no indication of knowing about a daughter. Possibly Rey is descended from Obi Wan Kenobe. This could also explain the connection with the lightsabre as Luke’s lightsaber previously belonged to Obi Wan.
Another theory is that Ren’s parents are not from the characters we know. In The Empire Strikes Back, after Luke completed his training under Yoda, Obi Wan said , “This boy is our last hope.” Yoda replied, “No, there is another.” It was assumed he was referring to Leia, but she was never trained in the Force. Perhaps Yoda was referring to someone else that we do not yet know about.
There are many other questions raised, some of which will probably be answered in subsequent movies. Others might be plot holes which there is no good reason for, but the movie was so much fun that most viewers won’t care. Some elements of the movie were taken from plot points in the expanded universe which was invented after the movies, which should give fans a lot to speculate on. The novelization for The Force Awakens also fills in some points.
The Daily Dot listed ten things learned from the novelization. Among the most interesting are the description of Kylo Ren’s feelings about killing his father:
In the movie, it isn’t clear what’s going through Kylo’s mind after he stabs his father through the chest with his lightsaber. The scene quickly shifts gears, and Kylo, wounded by a shot from an enraged Chewbacca, snarls up at Finn and Rey from a crouched position before the two heroes flee.
In the novelization, Kylo feels “stunned by his own action.”
“Following through on the act,” the narration says, “ought to have made him stronger, a part of him believed. Instead, he found himself weakened.”
Foster wrote the novelization based on a version of the script that later underwent significant revisions. It’s possible that the discrepancy between page and screen here is not a casual inconsistency but a deliberate choice—that J.J. Abrams and company didn’t want to suggest that Kylo felt conflicted after the fact. Of course, given how difficult it is to visually convey an internal monologue, it’s also possible that this moment wasn’t so much deliberate struck as overlooked for simplicity’s sake.
Rey’s battle with the dark side was more obvious in the novelization than the movie:
Rey’s triumph over Kylo in their lightsaber duel is widely considered one of the film’s greatest moments. But what you don’t fully see on-screen is that, standing over a defeated Kylo, Rey faces a final challenge. The novelization portrays it thusly:
Kill him, a voice inside her head said. It was amorphous, unidentifiable, raw. Pure vengeful emotion. So easy, she told herself. So quick.
Instead of killing Kylo, Rey “recoil[s]” from the feeling, which the narration describes as the pull of the dark side.
This is a very significant moment. Every Force-strong Star Wars hero faces this kind of challenge. When the narration refers to “pure vengeful emotion,” it’s important to remember that part of what drove Rey was seeing Kylo brutally defeat her new friend Finn. She had just seen Kylo deal Finn what might have been a killing blow. She was no doubt furious in that moment—the perfect target for the lure of the dark side.
This is, in essence, the dark side’s modus operandi. It’s how Anakin Skywalker began his fall in Attack of the Clones, when he slaughtered a village full of Tusken Raiders after they kidnapped his mother, who died in his arms.
But Rey, like Luke, is stronger than Anakin. She resists the urge to deliver her own killing blow. In the movie, a chasm quickly opens up between her and her vanquished foe, appearing to foreclose the possibility of her killing him. In the novelization, she makes her choice before that happens. She runs to Finn, to her friend, instead of yielding to her rage. In refusing the dark side, she has just taken the biggest step of her life.
I will be looking forward to seeing where they go with the next installment. It might be difficult to top the Starkiller base, and I hope they are not tempted to come up with a more implausible threat. The answer might be to concentrate more on the characters now that The Force Awakens has made them important to the viewers. Will Luke have a more significant role? Presumably we will learn more about Ren’s back story, and possibly more about Snoke, assuming he remains a factor.
Christmas also meant the annual specials from British television. This year’s specials included Doctor Who, Call the Midwife, and Downton Abbey. The Downton Abbey special was also the series finale, and therefore I will not give any spoilers for those who are waiting for the US showing of the final season. I wills say that they ended the series quite well.
The Doctor Who Christmas Special, the Husbands of River Song, was a very fun episode. The actual story hardly mattered. What was important was that it set up the situation where the Doctor met River Song with a different face that she knew, with River not recognizing the Doctor at first. This provided the Doctor a chance to act like those who see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time, and Peter Capaldi really hammed it up:
River: Oh, before you come in, you’d better prepare yourself for a shock. It’s not as… snug as it looks.
The Doctor:Finally… It’s my go. Oh… my… God! It’s bigger!
River: Well, yes.
The Doctor: On the inside!
River: We need to concentrate.
The Doctor: Than it is!
River: I know where you’re going with this, but I need you to calm down.
The Doctor: On the outside!
River: You’ve certainly grasped the essentials.
The Doctor: My entire understanding of physical space has been transformed! Three-dimensional Euclidean geometry has been torn up, thrown in the air and snogged to death! My grasp of the universal constants of physical reality has been changed… forever. Sorry. I’ve always wanted to see that done properly.
River: Would you like a drink? Aldebaran brandy. Help yourself, but don’t tell Dad.
This also allowed River to describe her relationship with the Doctor, more than once. First, someone looking for the Doctor questioned River, having identified her as “the woman who loves the Doctor.”
River: Yes, I am. I’ve never denied it. But whoever said he loved me back? He’s the Doctor, he doesn’t go around falling in love with people. And if you think he’s anything that small or that ordinary, then you haven’t the first idea of what you’re dealing with.
River discussed their relationship once again, when they were in danger, just before the Doctor revealed his identity:
River: When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!
The Doctor: Hello, sweetie.
Another of my favorite exchanges between the two when in danger:
River: Does sarcasm help?
The Doctor: Wouldn’t it be a great universe if it did?
The dangers in this episode were handled, but we know there are other dangers ahead for River Song. She had a feeling for this when she saw how little room was left in her diary and noted, “The man who gave me this was the sort of man who would know exactly how long a diary you were going to need.”
The Singing Towers of Darillium was established as the location for their last night together when in 2008 in Forest of the Dead. However things were not as bad as they looked, even if this is truly their last night together before River met a younger Doctor in the library:
Matt Nable will be reprising his role of Ra’s al Ghul from Arrow in the ninth episode of Legends of Tomorrow. Considering that much of the cast is made up of people who either died or appeared to die on Arrow, this doesn’t really come as a surprise. Damian Dark will also be making an appearance on Legends of Tomorrow. On Arrow, Nyssa will also continue to fight Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) for her dead father’s title.
I really liked Daredevil, and liked what they did with Jessica Jones even more. Jessica Jones also has me looking forward to Luke Cage. Collider had an interview with Mike Colter, who plays Luke Cage. The discussion included how Luke Cage will differ from Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
I was happy to hear that Amazon has renewed The Man In The High Castle, as expected, for a second season. The entire series was enjoyable, but that ending has me really wondering where the show is headed. I read the book many, many years ago and don’t remember how it ended. Plus there are already major changes from the book so that might not matter.
I’ve been far too busy around the holidays to keep up with everything on television. I thought I was doing well completing both Jessica Jones and The Man In The High Castle. (My original plan was to review these two series this week, but holiday plans have prevented it.) I haven’t had time to start The Expanse, but I hear that if some time opens up it is possible to stream the first four episodes, and get ahead of what has been shown on television.
I have recorded Childhood’s End with hopes of watching it sometime later over the holidays. Meanwhile this article, which I haven’t read to avoid spoilers, looks like the type of article with a show’s producer on the ending which I would be quoting from if I had seen the show.
Yet another new genre show I haven’t had time to watch–The Magicians. IO9 has a review here.
Hulu is releasing teaser trailers of 11.22.63, produced by J.J. Abrams and based upon the Stephen King novel. Abrams also has something else major out this weekend.
I also haven’t had a chance to watch the movie version of The Martian yet, but did enjoy the book last year. Nerdist has news on Andy Weir’s next book, to take place on the moon and feature a female lead.
With so much to watch on television, I didn’t watch Minority Report after some poor reviews of the first episode, followed by news that production was cut to ten episodes. The final episode aired recently and I have heard some buzz that the series ended well. This is a positive sign of how television has changed. In the past a network needed at least a few years of a series to make money in syndication. If it looked weak after a few episodes, they would be tempted to just pull the plug.
These days a series can still bring in episodes with even a short run. By giving the producers a cut off date, they were able to make a series which stood on its own with ten episodes, or expand into subsequent seasons if it did build an audience. It is still possible to sell a self-contained ten episode series as a Blu ray or DVD set, as well as have it on one or more streaming networks. The networks have reason to continue a show with a small audience for at least a short time, current viewers get a conclusion as opposed to having a show they like abruptly pulled, and genre fans have one more thing available to watch when desired in the future. Plus maybe a show will even be brought back by another outlet.
Netflix ran the trailer for the fourth season of House of Cards during last week’s Republican debate. The show returns on March 4. “America, I am only getting started” sounds sort of scary.
The third season of Fargo won’t be filming until next winter, and therefore won’t be seen until sometime in 2017. It will take place in 2010, four years after the first season. We got an unexpected view of some of the characters from the first season in the second season finale, but reportedly the regulars from the first season will not be the major characters for the third season. Some could appear briefly.
Doctor Who TV has an advance review of this year’s Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song.
ABC will be airing a one hour special, Captain America’s 75th Anniversary, on January 19th, just prior to the season premiere of Agent Carter. It will be opposite the return of The Flash on CW, but that is why we have Hulu, and modern DVR’s which record more than one show at a time.
Vox looks at Tina Fey’s response to some of the internet outrage over Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for having the blonde, Polish actress Jane Krakowski playeding a Native American woman who was hiding her true ethnicity.
Ted Cruz has paid for a Christmas-themed parody infomercial to air during Saturday Night Live tonight. Steve M. has a review, and finds Cruz to be scary. I agree.
The season finale of Doctor Who, Hell Bent, concluded the three part story which began with the death of Clara Oswald in Face the Raven. It turned out that the ending of last week’s episode, Heaven Sent, contained some misdirection about where the finale was going. While the Doctor did return to Gallifrey, this was not at all what the episode was really about.
The Doctor returned to Gallifrey as a war hero, and used this return to save Clara. While the leaders on Gallifrey were concerned with the identity of the Hybrid, it turned out that the Doctor did not really know the answer. His priority was in saving Clara.
Face the Raven appeared to end with the Doctor allowing Clara to die as there was way to prevent her death. Now he was willing to break all the rules and risk the fracturing of time to save her. Clara was pulled out of time just before the moment of her death, in between heartbeats and lacking a pulse, not really living. She was informed of her condition by a general on Gallifrey: “Although you are conscious and aware, in fact you died billions of years ago. We have extracted you at the end of your time stream. Once you have finished here, you will be returned to your final moments. Your death is an established, historical event.”
The Doctor was willing to break the rules of time, as he had done on occasions before, and to defy the leadership on Gallifrey. He killed a general to demonstrate how far he would go to save Clara. They escaped through the Matrix, one of several references for things established in old episodes, and escaped in an old school TARDIS. As he had started out, the Doctor escaped Gallifrey in a stolen TARDIS, this time with a functioning Chameleon Circuit. They escaped the Time Lords by going to the last hours of the universe, where they met up with Ashildr, who the Doctor had made immortal earlier this season in The Girl Who Died.
While the identity of the Hybrid was never definitively revealed, Ashildr had what came closest to an answer. She theorized, “‘What if the hybrid was to people.‘A passionate and powerful Time Lord and a young woman so very similar to him – companions willing to push each other to extremes?” The Hybrid might have been the Doctor and Clara working together. Whether this is the actual answer, it was still a meaningful description of who the Doctor is.
The problem now is Clara was only alive in a form with some very timey-whimey stuff which threatens the space-time continuum. Plus at any moment she could be returned to the moment of her death. The Doctor believed that Clara had to have her memory wiped to return to earth and lead a normal life, where she could not be found from her memories of being with the Doctor. (I’m not sure what would have happened the first time she had any type of medical exam and was found to be lacking a pulse). It would be a sort of repeat of how things ended with Donna Noble, although the need to wipe Donna’s memory was more straight forward on Journey’s End.
Clara was watching in on the Doctor’s conversation with Ashildr and was not willing to give up the best years of her life, or her memory of them. Ultimately matters were left to chance, and it turned out that it was the Doctor, not Clara, whose memories of the other were wiped. This might make Clara safer as nobody could use the Doctor to get to her. Perhaps it also made sense for the Doctor’s memories to be erased if they were not going to remain together. As we saw onThe Snowmen, it took him on hundred years to get over the loss of Amy and Rory, and after over four billion years he has not gotten over what appeared to be the death of Clara.
On the other hand, this is not the first time that the Doctor has lost a companion. Is Clara that much more important to the Doctor than Rose Taylor, Donna Noble, or Amy Pond? Plus it is never clear why the Doctor and Clara could not continue to travel together.
Throughout the episode, scenes were interspersed with the Doctor at an diner speaking to a waitress played by Jenna Coleman. By the end, we finally realized the meaning of these scenes, with Clara knowing who the Doctor was, but the Doctor not remembering her. The Doctor told Clara what he recalled of this story, even believing that he would remember Clara if he saw her, but he did not. He did see an image of her when he got his TARDIS back due to Rigsy’s memorial graffiti, plus The Doctor got a new sonic screwdriver.
Despite the matters left unanswered on this episode, it was all worthwhile for the ending in which Clara, who had already become like a Time Lord, ended up in her own TARDIS with her own companion, Ashildr. Again, it is not clear why Clara can travel with Ashildr, but not with the Doctor. While we will probably not see Clara again on the show, I bet this will launch a lot of fan fiction.
Doctor Who Extra videos for Hell Bent can be seen here.
Doctor Who returns on Christmas Day with The Husbands of Rive Song. The synopsis has been released:
It’s Christmas Day on a remote human colony and the Doctor is hiding from Christmas carols and comedy antlers. But when a crashed spaceship calls upon the Doctor for help, he finds himself recruited into River Song’s squad and hurled into a fast and frantic chase across the galaxy. King Hydroflax (Greg Davies) is furious, and his giant robot bodyguard is out of control and coming for them all! Will Nardole (Matt Lucas) survive? And when will River Song work out who the Doctor is?
The Batman v. Superman trailer was shown on Gotham last week. As I know some superhero fans are not watching Gotham due to the lack of superheroes, I’m posting it above for those who might have missed it.
The Expanse officially states on December 14, but the first episode can be seen online here.
Amazon will be releasing season two of Transparent on December 11, but the first episode was made available early.
The second season of Mozart in the Jungle will be released by Amazon on December 30.
Outlander returns for a second season this spring. Teaser above.
Supergirl has been picked up CBS for a full season. The show still seems to be trying to figure out where it is going without being too much a clone of The Flash, and sometimes struggles to be in Superman’s shadow while contractually being unable to show him as an adult (with a younger version of him to be seen this season). Now that it has a several episodes under its belt, it is starting to show more promise.
Meanwhile on CBS’s sister network, The CW Network, the annual cross over episodes of The Flash and Arrow has aired. It served largely to set up Legend’s of Tomorrow, but was a fun two hours with the casts of both current shows getting together again. During the week there was also another round of rumors of a cross over episode between Supergirl and The Flash, with this once again denied (but not ruled out for the future).
FXX has renewed You’re The Worst for a second season. While an argument could be made that the show had stronger dramatic material from Aya Cash this season, I do hope that she gets over her depression and the third season returns to the dynamic between Gretchen and Jimmy of the first season.
The Zygon Inversion had a different feel from last week’s episode of Doctor Who, The Zygon Invasion. Both are anti-war stories, but the first built up what appeared to be grave danger for the Doctor and the earth on a worldwide scale. The conclusion was a far more personal story, and eliminated the threats from the previous week rather easily.
The Doctor used the Osgood Box as a means to get both sides to talk, and ultimately think about what they were doing. War was simplified to pushing one of two buttons: “This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you.” It was ultimately a trick, with the boxes being empty, but they served their purpose. Apparently this was quite necessary as this was the fifteenth time the Doctor had to use this argument to keep the Zygon peace treaty intact, even if the other occurrences were off screen.
The episode had other moments. The Doctor provided a different answer as to what TARDIS stands for: Totally And Radically Driving In Space. Another top line was “I’m over 2,000 years old. I’m old enough to be your messiah!”
The show also foreshadowed the plans for Jenna Coleman to leave the series. The Doctor refered to the time spent thinking that Clara was dead as the “longest month of my life.” When Clara contradicted him, saying it was only five minutes, the Doctor responded by saying,“I’ll be the judge of time.”
In recent interviews Steven Moffat said “Clara is gone and will never return,” and “I can only say that what will happen will shock, surprise and terrify. Strictly in that order.” We already saw that when Amy Pond left, Moffat left matters so that she also could not return. I wonder if the manner in which Clara leaves will account for her origin. Clara was splintered in time and looked after each regeneration of the Doctor, and presumably should also be present, even if unseen, in each future Doctor.
River Song is reportedly returning for the Christmas episode this year. I wonder if that is to fill a gap with Clara already gone.
From various interviews and articles posted recently, it also appears that Doctor Who is coming back next year at least for twelve plus the Christmas episode, with Moffat hoping to increase this back to thirteen full episodes. There are also no current plans to skip a year or split the season as some reports have stated.
The big news of the past week has been that CBS is planning on another Star Trektelevision series to start in January 2017. The catch is that the plans are to show the first episode on CBS and then have the remaining episodes on CBS All Access, a streaming service from CBS which currently costs $5.99 a month. Currently I have the highest cable tier (which obviously includes CBS along with all the premium channels and their streaming services) and have subscribed to Netflix and Amazon Prime for a while. I have added the commercial free version of Hulu, which contains shows from most of the networks. While not very expensive, with the cost not really being an issue, I cannot help but questioning paying for a streaming service from CBS alone.
CBS is obviously counting on the large number of Star Trek fans to pay for the service. My bet is that most Star Trek fans are tech savvy enough to download the show without paying and will balk at a streaming service which is limited to a single network, which has its other shows available on cable. Realistically I could easily stop my subscriptions to all the premium cable channels I subscribe to, along with the streaming services, and easily download everything I watch. I pay for multiple sources because I believe it is the right thing to do, and sometimes it is even more convenient. While I may or may not subscribe to CBS All Access, my bet is that most people will see this as a rip-off, questioning why CBS doesn’t just use Hulu more like the other networks, and just download the show.
There are many other questions which have not yet been answered. Will the show take place in the Roddenberry universe or the J.J. Abrams universe? When will it take place? We saw that a prequel did not work very well with Enterprise, although it finally figured out how to handle Star Trek in its final season when it was too late. My suggestion would be 20-50 years after Star Trek: The Next Generation. Then, taking into consideration a longer lifespan if necessary, there could be cameos from the old cast.
I also wonder if they will release an entire season at once Netflix style, or have this be a weekly show. A weekly release could result in much more on-line buzz as it is possible to discuss each episode every week. It is harder with a show in which an entire season is released at once as viewers are at all different point. How many episodes will there be a season? The longer seasons of past episodes allowed for a closer look at even the minor characters, along with discussion of ideas, which made the television series much better than the movies.
The second episode of Supergirl seemed almost like a new television event considering how long the pilot has been available on line. Overall it was a good episode (one of only three new network shows I’m still watching), but the story was weakened by having to go through the almost obligatory stories of the superhero learning how to use his/her powers. I’m hoping for stronger individual stories when they are not burdened by such matters. Watching this with Arrow and Flash back on also highlights the degree to which they are using a similar format for all three. All have the hero/heroine who is backed up by a team, with various degrees in which the team coordinates or attempts to control their activities. So far Supergirl faces the most severe issue of attempted control from others. Personally I find the government agency the weakest part of the series so far, and would prefer to see Supergirl standing on her own, with her coworkers (along with boss played by Calista Flockhart) being the major part of the story beyond Supergirl.
Meanwhile, on the other DC shows, we are gradually seeing the team being set up for Legends of Tomorrow with evidence that Ray Palmer is still alive and the resurrection of Sara Lance, with the help of Constantine. Arrow has also done an excellent job with the new big-bad, as has The Flash with Earth 2 and the threat from Z00m. The Marvel-based show is also off to a good start this season with Agents of SHIELD having a few interesting subplots started for the season, including the revelation of Lash’s identity. It looks like the rescue of Will from the alien planet might be stretched out for a while longer.
In case anyone is interested, the other two networks shows I’m watching this season are Blindspot and Limitless. Plus there are several shows which have either started or are coming up on streaming video which I plan to watch. I have only caught the first episode of Aziz Ansari’s new show on Netflix, Master of None, and plan to continue. I have heard that the second episode is even better, and that the show continues to improve.
Netflix has released several pictures from Jessica Jones, including the one above. Originally the show was to be called AKA Jessica Jones, and the have kept the AKA in the episode titles. Following is a listing with brief synopsis of the episodes, which might give a better idea of what the series is about.
AKA Ladies Night: Jessica Jones is hired to find a pretty NYU student who’s vanished, but it turns out to be more than a simple missing persons case.
AKA Crush Syndrome: Jessica vows to prove Hope’s innocence, even though it means tracking down a terrifying figure from her own past.
AKA It’s Called Whiskey: It won’t be easy to acquire or deploy. but Jessica thinks she’s found a weapon to use against Kilgrave. Luke and Jessica bond over their similarities.
AKA: 99 Friends: A new case demands attention as Jessica tries to find out who’s spying on her for Kilgrave. Trish’s radio show yields unexpected consequences.
AKA The Sandwich Saved Me: Despite Jessica’s objections, Trish’s new friend Simpson gets involved in the hunt for Kilgrave. Jessica recalls a pivotal moment in her life.
AKA You’re a Winner: Luke hires Jessica to help him find someone who may have skipped town, but she fears he’ll learn too much about her history in the process.
AKA Top Shelf Perverts: Malcom, Simpson and Trish go rogue to prevent Jessica from carrying out an extreme plan to outwit Kilgrave.
AKA WWJD: Jessica experiences a strange homecoming courtesy of Kilgrave. Hograth’s conflict with her estranged wife reaches a tipping point.
AKA Sin Bin: Just when Jessica has Kilgrave right where she want’s him. Hogarth’s involvement complicates the situation. Details of Kilgrave’s past emerge.
AKA 1,000 Cuts: A discovery has the potential to change the entire game — if Jessica can refuse Kilgrave’s offer.
AKA I’ve Got The Blues: Jessica searches morgues for clues. Trish goes all out to keep Simpson from getting in Jessica’s way. Malcom has an epiphany.
AKA Take a Bloody Number: The hunt for Kilgrave reunites Jessica with Luke. Trish receives some unexpected information about Simpson and Jessica.
AKA Smile: Jessica and Luke get help from someone else in the neighborhood. Kilgrave gears up for a major test of powers against Jessica.
I was rather disappointed by Donald Trump’s appearance as guest host on Saturday Night Live, despite the high ratings which Trump brought in, and the reviewers have agreed. I think that the problem is that Donald Trump is already such an absurd a character that it is difficult to make a parody which is any more amusing.
The best exchange with Trump took place with Larry David, based upon the offer from Deport Racism:
You’re a racist!” he yelled, interrupting Trump.
“Who the hell is – oh, I knew this was going to happen,” Trump responded. “Who is that?”
“Trump’s a racist!” David responded.
“I heard if I did that, they’d give me $5,000,” he added.
“As a businessman, I can fully respect that,” Trump said.
Larry David also had the funniest overall moments of the episode, reprising his impersonation of Bernie Sanders at Friday’s Democratic Forum in the cold open–video above. Variety summarized a couple of portions, but watch the full video.
On raising taxes: “We need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. It’s crumbling. That’s why I no longer drive on bridges or through tunnels. It’s too risky. Instead, I keep a kayak strapped to the top of my car.”
On campaign finance: “The other candidates, they’re taking millions of dollars from the Koch brothers and Exxon Mobil. But not me. I only accept coins. And not fancy coins. I only just want nickels and pennies, the coins of the middle class. So America, if you believe in Bernie, I need you to go home, open your vacuum, turn it upside down, and send me all the pennies that fall out of it. I’m Bernie Sanders, and I want your vacuum pennies.”
Larry David’s previous impersonation of Bernie Sanders, along with other humorous clips related to Bernie, can be seen here.
Doctor Who returned with The Magician’s Apprentice. Does this mean that the Doctor is the Magician and Clara the Apprentice? This was a true Moffat episode, including both the strengths and weaknesses which that implies. The strengths include dealing with big issues, and a strong connection to the history of Doctor Who. The episode returns to the question raised in the classic 1975 episode, Genesis of the Daleks: “If someone who knew the future, pointed out a child to you, and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?”
The episode started with a child endangered by a war. The Doctor appeared to try to save him, with the advice, “Your chances of survival are about one in a thousand. So heres what you do, you forget about the thousand and concentrate on the one.” Then, before trying to save him, the Doctor asked his name. “Davros. My name is Davros.” Davros, the creator of the Daleks
From the start we saw another characteristic of a Moffat episode–many interesting ideas thrown in. Davros was threatened by the hand mines. When there was an effort later to get Clara’s attention, it was done by stopping planes in the air–a simple time trick from Missy, who is not dead as appeared last season: “Not dead. Back. Big surprise. Never mind.” This led to a quick scene with Clara at UNIT, meeting with Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, and then the actual meeting between Clara and Missy.
The season began somewhat similar to how last season did, with the Doctor not around. It also felt like a repeat of an old theme with the Doctor preparing for his death, with the added twist this time of the Doctor sending Missy his confession dial, the Last Will and Testament of the Doctor. He hosted a rock party and, without regard to how it might change human history, “I’ve also introduced the word ‘dude’ several centuries early.”
Missy’s role was never entirely clear, other than for the Moffat tendency to try to find a way to bring back favorite ideas from previous episodes. It did make little sense for the Doctor to walk into such an obvious trap. If he did not see it himself, he even had his frenemy Missy to warn him, noting “I know traps. Traps are my flirting.” She was a little upset to find that she was not the Doctor’s number one enemy:
The Doctor: “Now, explain. Politely. Davros is my archenemy. Why would I want to talk to him?”
Missy: “No, wait, hang on a minute. Davros is your archenemy now?”
The Doctor: “Hush.”
Missy: “Not as much as I am.”
But the Doctor did walk into the trap, and apparently saw the death of both Clara and Missy, along with the destruction of the TARDIS. Of course there was never any question as to whether it would really end this way. If Davros is killing the Doctor’s friends (or friend and favorite enemy) because of remembering how the Doctor did not save him, this leaves two options. He could return to save him, or could make sure Davros did not survive.
I suspect that there is more Moffat misdirection, but the episode ended with the impression that the Doctor did go back time to make certain that Davros died. Or maybe he exterminates the hand mines. In the final scene, the Doctor again appeared in the hand mine field. “I’m from the future.” He then said to young Davros, “I’m gonna save my friend the only way I can: Exterminate!”
We will have to wait until next week to see how this really turns out, with Moffat mixed in providing satisfactory conclusions to the set-ups in two-part stories. Two part stories area also reportedly to become the norm this season. There will be twelve episodes and then a Christmas episode which includes the return of River Song.
The return of Doctor Who was a major event. My favorite publicity picture is the one above with the Doctor and Clara along with two Daleks replacing The Beatles on Abbey Road. Steven Moffat discussed the entire season with Radio Times, possibly providing too many spoilers. Just like last year there were rumors that Jenna Coleman would be leaving the show, ultimately with confirmation that this will be her last season. There are also two Doctor Who Extra videos for this week’s episode which can be viewed here.
CBS made the pilot for Limitless available through there All Access service, and in this day and age that means a copy was quickly available all over the web. The pilot was enjoyable in setting up the series, essentially being an origin story for someone with superpowers. From here I fear that it might drift into a typical CBS procedural, with the setup for that type of storyline contained in the pilot. Maybe we will be pleasantly surprised, like with Person of Interest. While the pilot does appear to set up a procedural, it also left open questions about the drug which gave the protagonist his powers.
Originally reports also suggested that Supergirl would be more of a CBS procedural also, however watching its pilot (which leaked out weeks ago) it appears to be more similar to The Flash, with Supergirl having super-enemies who escaped from Krypton similar to the metahumans who provide conflict for Barry Allen. Pictures of the Red Tornado were also recently released, further suggesting that the show is headed in the direction of fighting super-powered foes.
Season two of Gotham will be a more serialized story, and it sounds from this interview like they might have fixed some of the problems with the first season.
The second episode of You’re The Worst, Crevasses, showed dilemmas including Jimmy and Gretchen having to make their own Bloody Mary’s when Edgar was out with Lindsay. Most important discovery of the episode: Jimmy’s kitchen has a Bloody Mary drawer.
Alison Brie of Community and Mad Men will be staring in Julian Fellowes’ first post-Downton Abbey show for ITV,a television adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne.
It is hard to believe that Continuum is half over, with three episodes having already aired on Showcase (two shown in the United States). I will avoid any spoilers for those who have only seen the first two episodes. It should be no spoiler to note that the questions I had after the first two remain after watching the third, even if the third did advance the storyline more than the first two episodes did. As is usual for Continuum, finding out a little more information often leads to even more questions.
The first episode included a scene which was later revealed to be a simulation created by Kiera’s CMR after she was knocked unconscious. Kiera felt as though she woke up in 2080 after spending three years in a medically-induced coma after the explosion which actually sent her back in time. Kiera saw her family, and afterwards had regained the desire to return home. (I suspect this came about here due to the need to condense the series and wrap it up this year–otherwise I suspect Kiera might not have regained this interest until later in the series). This raises a huge question after seeing how the future changed after Kellogg had taken control of Piron.
If the future has changed, how does Kiera think she can return home? While not explicitly stated, does this mean she intends first to correct the time line? Is she envisioning a means of returning to one of multiple possible time lines? It is also hard to believe she will just consider her job done when the Time Marines are running around in the present. There is also the question of what is their goal, and how this will affect the future. It is apparently only need to know for Brad, and we do not know if the soldiers returned from just after Brad left, from a time later on when things have changed, changing the mission, or if this is even the same exact timeline Brad came back from.
Kellogg should also have questions about the soldiers which his future self sent back. The Kellogg of the present would much rather live in luxury as a corporate CEO than become a future warlord. Everyone should wonder what Curtis is up to, as he might know more than anyone else, but appears to be playing each side off each other.
In other events of interest, Dillon is somehow still alive, and now working for Piron. We have seen since the start of this series that alliances change, and I would not write him off as one of the bad guys yet. Poor Emily has both been kidnapped, and after escaping being told she is not the mother of Alec’s son, leading her to pack up and leave. I’m not sure that it makes sense for her to expect to be Jason’s mother considering how the timeline has changed since Jason traveled back in time, and how in the original timeline she was killed. The whole point of Emily’s character is that she might keep Alec from turning out to be how we have seen his future self.
If you are watching the episodes as presented in the United States, you might feel that too little has happened so far, considering how close we are to the end of the series. The action does pick up in the third episode, but it certainly feels like there is far too much to fit into only three more episodes.
The first season finale of Mr. Robot took place after two weeks of big revelations including Darlene being Elliot’s sister and, not only was Mr. Robot imaginary as many suspected from the start of the season, he was based on Elliot’s real father. The hack planned by fsociety took back seat those two weeks, almost feeling like a McGuffin for the season, and it wasn’t clear if this was ever going to be completed. In the finale we never saw the completion of the plan. Instead Elliot awoke to find a changed world with his plan having been successfully completed. For a while I wondered if it was all going to be a dream, but if so it is a dream Elliot never woke up from.
It is often unclear as to what is real in this show, as captured by the return of Mr. Robot and Elliot’s reaction:
You’re not real.
What? And you are? Is any of it real?
The episode was notable for the return of Mr. Robot after confirming that he was not real, and for the absence of Tyrell Wellick. The scenes with Mr. Robot take on a different meaning now that we know that it is all in Elliot’s imagination. Thus we saw the scene in which Mr. Robot provoked someone into beating him up, with Elliot winding up taking the beating.
The episode also has Angela not only working at Evil Corp, but appearing to have much more influence there than expected. Will she be on the opposing side to Elliott next season, or a major ally from within the enemy? Scenes involving Evil Crop also included the suicide scene which led the the finale being delayed a week. Plus the finale included a reference to Ashley Madison, which made it seem more like something really happening in the present.
Mr. Robot was renewed for a second season at the start of the first so we know we will be able to see the ramifications of the hack working, and the economic breakdown this appears to be leading to. Like Hanniballast week, the episode also ended with a surprising scene added on.
That was a very surprising last scene, with the return of White Rose. What were you trying to illustrate with that very last scene?
The fact that it became a post-credit scene was more out of a negotiation on how to end the season. Do we end on Elliot? Do we end on this scene that sets up what the next season arc is going to be? The story has always been about Elliot, and it should continue to be about Elliot, so I felt weird ending the season on this other scene that had nothing to do with any of our main characters. I was trying to figure out structurally where to put it in the last episode, and because it does such a good job of queuing up our next season arc, I basically came up with the idea of putting it after the credits, which is something not typically done on television shows. I just thought, “OK, that’s a great way to use the classic strategy of creating a coda, which is exactly what it is, and allowing me to end the season properly on Elliot.”
Like you said, that’s not done a lot on TV. How receptive was USA to that idea?
When I wrote the script, I finished Elliot’s scene, and I wrote, “Fade to black, credits.” Then I wrote, “After end credits,” and then I put in the White Rose scene. Then when we got on the phone, their reaction to me was, “You can’t end a season on White Rose. You’ve got to end it on Elliot.” I said, “No, I agree, guys, but it’s after the credits. Don’t you think that would work?” They had no idea. They skipped those two lines, and then there was this moment where it clicked with everyone: “That’s f—ing perfect.” They were so into the idea that they figured out a way to do it.
How does that last scene set up next season and where you’re going with the show?
I’ve always said that the first season was the first act of my feature, so this is what I meant. I wanted the story of Mr. Robot to be Elliot actually accomplishing his goal, setting the world into chaos. What would happen to society if something like this occurred where, basically, if the consumer-debt industry were to be erased? What are the economics of that? What would the world look like? Would there be a revolution? Would governments take over? Would businesses take over? To me, that canvas was something I was interested in exploring, so, for me, that’s what that last scene sets up. We’re about to watch Rome burn. That’s the world Elliot’s going to enter next season…
I think once people figured out Mr. Robot’s real identity, they worried about how much Christian Slater would still be seen on the show. From what you just said, it sounds like he’ll be as much of a presence in season two as he was in season one.
It’s almost more so. It’s freeing because now Elliot is aware that Mr. Robot is this alter ego that he has to deal with. So it actually takes more of like a Jekyll and Hyde trajectory because now the audience is in on it, as well as Elliot, and now we’re going to basically go into that realm. But the story is really about the relationship that he has with his dead father, and how he could never reconcile the pain that caused him? How is he reconciling now as an adult male? Especially in the way that it’s manifesting itself.
It was very interesting to see how the outside world perceives Elliot when he’s having that confrontation with Mr. Robot in the restaurant and specifically Elliot holding himself up against a wall. Why was it important to show that?
Because I want to start stripping the subjectivity of Elliot’s world a little bit, giving us glimpses into what an objective version of this story might look like, even if it’s just slivers of that reality. Because I do think, in terms of telling a show that’s so deeply subjective into this unreliable narration, it can become untethered to a certain extent. As long we have those glimpses, I think that helps us keep track a little bit better and keeps the audience in check. But don’t forget, this is still in the eyes of Elliot, so we’ve started discovering these objective realities along with him. When Mr. Robot says that line, “This looks a little weird,” Elliot’s sort of realizing he’s doing this to himself. And then he proceeds on. So we’re still figuring this out with him, but I think that’s going to be part of this whole journey for Elliot, is trying to get into a more grounded reality…
It also was revealed recently that Darlene is Elliot’s sister, but we haven’t learned a lot about their relationship and why they weren’t close. How much will we learn in season two?
That goes into the whole idea of the emotional journey that Elliot [takes]. We haven’t even cracked the surface of his past. What were the court-appointed therapy sessions all about? What was his family history was all about? Why Darlene helped Elliot create fsociety? There’s a whole backstory. Going even further back to childhood and what his relationship with his father was and how did that devolve? We got a little taste of it at the beginning of episode nine. Not to mention their mother. All of that is still in the wheelhouse of what we’re going to explore in the next few seasons because that’s all going to inform Elliot’s journey and how he battles his demons, aka Mr. Robot.
Angela made a lot of big moves in the finale. Why do you think she chose the path that she did? What can you say is the next step of her evolution?
Because this show is really about identity and about change and about these young people who are trying to find themselves, who are trying to find who they are and how they fit in the world, Angela’s character arc is really fascinating because she’s the path of the American dream. She is the sort of person that has the mentality of, if you work hard enough, you’ll get the big job offers, you’ll get the big job promotions, and you’ll work your way up the ladder. If you want to affect change, you do it within the system because the system allows for that, allows the younger generation to come in and influence society, and the point is to have a bottom-up strategy of having change come from the younger generation. Angela has that levelheaded, American idealism of trying to affect change from within. That, to me, is a very interesting parallel to have running through the series in contrast with Elliot, who’s very much trying to affect change from outside the system. We never try and spell out what’s right and wrong and who the clear good guys are versus the bad guys, and I just think that both the approaches of Elliot and Angela, you can look at from both good and bad sides, and that, to me, is interesting. When those two parallels collide, I think that’s just going to make for great drama and great story.
Can you say how long after the events of the season finale the season-two premiere will pick up?
We will have a continuous storyline, meaning we won’t necessarily time-jump in story and not ever give you the gap. I don’t know where exactly season two will pick up.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: For the finale, you skipped the hack and threw the audience into the deep end. What was the thinking behind that choice? SAM ESMAIL: We’re shifting down gears into this new world where we’re aware, along with Elliot, that Mr. Robot is his alter ego and that he sort of is this demon that lives inside of him and that Elliot can’t account for all of his actions because of him. That opens up this whole interesting can of worms that we’re basically setting up for next season, one of them being this element of time loss. Let’s not forget that in episode 9, Darlene mentions that he was the one that created fsociety with her. We’re not even aware of that, neither is Elliot. There’s that to explore. Now we’re missing three days. In those three days, what happened? Where is Tyrell? What was the deal between him and Tyrell that allowed the hack to still continue? All of that sets up really interesting questions for the second season. One of the things that I love about the finale is that it’s essentially queueing up where we’re going to go and on top of that, shifting the direction of our story. Now it’s not about this mystery within himself that Elliot’s trying to resolve. Now it’s grown more external. He’s aware of what’s going on inside of him, and it’s leaking out. How’s he going to deal with that?
Is the mystery of those three days the immediate conflict once season two picks up, or is that something you’ll explore over time?
I think everything is going to be looked at over time. The whole backstory of fsociety, as well as those three days, is something that I think we’re going to delve into in the next season. I don’t know exactly when yet, but we’re definitely going to show it…
The finale also pivots Angela and the perspective we’re getting from her, which is from within Evil Corp. Is that something we’ll more of in season two?
Absolutely. The thing about Angela that I think is interesting is that she parallels Elliot in an interesting way because she’s actually embracing the more traditional route of the American dream. You work hard. You’ll get the job offers. You’ll get the promotions. If you really want to affect change, you do it by having a good work ethic and sticking to your principles. Maybe then you can influence and make changes from within the system, whereas Elliot is on the other side of it and trying to change from outside the system. I can see the good and bad of both. You can make arguments for both sides equally. It’s almost 50-50. That morally ambiguous gray area is where I love the show to be, especially where we see those paths collide. That makes for a really interesting story…
The Ashley Madison reference had me laughing. Was that a clever bit of ADR [automated dialogue replacement]?
It was. The weird thing is that in the pilot, Ashley Madison was one of his vices. When this whole thing happened, it was something that I was going to use in the season finale, when I wrote that scene, but then I was like, “Well, I already mentioned Ashley Madison. How many references can we have?” So I kind of edited it out. When we were reshooting it, this whole hack happened, so I thought this was perfect. In post, I thought, “I have to put this back in.”
An additional interview at Vulture, including that final scene:
Is that why season one ends with that B.D. Wong single-take scene? To keep the audience truly guessing? I always knew I wanted to end the first season like that. I didn’t want the audience to come away thinking FSociety had won because they took down the bad guys. Evil Corp is done, so the stakes are gone. But I always knew there was another layer. We’re not even half-peeling this whole thing off yet, and we are going to show you a little bit of it. I always had that scene in my head as the last scene of the season, because I wanted to tell the audience the stakes are going to go even higher.
But I felt weird ending the scene not on Elliot. It didn’t feel right to end on these two other characters we barely knew, and that’s when I came up with the idea of putting it in as a coda. It always kind of was a coda, and we put it in the post-credits. It wasn’t trying to break new ground, but it felt natural for that kind of scene.
You’ve spoken about Joanna Wellick having a larger role for season two, but are there any other hints you can give about what to expect next season? The good thing about the show is that we surprise you. One thing people have been asking is if Christian [Slater] will be around for the second season, and I will say 100 percent. Maybe to add a bit more spice: We will explore a little bit of Elliot’s family life.
In terms of his mother? His mother, and even Darlene. Also, this show is about this person discovering that he has this disorder. That was what the original feature was going to [be] about, that’s what this show is just about to scratch the surface of. What we are really setting up for the second season is what happens when you become self-aware of your own disorders
We are approaching the fall season with many trailers now coming out. Arrow Season 4 Trailer above. The season starts October 7.
Agents of SHIELD trailer, which returns September 29.
iZombie returns October 6.
Doctor Who returns September 19. The trailer is above and the other big news is that River Song will be returning for the Christmas Special.
The first episode of season four of Continuum, Lost Hours, has aired on Showcase, and has been available for streaming for a while. It can even be seen on You Tube. As it has not aired in the United States I will avoid any spoilers. The episode does begin immediately after the season three finale and largely serves to reset things after the confusion of a new time line being established last season. It will be interesting to see how they both tie up the issues raised at the end of season three and conclude the entire season.
While Continuum has five remaining episodes to tie things up, Under the Dome ends for good after this week. A wise move on the part of CBS.
It felt like almost every show I watched last week had major episodes. Agents of SHIELD went back to the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier and showed the origin of the other SHIELD. Will Nick Fury or Tony Stark settle this dispute? Better Call Saul revealed who was sabotaging Jimmy’s career all along. Arrow blew everything wide open with Lance arresting Oliver and Roy taking his place. I’m undecided as to who I was more disappointed in, Captain Lance on Arrow or Chuck on Better Call Saul.
On The Flash, Rogue Time made changes in the timeline and had some major revelations, including how Eobard Thawne took over Wells’s body. Andrew Kreisberg spoke with IGN about these revelations:
The father and son Trickster team proved themselves capable of wreaking havoc, and we likely haven’t seen the last of them, When asked whether the Trickster will be hanging out with the rest of the Rogues’ Gallery in the future, Kreisberg said, “Yes, that is the plan. When I sit down and I think about Wentworth Miller [Captain Cold] and Mark in a scene together and watching the dichotomy of them… I think sometimes there’s a tendency to spit out the same villain week in and week out on these shows, and for us, having people who are so different, and having people who have powers, and having people who are slightly unhinged but geniuses [keeps it interesting]. The other reason we really wanted to do the Trickster is because you have so many villains who have these amazing abilities, either because they’re meta-humans or they have this incredible weaponry, and what was always cool about the Trickster on both series is that he was smart. No matter how crazy he was, he was so smart, and he thought like four steps ahead. Watching The Flash and our team go up against somebody brilliant — a lot of times our shows are about how to figure out how to [stop villains] chemically or scientifically or how The Flash can use his powers to stop somebody, but in this one, they really had to out think him [Trickster]. And Wells had to give Barry something he probably didn’t want to let him know that he could do.”
Kreisberg also mentioned it’s a challenge to find and include adversaries who are worthy of fighting The Flash. “If The Flash can move at super speed, he can’t just be fighting bank robbers. Or if he is fighting bank robbers, they have to be able to do something pretty special. And again one of the reasons The Trickster — both in the comics and the old show, and hopefully people will think on our show — is so cool is because he doesn’t have any of that. He’s just really, really smart. And he’s able to use that smartness to out think the gang.”
Wells, or Eobard Thawne, is out thinking everyone. Barry is finally suspicious of Wells but has no idea about what we learned. Thawne used future tech to take Wells’s body. Kreisberg explained, “It’s what we’re calling genetic camouflage, where he basically stole his body. He basically took his body, he rewrote his DNA to match Wells’s. But what happened to Harrison Wells’s real body and what happened that night — all of these things are going to start coming out. And I know people were concerned that the events of Episode 15 were erased in 16, but what happened in Episode 15, not all of it went away, as people are going to find out soon.”
And as far as whether any part of Wells was left after Thawne swiped his body, Kreisberg said, “That’s actually something we’re just writing the other day. He’s had a lot of times when he’s talked about Tess and I think that one of the things that kind of bled through was Wells’s love for Tess, that Thawne absorbed when he absorbed his body. So that’s sort of a fun thing that that’s come through.” Kreisberg said they wanted Matt Letscher for the role of Thawne and that we haven’t seen the last of him…
Other changes include both Eddy and Snart, now knowing Barry’s secret, but after he went back in time the scene in which Iris learned it no longer happens. Some have been disappointed that two major events, Wells killing Cisco and Iris admitting her love for Barry, have been erased due to time travel, feeling it was a cheat. I did not mind because it was easy to predict this would happen once we say Barry going back in time at the end of last week’s episode. The two scenes still told us more about both Wells and Iris. What we learned about Wells helped prepare for the events of Rogue Time, even if it is now Barry as opposed to Cisco who is likely to investigate Wells. While it was hardly a surprise, the scene between Barry and Iris was a good way to make clear how Iris feels deep down. Barry should have realized that Iris would not feel the same when meeting for coffee as when it appeared the city would be destroyed before he changed the timeline.
It was also meaningful to show that Barry can make changes by going back in time, but that changes have consequences, with Barry thinking about going back in time to try to save his mother. One question is whether it is this time travel which actually leads to her death. The nature of time travel was also unclear on these episodes. When Barry went back in time and there were momentarily two versions of The Flash, what happened to the other version?
Last week’s episode of The Americans,started early with a tease when Paige came to the travel agency:
Philip: “We were headed home in about an hour. If you help with the stack of ticket requisition forms, we’ll all get home a little sooner.”
Paige: “Are you trying to turn me into a travel agent?
If only she knew the truth. After a wide range of dramatic scenes this season, the big scene of the season turned out to be a conversation around the dinner table later in the episode. During what Vox calls “one of the best runs of episodes in TV drama history” the inevitable moment came on Stingers. Paige, who was obviously realizing that there was more to her parents than being travel agents, finally asked the big question: “Do you love me? Then tell me the truth. What — are you in the witness protection program? Did you kill somebody? Are you guys drug dealers like your friend Gregory? Am I adopted? Are we aliens? What?”
This left Elizabeth and Philip little room but to tell her the truth, although I’m sure that for a moment they considered going for alien drug dealers in the witness protection program. “We were born in a different country” We’re here to help our people. Most of what you hear about the Soviet Union isn’t true…We work for our country getting information. Information they couldn’t get in other ways.” Plus the obvious warning: “Just in case you’re not thinking quite clearly enough, we’re going to have to say this: If you do tell anyone … we will go to jail. For good.”
Phillip took the phone off the hook the first night, but beyond that all they can do is hold their breath and hope, even when Paige sees how easy it would be to say something to their neighbor Stan, the FBI agent. Instead it was Henry who bonded with Stan, over a pirated copy of Tron which Stan recovered and an old video game. Plus there is the other connection Stan does not know about–the picture of Stan’s estranged wife in Henry’s porn collection.
Of course a lot more happened in the episode. Oleg was called upon to obtain photos, having no idea how he was helping Nina back in the Soviet Union. Arkady assumed that the person who threatened Zinaida, who we finally saw is really is a faking her defection, was a KGB agent who had no idea what was going on, and had no reason to suspect Oleg. Over at the FBI, where the investigation regarding the bug in Gaad’s office is still underway, Stan was asked if he has any suspicions about who may have done it. He hesitated, and the first thing he asked after leaving was where Martha was. Kimmy returned, partially to give Phillip reason to think about his relationship with Paige.
We will have plenty of time to see how all these story lines play out over time. FX has renewedThe Americans for a fourth season.
Outlander returned with a controversial episode, The Reckoning, in which Jaime saved Claire from Black Jack Randall but also punished her for being captured. This led to an eventual renegotiation of their relationship, including threats to cut out balls and hearts. More on the spanking scene here and here:
Executive producerRon Moore noted that although they had Diana Gabaldon’s book to work from, their focus was on “digging in to the scenes themselves, and the page, and working with the actors, and really wanting it to be as raw and emotional as it was. It’s the culmination of a lot of things that they just haven’t been sharing because [they were] in that magical ‘get to know you’ kind of phase. And then here [we thought], let’s have a real problem and really see them go at each other. It was a great opportunity.”
But the verbal confrontation wasn’t the end of the argument, as Claire discovered after the Highlanders began to shun her for putting them in danger and disobeying her husband.
While Heughan understood why the spanking scene might’ve been shocking or repellent to modern audiences, he was able to rationalize Jamie’s decision, given the time period and surroundings the Highlander was raised in. “He has to punish her, whether or not he believes in it. He says he doesn’t, but he has to because otherwise the Highlanders won’t protect her. She’s in danger. There’s a moral code, and it’s the way he’s been brought up, and he’s now got responsibility, and he’s trying to do everything that’s right. He’s trying to play that role and be responsible, and she keeps bloody messing with it,” he laughed. “And obviously, out of that, he learns a very valuable lesson, and she does, and their relationship is yet again developed and moved forward. And if he hadn’t, if he’d said, ‘I won’t punish you, it’s okay — it’s not the right thing to do, but you’re very naughty,’ then they wouldn’t have learned anything. And I think it’s interesting, because this relationship is just developing, and it’s like any marriage — it’s taking on different forms. It’s going to keep doing that. God knows where it’s going to be in a year’s time.”
Moore admitted that the producers and writers “talked about a lot” before the scene finally arrived. “I always knew we were going to do it because it was a key moment in the book and we wanted to do it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s really about justice and that’s what Jamie says in the scene: it’s a scene about justice; it’s not a scene about domestic abuse; it’s not a scene about anger. These were the mores of the time. As he says to Claire, if she was a man, she would’ve had her ears cropped, or something worse. And so there was a sense of righting the scales of justice. To her mind and to ours, as 21st century people, we kind of recoil from it like ‘oh my god,’ but I think we also understand the context of the time and why he’s doing it and what it’s about.”
“We knew it was going to be a controversial scene that people were going to ask a lot of questions about,” Balfe conceded. “We really had a lot of conversations about it. We went back and forth with the writers about how they wanted to do it and what we felt comfortable with, but we had the blueprint of the book, which was great. But we really wanted to give it the respect that it deserved, because it’s not something that can be taken lightly. And the thing we always came back to is that we have to understand that, no matter how we as modern people perceive it, this has to be taken in the context of 1743, and this was a perfectly acceptable justice in that time.”
While the scene itself is memorable, it’s the aftermath that truly redefines Claire and Jamie’s relationship. “What happens after is very important because here we see two people figuring out how to make their marriage work, because not only has Claire suffered physical wounds from this, but there’s been a great psychic wound,” Balfe observed. “And I think that the betrayal she feels — that this man she’s fallen for with heart and soul has now betrayed her, in a sense — that’s a big thing for her to get over. But I think the thing they’re learning within the confines of their marriage is that you don’t always have to accept what the person does, but if you can understand where they’re coming from, then you can build a bridge to forgive and move forward. And he also realizes, ‘okay, I can’t treat you as everyone else treats everyone else in this time, and I’m willing to change, and to grow, and to meet you halfway.’”
Claire doesn’t forgive or forget easily, however — banishing Jamie from their bed and giving him the cold shoulder even once they’re back at Castle Leoch, until they finally confront their feelings and reconnect physically — allowing Claire to pick up Jamie’s blade mid-coitus and warn her husband that if he ever raises a hand to her again, she’ll cut out his heart.
While one weekend time travel show has just returned, 12 Monkeys is nearing the end of its first season (and has been renewed for a second). It is probably best not to think too much as to why a transfusion from young Cole caused the Paradox which saved his life, and appears to have permanently teathered him to 2015. I imagine we also shouldn’t ask Cassie why she felt she should threaten the 2015 version of Dr. Jones with a gun as opposed to showing her evidence which was bound to catch her attention.
As with most episodes of 12 Monkeys, this episode raised more questions than it answers. Apparently Jones knew about meeting Cole in 2015 all along. It appears that the events of this episode were events which always happened, as opposed to a change in the time line, such as with the now orphaned Cole meeting young Ramse. (What if Cole had just killed the kid?) This might suggest that things cannot be changed. Or maybe not everything is playing out the same for everyone. As Jones pointed out, “Your always and my always are not the same.”
While it appears that Cole will not be traveling in time in the foreseeable future, there are still events in 2043 to be sorted out. I have no idea what the red leaves mean, but they must mean something. Jones might still send someone back in time from 2043, or perhaps the time travel machine will fall under the control of those mysterious people seen at the end of the episode. We know Jessica is still around. Does that other woman know so much because she comes from the future. She looks like she might be Jessica’s mother– or with time travel involved, maybe her daughter, like River Song and Amy Pond. Any chance Ramse is still alive in 2043 as a very old man after his travel back in time?
There is still much to do in 2015 if Cole and Cassie are going to stop the plague from occurring in 2017, with Aaron out of that triangle for the moment. The connection between Cole’s mother and the Army of the 12 Monkeys will probably be significant.
Of course any comments on Paradox must mention Jennifer Goines’ hilarious hostile takeover of Markridge. How idiotic were those people who actually raised their hands when Jessica said, “Raise your hand if you want to be the new him!”
Orphan Black returns April 18 and new previews have been released. More clones to come.
The fourth and final season of Continuum has started filming and will start airing on Showcase on July 26th. No word as to when Syfy will run it in the United States.
Mitch Pileggi (Assistant FBI Director Skinner ) and William B. Davis (Cigarette Smoking Man, aka Old Alec for Continuum fans) will both be returning to the six-episode X-Files revival.
This week was also a genre-heavy episode of The Big Bang Theory. One storyline dealt with Sheldon and Leonard taking a detour to attempt to visit the Skywalker Ranch while on their way to Berkley to give a talk about their paper. In the other storyline, the Wolowitz garage is being emptied for a sale, and Howard resists Bernadette’s efforts to sell his TARDIS. They decided to leave the fate of the TARDIS to a Game of Thrones-style contest on the battlefield of the Transformers and the Thunder-cats. I’m afraid you will just have to watch the episode to make any sense out of that last sentence, or to learn how Amy just didn’t think things through.
Maureen Dowd says that real women working at the CIA are ready to say good riddance to Carrie Matheson:
THE co-creator of “Homeland” on Showtime revealed recently that when the new season starts, Claire Danes’s Carrie Mathison will no longer work at the C.I.A.
Her real-life counterparts can’t wait for her to clean out her desk.
The C.I.A. sisterhood is fed up with the flock of fictional C.I.A. women in movies and on TV who guzzle alcohol as they bed hop and drone drop, acting crazed and emotional, sleeping with terrorists and seducing assets.
“The problem is that they portray most women in such a one-dimensional way; whatever the character flaw is, that’s all they are,” said Gina Bennett, a slender, thoughtful mother of five who has been an analyst in the Counterterrorism Center over the course of 25 years and who first began sounding the alarm about Osama bin Laden back in 1993.
“It can leave a very distinct understanding of women at the agency — how we function, how we relate to men, how we engage in national security — that is pretty off,” Bennett said. She was sitting in a conference room at Langley decorated with photos of a memorial for the seven C.I.A. officers — including Bennett’s close friend Jennifer Matthews — who were blown up in 2009 by a Jordanian double agent in Khost, Afghanistan.
Agreed Sandra Grimes, a perky 69-year-old blonde who helped unmask her C.I.A. colleague Aldrich Ames as a double agent for the Russians after noticing that he had traded up from a battered Volvo to a Jaguar: “I wish they wouldn’t use centerfold models in tight clothes. We don’t look that way. And we don’t act that way.”
Doctor Who followed up last week’s Black Water with an entirely satisfying conclusion in Death in Heaven. Steven Moffat has no qualms about putting in the big scenes with big ideas even if not entirely logical, but he did it well enough that only the most fanatic Moffat haters should object to this episode. Moffat certainly gave us quite a lot in this episode including The Master/Mistress, Cybermen, UNIT, reopening the question of the location of Gallifrey, and a conclusion to the Danny Pink storyline. Osgood returned, this time wearing a bow tie like Eleven (“Bow ties are cool”) in place of her Tom Baker scarf. Many episodes of Moffat’s stories have major scenes in a cemetery, and this happened once again.
As was expected after we found that Missy was the Master, or now regenerated as a woman and calling herself the Mistress, and that the Nethersphere was using Timelord technology to upload the minds of the dead, the claims about the dead on Black Water were all a ruse. It became necessary for the BBC to make this point clear before Death in Heaven was aired due receiving a lot of complaints about the claims about death in the previous episode. Instead of cremation really leading to pain felt after death, cremation just diminishes the size of the Cybermen army. What of those whose bodies had decayed over time? While they cleared up some issues from last week, are there now going to be complaints because of children believing grandma and grandpa were turned into Cybermen?
There was still more misdirection. Moffat lies, and he did it again in this episode, both with the teaser from last week and the words from the characters. He added to the mystery of Jenna Coleman saying there never has been a Clara Oswald in the previews by having her next claim to be the Doctor. They made this almost appear credible by giving her top billing, and using her eyes, in the opening credits. This second time in which she claimed to be the Doctor (previously in Flatline) turned out to be a lie to fool the Cybermen, but it did create some momentary questions for viewers. This was not the only key lie of this episode.
People at UNIT did make some questionable decision. They did start out well, acting like tourists desiring selfies with the Cybermen in order to get close. Then they initiated their protocol in case of an alien invasion of earth and by drugging the Doctor before seeking his help, which is as nutty as Clara’s idea last week of threatening the Doctor to get him to help her after Danny’s death.
It made no sense to drug the Doctor, and then put him in charge, as opposed to seeking his advice, when he lacked any detailed knowledge of the forces suddenly placed under his command. It is worth ignoring this, and the other plot holes, to enjoy learning that the internationally agreed upon protocol in case of alien invasion is put all earth forces under a single President, and that the Doctor would be the chief executive officer of the human race. With all the animosity expressed by the Doctor this season towards the military, he is now in charge of the military, as well as taking on the aristocratic role which Danny Pink attributed to him in The Caretaker.
Once on their flying headquarters, there were more questionable moves by UNIT along with insanity on the part of Missy. Missy’s killing of Osgood, followed by stepping on her glasses, helped establish how insane and evil she is. When Missy made her move, I would think that Osgood might have been smarter not to have fallen for the old trope of getting close to the villain to hear her plan, the guards might have done something, and Osgood might have gotten out of the room as soon as she heard the threat. Besides, this all could have been avoided if they used more than handcuffs to restrain Missy, or even kept her tranquilized. Once the plane was under attack by the Cybermen, everyone else on board might have run to the TARDIS for safety.
Michelle Gomez created a fantastic variation on The Master, along with channeling both Mary Poppins and Marilyn Monroe (Happy Birthday, Mr. President). The Master has often had an insane streak, but probably never to the degree seen in this regeneration. Missy’s actions did seem contradictory with regards to her motives. At one point she seemed to be trying to kill the Doctor, or perhaps she had no doubts in watching him from back in the Nethersphere that he would find some way to escape death. That move of making it into the TARDIS while in free fall must be something he picked up from River Song. We later found that Missy’s ultimate plan was far different from when the Master really wanted to rule the earth in The Sound of Drums. This time the plan was more personal, and more insane.
Missy had no real desire to conquer earth this time, and was more interested in trying to prove that deep down the Doctor is no better than she is. Perhaps blinded by her own insanity, she thought she could tempt the Doctor by giving him an army. The nature of the Doctor has been an ongoing question this season, beginning with Deep Breathwhen the Doctor asked Clara if he was a good man. The following week, on Into the Dalek, the Doctor was called a good Dalek. This week when offered such power, his answer was, ” I am not a good man. I am not a bad man. I am not hero. I’m definitely not a president. And no, I’m not an officer. You know what I am? I am an idiot. With a box and a screwdriver. Passing through. Helping out. Learning. I don’t need an army. I never have.”
It was also verified that Missy was the one who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number in The Bells of Saint John, again showing her obsession with the Doctor. Just as she found it amusing to see the Doctor with almost unlimited power, she also found it amusing to join “the control freak and the man who should never be controlled.” This was also an important part of her plan to get the Doctor to the Nethersphere: “You’d go to hell, if she asked, and she would.” If she knew this, does it mean that she had intentionally set up Danny’s death?
It is convention on Doctor Who for a character, including the Master, to have some changes in personality with each regeneration. While not going through technical regenerations, Cybermen on Doctor Who have been different at different times in the history of the series. This time instead of using Cybermen to blur the difference between humans and machine, we had a zombie version, in which the dead were used. This technique of creating Cybermen was not completely effective as love allowed Danny Pink to resist Cybermen programing. This did provide an easy solution to the problem, but at least did turn seem more credible when it turned out that Danny was not the only one to resist this programming.
In an episode which did see the deaths of two characters, Danny and Osgood, it was easier to forgive them for sparing Kate after seeing her fall from a lane. Earlier she had spoken to the Doctor about saluting:
The Doctor : People keep saluting and I’m never gonna salute back. Kate : That was always my Dad’s ambition, to get you to salute him back. Just once
Matt Smith, playing Eleven, had once saluted Kate in The Power Of Three, and in this episode Twelve did the same for Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, now another Cyberman who resisted their programming. Of course if Danny could resist Cybermen programming out of his love for Clara, there should be no doubt that the Brigadier could fight off any alien programming, and would be there to save his daughter. While some are complaining that this version of the Cybermen breaks from continuity, the episode did show tremendous respect for continuity with its multiple references to previous episodes.
The episode also concluded the story of the kid shot in Afghanistan, with Danny saving him instead of himself. It was somewhat contrived to stipulate he could only save one of them, reminiscent of inventing rules to prevent the Doctor from saving Amy in The Angels Take Manhattan.
Both Clara and the Doctor lied to each other. Clara claimed she would be happy with Danny, and the Doctor claimed he found Gallifrey when there was nothing at the coordinates he received from Missy. This could be seen as a final episode with Clara as companion. I have seen some claims that Clara will be in the Christmas episode, in which the Doctor assists Santa in an attack at the North Pole. If so, this may or may not be her last appearance in light of the rumors she is leaving after the Christmas episode. Maybe she will join the Doctor more intermittently, as Amy and Rory did after they married.
Clara’s story might not be over, but it also might become more complicated for her to travel with the Doctor. What about Danny’s great-grandson Orson, seen in Listen, who will continue the family business of time travel? Maybe the death of Danny has rewritten time, or maybe Clara is now pregnant with Danny’s child. Whether or not Clara returns, it is a safe assumption that the Master, either played again by Michelle Gomez or in a new regeneration, will appear at some time. There is plenty of precedent for the Master surviving anything, including being incinerated by the Cyberman Brigadier.
With or without Clara, I also wonder if Gallifrey will be a factor next season after being teased yet again–either a search for Gallifrey or actual encounters with other Timelords. I was wrong with this prediction about the current season, but Moffat often plays a long game, and very well could have a payoff for such teases planned for a future season.
The Doctor Who Extra for Death in Heaven is above.
Steven Moffat has answered some questions at a screening of the episode. Here are some of his answers from Doctor Who Online:
What made you turn the Master in to a woman?
SM: I’d never written a Master story, and there had been a number of Masters in the show from the amazing Roger Delgado through to John Simm, and I could never think of a way to do it which was interesting.
And then I thought, if you could smuggle her in to the show in plain sight and then land that one… and then once and for all absolutely establish in plain sight, so nobody has any doubt about this whatsoever: yes, Time Lords can do that… it just expands the show a little bit.
You get old time fans saying ‘no! You’re not allowed to do that…!’
And what about Disney fans? She’s Mary Poppins!
SM: Mary Poppins has always been evil!
I don’t know why. To be honest, it was a gimmick at the start – there’s nothing wrong with a gimmick – and I was really fiddling with how on Earth I was going to write it.
Michelle Gomez was on the list for a different part, and she’d been offered another part but couldn’t do it. But then I thought ‘Oh my God, that’s it!’ Michelle is so genuinely barking… I thought there’s never going to be a dull moment on screen! I’ve known Michelle for a long time, because she was married to Jack Davenport who had done Coupling. So I’d known her, I’ve gotten drunk with her, and she actually is like [she is on screen]. That’s toning it down.
So is the Master gone now?
I was delighted back when the wonderful Anthony Ainley was the Master back with Peter Davison, and he would definitively get fried, or incinerated, or destroyed at the end of each story… and he’d turn up at the beginning of the next one and basically say ‘I escaped’. I had no problem with that!
So… observe how I’ve avoided your question! What are the chances?
This is the first time that the Master has worked with the Cybermen…
SM: Oh, but the Master has met the Cybermen before. Would you like me to list them?
But why the idea to team them up?
I’ve never written a Cyberman one, and when I was a kid, I absolutely loved the Cybermen. They were my favourite. I mean, the Daleks were really my favourite, but I pretended that the Cybermen were my favourite to make myself more interesting. Which absolutely doesn’t work.
I’d always wanted to make them creepy and scary. I was aware that there is kind of a problem that the Cybermen are brilliant at standing there, and brilliant at breaking out of tombs, fantastic at breaking out of tombs – they’ve been doing that since 1967 – but when they stand up and actually arrive… they’ve a monotone voice, no facial expressions, and no emotions. That can be tricky. You sort of want to put them with somebody who can be the interface. But I love Cybermen.
I don’t even know why they’re great. The absolutely indispensable part of the Cybermen is that they’ve got handles there… I mean the idea of removing them would be heresy… But what are they for?
But I do adore them. Especially an old show called The Tomb of the Cybermen, which I’ve ripped off many times, it’s just perfect Doctor Who. Glorious Doctor Who.