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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian had additional comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Landau died at age 89. Deadline reports:

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; The Americans; American Gods

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

Why make this your final series?

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

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

What’s the hardest part of being the Doctor?

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

How would you describe your Doctor?

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

What can you say about your regeneration?

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

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

How would you describe your Doctors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This leaves matters open:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nerdist spoke with Rob Thomas about the changes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin says he believes her. Does he?

Yeah!

Should we believe her?

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

Lindelof had this explanation in Esquire:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It appeared that justice would prevail. Then Varga responded:

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

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

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

Deadline had this information on Noah Hawley and the finale:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Lie of the Land; Class Finale; Sense8 Cancelled; A Week of Apologies; Wonder Woman

The Monks trilogy on Doctor Who was an excellent two and a half or so episodes. The Lie of the Land did start out great with the earth under the control of the Monks. It had an extreme take on alternative facts and fake news with a propaganda piece showing the Monks as having been here since before humans evolved.

This episode did feel a lot like a remake of The Last Of The Time Lords with a companion having to rescue the Doctor and free the earth. The episode was fine until they got to the part where Bill shot the Doctor and everyone laughed at how they tricked Bill to test her. This also included a fake regeneration scene which, while perhaps exciting for the previews, doesn’t fit well into the series. Sure we did see one incomplete regeneration before in The Stolen Earth, but in general, unless there is a very good reason for the story, regeneration energy should be reserved for regeneration into the next Doctor, not recovery of the same Doctor from bullet wounds. This scene was partially redeemed when the Doctor asked Nardole if the regeneration was a touch too much.

From some comments from Steven Moffat, I believe he might have taken three different story ideas by different writers, and then combined them into a trilogy. It was a clever idea for the Monks to rule by convincing everyone they had always been there, preventing thought of repelling the invaders who actually had only been there for six months. However this, along with how easily the Monks were repelled, did not fit with what was established in the first two episodes. This would not be necessary if they really only took over planets which requested their assistance, but if this was the only contradiction I might forgive it as humans beyond Bill and the dead generals did not really agree. I think that it would have been better if we had two different stories about different aliens to use the main ideas used in each episode.

Among the other questions raised, despite building such a detailed simulation of the earth in Extremis, did the Monks not think of trying to predict what dangers they could have with their occupation? In The Pyramid At The End Of The World we saw that the Monks had no problem removing a plane from the sky and a submarine from the ocean, yet the Doctor had no problem taking control of the boat. From there it was way to simple to enter the pyramid and defeat them.

The Missy story did progress, with her becoming an actual part of the main story line. The best line of the show, which only makes sense in its context was her saying “awkward.” It also appears that she might be trying to keep her promise to learn to be good. Even if she does keep to this, which is questionable, it appears that her view of being good will be quite different from the Doctor’s.

There is both considerable continuity and lack of continuity in this trilogy. Besides combining three different stories into a trilogy (even if flawed), they used the Doctor’s blindness from Oxygen and the pictures the Doctor retrieved for Bill of her mother in Pilot. There is also the possibility that the Monks could still return this season. On the other hand, everyone has forgotten the Monks. (“The Monks have erased themselves. Humanity is doomed to never learn from their mistakes.”) But what of the family and friends of those who died during the occupation, and those who were in the forced labor camps? On the other hand, it would be hard to both set Doctor Who in our modern world, and have people actually remember all the alien invasions. It would no longer be like our world if we did have memories of all the events shown.

Class also had its finale this weekend. I have not discussed Class on a weekly basis as I downloaded it during the U.K run and watched it last fall. In general, I thought the show was entertaining and worked as a brief stand alone series, but it was hardly essential for those following the Doctor Who universe. Ratings were poor in the U.K. and the show was not expected to return, unless it should do remarkable well on BBC America. The chances of revival are even lower with writer Patrick Ness saying he will not return to the show even if it should be renewed.

Netflix announced the cancellation of Sense8. Sadly there will be no third season, no continuation of the story from where it left off at the end of season 2, and, worst of all, we don’t get to return to see all those people and the world the show created.

The New York Times reports:

“Sense8” was a globe-trotting sci-fi drama made by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, the filmmakers behind “The Matrix,” and J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of “Babylon 5.” It received generally positive reviews from critics.

“After 23 episodes, 16 cities and 13 countries, the story of the Sense8 cluster is coming to an end,” said Cindy Holland, the vice president for original content at Netflix.

She added, “Never has there been a more truly global show with an equally diverse and international cast and crew, which is only mirrored by the connected community of deeply passionate fans all around the world.”

There are attempts to bring it back but I fear that the cost to produce this is too high compared to the number of viewers.

In other entertainment news, this was a big week for apologies, first from Kathy Griffin, and then from Bill Maher. There was also the release of Wonder Women. I have not seen it yet, but the reviews have been excellent, and it sounds like it has corrected many of the mistakes of superhero movies, especially from DC.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who: Pyramid At The End Of The World (Or All We Need Is Love); The 100 Finale; CW Superhero Finales; 12 Monkeys Season 3 Binge

The Pyramid At The End Of The World was not as good as Extremis last week, but still an excellent episode. It does have some of the disadvantages of being the middle episode of a trilogy. This also makes it hard to criticize for apparent plot holes as I don’t know if there will be explanations in the finale. 

The episode seemed to once again tease the Doctor’s impending regeneration with this opening: “The end of your life has already begun. There is a last place you will ever go, a last door you will ever walk through, a last sight you will ever see, and every step you ever take is moving you closer. The end of the world is a billion billion tiny moments, and somewhere, unnoticed, in silence or in darkness, it has already begun.”

There was more misdirection as initially it appeared that the crisis involved the risk of conflict between the earth’s military forces, “at the strategic intersection of the three most powerful armies on earth,” but the actual danger was elsewhere. The concept of the Doctor being the President of Earth was always a silly one, but it did turn out to make sense here as Bill’s association with him gave at least slight credence to Bill negotiating with the Monks due to her association with him. Plus it allowed for this line when the term President was first raised: “How would I know the President? I wouldn’t even have voted for him. He’s… orange.” That pause allowed us to fill in many other adjectives.

Now we have poor Bill’s date being interrupted by the UN, after being interrupted in the simulation last week by the Pope. I do wonder why it was the UN and not UNIT.

There are other intrusions from our world beyond the orange president, the Pope, and the UN. Sometimes fictitious search engines are used, but in this episode Google was mentioned. This might be related to changes in BBC policy, with real brand names not being allowed in the past. Apparently this has changed as this week there was also a reference to Uber.

Besides the old idea of the Doctor being President of earth, they purposely extended the Doctor’s blindness from Oxygen to both put the Doctor in danger, and give Bill a reason to negotiate with the Monks. It is a shame that the door didn’t have a keypad instead of the type of lock it did. The Doctor probably could have entered the code on a keypad by touch and saved the world without need for anyone to surrender to the Monks. (“Hello, I’m the Doctor, saving the world with my eyes shut.”)

While there are certainly questions about how plausible this is, it was a clever idea to have the Monks take over worlds by modeling every moment in the history of a planet, and figuring out when they would be destroyed without the help of the Monks. Then they could be asked to save the planet (with saving the planet but not surrendering control not being a consideration.) With countless alien invasion stories having been written, it isn’t easy to come up with new twists. Of course it does seem far fetched that their models could have predicted the exact sequence of events here, starting with a woman’s glasses being broken because she used her bag to prop her door open. It is also notable that Erica just played the scientists’s role as any woman might, without mention of her stature.

Modeling to this degree was not the only area where the Monks had inexplicable powers. For example, while perhaps they might be able to reset digital watches which are set from a common source to the time of the Domesday Clock, how could they possibly reset all the analog watches on earth? I also question the mechanism by which they could instantly restore the Doctor’s eye sight from a distance. It must be either nanobots moving at superspeed, or magic.

We will see if there is more of an explanation for their powers next week. Perhaps there is some clue in the TARDIS-like nature of the pyramid. While we know that Missy is involved next week from the preview, could the pyramid be related to the Time Lords, and perhaps the John Simm version of the Master (who is also returning this season)?

Their rational used by the Monks is also difficult to understand. The basic premise might make sense: “We must be wanted. We must be loved. To rule through fear is inefficient.” However, they seem to base this on technicalities (not unlike how the Doctor is keeping Missy in the vault but failed to go through with executing in Extremis). While they demanded love, and rejected the surrender of the others based upon fear, Bill’s love was for the Doctor, not for the Monks, and does not translate to love from other humans. I am willing to accept this for now based upon the Monks being aliens, with needs and motives which humans do not understand.

As they have the ability to change their shape, I also do not understand why they took this shape. A true monk, or perhaps an angel, might have led to easier acceptance from humans. Perhaps the third part will answer some of these questions.

The CW Network had several season finales recently. The 100 was the most interesting, and the only one to have a better season than last year. The season was about survival, and late in the episode it looked like we might have the group in the bunker, the group going into space, and Clarke on earth (never doubting that she would survive). The final moments expanded upon this by jumping ahead. Clarke was not alone, and a prison transport ship was landing. Presumably these were real prisoners, not the same as the original 100 to be sent down to earth in the first season. This also leaves open the possibility of other survivors, both on earth and from space.

Jumping ahead leaves open the possibility of telling one story six years in the future, while still having flash backs about how everyone survived. There are bound to be interesting stories about each group. As I would expect, Jason Rothenberg did say that we will see these flashbacks in an interview about the finale with TV Guide:

We do get a glimpse of Clarke in the flash-forward, and she’s taking care of a Nightblood child. What can you reveal about the life Clarke made for herself after praimfaya and who this girl is?
Rothenberg:
She’s definitely got a maternal bond with that child. Her name is Madi, she’s a Nightblood, you’re right. They probably found each other at some point a few years into being the last person the planet. We’ll play with that in Season 5 and probably go back and tell that story. But her relationship, her connection to Madi, is now as strong as Abby’s connection is to Clarke. These two people are the only two people on planet Earth. They are each other’s everything and they’ve survived together. On top of the age difference, obviously leaning into a mother-daughter thing, they also are each other’s best friends and companions. They’ve only been together for the last however-many-years-ago they met. That’s way longer than Clarke ever knew really anybody other than the people she came down with in the show. So it’s going to be a very, very important relationship in Season 5.

What can you say about the identity of the people on the ship and how they’ll factor into next season?
Rothenberg:
It’s huge. That’s essentially teeing up the story for the next season, which is obviously what we like to do in our finales. It’s prisoners. If you look at the signage on the ship, there are some Easter eggs to sort of indicate who those people may be. It’s a prison ship. So to me, it was really a cool idea to essentially bring things full circle. The 100, when they landed, were prisoners. They were juvenile delinquents, but they were criminals and they found out they were not alone on the ground. And here we have this group of real hardened criminals coming back to Earth thinking that its abandoned and that its their planet to come back to, only to discover, of course, that Clarke is out there, at least when we start things. So they’re not alone just like our heroes weren’t when they first landed. So there’s a real cool symmetry to that and perspective switch.

I definitely sensed some sparks between Bellamy and Echo in the finale, and six years is a long time to be trapped together in space. What can you say about the state of their relationship moving forward?
Rothenberg:
Well, I’m not going to go there, really, with you right now. But definitely six years is a long time to be trapped in space with somebody. And Bellamy and Echo have always had sparks. Their relationship was certainly interesting from day one when they woke up trapped next to each other in Mount Weather. It’s been a long and winding road, and obviously that road’s not over yet… They’re all together in a group in space, so you never know!

Will we get flashbacks to what happened in the six years since praimfaya?
Rothenberg:
Well, for sure the point of a time-jump is to skip a bunch of stuff and put them in another place and try to figure out how they got that way. And the thrust of the story in Season 5 will be going forward and not going backward. But the stuff that we’re jumping, as we’re in the room breaking Season 5, that time period is so filled with great story potential that it’s safe to say that we’ll see some of it. We’ll see the key moments for sure.

 

More in an interview at BuddyTV.

I thought that the DC superhero shows on The CW Network all had a down year, and this was reflected in their season finales.

Despite a meandering season, I thought that Supergirl did improve for the end of the season. I did like the Daxamite invasion storyline at the end, and the return of Calista Flockhart. Hopefully she will be around more next season. There was finally confirmation that she realizes that Kara is Supergirl, which I already assumed after she quickly figured out that James Olsen was the Guardian from seeing only his eyes. The concluding episodes also featured a strong female supporting cast beyond Flockhart with Teri Hatcher, Katie McGrath, Lynda Carter, and Brenda Strong.

The episode had the frequent superhero trope of setting up a situation in which two superheros fight each other, with Supergirl beating Superman. Fortunately they made this brief and went on to fighting the invaders. After this was resolved, it ended with a look at Reign being sent from away from Krypton, and I  assume he will be the big bad for next season. It was probably for the best that they wrote out Mon-El, leaving him alive so there is a possibility of him finding a way to return in a future season.

I was disappointed that after all these episodes dealing with saving Iris on The Flash, the finale used a simple solution with a device introduced the previous week. It also felt awfully contrived to end with someone needing to be a prisoner of the speed force, and then only Barry volunteering. We know he will get out. Hopefully they will at least do something creative with him being there and how he does leave. The highlight of the episode for me was Cisco telling Wally to “reverse the polarity on the neutron flow.” For a show which has used so much timey wimey time travel, this homage to the Third Doctor fit right in.

I thought the least of the finale of Arrow. It just felt like a series of fights and pretending to change sides. The cliff hanger was even less suspenseful than on The Flash as there is no question most, if not all, got off the island in time. Just as the synopsis for the next season of The Flash (released last week) gave away the fact that Iris would return before the finale aired, the synopsis for Arrow in the same post tells who is returning. At least the flashbacks are now over.

Over on Syfy, 12 Monkeys had not only their finale, but the entire season last weekend. As I suspect that some did not have time to watch it all, I’ll avoid spoilers, but the season was excellent, even better than the second season. The season has a continuous story, working well for binging over a short period of time. Generally each episode was also a self-contained story, but sometimes one episode would go right into the next. There were major events and changes in the story to make each of the three nights feel like they were also coming to somewhat of a conclusion before going onto the next, and the story was more compelling by watching this all together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bell: It is!

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

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

Whedon: [silence] We can’t say.

Bell: We acknowledge there’s a time jump…

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

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

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

Bell: Yeah, that was what he said.

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

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

Bell: Right, like borrowing a T-shirt.

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

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

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

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

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

Whedon: But theirs is a forever love.

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

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

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

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

They have also released the synopsis of Arrow season six:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netflix has confirmed a fifth season of Arrested Development.

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

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Oxygen; Timeless; Sense8; The Handmaid’s Tale; More Renewals and Cancellations; The Last Man On Earth Season Finale; Artistic Opposition To Donald Trump

Doctor Who began Oxygen with an apparent homage to Star Trek, speaking of the final frontier. Except it led into this week’s episode by saying, “Final because it wants to kill us.” Final frontier might also tie into the return of the Master by referring to the 1973 episode Frontier In Space which was final appearance of Roger Delgado as the Master.

The episode took advantage of the Doctor’s role as professor, and allowed him to use the blackboard again, even if he got off topic in discussing the dangers in space: “What’s this got to do with crop rotation?” This was a combination hard science fiction/space zombie episode, with less of the simple talk between Bill and the Doctor. That does not mean Bill didn’t get a chance to ask pertinent questions such as, “What happens if I throw up in my helmet?”

The best answer of the episode came from the Doctor in response to the question“Who the hell put you in charge?” The response: “I’m here to save lives. Anyone who doesn’t want me to, raise your hand now.”

The episode finally involved Nardole in the story, and got him off earth.

This was one of the more political episodes of the show. It was bad enough to find that the miners were charged for oxygen. They would also pump any excess oxygen out of the station to force the workers to have to purchase the oxygen from them. Making matters even worse, once the algorithms calculated that it was not cost effective to keep the workers alive, they were turned off and the suits took over. They continued to move, looking like space zombies.

A line from the Doctor when he figured out that the next set of people coming were not to rescue the workers, as that would not be cost effective, made this all work: “They’re not your rescuers. They’re your replacements. The end point of capitalism. The bottom line where human life has no value at all. We’re fighting an algorithm, a spreadsheet … like every worker everywhere, we’re fighting the suits!”

Giving the two meanings to “fighting the suits” fit in so well with this episode.

The Doctor went on to explain that soon after humanity resorted things like selling oxygen capitalism came to an end. However, after this, “the human race makes a whole new mistake.”

The solution to the problem was simple but fit into the story. The Doctor began to bluff in saying, “The nice thing about life is however bad it gets, there’s always one option left – dying well.” He had no intention of actually dying, but he made it look like he would make it more expensive for the corporation, causing the suits to all stop.

Unfortunately this did not come without some costs. The sonic screwdriver was destroyed (once again). The Doctor gave Bill his helmet to keep her alive, and as a result became blind. As the Doctor put it,  “I’ve got no TARDIS, no sonic, about 10 minutes of oxygen left and now I’m blind. Can you imagine how unbearable I’m going to be when I pull this off?”

Many episodes this season turn something common into something deadly,  reminiscent of Blink. This week the warning was “don’t panic” as this will lead to breathing faster, using up more oxygen, and death. Next week in Extremis yet another common event, reading a book, might get you killed. The Doctor’s blindness might be what saves him. Is this just a temporary measure for next week’s episode, or is it part of a slow death leading to his regeneration later this season? From the preview, we also see the return of Missy.

There was a lot of news this week regarding final decisions on renewals, largely with shows which were thought to be on the bubble. The announced cancellations included Sleepy Hollow, Timeless, Blacklist: Redemption (with Blacklist renewed), Scandal, PowerlessFrequency, and No Tomorrow. Renewals included New Girl (for one final season), Gotham, Agents of SHIELD, iZombie, American Gods, Thirteen Reasons Why, and A Handmaid’s Tale.

Of the cancelled shows, the only two which I might miss are Sleepy Hollow and Timeless. Sleepy Hollow did recover this season, with its season finale working as either the series finale or as a stepping stone to a new season. Timeless got better as the season went on, and ended with a cliff hanger which did leave me wanting more. Fortunately NBC listened to protests from other fans who felt the same and reversed its decision, giving it ten episodes next spring or summer.

Considering the nature of the show, there is also speculation that time travel was utilized to bring back the show. However, we learned from The Flash that going back in time to change things does have consequences. Reversing the decision at NBC might lead to terrible consequences. Perhaps ER will return for another decade, or worse, Whitney or Sean Saves The World will return to the NBC lineup.

I have no idea how the two new CW shows, Frequency and No Tomorrow, were. I never gave them a chance as there were already more shows on than I had time for, but I know both shows did have their fans. The CW Network has at least released epilogues for both of these shows.

Both Thirteen Reasons Why and The Handmaid’s Tale have been renewed for a second season, adding to the series based upon books which are going on beyond where the book they were based upon ended. The third season of The Leftovers is showing how a series can be better in such a situation. The Handmaid’s Tale has been excellent through the fifth episode, leaving me quite trusting of the producers to continue the story. While based upon the book this season, the show so far is often made stronger when it goes beyond the book. The story feels more realistic and a possible extension of current trends by showing the flashbacks. Mentions of events in Canada and the European Union since I last mentioned the book have further added to this sense of reality.

Now that we have also had additional episodes beyond the first three which were released at once, I further appreciate how good a job they are doing at not only converting a book but presenting episodic television. While it is not necessarily bad, many streaming shows and shows based upon books are more like a multi-hour movie with arbitrary breaks every hour or so. In contrast, each episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, while part of the novel, do tell a separate story.

Sense8, which I have completed since last discussing this, is also stronger in its second season in better handling episodic television while also having a season-long arc. Highlights include a wedding, a shoot out, and a car chase, along with other things I won’t mention to avoid any spoilers.

The Last Man on Earth ended with a change in scenery necessitated by a nearby nuclear power plant being on the verge of a melt down. We also found out that Kristen Wiig’s character, who had appeared in a single episode, has survived. Den of Geek spoke with the writers:

DEN OF GEEK: I sort of like the idea that this finale is all about safety. Did you know that you’d be ending up at this nuclear fallout angle when the season began? There are light references to it throughout the year.

KIRA KALUSH: We were always pretty set on doing a nuclear fallout this season. For a while we thought it could be our mid-season finale. We even toyed around with it being the reason the group leaves Malibu, but ultimately, here it landed, and I think it was the right move.

ANDY BOBROW: When we went in to discuss the season with the network, we pitched this ending, kind of as a “this is something we’re thinking about, not married to it yet.” It certainly scared them financially, since we basically guaranteed we will have to build all new sets next year. So we were mindful of that, what it would cost. And we kept thinking, well, maybe some better idea will come along. As the year progressed, we really couldn’t think of anything stronger. We realize we’re writing ourselves into a corner, but it just seemed so Last Man, I think we had to go for it.

Is that perhaps the direction that the show is moving in?  Where the gang is just trying to avoid nuclear fallout. It’s nice that this material also brings everything back full circle in terms of Pat.

KIRA KALUSH: You can never really say where the show is going until we’re there, but I don’t think the group will be on the run for too long. It’s likely that this is just a way for them to move locations and get out of their element. But who knows? R.I.P. Pat Brown. He was a fantastic misunderstood conspiracy theorist with anger problems, but it was his time to go.

ANDY BOBROW: The thought of doing a whole season on the run is very enticing, but might be cost prohibitive. Just in terms of the production of the show, our model is we build a set and shoot three days on set and two days on location per episode. Location shooting is more expensive, but if there’s a way to do more of it and stay on budget, I’m all for it…

The season seems to end with the only things that are clear being that the gang is on a boat and that Kristen Wiig’s Pamela is along for the ride. Did you ever think of her appearance almost just functioning as like a short film about the end of the world, or was the plan always to circle back to her?

KIRA KALUSH: I actually have a good answer to this one. There was a pitch that always made me laugh, but it’s a giant “fuck you” to the audience. The Wiig episode is so good and so exciting and we knew our fans would be psyched, waiting to see when and how she joins the group. So the pitch was this: In the time jump at Melissa and Todd’s wedding, Tandy is rambling on about everything they’ve been through together as a group. He points to memorials of Phil, Gordon, Lewis, and finally, Pamela — revealing that Pamela met up with the group, lived with them and died, all within those six months. I don’t think we ever would have done it, but it still cracks me up.

ANDY BOBROW: Right right. I mentioned this in the time jump questions, because at one point, rather than Pamela it was going to be Steve Buscemi. Either Steve Buscemi as himself, or just a character Tandy mentions, who is represented by a driver’s license or passport on a tombstone, and you can see it’s Steve Buscemi.

But getting back to Pamela, Will’s initial discussion with Kristen was we’ll take you for as few or as many episodes as you want. So our thought was if we could only have her for one episode, it would be a thing where she interacts with them more, i.e. she shows up at the beginning and leaves them at the end. Since she was game for more than one, we decided this was the way to go. Do a standalone with her, and then have her show up at the end. There were pitches that would have used more of her in the finale, but her availability was limited. She only had a day. As for season four, well once again, we’ll take as much Kristen as we can get.

The first episode of The Last Man on Earth with Kristen Wiig showed the death of the Pence administration, presumably after Trump was gone. While the novel was written in the Reagan era, The Handmaid’s Tale as a television show has been seen as a cautionary tale about Donald Trump.

In another commentary on politics, during the past week we learned that hail-hydra.com redirected to the official White House web site. Bleeding Cool tracked down and interviewed the person responsible for this:

Bleeding Cool: What made you decide to do this? Did you own the domain before you decided to do the redirect or did you buy a while ago? What made you decide to buy it?

Hail-Hydra Owner: I bought the domain in April of 2014. I’d remembered the Senator played by Garry Shandling whispering “Hail Hydra!” in Iron Man 2, then is arrested at the end of Captain America: Winter’s Soldier for being a member of Hydra. His character reminded me of many GOP senators (probably a personal bias there) so I looked to see if I could come up with a good domain to redirect at Republicans. hail-hydra.com was the second I tried. Originally I pointed it at Ted Cruz‘s presidential campaign, then Trump’s campaign and finally (and depressingly) at his White House web page…

Bleeding Cool: What about the current redirect? Was it something you changed recently or was it when he was inaugurated in January? Or was this a reaction to something specific that President Trump did?

Hail-Hydra Owner: I changed it the day of the inauguration. It was the first time I knew I was going to change it and when. All the other times I’d just remembered I owned it and would pick a target based on news at the time, and then tweet a few people to try and get it to go viral. I’m not even sure what set it off this time around.

Bleeding Cool: Finally, how do you want people to react to what you’ve done here? Did you get the type of reaction that you wanted or did you want something more? Less?

Hail-Hydra Owner: Since this seems to be getting some news I’ve kept an eye on twitter reactions, most people are reacting the way I would hope. It’s funny, it’s political satire. Do I think Republicans are literal Nazis? No. Do I think they’re over-authoritarian with a complete disregard for the majority of people in the country that can’t donate a million dollars to them? Yes. Several articles say they contacted the White House for comment, I hope I don’t end up on a terror list in retaliation.

For those who prefer their artistic opposition to Donald Trump to come from music, The Hill reports:

Todd Rundgren, a singer and songwriter, warned fans not to attend his concerts if they are Donald Trump supporters, saying “buyer beware.”

“If I had the power, I’d say: If you’re a Trump supporter, don’t come to my show, because you won’t have a good time,” Rundgren said in a Variety interview released Sunday.

Rundgren collaborated with an array of artists for his new album “White Night,” including Donald Fagen. Together, Fagen and Rundgren produced an anti-Trump song called “Man in the Tin Foil Hat.”

Lyrics include: “He’s coming down the escalator with a girl from east of here, because the man in the tin foil hat is leading like a teenage girl. He put’s the ‘pluto’ in plutocrat, he hasn’t got time for losers, unless they do what he demands.”

Rundgren said his shows will contain many insulting jokes about the Republican president, warning that it could be a turnoff for the president’s supporters

“I guarantee that in this show, if you’re a Trump supporter, you will likely be offended. Let the buyer beware! I mean, if you can’t take a joke, or you can’t admit that you’ve made a mistake, you don’t belong with the rest of us,” he said with a laugh, according to the interview.

Rundgren also said he also questions the values of Trump supporters.

“And also, I don’t understand your frickin’ values. Because I’m not singing about that. If you don’t understand that basic thing, you’re just fooling yourself,” he added.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Knock Knock; American Gods; Sense8; The Flash; Ranking The Rolling Stones Songs

Knock Knock had some good moments but did not really work. Possibly the problem was timing. It attempted to be a plot-driven episode of Doctor Who and depended less on the interplay between the Doctor and Bill, but in doing so partially lost the strongest aspect of the season so far, while still having a plot which was rushed to the point of making little sense.

The story jumped too quickly from students looking for an affordable place to live to the first death. While the general premise of housing being too expensive was realistic, why did Bill suddenly need to find somewhere new to live, and why with these six people she barely knew? I’m sure students don’t read their housing contracts that closely, but I wonder if even a cursory reading might have tipped them off to what they were agreeing to. It is less plausible that not a single student would have looked into cell or internet access before quickly moving in. While I did like how they went from one student joking around to really being killed, it all felt too rushed. The student who hit on Bill this quickly was also acting in too much of a rushed manner.

There were some good scenes, but overall the threat from the bugs and the wood made little sense. Why did they keep Eliza alive, eat some students, and incorporate others into the woodwork? Things just happened without any real answers, or anyone figuring out much. While they did figure out that the Landlord must Eliza’s son and not father, this was not all that tremendous, and had little bearing on the outcome. Suddenly Eliza intervened to help, was able to control the bugs, and opened the shutters in time for the fire works. I was waiting to hear When You Wish Upon A Star as if it was the Magic Kingdom. Everyone turned out to be alive, but why did the insects release them? Presumably those eaten in previous years were too far gone, but it might have been an amusing scene to have groups of students from the past suddenly appear if they were going to show any victims come back to life.

Perhaps more time on the plot could have solved some of these problems, but that would have taken away even more time from Bill and the Doctor. The Doctor did mention regeneration, foreshadowing what we know will come later this season. He also mentioned the Time Lords. It was amusing to see the Doctor use the TARDIS to help Bill move in, but I don’t understand why Bill seemed to be embarrassed to let the others know about her relationship with the Doctor. She did claim he was her Grandfather. Is this somehow related to the pictures of Susan on the Doctor’s desk?

I’m surprised that they did not bring up the inability of the sonic screwdriver to work on wood, or make more use of its sonic abilities considering the importance of sound in controlling the bugs. Of course I don’t blame the Doctor for not being clear as to how that worked as I’m not too clear on it either after watching the episode.

At least the show sort of gets the history right, including Harriet Jones among the Prime Ministers of Great Britain.

This season we have seen a reflection and failing to smile become things to fear, and I wonder if the intent was to do the same with knocking, considering the title. If so, it didn’t work. Of course the classic example of Doctor Who creating fear is Blink, and this episode was filmed on the same property, but in a different house, as where Blink was filmed.

The episode concluded with the Doctor going inside to visit the person in the vault. The interaction we did hear has strengthened suspicion that it is The Master (very likely as Missy) inside. For that matter, is the vault the Master’s TARDIS and how big will it be on the inside?

In other Doctor Who universe news, there is a new design for K-9. There will also be a series five of Torchwood, taking place after Miracle Day, but it will be released as an audio series.

American Gods premiered last week. I wonder if this is the right format. The show is apparently very faithful to the book, while expanding on situations and characters. One review said that the entire first season covers only the first one hundred pages of the book. The show is basically set up for at least the first four episodes, making me wonder if television viewers who aren’t familiar with the book will understand what is going on and stick it out. This could be a situation in which it might not be best to be so faithful to the book. Otherwise it might be better to release this Netflix style and have it available all at once, so people can go through it more like reading a book, as opposed to watching the first episode, being confused, and possibly not returning. At very least it might have been better to release the first few episodes at once, as Hulu did with The Handmaid’s Tale.

Whether or not they understand what is going on, fans of  Bryan Fuller’s work will feel right at home with the visual. The lynching scene at the end felt like something right out of Hannibal. Fuller discussed the scene with TV Guide.

Neil Gaiman explained what the book and series is all about in an interview with Recode:

Many of you who are listening to this know what “American Gods” is because it’s a very popular book. Some of you have not read the book, so Neil, tell us what the book and the show are about.

The book — which was written in 1999, 2000 and 2001, and published in June 2001 — and the show, which is coming up, are both about America. They’re both about a man named Shadow, who is in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit and has been looking forward to getting out and getting back together with his wife, Laura, who he loves very, very much. In a one-two sucker punch, he learns that he’s being let out a few days early, and he is being let out a few days early because his wife was killed in a car crash. He’s on his way back to his wife’s funeral when he meets a peculiar old grifter on a plane, who offers him a job.

The job, which he winds up taking, throws Shadow into the middle of a battle, an oncoming battle, between all of the old gods, all of the things that people who have come to America over the years have brought with them and abandoned, whether it’s leprechauns, or the Golem, or things that people have believed in, come to America, as all of the people who are in America are the descendants of people who came here, or are people who came here, and also the new gods. The new gods are the things that demand our attention, that we give our time and our love and our attention to, whether it be the gods of podcast, or of those small glass and metal and plastic objects that we all stare at in rapt devotion…

This is a book you started writing in the late ’90s. You started making the TV show a couple of years ago, it comes out now, and it is about immigration, in large part?

Yeah.

Race is forefront. There is a lynching scene at the end of the first episode. The beginning of the second episode, it starts off on a slave ship, so obviously there is some timely stuff going on here. Do you figure that would’ve been timely no matter what?

The weird thing for me is that when I wrote the book, I did not see any of this stuff as controversial. When I wrote the book, I thought, okay, this is an immigrant country. Some of the people came here, their ancestors came here 20,000 years ago from Siberia, crossing the Bering Straights and stuff. Some people came here 400 years ago, and some people wanted to come here, and some people were sent as prisoners, sent as slaves …

Right, there’s no question mark at the end of it, it’s a full stop.

That one’s a full stop. This is an immigrant country, and furthermore, I don’t think it’s contentious or controversial to be pro Statue of Liberty, and the poem thereon. You’re going, “I think that is part of the American psyche, the American dream,” nor did it think it was, in any way, controversial or laudable to go, “I am writing a novel about immigration in America, therefore I am going to have a lot of people in my book of different races because there are a lot of different races in America. I will make a mixed-race hero, A) for plot reasons and B) because he embodies America.” That all seemed to me to be very …

Table stakes.

Yeah. It’s not controversial, and I don’t think we thought it was controversial when we were writing the scripts, and I don’t think anybody thought it was really controversial when we were shooting it.

Cut to 2017.

Suddenly, I’m describing the show … There was a point where I was describing the show to … I was on the Empire Film Awards red carpet and somebody put a microphone in my face, and I told them a little bit about the show, and I said, “You know, things have changed. We did not think this stuff was controversial, but now we seem to be occupying political territory. We’re willing to take that, but we didn’t choose it to be.” The headline, when it was published was, “Neil Gaiman, author of ‘American Gods,’ slams Donald Trump.”

I thought, “I didn’t slam Donald Trump.” If I wanted to slam Donald Trump and talk about what a peculiar, narcissistic, ineffectual joke he is, I could’ve done, but I didn’t. I don’t even think I mentioned the poor man’s name.

Empire On Line discussed the making of the show with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green:

So, what’s the story here? Do you guys go out of your way to just get weird with this stuff? Bryan, you did Hannibal, obviously, and that had its own surreal quality to it. It almost seems like you sit there saying, “How can we fuck with the audience’s mind?”

Fuller: No, not really [laughs]. I think our imaginations are fairly vivid and when we’re reading something that is as inspiring as Neil’s novel, it’s hard not to grab the baton and run. If anything, we’ve checked each other a couple of times where it’s, like, “Uh, that may be too big and too weird,” and for us to say that to each other, you know it’s big and weird.

Is this just the way your minds work?

Green: It’s more where we live and we have the opportunity to do it, but it’s also why we were drawn to Neil’s writing and specifically this book is that it allowed us to bring imagination to life, even if it was going to be lavish, difficult, expensive.

Michael, is that something that you’re naturally drawn to, that type of storytelling?

Green: Bryan and I share a lot of taste and style, but I will say as a fan of Hannibal and of Bryan’s in the intervening years when we weren’t working together, I would often get together with him and just ask him, “How do you accomplish these things?” Bryan as a producer has an incredible and enviable track record of taking the ideas in his mind and being able to share them with other people by actualizing them. That is as good a definition of producing as I can muster, where it’s one thing as a writer to take an idea in your head and get it on the page clearly so other people can experience that idea. It’s another thing to be able to do that with visual images.

There were images on the show, sequences on the show, that Bryan described to me when we were in the writing phases and I could imagine very vividly, but the process of being able to actually put that on the screen takes an incredible amount of work, dedication, clarity of purpose. Every idea can continue to get better as more time goes on. I’ve been very much enjoying working with Bryan and learning how he manages to extract from his own mind the best idea and extract from the talented artists we work with the visual representation of those ideas.

Fuller: One of the things that we’ve learned on the show is we needed a long runway, because a lot of these ideas that we’re working on required a certain amount of experimentation to get right, and there were alleys that we went down regarding some visual effects. When we got to the end, we’re, like, “This doesn’t work. We need to back up and try something else, because it’s not holding up to the standards that we have.” Or it was an ambitious idea that we thought we could pull off, but we couldn’t quite, so we had to do something that we could achieve. A lot of our conversations with the visual effects team are about, “What can we pull off? What’s too big for us to achieve in our time and budget?”

The interview went on to discuss several of the characters.

Netflix released season two of Sense8. (Technically the Christmas episode was the first episode of the season). I have a few episodes to go, which might affect my opinion, and I don’t want to say very much to avoid spoilers as this has only been available for a couple of days. Now that the first season established the back story, the plot so far does seem more coherent than in the first season, but that doesn’t matter all that much. I’d enjoy the show even if there was no real plot and we were just seeing that world for several hours. My suspicion is that the Wachowskis come up with great scenes and then J. Michael Straczynski figures out how they can be fit together into a fairly coherent plot. (Maybe the Wachowskis should have brought someone like JMS in to give a better storyline for the Matrix sequels). Like with American Gods and Hannibal, the imagery is important–with a totally different type of imagery here.

Again, avoiding spoilers, the conspiracy element reminds me a bit of Orphan Black. There is the return of Mr. Whispers, and the BPO (Biologic Preservation Organization), with more layers than in the first season, similar to how the conspiracy expanded on Orphan Black. There is more of a biological background given, and there are other clusters. While new characters are introduced, the story does continue to concentrate on the cluster seen in the first season, with their individual stories, both alone and when connected with others, continuing to be the strength of the show.

In other entertainment news, it was announced that both The Handmaid’s Tale and 13 Reasons Why have both been renewed for a second season.

Comicbook.com explains how the reveal of Savatar’s identity on last week’s episode of The Flash plays into the 2056 warning from the Flash previously played on Legends of Tomorrow. They are going to have to do a lot more to convince me that it is plausible to have a future Barry come back in time and kill Iris.

In a really ambitious project, Vulture ranked all 373 songs by the Rolling Stones. Number one is You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Lawyers, Guns & Money wants to argue over it. Vulture did point out some areas of potential controversy beyond the ranking of the songs:

The Rolling Stones have multiple songs that are lyrically reprehensible to women and people of color — often both at the same time. If I were questioned about this topic at the Pearly Gates, I’d suggest that the Stones’ offensive attitudes had more to do with a craven desire to be provocative than any fundamental malignant worldview, but maybe I’m a fool. Whatever the true motivation behind them, a handful of the band’s songs have been tarred by Jagger and Richards’s sex and race insensitivity. There’s no getting around it. Then there’s the matter of appropriation. Excepting perhaps Elvis, there is no rock act that benefited more from drawing on black music than the Rolling Stones, who have repeatedly talked with respect and deference about how much they’ve taken from their musical idols. I do think that once the band took flight, its music represents a synthesis of their influences, rather than mere mimicry or theft. That said, I don’t know what you do with all these issues other than acknowledge that they’re a problem.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Thin Ice; The Handmaid’s Tale; Catastrophe; American Gods

Thin Ice had the most complete story so far this season, but the highlight of the episode remained the relationship between Bill and The Doctor. The episode dealt serious matters including racism and class, but it was the meta discussion of time travel and the Doctor which was most interesting.

The Doctor and Bill continued in their rules of tutor and pupil with Bill asking questions throughout the episode, also providing an opportunity to give some comments on the show in Moffat’s final season. This was Bill’s first real trip into the past and, being well-aware of science fiction tropes, Bill asked what the “rules” are. “You travel into the past. There’s got to be rules. If I step on a butterfly it could send ripples through time that mean I’m not even born in the first place and I could just disappear.” Her concern was that, “Every choice I make in this moment here and now could change the whole future.” The Doctor replied with justification for the often careless manner in which he interacts with the past in pointing out that this is, “Exactly like every other day of your life. The only thing to do is to stop worrying about it.”

Except for poor Pete, written out of history, and even deleted from the memories of viewers and from recordings of the last two episodes. We haven’t seen anything like this since Cold Blood in which Rory was sucked into a crack in the universe and erased from history. Perhaps Pete will return, possibly as another Auton duplicate, as Rory later did.

There was also repetition of the Doctor being a bit of a thief, along with his his limited control over the TARDIS: “I told you, you don’t steer the TARDIS. You reason with it… and successfully most of the time… She’s a bad girl this one. Always looking for trouble.”

Bill had more serious questions and observations. She noted that “Regency England, a bit more black than they show in the movies.” The Doctor replied, “So was Jesus. History’s a whitewash.”

She realized that there was a lot more to the Doctor than a university professor after seeing his lack of a response to the death of a child. She asked him how many people he has seen die, and then how many he has killed. He had no specific answers. He did say, “I’m 2,000-years-old and I’ve never had the time for the luxury of outrage.” I wondered how long it would be until Bill saw through that lie, and it occurred later in the same episode.

The Doctor had fun with Bill beyond his reference to Pete. He allowed her to watch the lights because she was having fun, and then mentioned seeing lights as a side effect of time travel. Later he told her to let him do the talking because she has a temper. Moments later he slugged  Lord Sutcliffe (also showing his capacity for outrage).

Of course the Doctor wasn’t entirely cold about the death of the boy. He just has seen enough to know when he can and cannot do something. His overall view was more humane: “Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life, a life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age. That’s what defines a species.”

The episode took place in the Frost Fair of 1814, the last in a series of actual events when the the River Thames froze over. Being 2000 years old (or actually older if the events of past seasons are taken into consideration), and prone to hanging out on earth, it is no surprise that the Doctor was there before. A Good Man Goes to War reveals that he was there with River Song, with Stevie Wonder performing:

River: It’s my birthday. The Doctor took me ice skating on the River Thames in 1814, the last of the great Frost Fairs. He got Stevie Wonder to sing for me under London Bridge.
Rory: Stevie Wonder sang in 1814?
River: Yes, he did, but you must never tell him.

(As a totally irrelevant aside, Stevie Wonder was once dining at the same restaurant I was at while traveling to Washington, D.C.)

There was an old Companion Chronicle audio story in which the first Doctor, Vicki and Steven visited the Frost Fair of 1814. The Doctor also promised to take Clara to the Frost Fair in The Caretaker (and actually did in a novel) The Doctor’s lack of interest in rules of time travel in his discussion with Bill is consistent with his lack of concern for returning to the same place–which would be forbidden in other time travel stories. This includes the breaking of time in the Legends of Tomorrow season two finale.

Bill did verify that her trip did not brake time, and Doctor Who has already established that humans have an incredible tendency to forget the extraordinary events depicted on the show. Bill used Search-wise.net for her research–a site which actually exists for television purposes.

The Doctor and Bill returned to the Doctor’s office in time for tea, but Nardole figured out that they had been traveling in time when he saw their change of clothing. He did not appear to figure out out that he had no chance to win the coin toss. For the sake of continuity, he did make reference to how he was reassembled between The Husbands Of River Song when he was decapitated and The Return Of Doctor Mysterio. He returned to the vault where we learned that someone or something inside was knocking, perhaps the Master, except that he knocks four times. Knocking also foreshadowed a past regeneration.

The Handmaid’s Tale premiered on Hulu, with the first three episodes being released. The show displayed a very bleak future in which Christian fundamentalists have established a dictatorship. This would be more plausible in a Muslim country, especially considering recent events in Turkey. It seems more plausible here, and  especially timely, after the election of Donald Trump, with the lack of respect for reproductive right’s and a woman’s right to control her own body taken to even more horrifying extremes. (To be objective and nonpartisan, Democrats cannot totally place the blame on Donald Trump and Republicans for rightward movement in this country considering their lack of concern in nominating a candidate such as Hillary Clinton who has a terrible history on First Amendment issues, including separation of church and state. While obviously Clinton would never support the mistreatment of women in this manner, her work with The Fellowship while in the Senate did help facilitate the goals of the religious right in increasing the role of religion in public policy.)

Elisabeth Moss does an excellent job as Offred (presumably given this name as she belongs to Fred), who is forced to conform outwardly. The totalitarian society shows how those without power being under constant surveillance, appearing to have no chance to rebel, or even safely be themselves with others. Inwardly it is a different story: “My name is Offred, and I intend to survive.” Her internal thoughts provide necessary relief from the overall story. There are also breaks from the main narrative to see how America went in that direction. Martial law was initiated, supposedly on a temporary nature in response to a terrorist attack, and later women were prohibited from having money or holding jobs.

The supporting cast also does an excellent job, especially Alexis Bledel (renamed Ofglen, following the same pattern), who managed to portray with her eyes alone the horrors of what she was exposed to in the third episode. Yvonne Strahovski is also excellent. 

Showrunner Bruce Miller discussed changes in the television show from the novel, including what happened to Ofglen (with spoilers for the third episode):

You take the character of Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) in a different direction very early on in the series. Can you talk about the decision to have Ofglen forcibly undergo genital mutilation surgery and how that changes things for her character moving forward?
Miller:
In the book, Ofglen just disappears and we hear that she killed herself. There’s no real way to confirm that. This was just one of those cases where you just follow your curiosity and you say, well, what happened to her? And I was fascinated by the idea, personally, of seeing how some of the institutions were being reproduced in Gilead. And the institution of the criminal justice system seemed fascinating in a world with institutionalized sexism and misogyny and biblical laws that were being taken literally. So that kind of lead us down a path of, OK, if I want to see how all of those things go, it would be very interesting to follow those things to the end. And making the decision about the female genital mutilation was really just kind of a practical discussion. A world that happened by accident is different than a world people created on purpose and here, Gilead is a world they created on purpose. There’s motive behind it, human motive. So what we’re trying to do is say, OK, what would they do to someone like Ofglen? They don’t want to kill her or send her away. They want to maintain her fertility as part of their reproductive system and their focus on that. So how would they try to control her?

And also taking into account, Margaret Atwood has said many times and we’ve certainly took on this adage, that nothing should happen in the show that doesn’t happen in the world. We don’t want to make up cruelties just for the sake of doing it. Then it turns into pornography. It turns into violence. It’s commentary and it helps you understand the world if you take things that happened in the world. Female genital mutilation is certainly something that happens all over the world. The difference here is that it doesn’t usually happen to white girls, but it does happen all over the world. We spoke to the U.N. and we spoke to the councils they sent us to about how it happens and why it happens and what it’s used for and how it’s done. We took it really seriously. We didn’t want to do it for shock value, even though it’s very shocking. You want to do it because it seems like the thing that Gilead would do. It’s a difference in the book, but it’s also something that takes place out of Offred’s point of view, at least in the show and also in the book. So we felt like we weren’t straying so far because it was something that could have happened in the world of the book and could have happened to somebody else. But anything we did that was not in the book or anything we changed, we were incredibly serious in those discussions about why to change things.

He also discussed how timely the series is:

A lot has been said about how timely the series is. Do you feel any concern that, given the current state of our society, The Handmaid’s Tale might hit a little too close to home for many viewers who would rather avoid facing these ideas head-on?
Miller:
I’m not worried. I hope it hits a little too close to home for viewers who are feeling anxious, because I think there are some great lessons to be learned, which is that the world can change in big ways and we should be very mindful of keeping an eye on our freedoms. As in the show, we see in the flashbacks, how in big and small ways the world can change and the things that we say and the things people say, they’re going to end up mattering in people’s personal lives and that we live in a country where we enjoy lots of freedoms and that those freedoms are not to be taken for granted.

The other thing is that if it does hit close to home, it also offers some really good examples of what to do. Offred is in an incredibly difficult circumstance, and yet she finds ways to express herself, she keeps her sanity, she keeps her heart alive. She also pulls levers of power. She manipulates the people around her to both increase her chances of survival, but also to build some sort of life. She makes connections with people even when they’re scary. I think in a way that’s inspiring. If Offred can do that in that situation, maybe we can do something in this situation. I think Margaret said it in the book, which is, “just do something.” And hopefully you walk away with that. And the other part is that there is a part of doe-eyed optimism on my part, when you look in the flashbacks, the world is so jarringly different. Our messy, noisy world where people are kissing in public and on their iPhones and stuff, you learn to appreciate it, or at least I did. Spending so much time in the fictional world of Gilead, you learn to appreciate how nice it is to have a messy, noisy world and what a pleasure that is. So if you walk out of there going boy, we actually have a good thing going even though it annoys us sometimes, that’s the nerve you want to hit, which is people saying, “Oh, actually there are some good things. Let’s fight to preserve them.” As opposed to, “Things are sh–ty, let’s just throw up our hands and abandon them.

While there were changes from the book, he also discussed how he consulted Margaret Atwood in an interview with Time:

The show definitely expands on what’s happened in the book. You get more backstory. You get to see what happens from the perspective of other characters. How did you decide what to expand and why, and did you discuss those decisions with Margaret Atwood at all?

Everything’s been a conversation with Margaret. It’s very unusual with something this iconic that you would have the author still living. Margaret is an expert in her own way of seeing this particular piece of work adapted: It’s been a play, opera, movie. So she had a lot of experience with what things need to change for different forms for this story. Where I might have had trepidation changing things because of my affection for the book, she certainly did not.

If we changed something, we did it thoughtfully and for a reason. We discussed the repercussions of each change with Margaret. It’s been a very active conversation back and forth. And I’ve been through the story a lot. We’ve picked it apart in the writers’ room. Elisabeth, in particular, has been through the book and educated herself to the nth degree. She’s memorized whole sections of it. So we took great care, and most of the changes we’ve made were actually extrapolations: Taking a thing that was a sentence in the book and turning it into a whole episode.

While Handmaid’s Tale is a must-see show this season, it is disturbing and bleak. My wife and I found that comic relief was necessary after watching three episodes. Fortunately Amazon has released the third season of Catastrophe. If  you haven’t seen this, I recommend going back to the start. Each season takes under three hours to watch. It is sort of like doing You’re The Worst with older, but still highly flawed people, and setting it in the U.K.

For the benefit of those who watched the second season, the events at the end of the final episode have considerable impact as the third season began. A similar formula was used, with an event at the tend of the final episode of the third season likely to have further ramifications in the fourth. Fortunately the series was renewed for both a third and fourth season at the same time, so we will see where this goes.

Sadly, the series has become of significance for science fiction. Carrie Fisher reprised her role as Rob’s mother in an episode which ironically dealt with death and loss. This was the role she was filming before flying from London to Los Angeles the day she had her fatal heart attack. A tribute to Carrie Fisher was attacked to the episode.

The highly anticipated premiere of American Gods is on tonight. (Gillian Anderson in the above picture.) Bryan Fuller and Michael Green discussed the show with Uproxx:

The novel tackles just about every Big Theme there is: politics, religion, modernity, sexuality. Do you two think about America in these grand terms as well?

Fuller: It’s hard not to think of America in grand terms in the current political climate because the country has shit the bad. We’re facing a violent time of great crisis, and that calls into question what we believe in, where we’ve placed our faith, how we navigate the secular and the search for something more meaningful. Then there are those who are not searching, because they’ve made up their minds that they’ve experienced the extent of the world that they need to, and have no cause to look further. That’s so limited and narrow of an approach to living, so you’ve got to challenge people on what they believe. Challenge the conservative Christians who don’t understand the concept of Christianity, or else they’d never pair those two words together.

Green: The book is sexual, and that’s nothing we’d ever shy away from, but we wanted to make sure our depiction of sexuality would be relevant to the show. Where nudity becomes dicy for me, as a viewer, is when it’s cuttable. That’s the definition of ‘gratuitous,’ when it doesn’t need to be there to enhance enjoyment of the show. And that’s not the show we set out to make. We wanted all the sexuality to be grounded in character, so you can’t tell Bilquis’ story without the scene. We wanted to do the scene between Salim and the djinn with fidelity to the book, but also give a graphic depiction of gay sex that no one could say wasn’t beautiful. We wanted to show the majesty of this religious experience mediated by sex, and put it beyond judgement from those viewers who usually feel uncomfortable with same-sex depiction.

American Gods is a finite work, but the nature of TV is that when something’s going well, people want more of it. What do you think about the future of this project? American Gods has an end; does the show have one as well?

Fuller: I think the show should have an end, but that does not mean the show cannot spawn other shows that live on beyond the scope of American Gods. If we were to secure the rights to Anansi Boys, that would be our first choice for a spinoff. We love Orlando Jones and what he brings to the mythology of this series, and we love the story of that book. We’d love to get our hooks into that and branch that off if this show ends up being successful.

Den of Geek also has an interview with Bryan Fuller which tied it into contemporary politics:

Thinking about Mr Wednesday, the figure of the con man has scarcely felt more relevant to US politics.

[Laughs. Loudly]

And to the US Media.

Well, you have a con man who is saying ‘let’s make the gods great again’.  There is a certain angle of that story that is much more resonant and relevant now than it was prior to the election in November. Being in post and watching those episodes as we’re cutting and putting them together was an interesting experience – to be watching the show before the election and then watching the show after the election and realising just how resonant it has the potential to be in that climate. Particularly as an immigration story, since both the Trump election and Brexit were platforms of anti-immigration and fear of the other and exploiting that fear in citizens, it feels like we are inadvertently tapping into a conversation that we need to have and continue to have as we figure out a way to celebrate differences and not condemn them.

This story is a ripe opportunity for social comment.

Absolutely.

In particular the idea of people being whipped up into a war whose only purpose is to further the power of a couple of individuals…

It’s tragic on one level and then on another level it’s an opportunity to take a look at where we are. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forwards. It feels like with both Brexit and the Trump election, we’re two nations taking a step backwards. As disappointing as it was to see hatred and fear rule the day for both of us, it was a great disappointment to say the least, it makes it even more vital and important for us to encourage conversations and also to encourage the fundamentals of listening to somebody. That’s the biggest issue, certainly what’s happening in America, is the unwillingness to listen to somebody else’s point of view.

That’s something that I love to do, even if I violently disagree with somebody, I’m fascinated with how they’ve come to their decisions. Talking to people in the States who voted for Trump, and not wanting to shut them down, like, oh my gosh, you are supporting somebody who has bragged about sexual assaults and has a clear disdain for many groups of people, but instead wanting to find a common ground because what I think all of us found in both of our situations was that everybody made up their mind and there was nothing that was going to change them regardless.