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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like White Christmas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An affectionate ribbing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017; Doctor Who News On The Eve Of “Twice Upon A Time”

Doing top of the year lists in television has become increasingly difficult in this age of peak television when there are around 500 scripted shows and it is impossible to watch everything new which is on. I’ve even heard some of the professional television critics admit to this problem and that their lists should realistically be called the Top X Shows Which I Have Watched. As each season adds to the number of shows which deserve to be ranked which I have not seen, I have annually limited my lists to the top new shows of the year. (The Top Twenty New Shows Of  2016 is posted here). In past years I have included all types of television, with a bias towards genre in the rankings. I found that this year I have seen most (but certainly not all) of the new genre shows which I believe are worth seeing, but when all types of shows are considered the percentage drops significantly. Therefore I decided to make the main list the Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017 and will mention some additional shows afterwards.

Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017

10. The Gifted (Fox)

One of three new X-Men or mutant related shows (with the X-Men and Inhumans possibly to be united if the Disney purchase of Fox goes through). This is definitely the more conventional of the two included on this list, and the mid-season finale opens hope that the show will be expanded from what we have seen so far. It is worth seeing with the combination of Root (Amy Acker) and Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer), both obviously in new roles.

9. The Defenders (Netflix)

The team-up of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist was more worth watching to see the interactions of these four than for the battle against The Hand. I previously reviewed the series here.

8. The Tick (Amazon Prime)

This was a far better than NBC’s attempt at superhero comedy with Powerless. More on the show here.

7. The Punisher (Netflix)

Technically there are no superhero or science fiction elements in the show but I will include it as it overlaps with the Marvel universe, with Karen Page playing a significant role, and with the Punisher having been introduced in Daredevil. Like the other Marvel shows which are set up as one long story, it might have been better if cut to eight to ten episodes as opposed to thirteen, but they did do a good job of intermixing two related stories in the present along with flashbacks to set up the backstory. I did prefer the government conspiracy story line over The Hand as in the other two new Marvel series on Netflix this year.

6. Runaways (Hulu)

Yet another show based upon a Marvel comic, Runaways in tone is somewhere between the network-friendly Agents of SHIELD and the more adult shows on Netflix. So far it has done a good job of setting up a conflict between a group of teens and their villainous parents.

5. American Gods (Starz)

Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have done an excellent job of adapting the first portion of Neil Gaiman’s novel, but it is now questionable as to whether this will survive with their departure from the show. There is a look at the season finale here.

4. The Orville (Fox)

The show initially appeared questionable when billed as a parody, but over the course of the season Seth MacFarlane learned how to tell serious science fiction stories while mixing in humor. I had brief reviews of each episode, often looking at how well humor was incorporated into the episode, in each week’s post. My review of the season finale was here, with a follow-up look at the first season here. The show is strongly based upon Star Trek: The Next Generation, and many who prefer more conventional Star Trek, as well as episodic television, might prefer this over the other new Star Trek show.

3. Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)

While many fans feel more comfortable with The Orville, Star Trek: Discovery is the more ambitious of the two. Discovery does a far better job than Enterprise did in making a Star Trek show with a more modern television feel, including a serialized format. This is also different from previous Star Trek series in taking place during a time of war, and having a Captain who is far more morally ambiguous. There are also questions regarding continuity which I discussed here. I had weekly reviews of each episode while the show was on, with the review of the fall finale here.

2. Legion (Fx)

Noah Hawley provided a quite original take on the X-Men universe, providing something new and unique to prevent superhero fatigue. My post on the season finale was here.

1. The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

This excellent dramatization of Margaret Atwood’s novel about a dystopian future could have been a great series any year, but its treatment of women seemed so much more relevant at the start of the Trump administration–at time when its horrors seemed a bit more plausible. More on the series here.

Among the shows which I saw but did not make the cut was Iron Fist, the weakest of the Netflix Marvel series. While flawed, it is watchable and does lead directly into The Defenders. If you still have a lot of Marvel shows to watch, put this off. If you plan to watch them all, it might make sense to still watch it before The Defenders.

Two genre series which debuted in 2017 were remakes of past series. The X-Files (Fox) was generally disappointing, but with all the excellent episodes in the past I will still give the next season a try. I previously discussed the show here and here. There was also the return of Twin Peaks (Showtime), which competed with Legion as strangest series of the year. I previously looked at the series here.

There are also some genre shows which I have not seen but which might be worth checking out, such as the time travel comedy Future Man and the anthology series Dimension 404, both on Hulu. The genre show which I haven’t seen which is receiving the most favorable publicity is the German series Dark, available in the United States on Netflex.

There were also a few genre flops in 2017. I gave up on Powerless (NBC) midway through the season. I didn’t watch The Inhumans (ABC) after numerous poor reviews. If interested, Io9 summarizes what happened on The Inhumans for those who stopped watching. Time After Time (ABC) was cancelled before I had a chance to give it a try.

Moving beyond genre, there were also many excellent shows in 2017. There were two excellent dramas dominated by women, Big Little Lies (HBO) and Godless (Netflix), which I am currently in the midst of watching. The three top comedies from 2017 which I have watched also are led by women: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime) from Amy-Sherman Palladino, GLOW (Netflix), staring Allison Brie, and SMILF (Showtime).

While not genre, the CW also premiered another comic based series in 2017, Riverdale, which presents a new take on the Archie comics.

Tomorrow we have a major television event with Peter Capaldi having his last appearance before regenerating into Jodie Whittaker on Doctor Who. Doctor Who News has an interview with Steven Moffat about the show:

What does Twice Upon A Time have in store for us?

There are some new eerie creatures of glass haunting the Doctor and his friends throughout this story – but what their purpose and what their plan is, and what their time traveling machinations are, is going to be a big surprise to the Doctor.

Were there any sets or locations that you particularly enjoyed working on?

There’s a real range of spaces that we visit across the special. We have the inside of a giant stone spaceship full of creepy glass creatures. We’re in the first Doctor’s TARDIS – recreated and brought back from the 1960s to stand proud in the Welsh studios. We’re on a First World War battlefield. And at long last we go to a location that I mentioned in my very first episode of Doctor Who back in 2005, as we visit the ruins of Villengard.

How would you describe the tone of this episode?

This episode is somewhere between a coda and drumroll. It’s a coda to the time of the Twelfth Doctor played by Peter Capaldi, and a drumroll to usher in the Thirteenth Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. Approaching it, one issue I had was that The Doctor Falls (this year’s series finale) was the end of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. That episode saw the Twelfth Doctor stating what he stands for and standing on the hill on which he was prepared to die.

That was the end of his story. But – as often happens in stories and real life – it didn’t end there. He kept going, he started to regenerate, so at Christmas what we’re going to see is a man weary and tired and, having made his point and having made his stand and given his life for something that matters, he has to learn just how to carry on after that. But of course this being Doctor Who and Christmas it’s much warmer and hopeful than that, so in perfect timing walking towards him out of the snow he meets earliest incarnation. The William Hartnell version of the Doctor – played now by David Bradley in an astonishing performance – and the two of them are about to regenerate. Tonally it’s about saying “to hell with dying, let’s get on with living”. And what’s more Christmassy that that? It’s the turn of the year, a time for new beginnings, it’s the time when we start climbing back towards the light.

How does the First Doctor look at the Twelfth Doctor?

Well the Doctor never gets on with himself. Arguably he doesn’t get on with himself when it’s just him alone – we had the whole plot of Heaven Sent (in series nine) about that – so he doesn’t get on with himself even when it’s just him. But here I think we have perhaps one of the most interesting instances of the Doctors meeting, because the First Doctor as we know from the show is quite different from the Doctor we know now.

Ultimately he’s the same person – he has the same set of impulses and ideals – but he hasn’t yet become at home with what he’s becoming. If you look at the original William Hartnell series, the Doctor’s starting to fight the good fight, but he’ll arrive in a spot of trouble and generally speaking he’ll only help others out because he needs to get back to the TARDIS. So often there’d be a plot contrivance to stop William Hartnell’s Doctor getting back to his TARDIS and flying out of danger. Slowly that started changing as the Doctor developed as a character. He’d start saying “No I can’t leave yet – not because I can’t get to the TARDIS, but because these people are still in trouble and this evil is still in control. I have to help these people.”

Without noticing it, or it ever being his plan or his intent, he’s starting to engage with the universe and he’d be horrified to think that he’s starting to become its protector. Now, at the end of that lifetime when the First Doctor is facing his end, he doesn’t yet realise that’s what he already is. He’s already the man who rides to the rescue, the saviour of the oppressed, but he doesn’t own up to that. Now he meets the Twelfth doctor, and the Twelfth doctor has been doing this for so long. He’s used to the idea that he’s already Earth’s protector – an idea that completely bewilders his younger – except kind of older self. The thing to focus on this time, alongside the flourishes that distinguish the two doctors – it that they are at very different moments in their lives. The First Doctor is not quite yet the hero we are used to.

How did you feel to be writing your final episode of Doctor Who?

The truth about writing anything is that it’s always difficult. You can change the reason why it’s difficult, but the fact is it’s just always difficult! Throughout writing this I wanted to feel more about the fact it’s the last one I’ll ever write, and I wanted to feel more about it’s the last one Peter will ever play, but the truth is that the technicality and the difficulty and the demands on your creativity – all that overwhelms you to the point where you’re just trying to write a great Doctor Who story! That’s enough to contend with – you can’t have the real life drama of two old Scotsmen making their way to the door.

Once we got into shooting it, however, and especially when we approached filming Peter’s last moments as the Doctor which were done at the end of the shoot, we did talk more about how exactly he should meet his end. We were both very pleased with that final section of the script already, but as we went through piece by piece we thought there were ways to improve it so I’d be banging out new pages each night for us to discuss on set each day. That was so enjoyable and exciting to do – to really feel that we were getting his send off right – that in a way it took whatever emotions we were both having about leaving and put them on screen where they belong. By the time we got to that part of filming I think Peter and I were probably the least emotional on set because we’d put it all in the show!

David Bradley has some advice for Jodie Whittaker:

“Keep it light. Keep it funny,” he offered, adding poignantly: “Have a sense and wonder about the universe and everything in it.”

David Bradley previously told Digital Spy that he had high hopes for his former Broadchurchco-star Jodie’s tenure as the denizen of the TARDIS.

“I was delighted [by the casting],” Bradley told us. “I was wondering if [showrunner] Chris [Chibnall] would pick someone from the Broadchurch cast.

“As we saw in Broadchurch, she’s got this emotional reserve that… there’s no limits. She’s capable of great emotion and passion.”

The TARDIS Yule Log video has some glimpses of Twice About A Time.

Yahoo TV talked with Pearl Mackie about her year on Doctor Who. Here is a portion:

What were the characteristics about Bill that jumped out at you right away?
Well, she’s quite cheeky, which I liked. But she’s also intelligent and doesn’t feel the need to brag about it. It’s very much a part of her, and she’s not ashamed to just say things. She has this confidence that I really engaged with; she doesn’t let her life or experiences get the better of her. She also wants to learn more and is very inquisitive.

We see that in the way she challenges the Doctor from their first meeting. That’s a different dynamic from past companions.
Yeah, and that’s the energy that I felt when I first read the script. There’s an irreverence between her and the Doctor, even though there’s also a lot of respect and they grow to be very close by the end of the series. She’d never be like, “I bow to your superior knowledge.” It’s more akin to, “Well, actually I don’t agree with that. What about this?” I think he respects her for that; they both enjoyed the verbal sparring they had. It’s enjoyable to watch that dynamic.

How quickly did you establish that rhythm with Peter Capaldi?
I met him for the first time in my second audition — my callback essentially. Before that, I’d been reading the script on my laptop with the Facetime camera on, responding to a recording I’d made of myself doing a version of Peter Capaldi reading his lines! The real Peter is a much better actor than that — much more dynamic. [Laughing] When I went into the room, I was absolutely terrified because Peter is not only an incredible actor, but he’s also been playing this character for a long time. We read the first scene of Episode 1, this mammoth six-page scene, and I spent most of it standing there just hoping that what I was doing was right or at least interesting.

Then we did the scene where Bill goes into the TARDIS for the first time, and Peter said, “Do you want to stand up?” I went, “What? OK, sure.” In auditions, you’re supposed to sit still and keep your face as still as possible, but if you’re me, your face tends to move of its own accord. Steven enjoyed that and used it a little bit in the first episode when Bill is standing at the window in the Doctor’s office and says, “I see my face all the time. I never liked it; it’s all over the place — it’s always doing expressions when I’m trying to be enigmatic.” But, yeah, I mainly remember standing there aghast at being in a room acting with Peter Capaldi. Luckily, Bill was supposed to be pretty aghast when she walked in the TARDIS, otherwise we may not be having this conversation today! I think we were both responding to each other quite honestly and seemed to work in a very harmonious fashion.

BBC America posted this thank-you video for Peter Capaldi.

CinemaBlend said Capaldi had this to say about the Doctor’s real name: “I also know his real name. It’s not pronounceable to humans. It’s a frequency that can only be heard of people with good heart.” They went on to add:

To date, that’s one of the best answers someone connected with Doctor Who has given to the question. It’s far better than Matt Smith’s answer from long ago that it was “Drasicanawhocius” or some long name similar that is easily abbreviated by saying “Doctor Who.” It’s also more interesting than the some diehard fans’ explanations that the Doctor’s name is actually a rather hard-to-pronounce set of Latin letters to varying powers. Given that, Peter Capaldi’s response to Radio 2’s Access All Areas (via Digital Spy) should win as it gels with the awesomeness of the Doctor and doesn’t risk the spraining of the tongue muscle trying to pronounce.

While he has some very interesting ideas regarding the Doctor’s name, Peter Capaldi also holds an opinion that may sound like hot take to many Doctor Who fans. In fact, it may trigger some of those fans fans who have battled to keep those outside the fan community from referring to him in a certain way. Capaldi may indeed ruffle some feathers with this statement:
We can get into a fight about whether he’s called The Doctor, or Doctor Who. The reason I call him Doctor Who is because when you’re in the street, people don’t shout out, ‘There’s The Doctor!’ They go, ‘Hey, Doctor Who!’ That’s his street name. His street name is Doctor Who.

SciFi Weekend: Mr. Robot Season Finale; Doctor Who; The Orville; Star Trek Discovery; Outlander Finale; Apple and Disney Moving Into Streaming; The Punisher Renewed; The IT Crowd

Mr. Robot completed its third season and has officially been renewed for a fourth. While I don’t think the third season was able to be as good as the spectacular first season, I did feel that it was something of a comeback after the less successful second. The finale seemed to go full circle with the hack, had revelations for both Elliot and Angela, and put Dom in a new dilemma. Following are excerpts from four interviews with Sam Esmail about the season finale, including the impact of Donald Trump’s election on the show.

Entertainment Weekly:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The season ends with the suggestion that the hack will be undone. Was this the plan from the outset?
SAM ESMAIL: If I’m going to conjure up my original feature plan, this was always part of it. The plan was that basically toward the end of act two, he would reverse what he did, but still kind of be in a position of now pivoting and targeting the real top one percent that orchestrated the 5/9 hack behind his back. That was always a plot point, but as you can see, that kind of gets unwieldy because your main character’s goal is essential reversed as you go through the second act of the story.

Yeah, it’s basically Mad Max: Fury Road, turning back around and going back to where they came from.
Exactly. It’s literally turning the main motivation and main dramatic drive upside down. It’s kind of an Odyssey structure. With Elliot, because the journey is really internal and really about his emotional growth, having the plotline be circular like that lent to that more internal exploration…

I didn’t see the Angela-Price twist coming. What’s exciting for you about that dynamic going forward?
I’ve read this somewhere — though I wasn’t conscious of it when creating the show — that people consider this a family drama. In a weird way, I see the underpinnings of that. Obviously you have Elliot, Darlene, and Mr. Robot being this weird dysfunctional family. But then you throw in Angela, who, because she’s such a close friend, she is sort of part of that family unit that Elliot created growing up. One of the things that I think drives a lot of our characters are those family ties and the history of their families. In fact, that’s how they even know each other — because of Elliot’s father and Angela’s mother going through the same trauma. What I always felt was interesting was to reveal that this whole thing was actually kicked off by another family connection that we had no idea about: Price being the estranged father of Angela. If you peel back the onion and think about it. That caused this chain reaction. It’s because of Price’s connection to Angela that he hired this company that had no business being a cybersecurity company for a major conglomerate, and it’s because Angela worked at Allsafe that Elliot was offered a job there and had the idea to initiate the 5/9 hack. I thought it was interesting that, when you boil this massive global tragedy down, it was really these family connections that motivated and kicked off this whole event. That was always there from the get-go. In fact, that was the one reveal I thought people would most likely guess by the end of the first season, given how close we played Price and Angela together…

Do you intend for White Rose to remain a target for Elliot?
Yeah, I believe that the thing about the show is that we set up Tyrell as the main villain, when in fact, it’s White Rose, and that’s something that comes out this season. The ultimate target is White Rose and the Dark Army. Moving forward, that’s the pivot we’re trying to make. Elliot is going to go after them.

I have time for only one question, so I’m going to make it count. Does the pee tape exist in the world of Mr. Robot?
I think far worse than the pee tape exists in the world of Mr. Robot and our real world.

The Hollywood Reporter:

In the past, you have talked about envisioning Mr. Robot as a five-season arc. Exiting season three and heading into season four, does that plan remain intact?

Honestly, I’ve always said it’s four or five seasons, and I’ve said that because I think it’s somewhere in between. Whether that means the next two seasons are two short seasons, or it could technically still be two full ten-episode seasons, we’re still kind of figuring that out. It’s something the writers’ room and I take very seriously. We never want to feel like we’re treading water. Hopefully it fits into two more seasons, but we’re trying to figure out that number…

Season three ends with Elliot reversing the Five/Nine Hack, or at least beginning that process. How will that change the show moving forward, tonally?

It brings the show back to its initial promise of Elliot wanting to take down the guys behind the scenes who are manipulating society. The journey between seasons one to three has been about discovering who the real culprits are. The hack was merely a distraction that was coopted by these people, and it’s finally been revealed and exposed to Elliot. In a weird way, the next season will return back to that initial premise of the show and have Elliot be motivated by that, with this new clarity.

In a second story at The Hollywood Reporter:

Elliot and Mr. Robot finally return to each other’s lives, at one of their earliest meeting spots. Can you talk through the different ideas that were in place for how to get these characters back together on the same page after so much time apart, and to have that meeting of the minds at Coney Island, where it all started — at least as far as the show’s depiction of events, that is?

This is funny because so many of our pitches for this moment made their way into the episode in one way or another. When we started to brainstorm ideas for this reunion, we naturally were drawn to those Mr. Robot/Elliot milestones from the pilot and season one. Sam loved the idea of them speaking to each other on the Wonder Wheel again. I was pushing for a callback to that symmetrical shot of them sitting on opposite sides of a subway train. Someone else pitched the subway platform from the pilot. We ended up seeing all of that in this finale. The Wonder Wheel ended up being the initial reunion because of how uniquely tied to Mr. Robot it was. We’ve seen Elliot in all of these other locations already (the arcade, the subway, his apartment). It made sense that Elliot would allow himself to feel safe enough to talk to Mr. Robot on the Wonder Wheel.

It’s a very emotional moment, realizing that as much as Elliot has shades of Mr. Robot, the Mr. Robot side of his personality has his own shades of Elliot. Has that always been a tenant in writing the character, that Christian Slater’s side of Elliot has more in common with Rami Malek’s depiction than he or we realized? Is it something that was discovered in the writing of the character? And how critical is that reveal, moving forward?

The plan was always to evolve the relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot. We’ve already been through so much manipulation, betrayal, and battling with them. To me, this is finally a beautiful moment of sincerity and honesty. It’s also cool because you, as Elliot’s friend, are able to witness how Mr. Robot is helpful in certain situations and how Elliot really needs him at times. It’s definitely a crucial reveal, as it’s that first step in the healing process — the path toward integration. By the end of this episode, in one of many callbacks to our pilot, we have a heartfelt exchange between Mr. Robot and Elliot. In a way, we’re healing Elliot and resetting him back to his old self. He still wants to take down the men who play god without permission, but he has a clearer view on who those people are now…

Elsewhere in the episode, we have Phillip Price’s Darth Vader moment, revealing himself as Angela’s biological father. Two-fold: was this always part of the character’s design, and do you think this news refocuses Angela? By the end of the finale, it’s hard to tell if she’s fully recovered from the Whiterose experience… do you think it’s fair to say she at least realizes she was being used, even if she still believes in Whiterose’s agenda to some degree?

This wasn’t always part of the character’s design. I think we decided on this about halfway through season two. Initially, we were working toward some kind of twisted, sexual infatuation that Price had with Angela. There actually was a pitch on the table in season two for Angela and Price to sleep with each other, but we ended up changing that to her going for an older dude at the bar. (Maybe she’s just into old dudes?) That sexual infatuation idea still works as a misdirect until the moment of the reveal. Of course, we dropped hints throughout this season that I know you picked up on (the anonymous benefactor, Price’s reaction when Whiterose confronted him about Angela, etc). I think it’s meant to be ambiguous at the end of that scene, but I definitely agree that she realizes she was being used by Whiterose, regardless of how much she still might believe in “the cause.”

Deadline Hollywood:

Let’s talk about what we saw tonight. Elliot is still bent on taking down the 1% of the world, but his dilemma is that he’s now in the pocket of WhiteRose.
The way we are ending the third season is that we’re coming back to the original promise: Elliot’s mission to take down secret organizations who are controlling things behind the scenes. It’s the first time that Elliot has exposed them and seen their true identity in that they’re being led by White Rose and the Dark Army. It’s an interesting predicament: He has leverage of them, but they have leverage over him as well. It’s an interesting Mexican standoff.

Elliot’s decision to reverse the 5/9 hack: Is this just a means to ease his own guilt after blowing up all those E-corp buildings?
Yeah, I think that with the journey of Elliot, we started the series with this guy in an immense amount of pain. Instead of facing that, he blamed it on society and externalized to the world around him what needed to be fixed, when in fact, he was avoiding facing the problem within. That’s what this moment in this season was about: His realization that what he wanted was not co-opted by the very people he was trying to take down; that it was wrong.  There are a few internal struggles he also faces in regards to his relationship with Mr. Robot and its evolution.

Angela learning that she was Phillip Price’s daughter. Why was this important to establish and was this something you knew going into the season? 

The thing about that revelation is that what I always thought was interesting in regards to the entire chain reaction of things that led to the 5/9 hack and the global catastrophe is that it all started with broken family ties. And really the chain reaction of Price who is estranged from his daughter her whole life, and reaching out in the distance, by hiring this (small) cybersecurity company which has no business representing E-Corp; then because of that, Elliot joins the company to avenge his father’s death — that strategy to attack E-Corp, that spiraling out of control, is in essence about broken family ties. Now (Price and Angela) are trying to heal that tragedy and trauma that comes out of it. We planned this very early on; at the end of the first season Price takes Angela in…

Dom and Darlene, where does this leave them now?
Dom is at a crossroads. She’s the most noble character to her cause in the entire series. She’s now in with the Dark Army in this brutal way and we’re going to see the aftereffects of that. In terms of Darlene, she’s going to have to live and process a lot of guilt of what she’s put Dom through. There’s a genuine relationship there: They did care for one another. It’s going to be interesting though because they’re on opposite sides. We’re going to explore that relationship and whether they survive through that.

The Brave Traveler at the end of tonight’s show, that’s the drug kingpin Fernando Vera who double-crossed Elliot in season one and took girlfriend Shayla’s life. What now?
Well, he’s a crazy person, an egomaniac and hopefully very entertaining to watch. I’ll leave that as my answer. There’s a personal connection here with Elliot and out of all the global chaos that he’s been experiencing on the show, this one narrows the field a bit on a personal level. Shayla was the only true connection Elliot made when we began the series. We’ll definitely explore the blowback from all of that with her murder and how Elliot assisted in breaking Vera out of prison.

Variety:

While Esmail said the current political climate doesn’t influence the plot itself, he noticed it affects the energy writers bring into the room. Esmail called the election “catastrophic not just for the country, but for the world.” Still, he says he is open-minded about politics.

“I never try and tune anything out. I think that’s a mistake,” he says. “You want to bring all the honest stuff that’s going on inside you into your work. Otherwise you’re keeping a lot of authenticity out.”

Following President Donald Trump’s election, Esmail said the writers felt the same apprehension that many others experienced.

“When you’re talking about a man that’s incoherent and inarticulate and unintelligent, egomaniacal, it’s a dangerous thing for the world,” Esmail said of Trump getting elected. “We also felt a little responsibility to it. That we underestimated him, that we underestimated that this can possibly happen,” he explains.

That sense of accountability then loosely paralleled Elliot’s journey this season, he said.

“That indirect responsibility led to a lot of Elliot’s feeling at the beginning of the season of his responsibility in the 9/5 hack, which was a lot more direct, but that energy that we were all feeling and sensing in the room,” Esmail says. “This dread that we have committed this crime by not doing something enough definitely fueled a lot of Elliot’s motivations.”

Mozilla upset some users when they inserted a browser extension which promoted Mr. Robot into their Firefox browser, leading users to think their computer was hacked. There is a similar virtual reality game available on Amazon’s Alexa products, but they handled it in a safer manner. Ads during the show show people asking Alexa for the Daily Five/Nine. For this to work, it is necessary for users to specifically enable the Daily Five/Nine skill. Generally I find it to be a negative for Alexa that some information is not obtainable unless the user knows which skill to activate, but in this case it is for the better that users only receive paranoid news from the Mr. Robot universe if they activate it.

Steven Moffat originally did not plan to have Bill Potts in the Christmas episode of Doctor Who and explained why he changed his mind:

“I was 20 pages in to the script, and I thought, ‘I need Bill here. There isn’t a witness for this. The Captain [played by Mark Gatiss] isn’t quite right as the witness. I want to hear what Bill would say.’ I needed that voice back in the show. I just did.

I missed her terribly. I missed the way Bill reacted to things. Also, if the Twelfth Doctor’s got someone as forthright and irreverent as Bill, you really want the First Doctor to meet her! [Laughs]”

Following a screening of Twice About A Time, Steven Moffat argued that Doctor Who is the greatest show ever made:

“It’s worth saying, because I don’t think it’s ever said enough… the reason Doctor Who is as successful – I mean humanly successful – for so long in such an enduring way – and I’m just gonna say it because I don’t ever say it, but now I’m leaving I’ll say it – it is actually the greatest television show ever made.

“I’m gonna prove it to you. There are probably press here who are ‘No, it’s The Wire’. It’s not The Wire. It’s not I Claudius. It’s not The Office. It’s not even Blue Planet. It’s Doctor Who and I’m gonna prove to whoever is doubting me the hardest that they’re wrong to doubt me.

“How do you measure greatness? Do you measure it by ratings? Do you measure it by reviews? Christ no, of course you don’t.

“Do you measure it by perfection? Is Doctor Who perfect every week? No, it’s not. It really isn’t. It can’t be. Because every episode of Doctor Who is an experiment, and if you experiment every single week, sometimes you get a faceful of soot and you’re blinking the smoke away and you look a bit ridiculous. That happens. Perfection is the refinement of boredom, it’s doing the same thing all the time perfectly. Doctor Who, by always being different, can never be perfect.

“But yes, how do we measure its greatness?

“There are people who became writers because of Doctor Who. Loads of them.

“There are people who became artists because of Doctor Who.

“There are people who became actors because of Doctor Who. Two of them have played the Doctor.

“There are people, believe it or not, who become scientists because of Doctor Who. That seems improbable given we said the moon was an egg, you’d think they’d have a problem with it.

“But people become scientists, people change their view of the world and what they’re capable of, because of a silly show about a man who travels around in time and space in a police box.

“So, never mind the reviews. Never mind anything. Never mind the ratings. Never mind any of that.

“Count the scientists, the musicians, the scholars, the writers, the directors, the actors, who became what they are because of this show.

“Count, as you might say, the hearts that beat a little faster because of Doctor Who.

 “I do not even know what is in second place, but without doubt, and by that most important measure, Doctor Who is the greatest television show ever made.”
Peter Capaldi also had this to say:

“I’d like to thank all my friends on Doctor Who for sharing their good humour, talent and life with me over the last four years. And particularly, Steven Moffat, who has brought so much to Doctor Who, even more than might be realised today, but will be seen clearly in the future.

“I’d like to thank everyone who loves the show for sharing it with me, and sharing the boundless generosity of spirit that it embodies. I wish Jodie and the new TARDIS team all the best for the future, and the past, and everything inbetween, and look forward to watching them journey to new and wonderful places.

“For me, it’s been an amazing trip. I went to the end of time, I met fantastical creatures… and I blew them up. But now it’s over. Time I was off.”

Last week’s post included additional Doctor Who news including information on a special about the Peter Capaldi era which will air after the Christmas episode, a trailer for the episode, a link to an interview with Steven Moffat, and an article on David Bradley.

For the benefit of those who did not see it because of more problems with Facebook, last week I had a review of  Mad Idolatry, the first season finale of The Orville. Until links from Facebook groups to the post were shut down by Facebook, the link to this video of  Sports Illustrated model Kyra Santoro as the scantily-clad Ensign Turco had a quite a few hits. Hopefully this remains up this week–there is little consistency to Facebook’s censorship.

In an interview with Digital Spy, Seth MacFarlane argued that The Orville filled a void left behind by the classic Star Trek:

Speaking to Digital Spy, the creator and star of The Orville said that he was heavily inspired by the themes and direction of classic Star Trek – aspects which he feels haven’t been replicated much since then.

“I kind of miss the forward-thinking, aspirational, optimistic place in science fiction that Star Trek used to occupy,” he said.

“I think they’ve chosen to go in a different direction which has worked very well for them in recent years, but what has happened is that it’s left open a space that has been relatively unoccupied for a while in the genre.

“In the same way that when James Bond kind of moved into a different area than classic James Bond, Iron Man came along and sort of filled that void.

“So for me, it’s a space that’s kind of waiting to be filled in this day and age when we’re getting a lot of dystopian science fiction, a lot of which is great and very entertaining, but it can’t all be The Hunger Games.”

MacFarlane added: “It can’t all be the nightmare scenario.

While MacFarlane has used a lot of humor in the series, the show did turn out to be more like Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation as opposed to being a parody as many pre-season articles incorrectly described the series. MacFarlane also corrected this misconception in another interview with Digital Spy, saying that The Orville was not influenced by Galaxy Quest.

The titles for the chapter 2 episodes of Star Trek: Discovery have been revealed:

Episode 10:  “Despite Yourself” (January 7)

Episode 11: “The Wolf Inside” (January 14)

Episode 12:  “Vaulting Ambition” (January 21)

Episode 13: “What’s Past Is Prologue” (January 28)

Episode 14: “The War Without, The War Within” (February 4)

Episode 15: “Will You Take My Hand?” (February 11)

Four new character posters, including the one above, have also been released. The full set can be seen here.

Last week I linked to a couple of articles on the fall portion of the season of Star Trek: Discovery. Bleeding Cool also weighs in, arguing that Star Trek: Discovery Absolutely Earns Its Place in the Star Trek Continuity. My review of the fall finale was posted here, and I looked at other aspects of the show, including continuity, here. I will resume weekly reviews of the episodes after Discovery returns.

Wil Wheaton tweeted about wearing his Star Trek uniform to the opening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While I didn’t go until last night, for the record, as I don’t have a Star Trek uniform and it was too cold for either of my Star Trek t-shirts, I wore a Gallifrey swhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/eatshirt and, again as it was cold out, my Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf.

Outlander also had a season finale last week. Deadline talked to Ron Moore about the episode and future plans. Apple has also ordered a science fiction show from Ron Moore, who also was behind the revival of Battlestar Galactica. Deadline reports:

Created and written by Moore, along with Fargo co-executive producers Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, the untitled series  explores what would have happened if the global space race had never ended. Tall Ship Prods.’ Moore and Maril Davis executive produce with Wolpert and Nedivi.

This is is the third original scripted series ordered by Apple via its recently formed worldwide video programming division headed by former Sony TV presidents Jamie Erlicht & Zack Van Amburg, joining a morning show drama series project, executive produced by and starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, which has a two-season pickup, and Amazing Stories, a reimagining of the classic anthology from Steven Spielberg and Bryan Fuller.

It looks like Apple is working hard to make a credible entry into original programming with such orders. Of course they will have very tough competition from not only the established sources, but from Disney when they launch their planned streaming service.  Assuming the deal goes through, their acquisition of much of Fox will give them an incredible library, including many major genre franchises, along with a controlling stake in both Netflix and Hulu.

Netflix has renewed The Punisher for a second season. Last week’s post included the trailer for season two of Jessica Jones, which will be released March 8.

HBO has renewed Larry David’s show Curb Your Enthusiasm for a tenth season.

NBC is trying yet again to have a US version of The IT Crowd. Maybe they will have better luck this time as Graham Linehan, who created the original, is going to be the writer and executive producer. Besides being an excellent comedy, the show teaches the most important lesson you will ever need to fix computer problems (as explained in the video above).

SciFi Weekend: The Orville; Star Trek Discovery; Doctor Who; Legends of Tomorrow; Jessica Jones; Sense8; House of Cards

The Orville concluded its first season with Mad Idolatry, an episode which might have been better if the didn’t try to cram so much into the episode. Much of the humor came from Captain Mercer trying to find something to do after work, including learning about Moclan culture in a rather painful manner. While entertaining, it might have been better to do this in another episode and allow more time for the rather large themes of the rest of the episode.

Kelly was at the center of the two main story lines, both dealing with her relationship with Ed and her being responsible for the “cultural contamination” of an alien planet. Plus they threw in having the planet both spending time in two different universes and time passing at a vastly different rate. There was so much going on that it felt like none of the subjects received the time it deserved.

The result of Kelly’s interference was quite predictable, but resolved too easily. First the religious leader accepted her word too quickly, although it didn’t turn out very well for him. Then everything got resolved quite easily when they were visited by the most advanced version of inhabitants of the planet. The message delivered by the ambassadors from the planet, “You must have faith in reason, in discovery, and in the endurance of the logical mind,” certainly would fit in well with the Star Trek universe. The lack of consequences for her violation of what appears to be their version of the Prime Directive, along with Ed leaving it out of the report, both also fit in with many Star Trek episodes

Part of the drama of the episode was also to be Isaac being left on the planet for what 700 years, but this also turned out to be rather inconsequential to the entire story.

Kelly’s decision regarding her relationship was sensible and fit well into the story, but I also wish that this could have been given more time in the episode.

Besides seeing their version of the Prime Directive, we learned in this episode that the Orville’s shuttles have cloaking technology.

Another highlight of the episode was Sports Illustrated model Kyra Santoro as the scantily-clad Ensign Turco. (Video of her cleavage can be seen here). This beat out  Adrianne Palicki’s dress when she went out with Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane).

Overall the episode was enjoyable, but it could have been so much more.

For those who have not been watching, Blastr has 10 Reasons To Binge Watch  Star Trek: Discovery This Holiday Season. Wired questions why some hate the show. Note that CBS All Access does provide one week free, so it would be a good time to check out the entire first half of season one for free before deciding whether you want to continue into the next season.

Alice Eve, who appeared in Star Trek: Into Darkness, has been cast in the second season of Iron Fist.

Quentin Tarantino has pitched an idea for a Star Trek movie and might direct it. Deadline reports that it will be R-rated. Screen Rant speculates on Star Trek episodes he might turn into movies, including both from the original show and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Patrick Stewart has expressed interest in reprising his role as Jean-Luc Picrard:

Following the news that Quentin Tarantino was working on a new idea for the franchise alongside J.J. Abrams, with plans to direct, Patrick Stewart has thrown an unlikely hat back into the intergalactic ring.

“People are always saying to me, ‘Will you be Jean-Luc Picard again?’ And I cannot think that would be possible, but there are ways in which something like that might come about,” the iconic actor told The Hollywood Reporter, speaking from the sidelines of the Dubai International Film Festival, where he received an honorary award.

“But one of my dreams is to work with Tarantino. I admire his work so much, and to be in a Tarantino film would give me so much satisfaction. So, if he is going to direct something to do with Star Trek and there was the possibility of dear old Jean-Luc showing up again and doing that for Mr Tarantino, I would embrace it.”

Stewart said one thing was sure about a Tarantino-directed Star Trek installment: it would be gripping.

“The one thing that characterizes all of his movies is that frame by frame, it always challenges, always demands your attention, always demands a very kind of open and generous response to what he does,” he said. “I also love his sense of humor as a filmmaker. So yes, he would be my first choice.”

Netflix has released trailer for the next season of Black Mirror, including U.S.S. Callister, which has the feeling of original Star Trek. Knowing Black Mirror, it is no surprised that something will be off.

BBC America has released another trailer for Twice Upon A Time, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. Video above. Nerdist reports on another special to be aired afterwards:

 Immediately following “Twice Upon A Time,” BBC and BBC America will air an all-new special titled, Doctor Who: Farewell to Peter Capaldi. Narrated by actor Colin McFarlane (Jonathan Moran in “Under the Lake” and “Before the Flood”), the episode will feature archival footage and interviews, as well as a look back at Peter Capaldi’s era as the Twelfth Doctor—from his very first script read through to his very last. It will also feature, the BBC stated in a press release, “Steven Moffat reflecting upon his time as a writer and then later as executive producer, revealing some of his best and worst moments from his tenure, as well as his favorite episodes.”

Radio Times has an interview with Steven Moffat here, and an article on David Bradley, who will be playing William Hartnell’s role of the first doctor, here.

The entire Arrowverse concluded the fall season with good cliff hangers or episodes leading into the second half of the season a week after the excellent cross-over episodes with Crisis on Earth-X.

The biggest changes are occurring on Legends of TomorrowConstantine will, at least briefly, be joining the Legends of Tomorrow when they return. There are certainly now openings for him to stick around longer with Victor Garber and Jax Jackson both leaving recently. Wentworth Miller is only expected to be on the show for a short time.

Legends will not return until February 18, taking over Supergirl‘s timeslot for nine weeks to conclude its season. Supergirl will resume on April 16 and conclude on June 18.

Netflix has released the above trailer for Season two of Jessica Jones, which will be released March 8. Entertainment Weekly has this report:

Looks like Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is going to need a stiff drink. The super-powered PI may have killed her mind-controlling abuser Kilgrave (David Tennant) at the end of the Marvel-Netflix drama’s first season, but that doesn’t mean she’s forgotten him — or what he did. “He’s such a part of her construction and her dilemma,” showrunner Melissa Rosenberg says. “I think just having him come back and be that mirror again is really important.”

And Kilgrave’s lingering presence won’t be Jessica’s only problem in season 2. Sure, she did just (very reluctantly) help save New York City, but what happened on The Defenders was just “a blip” in her story, Ritter says. “Jessica is in a pretty dark headspace when we meet her at the top of season 2. What we’ve done again is kept the story very personal. If season 1 was in her head and in her mind, then this season will be more in her heart. It’s still a psychological thriller, but it’s more of an emotional thriller this time.” Rosenberg agrees: “She was somewhat of a mess even before Kilgrave came into her life, so [season 2] is about digging deeper into that chaos and peeling back those layers.” In the end, the mystery of Jessica herself may be her hardest case to crack.

A brief video was posted on Twitter to remind fans that there will be one more episode to wrap up Sense8 following its cancellation after the second season.

Netflix has confirmed that they do plan to resume production on House of Cards following the firing of Kevin Spacey:

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos announced the landmark original series is going into production on its final season next year, but Kevin Spacey will not be part of the show, after reports of sexual misconduct from the star.

“I can actually give you some news in the room today, because we have been in arrangement to produce a sixth season of ‘House of Cards.” It’ll be an eight episode season that’ll start production early ’18, and it will not involve Kevin Spacey,” said Sarandos at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. “It will star Robin Wright. And we’re really excited about bringing some closure to the show for fans.”

Fortunately last season did end on a good point to change the focus of the show from Spacey to Robin Wright’s character. The only downside is that I had hoped that they would wrap up the series with Frank Underwood gradually being exposed and being taken down for his crimes. Instead he will probably be killed off early next season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Orville; Superhero Shows; Stranger Things; Runaways; Good Omens; The Man In The High Castle; Electric Dreams; Doctor Who: Shada

Episode 4 of Star Trek DiscoveryThe Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry, continues what will presumably be a redemption arc for Burnham. Her defense of the tardigrade, arguing that it should not be judged entirely for its actions on one particular day, is a clear reference to her own situation. The tardigrade was also reminiscent of the creature in the first season episode of the original show, Devil in the Dark.

Unfortunately Landry was not as wise as Burnham, both in seeing the tardigrade only as a potential weapon to be studied (as did Lorca), and in forgetting how dangerous it was. We now know that the killing of apparent main cast was not limited to the first two episodes.

Last week I noted that Georgiou had filmed more material. I hope this means more than just the message seen in this episode. After my speculation as to how she might reappear on the show last week, I thought of another situation where it might make sense to see her alive–an episode in the Mirror universe.

In yet another interview a writer for Star Trek: Discovery insists that the show will not violate canon and the events of the original series, which takes place ten years later. Seeing the necessity of enslaving a sentient species to operate the spore drive suggest at least two reasons why we might never see this again. After the war, Star Fleet principles might come into play again, leading this to be banned. Or possibly any ship trying this is ultimately destroyed by the tardigrade.

The episode had the feeling of continuity with our world and the Star Trek universe by dropping names such as the Wright Brothers, Elon Musk, Zefram Cochrane, and Zaphod (Beeblebrox)?

Polygon discussed the militarization of science with the cast of Discovery.

TrekMovie.com has the episode titles through November when the show goes on hiatus until January.

Last week’s episode of The Orvill, Krill, showed both the strengths and the weaknesses of the series. Of course some might disagree as to which features are strengths and weaknesses. The episode once again captured the feel of an old episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, and did include a moral dilemma. This was interspersed with a number of jokes, often involving the name of the Krill god, Avis, and the car rental company. While the jokes were somewhat amusing, it is a matter of opinion as to how much they distract from the episode or make it more amusing.

The episode also did subtly mock common tropes seen in Star Trek, such as with Mercer speaking before Alara had a communications channel open.

One nitpick is that they had to take a picture of every page of the book they were seeking. Couldn’t they find an ebook version?

The episode also repeated a common issue in episodes of The Orville with problems being solved in simple and unrealistic ways. If they were elsewhere I could see light being used as a weapon, but I found it less plausible that their ships own lights could easily be turned up so bright as to kill most of the crew. Other episodes had similarly questionable solutions, such as seeing Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer being enough to change a character’s long standing views.

This week I will try to catch up with some of the news from New York Comic Con which I couldn’t get to last week, along with genre news from other sources. As there remains too much news to fit in again this week, I will limit to links in many cases. I am also postponing most of the news on the DC superhero shows on CW, which did return last week. One reason to cut back, at least for now, on coverage of them is that interest appears to be declining, with ratings for their return episodes down.

I think that the problems include having too many superhero shows, and that there have been too many episodes of the DC series to maintain quality and interest. This is especially difficult when we have the Netflix series for comparison. I think that CW would be better off reducing these series to a maximum of thirteen episodes a year, both tightening up each series and reducing to two at a time. Guest appearances can keep the other series in the minds of viewers when they are off.

The one additional news item on the CW shows I will mention today is that Victor Garber will be leaving Legends of Tomorrow to return to Broadway. Of course the nature of this show makes it easy for him to return should he become available and interested in the future.

At the moment I like Gotham the best of the network superhero shows, now surpassing the CW series. One reason is that they are continuing where last season left off with the gradual development of Bruce Wayne into Batman. Syfy Wire has information on the Gotham panel at New York Comic Con.

Information on the Agents of SHIELD panel at New York Comic Con here.

Two different X-Men type series have also started. The Gifted appears to show promise after two episodes, teaming up Vampire Bill and Root (aka Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker). I have not watched The Inhumans after reading a number of terrible reviews. As it is only eight episodes, I figure I can binge it later if it improves.

Netflix has done an excellent job of developing their own superhero universe (existing with other Marvel superheroes who are left off screen). After their team up in The Defenders, Iron Fist will be appearing in Luke Cage season 2.

Netflix has posted the final trailer for Stranger Things season 2, which will be released on October 27. The producers are now talking about extending the show beyond four seasons.

Screen Rant discussed the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Kevin Feige.

Dirk Gently has returned for a second season. Review here.

Hulu will be releasing their own Marvel series. Teaser for Runaways above. Engadget has some background information:

For all those unfamiliar with the source material, Runaways follows a dysfunctional group of six teens who band together to fight their evil parents. Judging by the trailer, the show draws its influences from late-nineties genre fare, like The Craft and The Faculty. And, it comes from the creative team behind The O.C. and Gossip Girl, so you can also expect plenty of snappy dialogue, self-deprecating humor, and pop-culture references. The series is reportedly set within the Marvel cinematic universe, but tonally sits closer to the likes of Freeform’s upcoming Cloak and Dagger TV show, and ABC’s The Inhumans. So, don’t go expecting The Punisher to make a cameo.

Amazon’s World of Philip K. Dick panel at New York Comic Con revealed that the third season of The Man In The High Castle will deal more explicitly with parallel universes–and the attempts by the Nazis to conquer them. Trailer above and more information here. Syfy Wire notes how timely the anti-Nazi message of the show is.

More information on Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, another upcoming show from Amazon, was also revealed at the New York Comic Con. Instead of being based upon a single story like The Man In The High Castle, it will be a series of ten movies. IO9 has more information:

…each episode has different writers and directors, and they were given creative freedom to take the short stories and interpret them in whatever way they saw fit. This is in addition to the rotating cast, which includes stars like Steve Buscemi, Bryan Cranston, Janelle Monae, and Liam Cunningham, the only actor who appeared at the panel. Executive producer (and Philip K. Dick’s daughter) Isa Dick Hackett said she felt this was the best way to approach Dick’s short stories, which she called “the gems of his ideas,” in a way that both honored his work but also made the messages relatable to a modern audience.

It was already impressive that Michael Sheen and David Tennant would be staring in Amazon’s upcoming series Good Omens based upon the Neil Gaiman novel. John Hamm has now been added to the cast. Syfy Wire has more on the series, including others who have been cast.

A teaser (video below) has been released for an animated version of Shada, a Doctor Who serial written by Douglas Adams. The serial was never completed due to a BBC strike. The original actors will be returning to do the voices. Shada will be available for digital download from BBC Worldwide on November 24, then released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 4.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Orville; Black Mirror Does Star Trek; The Tick; The X-Files; The Punisher; The Magicians; Doctor Who; Gal Gadot On SNL

The third episode of Star Trek Discovery, Context Is For Kings, was like a new pilot, with last week more of a prequel. They finally introduced the Discovery and Captain Lorca. Do Discovery’s call letters, NC1031, mean that this ship falls under Section 31? While James Kirk and Benjamin Sisco have bent the rules at times, Lorca goes far beyond what we have ever seen on Star Trek before. Typically Star Fleet captains who behaved like him have turned out to be the villain, not heroes. Lorca also has that strange menagerie, including an apparently neutered Tribble, while ten years later Kirk will know nothing about them. Perhaps he uses the Tribble as a way to detect any Klingons who might attempt to infiltrate the Discovery.

Lorca claims to have permission from Star Fleet to do whatever it takes to find a way to beat the Klingons. This appears to have included orchestrating the rescue of Michael Burhnam from the shuttle, even if it meant allowing the shuttle pilot to die. Apparently he has enough clout to keep Burnham as part of his crew if he has her on board, but not enough to simply request that she be transferred from prison to his ship. Obviously it was more dramatic this way.

Burnham did appear beaten at the start of the episode. I had expected to see the standard troupe of having her rescue the shuttle, but that did not occur. She did return to her usual self over the course of the episode. Thanks to Burnham, we see why Star Fleet abandoned the ineffective breath detector as a security device. Once on the away team, she was the one to save the rest. Beyond the breath detector dying out as a security system, it makes sense that black alerts didn’t catch on. While dramatic to hear them announced, it would be quite hard to visualize the flashing lights of a black alert.

The first two episodes provided a familiar type of Star Fleet ship, with Burnham having a conventional relationship with her Captain, until the mutiny. Even granting that Burnham was wrong in her actions, she is now being unjustly blamed for the entire war, which the Klingons appeared determined to start regardless of what she did. Lorca, Burnham, and Saru have a relationship somewhat analogous to the Kirk, Spock, McCoy threesome from The Original Show, although with major differences. They apparently have forgotten about sun glasses in the future and it is far too early for Geordi La Forge’s visor, making it difficult for Lorca to go on away missions due to the injury to his eye. With Saru also not appearing to be well suited for away missions, this makes it plausible that Burnham might lead them instead of the  more senior officers which typically (and perhaps foolishly) led them in the other series.

Burnham’s relationship with Lorca is also different from the start with Lorca believing that Burnham is forced to be loyal to her because he is the one giving her a fresh start. On the other hand, it might become significant again that Burnham was willing to defy her captain when felt to be necessary. If Lorca does turn out to be the villain, Burnham might be called on to turn against her captain once again.

There have been some complaints that this does not feel like Star Trek, but we must consider that the series is unique in taking place during wartime. Consider how different everything felt on the episode Yesterday’s Enterprise. Deep Space Nine did not feel like conventional Star Trek, either before or during the Dominion War. If this is a Section 31 vessel, it might also seem different regardless of circumstances.

Being a Section 31 ship would help explain how we are seeing things which are not known on board the Enterprise ten years later. It is also possible that their research turns out to be dead ends, too dangerous to allow many to know about, or perhaps the Discovery is destroyed like its sister ship. It does appear that the writers have considered such continuity issues in various interviews.

Jason Isaacs has discussed some of the questions I raised above in interviews, and discussed other aspects of Captain Lorca. From TV Guide:

Why does Lorca have a room full of animals?
We’re losing this war and I’ve been given license to do whatever the hell is necessary to try and see if I can in any way shift the odds. And so I have in my private study area, anything I want including weapons, gasses, poisons, creatures… Anything that, if examined correctly, might give us an edge because we need something to turn the tide in the war. And that’s why someone like me has been given this ship and given license to go off and — not under the glare of anyone else’s spotlight — see if I can come up with a solution, any kind of creative solutions to this problem of imminent destruction.

So the tardigrade might be one, some of the Klingon weapons I’ve got might be it… The spores might be it. I just need something and I need it fast and I need people to help me, and hence, one of the reasons why I get Michael Burnham to be on my team. She is someone who’s prepared to break the rules… Someone who’s really smart strategically and someone who I think will ultimately be loyal to me since I’ve given her a second chance at life.

From Entertainment Weekly:

You still get the sense that Lorca will do anything, even if it’s off-book, to accomplish the ultimate goal against the Klingons — and possibly other agendas.

He just wants to win the war. This is 10 years before the series that people fell in love with Kirk and Spock, before the Federation directive comes out, before people are exploring peacefully. This is a time when the Federation might not be there tomorrow morning. All of the high-minded ideals will go out the window once everyone around them is incinerated and Lorca thinks he sees that modern man. He thinks he’s going to win this war by any means necessary and they’ve kind of given him license to do it, because they’re terrified and they’re right to be terrified. So he’s on this science ship, which is not the ideal vessel, got some possible breakthrough technology, but there’s a lot of work to be done there, and he’s got a bunch of explorers crewing this thing who are really not battle-hardened at all and he’s going to try and do whatever he has to do to tip the tide of the war. It’s not going to be easy. Certainly, he’s not going to get there by being nice…

At the end of the episode, Lorca has the creature from the USS Glenn — the one that was terrorizing Michael and company — secretly beamed aboard the Discovery into one of his secret rooms with other contraband objects and creatures. What is he doing with all those things that he’s, presumably, illegally accumulated?

He’s got a room, a study room in which he studies war because they’re at war. In different times, he might have books of poetry, he might have an easel in there. He’s an exercise man, so at one point in time he might have been doing interplanetary yoga. Right now, he needs to work out how to defeat enemies and he’s got forbidden material in there. He’s got weapons, he’s got poisons, he’s got creatures. He’s looking for an edge in a war with a superior opponent and he’ll take anything he can get, anywhere he can get it. Sometimes he takes risks to get it.

What is Lorca’s relationship with the women on the Discovery crew, because it seemed like there was something a little extra between the captain and Commander Landry, his head of security?

I think in this tradition of Star Trek captains and these alpha males who rise to the top, he’s got a taste for the good life and he’s got an eye for his female officers. I don’t know that that’s going to work with Burnham very well, frankly. She doesn’t look like she’s up for that kind of thing, but him and Landry certainly have a relationship that goes beyond, I would think, work. But that’s how I played my scenes with all the women on board, whether or not the writers were on board with that. By the way, that’s my tribute to Shatner. I always thought, as much as the original series was born out of the civil rights struggle and the birth of feminism, some of that was [infused with a feeling of] James Bond. It was clear Captain Kirk had his way with any member of the micro-skirted crew members he wanted, so that was my subtle tribute to him. I’m playing that, even if it’s inside my head. (Laughs.)

CBS has announced that they will present episodes through November 12 (instead of November 5 as previously announced), leaving only six episodes after the show resumes in 2018.

It was revealed at New York Comic con that Michelle Yeoh will be returning as Captain Georgiou. Presumably this will be as a flash-back, unless they find a way for her to return after being killed last week.

On rare occasions we have had two different Star Trek series on at once, but the current situation is unique in having two shows inspired by Star Trek but going in such different directions. While Discovery is darker and serialized, The Orville provides stand alone stories which are more similar to those from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The series appears to be moving more towards actual science fiction stories as opposed to parody, while still incorporating humor. The last episode was the most successful to date in incorporating humor while adding to the main story. Being directed by Jonathan Frakes helped make it feel like STTNG. Plus it introduced time travel to this universe.

The episode also benefited by the guest appearance of Charlize Theron. She turned out to be different from what she first seemed to be, but she had time for casual sex with Captain Mercer and to sit around sipping drinks. While the relationship between Mercer and his ex-wife has sometimes seemed to have been used excessively to attempt humor, it worked very well in this episode as Ed initially mistrusted Kelly’s suspicion of Pria as being based upon jealousy.

One thing I always found unrealistic about the Star Trek universe was the limited existence of mass entertainment and popular culture. The Orville has had multiple references to pop culture, although it appears to have ended around our time. Previous references have included Kermit the Frog, Friends, and reality TV. This episode started with a clip from Seinfeld, which propelled the B story line. Teaching Isaac about humor and practical jokes allowed them to use humor without it appearing out of place as in some of the earlier episodes. I could easily imagine a similar story line involving Data. Of course Seth MacFarlane did take it further, with Issac amputating Malloy’s leg as a practical joke. Fortunately the limb was easily regenerated.

The episode also did a good job of incorporating the B story line into the main story, both with Malloy’s leg falling from the ceiling and with Isaac using a reference to the Seinfeld clip to tip off Malloy as to what he was doing to help save the ship.

Besides the two versions of Star Trek discussed above, there was more information at New York Comic Con on the planned Star Trek based episode from the fourth season of Black Mirror:

Titled “USS Callister,” the 74-minute adventure stars Fargo‘s Jesse Plemmons and Cristin Milioti, Jimmi Simpson (Westworld), and Michaela Coel.

While critics were barred from reviewing it, by all accounts from those in attendance it’s one of the most cinematic of Black Mirror installments, thanks to its epic production values — from sprawling desert locations and scenes set on the deck of the titular starship to the out-of-this-world outfits and expensive computer effects.

“The idea came up in conversation, and it struck us. We hadn’t done a space epic before and we thought, how would that work in the Black Mirror universe?” Brooker told The Hollywood Reporter.  “What sort of tone would it have? We ended up in this strange place.”

Naturally, the show tackles themes befitting its signature paranoid style and contains more than a few twists (and reportedly a few lens flares too, in a nod to the J.J. Abrams-helmed reboot).

Rather than releasing all the episodes at once, Amazon released only part of The Tick, hoping that buzz from the first half of the series will increase viewership before the series is completed. They announced at New York Comic Con that the show will return in February and released the above trailer. The show does effectively combine humor with a superhero story.

The above trailer for The X-Files season 11, which will premiere in January 2018, was released at New York Comic Con. More information on the upcoming season here.

Chris Carter said in an interview that he might continue the series even longer, but Gillian Anderson has said that the eleventh season will be her last. There have been attempts at bringing in other cast members, but I am skeptical as to whether the show can survive without Mulder and Scully.

Netflix cancelled promotions for The Punisher at New York Comic Con and a planned Paris event following the recent shootings in Los Vegas. They are also delaying the premiere of the series.

The next season of The Magicians will deal with restoring magic. We got some hints as to what will occur at the New York Comic Con:

“Julia and Quentin almost circle back to who they were as kids,” John McNamara notes that their reunion more or less restores their BFF status. Aside from partying with a god, we get to see them revisit a lifelong friendship and get over past grievances.

Jason Ralph and Stella Maeve spoke enthusiastically about the unexpected nature of Quentin and Julia’s relationship, which started as the tired unrequited love trope but evolved into something much more interesting. Jason Ralph said during the panel, “It’s really gratifying to get back together.”

The quest to revive magic will also lead to some unlikely pairings for the cast. Sure, we get some expected combos like Eliot with Margo or Quentin with Julia, but Sera Gamble teased during The Magicians NYCC panel that we’ll see more scenes with Julia and Alice together in Season 3. Julia’s relationship to the strange new magic she discovered evolves over the season in unexpected ways, and perhaps it’ll take Alice to help her figure it out.

Alice herself will go through the “worst quarter-life crisis ever,” according to Taylor Dudley. Alice died, became a niffin, sort of died again, and when finally reunited with her Shade, she then had magic taken away completely. Alice will be in a weird emotional spot when the season kicks off, especially considering she’s being hunted by an enemy she made while a niffin.

This year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, Twice Upon A Time, will also be shown in movie theaters, along with special features. More information here.

Nerdist reports on how Peter Capaldi learned that a woman was to be cast as the thirteenth Doctor. Capaldi also discussed why he is leaving Doctor Who at New York Comic Con:

In a retrospective session at New York Comic-Con, Peter Capaldi said that playing the title role in British TV juggernaut Doctor Who brought many pleasures but proved all-consuming. After four years, he said he felt it was best to leave before it ever felt like a routine.

 “It fills up your life,” he said. “You don’t have a second where it’s not about Doctor Who. It’s a nice way to live.” And yet, he continued, “I really never wanted to get to a place where I knew how to do this because that’s not what being creative is. The actual amount of time we were spending on the show, I realized I was getting the hang of it. And that made me frightened.”

Asked by a fan whether he would consider returning for a special or in any small role down the road, he said, “I think it’s probably time for me to go.”

The Mirror has some changes they claim will be made to Doctor Who next season under Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker. The reliability of the report is unknown.

This week has marked the 40th anniversary of the introduction of K-9 on Doctor Who and the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Mirror universe on Star Trek.

Den of Geek talked to Karen Gillan about Nebula’s role in  Avengers: Infinity War.

Gal Gadot was guest host on Saturday Night Live last night and talked about playing Wonder Woman in the opening monologue (video above). She also had the skit below about Wonder Woman:

There was also far more news at New York Comic Con than I can get to today and I will present more of it next week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wired has a look at Blade Runner 2049.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously there are other uses for such a device.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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