SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who–The Return Of Doctor Mysterio; Carrie Fisher; Will & Grace; Gilmore Girls; Matt Smith On The Crown; Sherlock; Hollyweed

A Doctor Who Christmas Special is different from a regular episode. While there have been some exceptions, generally they are lighter and disconnected from the story lines of a particular season, making them something the entire family might watch even if they do not watch Doctor Who regularly. Keeping this in mind will answer some of the criticism I’ve seen of The Return of Doctor Mysterio, which worked fine as a Christmas story, even if light. It was not, and was not intended to be, a major story with profound ramifications for the mythology of the show. The show broke ratings records for BBC America.

The episode got its name because Peter Capaldi loved to refer to his character as he is referred to in Mexico, and it fit as it did include two times in which the Doctor returned to see Grant after he accidentally turned him into a superhero. Having the Doctor be responsible allowed for Steven Moffat to play with many troupes of superhero comics and movies without fully including superheroes as part of the Doctor Who universe. Instead it is superhero comics, and generally not superheroes, which are a part.

This was the first appearance of the Doctor (other than his brief cameo in Class) since last year’s Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song. While it was not necessary to have seen it, this episode is a direct continuation. Both episodes included a key situation involving not recognizing someone else. They also both involved  aliens exchanging heads or brains, and has the return of Matt Lucas as Nardole. Fortunately the Doctor’s many skills include the ability to reassemble Nardole’s head on his body, allowing him to become a valuable assistant after the twenty-four year night he spent with River Song before she met her fate in the library. Matt Lucas will remain a semi-regular in the upcoming season.

Moffat took advantage of his experience in writing the romantic sit-com Coupling. This was seen when he had the entire body of the adolescent superhero who couldn’t control his x-ray vision levitate, obviously representing the rise of something else. It was seen again in scenes with Grant and Lucy, especially when they had dinner on the roof, while Grant had to be in two places at once.

The roof-top dinner was a clear homage to the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve Superman films. There were even panels from a Superman comic displayed early in the episode. How many collectors felt ill to see the Doctor deface what would now be a rare old comic by drawing glasses on Superman to show off how he figured out that Clark Kent is Superman, oblivious to the fact that everyone else already knows this (except for Lois Lane). It is just something we accept that wearing glasses keeps most people from figuring out his secret identity, but to the Doctor, “there are some situations which are too stupid to be allowed to continue.”

There were other ways in which this was a homage to Superman, including the double-L name of Lucy Lombard to match the names in DC comics. Moffat worked in the names of Siegel and Shuster, the creators of Superman, as names of employees at Harmony Shoals. There is a globe on top of the  building reminiscent of The Daily Planet.

Moffat didn’t limit himself to Superman comics. There are items from multiple DC and Marvel comics all over young Grant’s bedroom. The Ghost had aspects also comparable to Batman, including the look of the Ghost, his voice, and a reference to the bat signal. The advice, “With great power comes great responsibility,” comes from Uncle Ben’s advice to Peter Parker in Spider-Man. The Doctor reacted to Spider-Man’s origin in being bitten by a radioactive spider by expecting the signs of radiation poisoning. He considered himself to be the inspiration for superheroes with Doctor in their name.

There were other great moments in the episode, such as Lucy interrogating the Doctor by squeezing Mr. Huffle. I bet the BBC will be selling those toys in the future. I also liked the earlier scene when the Doctor came across Lucy, also spying on the aliens: “It’s okay. I’m an intruder too. Yeah, I brought snacks – mark of a pro. Keep listening.”  Plus there was the Doctor’s comment on the situation: “Brains with minds of their own? No-one will believe that – this is America.”

Yes, there was also an alien invasion, but this was a trivial aspect of the show, present to provide a backdrop for Grant’s story. This did make the episode seem a little disjointed at times, but the pleasure of seeing the classic superhero triangle of Grant, The Ghost, and Lucy made up for  this.

The episode ended with a teaser of the next season, and the new companion, Bill, played by Pearl Mackie.

Bill met the Doctor at a University and, contrary to previous rumors, is from the present. The trailer above does give some clues as to her personality and relationship with the Doctor. At this time we don’t know yet whether she will encounter the strangest aspect of being a companion to the Doctor, witnessing a regeneration.

The biggest genre related news of the week was the death of Carrie Fisher, followed the day later by her mother, Debbie Reynolds, dying, presumably of a broken heart. Carrie Fisher’s death was too big a story to wait for SciFi Weekend, and I posted about this story in greater detail here: Carrie Fisher Dies At 60, May The Force Be With Her Always.

Also this week, William Christopher, best known as Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H died.

It looks like NBC will be bringing back a ten episode revival of Will and Grace next fall.

Netflix dropped a hint raising speculation that there will be more of Gilmore Girls after the cliff hanger ending of A Year In The Life.

Bot Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman played British royalty in The Crown and Victoria in 2016. While Matt Smith’s role was not as big as Jenna Coleman’s, his portrayal of Prince Phillip was an entertaining aspect of The Crown. Radio Times reports that Matt Smith will continue to have a major role in season two of The Crown:

You might think you know what’s coming next in Netflix’s The Crown: after all, the life of the most famous family in the country is not exactly untold history and requires no spoiler alerts.

But with the making of season two, creator Peter Morgan has revealed how he plans to continue the story of Elizabeth’s reign – and the focus will shift away from the Queen herself as other royals take centre stage.

“We start to focus on Charles as a young boy and his education, and on Philip and his back story,” Morgan told People magazine.

Matt Smith’s Prince Philip was one of the most engaging characters in the first season as he struggled to adjust to his wife (played by Claire Foy) becoming Queen. The production team has recently been in South Africa, filming part of Philip’s Commonwealth tour which took him away from his wife and young family for months.

Executive producer Suzanne Mackie teased: “We glance backward to Philip’s childhood and his upbringing, and how that might have impacted him as a man, a father and as Prince Consort – which is fascinating.”

Diana won’t be appearing until season three.

Sherlock season four premieres tonight. Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis warn that it had people sobbing in an interview with The Sun:

We’ve watched the first episode and we really felt as though something bad was going to happen…
Mark: It’s prefigured. You start with the sharks and then you go into lots of light-hearted fun. But it’s important to think: ‘This is not going to end well.’ I was listening to people sobbing in our first press screening – that’s a very good reaction.

Are you two still moved to tears, despite knowing what’s coming up?
Mark: Oh, I cry every time with episode one. That one shows what fun the duo have, but that events have consequences… It’s about the past coming to get you. And there are at least two scenes in episode two that make me cry. And I always cry at a certain point in episode three…
Steven: Episode three is the finale of finales…

You have said that this is not the last series. Have you got the next one mapped out?
Steven: It’s slightly early to be talking about season five when season four hasn’t been on yet. But no one can really end the story of Sherlock Holmes, can they?
Mark: We’d like to carry on. We just don’t know.

Finally in show business, including Hollywood, news, someone changed the famous Hollywood sign to read “Hollyweed” last night. This happened once before in 1976 following the passage of a California marijuana law.

Carrie Fisher Dies At 60, May The Force Be With Her Always

Today there was a sad followup of a genre news item from over the weekend, and a terrible disturbance in the force. Carrie Fisher died following the heart attack she suffered while traveling back from London where she was working on what has become the last role she filmed, on season 3 of Catastrophe. The name of the show is so fitting.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Carrie Fisher, the actress and writer best known for her iconic role as Star Wars’ Princess Leia, died Tuesday morning after suffering a heart attack four days earlier while onboard a flight from London to Los Angeles. She was 60.

Family spokesperson Simon Halls confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter.

“It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning. She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly,” Halls’ statement read.

Rolling Stone has comments from many who worked with her, and quoted Fisher from past interviews talking about her most famous role, Princess Leia:

“She has no friends, no family; her planet was blown up in seconds – along with her hairdresser – so all she has is a cause,” Fisher told Rolling Stone in 1983 of the role. “From the first film [A New Hope], she was just a soldier, front line and center. The only way they knew to make the character strong was to make her angry. In Return of the Jedi, she gets to be more feminine, more supportive, more affectionate. But let’s not forget that these movies are basically boys’ fantasies. So the other way they made her more female in this one was to have her take off her clothes.”

“Lucas always had to remind me to ‘Stand up! Be a princess!’ And I would act like a Jewish princess and lean forward, slouching, chewing gum,” Fisher once joked.

Fisher also saw parallels between Princess Leia, the lost daughter of the series’ villain Darth Vader, and her own unique childhood as the daughter of two Fifties superstars; Fisher endured both her mother’s highly publicized divorces as well as her father’s own issues with substance abuse (“He’s a little shellshocked from 13 years of doing speed, but he’s real friendly,” she said in 1980 of Eddie Fisher, who died in 2010.)

“Leia’s real father left her mother when she was pregnant, so her mother married this King Organa. I was adopted and grew up set apart from other people because I was a princess,” Fisher said. “A lot of parallels, me and Leia. Dad goes off to the dark side, and Mom marries a millionaire. My brother and I went in different directions on the Debbie and Eddie issue. He’s gotten involved with Jesus, and I do active work on myself, trying to make myself better and better. It’s funny.”

The New York Times had this to say about how Fisher played Princess Leia, along with her personal problems:

Winning the admiration of countless fans, Ms. Fisher never played Leia as helpless. She had the toughness to escape the clutches of the monstrous gangster Jabba the Hutt and the tenderness to tell Han Solo, as he is about to be frozen in carbonite, “I love you.” (Solo, played by Harrison Ford, caddishly replies, “I know.”)

Offscreen, Ms. Fisher was open about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She gave her dueling dispositions the nicknames Roy (“the wild ride of a mood,” she said) and Pam (“who stands on the shore and sobs”). She channeled her struggles with depression and substance abuse into fiercely comic works, including the semiautobiographical novel “Postcards From the Edge” and the one-woman show “Wishful Drinking,” which she turned into a memoir.

For all the attention she received for playing Princess Leia, Ms. Fisher enjoyed poking wicked fun at the character, as well as at the fantastical “Star Wars” universe. “Who wears that much lip gloss into battle?” she asked in a recent memoir, “The Princess Diarist.”

From Variety:

Fisher demonstrated her skill as a writer with the best-selling 1987 novel “Postcards From the Edge,” about an actress struggling to rebuild her career after an overdose. Fisher wrote the screenplay for the 1990 film adaptation, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.

Fisher also penned the autobiographical 2008 book “Wishful Drinking,” based on her one-woman stage show of the same name. She had recently been promoting her newly published memoir of her “Star Wars” years, “The Princess Diarist.”

In her writing and in public, Fisher was revealing about her battles with drugs and mental health issues. Her outspokenness about addiction earned her a lifetime achievement award from Harvard College in 2016 for cultural humanitarianism.

While Carrie Fisher had roles in several other movies and television series, including Shampoo, The Blues Brothers, The Man with One Red Shoe, Hannah and Her Sisters, When Harry Met Sally, The ‘Burbs, The Big Bang Theory, Entourage, Sex and the City, 30 Rock, and Catastrophe, she will always be best known for her work on Star Wars. This  launched her to fame, was the subject of recent romantic revelations to make the news, and she had the opportunity to return to this role late in her life–with scenes already filmed for the next installment. People reports:

Of returning to the role that launched her career – Leia – for The Force Awakens, Fisher told PEOPLE in 2015, “I knew that something enormous was likely going to impact my life from this film and that there was absolutely no way of understanding what that was or was likely to be.”

The film – which brought Fisher back into the spotlight – earned  her a nomination for the 2016 Saturn Award for best supporting actress. She had already filmed scenes for the next Star Wars installment, Episode VIII, due out in December 2017.

Just last month, Fisher also revealed her surprising on-set affair with Star Wars costar Harrison Ford in The Princess Diarist, telling PEOPLE of the three-month fling during the making of the 1977 movie, “It was so intense.” The memoir, which drew from Fisher’s old diaries and notebooks, brought up mixed feelings for the actress.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Sherlock; Sense8; The OA; Travelers; Westworld In Chronological Order; Carrie Fisher; Father Of The Bride

While waiting for the Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, we have The 12 Doctors of Christmas video above.

This will lead us into the upcoming season, to start in April 2017, which will be Steven Moffat’s last as show runner. He talked to Digital Spy about his plans:

If you’re expecting a grand finale to the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who, then you might want to think again.

Moffat told press including Digital Spy that his final episodes of the BBC series will be about “pushing forward” – not bringing anything to a close.

“With Doctor Who, you never want to have finished the story – I’m not going to do that,” he insisted. “I want Chris [Chibnall, the new showrunner] to come in and have a brilliant time, so I’m not going to wrap it all up.

“So no… it’ll still be pushing forward. The thing is, people don’t really care about me or Chris, that’s the absolute truth. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s true – so the departure of a showrunner and the arrival of another one doesn’t really matter very much, ’cause no-one’s ever heard of us!”

Whether Peter Capaldi remains after Moffat stays might depend upon negotiations over pay, as the BBC has cut its fees in recent years.

Steven Moffat also has an interview with the BBC over the upcoming season of Sherlock, to premiere on New Year’s Day:

What do you mean when you say ghosts of the past are coming back?

By ghosts of the past we mean consequences. There are consequences to the kind of mad cap in-the-moment fun lives that Sherlock and John and Mary lead. There are things that have happened, there are enemies that they have made, there is damage that has been done and some of that is coming back to visit them. There will be surprises and when some of those surprises happen you’ll think “ah I should have seen that coming”.

How have the main characters developed in this series?

That’s the whole story of this series, so I’m not talking about that! Events get out of their control for a while and we see them in their darkest hours and in their highest moments.

How does Sherlock feel about John and Mary’s new addition?

The thing about Sherlock Holmes is that he is a grown-up. We always like to pretend he’s an absolute lunatic but he does things well and he straightforwardly adores John and Mary, they’re his best friends. So he behaves probably better than most young men behave when their best mates are having babies. He’s pretty good at all that.

Netflix released the Sense8 Christmas Special on December 23. At first it seemed an unlikely show to have a Christmas Special, but in retrospect it made a lot of sense. This provided a way to get reacquainted with the characters during the two year hiatus between the first and second season. The slow pace of the show worked well here. Not all that much happened to advance the story lines of the characters, giving plenty of time for holiday celebrations and the obligatory orgy scene.

Netflix also released two genre shows around the holidays, The OA and Travelers. I have not had time to see either, but The OA has been receiving a fair about of buzz since released. More information at Variety, Vox, and The Atlantic. The Travelers (trailer above) has an overall plot line similar to many science fiction shows including 12 Monkeys, Legends of Tomorrow, and Continuum in which time travelers from the future try to prevent a catastrophe in their era. This differs in that the travelers do not physically travel through time. Instead their consciousness takes over the bodies of others at the moment of their death. Here is the official synopsis:

Hundreds of years from now, the last surviving humans discover the means of sending consciousness back through time, directly into people in the 21st century. These “travelers” assume the lives of seemingly random people, while secretly working as teams to perform missions in order to save humanity from a terrible future. These travelers are: FBI Special Agent Grant MacLaren (Eric McCormack), the team’s leader; Marcy (Mackenzie Porter), a young, intellectually disabled woman in the care of her social worker, David (Patrick Gilmore); Trevor (Jared Paul Abrahamson), a high school quarterback; Carly (Nesta Marlee Cooper), a single mom in an abusive relationship; and Philip (Reilly Dolman), a heroin-addicted college student. Armed only with their knowledge of history and an archive of social media profiles, the travelers discover that 21st century lives and relationships are as much a challenge as their high-stakes missions.

Westworld is one show which in which things would be much clearer if viewed a second time. While watching the season finale I was thinking it would be even clearer if recut in chronological order, as some have done with a work by creator Jonathan Nolan’s brother–Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Of course it would be much harder to rewatch the entire season of Westworld as opposed to a movie such as Memento. These issues have been solved at The Outline where there is a recut version of Westworld season one in chronological order in which what they call the “normal” parts are sped up. This reduces the video to only ninety minutes.

As of time of writing this on Saturday, Carrie Fisher remain in intensive care after suffering a heart attack on Friday while flying from London to Los Angeles. She survived thanks to passengers on the plan initiating CPR. Hopefully she has a full recovery. We do need Princess Leia back to lead the rebellion against the evil empire when Donald Trump takes over in January.

For the last few months Father of the Bride has been the movie which means the most to me personally, still recalling watching it on ancient video tape when my daughter was a long way away from this point in her life. Therefore it caught my attention when I was scanning entertainment news for this post and saw that E! News had an article on the movie entitled How Realistic Is Father of the Bride? Fact-Checking the Classic 25 Years Later.  572 guests!!! I’m going to have nightmares tonight contemplating that.

After the show received quite a bit of controversy, A&E has cancelled Escaping The KKK.

Update: Carrie Fisher Dies At 60, May The Force Be With Her Always

SciFi Weekend: Holiday Shows (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Sense8); Holiday Gifts; Metropolis; Star Trek Discovery Casts Lead; Humans; The Man In The High Castle

We have now gone almost a year without any new episodes of Doctor Who. (At least there was Class, along with seeing Matt Smith on The Crown and Jenna Coleman on Victoria). Peter Capaldi and others have filmed the above message in advance of the Christmas special, and Capaldi has been available for interviews, including the one below:

Doctor Who does have some famous fans, including Prime Minister Theresa May, who has said she always watches the show on Christmas Day. Peter Capaldi responded to hearing this by saying, “I hope she takes this message of kindness and tolerance and compassion to heart.” When asked about whether he plans to leave the role, Capaldi responded by saying, “not for a long time, I hope.”

In another recent interview with Digital Spy, Steven Moffat has suggested someone else for the Doctor to meet, but does see a potential problem. “I’d like Doctor Who to meet the real James Bond, that’d be awesome. They wouldn’t get on at all. He’d shag his assistant!”

The fourth season of Sherlock begins on New Year’s Day. (They don’t worry about competing with the Rose Bowl in the U.K.) There have been hints that it might be the final season in light of how busy Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are, but Steven Moffat denies it will be the final season.

Among other things I’ve recently learned about Doctor Who, Matt Smith has a sister, who is one of the girls in the above video.

Gizmodo lists The Best Gifts for Doctor Who Fans. Of course I already have my own full-sized Tom Baker scarf and a sonic screwdriver.

If you prefer a different franchise, and have a big budget, Ars Technica reviews a $434 replica light sabre. Or, if you want to build your own Death Star, here is how to begin.

We have become accustomed to seeing special holiday episodes of shows from the U.K., but I believe it is a first for Netflix to do this. The trailer for the Sense8-Christmas Special is above (to be released December 23). I have seen conflicting reports as to whether they will wait until May (as the trailer states) versus releasing the second season this month. Presumably the trailer has the most up to date plans.

In other genre news this week, Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot) is planning to do a miniseries of the 1927 classic science fiction movie, Metropolis.

The lead has been cast for Star Trek: Discovery. Sonequa Martin-Green (Walking Dead), will play a lieutenant-commander. Unlike previous Star Trek series, the show will not center around the captain.

Humans ended its second season tonight. (I have the season finale downloaded but have only watched through the seventh of eight episodes). The series raises many of the same issues as Westworld. It lacks the budget, the hype, and the big stars, but it many ways it has done an even better job. AMC will be starting the second season in the United States on February 13.

Amazon started the second season of The Man In The High Castle. While I am still early in the series, it looks good so far. The show which includes Nazi occupation of the eastern United States now seems more relevant with just over a month to go until Donald Trump becomes president. Deadline also recommends another new streaming show released on December 12, OA on Netflix.

SciFi Weekend: Mr Robot’s Big Reveal; Superman; Agents of SHIELD; Hugo Awards; Doctor Who

mr-robot-elliott_ef1cfm

Unlike the first season, we didn’t have to wait until the end of the season for the big reveal. (That should be a clue that a major spoiler is coming for those behind). Fans have speculated since the first episode that Eliot was really in prison or a psychiatric institution rather than living with his mother to provide more structure. This week, his psychiatrist asked Eliot where he believed he was. His mother’s townhouse faded away and he admitted to us that he had been suppressing the fact that he was in prison.

Alan Sepinwall interviewed Sam Esmail about this development:

Where did the idea come from that you were going to disguise Elliot’s surroundings in this way?

Sam Esmail: It came from a two-prong approach. We knew exactly what the fate of Elliot was at the end of the last season, and we started breaking this season’s storyline. We’re always trying to stay as authentic to Elliot as possible, what he’s going through. Knowing Elliot, from the very first episode, he definitely has interesting coping mechanisms. Even from the pilot, he has this ability to reprogram his life: E Corp was turned into Evil Corp. When we thought about him being in prison, what would be that coping mechanism, this came to mind. The other approach was his relationship to us — to his “friend” — and how we left him at the end of the first season. He basically didn’t trust us anymore, he felt we were keeping things from him. So we wanted to develop that relationship as well. That was the one approach of, “This is what Elliot would do in this situation, to cope with being in prison,” and then the other of keeping it from us because he felt betrayed by us from the first season.

When we spoke at the end of season 1 about the Mr. Robot revelation, you said you would be hesitant in the future to do things that would leave people questioning the reality of the show. Did you have any concerns about doing another big, “This is what it really is!” reveal in that way?

Sam Esmail: I did. I remember bringing it up to the room. The one thing I also told you is I wanted to stay as authentic to Elliot as possible. And the truth of the matter is, the show is about mystery, and there will always be questions and we won’t actually see the full picture all of the time. Having said that, if we can’t invest in what is happening and what is going on, that would become very frustrating, to the point where you wouldn’t feel any stakes. That was the test we ran through with this idea: is this actually happening to him? Is what he’s experiencing still real? And can the audience still buy into this after the reveal? Those answers were obviously yes: the events that we saw were still very much real, and the consequences of them are real, and what Elliot went through is real. It’s just the coping mechanism he used was not exactly what he saw. To me, it was definitely one of those things that prompted a real conversation. Like I think I told you last year, we’re not in it for gotcha moments or shocking the audience, but we’re in it for interesting reveals and deepening and enriching Elliot’s experience. We felt that him going through his prison sentence in this way was more true to life to Elliot than actually having seen it as a prison.

But you understand how fandom works. Having done this two years in a row, you’ve now conditioned them to, whatever you do next, the fans will pick it apart frame-by-frame to explain what’s actually happening.

Sam Esmail: Yeah, well, truth be told, don’t you feel like it’s already happening this season?

True. How did you feel about people having this exact theory of prison after only the season premiere had aired?

Sam Esmail: It was weird. One thing that we always do is we never want to cheat the audience. We never want it to be some extraordinarily contrived thing where we’re basically lying to the audience and what they’re seeing isn’t actually happening, and we’re fooling them. In doing that, and being honest with what is going on, even though the surroundings aren’t actually what they are, we didn’t really hide it that well, right? I didn’t expect people to catch on from the very first episode, but I thought people would start to theorize and catch on. Look, a reveal is great when it’s surprising, but it’s terrible when it feels like a cheat. To me, the fact that some people who guessed it may not be surprised, it verifies that we didn’t cheat anybody, because it adds up and makes sense to them still.

I’m sure much of this will be explained in future episodes, in terms of why Elliot was in prison to begin with, but was Ray a guard in the prison? How much of Ray’s business involved prisoners versus the outside world?

Sam Esmail: That’s going to get revealed in a couple of episodes.

By sending Elliot to prison, you also spend the first half of the season with him physically separate from the other characters, give or take a brief visit by Gideon or Darlene. What did you see as the advantages and disadvantages of having him apart from the rest of the ensemble, other than Mr. Robot?

Sam Esmail: I’m glad you asked that question. Obviously, knowing we were doing this, it was very important for Elliot to address this incredibly internal conflict that sprung on him at the end of the first season: that he has an alter ego that he can’t control. That was the first and foremost issue that I wanted to tackle with Elliot. So of course the isolation of him being in prison really helped that. It meant that we get to basically do this deep dive into his internal battle with his demons. There is not much else for him to do. He couldn’t escape it. So it was great on that level. I knew it was going to be a polarizing choice to go in this direction with Elliot, but for whatever reason, it felt organic and natural. But when I took a step back and looked at the whole season, I realized that, when I think about the sequels that I really love, or second acts of movies or larger stories, they tend to do this: to go into this inward battle after accomplishing this big Herculean hero’s journey. The one uncanny similarity — which I only realized in hindsight — is Empire Strikes Back. At the end of the first movie, you take down the big band, the revolutionaries kind of win, but the second movie opens, they’re still battling, they’re still struggling, the Empire is rebuilding, and literally Luke goes off to another planet for most of that movie to learn to become a Jedi, while his sister is still out there fighting the good fight. This wasn’t something planned, but I looked at it and realized we were literally following that same pattern. And it’s not just with Empire Strikes Back. It’s Godfather Part II. There’s a lot of introspection that happens. That’s often the next stage after this huge external conflict comes to an end. Then it’s, “Well, then what?” It’s a hangover moment, of reflection and going inward. So that direction made sense for our story.

Esmail was also interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter.

News also came out during the past week that Mr. Robot has been renewed for a third season.

Superman Black

In other genre news, Henry Cavill has teased what will happen to Superman when he returns for the Justice League movie, in light of what happened at the end of Batman v. Superman.

Agents of SHIELD will be edgier with its move to 10 pm. It is a safe bet it will still be much tamer than the far better Marvel television adaptations on Netflix (one of which won a Hugo Award).

The 2016 Hugo Awards winners have been announced. The award for Best Novel went to The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. The Martian won for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Jessica Jones: A.K.A. Smile won for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Unfortunately the awards continued to be tainted by conservative politics.

Doctor Who Capaldi and Pearl Mackie

BBC America has announced that Doctor Who and other genre shows will be represented at New York Comic Con:

Mark your calendars: BBC AMERICA is coming to New York Comic Con in a big way this year. On Friday, October 7, the network will present a block of star-studded panels at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, featuring Doctor Who, with Peter Capaldi making his NYCC debut alongside new companion Pearl Mackie at her first-ever fan appearance. Ahead of its October 22, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency will launch a world premiere screening followed by a panel with cast, showrunner, writer and executive producer. And the Doctor Who spinoff Class will have its first-ever U.S. panel with cast, executive producer, and creator of the series.

They included more on the panels including Doctor Who:

BBC AMERICA’s Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi will make his New York Comic Con debut along with the first ever fan appearance by new co-star Pearl Mackie, who joins the series as Bill, the Doctor’s new companion. When Pearl joined the cast, Emmy-winning lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat teased “a new voyage is about to begin” and “this is where the story really starts.” Fans will get a sneak peek of what’s ahead including the upcoming Christmas Special this December on BBC AMERICA and hints on what’s in store for Steven Moffat’s final season as showrunner. The panel includes stars Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It) and Pearl Mackie (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time), as well as Steven Moffat (Sherlock) and executive producer Brian Minchin (ClassTorchwood). Doctor Who is a BBC Cymru Wales production for BBC One and a BBC AMERICA co-production.

The Time Travel Question of the Week:

Hitler Time Travelers

SciFi Weekend: Stranger Things–Explanation of Finale And A Look Ahead; Mr Robot; Star Trek Discovery; Doctor Who

Stranger Things D&D

Stranger Things was the surprise hit of the summer. It was as close to a perfectly structured television show as I’ve ever seen, both telling a complete story in eight episodes and leaving some things open for future seasons. It has an excellent cast, a story which was compelling from the start, and a lot to bring back fond memories of both the 1980’s and previous stories in the genre. The early 1980’s was a perfect period for this story, when kids could roam freely without being immediately available by cell phone, kids would have to ask their science teacher for information rather than looking it up on line, and Cold War paranoia made the background of the story seem a bit more plausible. I briefly discussed the show last week without spoilers. In order to discuss the finale and where the second season might go, major spoilers are unavoidable.

If I had any complaints after the conclusion, it might be that questions which we might not have had time to wonder about while binging were left unanswered. I’m thinking of where the story was at even before the final few minutes when additional teasers for the future were inserted. Fortunately the producers do have an outline which presumably contains information which might answer some of my questions in future seasons.

We know something about the research being done at Hawkins Lab, and how Eleven presumably opened a portal to another dimension. There could be far more going on at the lab, and was there a one through ten?

What happened in the other dimension, which appears to be like ours with the atmosphere destroyed and people no longer alive? Some scenes which looked up to the stars led me to believe it was due to aliens, while the 1980’s time frame also makes me suspect it was the consequence of a nuclear winter. Why did we see only one Demogorgon? Perhaps such monsters, and perhaps other types, are roaming the other dimension, and only this one made it to their version of Indiana. Did such monsters destroy Earth, or were they created by radiation from a nuclear war? The kids faced a Thessalhydra while playing D&D at the end of the episode. Is this what they will encounter next? Is there a connection between their games and what is found in the Down Under? What was the egg which Hopper discovered?

What happened to Eleven and the monster? If this was a completed story we might assume she died after saying goodby to Mike.  However, as we are dealing with parallel universes and the ability to travel between them, it wouldn’t be surprising if a sequel shows that they did go to another dimension. Deaths always must be questioned if there is no body–and in this show even a body did not prove death. If two dimensions were shown this season, are there other dimensions which might come into play in future seasons?

It is plausible that Will remained alive as long as he did by hiding out in alternate versions of places he knows in his universe, but how did he communicate with the lights? Even if messing with the wires in one dimension affected them in the other dimension, he showed remarkable accuracy in turning flashing specific lights by specific letters. Barb was not so fortunate, but to maintain some degree of horror I think it was necessary for her to have been killed. Most of the characters who were put in danger did survive. Will was alive in the end. His mother and Hopper were both captured but managed to be released. The kids survived the final attack of the monster in their school Someone had to actually die for the monster to be menacing in the end, and a character such as Barb who was only in a handful of scenes was the obvious “red shirt.”

The final few minutes of the series went further in providing loose ends to tie up in the future. What happened when Hopper went in that car. Why was he leaving Eggos Waffles in the box in the woods? Either he knew that Eleven was out there and was leaving her favorite food for her, or he perhaps he was leaving them to see if she returned to take them. I think the later is more plausible as if he was actually feeding her he would have presumably left more.

The biggest sign that we have not seen the last of the Upside Down was when Will coughed up the slug and briefly saw the other dimension. Was that just a mental flash back, or was there a breakdown between the dimensions in the bathroom? Is this the original Will, or yet another type of fake, this time created in the Upside Down? What about Will’s mother and Hopper? Both were in the Upside Down and had breathed in the air.

The Duffer brothers have verified in various interviews that they are hoping to produce a second season involving the same characters, with additional ones added. There will be a time jump of one year which makes matters much simpler when dealing with children actors, and allows for the story to have advanced.

Here are some excerpts of interviews with Matt and Ross Duffer:

Stranger Things

From Variety:

How much do we know about Eleven’s true origins at this point, and how much did you want to keep a mystery?

Ross: We get the hint that her mom was involved in the experimentations back in the day resulting in her being born with these powers, but what we wanted to do with the show — and this season specifically — was mostly seeing the mystery and these extraordinary things through the eyes of these ordinary characters. By the end of the show they don’t know or understand everything. That is purposeful.

We do cut away to the government occasionally for these pops of mystery or horror, but what we didn’t want was to have a scene of the scientist just sitting down to explain everything. We wanted to slowly peel back layers of this mystery for audiences through the eyes of these very ordinary people. It’s not all solved by the end of the season. We wanted to resolve the main mystery of Will being gone, that was the story of this season.

Do you see the government or science conspiracy angle as a long-term mystery for the show?

Ross: There’s a lot there we don’t know or understand. Even with the Upside Down, we have a 30-page document that is pretty intricate in terms of what it all means, and where this monster actually came from, and why aren’t there more monsters — we have all this stuff that we just didn’t have time for, or we didn’t feel like we needed to get into in season one, because of the main tension of Will. We have that whole other world that we haven’t fully explored in this season, and that was very purposeful.

Matt: We wanted a simple drive and a somewhat simple mystery with bizarre pops of supernatural horror and then add a larger mythology behind this rift that we only know and refer to as the Upside Down because that’s what the boys decide to call it. Everything they’ve learned about it is kind of hypothetical. They’re theorizing based on their knowledge from fantasy gaming and their science teacher, Mr. Clarke. That’s as much as we get to understand it. I think part of it is us thinking in terms of horror, it’s scarier when you don’t fully understand what’s happening. If you were to encounter something from another world or dimension, it would be beyond comprehension. We talked a lot about Clive Barker and his stories. They’re very weird, and the weirder it is, the more inexplicable it is, the scarier it is.

As you head into future seasons, have you thought about how much of that 30-page document you want to reveal and explore?

Ross: We leave these dangling threads at the end. If people respond to this show and we get to continue this story — we had those initial discussions of where we might go with it. If there was going to be a season two, we would reveal more of that 30 page document, but we’d still want to keep it from the point of view of our original characters.

Even though you tell a complete story within the season, you end on a couple of major cliffhangers — the first being Eleven’s disappearance. Did you want to hint at where she’s been with the scene of Hopper leaving Eggos in the woods?

Matt: Obviously something happened to her when she destroyed and killed that monster and we don’t know what she went. Hopper is left with this guilt because he sold her out. We wanted to leave it sort of mysterious exactly what he knows… Have there been sightings in the woods or is he hoping she’s out there or has he already made contact with her? We don’t answer any of that, but we like the idea of potentially putting her and Hopper together.

It also seems that the Upside Down has changed Will or maybe he’s brought some of it back with him. What can you say about the flash he has in the bathroom?

Ross: We love the idea that [the Upside Down] is an environment that is not a great place for a human being to be living in. Will’s been there for an entire week, and it’s had some kind of effect on him, both emotionally and perhaps physically. The idea is he’s escaped this nightmare place, but has he really? That’s a place we wanted to go and potentially explore in season two. What effect does living in there for a week have on him? And what has been done to him? It’s not good, obviously.

Stranger Things Christmas Lights

They discussed more of these plot points with IGN:

IGN: What can you say about where Eleven is? That’s a very open question, of course, since there are different worlds you’re dealing with here.

Ross: It is. We wanted to leave it purposefully ambiguous. We always, from the very beginning, liked this sort of childlike idea that this escapee from this facility with these amazing powers would be able to just move into Mike’s basement and they’d have this wonderful life together and she’d go to school. It’s not that simple. The goal is to make it as complicated as possible, and without going into too much detail, to really tear them apart at the end of that season, to make things much more difficult. But we love Eleven.

Matt: But the great thing about having a portal to another dimension is that you’re not boxed in, narratively. There’s a lot we can do.

Ross: What did James Cameron say? No one’s ever dead in sci-fi.

IGN: Will clearly has been changed by this experience, it doesn’t seem in a great way. But he’s not the only one that went over there. Should we assume he might not be the only one affected?

Ross: That’s a good question. Though I will say that Will obviously was in there much longer. He had that thing hooked up to him. He went through a much more traumatic experience. A big part of Season 2 that we’ve been discussing is what is that effect? Did it affect anyone else? But specifically, is Will okay? The short answer being no.

Matt: But you’re absolutely right, three of the other characters were in there.

Ross: And they took off their helmets. And we know it’s a toxic environment. Nancy was in there too. Yeah, that’s an interesting question…

IGN: Is that the cool thing about doing a time jump? Asking what has Will been like in the year in between?

Ross: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And how have these characters moved on with their lives and not just in the plot and supernatural [aspect] but also just in terms of their characters and what have they done to fill that time?

Matt: We like that they’ve all had a very traumatic, nightmare experience together and after it’s over they kind of try to sweep it all under the rug. Season 2 would be very differently, structurally. It would be that everything seems great on the surface and then there are hints that things aren’t okay or that there are lingering effects from what happened last year. The initial instinct is to push that back and sweep that crap back under the rug but eventually it becomes impossible to ignore and so they have to confront the repercussions of everything they’ve experienced. I like to think about Stephen King’s It too. — that’s a big time jump. They jump like thirty years. But the idea that the evil is still there and comes back to haunt them and one of the characters finds out about it and kills themselves immediately. That image always stuck with me.

IGN: We see Hopper go for a little meeting at the end there. What can you say about everything he was involved in and how it might open up the world?

Ross: The intention in the scene when he gets in the car – and we want to get into this in the next season – is the clean up of what happened and the mess of all this and Will dying and coming back to life, whatever happened at the school, and the dead bodies… This is not a simple clean up job. It’s complicated. We have all these characters that know that these crazy things happen. We liked the idea that, sort of lead by Hopper, our characters are drawn closer to the government, in terms of having to make a bit of a deal with the devil. To us, that’s an exciting place to take our story.

Matt: But also the idea of going back to the laboratory and pull back the curtain a little bit. Maybe they brought someone new in. It’s not as evil and mysterious as it was in Season 1. We might start to get into what they’re doing a bit little more. Maybe they seem a little bit more friendly… as least at the beginning. A lot of the agents involved in that project are dead.

Ross: The monster and Eleven did a clean sweep of that whole operation, really.

Matt: So it would be new people which I think is cool. I think our initial instinct, when you talk about all of this stuff and “Oh god, this is all such a pain in the ass. We created such a mess.” But then we decided let’s just lean into the problems this created.

Ross: And even someone like Barb, where we left them, her poor parents think she’s just run away. There’s no closure there at this point, which I think is another reason why audiences are reacting like that. They’re like “You saved this boy, but…” What we were trying to do with that last scene in the hospital when Nancy leaves and Jonathan catches her right as she’s going is that there isn’t closure for Nancy. There isn’t closure for Barb’s parents. There is still, despite the relief that our boys are feeling, there still was tragedy here. We want to make sure that we don’t forget about that. We don’t want to forget about Barb.

Stranger Things

Collider asked about the benefits of working with Netflix:

Eight episodes was the perfect length for the Season 1 narrative. Was that your decision, to keep it that tight?

MATT: Yes, it was.

ROSS: When we first pitched it to Netflix, we said, “This is an eight-episode story,” and they were like, “Great!” That’s the amazing thing about Netflix. They do not dictate. They don’t tell anyone that it should be 10 episodes or 13 episodes. They just say, “What do you need to tell your story?,” and that’s an amazing freedom that most storytellers who are working in film or TV haven’t had. This is a very recent thing. On television, you’ve gotta have a certain number of breaks for commercials. You’re working on a very clear structure.

MATT: On Wayward Pines, we were writing to commercial breaks.

ROSS: And you know how many episodes it has to be because they’ve got so many slots. Or with a film, you know it can’t be too long ‘cause you can’t get enough showings in. You’re very locked in. So, I think it’s an exciting time. We can play around a bit with form and length, and all of that, and it really just boils down to what we need to tell the story.

MATT: But even though this show has been successful, there’s no pressure to make it 13 episodes. People say, “They need to make way more episodes,” but I like to think one of the reasons it works for people is because it’s paced and it feels like a movie, and that’s because it’s not too long. I think, if we pushed it to 13 episodes, we’d have to start coming up with all these bullshit adventures they’re going on, that aren’t directly tied to the main tension. Eight felt about right. But if we’re developing Season 2 and it feels like seven or nine or eleven, Netflix would support any of those lengths.

How long do you see this series running? Have you thought about future seasons?

ROSS: We don’t know, specifically. We’re very weary of making it go on past the point it should. You want to end on a high note. That’s the goal. We’ve had initial discussions, but we haven’t quite landed on it.

Stranger Things Eleven

They spoke more about the structure of the series with Huffington Post:

One reason “Stranger Things” is effective is because the monster is revealed slowly. At first, it’s only glimpses. That out-of-sight, fear-of-the-unknown quality feels very “Jaws.”

Ross: “Jaws” was a big one. It’s a classic. The shark not working while making that movie made it much better. Also, we looked a lot at Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” On YouTube, there’s a cut of all the instances where you see the alien in that first movie, and it’s a couple minutes long. And that’s a two-hour movie. I think the reason it’s so scary is that, when it does appear, it has a certain amount of impact. So we thought, OK, we’re going to see the shadow in Episode 1, because we knew we had eight episodes. We were trying to slowly reveal it, until you finally saw the full thing. We don’t really deal with it until Episode 8. It’s a dude in a suit, and I remember reading old interviews with Ridley Scott about “Alien.” The studio was upset with him for it because it’s an amazing alien suit and you’re not shooting it. But the reason is because so much of it will look like a guy in a suit, and so much of it is that what you don’t see is much scarier. We tried to go back to that old-school style of filmmaking…

I want to pose a logistical plot question: Why did Will survive the Upside Down but Barb didn’t?

Matt: Right, I guess we think of it as ― and this is continuing with the “Jaws” references ― it’s the other dimension, the Upside Down, where the shark lives, and every once in a while it comes out of that ocean into our world on the surface and then it grabs a victim and pulls them down to the Upside Down. You saw Barb at the top of Episode 3 in the Upside Down. Just imagine that’s a world, and Barb tried to escape and failed to escape, but Will was sneakier, so he was able to escape. He was able to hide. He goes, initially, to that cubby in Episode 3 inside the Byers’ house, which is why Joyce is able to communicate with him. We had this whole backstory for what Will is doing, but we don’t see it all.

Ross: It’s more like the monster bringing him back to the net, which is why Hopper and Joyce are able to distract Will into being held in this net like a spider caught in its web. He’s brought there by the monster for eating later. Is he there for other reasons? We don’t know. We have ideas.

The way the season ends, there are enough questions answered for it to almost stand as a complete series. But the many unresolved mysteries set up an obvious next chapter. How much of the backstory regarding Dr. Brenner’s experiments and Eleven’s history did you have in place from the get-go?

Matt: We had ideas that we were sort of feeling out. We have a lot more backstory built in for Brenner and Eleven. Every time that we were writing scenes in the Hawkins Lab, we wanted to stop writing them, just because it seemed like we wanted to experience as much of it as possible in the present day and through the eyes of our ordinary characters. We just wanted to leave that as mysterious as possible. I hope that, with the mystery, people are responding to it and it’s not frustrating. But to us, the sci-fi elements are so much more fun if we’re understanding it via our characters. I like that basically everything we understand about what is going on is pretty much through the boys. And they’re only able to understand it through Dungeons and Dragons terminology and by talking to their science teacher, Mr. Clark. It’s all sort of hypothetical. I never wanted any scenes in the laboratory where you have Brenner and the scientists sitting around discussing what’s going on. And Eleven even doesn’t fully understand how she wound up where she wound up and what their plans for her are, so there are very few scenes with Brenner without one of our other main characters. The scenes that are with Brenner and not our main characters have almost no dialogue in them.

Ross: Moving forward, we’re going to get more into detail about the monster and where it came from and what the Upside Down really is. But with this season, we talked a lot about “Poltergeist.” At the end of the day, what really matters in “Poltergeist” is that Carol Anne is missing and they have to go through a portal in the closet to get her back. That matters more than the backstory. People want explanations for all that, so while we have answers for all this, what we really wanted to get from this first season is that this gate opens to this other dimension. What it really boils down to is, Will is in there and we have to get him back. The hope was that, because we resolved that, the first season will be satisfying to people and work as a stand-alone. Hopefully we get to go back and explore more of this stuff.

Mr Robot Alf

While Stranger Things brought us back to the 1980’s, Mr. Robot had a surprising beginning by opening as if it was a 1990’s sit-com, including appearances from Alf. If you haven’t watched it yet, do not skip the commercials, as they play into the illusion of a 1990’s television show. Of course, like other less obvious examples on the show, we are seeing what is happening in Eliot’s head as opposed to reality. There was even a plausible explanation for this, which led to a reconciliation with the imaginary Mr. Robot portion of him, after attempts by each to destroy the other earlier in the season. While we still do not know what happened to Tyrell Wellick, he does have a symbolic appearance here also.

I’m still waiting for WikiLeaks to reveal ties between Evil Corp, The Clinton Foundation, and The Trump Organization–the true axis of evil (even if one is symbolic and only two are real). Actually, on some level, I think that this is what Sam Esmail is trying to tell us.

Democracy Hacked

Bryan Fuller is slowly teasing news on Star Trek Discovery. It will take place ten years before the original show, bridging events between Enterprise and the original Star Trek. There will be seven lead characters including a gay character, and a female lead who plays a lieutenant commander, providing a different perspective than leading with the Captain as on other series.

The bathroom at The Way Station bar in Brooklyn is bigger on the inside than on the outside. The video above has a tour of the TARDIS themed bathroom.

In other Doctor Who news, the 1996 movie staring Paul McGann is being released on Blu-ray later this year.

Jenna Coleman and Karen Gillan had a joint appearance at Boston Comic Con. Hopefully someone videotaped it and will upload it soon.

Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars movies, died at age 81 during the past week.

SciFi Weekend: The Marvel Television & Movie Universe; The Night Manager; Mads Mikkelsen On The Possible Return of Hannibal; Wet Hot American Summer; Hugo Nominees; Top Jokes From White House Correspondence Dinner

Agents-of-SHIELD-Cover-04272016

Not long after Supergirl used a classic comic book cover to promote the Supergirl/Flash cross over, Agents of SHIELD is also using a classic comic cover to promote an upcoming episode.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is sliding into its last few episodes for the season three finale, and they’re going for the hype by promising someone is going to die in promo art. The illustration is an homage to the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #121; that’s the one hinting at the death of you-know-who. Uh-oh. The art by Greg Land will actually be available as a variant cover in comic book shops, too. It will be a rare catch for Civil War II #0.

The official synopsis for the penultimate episode of the season ties into Captain America: Civil war, as the first season tied into Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

With only two episodes left before S.H.I.E.L.D. loses one of their own, Daisy’s prophecy ticks closer towards a major loss, as the aftermath of the events of “Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War” force S.H.I.E.L.D. to register the Inhumans, on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” TUESDAY, MAY 10 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network.

Joe and Anthony Russo have also discussed how Captain America will lead into the Infinity War storyline.

Besides appearing in the Captain America and Avengers movies. Robert Downey, Jr. will be appearing in Spider-Man Homecoming. He is now teasing the possibility of a fourth Iron Man movie.

Marvel is now developing a series for Netflix about The Punisher, presumably in response to the response to his charter in Daredevil season 2.

John le Carré discussed how his con-man father inspired Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) in The Night Manager in the video above.

Mads Mikkelsen gave an interview to the Sunday Express which sounds encouraging for the return of Hannibal:

Fans of the television adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novels about psychopathic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter were left outraged last year when broadcaster NBC unceremoniously axed the show after just three seasons.

Nonetheless, in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Mikkelsen has revealed that the story is far from over – and that there is hope for a reboot yet. When asked whether the series still has the potential to be picked up by another network, the actor revealed that the ball is firmly in show creator Bryan Fuller’s court.

“It all depends on Bryan. He is the key, the base, the heart,” Mikkelsen said. “We will wait and see what happens next in his career. But we all know that we can easily pick this up in two or three years, there are breaks in the stories. We could pick it up, say, four years later. If Bryan is up for it, we will all go for it.”

But will Fuller be up for it?

“He loved it. It was his baby. Let’s wait and see,” the 50-year-old actor teased, a knowing glint in his eye.

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After a successful prequel, Netflix is returning to Wet Hot American Summer once again with  Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. This time the cast will look more like the ages they are playing, but it was amusing during First Day of Camp to see the adult actors playing themselves as teenagers in the original. That’s except for Paul Rudd, who seemed to have barely aged, possibly due to a painting in the attic.

The Hugo Award nominees are out. Here are the nominees for television shows and movies:

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron written and directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
  • Ex Machina written and directed by Alex Garland (Film4; DNA Films; Universal Pictures)written and directed by Alex Garland (Film4; DNA Films; Universal Pictures)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris, directed by George Miller (Village Roadshow Pictures; Kennedy Miller Mitchell; RatPac-Dune Entertainment; Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • The Martian screenplay by Drew Goddard, directed by Ridley Scott (Scott Free Productions; Kinberg Genre; TSG Entertainment; 20th Century Fox)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens written by Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, directed by J.J. Abrams (Lucasfilm Ltd.; Bad Robot Productions; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM)
  • Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Television)
  • Grimm: “Headache” written by Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, directed by Jim Kouf (Universal Television; GK Productions; Hazy Mills Productions; Open 4 Business Productions; NBCUniversal Television Distribution)
  • Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile” written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamie King, directed by Michael Rymer (Marvel Television; ABC Studios; Tall Girls Productions; Netflix)
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: “The Cutie Map” Parts 1 and 2 written by Scott Sonneborn, M.A. Larson, and Meghan McCarthy, directed by Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller (DHX Media/Vancouver; Hasbro Studios)
  • Supernatural: “Just My Imagination” written by Jenny Klein, directed by Richard Speight Jr. (Kripke Enterprises; Wonderland Sound and Vision; Warner Bros. Television)


Barack Obama had his final appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (full video above).  He said that “if this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year,” mocking Clinton’s paid speeches. He also made fun of her attempts to appeal to young voters:  “Look, I’ve said how much I admire Hillary’s toughness, her smarts, her policy chops, her experience. You’ve got admit it though, Hillary trying appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative who just signed up for Facebook. Dear America, did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.’”

Obama also mocked Donald Trump: “There’s one area where Donald’s experience could be invaluable, and that’s closing Guantanamo. Because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground.” Plus he praised his foreign policy experience: “They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president, but in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world — Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.”

Some of Obama’s top jokes can be read here and here.

Bored with the current set of presidential candidates? Take a look at Andrew Basiago, who claims to have traveled back in time and to have teleported to Mars in the 1980’s  with a young Barack Obama. It is surprising that Obama has never mentioned this.

Update: Larry Wilmore At The White House Correspondents’ Dinner

SciFi Weekend: X-Files Finale; Big Reveal on The Flash; Captain America Civil War; Daredevil; Star Trek; Star Wars

THE X-FILES:  L-R:  Guest star William B. Davis and David Duchovny in the “My Struggle II” season finale episode of THE X-FILES airing Monday, Feb. 22 (8:00-9:01 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Ed Araquel/FOX

The X-Files concluded last week, with my discussion of the prior episodes appearing here. The six-episode revival rebooted the mythology storyline, and then wound up the earth on the brink of destruction, plus a UFO flying overhead. It is quite dissatisfying if you want a coherent mythology storyline for the season. Instead it is necessary to think of a cliff hanger on The X-Files as being more like the annual cliff hanger on Dallas as opposed to a complete genre story. It was enough to have me wanting to see more, so in the business of television it was a success.

Another plus was the introduction of Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose as recurring characters, the mini-Mulder and mini-Scully. I don’t know if they could carry the entire franchise on their own in the future, but at very least they reduce the burden on David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, which could make a difference in making future seasons.

TV Line spoke with  Chris Carter about the finale. Here is a portion:

TVLINE | Let’s say the planets don’t align and there are no movies and no more seasons — are you OK with ending the series on that note?
I can tell you this: Fox owns this show. I can’t imagine, with the ratings that we’ve got and the way we ended this season, that there won’t be more X-Files. They will find a way to get that done. Because I spoke about it briefly with [Fox CEO] Dana Walden today, so there’s an appetite there and… a chance certainly to find how we’re gonna get ourselves off this precipice.

TVLINE | We had that shot of Alien Scully at the end of the cold open, which Fox released weeks ago. Was that just to mess with us?
[Laughs] Well, if Scully believes that she has alien DNA, this is something that’s going on in her subconscious. She’s possibly as alien as she is human, and that was playing with that idea.

TVLINE | Between the first episode of the revival and the finale, Scully and Mulder feel as though they’re growing back together — maybe not romantically, but they seem to want to be in each other’s company again.
Yes. There’s tension there, because they love each other and have, I think, since the first season — maybe even from the moment they first met. There’s a tremendous amount of love and respect there. That is what still exists, even if they’re not back together, I think you saw through our six episodes a warming, a thawing of whatever cold places they’d both found themselves in. And when they are arm in arm, or hand in hand, walking in front of Mulder’s house there [in Episode 5, “Babylon”], I think that’s a moment, for me, of a thawing of the situation.

TVLINE | William was referenced in a bunch of the episodes, then again right before the cliffhanger. In your mind, do you know where he is and what he’s up to?
[Laughs] I can’t tell you.

TVLINE | Of course you can’t! But do you know?
Well, if anyone knows, it’s me.

The Flash -- "Enter Zoom" -- Image FLA206A_0236b.jpg -- Pictured: Zoom -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The big reveal of the week (major spoilers) was the identity of Zoom on The Flash. Variety discussed this reveal with Andrew Kreisberg:

While fans may be forgiven for thinking that the Zoom storyline seems eerily reminiscent of last season’s twist, which revealed that the Reverse Flash, Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher), had assumed the identity of scientist Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) in order to gain the trust of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), executive producer Andrew Kreisberg tells Variety that the parallel is entirely by design.

“For us, it could only happen because of what happened last season,” Kreisberg explains. “For Barry and the others, as much as they were stung by Wells/Thawne’s betrayal, he had been their mentor and friend and they all felt that vacuum when he was gone. Jay had been watching them and knew that so he was able to masterfully step into the role each of them needed. He became a friend and mentor to Barry. A love interest to the heartbroken Caitlin. He skillfully played them all.”

The twist is particularly surprising given Jay’s iconic status in the DC universe, but Kreisberg says that fan expectations helped conceal their master plan for Zoom. “We knew there’d be a fair amount of the audience who would know who Jay Garrick was and would take the character and anything he said at face value because of his past history,” he points out. “With this, we were better able to hide the ball as it were as to Zoom’s true identity. Who would suspect the big bad was the classic hero from the comics?”

Captain America Civil War

A director of Captain America: Civil War teases a controversial ending:

“The consequences of Civil War will have an even more significant impact [than The Winter Soldier]. In Civil War, we’re going to change the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Psychology, and it’s an extreme shift.” He added: “Winter Soldier was a political thriller; this is a psychological thriller.” Now, there have been a lot of rumours about how the end of the movie is going to play out, and Anthony went on to promise that fans should expect a “very dramatic ending that will be controversial for a lot of people.” 

Netflix has released the above trailers for season 2 of Daredevil. The first is discussed here and the second, featuring Elektra, is discussed here. Den of Geek also has a spoiler-free review of the series, which will be released on March 18.

There is more good news about the upcoming Star Trek television series on CBS All Access. Recently we learned that Bryan Fuller would be show runner. Now it has been announced that Nicholas Meyer will be a writer and consulting producer.

Meyer wrote directed both Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He also wrote Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. 

J.J. Abrams might explode a few conservative heads:

“When I talk about inclusivity its not excluding gay characters, it’s about inclusivity so of course,” Abrams said at the U.S.-Ireland Alliance Oscar Wilde Awards on Thursday when asked if the franchise might include a gay character in the future. “To me the fun of Star Wars is exploring the possibilities, so it seems insanely narrow minded to say that there wouldn’t be a homosexual character in that world”

SciFi Weekend: The X-Files; SHIELD; Orphan Black; Nebula Nominees; Heroes; Daredevil; Kimmy Schmidt; Ashley Judd On Twin Peaks

THE X-FILES: L-R: Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in the "Home Again" episode of THE X-FILES airing Monday, Feb. 8 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

The six episode revival season of The X-Files concludes Monday. The series was worthwhile for old fans but I couldn’t recommend it to others. Those who have not seen it would be better off watching some of the top old episodes. The original series ended with a convoluted mythology which was no longer making any sense. For the revival they dispensed with much of it. Spoilers ahead: Mulder now believes that he was being intentionally deceived, leading him to come up with many false conclusions. Rather than an alien threat, it now appears that humans killed an alien years back and stole their technology, with plans to use it to conquer the earth.

Some of the episodes are stand alone. For fans, the most fun was the third episode, Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster. The first episode was a mythology episode in that it got Mulder and Scully back together. The second episode to air did have a suggestion of the conspiracy with the Cigarette Smoking Man (old Alec Sadler to Continuum fans) appearing at the end. However, this was  originally intended to be the fifth episode, and there has been nothing more on this. Presumably it will play a key part in the final episode, which it appears might not be the end. Variety reports:

The X-Files” reboot has been a major success for Fox, but will there be more episodes after the event series wraps this upcoming Monday?

While there are no firm plans at this time for a second round of episodes, with the ratings proof, Fox execs are undoubtedly discussing the possibility of ordering more episodes. Plus, the network has been promoting Monday’s finale as the “season finale” — not the “series finale.”

“We said before it aired that we would love to do more, and we are over the moon with the performance. So far, the response has been really encouraging,” Fox entertainment president David Madden tells Variety, speaking in an interview conducted earlier in “The X-Files” season.

He adds, “We haven’t talked to the talent yet about Season 2 in any more definitive way than we had prior to airing the show, but certainly, it seems like there’s an audience responding to the show that would love to see more episodes.”

…Insiders tell Variety there are no official conversations under way regarding the future of the franchise, but Fox would love to make more “X-Files” happen, if they can — the main hurdle would be getting the schedules of Chris Carter, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny to align, given their other commitments.

When asked about the possibility of a second rebooted season last month at the Television Critics Association press tour, Fox bosses Dana Walden and Gary Newman also touched on the talent subject, saying, “The biggest impediment to going forward with ‘The X-Files’ is the schedule of David and Gillian and, to an extent, Chris…but even the other night at the premiere, we were all laughing and joking that we would love to do this again. So we would be on board if schedules can be worked out.”

Long before the six revival episodes aired, Duchovny talked to Variety about the possibility of returning for more episodes.

Agent Carter has been excellent this year, I think better than the first season. It is winding down with two episodes to be aired back to back again before the finale. Agents of SHIELD will return on March 8 with promo above.

Comic Book Resources has a report on how Brett Dalton (Ward)’s character will be used after having been killed by Coulson before the midseason break. (Some might consider this spoilers):

Since the episode aired, fans have speculated about the comic book roots of Ward’s surprising transformation. While speaking at Wizard World Portland earlier today, series star Elizabeth Henstridge (who plays Jemma Simmons) let slip Ward’s new identity. As it turns out, the fans were right.

Discussing how her character deals with the constantly shifting circumstances of the show’s world, Henstridge said “…and now Ward is Hive and takes on the memories of people he’s killed, so that’s going to have some interesting situations.”

Though a brief mention, her statement is confirmation that Hive is now part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Created by Jonathan Hickman in his “Secret Warriors” series, Hive is a mass of genetically engineered parasites created by Hydra to personify the best qualities of the organization and the individuals therein. The parasites latch onto a human host, increasing its strength while absorbing its memories.

The TV show has clearly taken a different route with the character, as it has already been revealed that it is an Inhuman, and that freeing the creature and harnessing its powers is the reason Hydra was originally founded. Still, the increased strength and memory absorption remain part of its power set.

Orphan Black returns on BBC America on Thursday, April 14th. The official trailer (which shows a lot) is above. Here is BBC America’s description of the season:

Season 4 of the drama will see leader-of-the-pack, Sarah, reluctantly return home from her Icelandic hideout to track down an elusive and mysterious ally tied to the clone who started it all — Beth Childs. Sarah will follow Beth’s footsteps into a dangerous relationship with a potent new enemy, heading in a horrifying new direction. Under constant pressure to protect the sisterhood and keep everyone safe, Sarah’s old habits begin to resurface. As the close-knit sisters are pulled in disparate directions, Sarah finds herself estranged from the loving relationships that changed her for the better.

The 2015 Nebula Award nominations are out. The nominees for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation are:

Ex Machina, Written by Alex Garland
Inside Out, Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original Story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
Jessica Jones: AKA Smile, Teleplay by Scott Reynolds & Melissa Rosenberg; Story by Jamie King & Scott Reynolds
Mad Max: Fury Road, Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris
The Martian, Screenplay by Drew Goddard
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Written by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt

HEROES REBORN -- "11:53 To Odessa" Episode 110 -- Pictured: (l-r) Danika Yarosh as Malina, Jack Coleman as Noah Bennet -- (Photo by: Steve Wilkie/NBC)

Tim Kring discussed the recently concluded Heroes Reborn miniseries, including whether Heroes will return (not that I see much point in any more):

Have you had any indication as to whether NBC are open to another miniseries?

It was very important that this be a stand-alone event. In looking back at the original series, I was not comfortable with the ongoing serialized saga model of the show. It was extremely difficult to sustain, and relied heavily on cliffhangers that kept attempting to top themselves each episode. I believe the show always wanted to be rare and special, and as I have said it is impossible to be rare and special when you on the air all the time. We had orders of up to 26 episodes a year on the original series.   Each one of these episodes is like a mini movie, and we just could not maintain the quality with that heavy of an order.

As for Heroes Reborn, there was literally never a word of discussion with the top brass about doing more episodes. However, I think it was always expected that when the 13 episodes came to an end we could gauge whether or not there was an appetite for another series somewhere down the road that would tell a completely different story in the Heroes saga. We wanted to keep the door open by teasing a tiny bit of story to come, and I certainly have ideas about what that story would be, but I have yet to have any of the initial discussions about this with NBC.

Daredevil Season 2 returns on Netflix on March 18. Trailer above and Entertainment Weekly has further information.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns on April 15 for its second season, and the show has already been renewed for a third season. Teaser above (which does not appear to contain new material).

AshleyJudd Facebook

Ashley Judd is the latest big name star added to the cast of the Twin Peaks revival. Of course to Star Trek fans, she will always be Ensign Robin Lefler.

SciFi Weekend: New and Returning Shows For 2016, And Other Genre News

There has been a reduced television schedule so far this year, (giving me time to watch the second seasons of Catastrophe, Mozart In the Jungle, and Tranparent), but many shows are starting or coming back soon. Blastr has a list of nine science fiction shows premiering in January. I have already discussed Legends of Tomorrow and the revival of  X-Files several times in the past. The trailer for Legends of Tomorrow,which premieres on CW on Januray 21 is above.  ScreenRant discussed Sara  Lance’s mental state on the new series with Caity Lotz.

As for the three shows I mentioned watching above, Catastrophe‘s second season was broadcast in the U.K. on Channel 4 late last year but is not availably yet on Amazon, while the second seasons of the other two shows recently became available. The first season of Catastrophe, which I ranked as the best new comedy of 2015, is available on Amazon.

Getting back to the science fiction shows premiering this month, I have heard some favorable buzz for The Shannara Chronicles which began on January 5 on MTV. Nerdist interviewed the executive producer, Miles Millar. Other shows on the list which have received the most interest so far have been The Magicians (with Syfy streaming the pilot early) and Colony (with initial reviews being better for the first). Initial buzz has been negative for Second Chance, and there are questions as to whether Lucifer can make it on a major network.

There will be many additional genre shows premiering later in the year, along with the return of other shows. What Culture has a list of original shows appearing on Netflix this year, including Daredevil, which returns on March 18 (trailer above).

Supergirl returned last week, resolving the cliff hanger of Cat figuring out her secret identity just as I predicted last Sunday.

Sherlock returned for a single episode,The Abominable Bride, on New Year’s day. Those of us expecting a self-contained story in Victorian times were surprised by what was actually done with the episode and how it actually played into last  season’s cliffhanger.

ABC has ordered a pilot for the Agents of SHIELD spinoff, Marvel’s Most Wanted. The series will center on Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood).

Among the shows I’m most interested in seeing, 11.22.63 premiers on Hulu on February 15, with new episodes being released weekly as opposed to all episodes being released at the same time as on Netflix and Amazon. (Trailer above.) There will be some changes from the Stephen King novel. More here and here, plus J.J. Abrams also addressed the controversy over the female lead in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (reviewed here) being left out of the Star Wars themed Monopoly game.

In my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens I noted how the novelization has filled in some plot holes. Mashable has more from the novelization. In addition, the script has been released which also provides further explanation of some plot points.

"YHWH" -- Finch (Michael Emerson, left) and Root (Amy Acker, right) race to save The Machine, which has been located by the rival AI, Samaritan, while Reese is caught in the middle of the final showdown between rival crime bosses Elias and Dominic, on the fourth season finale of PERSON OF INTEREST, Tuesday, May 5 (10:01-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Giovanni Rufino/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2015 WBEI. All rights reserved.

J.J. Abrams also says that Person of Interest will probably end after this season, which is no surprise considering how it is receiving a reduced thirteen episode run and has not made the schedule for this season yet. As long as it ends well this season, that is fine with me. The show gradually changed over time from primarily a procedural show to a true science fiction show, and it is better to have it end well as a great genre show as opposed to continuing indefinitely as a typical CBS procedural.

Like Person of Interest reinvented itself this year, Blacklist has also been considerably different from how it began. It was also off to an excellent start in this week’s episode. Unfortunately I don’t know  how much longer they can continue this storyline for.

The trailer above shows how the second season of Outlander will be much different from the first when it returns in April.

While not genre, another show of interest, Love, from Judd Apatow and staring Gillian Jacobs of Community will be released by Netflix on February 19.

HBO has renewed Girls for a sixth and final season. The fifth season begins on February 21.

Sundance has renewed Rectify for a fourth and final season.

Better Call Saul returns for its second season on February 15. Trailer above.

12 Monkeys will return on April 18 on Syfy.

Besides all the speculation as to the fate of Felicity, there have been rumors that Stephen Amell would leave Arrow, presumably ending the series, in the next year or two. Amell responded by saying his contract runs through 2019 (which doesn’t guarantee that CW will continue the show that long).

Laura Dern has been added to the cast of Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks. While her role has not been announced, there have been rumors that she might play Special Agent Dale Cooper’s previously unseen secretary, Diane. The cast also includes Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Sherilyn Fenn,  Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Knepper, Balthazar Getty and Amanda Seyfried. The first three were from the original cast.

Coal Hill School

Class, the Doctor Who spinoff from BBC Three taking place at Coal Hill School, will also be available on BBC America sometime in 2016, but no date has been set yet.

Doctor Who has made the short list for the National Television Awards in the Drama category. It is up against Downton Abbey, Broadchurch, and a show I am not familiar with named Casualty. Humans is among the nominees for New Drama. Downton Abbey has completed its run in the U.K. (doing a good job of concluding the series) and has resumed in the United States.

BBC America is also working on a new television adaptation of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently series.

There is now hope that Parenthood will return in some form, with Jason Katims being inspired by the movie Boyhood to return to the lives of the major characters over time. (Review of the finale here). It is interesting that two of the shows which might return in such a manner both star Lauren Graham, with a revival of Gilmore Girls now being filmed. Katims made it sound unlikely that the rumored follow up of his other show, Friday Night Lights, will return.

Yahoo Screen has been discontinued, making it even less likely that Community will ever return.

Sylvester Stallone discussed running for office and Donald Trump with Variety.

Update: News came in overnight that David Bowie died of cancer. The New York Times reports:

David Bowie, the infinitely changeable, fiercely forward-looking songwriter who taught generations of musicians about the power of drama, images and personas, died on Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday.

Mr. Bowie’s death was confirmed by his publicist, Steve Martin, on Monday morning.

He died after having cancer for 18 months, according to a statement on Mr. Bowie’s social-media accounts.

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family,” a post on his Facebook page read.

His last album, “Blackstar,” a collaboration with a jazz quartet that was typically enigmatic and exploratory, was released on Friday — his birthday. He was to be honored with a concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats.

Following is a video of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station in 2014: