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: 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.