Just as we struggle to get used to the transition in Washington, there is another huge transition to look forward to. As I posted earlier in the week, the big news is that Peter Capaldi has announced that he will leave as the Doctor, with his last appearance on Doctor Who to be in the 2017 Christmas special. There might be speculation for many months as to the next Doctor, with reports that incoming show runner Chris Chibnall will be waiting until next fall to chose a replacement as he is currently busy with completing the third and final season of Broadchurch, and then plans a vacation. There are also reports that he will not start filming Doctor Who until early 2018, with the show not airing until fall, giving us another long gap between seasons.
The speculation regarding the next actor to play the Doctor appears to be concentrating even more on having the first woman or non-white Doctor than in the past. Digital Spy looked at some of the top female contenders for the part. David Tennant backs his costar on Broadchurch, Olivia Coleman. Peter Capaldi suggests Frances de la Tour. Billie Piper is also calling for a woman to receive the role (but has no interest in doing it herself).
Just to be clear, my opposition to Hillary Clinton replacing Peter Capaldi is not sexist and does not indicate an opposition to having the first female Doctor. My opposition is just to that woman. Hillary Clinton is terrible at acting. Look at what happened when she tried to act like a progressive. There are plenty of far more qualified choices being discussed, such as Hayley Atwell or Lara Pulver, along with those mentioned above. Jill Stein would be a far better choice, and is even a real doctor. I would chose to have Barack Obama be the first black Doctor before picking Clinton. Joe Biden would also be an excellent choice, having a similar look to Jon Pertwee. I disagree with those who say that Bernie Sanders would be too old or too far left for the role, although I see him more as a Jedi Knight than a Time Lord. Of course, #NeverTrump. However, if they decide to have a regeneration of the War Doctor after the recent death of John Hurt, then Hillary Clinton (aka The Queen of Chaos) should be a top choice.
Season 4 of The 100 began just after where season 3 left off. If anyone hoped that ALIE was lying about the nuclear reactors melting down, the episode graphically demonstrated that the survivors of the first apocalypse are now facing a second one. Eliza Taylor discussed Clarke’s role in the upcoming season:
“We’re picking up directly where we left off,” Taylor told us on set in Vancouver. “We’ve just discovered that the world’s going to end, again. Just another day on the ground. This whole season’s mostly based around how we’re going to deal with fighting an enemy that we can’t go to war with, so it’s going to prove very interesting.”
As of now, Clarke is the only one with the knowledge that the world is going to end … again. The rest of Skaikru and the Grounders have no idea, and as season four begins they’re all going to have their hands full with picking up the pieces of their respective civilizations after ALIE took over their minds and convinced so many people, both Skaikru and Grounders alike, to kill themselves and their loved ones all in the name of the now-destroyed “City of Light.” Will Clarke tell everyone about ALIE’s warning, or will she keep this revelation to herself?
“It’s something that she has to be really careful about because she’s just taken all these people out of a beautiful city that they were happy [in] and brought them back into a world that’s about to end,” Taylor said. “She has to be very careful about how she goes about telling people without starting a riot. You will see more of her relying on her friends and family, which is good because it’s kind of like the old crew being back together again. It feels like season one again, which is awesome.”
While Clarke has always been the de facto leader of the 100 juvenile delinquents sent down to Earth, with help from Bellamy (Bob Morley), when the rest of the Ark came down from space, the adults didn’t listen to Clarke’s guidance. They thought they knew how to lead better, and they’ve been proven wrong time and time again. With Chancellor Pike (Mike Beach) murdered by Octavia (Marie Avgeropolous) and Jaha (Isaiah Washington) officially fallen from grace after he helped ALIE take over, Clarke will finally take the leadership position that is rightfully hers.
“She’s definitely stepping up more and accepting herself as the leader, which is really great,” Taylor said with a smile. “It’s really fun to feel like she’s asserting herself and not taking any s-t from people who don’t know as much as she does exactly what’s going on.”
Jason Rothenberg also discussed plans for Clarke, plus other characters, in an interview with Nerdist.
Gotham is going on hiatus and (spoiler alert), having left with Jerome being pushed in the river after being shot. He has already returned from the dead once, and it seems commonplace for characters to survive being dropped in that river. The original plan was for Jerome to just be a precursor of the Joker, but it now appears that he is actually being considered as the Joker. Cameron Monaghan, who plays Jerome, discussed how the original plan was to kill him off even earlier in the season:
But according to Monaghan, that wasn’t the original ending the Gotham showrunners had planned for this episode and his character—in fact, Jerome wasn’t supposed to survive the winter finale at all.
“I don’t think the producers will mind me saying that initially Jerome wasn’t going to live,” Monaghan told Nerdist. “He wasn’t originally going to make it through this confrontation. He was going to be beheaded and that was going to be it for him. Ultimately they decided that instead, we’ll go the opposite way and really embrace the idea of the character being involved in the Joker mythos. They decided not to dance around it but instead embrace it and bring the audience on the roller coaster ride of the episode, allowing it to be open-ended, playing into whatever they decide to do with that stuff later down the line.”
He continued, “The first time I read that final scene, I didn’t even really know about that or think about it or care about it because I was just so excited about everything else that was going on in the script. But now the fact that I am able to return in the fourth season or whenever they want to bring me back is really exciting.”
When Monaghan first debuted on Gotham back in season one, the showrunners didn’t officially call him the Joker, explaining instead that his character was the earliest inspiration for the Joker, who would come later. But now, it looks like the show is finally coming out and saying that Jerome is the Joker, at least for the DC Comics TV universe.
CBS announced that Star Trek: Discovery has started production. Air date is still unknown, with the previously announced date already having been moved back twice. There was also additional casting news, with Emily Coutts as the helmsman.
I recently noted that, following the inauguration of Donald Trump, 1984 had moved up to be the number six best selling book on Amazon. It is currently at number two, and had made it up to number one recently. As it was sold out for a while, this might possibly account for its slip to number two. Some other books to consider following the inauguration of Donald Trump, both alternate histories, were discussed here.
Supergirl has already used a number of actors who have played characters in the Superman universe. Teri Hatcher, who played Lois Lane in Lois & Clark, has been cast to play a villain later this season. Aftermath has been cancelled.
Over in another corner of the DC universe, Powerless debuted. It is too early to evaluate the show and I want to see more of it. Screen Rant lists sixteen DC Easter eggs and other references.
With over four hundred scripted shows (expected to surpass 500 in 2017) it is probably impossible for any one person to fairly rank the best of any season. Even many professional television critics, who don’t have another day job interfering, have said how difficult it is to watch all the shows to do their end of year rankings. To make it more manageable, and to get around problems of listing the same top shows every year, I have limited this to the best new shows every season. Last year’s list is here and the top new shows of 2014 were listed here.
It got even harder this year with so many new streaming shows, some not dropping until December. In order to include more shows, I waited until the end of January to post the list. As usual, there are shows which I have heard very good things about which I have not watched at all. I put in a couple of shows towards the end of the list which I only watched parts of the season, and might rank them higher if I were to watch more. Also, as usual, it is very difficult to compare shows from different genre’s, or shows watched months apart. If you disagree with some of the rankings, it is very likely I also might agree and rank them differently if I were to do this on a different day. The real point of lists such as this is to point out shows which were worth watching.
Top 20 New Shows Of 2016
20. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (CW Network)
If based upon the premiere of the show in early 2016, this show would not have made the list, however it was much better when it returned for a second season in the fall. If you gave up on it last year, as I almost did, it is worth another look.
19. Class (BBC)
A Doctor Who spinoff aimed at an older audience than TheMary Jane Adventures. Torchwood (in its early years) remains the only spinoff I consider must see, but fans should find this enjoyable. It aired in the UK last fall, and will be shown in the U.S. this spring after Doctor Who. While I understand the decision in the U.S., I personally found it to be of more value as a fall show to fill the gap when, besides the Christmas episode, there was no true Doctor Who.
18. Fleabag (Amazon Prime)
I wasn’t as in love with this show as the critics, but if you have Amazon Prime, it is well worth checking it out and deciding for yourself. The entire season is only about three hours, making it essentially a long movie. There is a definite payoff to some of the events of the season in the finale.
17. Atlanta (FX)
Another show which many would probably rank higher. I started watching when it premiered, but then it got forgotten in September because of a combination of being busy with personal matters and the premiers of all the fall shows. It very could rank higher after I see more.
A fun and very quirky genre show which, by the end, definitely qualifies as science fiction.
15. Billions (Showtime)
An entertaining cable series. It’s most important benefit was to give Damian Lewis somewhere else to go to make sure they didn’t get desperate and try to bring him back to life on Homeland.
14. Speechless (ABC)
A few years ago it looked like network sitcoms were on the verge of death, beyond The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family. ABC has managed to continue to make worthwhile sitcoms with the Modern Family formula, including Black-ish, FreshOff The Boat, and now Speechless.
13. Goliath (Amazon Prime)
Billy Bob Thorton makes what could have been a run of the mill lawyer show well worth watching
12. The Crown (Netflix)
A young queen ascends to the thrown in a high budget presentation. She receives advice from the prime minister and is married to a foreigner played by Matt Smith, who adds a bit of whimsy to the show.
11. Victoria (ITV and PBS)
A young queen ascends to the thrown in a not-so-high budget presentation. She receives advice from the prime minister and is married to a foreigner. This also has strong connections to the Doctor Who world including Victoria being played by Jenna Coleman, with supporting cast including Eve Myles from Torchwood. It doesn’t have the budget of The Crown, but in deciding upon the ranking I deferred to my wife’s opinion. This aired in the UK last fall and recently started airing in the United States on PBS.
10. Luke Cage (Netflix)
The latest introduction of a Marvel character on Netflix. It could not meet the extremely high bar set last year by Jessica Jones, but was better than the second season of Daredevil.
9. The Magicians (Syfy)
Much more than an adult Harry Potter, but that would make a starting point to explain what this series is about. Yes, it did technically have an advanced showing of the pilot in 2015, but I’ll still consider this to essentially be a 2016 series. I watched the uncut episodes later in the year, and the editing for television on the premier episode of the second season last week was noticeable.
8. The Good Place (NBC)
A sitcom which has a continuing story, a genre element, discusses philosophy, plus has Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. Extra points for having one of the best plot twists on television in recent years.
7. This Is Us (NBC)
I thought that quality drama was dead on NBC with the ending of Parenthood, but this fills the gap. It had a fairly good twist of its own in the pilot but, unlike in The Good Place, I saw this one coming. The bigger surprise was that Mandy Moore could do such a good job acting. Sure it is full of old television cliches and spends most episodes tugging at the heart strings, but it does a good job of it.
6. 11.22.63 (Hulu)
Received mixed views but I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation of the Stephen King time travel novel. (No comparison between this and the messed up adaptation of Under the Dome). More on the show here.
5. Travelers (Showcase and Netflix)
Another low budget Canadian science fiction series filmed in Vancouver. This one is well-written and highly recommended, plus now easily available in the US on Netflix. The premise is that travelers from the future send their consciousness back to our present to prevent an apocalyptic future, taking over the bodies of people at the time of their recorded death. (I was hoping that something like this would happen on January 20.) Besides having to attend to their mission, the travelers have to cope with the lives they took over–and sometimes their information was a bit off.
4. The Night Of (HBO)
A great self-contained story which shows both problems in the criminal justice system and xenophobia.
The surprise hit from last summer. The series, with explanations of the finale, was discussed here.
1. West World (HBO)
The most discussed new show of the season, with mainstream critics also falling for this science fiction series. I looked at the show at various times, with a discussion of the season finale here.
There are also shows which might make the list which I did not see. I didn’t see any point in rehashing the O.J. Simpson story, but note that The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) has received considerable critical acclaim. Many other shows, including genre dramas such as The OA (Netflix) and comedies such as One Mississippi (Amazon Prime) are also recommended by many people.
In past years I have found shows which I did not see when new, but saw them in subsequent years and thought they deserved to be in my rankings. This year I caught up on season one and two of Dark Matter (Syfy) and loved the show. I then tried Killjoys (Syfy) and didn’t get into it. I only watched the first episode, which might not be enough to judge it. I also thought that perhaps I was expecting Dark Matter and it might be better to watch some other shows before trying it again so I could judge it on its own merit.
It is notable that, once again, cable (both basic and premium), British imports, and especially streaming, dominate the list, with very little from the major American networks.
The past two weekends also were dominated by protests against Donald Trump. Earlier this week I looked at one good thing to come from Trump’s election–people are talking about books. This includes the classic 1984, as well as two other novels in which populist authoritarians became president. Even Doctor Who has been cited in discussion of the alternative facts coming from the Trump administration.
This week included the return of several genre shows, as well as the premiere of The CW’s reimagination of Archie comics, Riverdale. After watching Riverdale, I have three questions:
1) Who killed Jason Blossom?
2) What real teen talks about Truman Capote and about Mad Men by season?
3) And the old classic question, Betty or Veronica?
The week included two shows ending their season with a twist (a tip off that this post has many spoilers). It was notable that the comedy The Good Place did a far better job with its twist than the more serious Sherlock. The Final Problem had multiple twists. First there was the overall idea, introduced the previous week, that Sherlock has a sister. This week we found the degree to which, despite somehow forgetting her existence, Eurus influenced Sherlock’s behavior.
Mark Gattis defends the flaws in the episode by bragging about how the show is complicated, but that does not justify the cheats and inconsistencies they relied upon. The story was propelled too easily by having Eurus being able to exert mind control over others, freeing Moffat and Gattis of any need to write a more plausible plot. The flat was blown up, with everyone simply jumping out the window and remaining uninjured. It makes no sense that Eurus almost blew her brother up, but later was so upset when Sherlock surprised her by pointing the gun at himself.
The twist with Redbeard was more plausible, but it is an idea which has been used before. This was mishandled in the current story when the police pulled Watson out of the well while he had a chain on his feet. The manner in which Molly was handled only reinforced criticism of how Moffat handles women. Moriety’s suicide did not seem to make much sense in The Reichenbach Fall. This episode raises the question of whether Eurus gave him the suggestion to do so, or whether Moriety had a death wish and improvised on his own.
The episode began with a girl on a plane with everyone else, including the pilot, unconscious. The manner in which this was handled was the poorest twist of all. There were many strange things about the situation from Sherlock’s perspective when listening to what he heard on the phone. If this is all the audience encountered we might have have questioned its reality. However we actually saw the scene with a small girl, making it an unfair solution to later find it was Eurus on the phone pretending to be the girl.
Steven Moffat had an explanation for this which I do not agree with, along with other comments on the episode at Entertainment Weekly:
It felt like by bringing back Moriarty you to have your cake and eat it too — he’s back but in flashback so you don’t violate that he died. Can you talk about the decision to bring him back?
There was some unfinished business there, but we were always absolutely clear he was dead. People said we were making that up, but the power of that rooftop scene would have been destroyed in retrospect if he hadn’t really killed himself just to win an argument, which is what happened. It was great to get a bit of Andrew [Scott] back, it didn’t occur to us until quite late in the day that we could just do it. But we needed the flashback to fill in how this had happened. And you’ve got the perfect opportunity to bring back Moriarty and for two minutes to make it seem like he was arriving in the present day. It was fun.
Was it a bit of a cheat to have a different actress play Euros in the plane vs. in the flashbacks?
No, because that’s a dream, she doesn’t need to look the same. A dream image of yourself you don’t dream of yourself looking as you necessarily are. So I didn’t think so at all.
Some of the elements, from Redbeard to the water motif, extend back further into the series. How long did you know about the major elements of this finale?
We started talking about him having a sister fairly early on. What if Sherlock had a sister? What would that be like? But we didn’t take it madly seriously. During the planning of [season] 3 we came up with the plotline that we wanted to do. But there are elements from it we’ve been kicking around forever. Some of them have accidentally worked out well. If you go back to “A Scandal in Belgravia” and look at Mark Gattis when he reflects that Sherlock originally wanted to be a pirate but suddenly looks very sad and haunted, it’s very much a long game.
And since we didn’t get any closure on this: What’s now going on with Mycroft and Lady Smallwood and Sherlock and Irene Adler, that we’re not being privileged to witness?
Well, that you’re not privileged to witness it means you’re not going to know! With Lady Smallwood and Mycroft, we might never find out what happened there, and I’m quite content to leave it that way. We don’t have to know everything. And as for Sherlock and Irene Adler, I have no reason to suppose that Sherlock is not telling the truth, that he loves ignoring her texts. There was no new information there. We always known he rescued her and she wasn’t really dead. And if you paid attention you’d have known they’ve remained slightly in touch because there’s a rose — when he’s injured — there’s a single rose in the room. If you think about it, he saves her life, they must have escaped together, obviously there’s some form of contact.
If there is something fans seem upset about with this episode it’s that there’s no resolving scene with Molly after that very effective devastating call to her while she’s in the kitchen. Did you consider doing one? Is it fair to leave her that like that?
But that’s not how we leave her. People need to learn to face their televisions, we see her later on–
We see her skipping into the room but–
She gets over it! Surely at a certain point you have to figure out that after Sherlock escapes tells her, “I’m really sorry about that, it was a code, I thought your flat was about to blow up.” And she says, “Oh well that’s okay then, you bastard.” And then they go back to normal, that’s what people do. I can’t see why you’d have to play that out. She forgives him, of course, and our newly grown-up Sherlock is more careful with her feelings in the future. In the end of that scene, she’s a bit wounded by it all, but he’s absolutely devastated. He smashes up the coffin, he’s in pieces, he’s more upset than she is, and that’s a huge step in Sherlock’s development. The question is: Did Sherlock survive that scene? She probably had a drink and went and shagged someone, I dunno. Molly was fine.
We do not know whether Sherlock will be back, and, even with its flaws, the episode works both as a season or series finale. Sherlock and Watson are left to go back to solving crimes as they have done in earlier seasons before the show concentrated more on their ongoing personal stories as opposed to mysteries.
Many other shows besides Sherlock have utilized plot twists, but none did it as well as The Good Place. The plot twists in Westworld were discussed on line long before they were revealed. Mr. Robot relied on plot twists in both the first and second season, These were predicted both years, with some questioning the wisdom of trying it a second time. In contrast, I don’t know of anyone who predicted the huge twist on The Good Place, and yet once revealed it made perfect sense after Kristen Bell’s character figured it out. Ted Danson responded with the perfect diabolical laugh, and went on to wipe the memory of everyone involved to set the stage should there be a second season.
The old broadcast networks have very few new shows worth watching (besides The Good Place, along with Speechless). This is US is probably the best new network drama. It has now been renewed for two additional seasons.
Star Trek Discovery has been delayed again due to scheduling conflicts with its lead, Sonequa Martin-Green. The good news is that James Frain has been cast to play Spock’s father Sarek.
Steven Moffat has received criticism for his treatment of women characters long before the controversy over the scene with Molly in last week’s episode of Sherlock. In a recent interview, Moffat expressed regrets over how he treated the matter of Amy and Rory grieving over the loss of their baby:
In an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, Steven Moffat discussed his feelings on how Amy Pond and Rory Williams dealt with the grief of their baby. In “A Good Man Goes to War”, Madame Kovarian kidnapped their daughter Melody. Amy gave birth to her child after being captured by Kovarian, and then Melody disappeared — only for everyone to find out that River Song is the grown-up Melody.
The entire season was a little wibbly wobbly timey wimey but the way that the Ponds dealt with their baby being kidnapped was weak, for lack of a better term. In the interview, Moffat explained why it was hard for him to write their grief.
“Usually, big dramatic things happen in Doctor Who, then the next week everyone’s absolutely fine. I never found a way to have Amy and Rory grieve over their lost baby, and I still don’t know how I would do that. I could never work out how to write that.”
In an interview with The Wrap, Karen Gillan says she would be willing to return to play Amy Pond if asked:
Gillan is also well known for her portrayal as Amelia Pond, co-star to the Eleventh Doctor in the popular BBC adventure series “Doctor Who.” But will the show’s fans see her reprise her role any time soon? Gillan said, “If they ask me, I would be back there in a shot, but I think I’m more excited about seeing Pearl take over as companion, because she was amazing.”
The big event of the week was the inauguration of Donald Trump, making the 2016 election the worst reality show ever. Trump has been accused of plagiarizing from the Batman villain Bain in his acceptance speech:
Compare Trump’s declaration that, “Today’s ceremony, however has very special meaning. Because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another. But we are transferring power from Washington D.C. and giving it back to you… the people.For too long a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have born the cost.Washington flourished but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you.”
Sound familiar? Declareth the cartoon Batman villain: “We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you… the people. Gotham is yours. None shall interfere. Do as you please. Start by storming Blackgate, and freeing the oppressed! Step forward those who would serve. For and army will be raised. The powerful will be ripped from their decadent nests, and cast out into the cold world that we know and endure. Courts will be convened. Spoils will be enjoyed. Blood will be shed. The police will survive, as they learn to serve true justice. This great city… it will endure. Gotham will survive!”
Stephen Amel of Arrow also had some comments on Donald Trump on Facebook:
Bottom line: I don’t really like Donald Trump, I wouldn’t invite him to dinner, I probably wouldn’t stay in a property he owns… but I don’t yet know how he is going to govern. And I think that requires me to (tepidly) reserve judgement. Why? Because – holy shit!! – he’s the President, and citizen or no, America is my home. I pay taxes. I care about the way the government treats its citizens. So… I hope he succeeds for EVERYONE. And I can’t say I completely understand the opposite perspective – hoping for failure – even though I fully support someone’s right to have it.
People might think I live in a bubble, but I actually feel quite the opposite. At 35, I don’t really have experience on my side, but I have been across the spectrum to a pretty strong degree. I’ve lived in two countries, in varying states of financial security and I’ve participated in an industry that celebrates diversity. There’s no place for anything but inclusion, honesty and transparency in 2017. I hope that’s what we get.
Bleeding Cool shows how various comics have recognized the inauguration.
A 1980’s news cast (video above) reports on the disappearance of Barb, as seen during the first season of Stranger Things. The newscast also provides further evidence that Eleven is still around. It should come as no surprise that she is returning, despite the first season finale leaving things ambiguous.
NBC has extended Timeless from thirteen to sixteen episodes, to run in two blocks, between November 14 and December 12 and from January 16 to February 20.
Showrunner Ray McKinnon explains why you can’t multitask and keep up with Rectify, and discusses the upcoming fourth and final season
Parks and Recreationpredicted the victory by the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. Since the series ended, Michael Schur has moved on to new show, The Good Place. It returns for its four final episodes of the season on January 5. Michael Schur discussed what will be happening with Entertainment Weekly. Think love quadrangle.
Last week’s episodes of The Flash revealed the secret behind the new version of Harrison Wells, as well as dealing far more with Caitlin’s powers–which should be a major focus for the upcoming episodes. More at The Nerdist.
Besides the major crossover involving all of the Berlantiverse shows, there will be a Glee reunion with Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin doing a musical crossover between Supergirl and The Flash. Now there is talk that Legends of Tomorrowmight get involved to at least include Broadway veteran Victor Garber.
Lexa Doig has been cast as alia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul and half sister to Nyssa al Ghul, on Arrow.
Spoiler TV has some teasers regarding season four of The 100.
The biggest genre event of the week was the opening of Doctor Strange. It is too early to have any spoilers about the movie here, but here are a number of links for those wanting to read more:
Moving on from Doctor Strange to another Doctor, I previously posted about plans for an animated version of a lost Doctor Who story, The Power of the Daleks. Inverse calls it essential viewing, and has updated information.
When the BBC purged their archives in 1974 to make room for more film, “The Power of the Daleks,” the Second Doctor’s introduction to the show, was lost in the process. “The Power of the Daleks” is not the only serial or episode lost to time; there are dozens of episodes that have never been seen by modern audiences. But “The Power of the Daleks” is the first one to be made in what is assumed to be a shot-for-shot remake. It’s animated and, of course, in black and white, but Troughton’s Doctor and Anneke Wills’s Polly will probably be no less charming.
Matt Smith is back playing a character in the past on television, with Netflix releasing The Crown last week. Claire Foy (who previously played Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall) makes an excellent companion for him as Queen Elizabeth. Much of Matt Smith’s character can be seen in his portrayal of Prince Phillip. I was not surprised to see him handle an elephant in Nairobi, expecting him to pull out a sonic screwdriver or explain handling the elephant by saying, “I speak elephant.” When he protested playing second fiddle after Elizabeth became Queen, I half expected him to protest that he is a Time Lord of Gallifrey.
The series starts with Elizabeth and Phillip before Elizabeth became (spoiler?) Queen and was forced to fulfill what was expected of the role. They have great chemistry together and someday I would like to see Foy and Smith together again, possibly in another period piece, in which they can remain young and carefree, without having to fit into their historical roles on this show. The actual history along with a look at the series are discussed at The Guardian.
Matt Smith was able to get some tips on playing royalty from Jenna Coleman, who is staring in ITV’s Victoria. This means that Smith is playing Coleman’s great-great-grandson-in-law. It will take a TARDIS to get them back together.
While Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman are busy playing members the royal family, Karen Gillan is preparing to direct, as well as write and star in, and independent movie named Tupperware Party, which is being filmed in Scotland.
Also in the Doctor Who universe, I got a chance to watch the first three episodes of Class while flying home last weekend. I was impressed that each episode was better than the previous. I have not seen the fourth yet, but have heard it couldn’t continue that trend, but look forward to further episodes.
The Emmy Awards last week had a couple of pleasant surprises with Tatiana Maslany winning for Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Orphan Black) and Rami Malek winning for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Mr. Robot). Malek accepted his award acting like his television character in saying, “Please tell me you’re seeing this too.” Other wins for genre shows include the expected wins for Game of Thrones, along with Sherlock: The Abominable Bride winning for best TV Movie.
Mr. Robot concluded its second season last week, but unfortunately the season was not up to the level of the first. Perhaps it has problems comparable to the second movie in a trilogy, leaving cliffhangers without the dramatic events which concluded the second season. Sam Esmail discussed the finale with The Hollywood Reporter:
The climax of the finale comes before the final scene: Tyrell shooting Elliot. It effectively ends the argument about whether Tyrell is still real or imagined by Elliot. How important was it to you to definitively answer that question by the end of season two?
That was, to me, the season’s arc. After Elliot’s head-trip, that he goes inside himself and inside this illusion that he uses to cope with the fact that he’s been in prison and inside all of this battle and all of the battles he’s had with Mr. Robot, it’s like the game is over. Elliot has to snap back to reality and literally, it happens with a gunshot, with a bang, by Tyrell.
It brings the season full circle, too, with Mr. Robot repeatedly shooting Elliot in the head in season one, and of course the gun in the popcorn at Coney Island. Chekov rules dictate that this gun had to go off at some point.
Exactly. And it was imperative that this was the defining real — and I kind of want to underline that (laughs) — moment for Elliot, because he’s actually been shot twice in the show now. He was shot in episode four of the first season in that fever dream hallucination, and was obviously continually shot in the beginning of this season. This one, we wanted to make it feel very different.
Mr. Robot tells Elliot that he’s willing to go “all the way.” Apparently, that means allowing himself to be shot. Throughout the series, Mr. Robot has always read as an entity very much interested in self-preservation. What does it say about Mr. Robot and his commitment to the cause that he’s willing to make a sacrifice play?
It redefines the stakes. Mr. Robot was all about self-preservation. Up until this point, that kind of included Elliot, because obviously self-preservation includes Elliot’s body, if you look at it that way. Now? All bets are off. In fact, everything to him is about the plan, and he’s willing to die for this cause. That’s how extreme his passion is for this whole project, for this whole revolution. It kind of realigns the stakes for us. Now Elliot cannot even trust his life with Mr. Robot, which happens to also be Mr. Robot’s life. It also raises the stakes in terms of the extremes Mr. Robot is willing to go through in order to pull off this plan. It’s two different levels that have been kick-started and raised a lot higher for next season…
Esmail discussed the structure of each season,the return of Tyrell, and the cliffhangers in Season 2 with Entertainment Weekly:
So let’s dive in, by the end of the episode, we’re seeing what Stage Two is — or at least what a part of Stage Two is. When was the concept of what Stage Two would be brought up in the writers room? Was that discussed hand-in-hand with how season 1 ended?
That was actually brought up in the writers room — if you can believe it or not — during the first season. That was something that was worked out in my head when I was just thinking about the feature. It was intentionally in that feature stage. We obviously talked about it in the writers room, but if the endgame of the first season was hacking Evil Corp, the endgame of the second season would be to take down their paper records. Once you take down their digital property, you would know that they would then try to rebuild the database and go to analog. That would be the executional plan for the season 2 arc. The way we kind of went about it in the second season was very, very roundabout. One thing that I knew heading into the second season — knowing that was our endgame — was that I did not want this to feel like this was the first season redux: Here’s the new plan, here’s the new arc of the season, here’s the new plot, so let’s watch our guy struggle and figure out how to bring down the building where they’re housing all of these paper records. Going through the conversations, we talked a lot about how to really keep it with Elliot’s storyline and his emotional journey, his struggles with Mr. Robot. We thought that was the most authentic and organic next step to Elliot’s journey anyway. After the big realization, he’s not just going to ignore that and continue on with the plot. That’s how it all folded up with the structure that we came up with for the second season…
Tyrell came back into the picture last week, long after we expected him. What was the conversation like when deciding at which point he reenters?
The decision to keep him out of the season had a lot to do with Elliot. Like I said, going into the second season, we wanted to have Elliot reconcile this relationship with Mr. Robot. He made this damning realization about himself at the end of the first season. Any notion of dismissing that in an episode or two — “Oh, I’m seeing this hallucination, and sometimes he takes over. Okay, now let’s move on and get to the plot” — felt completely disingenuous. It honestly always felt to us that the only way Elliot could proceed is to get into this battle with Mr. Robot, to reconcile how he’s going to live with this, how he’s going to negotiate with this, how he’s going to work through this. That all was predicated on Tyrell’s absence, because once he comes back in, it blows up the whole thing. Whether Mr. Robot lied to Elliot or what he withheld from him, all of the sudden, the show becomes about that and the plot machinations of that and not about what Elliot’s emotionally going through in terms of this serious disorder that he’s discovered about himself. Tyrell’s absence was a byproduct of what we felt Elliot’s journey needed to be for the entire season. Once we Tyrell came in, it went back to those plot machinations, folding Elliot back into the overarching journey of the revolution.
Season 2, arguably, has a bigger cliffhanger than season 1. What do you think are the big questions fans are going to be asking heading into season 3?
I think the one big one will be “What happened to Angela? Has she really been flipped? Or is she now playing some other motivation?” And I think that’s great. I know that people sometimes get frustrated that we leave Angela’s motivations in the dark, but I think that’s what adds to the intrigue of her. That’s why I’m so continually fascinated by her character: You can’t quite nail her down to which side she’s playing. It feels like she’s always playing both sides. I think that’s going to be a big question.
What else? Obviously, Leon and the coda and what will become of our affable heroes, Mobley and Trenton. Darlene and what will become of her relationship with Dom and how that will transpire, especially as that relates to Elliot. I think those will be the questions, but the fans and all of the viewers have always surprised me with the questions they ask. Sometimes they’re questions I didn’t even think we were asking.
Here are a couple of excerpts from an interview which Vulture held with Sam Esmail:
MZS: Why did you make the decision to delay the revelation of the real nature of Mr. Robot until late in the first season, and why did you wait to confirm that Elliot was in fact behind bars in the second season? Why didn’t you just let us in on that from the beginning?
SE: We talked about that. We said, okay, let’s just tell the audience, right? And then he’ll be in prison and then he’ll imagine it away and go into his reprogramming mind, similar to what we did in the pilot. And then someone was like — that someone was probably me [laughter] — what if we didn’t tell the audience? Okay, all right, what does that mean? What do we get out of that? Is there some added value to that, and if not, we shouldn’t do it.
I started looking at it as, well, if we start hinting something is going to be off here, we’re not going to hide it that well. It’s gotta be real. It’s gotta be like, no, there is something a little off, we’re hinting at it, we’re really in his coping mechanism, what Elliot would do, but the audience is going to sense it and is going to maybe predict it, maybe not. I mean, I didn’t really know, but I didn’t really care either way.
In our show, reality becomes our subtext. So if you have a scene with two characters, one of them loves the other, it’s more interesting for that person to hate that person on the surface but subtextually you feel, oh, well that person actually loves them. And you sense that maybe or maybe you don’t, and then you’re surprised when that comes out. Either way, there is another layer of engagement. It’s a lot more interesting. If everybody is saying on-the-nose dialogue to each other, if everything is on the surface, that becomes less intriguing, that doesn’t let me engage on it on a level that I think could be deeper and richer.
We have this opportunity with our character, who is obviously narrating to us and considers us a friend, felt betrayed by us the first season. What if he feels like, well, I’m gonna lie back, I’m gonna withhold from you and I’m not gonna tell you everything. I mean, I’ve not seen this done before, but now we’re developing this weird relationship with the audience. Whether you saw the prison coming or not, that’s not the point. The point is that now you’re having this subtextual relationship with him that you didn’t have in the first season. And then to add that now, under the unreliable narrator device, not only do we see it through his eyes, but he could also be lying to you. That’s another storytelling device that we could throw in…
GE: You’ve talked about how the Arab Spring has inspired the show a bit in terms of the theme of revolution. And, along those lines, this season we see the revolution not working out. But it’s also a very American story in how it focuses on what it feels like to be an outsider. Your star, Rami Malek, is Egyptian-American, as are you, and one of the members of fsociety, Trenton, is an Iranian-American. Are you partly trying to play on the feeling of being an immigrant in America, in terms of building the mood and tone of the show?
SE: Yeah. The thing about it is, when I made those choices, some of them in the screenplay, some of them in casting, which then inspired certain character choices, it was never to talk about it. Elliot is obviously of mixed race, his mother and father are different ethnicities, but we do not talk about it. Trenton, we dip our toe into it, but we do not talk about it, we let it just inform it.
And the reason why, and I did that very deliberately, because when I wrote Elliot I didn’t know, right? I didn’t know who it was gonna be and it didn’t really matter to me. And then when I cast Rami, who is obviously brilliant and perfect for the part, how do I reconcile his ethnicity — is he Egyptian, not Egyptian? I mean is there something here, should I be diving into that? And then I felt like there’s some reverse racism going on here. Wait a minute, I can’t cast Rami unless I address the fact that he is Egyptian in some way? I didn’t want that to now all of a sudden dictate anything about the character that would’ve happened had I cast someone white. But I couldn’t just ignore it either, right? Because it needed to inform who he was.
And then that’s when it grew out, what you were saying, this outcast status or this outcast look about him, that then felt intrinsic to how Rami plays Elliot and how potentially I wrote Elliot. And it all becomes a more subconscious choice. Even when I wrote the Trenton character, and I wrote her in as Iranian-American, I didn’t do that because I wanted to explore Iranian-Americans, I did that because I was thinking about what kind of people would join this group from all walks of life. I’m also kind of reflecting on my own reality, my own circle of friends … that this type of person felt that way, that it felt right to be in this group.
And so it all came from this really genuine place of what organically makes sense, what informs this character that I’m trying to write, or trying to come across in the best way without it being about like, okay, here is this really diverse cast. And honestly, I think that’s really important because one of the things I get worried about with this diversity thing that’s going on right now, I don’t want people to look at it as homework. I don’t want people to write something and say, well, now we’ve gotta make them black and we gotta make them Native American.
Another season of Mr. Robot is in the books. Now that it’s over, what, to you, were the ultimate goals and purpose of this season, as far as evolving the stories of Elliot, fsociety, E Corp, the Dark Army, and everyone else involved in this complicated web?
Ultimately, I believe we succeeded in creating a cohesive second chapter that organically fleshes out the world that fsociety essentially destroyed at the end of the first season. Elliot’s discovery of the Mr. Robot personality opened the door for us to experience his inner conflict and his longing to regain control of himself. Even though he enacted the 5/9 hack, him reconciling his relationship with Mr. Robot was at the top of his priority list. The quest for control and grip on reality is a large component of Elliot’s journey this season. The consequences and repercussions of the hack heavily influenced the other storylines. Price, Whiterose, Darlene, and Angela are all navigating this new world and are forced to confront questionable decisions they made previously.
In the finale, Stage Two is finally revealed, and it has fiery ramifications for Evil Corp. As best as you can, can you summarize what the plan involves, for those who haven’t yet wrapped their heads around it?
Rebuilding their records of loans and debt is the goal here. E Corp is transferring all of their paper financial records — titles, deeds, statements, transactions, credit records — to one of their processing facilities. Their plan is to digitize all of the paper content in an effort to recreate their databases. Knowing this, Elliot/Mr. Robot, Tyrell and the Dark Army have collaborated on a plan that would set off a large explosion in the datacenter of that processing facility. If they’re successful, anything stored in that building (paper documents included) would be destroyed. Stage Two is the logical next step of the original E Corp plan. Remember when Mr. Robot said that you have to take a conglomerate down limb by limb before they can unravel? The paper documents represent another one of E Corp’s limbs.
The Flash returns on October 4. The extended trailer above shows more about the Flash Point story.
Legends of Tomorrow will be much different next season–which is a good thing. Here is the synopsis of the first episode, which guest stars Stephen Amell and airs on October 13:
After the defeat of the immortal villain Vandal Savage and the exposure of the corrupt Time Masters, a new threat emerges. Dr. Nate Heywood (Nick Zano), an unconventional and charming historian, is thrust into the action. After making a shocking discovery, Nate seeks out Oliver Queen (guest star Stephen Amell) for help in finding the scattered Legends. Once reunited, the Legends continue their new mission to protect the timeline from temporal aberrations – unusual changes to history that spawn potentially catastrophic consequences. Their first stop is 1942 to protect Albert Einstein from being kidnapped before the Nazis destroy New York City with a nuclear bomb. Meanwhile, Ray (Brandon Routh) notices that Sara (Caity Lotz) has a mission of her own, which leads them both to face her nemesis, Damien Darhk (guest star Neal McDonough). Victor Garber, Arthur Darvill, Dominic Purcell and Franz Drameh also star. Dermot Downs directed the episode written by Marc Guggenheim & Phil Klemmer and Greg Berlanti & Chris Fedak.
One aspect of the upcoming season which is of interest, the Justice Society of America, is not seen in the trailer.
SciFi Now looks at ARQ, a time travel movie which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and is now available on Netflix.
The BBC is doing the obvious to get attention for the first episode of Class. Peter Capaldi will have a cameo. This will air on the BBC in October, and be paired with Doctor Who next spring in the United States.
In other Doctor Who related news, The Mary Sue looked at the controversy over what Karen Gillan’s Jumanji costume (picture above).
Maybe it is because I’m used to timey wimey plot lines, but I predicted the twist in This is Us well before it was revealed in the pilot. Now we will have to see where the show goes after this setup. I’m looking forward to checking out all the actual time travel shows premiering this season. There were three episodes of The Good Place, staring Kristen Bell and Ten Danson, last week. The comedy, which does have a genre aspect, was off to an entertaining start.