SciFi Weekend: Season Finales For Agents of SHIELD, Timeless, Arrow, The Blacklist, and Gotham; More Renewal News; The Orville & Star Trek News; Nebula Awards

Shortly after I listed Agents of SHIELD as one of the shows in which the fate was unknown when I listed renewals last week, word came out that SHIELD was renewed for a thirteen episode season, which will not air until summer. With SHIELD often dividing the season up into two arcs, a thirteen episode season should work well to concentrate on one story line. Delaying until summer also avoids conflicting with the events of Avengers: Infinity War. While I’ll avoid any significant spoilers, the movie ends with a cliff hanger which left the world changed–until it is presumably resolved in the next Avengers movie. It would be difficult to do a season of SHIELD while ignoring this. This way SHIELD can be written based upon how the matter is resolved, and could just refer to the events of the movies in passing, as was done late this season.

Agents of SHIELD ended the season with two possible character deaths, but there ways that they might not be permanent, especially with another version of Fitz out in orbit. The biggest question might be whether Jemma immediately tells Fitz they are married, or waits for him to propose as he was planning when he awoke in the future.

Syfy has an interview with the producers which was conducted before news that the series would be back for another season:

But you did seem to leave the door open for a possible Fitz return, judging by what Jemma was talking with Coulson about in the aftermath.

JW: Right. Everybody got zapped to the future, and zapped back, plus Fitz. But Fitz traveled to the future the long way. He basically slept in cryo-freeze for 80 years. So there are technically two Fitzes in this timeline, so we just killed one of them.

MT: We killed the blond one.

JW: It’s hard to follow, we know (laughs).

I blame you guys for the confusion because the tears you made us shed!

JB: That scene was written to be that way. That kind of, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there, but when you see him, tell him I say ‘Hi.’” Coulson makes a turn in the middle of it that could make someone miss that bit.

As if that wasn’t heart-wrenching enough, Coulson sacrificed himself to allow Daisy the chance to stop Talbot and save Earth. During his farewell speech at the end of the episode, Clark Gregg looked like he was barely keeping his emotions in check. What was that like, filming that moment, seeing the team’s heart and soul, the captain, saying goodbye?

JW: That was a big day, a tough day. We agree with everything you said. We think of Clark as the foundation that the show is built on. But we also knew that we wanted Coulson’s deal with Ghost Rider to have a price, and we wanted the show to … he’s approaching a point where’s he is pushing Daisy into a leadership role. His relationship with May has grown into something new. We felt it was a way of honoring the foundation of our show by giving it real stakes and hoping that he can pass the lessons, that he’s so good at teaching, to his teammates, in a more permanent way.

JB: This entire season we’ve been looking back at where we’ve come from. If you think about it, Coulson in the Avengers movie really brought the team together and allowed them to save the world. And then there was Tahiti.

So for us to take him back to Tahiti and for him again to make the sacrifice, in the sense that he didn’t take the injection that could save his life, and instead gave it to Daisy, he again was the character who, in a sense, saved the world. And we thought there was a nice circular return there for Coulson.

gain, one can guess you left yourself just enough room to bring Coulson back, if you wanted to and Clark wanted to return. Because he was still alive in that last scene.

JW: In terms of moving forward, we’ll have to figure out how to address that. In thrilling fashion, of course. But going into this season, not knowing if we would get another year, we felt like it was the right way to wrap up the show and Coulson’s storyline.

Filming the series finale this way made sense when it was not known whether it would be a series finale. This would suggest that Coulson was going to die if the series ended, eliminating the differences between the television show and movies, but leave matters open should the show return.

Clark Gregg was interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter about his potential role in the sixth season:

The golden rule of TV is if a character dies but it isn’t shown on screen, then they’re not really dead. That said, is Coulson really dead or is there a way that he can be cured in time for the abbreviated sixth season next year?

My understanding is that Phil Coulson is no longer alive. He’s been brought back, he’s been really clear that he didn’t want supernatural measures used again. I always felt like he thought almost like he wasn’t supposed to be here. That got more complicated for him when he started to form this new family and to have this surrogate daughter that he probably always wanted and to, in the most recent weeks of this SHIELD timeline, really opened himself up to his feelings for Melinda May. But I don’t think there is a real buy back for the fact that this deal he made with the Ghost Rider is killing his body.

How much have you discussed your future on the series with producers?

I have a meeting with [executive producers] Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen and the showrunners and I know there is some interest in having me involved in this 13-episode season six. I don’t know in what form that will take, whether that will be flashbacks or hopefully some sexy dreams that Melinda May is having. [Laughs.] That would be nice. But that’s all I know so far. There is some desire that is going to be explained to me but it’s why this finale is so deep and emotional. I knew by then that this was really a farewell to that character and his life. It was also before we knew anything about whether or not we were picked up so the scene where he is saying goodbye to people was a scene that we couldn’t even rehearse or read aloud successfully. We just had to figure out where we were going to stand and start shooting it because it was just so emotional for me and everybody there.

With these plans to continue having Coulson on the series in some capacity, does that mean you’ll be returning as a series regular next season?

That’s all what’s going to be part of this discussion and working it out. I’m available for whatever they need me to do and we’ll just be figuring it out. We just got picked up a few days ago. That’s what we’ll have to figure out going forward. I hope to be involved, maybe I’ll be an LMD or maybe I’ll be in a C3P0 suit and I’ll be everybody’s starchy Brit robot.

What did you think of Coulson’s goodbye in the finale, where he finally got to go to Tahiti and share that experience with May?

I found it all so moving. I’ve been playing this guy for 10 years now. In between shooting that stuff I was back shooting Captain Marvel with Brie Larson and Sam Jackson and playing him again in the ’90s so extending his timeline even further, and the membrane between the two of us, although we’re in some ways very different, it’s very thin. And my connection with the people on Agents of SHIELD and the number of hours we’ve all put in together and what we’ve all been through together, it feels very real. All of it, saying goodbye to those people, was very heavy. And then to step out onto the sands of Tahiti, I really have to thank ABC again for giving us the Disney jet and letting us have this really magical weekend in Tahiti. I’m just kidding. [Laughs] But that would have been nice. I loved the way they did it. I really thought it was a masterful idea by the writers of SHIELD and a really beautifully executed script by Jed and Maurissa and really beautifully directed by Jed.

Timeless is one of the few remaining network shows with no news regarding renewal or cancellation. The second season did leave with a big cliff hanger. Moments before the end, when I did not know what would happen, but it was obvious they were setting things up for a cliff hanger, I was thinking it would be really interesting if a second Lifeboat appeared next to the one which had just returned, possibly with Rufus (who had been killed earlier in the episode) aboard. They did even better with a newer version of the Lifeboat appearing, with future versions of  Lucy and Wyatt asking, “You guys want to get Rufus back or what?”

This was a perfect ending to grab the curiosity of fans, but there are some risks in a time travel show such as this. A relatively minor issue is that it does show that Lucy and Wyatt will both be around in the future. More seriously, it shows that they find a way around the limitation of not being able to travel back to where they have been, and lowers the stakes in the future if they can redo adventures if anything goes wrong. Presumably Rittenhouse will be able to do the same, complicating any attempts at stopping their efforts to change history.

Executive producer Shawn Ryan spoke with TV Line about the finale:

TVLINE | Where did these other versions of Lucy and Wyatt come from?
The episode that aired this past Sunday, Flynn referenced that he got the journal from Lucy. It seemed as if a future version of Lucy had given it to him, so that was a little bit of a tease that that was possible. It’s something that we hope to address in greater detail in Season 3 [if the show is renewed], exactly where that particular Wyatt and Lucy came from and what their circumstances are…

TVLINE | Where did these other versions of Lucy and Wyatt come from?
The episode that aired this past Sunday, Flynn referenced that he got the journal from Lucy. It seemed as if a future version of Lucy had given it to him, so that was a little bit of a tease that that was possible. It’s something that we hope to address in greater detail in Season 3 [if the show is renewed], exactly where that particular Wyatt and Lucy came from and what their circumstances are…

TVLINE | You’ve been playing all season with this idea of fate versus free will when it comes to Rufus’ life. Why did you decide to go through with Rufus’ death in the end?
We really like the idea of Jiya’s visions and how powerful they are, and the idea that what she saw were things that did come true in a way. One of her first visions was that Rufus was going to kill this pilgrim, and we ultimately saw in that episode that he actually didn’t shoot the guy, but the guy ended up being run over by horses and a carriage and died anyway. So the idea that there is some sort of fate thing that was going to befall Rufus, that despite all their best efforts to avoid it, they couldn’t, was something that was powerful to us — although, obviously, in the context of the twist end, where there’s a feeling like, “Hey, there’s a way to get him back now.”

Arrow ended the season on a cliff hanger which was awfully similar to what has already occurred on The Flash with Oliver going to prison. The death of Quentin Lance was not really a surprise as it was already announced that Paul Blackthorne was leaving the show. Presumably Oliver will not spend the rest of the series in prison. Unless Oliver can convince people that his statement that he is the Arrow was part of a ruse (similar to others covering for him in the past), the world will now know his identity, changing the show forever.

Marc Guggenheim is leaving as show runner after this season. He was interviewed about the finale by The Hollywood Reporter:

Season finales always include huge game-changing moments for Arrow and this was no different with Lance’s death and the Legends crossover with Sara (Caity Lotz) coming to the hospital. Where did the decision to kill off Lance come from? Was that always the plan or did that come as a result of conversations with Paul about the future of the character?

I wouldn’t say it was always the plan. It was something that we slowly came to. Sometimes we know exactly what our plans for a character are and other times it’s a slow discovery. In the case of Paul, it was a combination of two things. We started thinking about Lance’s character in season seven and coming to the conclusion that we felt like we told all the story there is to tell with Lance. We ran out of story with him while at the same time we were thinking about Katie Cassidy’s character, Earth-2 Laurel, and thinking about if Diaz were to kill Lance, what does that do for her character? It opened up a lot of very exciting storytelling possibilities for us and it fit in with a lot of things we were already thinking about in terms of the trajectory for Laurel’s character in season seven.

Oftentimes, we do what we call story math: If we killed off Lance, X, Y and Z happen. What are X, Y and Z? If we get excited about X, Y and Z, the idea starts to develop its own momentum. The more we talked about it, the more it felt like the natural and right thing to do. It’s always hard but at the same time, the show has always had an element to it where no one was safe. Unlike some of the other Arrow-verse shows, we’ve killed off more characters on Arrow than all the other Arrow-verse shows combined. There is something in the DNA about the show that makes that resonant and makes that visceral. As a result, we’re less precious about holding on to characters past their expiration date. But it’s hard because I will really miss working with Paul.

With Oliver now having publicly confessed to being the Green Arrow and getting sent to prison, after so many fake-outs in the past, what does this mean for the series moving forward now that he can’t go back to leading a double life?

When we were doing the pilot, I had a bucket list of ideas for the show. The identity reveal in my original conception happened in a very different way, but the idea of him revealing his identity, that was my penultimate card to play. Going into this season, we knew that that’s how we wanted to end the season. We were cognizant going into season six that if the show was going to be a six-plus-season show, it needs to constantly evolve and change. Oliver revealing his identity at the end of the season would be a great way to fundamentally change the series going into season seven.

He’s not going to remain in prison for the remainder of the series. When he gets out of prison, the fact that he now has to deal with the consequences of the public knowing his secret identity, that is huge. It’s not just Oliver, it’s also Felicity (Rickards) and his son, William (Jack Moore). She’s now married to the Green Arrow. William’s dad is the Green Arrow. That’s going to be huge for their family. That just creates so many cool stories to tell, interesting complications, challenges, dangers. It makes the prison storyline so much more visceral. If we wanted to just stick Oliver in prison, we could have done that without revealing his secret identity, but for us what always made the prison storyline exciting was he’s not just trapped in prison, but he’s trapped in prison with all these people who know that he’s the one who put him there. That’s such rich, exciting territory for us to be able to undertake in season seven.

Another change for the Arrowverse is that Batwoman and Gotham City will be introduced in next season’s cross over event. Oliver did mention Bruce Wayne earlier this season, showing that this is part of their universe.

The Blacklist managed to change things again with the revelation of whose bones were in the bag in the season finale. While watching I was wondering whether this was something planned all along or a twist they came up with this season to keep the show going. Entertainment Weekly received an answer to this question from Jon Bokencamp:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you know from the beginning that James Spader was not playing Raymond Reddington? 
JON BOKENKAMP: Yeah, this is something that we’ve talked about from the inception of the show. It is part of the underlying mythology that we’ve slowly been unraveling. I think there are a number of episodes that we can go back and sort of map and chart how we got here. Hopefully that is proof of concept to the audience that this is not something we’re just winging, and that we’re on a very specific path, and this is a well-earned reveal.

Did Spader know? Did the cast?
Yes, James has known and it’s something we’ve talked extensively about. The cast did not know, as far as I know. I’m always the last to know, so I have really no idea who else knew. But the thing I want to point out is that it doesn’t change tuning in to watch Spader be Raymond Reddington. He’s lived as Raymond Reddington long enough to be this person, right? He has told great stories, he has had great experiences, he’s become a world-class criminal and probably become a far more interesting person than the real Raymond Reddington ever dreamed of becoming.

I remember talking with James, it was probably right after we shot the pilot, and we were talking about what the show would be, how it would look and feel, and who this character was. The thing that has always stuck with me is that when James read the pilot, he had said that he felt like, at the end of the episode, it’s almost like he knew less about the character than he knew when he started reading the episode. We wanted to somehow hold on to that concept, that Reddington should be somebody who, once you think you understand who he is, you realize you know nothing about him. I think tonight is an example obviously of how we have tried to stay true to that, that he’s a very enigmatic figure that is a bit of a shape-shifter.

If he’s not Red, is there anything you can say as to who he is?
Well, I do think that is primarily the reason to come back in season 6, but you can go online and find all kinds of theories, imposter theories of who he is. There are a great number of them, by the way, many of which could make sense. But one of the things I love best about the show is that I can read some of these and I’d be like, “Well, that actually tracks.” What’s going to be the most fun about next season is watching Liz peel back this onion and get to the truth of why this man entered her life five years ago…

Liz has vowed to destroy Red. She went pretty dark in this episode. How far will she go? 
Yeah, well remember that she knows this truth about Reddington, but he does not know that she knows. I think that piece of information is really compelling. Not only has she learned a great deal from this man that she believed was her father, Raymond Reddington, she’s also learned a great deal from her now-deceased husband, who was a spy. So this is not the first-day-on-the-job FBI agent in the pilot who has just had a bombshell dropped in her lap. This is somebody who is struggling with who she is at the very core, and has not only killed people, has stewed people, has lied to people she’s worked with, so the potential darkness and the way in which she may approach handling this bombshell I think has real possibilities.

Watching Megan perform this year, I think she’s been fantastic. The character has always been fundamentally changing since the day we met her, but I think specifically in season 5, we’ve seen her take some pretty big steps. It’s some of the best stuff that character has had to do this season, because of the inner strength and the anger and everything she’s gone through to really put her in the corner. When she’s in the corner, she becomes a very interesting character.

Gotham has been renewed for a fifth and final season. One scene seemed to tease the Bat-signal. The producers had previously warned that the next season would bring many changes to the show in response to the catastrophe in the fourth season finale.

Fox also reports no current plans for another season of The X-Files but they are attempting to revive 24 once again. Of course the last season left matters quite open for another season of The X-Files if they manage to correct some of the creative problems in a way which entices Gillian Anderson to return. I am glad they have stayed away from trying to continue it with other stars.

The Last Ship will also receive a fifth and final season.

Netflix has renewed Lost in Space for a second season. Some  hints as to what will occur in the second season are in an interview posted here.

Amazon has renewed The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for a third season even prior to the release of the second season later this year.

I previously posted news on renewals and cancellations here.

While we already knew it was renewed, Fox has announced the return date for The Orville. It will return on Sunday, December 30th following football and return to Thursday evenings following the conclusion of the football season. Jonathan Frakes will continue to do work for the show, and another Star Trek writer, Joe Menosky, has been made a co-executive producer.

Last week we also found about another show which was planned but has been indefinitely delayed. Nicholas Meyer, who directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and worked on Discovery in its early days, had previously hinted about a new Star Trek project. Trek Core now  has information regarding this:

Last night, speaking to an audience at the University of California, Irvine, at a public “Shakespeare and Star Trek” discussion, Meyer shared details about his Trek project for the first time — and thanks to exclusive coverage from this event, we can share his comments with you.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: A while back there were reports that you might be working on a ‘Star Trek’ miniseries, is there any truth to that, if you’re allowed to say anything about that?

MEYER: No, I can say something. I was hired to write a stand-alone ‘Star Trek’-related trilogy, [details of which] I can’t discuss or I’d have to kill you. [Laughs] I was writing it for CBS [All] Access… but at the moment CBS is at a war with Paramount/Viacom [about merging].

They’re in a power struggle which turned really nasty this past week when CBS decided to sue Viacom. So I don’t think my project is going anywhere in a hurry, because everything is on hold while they sort out this merger business. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

I’ve always thought that Star Trek worked better as a television series than a movie, but I do find this project interesting. First, Meyer had directed one of the best Star Trek movies. Secondly, a streaming trilogy could be like a short Star Trek season, allowing for more time for ideas and characters, as opposed to blockbuster films which concentrate on action.

The Nebula Award winners have been announced, with a listing here.

SciFi Weekend: Pike and Spock on Discovery; Why The Enterprise Looks Different; Robert Picardo Returns To The Orville; Steven Moffat Fills In Plot Holes In Doctor Who; Legends of Tomorrow; The Arrow; Jessica Jones Renewed; Killing Eve

Anson Mount has been cast to play Captain Christopher Pike on Star Trek: Discovery. We don’t know much of the Enterprise will be seen on Discovery next season, but did get some clues from Jonathan Frakes, who will be directing two episodes next season. Last season he was the first to reveal that Discovery would be going to the Mirror universe. Frakes more recently revealed at the El Paso Comic Con that he will be directing the second episode of season two. The episode will include both Captain Pike and Spock.

The catch is that Spock will appear in a flashback of his childhood years, including a view of Michael Burnham. There is no word about whether an adult Spock will ever appear on Discovery, but the producers have expressed reservations about recasting Spock in past interviews. I suspect that they will be keeping adult Spock off screen, whether or not he is aboard the Enterprise at the time, but it is also possible they are hiding their plans.

We also learned why the Enterprise looked slightly different than the original Enterprise in the season finale of Discovery, to the frustration of some purists. (My review of the season one finale was here). The reasons came down to the changes in ownership rights to Star Trek, requiring these changes.  John Eaves, one of the designers for Discovery, explained the process on Facebook last week:

Back in April of 2017 the task of the Enterprise making an appearance came to be and work was to start right away. The task started with the guideline that the Enterprise for Discovery had to be 25% different otherwise production would have most likely been able to use the original design from the 60’s but that couldn’t happen so we took Jefferies original concepts and with great care tried to be as faithful as possible. We had the advantage of a ten year gap in Trek history to retro the ship a bit with elements that could be removed and replaced somewhere in the time frame of Discovery and the Original series…

The changes between the two enterprises are as follows. The new ship has more TMP struts than TOS struts, the main hull and nacelles are shorter and more plump, the deflector dish now has one antenna vs two, the impulse module is thinner from side to side, the overall ship has a heavier plating detail, and the exterior has a more broader range in lighting and nacelle glow. I am sure there are subtle differences but I have not seen any more than you have to make a more detailed comparison so look at the calendar as concept art and all will be good and hope this quick breakdown helps.

He added in a comment:

After Enterprise, properties of Star Trek ownership changed hands and was divided,, so what was able to cross TV shows up to that point changed and a lot of the crossover was no longer allowed. That is why when JJ’s movie came along everything had to be different. The alternate universe concept was what really made that movie happen in a way as to not cross the new boundaries and give Trek a new footing to continue.

If the recent attempt by CBS to purchase Viacom had been successful, there could have been a resolution of some of the problems caused by this division in ownership rights. Perhaps Vulcan could be saved.

Update: After multiple blogs and media outlets posted similar stories, CBS issued a statement saying that the changes to the Enterprise were for creative and not legal reasons, and that CBS does have the rights to use the original design of the Enterprise.

Also in Star Trek news, Star Trek: Discovery has been nominated for a Peabody Award.  Star Trek: The Next Generation previously won a Peabody in its first season, for the episode The Big Goodbye.

ComicBook.com has a look at Robert Picardo’s return to The Orville during the second season and recaps his appearance during the first season.

Radio Times reports that Steven Moffat has cleared up a few plot holes from Doctor Who in his novelization of The Day of the Doctor. This includes sort of bringing the Peter Cushing movies into cannon. No, he did not add yet another unknown Doctor like the War Doctor. Instead he brought in the movies:

In one of the new novel’s more meta moments, Moffat also explains away one of the greatest canonical issues in Doctor Who history – where, exactly, do the 1960s Peter Cushing films fit in?

For those not in the know, these films (called Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 AD) were a remake of some early William Hartnell Doctor Who stories, starring Star Wars and Hammer horror icon Cushing as a human scientist who actually invented the Tardis (losing the “the” to become just Tardis) and battled alien nasties.

Obviously, Cushing can’t be counted among the official line-up of Doctors, but fondness for the films has led Who fans to keep him in their hearts – and now the new book finally explains his place in the canon.

According to Moffat’s Day of the Doctor adaptation, the Cushing Doctor Who films do exist in the main Whoniverse, with the actor playing a fictionalised version of the real-life Doctor with the blessing of the man himself. The new book shows posters from Cushing’s films actually hanging in the Black Archive, which Moffat has previously said he wanted to do in the episode that aired on TV – plans which were scuppered when the BBC were unable to get the rights to the artwork.

“Seen them? He loves them,” UNIT boss Kate Stewart explains to Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald in the episode when discussing the films.

“He loaned Peter Cushing a waistcoat for the second one, they were great friends. Though we only realised that when Cushing [started] showing up in movies made long after his death.”

That last bit, of course, is a reference to how the late Cushing was included in 2016’s Star Wars prequel Rogue One using cutting-edge CGI – though apparently it was just Tardis trickery instead.

Other questions answered include earlier meetings between River Song and the Doctor and why the stories about the first two Doctors were in black and white.

Legends of Tomorrow co-showrunner Phil Klemmer discussed last week’s season finale with TV Line and gave a hint about next season in a question about Mallus:

TVLINE | What is his agenda? What does he “want” most in the world?
He is a sort of bellwether of bad guys to come in Season 4. Up until this point, we’ve been dealing with earthly and historical bad guys, and we certainly had fun with all of that, but this year we dabbled in the world of the occult, through Damien Darhk and his enterprises. But you know that Constantine is coming onto the show [as a regular] next season, so we want to go deeper, we want Mallus to be used as “the tip of the iceberg.” He is not human, and we want to start playing with the idea that Earth hasn’t always belonged just to our kind.

We want to get into the world of fantastic myths and monsters a bit more. It’s kind of presumptuous for anybody to think they have ownership of this Earth or any part of it. Not to get deep into immigration metaphors, but Mallus is an ancient evil, he doesn’t understand humans and doesn’t understand why we have any claim to controlling this world of ours.

Of course this will work out well with the addition of Matt Ryan (Constantine) to the cast.

Arrow still has a few weeks to go, but I do like the idea of Oliver going more solo as we saw last week (as long as Felicity is still around, of course). Marc Guggenheim discussed the upcoming finale with Entertainment Weekly. ComicBook.com summarized:

“It’s gonna be interesting,” Guggenheim said. “It’s very, you know, I’ve been saying it’s an unconventional kind of finale. It still feels very much like a season finale. When I first started talking about it we hadn’t written the darn thing yet, but now we’ve written it and we’re in prep on it and on Monday we start shooting. And it’s a real game-changer.”

To a certain extent, the season five finale was also a game-changer for the show with Adrian Chase/Prometheus’ (Josh Segarra) end game resulting in Lian Yiu being blown up, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) becoming a single parent after the murder of his son’s mother, as well as setting into motion some of the events this season — Thea (Willa Holland) in a coma, Oliver trying to find a work-life-vigilante balance, and the splintering of Team Arrow. However, what’s coming for the season six finale will go even further and Guggenheim teased that the aftermath of “Lian Yu” as seen in the season six premiere will play a role as they’ve been plotting up to this game-changer from premiere.

“The show fundamentally changes in the finale and I think you’ll see there’s stuff that we were seeding back in the season premiere that finally comes to fruition here in the season finale, so you’ll see that there was a very specific plan to the entire season,” Guggenheim said. “We always knew that this is where we were headed to. So, hopefully in subtle ways have been teasing this all along without you realizing it. My hope is that people are surprised, but also look back and are like oh, that was kind of the only way that they could have ended the season.”

There are also reports that Colton Haynes is returning to Arrow, which is a bit odd after Thea left the show to supposedly go with Roy.

Jessica Jones has officially been renewed for a third season on Netflix.

HBO has renewed Silicon Valley for a sixth season

SciFi Weekend has frequently gone beyond science fiction. At present two of the hottest new shows on are not science fiction, but instead both deal with killers, the reluctant hitman on Barry and the much more enthusiastic assassin played by Jodie Comer on Killing Eve. A discussion with the creator of Killing Eve,  Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and its stars,  Sandra Oh, and Jodie Comer, can be seen at Vulture.

One reason Killing Eve works so well is by the acting job done by Jodie Comer. Collider has an interview with her:

Will we get to know more about why she ended up in this profession?

COMER: Yeah, you do. As the story goes on, you definitely do see a little bit more of an insight into that. As the investigation progresses and they find out more information, you do learn a little bit about her. I don’t think her past excuses what she does, but I think it definitely gives you a little bit more of an understanding, as to who she is and where she’s come from, definitely.

It’s one thing to kill people and it’s another thing entirely to enjoy it, which she seems to do.

COMER: Yeah, absolutely! It’s like a life force for her. I feel like her job gives her purpose, for sure, and she wants to do a good job. She’s had so many conversations with Konstantin (Kim Bodnia), where she’s like, “Did you see what I did?! Did you see how good that was?! Are you impressed with me?! Because I’m impressed with me!” She’s so self-confident. She’s brilliant.

Do you think that will also get her in trouble?

COMER: Yeah, absolutely! I think she become quite careless. Konstantin is certainly in charge of her, and he sees this going on, so she loses a little bit of her independence and she can’t deal with that. Konstantin says, “Listen, you do what you’re told, and you don’t ask any questions.” She doesn’t abide by that, and there are consequences to that. What’s so lovely about their relationship is that he’s the only person who understands her and sees through her games. He’s like a father figure, in a lot of ways. It’s nice to see her actually have what seems to be a genuine relationship with someone, who she may actually care about, maybe.

Do you think she would still kill him, if need be?

COMER: I don’t know. I wouldn’t put anything past her, at this point.

Does she have a moral code? Is there somewhere that she would draw the line?

COMER: First off, I think she puts herself first, so if her life was threatened, then she would absolutely do anything. I think her independence is what’s most important to her, and why that is, you will discover.

How threatened does she feel by being looked into?

COMER: At the beginning, she thinks it’s just a game. She feels invincible. Maybe there’s a realization that they are actually getting information. She doesn’t speak Russian anymore. That’s the part of her life that she wants nothing to do with, and yet it’s getting dragged up by everybody else. That is not something that sits well with her, at all. What she does about it, you’ll have to see.

What does Villanelle think of Eve, and what can we expect from how that dynamic develops?

COMER: Villanelle lives this luxurious life, and I think she’s intrigued at how ordinary Eve is. She lives her life with her husband. The narcissist in Villanelle is like, “This chick wants to know about me? I’m gonna show her!” She wants to make sure that Eve gets to her. She wants to make sure that they meet. It’s a funny relationship. I feel like Villanelle is seeking something from Eve. Nothing material, but spiritually, there’s something. There’s a connection there that they’re both not sure of, but it’s undeniable. It’s there. There is a connection with Eve, on a personal level for Villanelle, because she reminds her of someone who is very close to her, in her past. It brings all of these emotions up.

Above is the official trailer to Killing Eve. At present it is still easy to catch up with both of these shows if you have not seen them. The second episode of Killing Eve airs tonight and the first episode remains available on line. The fourth episode of Barry will be on HBO later tonight, but as episodes are only slightly over thirty minutes it won’t take long to catch up.

SciFi Weekend: Stephen Hawking, Scientist & Genre Star; The 100; Martin Freeman on Sherlock; Alexis Bledel on A Handmaid’s Tale; Double Renewal For Eric McCormack–Will & Grace & Travelers; The Americans; Nathan Fillian To Reprise Firefly Role; Saturn Award Nominees

Stephen Hawking died last week leading to recognition not only from the scientific community, tributes from many in actors due to his many appearances on genre television. He was the only historical figure to play himself on Star Trek. In the video above from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Hawking played cards with  Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Data in the holodeck. Syfy Wire has several tributes to Hawking from the cast of multiple versions of Star Trek. More at TrekMovie.com.

Sheldon Cooper met Stephen Hawking on The Big Bang Theory in the clip above. TV Line has tributes from the cast of The Big Bang Theory. IO9 has additional television cameos.

The 100 ended last season with major changes, and a quick glance of the future. An extended trailer for the the fifth season has been released, showing a new enemy to contend with. The 100 returns on April 24.

It has been a huge question as to whether Sherlock would return considering how the careers of both stars have taken off. It does not sound encouraging that Martin Freeman will want to return after he said that it wasn’t fun anymore in a recent interview:

In a new interview in The Telegraph, the Black Panther actor was asked if there were any talks about a fifth season of the BBC fan favorite.

“Not massively,” the Dr. Watson actor said. “Um… I think after series four [it] felt like a pause. I think we felt we’d done it for a bit now. And part of it, speaking for myself is [due to] the reception of it.”

Martin, the article explained, was referring to 2017’s fourth season which seemed to struggle to continue building on fans’ expectations of previous outings.

“To be absolutely honest, it [was] kind of impossible,” he explained. “Sherlock became the animal that it became immediately. Whereas even with [the U.K. version of] The Office, it was a slow burn. But Sherlock was frankly notably high quality from the outset. And when you start [that high] it’s pretty hard to maintain that.

“Being in that show, it is a mini-Beatles thing,” he concluded. “People’s expectations, some of it’s not fun anymore. It’s not a thing to be enjoyed, it’s a thing of: ‘You better f—ing do this, otherwise, you’re a c—.’ That’s not fun anymore.”

The Handmaid’s Tale returns to Hulu on April 25. Entertainment Weekly interviewed Alexis Bledel:

This season, we get to learn a lot about Emily’s life from Before. Was her backstory something you’d thought about before this episode?
Yes, I loved filming Emily’s flashbacks. [Executive producer] Bruce Miller and I had talked about what her pre-Gilead life might have been like even before I started working on the first season. I think much of her worldview is informed by her previous life as a professor of cellular biology. Life in the Colonies is a last stop. Emily does not have a great deal of hope for a future there; she knows her days are numbered.

Marisa Tomei costars with you in the second episode. What was that like?
It was amazing to work with her; she’s someone whose work I admire. We had these incredibly dark, dramatic moments to play out that she brought so much depth to.

I keep thinking/wondering what’s worse: life as a Handmaid or living in the Colonies?
Being forced to exist in either Gilead or the Colonies threatens to destroy a person’s soul in different ways. Handmaids are forced to follow an extremely limiting set of rules to comply with the mandates of the Gileadean regime, including the horrific monthly ceremony. Anyone in Gilead would be terrified to be sent to the Colonies. Everything from the soil the unwomen turn over to the water they use to wash is toxic in the Colonies, so a person’s health begins to rapidly deteriorate as soon as they get there. They know they will die there, all the while forced to do hard labor without decent food to eat or clean living conditions.

We are going to be seeing more of Eric McCormack on television next year. NBC has renewed the Will & Grace revival for a second season, and is extending it to eighteen episodes. Fewer people might be aware that Eric McCormack also stars in an excellent Canadian science fiction series called Travelers. The first two seasons were broadcast on Showcase and later shown on Netflix–although once I discovered this show I wound up downloading episodes rather than waiting for it to be available on Netflix.

Travelers has been renewed for a third season, and McCormack will be directing the first episode. However, instead of airing first on Showcase, the show will be shown exclusively on Netflix. I wonder if this was a case of Netflix saving the show if Showcase was not going to continue it, or (I suspect more likely) Netflix has business reasons and the power to take it over.

Travelers is technically a time travel show but the series takes place entirely in the present, with people from the future taking over the consciousness of people at the moments they were to have died. The characters must deal with not only their mission to save the earth , but also must deal with the personal lives of the bodies they take over. I won’t give specifics for those who have not seen it, but the second season ended with major changes for everyone, making fans eager to see a third season.

The Americans returns for its sixth and final season on March 28. FX has released the above official trailer.

Earlier in the week I had this post regarding a social credit system in China which sounds like something out of Black Mirror. It is also reminiscent of Majority Rule, an episode of The Orville.

Storing the contents of one’s brain provided for a fascinating story on Altered Carbon. A company is claiming that they can store the contents of your brain, but there is a huge catch.

Nathan Fillian is going play himself on an upcoming episode of American Housewife, and will be suiting up as Captain Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly.

(more…)

China’s Social Credit System Sounds Orwellian, And Like An Extension Of Current Facebook Censorship

Recent reports on China’s  social credit system sound Orwellian, or like something out of Black Mirror. The Verge summarized how the system works:

Starting in May, Chinese citizens who rank low on the country’s burgeoning “social credit” system will be in danger of being banned from buying plane or train tickets for up to a year, according to statements recently released by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission.

With the social credit system, the Chinese government rates citizens based on things like criminal behavior and financial misdeeds, but also on what they buy, say, and do. Those with low “scores” have to deal with penalties and restrictions. China has been working towards rolling out a full version of the system by 2020, but some early versions of it are already in place.

Previously, the Chinese government had focused on restricting the travel of people with massive amounts of debt, like LeEco and Faraday Future founder Jia Yueting, who made the Supreme People’s Court blacklist late last year.

The new travel restrictions are the latest addition to this growing patchwork of social engineering, which has already imposed punishments on more than seven million citizens. And there’s a broad range when it comes to who can be flagged. Citizens who have spread “false information about terrorism,” caused “trouble” on flights, used expired tickets, or were caught smoking on trains could all be banned, according to Reuters.

But the system, as it stands, is opaque; citizens are seemingly just as likely to be flagged for minor infractions like leaving bikes parked in a footpath or issuing apologies that are deemed “insincere” as major credit defaulters like Jia. And it’s often unclear whether they’re on a blacklist in the first place, let alone what kind of recourse is available. “Chinese government authorities clearly hope to create a reality in which bureaucratic pettiness could significantly limit people’s rights,” Maya Wang, senior researcher for the non-profit NGO Human Rights Watch, wrote in December.

Wired has further information on how the system works:

Individuals on Sesame Credit are measured by a score ranging between 350 and 950 points. Alibaba does not divulge the “complex algorithm” it uses to calculate the number but they do reveal the five factors taken into account. The first is credit history. For example, does the citizen pay their electricity or phone bill on time? Next is fulfilment capacity, which it defines in its guidelines as “a user’s ability to fulfil his/her contract obligations”. The third factor is personal characteristics, verifying personal information such as someone’s mobile phone number and address. But the fourth category, behaviour and preference, is where it gets interesting.

Under this system, something as innocuous as a person’s shopping habits become a measure of character. Alibaba admits it judges people by the types of products they buy. “Someone who plays video games for ten hours a day, for example, would be considered an idle person,” says Li Yingyun, Sesame’s Technology Director. “Someone who frequently buys diapers would be considered as probably a parent, who on balance is more likely to have a sense of responsibility.” So the system not only investigates behaviour – it shapes it. It “nudges” citizens away from purchases and behaviours the government does not like.

Friends matter, too. The fifth category is interpersonal relationships. What does their choice of online friends and their interactions say about the person being assessed? Sharing what Sesame Credit refers to as “positive energy” online, nice messages about the government or how well the country’s economy is doing, will make your score go up…

Posting dissenting political opinions or links mentioning Tiananmen Square has never been wise in China, but now it could directly hurt a citizen’s rating. But here’s the real kicker: a person’s own score will also be affected by what their online friends say and do, beyond their own contact with them. If someone they are connected to online posts a negative comment, their own score will also be dragged down…

…people with low ratings will have slower internet speeds; restricted access to restaurants, nightclubs or golf courses; and the removal of the right to travel freely abroad with, I quote, “restrictive control on consumption within holiday areas or travel businesses”. Scores will influence a person’s rental applications, their ability to get insurance or a loan and even social-security benefits. Citizens with low scores will not be hired by certain employers and will be forbidden from obtaining some jobs, including in the civil service, journalism and legal fields, where of course you must be deemed trustworthy. Low-rating citizens will also be restricted when it comes to enrolling themselves or their children in high-paying private schools. I am not fabricating this list of punishments. It’s the reality Chinese citizens will face. As the government document states, the social credit system will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”.

This sounds a  lot like what was depicted on an episode of The Orville entitled Majority Rule.

The system is voluntary now and becomes mandatory in 2020. Wired suggests that people are signing up now out of fear of reprisals if they do not, and as high scores can be a status symbol:

Higher scores have already become a status symbol, with almost 100,000 people bragging about their scores on Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) within months of launch. A citizen’s score can even affect their odds of getting a date, or a marriage partner, because the higher their Sesame rating, the more prominent their dating profile is on Baihe.

Sesame Credit already offers tips to help individuals improve their ranking, including warning about the downsides of friending someone who has a low score. This might lead to the rise of score advisers, who will share tips on how to gain points, or reputation consultants willing to offer expert advice on how to strategically improve a ranking or get off the trust-breaking blacklist.

Wired compares this to “a big data gamified version of the Communist Party’s surveillance methods.” People are also likely to seek ways around the system:

We’re also bound to see the birth of reputation black markets selling under-the-counter ways to boost trustworthiness. In the same way that Facebook Likes and Twitter followers can be bought, individuals will pay to manipulate their score. What about keeping the system secure? Hackers (some even state-backed) could change or steal the digitally stored information…

In China, certain citizens, such as government officials, will likely be deemed above the system. What will be the public reaction when their unfavourable actions don’t affect their score? We could see a Panama Papers 3.0 for reputation fraud.

While this sounds absolutely Orwellian, businesses here are regularly rated on line, and their success can be affected by the whims of anonymous reviewers.

While we do not face restrictions as severe as those described in China, this is also analogous to the current censorship we are facing on Facebook. While the internet can increase opportunities for free expression when anyone can write from their own web page,  increasingly communication is being channeled through limited sources. Facebook has become indispensable for communicating, now with over two billion active users worldwide. Facebook will often cite violation of Community Standards to justify restricting individuals, but quite often there is no evidence of violating any of the Community Standards actually posted by Facebook, and no response to appeals. This has led many people to start using social media sites including MeWe, Steemit, Minds, and Tremr. Unfortunately it is far harder for Chinese to change where they live to avoid repression based upon unclear standards than it is to use alternative social media sites here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like White Christmas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An affectionate ribbing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten New Genre Shows Of 2017

10. The Gifted (Fox)

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

9. The Defenders (Netflix)

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

8. The Tick (Amazon Prime)

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

7. The Punisher (Netflix)

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

6. Runaways (Hulu)

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

5. American Gods (Starz)

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

4. The Orville (Fox)

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

3. Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)

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

2. Legion (Fx)

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

1. The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe the tone of this episode?

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

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

How does the First Doctor look at the Twelfth Doctor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Bradley has some advice for Jodie Whittaker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entertainment Weekly:

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

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

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

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

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

The Hollywood Reporter:

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

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

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

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

In a second story at The Hollywood Reporter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deadline Hollywood:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Variety:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But yes, how do we measure its greatness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 10:  “Despite Yourself” (January 7)

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

Episode 12:  “Vaulting Ambition” (January 21)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: CW’s Crisis On Earth-X; Agents of SHIELD; Doctor Who; The Orville; The Avengers Infinity War; American Gods; Stranger Things

Crisis on Earth-X was both the best of the CW cross-overs and was a lot more fun than the DC movie team-ups. They did an excellent job of using most of the characters over the entire four hours, and making a true four hour story as opposed to four related episodes of each CW series. The event ended with Legends of Tomorrow and did include more members of the team as only some had good reason to spend the entire time at the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West, which started the story. Despite having good reason for the rest of the Legends to only appear in the fourth episode, some of the Legends were important throughout the four hours, especially with many scenes involving Stein and continuing the story line involving his separation from Firestorm.

While the crossover did continue plot lines from the individual shows, it was more notable for the combinations who do are not normally together. This included the hook up between Alex and Sara prior to the wedding, and later having Felicity and Iris team up. There were also plenty of pop culture and genre references, especially with The Man In The High Castle plot line. Comicbook.com has a list of Easter Eggs.

I was surprised that Crisis on Earth-X advanced some major plot threads in the various series, rather than leaving them for the individual shows. (Major spoilers ahead.) While we knew that the marriage of Iris an Barry would eventually occur, Felicity and Oliver turned it into a double wedding. The Stein’s story line not only progressed, but his previously-announced departure from the show (baring further appearances thanks to time travel) also occurred. Bleeding Cool has Victor Garber talking about his time on Legends of Tomorrow.

The event also may have started new story lines. There was the introduction of one new character,  The Ray, and the return of Leonard Snart , except as his good doppelganger, Citizen Cold. Presumably the mystery girl at the wedding was there for a reason–with some speculation as to her identity here.

Of course there were many plot holes and questionable elements. Rather than an infinite number of parallel earths, there are exactly fifty-three, which all have agreed-upon numbers. While people from other earths seem to have far more contact with each other than people from our earth, we are still designated Earth One. A major plot device involved preventing the destruction of the installation used to transport the heroes to Earth-X, but at other times it seems relatively easy to go from one earth to another (or send wedding invitations).

The major villains included doppelgangers of Oliver and Kara, but instead of a Barry’s doppelganger there was a version of Eobard Thawne. It is already quite convoluted to explain how he is around, thanks to time remnants, despite having been removed from existence at the end of season one when his ancestor killed himself. It is even harder to explain why the version seen was from when he appeared like Harrison Wells, other than to give more air time to Tom Cavanagh. Plus when did he learn how to do heart transplants?

Overall it was an enjoyable four hours which was never intended to be thought about very deeply, with the time passing much more quickly than most of the DC movies, which often feel like they are far more than four hours long. Plus, with my daughter’s wedding now less than six months away, it provided me with important warnings of things to be careful about–guests who fail to RSVP and, of course, the danger of a wedding being interrupted by Nazis from a parallel earth. I will be certain to take the proper precautions.

There is behind the scenes information available here.

Jed Whedon’s goal for Agents of SHIELD this year was to “throw them on the craziest roller coaster adventure we could think of.” While we knew since the last season that the season would take place in space, we did not learn the real twist until the season premiere on Friday (spoiler’s head). Not only are they in space, but they have been pulled into the future, and are on a space station with the last remnants of humanity, under Kree rule. Most of human history has been wiped out to help keep humans subservient, except a version of the Framework is still around.

The specifics are vague but the earth has been destroyed, supposedly by Daisy (who does not fall for future pick-up lines). The members of SHIELD were brought due to a legend that they will help save the remaining humans. As we don’t really know the rules of time travel in effect here, I wonder if the ultimate victory will be helping them get out from under Kree rule, or if the end-game will be to prevent this future from happening.

The cast discussed being in space here. Elizabeth Henstridgeand Iain De Caestecke discussed having Simmons and Fitz being separated yet once again here. Screen Rant has a list of Easter eggs.

The BBC has released a teaser poster for Twice Upon A Time, this year’s Christmas episode of Doctor Who, with a motion version here. The official synopsis:

The magical final chapter of the Twelfth Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) journey sees the Time Lord team up with his former self, the first ever Doctor (David Bradley – Harry Potter, Game of Thrones) and a returning Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), for one last adventure. Two Doctors stranded in an Arctic snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. Enchanted glass people, stealing their victims from frozen time. And a World War One captain destined to die on the battlefield, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story. An uplifting new tale about the power of hope in humanity’s darkest hours, Twice Upon A Time marks the end of an era. But as the Doctor must face his past to decide his future, his journey is only just beginning…

Doctor Who will have both new cast and crew next season. The show will also have a different look. Radio Times reports:

If it’s not exciting enough to get the first female Time Lord on screen, then Doctor Who bosses have further surprises in store: a brand new cinematic look for Jodie Whittaker’s adventures.

The production is being supplied with brand new cameras and lenses which will add a touch of big screen dazzle to the look of the new series according to trade magazine Broadcast

Production house Films at 59, which supplies the BBC’s Doctor Who studios in Roath Lock in Cardiff, is using Cooke anamorphic Prime lenses and Angenieux Optimo anamorphic zooms that will be used with Arri Alexa XT and Alex Mini cameras for series 11.

The intention is to bring an increased cinematic look to the show which started production at the end of October.

According to Bristol-based Films at 59’s Dave Wride this means a whole new visual feel to the show.

“The BBC have made a monumental leap here to enhance the look of Doctor Who and I’m sure the fans will not be disappointed with the distinctly cinematic results that this lens and camera combo will afford them,” he said.

New Dimensions was another solid episode of The Orville. It also helped remedy one of the problems which was seen in a previous episode, Majority Rule. John LeMarr played a key role in that episode, which also served to make it apparent that we really did not know very much about him. We learned that there is much more to him in this episode.

There were the usual references to current and recent literature and pop culture, including Flatland, Doctor Who, Oscar the Grouch’s can, Snoopy’s doghouse, and Dumbo.

The episode also did a good job of mixing humor in the episode. This included yet more practical jokes, leading to Yaphit having to explore Bortus’ GI tract for a portion of himself: “Ah, dude, it stinks down here, what the hell have you been eating?  Is that a boot?”

While we have one more episode to go, I09 has already accumulated a list of the funniest and most surprising moments from The Orville so far. TV Guide has information on this Thursday’s season finale.

The official trailer for Avengers: Infinity Wars is now available, with the movie to be released May 4. Discussion here, here, and here.

The talks between Disney and Fox are back on. While I am concerned about yet further media consolidation, this does have interesting ramifications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Bad news for American Gods with show runners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green leaving. While there have been no specifics, most of the reports center around disputes with Starz regarding the budget for the show.

Surprising nobody, Netflix has officially renewed Stranger Things. (Last night I was out for a walk and saw holiday light effects outside of a neighbor’s house which made it look like it was in the Upside Down. Just to be safe, I didn’t get too close.)

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who (Twice Upon A Time, Jodie Whittaker, Matt Smith, and Shada); Star Trek Discovery (Captain Lorca, Ash Tyler, and Continuity); The Orville; The Arrowverse Crossover; Agents of SHIELD; The Magicians

The upcoming regeneration in the Christmas Episode of Doctor Who, Twice Upon A Time,  might be the most anticipated episode ever due to Jodie Whittaker becoming the first female lead. Typically regeneration scenes only involve the outgoing Doctor with little, if any, of the new Doctor seen until the subsequent episodes are aired. With the degree of interest in this regeneration it would be a mistake to not show at least a little of Jodie Whittaker in the Christmas episode. It does appear that she probably does have at least one significant scene as Radio Times reports that Chris Chibnall will be present for her appearance in the episode. From Radio Times:

“There is a little bit of like ‘I want to see Jodie now!’” episode director Rachel Talalay admitted on the Radio Free Skaro podcast.

“What I do hope is, for Christmas you don’t have your Christmas pudding and your brandy, and say ‘OK, let’s just get to the regeneration!’ I hope you can actually enjoy the story too.”

Still, Talalay wasn’t shy about discussing some aspects of the pivotal final scene, which she shot both Capaldi and Whittaker’s parts for on different days under the direction of current showrunner Steven Moffat and new boss Chris Chibnall.

“I knew I was going to shoot both parts of the regeneration, but I did say to Chris Chibnall if you want a different director to introduce Jodie, you should have a different director,” she recalled. “Because he’s creating a whole new world.

“[But] he too was absolutely lovely and said no, we’re absolutely delighted it’s going to be you, and no-one else. And so we sat down and talked about the Jodie portion of the regeneration, and it was wonderful.

She added: “The thing I would love to talk about, and look forward to talking about in the future is how I planned Peter’s portion of the regeneration versus how I planned and shot Jodie’s.

“Because as a director, that was a really satisfying, interesting, fun challenge, and I’m really pleased with both sides of it.”

Of course, the side Talalay COULD talk about was Capaldi’s, with the director revealing that the Scottish actor had played a big part in the planning of his final scene.

“When it came to the regeneration in the Christmas episode, Peter has a big scene about it, as one would expect,” she said.

“And he and I spent some time alone on the Tardis, which is his place to sit when he wants to be quiet. We just sat there, in that space, alone, talking through that whole scene. Talking through in his happy space.

“He had a hundred notes on his script. Again, I view myself as a guide. But he was deeply into it.”

And apparently the collaboration paid off handsomely, with Talalay full of praise for the Twelfth Doctor’s last stand.

“It’s absolutely a Peter Tour-de-force as you can imagine,” she said. “I was so lucky to get to do it.”

In other words, then, it seems like we’re in for a simultaneously sad, exciting, nostalgic and forward-thinking episode of Doctor Who that contrasts with itself just as much as it does with anything else on the telly.

Radio Times has some speculation about the episode here. I posted a video from the episode last week in which the first Doctor commented on changes to the TARDIS.

The first pictures of  Jody Whittaker and Bradley Walsh filming next season have been released. More pictures are here.

Last week I mentioned rumors that Matt Smith might appear in the Christmas special (although it is also possible he just visited the set to see Doctor Who history and/or the final episode by Stephen Moffat). Smith has also discussed the possiblity of returning to Doctor Who, and has had some advice for Jodie Whittaker. From Digital Spy:

The Eleventh Doctor revealed that he wanted to come back to the franchise a few years down the line, once the new Time Lord Jodie Whittaker had settled in, that is

“Why not?” Matt told MTV. “I’d come back. Yeah, if the timing was right.

“I think we’ve gotta give a few years to Miss Whittaker to get the TARDIS under her belt, as it were, and then yeah – one day.”

However, he then dashed our hopes just a little by teasing that it probably won’t be until he’s “old and grey”, but joked that that “isn’t far off”.

When pressed on any advice he had for the Thirteenth Doctor when she heads into the TARDIS, Matt added: “Yeah, I will tell Jodie what I told Peter [Capaldi] – listen to no-one.”

The Crown star has also spoken about the next series of Doctor Who, arguing that the show should be “bold and inventive”.

“I think Doctor Who is a bit like Shakespeare,” he told press, including Digital Spy. “It needs expression and it needs courage and bold ideas – and I think Chris [Chibnall, new showrunner] and his team will bring all that to theshow, so I just sit back as a fan and watch what happens.

He added: “I absolutely don’t see why [the Doctor] can’t be a girl.”

It would make sense to have a two Doctor or multi-Doctor episode bringing him back but I wonder about this being “a few years down the line” considering that most actors playing the Doctor only stick around a few years at most. He better not wait too long.

Shada is now becoming available in various formats and a trailer (video above) has been released. Radio Times spoke with Tom Baker about returning to Doctor Who:

“I think it was, you see, that probably it never left me,” Baker said in a new interview to commemorate the BBC Worldwide release of the newly-completed Shada (which combines original footage with new animation).

“I think it was, you see, that probably it never left me,” Baker said in a new interview to commemorate the BBC Worldwide release of the newly-completed Shada (which combines original footage with new animation).

“And that’s why I can never stay away from it, you know – it was a lovely time of my life.

“I loved doing Doctor Who because it was life to me,” he went on. “It’s an amazing thing to be in something that was more important – my real life was really rather drab compared to the life of Doctor Who when we were making it.”

“Sometimes, when it would get near 5 o’ clock, I used to dread the end of rehearsal. Because then, real life would impinge on me.

“Doctor Who for me was an asylum. When I was in Doctor Who in full flight, making silly suggestions and pulling funny faces to make the other actors laugh, then I was happy.

“But then of course came five o’clock – and like everyone at five o’ clock, they’re leaving work – another reality impinges. Life – I wasn’t very good at that.”

In other words, then, Baker was more than happy to return to the world of Who – and he even has a theory as to why his particular Doctor has stood the test of time (and space) to remain popular to this day.

“Well I suppose actually because I was the silliest!” he suggested. “I was the most alien, I think.

“When I got it, I felt this benevolent alien personality, which was part of me. I embraced it and it took me over.”

Den of Geek spoke with “Star Trek‘s Ash Tyler and Captain Gabriel Lorca, aka Shazad Latif and Jason Isaacs, about their Discovery characters, shared trauma, fan theories and more.” Here are some excerpts:

There are a lot of purist fans out there, how have you reacted to some of the negative feedback?

SL: When we make it I’m enjoying what we’re doing and the rest we don’t have any power over. It’s like a painting, if people don’t like it then they don’t like it. We can’t really do much about that.

JI: I thought it was just a sign of how unbelievably passionate and protective they were of this legacy, and before we were on the air they were reacting to a trailer or something. Micro-analysing every frame of it. Now that we’re on, I’m a bit disappointed that the dissent has died down. I liked when people were outraged by things, and mostly everyone’s loving it all over the world now. I seek out those people who are upset because they’re always more passionate, first in line to watch it and first to hit the internet afterwards. They’re probably more die hard fans that anybody else.

Every new series that came along was hated instinctually by everybody and slowly they were won over. I think we’ve won them over. Quickly, which is a bit of a shame…

Shazad, you’ve probably been asked this by everyone today, but are you a Klingon?

JI: I can’t believe you’re not asking me – there’s a fan theory that I’m a Romulan!

SL: That’s not the same thing. There are crazy fan theories which is, like you were saying, the power of Star Trek fandom, they’re great detectives and some things they get right and some they get wrong.

JI: I love it. The madder they are the better – superb!

How do you feel about that way of watching TV now, where it’s kind of a detective game?

SL: I don’t know why you’d want to know so much before, I get that it’s because they love it.

JI: Well it’s a mystery that they’re trying to guess. The big thing for me, not the theories because one of the great things about this Star Trekparticularly in our dark and troubled times, our credits run and the debate starts. The worst thing you can be is something where the credits run and people say “What shall we eat?”. It actually affects people and they’re thinking about it. Although it’s on Netflix it’s not bingeable so there’s a week to talk about things like there is with Game Of Thrones. The thing that bothers me – networks have asked me to live tweet shows I’ve been in before, and I want people to watch the telly not look down at their phones or iPads. Watch it and talk about it afterwards.

Is one of the reasons you signed on because of how prevalent those issues that Star Trek has always been about are right now?

SL: It wasn’t really that I was interested, I didn’t really get to choose. I had to take the job (laughs). I’m not in that position yet. But yeah that’s the whole point of Star Trek.

JI: Yeah you take good acting jobs that are interesting and challenging, and something you haven’t done before. But I’ve got two teenage girls and if they’re looking at the news and reading newspapers, they’re being told – unlike when we were growing up – that people in charge are childish or racist or homophobic or sexual predators. The world seems a very unsafe place and more and more divisive. There’s the rise of the right and so to get to do the job that we love but also be part of telling a story that sends a message of optimism. It says that maybe in the future, if we get it right, we won’t be judged by gender or the colour of our skin or our sexuality. Even species on our show. There’s an extra bonus for us that you’re putting something good out in the world when we’re getting pumped some very toxic stuff from powerful people.

Many of the complaints from purists center around how Star Trek: Discovery fits into canon. Syfy Wire looked at some of the issues.

I’ll just comment on a couple of other aspects, and I’ve also raised some of these points in more detail in my weekly reviews of the episodes.

Many of the differences come down to the look, and to a considerable degree I’d give them some leeway to take advantage of modern special effects even if this gives a more modern look than the original series which takes ten years later. Questions regarding uniforms and details of the ships could be handled with explanations such as type of ships or perhaps different services within Star Fleet. Realistically if you look at the changes from the original show to the movies, which were produced years later with a higher budget, there were also considerable differences.

The Klingons have been a problem since Star Trek: The Next Generation. While I’m not going to allow this to reduce my enjoyment of Discovery, I think that it might have been better to have them look like the Klingons of STTNG. This allows viewers to go with one of two explanations–either the genetic manipulation theory that the Klingons actually did change temporarily, or the obvious meta explanation that they have used more expensive makeup since TNG.

The bigger issue is the technology, primarily with the spore drive. I’ve mentioned a variety of possible explanations in the past including reasons that it could no longer be feasible to be used by Star Fleet, no longer allowed, or perhaps that the technology is lost. I’m not particularly concerned about finding that Spock never mentioned his half-sister since Star Trek V also showed him to have a brother we never knew about. Spock was never the most talkative character.

Executive producer Aaron Harberts had these comments regarding continuity quoted by Metro:

‘We have ten years until the original series comes into play. It is a challenge creatively because we have lots of choices, in terms of how do we reconcile this [Spore] drive? This surrogate daughter of Sarek? How do we reconcile these things the closer we get to the original series? ‘That’s going to be a big discussion that we have in season two. What’s so fun about the character of Michael, just because she hasn’t been spoken about, doesn’t mean she didn’t exist. A lot of the writers on our show are deeply involved in Star Trek, their knowledge is some of the finest around, they really do help us find areas where we can steer around things.

‘But the Spore drive? Who knows. It could be classified. There are many options. Some of the best ideas come from all over the place, not just in our writers room so I love hearing about the fan ideas and theories. We’ll have to see.’ After initially creating the show’s concept, Bryan Fuller departed the series, and the question surrounding his decision to make it a prequel is still a mystery to Aaron, who was too busy catching up on Star Trek canon to question it. ‘I’m glad that it is because it set up parameters for us. Let’s say we set it 100 years after Voyager, the canvas is so broad. To try to contemplate, you’re creating a whole new mythology really,’ Aaron says.

‘I think Bryan [Fuller] was interested in the original series and I think he was interested in the lead up to where the original series is. I think he was very interested in the Klingon federation conflict, but I don’t know definitively why he picked that.’

While I agree that it should be possible to reconcile the continuity questions Aaron discussed, I find it interesting that, instead of already having a specific plan in mind, they are leaving the explanation for the writers to come up with next season. This also means that it is probably pointless to spend too much time analyzing episodes for hints as to the ultimate explanation as the show’s writers have not yet decided how things will turn out. Fortunately they do have writers with a good knowledge of Star Trek canon, leaving me confident that, even if the explanations are not one hundred percent airtight, they will be no worse than what we have already experience in following Star Trek continuity.

The Orville was off last week for Thanksgiving and will soon be completing its first season. The final episode of the shortened season will air December 7. Here is the official synopsis of the episode, entitled  Mad Idolatry:

Ed and Kelly seriously reconsider getting back together. However, while Kelley is on a mission with Isaac and Gordon to investigate the origins of an uncharted star, they suddenly crash-land on a planet from another universe. Kelly then makes a decision with unforeseen long-term consequences for the planet, putting Ed in a difficult position in the all-new “Mad Idolatry” season finale episode of THE ORVILLE airing Thursday, Dec. 7 (9:01-10:00 PM ET) on FOX. (ORV-113) (TV-14 L, S, V).

The relationship between Ed and Kelly has dominated many of the episodes. While I think it has often been overdone, it will be interesting to see how things have changed now that they have both been working together, and Ed realizes that Kelly might have slept with Darulio due to pheromones she could not resist per Cupid’s Dagger.

TV Guide has eleven teases for next week’s Arrowverse crossover. Here are the first few:

1. Earth-X is full of baddies

As if being controlled by nazis wasn’t enough of a clue about how evil Earth-X is, this world is also home to some very sinister versions of the heroes we know and love. So far, we know the Reverse Flash (Tom Cavanagh), the Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) and Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) all have counterparts on Earth-X that are aligned with the regime.

2. Citizen Cold

Wentworth Miller has returned to the Arrow-verse, this time as the Earth-X version of himself: Citizen Cold. We can only assume he’s part of the Earth-X resistance movement, and it’s about time we got to see Miller kick some nazi butt.

3. Kara busts out those pipes again

You didn’t think the CW would just let Melissa Benoist’s amazing singing voice go to waste did you? Thanks to their little journey into musical theater last year, Barry decides to have Kara sing at his wedding, and we guarantee you’re not prepared for how awesome it is.

Stephen Amel discussed the Arrowverse crossover in an interview here.

Melissa Benoist discussed her role in an interview here.

Agents of SHIELD returns with a two-hour premier on December 1 but if you cannot wait that long, the first seventeen minutes have been released–video above. A trailer for season five can be seen here. We know from last season’s finale that the season involves going into space. Comicbook.com has some information on the aliens which will appear.

The Magicians returns on January 10. Trailer above showing them starting their quest to restore magic, after it was turned off in last season’s finale.