Is Thursday night the new best night for genre television? It sure seems so with new episodes of Gotham and The Orville airing back-to-back in a delightful journey from the dismal, dreary, dying city of Gotham to the usually lighthearted, outer space adventures with the crew of The Orville.
Although, lighthearted does not precisely describe this season’s episodes of The Orville so far this year. As I have stated before, I don’t think Mc Farland expected anyone to take his Star Trek: TNG parody seriously enough for it to last longer than a season. It seemed and still does seem to be something he decided to do as a lark and was surprised by its success to the point he had to scramble for some story ideas. I also suspect he chose to attempt to do some narratives with more serious themes that address current world issues he wants to discuss and use the show as a soapbox of sorts.
The big news this week, of course, is the premiere of the best science fiction series on television, (IMHO) Star Trek Discovery’s second season premieres on the 17th of January, 2019. That’s five long days and excruciating nights away, and let’s just say I’m a little excited to see what the new season has in store for us fans that love this series after such a stellar first season.
Along with that, in more genre TV news this week is the announcement by Amazon about its new, free, ad-supported online streaming service called Freedive, available through its subsidiary IMDB beginning soon. There can no longer be any legitimate denials that the revolution ‘will be televised,’ the revolution is not only changing television but the definition of the word television itself
To watch videos on Freedive users need an IMDb account and a tolerance for watching ads at various intervals during a video. While no paid subscription is required, the service has an impressive roster of hit Hollywood movies and some hit TV shows, including noteworthy genre titles like the shows Fringe and Heroes as well as the films Memento and Gattaca.
According to The Wrap, Freedive will enhance the viewing experience with its “X-Ray” feature, which takes advantage of IMDb’s massive amount of movie data to provide information on the content getting watched, such as cast, crew and other trivia. Amazon Prime Video users have already been able to access this feature on that service for several years.
Star Trek Disco is not the only premiere to make the genre New Year’s bright, because the second season of Future Man has also arrived on January 11th, with what looks like more of the same queasy inducing gross-out humor and violence. Netflix is not done yet with bringing us new genre TV this year though, it has one more pleasant surprise in store, in the form of a new adult animated series called, Love, Death, and Robots. That’s right; we finally get some adult, genre animation that’s not mosaic-censored hentai from Japan; let’s hope the quality is at least as good or better. Looks promising for some cutting edge, experimental stuff perhaps?
and now for some commentary on shows, I saw this week…(caution, may contain some spoilers)
THE ORVILLE: It looks like we may have an adjustment period in store if this series continues in this trend. We got another episode from the series this week that established itself as a mostly lighthearted series that touched on serious themes; now it seems it has taken on a new more complex veneer regarding just where the show’s narratives will take us and how it gets us there. This weeks episode was mostly a sad chapter revolving around a mysterious ailment inflicting Lt. Alara Kitan (Halston Sage). What a surprise!
Alara Kitan (alluring kitten?), the show’s super-strong, young alien resident sex-kitten, is leaving the show for good in a surprising move, for me, by the series. Many fans already knew that Alara (Halston Sage) was going, but the continued mystery surrounding the reasons behind that departure have kept those threads buzzing. However, the consensus is that it was a simple scheduling conflict on the actor’s part. Sorry to see her go, not that the series found interesting and exciting ways to use the character, but she was one of my faves on this series for reasons other than the obvious.
It was a good episode, maybe even excellent in parts, perhaps the best this season so far. This week’s chapter had a couple of pleasant surprises for fans of the actual Star Trek series this show borrows so much from with guest appearances by Robert Picardo who played Kitra’s father Ildis Kitan, (he’s starting to show his age, but looked great in his prosthetic makeup). The episode also employed another surprising guest star, Cambis Borrin, played by another Star Trek alumni, John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox on Enterprise). They were joined by longtime TV character actor Kerry O’Malley and Alara’s interim replacement, Lt. Tharl, arrives, played by Patrick Warburton, long-time genre favorite.
The episode worked for me a lot because it took us away from the ship and portrayed future life on an alien planet, which is one of the main things I enjoy about science fiction television. This episode is our first chance to see Alara’s homeworld, Xelaya, which looks a lot like Dubai, with a bit of Beverly Hills thrown in. We also get a look at Orville’s environment suits for the first time; it’s always nice to see how a sci-fi series approaches the design of those because as we know, appearances mean everything in a science fiction series. McFarland getting rescued by Ildis in his protective suit was a fascinating depiction of a science fiction scene.
GOTHAM: A slightly weaker episode this week was still an episode I loved this week in the creepy, dark metropolis, and I will tell you why. Mazouz continues to impress as young Bruce, the kid we watched grow up in previous seasons is gone, and he’s gotten replaced by a handsome young man who’s a much better actor and has no problem convincing me he’s a young Bruce Wayne on a mission.
That’s not the only reason though; the show continues to impress also in general with its new more cinematic camera style and theatrical approach that I find very enjoyable. This week we saw some excellent stuff from Barabara Keen (Erin Richards making the most of an opportunity and making a memorable impression as the great actress she can be if given a chance), who is still in mourning for Tabitha and full of rage, directed at Penguin. The show also had a guest appearance by two new (for this series) classic Batman villains, Mother, and Orphan, along with some mutants as the show visits the “Darkzone” It looks like the end for Gordon Bullock and the entire GCPD until Barbara intercedes and ends the battle in spectacular style. Leave it to a lady to know how to make an entrance.
Bruce continues his heroes journey through dark and forbidding locations in search for a cure for Selina who wants to die, dues to her paralysis. He stumbles upon Poison Ivy’s new hideout where she’s known as the witch. Ivy has evolved into her full homicidal self and now hates her old friend Selena, but she decides to help Bruce anyway and provides him with a cure she digs out of the earth. When he returns from his journey, Selena takes the treatment right away even though there’s a chance it might kill her, and the show does a wonderful job portraying how it affects her and how she becomes finally, fully, Catwoman at last.
All in all, a fun, and pretty satisfying week of genre TV, but, of course, there’s always room for improvements and we still have season two of Star Trek Discovery and the new Spock to hate or love or maybe a little of both in store next week. Until then, happy viewing.