There’s no denying this is an incredibly exciting time to be alive. The future is now. If you are a genre fan or multi-obsessed nerd like me, your days get spent not only searching for the latest genre news regarding movies and TV, but I am equally fascinated by other things, like advances in real-world technology, the sciences, art, foreign cultures, fashion, and other news of all kinds.
Growing up in the US as a kid in the fifties and sixties, (prime decades for science fiction, comics, and some of maybe the best cartoons ever made) was the beginning of a fantastic odyssey, accompanied by a plethora of technological advances from then up until now in 2019. Not all of the dreams we had about the future were always on target, but a few were remarkably accurate, and the evolution of technology has surpassed most ideas at the time in the dust after their arrival and subsequent departure to make room for the next big thing. It seems sometimes we went from slide rules and dial phones to personal computers, smartphones, and OLED TV’s overnight, and regarding entertainment, the explosion of content these days is a symptom of progress that took us from black and white network shows to entertainment streaming online any time of night or day on portable devices. We have even progressed beyond Blu-ray discs already and moved on to digital files that do not collect any dust.
In the news this week we have a brand new season 2 trailer for American Gods, the surreal series that made a lasting impression last season. Amidst all the turmoil behind the scenes for the series, it’s been a long, bumpy road for the darkly amusing, and oddly surreal, American Gods season 2. But the premiere is finally right around the corner, and a new, two-minute-long trailer reveals that any of the behind-the-scenes hullabaloos hasn’t stopped Starz’s battle-of-the-deities drama from being one of the most exciting and oddly entertaining series on TV. American Gods returns for season 2 on March 10.
Anyway, how about Thursday nights now eh? “They” finally got it close to perfect; it’s a remarkably good night of genre television with three of the best genre shows on broadcast television somehow scheduled to air on the same night. The Orville, Gotham and Star Trek Discovery have made Thursday evenings a Sci-Fi Nerd’s dream come true with a triple-feature prime-time night of television watching done right in the comfort of my home. I am not going to look that gift horse in the mouth too closely, lest I startle it away and lose my good fortune. (In typical fan manner, my mind still can’t help but wonder when the Abyss will begin again on Amazon because I ALWAYS want more good quality science fiction to watch)
and now for some commentary on this week’s shows… (caution; may contain some spoilers)
THE ORVILLE: Last week’s episode started as if it would be yet another episode portraying the romantic misadventures of McFarland’s Captain Mercer, but instead the episode’s narrative turned out to be a very familiar one we have seen multiple times on actual Trek series before. It’s a story as old as the geographic elevations. It’s that well-worn odd couple story where two of the show’s characters that do not usually get along are forced to work together for their survival. The show’s writers put in a nice twist where the other half of this specific couple turned out to be the Krill teacher, Teleya, whose brother Mercer had been forced to kill seeking revenge for her brother’s death.
The story worked well enough, and it was a good episode, but it sure raises some questions about the character Mercer. Just how dumb is this guy? I mean, I get that the point of the show is that the crew are just regular people like you or I, but shouldn’t someone be above average intelligence on the ship besides Isaac? Another valid question I have is How can I respect a character that is such an annoying and blatant dumb-ass and an obvious dork? Please.
It was an interesting episode because it introduced another new warlike alien species to the series (they look like Orcs). This chapter also had a subplot with a story about Scott Grimes Lt. Gordon Malloy needing to learn a lesson about life in the not too subtle manner of an after-school special for tweens.
I have said it before, and I will now repeat it, The Orville does not stand up to too close an inspection. Scheduling the series to air on the same night as Star Trek Disco is an invitation to compare the two shows and things like poor-fitting uniforms, lower quality makeup work, and other details like special effects, etc. reveal The Orville as the imitator it is as much as the writing does. Despite the show shifting gears a lot in season two, I do still enjoy it so far, but I am wondering when we will see that episode where neither the science fiction of the comedy works and the show fails on two fronts instead of one because Mc Farland gets bored with his Star Trek tribute show.
GOTHAM: Gotham continues to impress more than the rest of the DCU (except for their animated features which have recently improved), in it’s concluding and more cinematic fifth season with another gangbusters episode that starts quiet and ends with a boom (pun intended). The show is not perfect, the writing doesn’t always hit the target, but the show always manages to have some gratifying and memorable moments in each viewing none-the-less. This week’s chapter is no exception as this week’s show begins with a scene inside the Penguins mansion; as he descends the stairs, a choir of male singers, mostly young, serenade the crime boss until he arrives at the bottom and one of them collapses from exhaustion. Penguins fortunes swing wildly across the full spectrum again this week; one moment he’s gloating over Gordon after capturing him, and the next, a craven coward again as he turns to Gordon for help when he gets betrayed by his men – yet again.
Penguin; if any part of Gotham is tongue-in-cheek, Robin Lord-Taylor’s portrayal of the deeply emotionally disturbed, stabby-homicidal crime-boss is it, and yet he is also such a great character it doesn’t matter how far he goes while everyone else plays it straight. He may be tongue in cheek but it’s a dark corner of the cheek indeed, and his work is immensely enjoyable for the most part.
This episode also focuses on Selena and Bruce’s odyssey into the city’s newly designated Dark Zone; we join Selena as she more fully evolves into the Catwoman we know and love from the Batman comics and the show does it well. It’s fascinating to witness her portrayal of the character, because, for one thing, she is going through the change from adolescence into womanhood and her hormones and physical appearance are in flux as well, emphasizing her transitory state in real life.
Also adding to the episode’s enjoyment factor was the appearance of several characters from the comics gang leaders with gang names like the Mutants, Street Demonz, Lo Boyz, and The Undead borrowed from earlier Batman comics and nicely brought to life well enough to be enjoyable, and amusing.
One standout moment of “Penguin, Our Hero” came from the scenes within Jeremiah’s cult hangout inside the shows “Dark Zone”. Francesca Root-Dodson was memorably effective in her role as the psychotic Ecco (aka Mummer), bringing to life Gotham’s precursor to Harley Quinn. She is quite convincing in her portrayal of a mentally disturbed woman (I have first-hand knowledge, as any man who has ever had a girlfriend can testify) And her banter with Selina revealed more than we previously knew the character; Ecco, prior to this, stayed quiet for much of her appearances, now she has plenty to say. Hopefully, we will see lots more of the proto-Harley character; Selena should get a rematch (I hope)
STAR TREK DISCOVERY: Star Tek Disco(very) has improved in season two or maybe all the things they do right went by underappreciated last season because with the Trek canon brand attached we expect more, and more was what we got. If you were planning on getting to see s the show’s new younger Spock this time around you will be disappointed; he’s not in the episode. What we did get is a solid episode of science fiction complete with some new friends and toys as well.
I was relieved to see the show still has a commitment to the wonder of scientific exploration and yes, discovery. It was nice to be back aboard Discovery, and this time the show was polite enough to introduce the bridge crew. Tilly and Stamets, get a very touching scene together. The character of Tilly is a bit of two-edged-sword; I understand she represents the heart of the crew but she can be incredibly annoying and sometimes she seems out of place, also, it seems unrealistic that this incorrigibly bubbly plus-size ginger would be tolerated to randomly arrive on the bridge and interrupt when a group of top professionals is trying to focus and do their jobs.
A little more thought-provoking and intellectually challenging than that other show that people insist on comparing to this one, not to mention the plethora of other things this show does better; things like writing, special effects, make-up costumes and kick-ass art direction along with stellar sets, cast, and direction. In other words, all the things a fan expects from a Trek series. Any questions about what the best science fiction outer space adventure series on TV is at the moment have been answered; it ‘s this one. Through what seems to be a random coincidence both shows had depictions of scenes they were trying to sell as touching moments, Orville did it well, Disco did it better.
With a new season, we get a new mission along with the promise of the series younger version of Spock. For those of you that still don’t know, Spock is the adoptive brother of the show’s lead protagonist, Micael Burnham. He has not made an appearance yet in the series. This weeks’ episode sets up the season’s mission at least that’s the way it seemed. We get introduced to a cosmic mystery in the form of seven bursts of lights that have appeared around the galaxy, along with some legends and visions concerning what gets referred to as the Red Angel. In response, the Federation has pulled the Enterprise and her crew back from the outer reaches of space to investigate led by Captain Pike, (yes that Capt Pike) who has a pair of crewmen in tow one female and not entirely human.
The episode was adventure and action-filled enough to satisfy as the Burnham, Pike and his two crewmen don color-coded outfits (that reminded me of the Power Rangers) and flew through an asteroid field in some jazzy little landing pods in the episode’s most visually arresting scene.
For me, the highlight of the show was when they introduced Tig Notaro’s Engineer Jett (Denise) Reno who stayed behind with some patients to help keep them alive. She immediately made an impression of being a classic Trek character not soon forgotten and I sincerely hope the show’s creators realize the gold they have on their hands and make her series regular.
Well, that’s it, for now, fellow genre fans, MTFBWY and happy viewing.