Tag Archives: Space

Season Finale: Orphan Black – “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”

OrphanBlackTitle

“Endless Forms Most Beautiful”

June 1st, 2013

When I attended the Television Critics’ Association Winter Press Tour in January, BBC America presented a panel for Orphan Black, a new drama series originating from Canada (where it airs on Space). It was an interesting panel to attend, because none of the critics in the room had no opportunity to watch it: while we were shown a quick trailer to help give us context, most of the questions were actually asking for more information as opposed to specific responses to the series. What we saw looked interesting, and the panel was enjoyable, but it was an exploratory exercise in a space where greater context is necessary to achieve any real insight.

Reading back over the transcript of that panel, and revisiting this fun interview Will Harris did with the three stars in attendance, I couldn’t help but smile. In retrospect, there are plenty of hints there about the show Orphan Black would become: a fearless, balls to the wall science fiction pleasure that’s smart as hell. Co-creator Graeme Manson was asked about the possibility of flashbacks, to which he responded “Yeah, actually, none at all. We really, really like a story that’s like a runaway train that keeps you on the edge of your seat and has you not sure whether the story is going to take a hard left or a hard right.” Tatiana Maslany was asked about the challenge of playing multiple roles, and explained “Yeah, it’s a challenge, the different arcs. You know, there’s so many arcs to it. So it’s a bit of a mind — I keep wanting to say the wrong word.”

The wrong word is the right word in this case: Orphan Black is a mindfuck, and ends its first season with another segment in the runaway train first season, one that becomes four climaxes in one by the time it reaches its conclusion.

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Season Premiere: Shameless – “Summertime” and Televisual Space

“Summertime” and Televisual Space

January 8th, 2012

After rewatching the entire first season over the holidays with my parents, I found myself enjoying Shameless more than when it premiered (as I wrote about soon after), and I looked forward to checking out the second season. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was to find it so disarmingly different from what we saw last year.

This isn’t to say that the show has dramatically changed its approach to storytelling, although there is evidence to suggest that they are finding better ways of balancing the different character dynamics based on reviews from critics who have seen beyond tonight’s premiere. Rather, the fast-forward to the dog days of summer has created both a temporal shift and, more importantly, a spatial shift in terms of the characters and the world they live in. More generally, though, the long summer days offer a plethora of sunlight, dramatically transforming the aesthetic of the show and signaling a new season in a very direct, meaningful fashion.

I realize that this is not particularly evaluative, and if we were to speak exclusively on those terms I found the premiere promising but uneven, but I want to spend a bit of time discussing these changes relative to the question of space, an increasingly important factor as worlds begin to converge in a new spatial dynamic within the series.

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Series Premiere: The Walking Dead – “Days Gone Bye”

“Days Gone Bye”

October 31st, 2010

I addressed The Walking Dead generally in my piece last night, but I do want to address the premiere in particular.

As far as premieres go, this is a really strong effort aesthetically: character is largely on the backburner in an effort to define the scale of this world, which operates directly in opposition to characterization. The whole point of the series, after all, is that humanity has dwindled down to a small collection of survivors, and yet this creates an even grander sense of scale as a result of the sheer emptiness.

I want to talk about that emptiness a bit, and the role it plays in telling the story in “Days Gone Bye.”

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Caprica – “Rebirth”

“Rebirth”

January 29th, 2010

I was warned ahead of time that Caprica’s pilot was not necessarily representative of the series, and that the two additional episodes sent to critics seemed to offer something very different. However, all of those people who had seen the episodes seemed excited but in a way that was at the same time quite cautious: when I chatted about the episodes with Todd over at Media Elites, he indicated that, while he was quite taken with the episodes, not everyone is going to fall head over heels in love with the show that Caprica has become.

I, however, have. What surprised me about Caprica was that it managed to resist diving straight into melodrama, despite a premise that lends itself to that sort of interaction. After a pilot that felt steeped in the complexities of holo-bands and avatars, “Rebirth” takes that scenario and investigates the human consequences: stories that are big philosophically, like the fate of Zoe Graystone’s Avatar, are small in the context of the story, while the stories which go public are those which are more personal and thus more devastating. Rather than focus on creating conflict between characters, the episode allows the characters to start developing independent of that conflict, discovering new ways to adapt to a world without a daughter or a family shattered by tragedy.

It’s an episode that manages to subtly investigate the show’s premise while also triumphantly proclaiming that Caprica is a place of great complexity, and a place that has no idea the changes that the next decade or two will bring; in short, it’s a damn fine start for the series at hand.

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Reminder: Caprica debuts tonight on SyFy and SPACE

“Pilot”

January 22nd, 2010

It’s been eight months since I reviewed the pilot, so I’m interested in whether anyone out there is really watching Caprica for the first time tonight as the two-hour pilot makes its television debut on SyFy and SPACE (In Canada) at 9 ET.

For those who are, or who want to get some idea of what to expect, Todd VanDerWerff and I had a spoiler-free chat over at Media Elites about the show and our thoughts on its unique position trapped between various preconceptions. It covers a lot of the ground I would have covered in a preview (such as how SyFy’s new brand identity feels almost hindered rather than aided by Caprica’s connections with Battlestar Galactica), so it’s a good reflection of my attitude towards next week’s “real” first episode.

So, feel free to click through to read more of my thoughts on the series, and I’ll see you here next week.

Review: Caprica – “Pilot” (May 2009)

Both as a singular piece of filmmaking and as a pilot, Caprica ultimately works: it has some strong performances (I was particularly impressed with the strength of work coming from the teens involved), a solid balance of callbacks to Galactica and newer material, and a central premise that captures the kind of power struggles which made BSG so captivating. That comparison is always going to hurt Caprica, as it isn’t aiming as high in terms of science fiction nor does it have the benefit of slowly revealing the complexity of this world (considering that we already know how this story ends), but by giving it a compelling human face they’ve convinced me the series should prove an intriguing extension of the BSG legacy.

thirtysomething with robots sound good? Watch Caprica (Media Elites)

As SyFy prepares to launch Caprica, a series which has always been considered a spin-off even though producers are now wary of the term, it is very quickly discovering that the show fits nearly into neither category. While the audience who enjoyed its parent show, Battlestar Galactica, may be anxious to see more content from that universe, the show doesn’t resemble Galactica as much as they might want it to, and they are also fairly small in number. However, because of the show’s connection to Galactica and its reputation, those with no experience with the franchise are convinced that they couldn’t possibly enjoy the show, despite producers’ claims that foreknowledge is not required.

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Review – Doctor Who: The End of Time, The End of Tennant

The End of Time, The End of Tennant

January 2nd, 2010

Watching Doctor Who: The End of Time, for me personally, is a bit of a strange exercise for two reason (one exclusive to me, the other general).

First, I don’t watch the show on a regular basis, so while watching a few of the recent specials (Specifically the quite enjoyable “The Next Doctor” and the thrilling “The Waters of Mars”) has given me some sense of what’s going on – the Doctor (David Tennant) without a companion on a self-destructive journey to confront his impending death (I think?) – I’m still left out of the loop in terms of both the show’s larger mythology and the intricacies of Tennant’s run on the series.

However, even considering my ignorance to the broader mythology at play, the two-part event (which airs in its entirety tonight at 8pm on SPACE in Canada, with the second part (Part One aired in Boxing Day) airing on BBC America) is unique in its clear purpose: the death of the Doctor, and the departure of David Tennant from the series to make way for newcomer Matt Smith. And while you could argue that Law & Order or CSI, with their revolving door casting policy, offer something similar (in terms of transitioning from one actor to another), Doctor Who is unique in the fact that Smith will effectively be playing a new character…except that he won’t.

The single greatest accomplishment of The End of Time, which is at times a mixed bag in terms of its effectiveness, is that despite my lack of knowledge of the show’s history, and despite the lack of suspense surrounding an inevitable conclusion that has been known for over a year, I was emotionally affected by Russell T. Davies saying goodbye to the Doctor, and the Doctor saying goodbye to the people he cares about. Built on a foundation of David Tennant’s fantastic performance, the movie overcomes a bit of a muddled first part (which is tied up in a lot of exposition) in order to deliver a conclusion which demonstrates the combination of whimsy and pathos that has made the show, with its low budget special effects and its quirky sense of humour, so enduring.

And it feels like just the right kind of note on which to head into the reign of the new Doctor, which based on what I’ve seen in these specials is something that I might be willing to spend some time with in the years to come.

[Spoilers for both parts of the Miniseries after the break, where we’ll discuss the special in more detail]

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Review: Doctor Who: Waters of Mars (December 19th, Space/BBC America)

Doctor Who? My question exactly.

This is not to suggest I don’t know the basic premise of Doctor Who: he’s an omniscient figure who travels through time/space solving exotic problems with the help of assistants (wait, I think it’s companions). However, I’m fairly certain there’s a deeper mythology here than “he’s mortal enemies with those ugly robot dudes that I think are called Daleks,” which means that going into Doctor Who: Waters of Mars (which according to the press kit is the second of the four final “movies” that David Tennant is doing before running off to star in an NBC pilot) my knowledge of this universe is a cribbed together collection of tidbits gleamed from pop cultural exposure and a couple of random episode viewings during the Eccleston period.

But, as was the case earlier this year when Russell T. Davies created an enormously compelling, stand alone piece of entertainment with Torchwood: Children of Earth, Doctor Who: Waters of Mars (which airs tomorrow night, December 19th, at 9pm ET on SPACE in Canada and on BBC America in the U.S.) is capable of engaging just about any audience. While it doesn’t have Children of Earth’s real world commentary on government corruption or anything so complicated, it tells a tightly driven story that at its core speaks to the inherent dilemma of being a man who is capable of changing time but only to a certain extent, and the plight of humans out to save the planet but finding themselves at the precipice of placing that planet in even further danger.

The result is a very compelling piece of television in its own right, but one that feels like a turning point for this character as he David Tennant prepares to say goodbye to what is very clearly a career-making role.

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