Ask and ye shall receive

Following on from yesterday’s post, Ron Moore says all sorts of things about season 2:

“You’re going to see things that happened in real life, but happen faster and in slightly different ways,” Moore promised. “So things like the coming of the personal computer, internet, variations on communications and email and cell phones and all that. You’ll see it in a more rapid advance. And the actual models and prototypes and pieces of technology that are being used are not exactly what happened in real history… you’ll see variations on it. We went back and looked at some of the early prototyping and different branches that some of the technology could have gone off in the ’70s and ’80s, and chose to go down some of those paths. So, you’ll have a different spin and a different feel to it. The further the show goes now, the more science-fiction it’s going to become. We’re getting more aggressively into areas that never happened.”

Sounds promising. 1

[Via Adrian Hon, posting to FanFare]


  1. I’m slightly disappointed that they’re sticking to Reagan ending up in the White House and being up for even more of an arms race than he was in our timeline, but I can’t deny that all the signs are that in the timeline they’re showing us politics hasn’t changed all that much so that’s not a completely unexpected turn of events. 

For All Mankind season 1

So, For All Mankind closed with a slightly loner-than-usual season finale that perhaps signalled that when next we see these characters they might have moved beyond the Apollo era.

Be sure to stick around for the post-credit scene for the first season finale. I really hope that signals another jump forward in the timeline, because for all that I’ve enjoyed the course of the show’s first season I’d also been mildly worried that we were going to spend forever on the alternate Apollo programme and I really want to see this show go further along the alternate timeline than that. (I did joke about Ron Moore ending the show with an appearance from a Cylon, but one commenter over at MeFi Fanfare last week posited that the show will end with the discovery of a black monolith on the lunar surface and morph into a 2001: A Space Odyssey prequel Works for me.)

The finale revealed that the first commander of the first US base on the moon wasn’t the cold-blooded murderer we’d thought he might be last week, but I do wonder whether some time in season two someone will discover evidence that the base had been visited by the enemy and our putative hero will find himself having to own up to what went down in the preparation for his rescue mission for his rescuers. Will NASA file it under “Who cares? It all worked out in the end (except for Deke.)” or will there be a scandal when it turns out that our hero Ed (assuming he remains in the programme and ends up, say, as head of the Astronaut Office some day) realises that he recognises Mikhail, his newly-appointed opposite number on the Soviet side?

I’d still love to know whether Ron Moore’s plan is to spend seven seasons exploring how a different timeline plays out in the lifetimes of the current characters, or whether they’re going to throw in enough time jumps that we get a picture of the ramifications of a different start to the space race. Given that we’ve spent significant time following the story of Aleida, our immigrant space enthusiast in the first season, I can’t help but wonder whether her character 1 will pop up again before long, possibly after a couple more time jumps to give her time to have a reason to be in the story again. I mean, she might just show up years later as a member of the public watching what’s going on in the space programme rather than working in it, or it might be that her story was mostly a way to reveal her father’s story and how the FBI’s efforts to enhance security were mostly pointless, but I have a feeling she’s destined to be more involved than that.

I have a feeling, just given the economics of how TV casting works and the notion that it’s risky to press the reset button and demand that audiences get used to a largely new cast in a different scenario in the next season, that they’ll stick with rolling out the story covering the near future. A show that sticks with the 1970s generation of astronauts could well be every bit as much fun as the first season has been for folks like me2 but my preference would be for a show that ends up a few hundred years hence, one that reveals that because the Russians and the Americans were working in parallel on the Moon3 they ended up customarily working together and ended up extending that practice as they fanned out into the depths of the solar system. Heretical thought: might it have made very little difference, what with all the major players being basically extensions of the military powers’ armed forces and thus somewhat disinclined to cooperate with their potential enemies?


  1. Probably recast, so we can see her all grown up, having earned her place in the space programme on the basis of her mathematical expertise post-college. She can be in her mid-thirties, ideally having a nice reunion with soon-to-retire veteran NASA Flight Director Margo Madison when Aleida arrives to start her new job. That whole illegal immigrant thing would be a problem security-check-wise, you’d imagine, but who said Aleida had to work for NASA? Perhaps she ends up emigrating to Europe in her early twenties and finds herself working on the EU’s fledgeling human space programme and gets seconded to NASA as part of the EU’s attempt to catch up. 
  2. The sort of people who recognise which characters in the show were real people and which were folks the show’s writers made up, and which technologies were in the pipeline when the Apollo programme was wound down after the key aim of beating the Soviet Union to the moon was achieved. You know, geeks. 
  3. And the Chinese, and the EU, and the Indians, and the Saudis, in time. It’s science fiction: who can say what’ll come to pass? 

For All Mankind

Well, I’ve dipped a toe into Apple’s vision of the future of TV by watching the first two episodes of For All Mankind, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far:

[A…] captivating “what if” take on history from Golden Globe nominee and Emmy Award winner, Ronald D. Moore. Told through the lives of astronauts, engineers and their families, “For All Mankind” imagines a world in which the global space race never ended and the space program remained the cultural centerpiece of America’s hopes and dreams.

The things is, I’m just two episodes in and some of the fun changes to our timeline’s history – most obviously the much earlier advent of women in the space programme – are still to come. But so far, the show is giving us a chance to get to know some of our characters and it looks as if we’re going to learn about this timeline through how those characters are affected by the various changes, which is definitely the best way to go about this.

The big question is, where does this story end? Do we find ourselves pushing out into space much faster in the last half of the 20th century and beyond because a stronger Soviet presence means that the US can always justify throwing money at NASA and if so where does the story stop? Are we going to move beyond this initial cast of astronauts who were contemporaries of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and if so, when?

Rumour has it that Ronald D Moore and his colleagues have mapped out seven seasons of this show: as with all TV, how much of that we get to see will presumably depend upon the show’s success against whatever metrics Apple have decided to apply to it. Seven seasons could take us to the point where our characters have aged to the point where they’re heading off to Mars to join the first colonisation effort, or perhaps the last episode will see the grandchildren of our characters inventing the first Cylon or something.

I demand an Old Night spin-off

It’s a real shame that The OA reportedly won’t be returning for a third season:

Farewell to _The OA_, the Netflix series created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij and starring Marling, which lasted two ambitious, lopsided seasons. It told a story of alternate realities to which characters could travel by working through the rejected sections of a community mime class.

I had a horrible feeling that they were going to have a hell of a job moving on from the none-more-meta second season finale,1 but I’d have loved to see them try.

… to the Moon

By some margin the most welcome effect of the media blitz as the Apollo 11 anniversary has come round is that HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon has been rereleased in HD:

Throughout the miniseries, there are scenes where astronauts, engineers, NASA administrators, politicians, and more list all the challenges facing Kennedy’s promise to put American boots on the lunar surface before 1970. In a great scene in the debut episode – titled, plainly, “Can We Do This?” – flight director Chris Kraft (Stephen Root) lists all the tasks NASA must master before even considering a moon mission. And as happens throughout the series, Kraft puts complicated issues into plain English. Describing the process of spacecraft rendezvous, he says: “Come over to my house. You stand in the backyard, I stand in the front yard. You throw a tennis ball over the roof, I’ll try to hit it with a rock as it comes sailing over. That’s what we’re going to have to do.”

If I remember correctly the show was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 on Saturday mornings, and it was must-watch TV for me. There’s no word of it showing up on UK terrestrial TV this time round, but assuming that doesn’t change any time soon I’m just going to have to pay £9.99 for the HD version because it was a great, great story very well told.1

[Edited to add: Part of what made the show work so well is that it adopted a strategy of changing the focus of the story being told each week. One episode was about the experience of the astronauts’ wives and how they felt being in the spotlight while their husbands were on missions, and another dealt with the requirement that those astronauts whose missions might involve time on the lunar surface needing to learn enough geology to be useful field workers when they found themselves standing on the moon and required to determine where they could take the next rock sample. Another one was focussed on an individual astronaut, Alan Shepard, needing to find a way back into space in the face of his inner-ear disorder. Not entirely a different cast every episode, but very different angles on the story from episode to episode and a cast of folks who spent the next couple of decades being familiar faces in the age of Prestige TV.]

[Via Six Colors]

“All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.”

Peter Watts breaks the bad news to us:

A couple of months ago, its creators announced that Counterpart is dead after a mere two seasons. It just couldn’t attract enough viewers, out of all the people on two Earths. And I think that’s a shame; Counterpart was more than just SF for people who hate SF.

The first season of Counterpart got a Region 1 Blu-ray release, but that seems to be it for now.

I was looking forward to seeing J K Simmons 1 being great in a great piece of speculative fiction, but being an old person who grew up with a TV world where US shows frequently took a couple of seasons to be picked up by a terrestrial broadcaster in the UK 2 I took it that for a good-but-not-a-smash-hit show like this I just needed to be patient.3

I guess that if I really wanted to see Counterpart I’d look to BitTorrent, but dammit I don’t want to pirate content just because this era of capitalism demands that the players only consider making shows worthwhile if those shows have a decent prospect of turning out to be megahits that generate megareturns on their investment.

I want my Fully Automated Luxury Space Communism, and I want it now!4

Black Mirror

Having caught up with the last episode of the latest series of Black Mirror, I was amused to learn that Nine Inch Nails were jumping on the marketing bandwagon, after an episode where a (real life) Pop Princess was repurposing a couple of their songs:

Head like a hole!

I’m on a roll!

Riding so high!

ACHIEVIN’ MY GOALS!

The episode felt really strange, starting as a slice of life from a distinctly average teenage girl a couple of years on from the death of her mother but then veering into pure Disney Channel TV adventure movie stuff as our teen hero and her older sister ended up teaming up and helping to bust a major criminal conspiracy that was preventing Miley Cyrus from fully expressing her love for Nine Inch Nails on stage.

It’s been an odd season of Black Mirror. After the Black Museum visit that closed season 4, it feels as if they want to shift to less bleak – dare I say “happy?”- endings, but are ending up exploring the themes underpinning their chosen stories more superficially than usual. Our two old friends getting diverted by the temptations of transgressive virtual sex in Striking Vipers X discussed how different sex feels as a man and a woman but as far as we can see never took the obvious step of switching avatar genders to find out in-game (or if they did,1 no mention was made of the attempt.2) Our grieving taxi driver in Smithereens was never destined for a happy ending, admittedly, and I did like the way they left open the question of whether the grieving mother found resolution once he got her access to her daughter’s social media posts.3 Then in the last episode we find a Disneyesque teen adventure.

[Via EmpressCallipygos commenting at FanFare]

Black Mirror trailer

The trailer for Black Mirror season 5 seems mainly to exist to remind us that having access to some of Netflix’s money allows the show to cast bigger names and keep the standard of special effects up to scratch: no attempt to let us in on what any of the stories are about. Charlie Brooker seems to know what he’s doing thus far, so let’s see what sort of nightmares he’s going to share with us this time round.

I’d love to see them deliver a season of relatively upbeat tales in the vein of San Junipero, just to see how that’d feel, but I’m not going to hold my breath…

[Edited to add: ask, and ye shall receive… JR 23 May 2019]

[Via Slate]

The OA reviewed

A couple of weeks ago I finally got round to watching the first season of Netflix’s The OA. I was well aware that it got a mixed-but-respectful response from reviewers at the time, and I’d always had in on my list of shows to catch up with some day. I’ve since enjoyed various reviews of the first season, but this one is by far the one that chimed with me most, partly because the reviewer makes a connection with a very different big budget swing-and-miss that I love:

[The OA…] is a swing and a miss on a colossal level, but oh, what a swing. Both Jupiter Ascending and The OA share a thread of DNA, a plot that you just know, at one point, made complete crystalline sense to somebody, but somewhere down the line (or more likely, when morning came) the smudges on the glass became apparent. They are filled with lines of dialogue that could sound profound or heartwarming if you don’t think about them too long, but I’m to distracted imagining the writer nodding and smirking at his computer screen. They forgo rational characters for convenient or dramatic plot developments, and cohesion for spectacle.

The thing is, I adore what the Wachowski siblings do and, slightly against my better judgement, I loved The OA too. They established a strange mood and stuck with it, and ended up with something seriously compelling even if reason didn’t get much of a look-in at times.

I’m intrigued to see what they do with the imminent second season of The OA. I do hope they don’t react to the response to that first season by suddenly trying to explain themselves. More saving the world via the medium of interpretive dance, I say. Swing away!