Picard a Little, Talk a Little

The Return of Starfleet’s Greatest Captain Highlights New York Comic Con

This year’s New York Comic Con was an embarrassment of streaming TV riches. Here are some highlights of my very full days watching TV pilots:

For All Mankind

Apple TV, November 1

Ron Moore, the producer of Outlander, has a fascinating new show called For All Mankind. If you were thinking of the jeans, those are 7 For All Mankind; one is all about a nice low-rise cut, and the other is an alternative world in which the Russians got to the Moon first. Moore explained at Comic Con that this could have been a real positive for the world, as Americans would have become so competitive that they would have invented the advances that the space age brings (such as solar panels, internet, better materials and plastics) sooner.

The show seems to have some good insights into the world of the astronauts and their wives, who remain on the ground under the eye of the ever-present media when their husbands go into space. These couples are apparently going to have good married sex, which Moore does so well on Outlander. But despite Moore’s obvious interest in space and time travel, there’s zero chance we’ll see Jamie or Claire in a rocket.

“For All Mankind” will premiere on November 1 on Apple TV. I liked the actors, premise, and Moore enough that my teenager will have to explain how to use the Apple TV.

Picard

CBS All Access, January 2020

Patrick Stewart makes a charming return to television and to Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Picard is long retired but returns to action to help a woman in distress. Eventually, he’ll become involved in re-homing longtime Starfleet antagonist the Romulans, who lost their home world in the 2009 Star Trek film.  The new show’s writers said they were “proud to be involved in a discussion of immigration, using all perspectives.”

The audience emitted collective gasps of delight during the trailer, first when Data appeared (the delightful Brent Spiner), and a crusty entrance for Jonathan Frakes, the perpetual number 2, Commander Will Riker. There was no sign, however, of Wil Wheaton. Internet, behave. Picard looks much the same, but now he has a dog–a pit bull, in fact, as Stewart is an advocate for the much-maligned breed. Surprisingly, Stewart says he’s not a fan of space exploration, saying he prefers that we spend our resources on Earth. It’s not an argument I agree with, and certainly Picard himself would find it ludicrous, but the show itself looks strong.

 

Castle Rock

Hulu, October 23.

Or as Hulu puts it, “Misery arrives on October 23”.

Everything about this season is outstanding. The writing, the idea, the casting, the topic. The second season focuses on…the origin story of Annie Wilkes!! The outstanding Lizzy Caplan strides on screen with a stiff, mannered walk that is just so weird that you know the episode is going to be awesome. And she has a daughter, Joy–and the daughter is Elsie Fisher, the star of the brilliant Eighth Grade. Without being a dirty bird and spoiling the whole thing, just imagine Annie Wilkes hiding out in a small town, working as a nurse, stealing her own drug cocktails (she takes a 40, 20, 10 blend), and always having ice cream on hand.

The first episode re-introduces Ace Merrill (the creep played by Kiefer Sutherland in Stand by Me) and gives him adopted Somali siblings. There’s going to be a new Somali mall built on Jerusalem’s Lot, and the Shawshank Prison is just about to re-open after significant renovations. Sounds like a nice rural idyll.

Plus, Tim Robbins is in this too. During the panel, Robbins described how each of the characters is carrying around ghosts and traumas, and since this is Stephen King, those traumas will actually take some sort of form onscreen. There’s a particularly startling scene with Annie and Ace (Paul Sparks of Boardwalk Empire), made even more so when Caplan revealed this was the first scene they shot together. Castle Rock is an anthology show, so each season is self-contained. But some characters may return later, one of the writers promised. “That’s gonna be expensive,” Caplan chimed in.

 

The Walking Dead

AMC, October 6

I think the problem with Walking Dead is that I’m still hoping for another episode like season 5’s masterpiece, “What Happened and What’s Going On.” I’ve been waiting through four seasons for another 60 minutes like that, and I’m always disappointed. New showrunner Angela Kang has rejuvenated the series somewhat, I did like the premiere. There’s some exciting training of the new troops, plenty of salted zombies at Oceanside,  a new baby, and a very flattering haircut for Eugene. At last.

The conflict between the Whisperers and (now gone) Rick’s side is omnipresent, both in horrible memories and in the very real threat of an actual war. Michonne (Danai Gurira) will be leaving this season, and it’s hard to understand how this warrior and loving mother will be able to leave her children. I’m not won over completely, but I’ll keep watching. The best part of the episode is the continued relationship between Darryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) and their conversation about how their lives before and after the zombie infection look pretty much the same. Always hiding, always in fear, always on the outside. I’m excited to see more of them.

Rebecca Kurson

Rebecca Kurson writes about literature, pop culture, television, science fiction and music. Her work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Observer, The Federalist and Rodale's Organic Life.

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