Sci-fi and fantasy coming to TV, streaming services

Mike McMahan

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m looking forward to all the new Star Trek series coming up. The adult animated comedy “Star Trek: Lower Decks” is expected to be released later this year. Creator Mike McMahan (“Ricky and Morty”) has said it will be set during the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” era, and will focus on the support crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos.

The voice cast includes Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noel Wells, Eugene Cordero, Dawnn Lewis, Jack Ransom, Jerry O’Connell, Fred Tatasciore, and Gillian Vigman, and will air on CBS All Access.

‘Battlestar Galactica’

Sam Esmail

Exciting news for fellow “Battlestar Galactica” fans: The creator of “Mr. Robot,” Sam Esmail, is developing a series based on the sci-fi space drama. Esmail is reportedly a fan of Ron Moore’s version, which was a reboot of the ’70s series.

There is no date yet or casting news, but it will air on the NBC streaming service Peacock. Esmail said it will be a long-running series rather than a mini-series. Let’s hope it has a better ending than Moore’s “Galactica.” And a better ending than “Mr. Robot,” for that matter.

‘The Wheel of Time’

If you’re a fan of the Robert Jordan book series “The Wheel of Time,” you have probably already heard about the upcoming Amazon Prime adaptation which has been in the works for a while. Brandon Sanderson, who finished writing the book series after Jordan passed, and Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal will be consulting producers on the series. It is worth mentioning that McDougal isn’t “just” the widow of the author – she is an editor of many fantasy novels (including the WoT books written by Jordan).

Rafe Judkins (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) is the main showrunner and executive producer. Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) has been cast as Moiraine.

Moiraine is a member of the Aes Sedai, a group of women who use magic. After an attack on a village by the “Dark One,” Moiraine takes five young people from the village. She believes the evil entity is after one of them, because one of them might be “the Dragon” who is part of an ancient prophecy.

If you’re thinking “the prince that was promised” from Game of Thrones, there’s a reason for that: Every streaming service has been looking for the next big GoT-like hit, and this is supposed to be Amazon’s. (The books are more reminiscent of “Lord of the Rings” though.) Will it live up to the hype? Time will tell.

‘The Boys’

If you’re eagerly anticipating the return of Amazon’s series “The Boys,” you’ll want to tune in tomorrow for a reunion special, during which the Season Two premiere date will be announced. The reunion will be hosted by Patton Oswalt, who has a role in the new season.

Fantasy films for younger viewers

“A Whisker Away,” on Netflix, is about a middle school girl who becomes a cat in order to be with her crush. She wears a literal mask when she is a cat, but when she’s human, she’s wearing a mask too – a fake smile to hide her pain.

If you like Miyazaki, or cats, you may enjoy watching this strange little movie with your tween or teen. We liked it, even as we found it slightly baffling. (I also find Miyazaki confusing, so maybe it’s just me.)

It is in Japanese with English subtitles.

The film adaptation of the children’s book series “Upside-Down Magic” is coming to Disney Channel on July 31. I enjoyed reading the books with my daughter when she was younger, so I think it’s cool they made a movie. The story follows a group of students whose magic has gone “wonky.” It has a good message about kids who don’t fit in, or feel different.

The movie stars Izabela Rose, Siena Agudong, Vicki Lewis, Kyle Hward, Elie Samouhi, Alison Fernandez, and Max Torina.

Photo credits: “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” CBS Television Distribution; “The Boys,” Amazon Studios; “A Whisker Away,” Netflix; “Upside-Down Magic,” Disney.

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News & musings: ‘Expanse,’ ‘Oddfits,’ ‘Ready Player One’

I have been wanting to write about the new Syfy series “The Expanse,” but it took me a while to process my thoughts and feelings about it. I was wary at first, as the show was being compared to my all-time favorite TV series, “Battlestar Galactica.” How can anything live up to that hype? And I found the name distracting because the entire third season of “Star Trek: Enterprise” is set in the Delphic Expanse, which was usually referred to as “the Expanse.”

But I gave it a try. I needed a good show to tide me over while “Game of Thrones,” “Orphan Black,” “Vikings” and “The Last Kingdom” are on hiatus.

I found the first couple episodes of “The Expanse” confusing, and I wondered if the books (which I haven’t read) were just not translating well to the screen – something seemed to be missing. Or at least, I felt I was missing something. I’m hearing impaired and use closed-captioning, and sometimes get lost when the action and/or dialogue are fast-paced, so that might have had something to do with it.

But I was intrigued enough to stick with it, and I reminded myself new series sometimes take a few episodes to hit their stride.

Here’s what you need to know: In the future, mankind has colonized the solar system, and there are three groups at odds with each other – Earthers (from Earth, duh), Martians (people who have settled Mars – not little green men), and the oppressed, working class “Belters” – people born in the asteroid belt. It gets more complicated than that, but I don’t want to give it all away.

Once I figured out what was going on, I was hooked. There’s all sorts of stuff going on in this show – mystery, political drama, and outer space action/adventure. (I will also confess that I like some comic relief in my science fiction. They had me at “donkey balls.”)

I love the complex characters, there’s a talented cast, and the special effects are amazing. The two-hour finale was crazy, in a good way, and left me feeling sad that the season is already over.

If you haven’t been watching, I recommend you check out season one (you can watch on syfy.com or Hulu). If you have been watching, I would love to hear what you think! Comment here or on the Earth to Shawna facebook page:

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Books

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately (see my last blog post, in which I reviewed Jessica Chiarella’s “And Again” and Kate Mulgrew’s memoir “Born with Teeth”).

I just started “The Oddfits,” by Tiffany Tsao. It’s about this misfit kid named Murgatroyd Floyd (how cool is that name?) and there’s this huge freezer called the Great Freezer, which contains 736  flavors of ice cream, including Sunset, Quiet, Darkness, Rainbow, and Stars (shown on the book cover above), which tastes like violets, chocolate, warm honeyed peaches, coconut milk, and the sensation that the universe is a very vast place. (If magic ice cream doesn’t make you want to read this book, nothing will.)

I’m picking up hints of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “Doctor Who,” “Twilight Zone,” and also something new that I can’t quite identify … but so far, I find it very palatable.

What are your favorite new sci fi titles?

‘Ready Player One’

Speaking of books, I’m super excited about the new, Spielberg-directed film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s dystopian novel “Ready Player One,” to be released in April 2018. (The film was previously slated for December 2017, but it was announced Tuesday that it has been pushed back – to avoid a box office clash with the next “Star Wars” movie.)

I loved the book, about a futuristic, ’80s-themed competition. The winner inherits the fortune of the contest’s creator, who has been dead for five years.

Olivia Cooke has been cast as Art3mis. (Cooke played Rachel in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” – an excellent movie. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.) Ben Mendelsohn is reportedly in talks for the lead villain, and Nick Robinson is reportedly a favorite for the role of Parzival.

The film has launched a worldwide casting call for three of the main roles: Wade, Shoto, and Daito. The deadline is Feb. 16, so if you’re an aspiring actor who fits the part, you have five days to upload an audition:

http://www.readyplayeronemoviecasting.com

When the book was released, Cline announced that the book contained an Easter egg, a clue which formed the first part of a series of staged video game tests, similar to the plot of the novel. A DeLorean was awarded to the contest’s winner. I wouldn’t be surprised if another contest will be announced when the movie is released, so keep your eye out!

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Olivia Cooke (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) has been cast as the female lead in Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s dystopian novel “Ready Player One.”

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New Star Trek series

It has been announced that the showrunner for the upcoming Star Trek series (which is not related to the 2016 film) will be Bryan Fuller, who wrote “Pushing Daisies, “Hannibal,” “Dead Like Me,” and “Wonderfalls.” He has also written for “Voyager” and “Deep Space Nine” so he’s no stranger to the Star Trek franchise.

In a 2013 Den of Geek interview, Fuller said he would love to see Angela Bassett as captain and Rosario Dawson as first officer. How cool would that be? Of course, that was three years ago, and the series has not yet been cast, so I’ll try not to get my hopes up.

The new show is set to premiere in January 2017 on CBS before moving to All Access.

‘Battlestar Galactica’ 

And last, but definitely not least, my fav show ever may be turning into a feature film! Let’s not get too excited – this might be a case of “all of this has happened before and will happen again.” (Yes, that’s a BSG quote.)

The newest news on the matter involves producer Michael DeLuca (“The Social Network”), Bluegrass Films (“Battleship”), and Universal Pictures. Nothing else has been announced thus far, but stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.

 

Check out these binge-worthy sci-fi, fantasy TV series

  1. “Battlestar Galactica.” There are four seasons, but you have to start with the miniseries. My favorite TV show of all time, it stars Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, and so many other great actors. It is epic, dramatic, suspenseful, and just plain awesome. So say we all!
  2. “Star Trek.” Any and all. I came in at “Deep Space Nine,” so I’m more a fan of the later series. I sometimes think if I had watched Star Trek when I was younger, I would have set my sights on science, rather than journalism.
  3. “Game of Thrones” is the first science fiction-fantasy series ever to win an Emmy for best drama, so you know it’s something special. GoT has knights, dragons, wolves, witches, giants, and ice zombies, and the special effects are amazing. But the real magic is the plotting and political intrigue, and the stellar performances of the ensemble cast. My one complaint is that HBO goes too far sometimes, adding violent scenes that weren’t in the books.
  4. “Orphan Black.” If you haven’t seen this BBC show yet, you’re in for a treat. Tatiana Maslany stars as a young mother and con woman who has just discovered she’s a clone – one of many. And then the plot thickens. Stick with it; it keeps getting better.
  5. “Heroes.” With the “Heroes Reborn” premiere this week, what better time to re-watch the original series, about ordinary people discovering they have random superpowers? The series has a huge cast of great actors playing interesting characters, and Zachary Quinto (who plays Spock in the new Star Trek films) is amazing as psychotic supervillain Sylar.
  6. “The 4400.” This series drew a lot of comparisons to “Heroes” but actually came first. In the pilot episode, 4,400 people suddenly appear near Mount Rainier. All of them have disappeared at some point during the past 50 years, but no one knows where they have been all this time, or how they got back, and some of them have returned with special abilities.
  7. “Life on Mars.” Jason O’Mara plays a New York City cop who is hit by a car in 2008 and wakes up in 1973. I’m a sucker for a good time travel tale. It was canceled after one season, and some say it wasn’t good as the BBC version, but I ask of you, did the BBC version have Harvey Keitel?
  8. “Caprica.” I didn’t love this prequel series as much as the series from which it was spun, but it satisfied my craving for more “Battlestar Galactica.” Starring Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Paula Malcomson, Alessandra Torresani and Polly Walker, “Caprica” tells the story of how the Cylons were created.
  9. “Defying Gravity.” Another good show that was canceled after one season, “Defying Gravity” starred Ron Livingston as one of eight astronauts on a mysterious six-year mission. This was pitched as “Grey’s Anatomy in outer space,” which may have sold the series, but was maybe also its downfall.
  10. “Dr. Who.” I confess I have only seen one season of this goofy time-travel series, but I’m planning to go back and watch more. It’s on my list.

(Photo: “Battlestar Galactica,” Syfy)