It’s that time again. The annual San Diego Comic-Con begins this Thursday (Wednesday if you count Preview Night), kicking off one of the biggest events of the pop-culture landscape. Pretty much every movie and TV show that might even remotely appeal to a certain demographic — let’s call them “GFR readers” — will be on hand and trying to win potential viewers over. Name any high-profile, geek-friendly property you can think of, chances are it’ll be there. Just a few top-tier attractions: Ender’s Game (sans Orson Scott Card), Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem, The World’s End, The Walking Dead, Riddick, and Doctor Who. And those are just some of the panels unfolding in the San Diego convention center’s massive Hall H. If you’re hitting Comic-Con up this year, bring comfortable shoes and get in line early.
But if you can’t make the Comic-Con pilgrimage, don’t worry: we’re highlighting plenty of other sci-fi goodness to keep you entertained this week. Our top pick is BBC America’s excellent clone thriller Orphan Black, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD Tuesday. This is a show that moves, so I imagine it will lend itself perfectly to tearing through the entire 10-episode season in a couple of marathon sessions. If you didn’t check it out during its initial run a few months back, Orphan Black is the story of a girl who watches someone who looks just like her commit suicide. She takes on her doppelganger’s identity, but soon realizes she’s entangled herself in something much larger and more dangerous than she ever could have expected. Without going into spoilers. suffice to say that lead actress Tatiana Maslany is outstanding, deftly handling some acting feats that would challenge even a lifelong veteran of the state and/or screen.
All that plus a new Ben Bova book. Here’s what’s new This Week in Science Fiction!
Under the Dome (CBS, 10/9c) — “Outbreak”
It was inevitable that this show was going to have to address medical issues inside the impenetrable dome, and here we have the residents of Chester’s Mill facing an outbreak of meningitis.
Alphas: Season 2 (DVD)
Syfy’s superhero series was sadly short-lived, but it was pretty great during its two-season run. Plus, now you can marathon through both seasons pretty quickly — perfect summer television!
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited 1-4 (DVD)
BBC America has been airing the Doctors Revisited specials once per month, all leading up to the show’s 50th anniversary in November. If you missed them when they aired, here’s your chance to catch up on the legacy of the first four Doctors: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, and Tom Baker.
“The Melancholy of Mechagirl” by Catherynne M. Valentine
Summary via Amazon:
Science fiction and fantasy stories about Japan by the multiple-award winning author and New York Times best seller Catherynne M. Valente.
A collection of some of Catherynne Valente’s most admired stories, including the Hugo Award-nominated novella Silently and Very Fast and the Locus Award finalist “13 Ways of Looking at Space/Time,” with a brand-new long story to anchor the collection.
Misfits: Season Three (DVD)
Want another super series to pair with Alphas? Pick up this excellent series from across the Pond, following a group of delinquent teens who acquire superpowers while performing community service. Hey, not everybody can get bitten by a radioactive spider…
“New Earth” by Ben Bova
Award-winning author Ben Bova brings us New Earth, his latest tale of science fiction.
The entire world is thrilled by the discovery of a new Earthlike planet. Advance imaging shows that the planet has oceans of liquid water and a breathable oxygen-rich atmosphere. Eager to gain more information, a human exploration team is soon dispatched to explore the planet, now nicknamed New Earth.
All of the explorers understand that they are essentially on a one-way mission. The trip takes eighty years each way, so even if they are able to get back to Earth, nearly 200 years will have elapsed. They will have aged only a dozen years thanks to cryonic suspension, but their friends and family will be gone and the very society that they once knew will have changed beyond recognition. The explorers are going into exile, and they know it. They are on this mission not because they were the best available, but because they were expendable.
Upon landing on the planet they discover something unexpected: New Earth is inhabited by a small group of intelligent creatures who look very much like human beings.
Who are these people? Are they native to this world, or invaders from elsewhere?
While they may seem inordinately friendly to the human explorers, what are their real motivations? What do they want?
Moreover, the scientists begin to realize that this planet cannot possibly be natural. They face a startling and nearly unthinkable question: Could New Earth be an artifact?
Orphan Black: Season One (Blu-Ray & DVD)
See our rave above. Or don’t; just go ahead and buy it, because it’s awesome. Seriously.
Weird or What? (Syfy, 8/7c) — “Amazing Survival / Man Beasts / Aliens Walk Among Us”
The Shatner-hosted look into mysterious critters and urban legends returns with three new episodes.
Futurama (Comedy Central, 10/9c) — “Saturday Morning Fun Pit”
The show busts out one of its more experimental episodes, this time reimagining the Planetary Express crew’s adventures as three different types of Saturday-morning cartoon.
Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman (Science, 10/9c) — “Is Reality Real?”
Do we live in the ‘real world’ or is it all in our mind? Our perception of reality is controlled by society. Thanks to ‘the optimism bias,’ we make unrealistic assessments about our own reality. Human senses capture only a small part of nature.
Wonders of Life (Science, 9/8c) — “Expanding Universe”
Sensing, the ability to detect and react to the world outside, is fundamental to life. These mechanisms have helped animals thrive. How the senses have pushed life in new directions may ultimately have led to our own curiosity and intelligence.
“Terra” by Mitch Benn
No-one trusts humanity. No-one can quite understand why we’re intent on destroying the only place we have to live in the Universe. No-one thinks we’re worth a second thought. And certainly no-one is about to let us get off Rrth. That would be a complete disaster. But one alien thinks Rrth is worth looking at. Not humanity, obviously, we’re appalling, but until we manage to kill every other living thing on the planet there are some truly wonderful places on Rrth and some wonderful creatures living in them. Best take a look while they’re still there. But on one trip to Rrth our alien biologist causes a horrendous accident. The occupants of a car travelling down a lonely road spot his ship (the sort of massive lemon coloured, lemon shaped starship that really shouldn’t be hanging in the sky over a road). Understandably the Bradbury’s crash (interrupting the latest in a constant procession of bitter rows). And in the wreckage of their car our alien discovers a baby girl. She needs rescuing. From the car. From Rrth. From her humanity. And now eleven years later a girl called Terra is about to go to school for the first time. It’s a very alien experience…Terra is a charming and hilarious satirical fable. A story about how odd and alien we are. And a story about how human odd aliens are. It tells the story of a girl who grows up in a very different world, who gains a unique perspective on our world and a unique perspective on her new home. A girl who can teach us and them a lot. A girl living in an extraordinary world that is spiralling into a terrible war.
Continuum (Syfy, 10/9c) — “Second Degree”
“Alec is torn between telling the truth and staying true to his family, while Kiera and Carlos race to stop a Liber8 plot to derail Julian’s trial.”
Primeval: New World (Syfy, 10/9c) — “Babes in the Woods”
“Toby’s friends and her ex find themselves in danger when an anomaly opens up near where they are conducting a photo shoot.”
Falling Skies (TNT, 10/9c) — “Strange Brew”
“Tom makes a series of discoveries on his way back to Charleston, S.C. Elsewhere, Weaver and Pope clash over how to best deal with the suspected mole.”