Saturday, March 26, 2016

2016 Hugos: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

As a result of my March vanishing, I’m running a little late with my anticipated Hugo Nomination posts.  They’ll be coming with more density than usual this week, since I want to at least record my thoughts before the nominations close.  Today’s topic is Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (a.k.a. Best TV Episode).  We currently seem to be in a SFF TV Golden Age, so I have plenty of shows to choose from for this category.  I’m trying to decide whether to vote The Man in the High Castle for long form or short form this year, so my ‘nominees’ below are currently going to exceed the ballot.  Another show to mention is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which is only not present below because I intend to nominate it for long form.  Now, to my favorite shows:

12 Monkeys, “Arms of Mine”: This was my favorite new show of 2015, and it’s one that really deserves a wider audience.   It shares a premise with the Terry Gilliam film, but I think it’s best to consider the show a completely separate entity.  As you’ll see in this list, I’m a big fan of time travel shows. For a quick summary, human society in 12 Monkeys has been essentially destroyed by an engineered biological weapon.  One scientist who is still alive in this future has developed a method of time travel, and is trying to prevent the outbreak. 

One of the things I most loved about 12 Monkeys is it’s emphasis on character development and its engagement with the moral and philosophical problems of time travel. For instance, do the ends justify the means if the ends erase the means?  If you believe this, then time travel will allow you to justify anything, since your actions carry no moral weight. There’s no guarantee that the future can be changed, though, so you may be chasing an absolution that will never be realized.  It was fascinating to see how the facts of time travel and apocalypse impacted each of the major characters, and to see which of their principles would buckle or hold under such pressure.  I loved this show, and I really hope season two lives up to my expectations. 

I’m nominating the finale, because I thought it tied together the first season extremely well.  It carried a number of revelations that would spoil the first season, though, so I don’t want to say more here!  I also considered nominating the episode “Atari”, since it featured a delightfully twisty and complete time travel story in a

Continuum, “Power Hour”:  This nomination is a goodbye to another time travel show, but one that has ended before its time.  In 2015, Syfy aired the final 6-episode season, which was tasked with the challenge of wrapping up all the story lines.  It was a little rushed, but overall I think the writers gave the show a fitting conclusion.

The show featured a dystopian future governed by corporations, and a terrorist group that was sent back to modern-day Vancouver in order to ensure that future never came to pass.  Along with the terrorist came a loyal corporate cop, Kiera, who is willing to sacrifice anyone and anything to get back to her son in the future.  Things become more complicated when the time travelers meet future CEO and genius inventor Alec Sadler, as well as a future iconic figure for the resistance against the corporations.  The show was sometimes a little muddled thematically, and I still don’t understand why everyone hated Matthew Kellogg, but I loved its thoroughly engrossing and progressively more complicated story.  I think Continuum deserves some recognition.  I picked “Power Hour” as my favorite of this final season, mostly because it addresses Julian’s struggle with accepting the ideology his own manifesto, given his knowledge of what people may one day do in its name.

The Walking Dead, “He’s Not Here”: The Walking Dead has been a show of ups and downs in writing quality, with this previous week’s episode as an example of a down.  However, when it’s good it can be really good.  This particular episode features Morgan’s story, after he lost his family and left his home.  Episodes that focus on him seem to generally be both self-contained and especially emotionally-affecting (such as “Clear” in season 3). This one shows the origin of the ideology Morgan has adopted in order to cope with this post-apocalyptic world. 
Doctor Who, “Heaven Sent”: I know I should probably not nominate Doctor Who, since it has dominated this award for many years.  All the same, I feel like this episode is exactly what a short form award should recognize.  It’s an excellent self-contained story in one television episode, full of horror, mystery and emotion.  I don’t know whether I’m in the majority on this, but I thought “Heaven Sent” was the strongest episode of this season.

Orphan Black, “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”: Orphan Black is the reigning champion from last year, and for good reason.  It’s a highly entertaining show, and Tatiana Maslany does an amazing job playing so many different major characters.  I figured this one was going to be the Hugo contender for this year as soon as I finished watching it.  It was a very powerful episode.

The Man in the High Castle, “Three Monkeys”: I’m trying to decide whether to go for short or long form for this series.  I’ve already given most of my thoughts in the long form post and in a TV Musings review.  I chose this episode because it contained some of the more dramatic developments and unexpected betrayals.

Honorable Mentions:

I’ve liked The Expanse so far, but I think my favorite episodes fall into the part of the first season that aired in 2016. Thus, I’ll probably nominate something from this series next year. In other new shows, Syfy’s Killjoys and Dark Matter got off to a shaky start, but they both improved over the course of the season.  I don’t think they’re Hugo-worthy yet, but they may be for next year if the trend continues in their second seasons.  For AMC, Fear the Walking Dead and Into the Badlands might be contenders for the future, depending on how their second seasons progress.  Agent Carter could also be a contender for a nomination, since I think it’s one of the best of Marvel’s small-screen ventures.  There really are a ton of quality science fiction and fantasy shows airing these days, and even more are premiering in 2016.  I don’t think we’ll run out of nominees for this category anytime soon, and I’m hoping we’ll see a different show take home the prize each year from here on out!

What do you think?  Did I miss your favorite show? If so, let me know!

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