Television Man | Aidan Morgan | Oct. 27, 2022
“The itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the TV remote / Down came a thumb and ended this story abruptly” —Old Mother Television
Hot off the Westworlds comes The Peripheral (Prime Video), a series adaptation of William Gibson’s near-future novel with Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass) and Jack Reynor (Midsommar). Moretz plays Flynne, a young woman in a slowly decaying America of 2030. She scrounges for cash to buy bootleg cancer meds for her mother, mostly by playing video games for income.
In a Last Starfighter-esque turn, her gaming success garners the attention of a mysterious tech company. They send along a sophisticated virtual gaming rig that puts her into a futuristic simulation of London, but it doesn’t take an e-sports genius to figure out that the London she visits is a real place. Wi-fi has improved to the point that data transfer between ’Murica 2030 and London 2100 appears instantaneous, allowing Flynn to control an android body known as a “peripheral”.
Why she’s been chosen to carry out missions for rich future Londoners is not made clear over the first two episodes, but no doubt she’ll have to get a thing that does a thing. Will the thing she gets do a thing that lets her future patrons prevent/do a terrible thing in her time? Will there be betrayals, romance, moral dilemmas, cool guns and androids? Count on it.
Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are the series’ executive producers, but The Peripheral isn’t engaging in Westworld’s grand scope or chewy ideas. Moretz’s hero is not about to question what her android adventures imply about the nature of consciousness and humanity. The Peripheral is too busy with spectacle and melodrama, with a sprinkling of cyberpunk twists and time travel turns tossed in for fun. As long as the action and the gadgets keep coming, I’ll keep watching.
Jodie Whittaker wraps up her tenure as The Doctor in Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor (Crave), a super-sized send-off to the Chris Chibnall era. In the maximalist style of these “event” episodes, Power Of The Doctor rips open the Who trunk and dumps everything on the screen: Daleks, Cybermen, The Master, a parade of pretty much every living Doctor from the Classic Who era, and even some of the companions from the ’70s and ’80s (including my favourite: Ace (Sophie Aldred), the punky companion with a leather jacket and a baseball bat). Chibnall pulls in a few characters from his run as well, on the off chance someone wants to see them too.
The episode has some terrific moments and great performances — Whittaker and Mandip Gill are wonderful as The Doctor and her companion Yasmine Khan — but viewers who were crossing their fingers for a Doctor-Yaz romance (they call it #Thasmin) are already venting their disappointment in cyberland. Over the course of three seasons and four specials, Chibnall never displayed the heart of Russell T. Davies or the puzzle-box genius of Stephen Moffatt, settling for a bland mid-point between those two poles. Ah well. But at least there’s one great twist, which I won’t spoil.
Doctor Who returns in November 2023 under the care of Russell T. Davies with David Tennant and Catherine Tate returning, and Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education) as the new Doctor. ■