Guest blog: TV of 2014

It’s the return of our guest blogger, Adam Whitehead today, who blogs over on The Wertzone on all things SF and fantasy. Last week we shared a post on films, which you can catch-up with here, and today he’s sharing what television shows to look out for this year.  You can follow Adam on Twitter and be sure to check his blog out for more on SF and fantasy films and culture.

TV in 2014

TV in 2014 looks set to be an interesting continuation of existing trends, with fans of SFF literature in particular in for a treat.

Game of Thrones returns for its fourth season in April, which should bring it to the halfway point of the entire story (the producers have eight seasons planned). Director Neil Marshall returns for another big episode reported to dwarf his episode Blackwater from the second season in scale, whilst fan-favourite character Prince Oberyn Martell (played by Pedro Pascal) will make his eagerly-awaited debut. With some of the best scenes and richest character moments from the books to adapt, this should be the best season yet.

Meanwhile, the BBC have filmed an adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s mega-selling, multi-award-winning 2004 novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, to air late in the year. Details are thin on the ground, but the cast is impressive, with Eddie Marsan, Marc Warren and Paul Kaye all starring.

Ex-Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica producer Ronald D. Moore swaps starships for kilts in a big-budget adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s time-travelling romance epic Outlander (published as Cross-Stitch in the UK). Filmed on location in Scotland, the story features a WWII nurse who is swept back in time to Scotland during the time of the Jacobite Rebellion. 16 episodes have been filmed for the Starz network, so expect plenty of drama, sex and time-travelling cultural confusion.

Way back in 2007 Guillermo Del Toro developed an apocalyptic TV series called The Strain which never made it to the screen, so he turned it into a trilogy of novels instead (with the help of Chuck Hogan). Things come full circle as it is adapted back into a TV series, with David Bradley (Game of Thrones‘ twisted Walder Frey) taking a starring role. Del Toro is on board as a producer.

Expected to debut late in the year in Constantine, based on the DC comic series Hellblazer. The series will feature the origins of John Constantine and his questionable relationship with the forces of darkness. Neil Marshall is shooting the pilot. Also in the planning stages, but unlikely to arrive in 2014, is AMC’s take on Preacher. When this does arrive expect lots of controversy.

Returning for a new season is BBC America’s Orphan Black, one of the TV highlights of 2013 thanks to a stunning performance by Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany. Maslany had to portray seven different characters in the first season and more are expected in the second. A finely-judged sense of humour, a relentless pace, a great central SF premise and a fine supporting cast all made the first season an instant classic.

Also back is The Walking Dead, which will round off its current season before returning for a fifth at the end of the year. I suspect the storylines may involve more zombies, running around and shooting.

In animation, The Legend of Korra is back for its third and penultimate season. Whilst this series isn’t quite the equal of the classic Avatar: The Last Airbender that spawned it, it’s still a beautifully-designed series mixing epic fantasy, magic, steampunk and the influences of 1920s New York, Chicago and Shanghai into something weird and occasionally wonderful.

Other new series include Helix, which can best be described as The Thing: The TV Series But Also With Zombies, Sort Of. Agents of SHIELD will also be rounding off its first season after a mixed reception to its opening episodes, whilst Marvel are developing a new, 1940s-set TV series starring Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Captain America’s ex-girlfriend and an early agent of the nascent SHIELD. Under the Dome will also be returning for a second season, but will have to do a lot better than its repetitive and unconvincing first season to really impress. Having Stephen King on hand to write some scripts this time around may help.

French TV viewers will be delighted to receive the second season of Les Revenants (aka The Returned) at the end of the year, although British and American fans will have to wait for 2015 to see it.

For many, however, the most eagerly-awaited show of the year is Doctor Who. Peter Capaldi plays the latest incarnation of the Time Lord, bringing an older and more mature sensibility to the central character, as well as rumoured more moral ambiguity. Showrunner Steven Moffat is reportedly keen to stamp a new identity on the show going forwards and discard some of the more confusing storylines that have blighted the show in recent years. How successful this will be remains to be seen, but there is an opportunity to do something new and interesting with the show as the Doctor takes on his new mission: finding his missing homeworld and freeing his people.