Hugo Ballot 2018: BDP – Short

I have read all of the novel finalists and I’ve watched all the Best Dramatic Presentation finalists. I’m waiting for the Hugo Packet to complete some other categories but in the meantime, I need to start somewhere.

The finalists are:

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

  • Black Mirror: “USS Callister,” written by William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, directed by Toby Haynes (House of Tomorrow)
  • “The Deep” [song], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)
  • Doctor Who: “Twice Upon a Time,” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Cymru Wales)
  • The Good Place: “Michael’s Gambit,” written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • The Good Place: “The Trolley Problem,” written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, directed by Dean Holland (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • Star Trek: Discovery: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” written by Aron Eli Coleite & Jesse Alexander, directed by David M. Barrett (CBS Television Studios)

And overall, it’s a bit lacklustre. The clear favourite is Black Mirror’s Star Trek riff USS Callister but I had issues with it. Doctor Who traditionally gets a slot here but I found that episode overly sentimental. One of my least favourite episodes of Star Trek: Discovery got nominated. There’s just not enough of Clipping’s The Deep and two episodes of The Good Place just seems odd.

Oddly, The Good Place is my favourite show on that list and the only one I haven’t reviewed. Here is my first cut at a personal ranking:

  1. The Good Place: I would have prefered Dance, Dance Resolution (Season 2 Episode 2) but these are two good episodes. Michael’s Gambit (Final episode of season 1) is hard to discuss without a huge spoiler as its key story point is a revelation that reshapes the series. That revelation was a masterful piece of writing that was set up from the first episode and was always apparent but disguised as casual plot holes in the story. The Trolley Problem is the most overtly philosophical of the episodes – playing on Phillipa Foote’s famous thought experiment as a way of placing characters not just in moral dilemma’s but also creating great comedy.
  2. Doctor Who. A bit gimmicky and overly sentimental. There have been stronger Christmas Episodes but it was nice to farewell Peter Capaldi and also greet Jodie Whittaker (if briefly) as the new Doctor.
  3. Black Mirror. The longer I think on it the more I dislike this episode. Yes, it was very, very well done but it rests on a cliche of equating social incompetence with dangerous.
  4. Star Trek: Discovery. Everybody loves a time loop but this episode was undermined by its ending which was ethically bad and by plot holes. Episode 3 was better and some of the mirror universe episodes, while lacking a strong Star Trek aesthetic, made for great over-the-top space opera.
  5. Clipping. Really not enough substance there to rate this highly. I’m putting it above No Award but only just. Fine for what it is but in the end as a dramatic presentation there just isn’t enough there.

Next time: BDP-Long!

15 responses to “Hugo Ballot 2018: BDP – Short”

  1. Huge fan of The Good Place as well, but I hope people don’t end up watching just the nominated eps! Feels like such a serialized show maybe should have these full season under BDP Long, but that doesn’t seem right either. Agree on ST:DSC — I suspect that made the ballot because people like Mudd — and am way behind on DW and *ahem* BM. But not eligible to vote this year, and unable took attend, despite geographical convenience, because of knee surgery. But I’ll follow like a sports team.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah – Michael’s Gambit is incoherent without season 1. It’s a story about the earlier events and the reward for the viewer is getting answers to questions. In particular that elements of the premise of the show that I found annoying or trite were finely crafted incongruities.

      The Trolley Problem is better as a stand alone but would be hard to follow without understanding the show’s dynamic.


    • If you have $50 to spare you could become eligible, of course. Just buy a supporting membership to Worldcon 76 before the close of voting at the end of July. (Enough before for processing time and for you to do the voting.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I seem to be in the minority here, but I find “The Good Place” completely unwatchable. I don’t care for US style sitcoms in general and don’t much care for the heaven/hell/afterlife concept either. Besides, it’s been done better elsewhere. Nonetheless, I tried watching it twice, but every time I had to switch off after ten minutes or so, because the characters and their voices were so grating. It may be just due to bad German dubing (though German dubbing is mostly at least serviceable and occasionally actually improves the show), but I’m not going to seek out an English language version of a show I dislike so intensely.

    So both episodes of The Good Place will go under “no award” for me. “USS Callister” and Star Trek Discovery are currently duking it out for the number 1 spot, since I like both episodes in spite of problems. Doctor Who sits in the No. 3 spot and clipping on No. 4.


      • I sometimes wonder whether US sitcoms are really that bad or whether the German dubbing just falls completely flat there. Because normally, the dubbed version aren’t bad, though e.g. Game of Thrones has the really irritating tendency to translate some of the descriptive place and people names into German, i.e. Jon Snow becomes Jon Schnee.


        • One of our shows is legendary in its German dubbed version: “Hogan’s Heroes,” a 60s comedy about Americans in a German POW camp in WW2. For a long time, it wasn’t shown there (cue Basil Fawlty: “Whatever you do, don’t mention The War!”), but someone finally brought it to German TV by rendering it surreal. All “Heil Hitler” salutes were changed to something else, for instance, and a subplot was introduced about Colonel Klink’s cleaning woman (never seen) who worked in the nude.

          I’ve wished I could see it, but it would have to be subtitled in English for me to follow quickly enough. My German is more slow and deliberate, even compared to 60s sitcoms.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Hogan’s Heroes used to run (and probably still does) in afternoon slots on some of the smaller private TV channels. And if you were one of the lucky souls who had cable TV in the 1980s, you could also watch the original version on Sky Channel, because when they broadcast only cartoons, music videos and 1960s US shows. However, I fear I cannot comment on either version of Hogan’s Heroes, because I’ve never seen more than a minute of it, usually while reaching for the remote control to change the channel.

        However, the really famous example of a show that was massively improved by German dubbing is The Persuaders a.k.a. Die Zwei. The British original is a fairly standard late 1960s James Bond influenced adventure show starring Tony Curtis and Roger Moore (before he actually became Bond). The German dub, on the other hand, inserted all sorts of jokes, many of them of the “I can’t believe they said that on TV and in 1970, too” variety, and is utterly hilarious. There are some side by side clips on YouTube, which illustrate the difference.

        Humorous dubbing and fairly loose translations were popular in Germany for a while, though few were as brilliantly done as The Persuaders. I, Spy also had a humorous dub, which ironically makes it impossible to rerun the show today, because a lot of the jokes sound incredibly racist 50 years on (and that was before all the revelations about Bill Cosby). There are a couple of jokes in the German dubbed episodes of The A-Team which I’m pretty sure were never in the original. And coincidentally, I always wondered why Next Generation and other 1990s Star Trek shows were always so po-faced and never as funny as the original, until I realised that many of the jokes were inserted by whoever did the German dubbing.


    • The voices in English are just fine, they have some good actors, and Ted Danson does a great avuncular.

      Still don’t like the show, though, and it falls under the “WTF is this on the ballot?!” category.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That was pretty much my reaction: WTF is this doing on the ballot and why are there two episodes of this?
        I’d much rather have had The Handmaid’s Tale, The Expanse, Outlander, Lucifer or pretty much anything other than this one.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. To be honest, BDP-Short is often a category I leave blank on my ballot because of issues like what you mention with the Good Place. I’m also not big on television viewing and I have a compulsive need to begin at the beginning, which makes things even more trouble. It also doesn’t help that it’s not easy to find some of these shows — at least movies, here in the states, are easy and cheap enough to be manageable.

    So with all those obstacles, I generally don’t vote in the category.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve only seen the Good Place and Doctor Who episodes, so far, though we have Discovery in the house, and Clipping isn’t exactly hard to watch in full.

    I’ve been meaning to buy my supporting membership because I feel like I have watched or read enough to have Opinions (Including at least some portion of over 50% of the series’, which would be the most onerous to catch up on, and usually I can do the short stories and novelettes, of which I have read only Vernon, in a single afternoon.) Some of the things I haven’t read are on Mount TBR or worth getting in the voter’s packet. I even unearthed the Way of Kings from the book giveaway boxes just in case I get that far in reading/watching.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I think the case for a series award (or an adjustment of lengths to create an effective series award) gets ever stronger. When BDP was invented, television tended to be very episodic (often created in such a way that it didn’t matter what order episodes were shown in) , and it made perfect sense to nominate an episode of Star Trek. By the time BDP Short Form was hived off, this was no longer so true, but a tradition of nominating episodes had become established, and it may just have seemed natural to honour TV that way. But now that series with arcs are the thing (except with Black Mirror, which I suppsoe takes us all the way back to The Twilight Zone), the awards should adapt to recognise this.

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