The 852nd episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1 (the 153rd episode since the series’ revival), bringing the eleventh season of the new series to an end (though a special episode is yet to be shown on New Years’ Day). Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill star. Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey, Lovejoy), Mark Addy (The Full Monty, Game Of Thrones), and Percelle Ascott (Wizards vs. Aliens) guest star.
The 11th episode of Mars airs on the National Geographic Channel. The series is a hybrid drama/documentary about a fictional human colony on Mars in 2042, contrasted against efforts to prepare for such a mission in the present day. The series is produced by Ron Howard (Apollo 13). Esai Morales guest stars.
The 12th episode of Mars airs on the National Geographic Channel, concluding the series’ second season. The series is a hybrid drama/documentary about a fictional human colony on Mars in 2042, contrasted against efforts to prepare for such a mission in the present day. The series is produced by Ron Howard (Apollo 13). Esai Morales guest stars.
British-born actor Donald Moffat, who left England for the United States in 1956, dies at the age of 87 due to complications from a stroke he had recently suffered. A frequent face on American TV and film for decades, Moffat was a regular on the short-lived TV adaptation of Logan’s Run, in which he played the benevolent android Rem, and was a member of the ensemble cast of John Carpenter’s The Thing. He also portrayed President Lyndon B. Johnson in Philip Kaufman’s 1984 adaptation The Right Stuff, and appeared in countless other movies and TV series, including guest stints on The Six Million Dollar Man and the 1980s Twilight Zone, working steadily into the early 2000s before retiring.
Fox airs the 13th episode of the science fiction comedy-drama The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane, opening the show’s second season. Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) and Will Sasso (Mad TV) guest star.
NASA’s New Horizons space probe, operated by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab, passes within 2,200 miles of the mysterious Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, a tiny fragment of leftover material from the birth of the solar system. Previously seen only as a tiny pixel even by the powerful lens of the Hubble Space Telescope, nothing was known of 2014 MU69 prior to the flyby, which revealed it as a contact binary: two bodies which had become gravitationally fused together. As 2014 MU69 (informally nicknamed Ultima Thule in a public poll conducted by the New Horizons public outreach team) is a billion miles further away than Pluto, and with New Horizons continuing outward at 30,000 miles per hour, signals between Earth and New Horizons take at least six hours to reach their destination, so the downlink of data from the flyby would take until 2020 to complete.
The 853rd episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1 (the 154th episode since the series’ revival). Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill star. Charlotte Ritchie (Call The Midwife), Nikesh Patel (Artemis Fowl), and Daniel Adegboyega (Skyfall, Transformers: The Last Knight, Nightflyers) guest star in an episode featuring the return of the Daleks.
Streaming service CBS All Access debuts the fourth episode of Short Treks, a series of 15-20 minute short stories set in the Star Trek universe, with this story continuing the misadventures of interplanetary con man Harry Mudd (reintroduced in Star Trek: Discovery’s most recent season). Rainn Wilson (The Office) stars and directs.
Fox airs the 14th episode of the science fiction comedy-drama The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane. Kelly Hu guest stars.
British-born actor William Morgan Sheppard, a genre casting favorite ever since his 1985 appearance as Blank Reg in the original Max Headroom TV movie (a role that permanently relocated him to the United States for the U.S. Max Headroom series), dies at the age of 86 in Los Angeles. With his wizened features (the result of a surgical procedure that cost him one of his eyes), classical stage training, and distinctive, vaguely-Irish-accented voice, Sheppard would go on to appear in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark, Quantum Leap, Star Trek VI, seaQuest DSV, Babylon 5 (a series in which he was a close runner-up for the role of G’Kar), Star Trek: Voyager, Doctor Who, and the 2009 Star Trek movie relaunch. He was the father of actor Mark Sheppard, a genre favorite in his own right, with whom he appeared in both Doctor Who and NCIS, playing older and younger versions of the same character. Prior to leaving the U.K., Sheppard had appeared in such series as The New Avengers, Hammer House Of Horror, and Day Of The Triffids.
Fox airs the 15th episode of the science fiction comedy-drama The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane. Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager), John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise), and Patrick Warburton (The Tick, A Series Of Unfortunate Events) guest star in an episode that marks the departure of series regular Halston Sage.
Fox airs the 16th episode of the science fiction comedy-drama The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane. Michaela McManus and Patrick Warburton (The Tick, A Series Of Unfortunate Events) guest star.
Streaming service CBS All Access releases the 16th episode of Star Trek: Discovery, the beginning of the show’s second season. Anson Mount joins the series as Captain Christopher Pike (a character first devised by Gene Roddenberry for the 1964 Star Trek pilot, The Cage). James Frain and Tig Notaro guest star.
Fox airs the 17th episode of the science fiction comedy-drama The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane. Ted Denson (Cheers, Becker) guest stars in an episode that welcomes new series regular Jessica Szohr (Gossip Girl) to the cast.
Fox airs the 18th episode of the science fiction comedy-drama The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane. Norm MacDonald guest stars.
Fox airs the 19th episode of the science fiction comedy-drama The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane. Norm MacDonald and Bruce Willis (Die Hard, The Fifth Element, The Sixth Sense) guest star.
Fox airs the 20th episode of the science fiction comedy-drama The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane, taking the series in a decidedly more serious direction with its first two-parter. Victor Garber (Alias, Legends Of Tomorrow) guest stars.
The Israeli-built Beresheet uncrewed experimental lunar lander is launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Originally intended as an entrant for the Google Lunar X Prize, Beresheet (and all the other hopefuls) missed the March 31, 2018 deadline, leaving the $20,000,000 Lunar X Prize unclaimed. Unlike past lunar missions, Beresheet is launched into a high Earth orbit, whose apogee (maximum distance from Earth) will be increased over a period of nearly two months with multiple burns of the vehicle’s main engine until it coincides with the orbital distance of the moon, at which time the engine will be fired again to place it in a lunar orbit prior to landing. The lander contains digital copies of numerous documents from Earth, reflecting the builders’ Jewish heritage as well as extensive databases of knowledge from sources such as Wikipedia. As the lander itself has not been built with protective shielding of any kind, its operational lifetime is expected to last only around two days on the lunar surface. If the mission succeeds, Israel will be the fourth nation (after the United States, Soviet-era Russia, and China) to land a spacecraft on the moon.
Fox airs the 21st episode of the science fiction comedy-drama The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane, taking the series in a decidedly more serious direction with its first two-parter. Victor Garber (Alias, Legends Of Tomorrow) and Norm MacDonald guest star.
Actor Luke Perry, at the time a current regular on the CW’s Riverdale series and a former teen heartthrob from his years as one of the stars of Fox’s Beverly Hills 90210 throughout the 1990s, dies at the age of 52 several days after suffering from a major stroke. Among his many high-profile series roles were HBO’s acclaimed prison drama Oz, and the starring role in Jeremiah, Showtime’s early 21st century adaptation of a popular post-apocalyptic comic book, adapted by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski. He also had a minor part in the 1997 genre cult classic The Fifth Element, and was one of the stars of the 1992 movie Buffy The Vampire Slayer, upon which the later TV series was based. His first TV role – albeit uncredited – was in an episode of 1982’s short-lived time travel series Voyagers!.
Fox airs the 22nd episode of the science fiction drama-comedy The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane. Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5) and Norm MacDonald guest star.
Streaming service CBS All Access releases the 23rd episode of Star Trek: Discovery. Melissa George (Roar, Alias, Heartbeat), Alan Van Sprang (Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, The Tudors), and Ethan Peck (10 Things I Hate About You) guest star in an episode which hearkens back heavily to the original Star Trek series pilot, The Cage.
Fox airs the 23rd episode of the science fiction drama-comedy The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane. Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl), Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager) and Norm MacDonald guest star.
The Israeli-built Beresheet uncrewed experimental lunar lander, during its attempt to land on the moon, loses engine power during descent and plummets toward the lunar surface. Though the main engine is believed to have restarted during that descent, the vehicle is too low to make a survivable landing and crashes on the moon. The Google Lunar X Prize committee awards $1,000,000 to SpaceIL, the Israeli space exploration organization founded specifically to launch the Beresheet mission, and the mission’s backers vow to use the prize to build a second Beresheet lander to attempt to complete the original vehicle’s mission.
Fox airs the 24th episode of the science fiction drama-comedy The Orville, starring and created by Seth McFarlane. Victor Garber (Alias, Legends Of Tomorrow), Ted Danson (Cheers), Tony Todd (Candyman, Star Trek: The Next Generation), F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus) and Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation) guest star.
Streaming service CBS All Access releases the 28th episode of Star Trek: Discovery, part one of the second season’s two-part finale. Tig Notaro, Rebecca Romjin (X-Men, The Librarians), Michelle Yeoh, James Frain, and Ethan Peck (10 Things I Hate About You) guest star.
Skylab and Space Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott dies at the age of 88. Born in Oklahoma, former U.S. Navy electronics officer Garriott went on to Stanford University to pursue a doctorate, and returned to Stanford to teach physics and electronics until 1965, when he was selected by NASA as one of the first “scientist astronauts” for future Apollo and Apollo Applications Program missions. (Only one scientist astronaut, Harrison Schmitt, flew to the moon before the Apollo program’s budgetary lunar wings were clipped by the Nixon administration.) Garriott first flew to space in 1973 as part of the second Skylab long-duration crew, staying in orbit for a record-setting two months with his two crewmates, and flew as a mission specialist aboard the first Space Shuttle mission to carry the Spacelab laboratory module into orbit in 1983. Both before and after his second and final flight, he was involved in consulting on the ever-changing design for a planned space station, which, after many changes, evolved into the International Space Station. He was the father of Richard Garriott, designer of the Ultima computer adventure game series who later visited the ISS as a space tourist aboard a Soyuz flight; they were the first father/son astronauts in America (preceded only by cosmonauts Alexander and Sergei Volkov).
Having already visited and returned from the International Space Station in a successful uncrewed test flight, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is set up for a critical ground test of its launch abort system, utilizing the capsule’s built-in SuperDraco engines – and explodes. While no injuries result from the explosion, the major setback results in delays to the Crew Dragon program, which would have flown the first astronauts from American soil since 2011 by the end of 2019 if all had gone as planned. SpaceX does not publicly discuss the specifics of the incident for well over a week until a company spokesman is repeatedly asked by the press about it at a publicity event for an uncrewed Falcon rocket launch.
Actor Peter Mayhew, who went from a job as a hospital orderly to co-starring in the Star Wars films as Chewbacca, dies at the age of 74. Following filming on Star Wars, with no way to anticipate the movie’s upcoming blockbuster success, Mayhew returned to his orderly job, continuing that line of work after the filming of both 1980‘s The Empire Strikes Back and 1983‘s Return Of The Jedi, before becoming a full-time fixture at Star Wars and science fiction conventions (and, later, the internet, regaling fans with behind-the-scenes stories both in person and online). He had some prior monster-suit-acting experience before George Lucas hired him for Star Wars, but not enough to amount to a steady stream of work. He reprised the role of Chewie in 2005‘s Revenge Of The Sith and 2015‘s The Force Awakens before handing the Wookiee suit off to former basketball player Joonas Suotamo, but still received a consulting credit for 2017‘s The Last Jedi, coaching Suotamo during filming. He had also put on the Wookiee suit for any number of promotional appearances, playing the character on The Muppet Show and Donny & Marie, as well as the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, which afforded Chewie a larger role than some of the movies did.