Hugos 2023: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

I took advantage of downtime during this holiday to watch the finalists for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) that I had not already seen. The experience has given me pause for thought about the category as a whole, which I will write up some other time, but anyway here are my votes:

6) The Expanse: “Babylon’s Ashes”

This is the last episode of the sixth series of an TV show, itself based on a series of novels. I have read only the first of the novels and sen only the episodes which were previous Hugo finalists (two of which won). I found the plot and characters completely incomprehensible. I am sure that it made for a satisfying climax for those who followed it from the beginning, but it made no sense to me at all. (And what was the deal with the weird kids?) I did like Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata.

5) Andor: “Rix Road”

I actually did watch the whole of Andor, and enjoyed it, but again I think that the final episode of the series will be pretty incomprehensible to anyone who has not seen the previous eleven. Fiona Shaw is great in everything, of course.

4) Stranger Things: “Chapter Four: Dear Billy”

This was the middle episode of the seven in the fourth series of Stranger Things, which as with Andor I generally enjoyed, but with reservations; my middle-aged brain found the plot difficult to follow, and the episodes are very long – this one is 78 minutes, and the finale was almost 100. But the imagery, cinematography and especially the use of Kate Bush made this an impressive watching experience. Well done to Sadie Sink, still in her teens when this was filmed, for carrying off the central performance.

3) Andor: “One Way Out”

This was my favourite episode of Andor, and I don’t think I was alone. It’s the story of a prison break, which imposes its own dramatic tension on the characters and keeps you on the edge of your seat for forty minutes, with some spectacular filming and special effects as well. Unlike the season final, I think this does stand on its own as a drama. Great stuff.

2) She-Hulk: Attorney at Law: “Whose Show Is This?”

Another series finale, again of a show where I had not seen any of the other episodes, but I really enjoyed this. There are only two things you really need to know about the title character, and they are both conveniently in the title of the series, so there’s not too much to catch up on. But what makes this episode really entertaining is that the protagonists breaks the fourth wall and intimidates the Marvel writers into changing the ending of the episode. Tatiana Maslany was great in Orphan Black, Jameela Jamil was great in The Good Place, and they are both great here.

1) For All Mankind: “Stranger in a Strange Land”

The only episode I had previously seen of this alternate history of space exploration was last year’s Hugo finalist, “The Grey”, which kills off two important characters, so you know you are playing for high stakes. This year’s episode is yet another series finale, but I found it much easier to get into than The Expanse (or even Andor); it’s absolutely clear who everyone is – here’s a North Korean astronaut stranded on Mars; here’s an American astronaut who is stranded and pregnant; here’s a senior NASA official who’s been secretly helping the Russians; here is the president of the United States coming out as a lesbian; here’s a shocking act of domestic terrorism (actually I found this a little implausible, I would have thought that security at important government buildings would be tougher). Great stuff and perhaps I’ll watch the rest some time. For all my griping about incomprehensible series finales, I have to concede that they got my top two as well as my bottom two votes this year.

As I said, I have Thoughts about this category as a whole, but that is for another day.

2023 Hugos:
Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Series | Best Graphic Story or Comic | Best Related Work | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist | Lodestar Award for Best YA Book | Astounding Award for Best New Writer