Guide to the Hugo Awards: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

From Game of Thrones to The Expanse, this Hugo category is filled with Den of Geek favorites! Which do we think should win?

Last week, we started off our Guide to the Hugos with our Den of Geek pick for “Best Dramatic Presentation — Long Form.” Now, we’re continuing with the (mostly) on-screen categories with our breakdown and pick for “Best Dramatic Presentation — Short Form.”

The nominees for the competitive category include Den of Geek favorites Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, and The Expanse. Check out all of the nominees for the category, hear our Den of Geek selection, then let us know which nominee you think should win the prestigious honor in the comments below.

Black Mirror, “San Junipero”

Written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)

In the most-celebrated of recent Black Mirror episodes, “San Junipero” subverts the usual formula of this science fiction anthology show by giving the viewers an optimistic ending. In a TV age (not to mention specific TV show) where it’s cool to be gritty and nihilistic, Black Mirror gave us something to hope for and the message that not all tales end in heartbreak.

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What’s the episode about? Well, I don’t want to reveal too much in case you, dear reader, has yet to see it, but “San Junipero” stars Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire) as Yorkie and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) as Kelly, two very different women who fall in love in a virtual world.

Written by series creator Charlie Brooker and directed by Owen Harris (who also directed Black Mirror‘s heartbreaking “Be Right Back” starring Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson), “San Junipero” is remarkable for the ways in which it doesn’t rely on any twist or conservative warnings of technology’s destructive effects. Instead, it centers these characters and this relationship, telling an endlessly relatable tale that suggests that, no matter where technology takes us, we will always be human.

For more on Black Mirror, check out these other Den of Geek articles on the show:

Black Mirror Season 3 Spoiler-Free Review

Black Mirror’s Secret Weapon is Not Who You Think

Black Mirror: The Unexpected Foresight of “The Waldo Moment”

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How Black Mirror Season 3 is Eerily Coming True

Speculative Fiction: Charlie Brooker on the Return of Black Mirror

Doctor Who, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”

Written by Steven Moffat, directed by Ed Bazalgette (BBC Cymru Wales)

The only Doctor Who story that aired in 2016, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” was part Christmas special, part superhero fantasy, proving just how flexible this show can be. (One of the many reasons it has survived for as long as it has.)

Watch “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” on Amazon

“The Return of Doctor Mysterio” was a loving homage to classic superhero movies like Superman, a story set in New York City where a boy grows into a superhero known as The Ghost (Justin Chatwin) after an encounter with the Doctor one fateful Christmas. Throw in a Lois Lane cypher called Lucy Fletcher (Charity Wakefield) and you have a delightful tale of romance, world-saving, and comedy that makes some refreshing comments about what it truly means to be a hero.

For more on “The Return of Doctor Mysterio,” check out our review of the episode and our guide to all of the references and Easter Eggs.

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The Expanse, “Leviathan Wakes”

Written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)

The Expanse has proven itself one of the best dramas on television, taking the Game of Thrones model of many concurrent stories and characters and applying a science fiction lens. Like Game of Thrones, The Expanse is also an example of a TV show that often exceeds the ambitions and execution of its source material. This was particularly true in “Leviathan Wakes,” the final episode of The Expanse Season 1, which saw Holden and Miller coming together after a season apart to discover the horrible truth about the protomolecule and fight for their own survival.

Watch “Leviathan Wakes” on Amazon

Where “Leviathan Wakes” — and the show as a whole — really succeeds, however, is in its focus on characters who get far less to do in the books. This is especially true of the UN’s fiercely intelligent undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo). As action-packed as the events on the Eros are, it’s Chrisjen’s quieter machinations and realizations back on Earth that make this episode something special.

For more on The Expanse, check out these other Den of Geek articles:

Why You Should Be Excited for The Expanse Season 3

The Expanse: How a Game Became a Book and Then A Show

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The Expanse: An Ambitious, Slow-Build, Sci-Fi Mystery

The Expanse Season 1 Finale Review

Dominique Tipper Steals the Show in Syfy’s The Expanse

Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards”

Written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (HBO)

In Game of Thrones Season 6’s penultimate episode, the fantasy drama continued its tradition of a blockbuster-level battle that gives even the best big-screen stories a run for their money.

This season, it was the battle between Jon Snow (and his forces) and the reviled Ramsay Bolton (and his forces). It begins with poor, doomed Rickon Stark running for the safety of his big brother (for the love of the gods, Rickon: zig zag!), only to be cut down in front of Jon, sending the Stark bastard into an ill-advised, rage-fueled charge against Ramsay’s superior army.

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The resulting battle was the stuff of TV legend, complete with a anxiety-inducing moment when it seems like Jon Snow is going to be buried under a pile of his army’s own fallen men. It’s war as it has never been depicted on screen before — one of Game of Thrones‘ specialty — and a moment of triump for Sansa Stark, when her behind-the-scenes deal with Littlefinger saves the day for Team Stark.

Not all of “Battle of the Bastards” was perfect — the stuff in Mereen suffered from its season-long lackluster presentation — but this episode of Game of Thrones remains one of the HBO show’s most iconic installments, if only for the death-by-dogs of Ramsay Bolston, under Sansa’s determined gaze.

For more on Game of Thrones‘ “Battle of the Bastards,” check out these other Den of Geek articles:

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards Review

You Still Know Nothing Podcast: Battle of the Bastards

Game of Thrones: How the Battle of the Bastards Was Made

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Game of Thrones, “The Door”

Written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Jack Bender (HBO)

I probably don’t have to tell you which episode “The Door” is. It involves a character holding a door. There have been non-Game of Thrones commercials based on it. This episode’s iconic moment pretty much immediately made its way into the zeitgeist.

More generally, “The Door” gives us some serious answers about this world — most importantly, the origin of the White Walkers and some articulation of exactly what Bran can do with his Weirwood powers. Meanwhile, in Winterfell, Sansa calls Littlefinger out on his part in her rape ad forced marriage to Ramsay Bolton. Elsewhere, Arya catches a play, Daenerys orders Jorrah to go search for a greyscale cure, and Yara and Theon flee the Iron Islands with a fleet of ships.

As much as I enjoyed “Battle of the Bastards,” for me, “The Door” is a better all-around episode of television. All of the disparate storylines are working here, and it all ends with an action-heavy battle against the White Walkers that is generally scary and highly emotional. Learning the nature and origin of Hodor’s sacrifice is more than just a tragic story; it’s a comment on the cost of power within this world. 

For more Game of Thrones, check out these Den of Geek articles:

Game of Thrones: The Door Review

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Game of Thrones Season 7: What Happens Next?

Game of Thrones: Ranking All the Villains

You Still Know Nothing Podcast: The Door

Splendor & Misery (Album)

By clipping. (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

“Splendor & Misery” is more than an album; it’s an Afrofuturistic scifi experience about being black in America/the West. Crafted by the experimental hip hop group clipping., “Splendor & Misery” tells the story of Cargo #2331, a slave in future outer space. As the sole survivor of a slave uprising on an interstellar cargo ship (well, there’s also the on-board computer that falls in love with him), Cargo #2331 begins to discover music in the ship’s many moving parts.

Listen to “Splendor & Misery” on Amazon

The sonic sounds and mechanical rhythms lead to a greater realization for the man: humanity’s cosmic insignificance. Rather than crushing the man’s hopes, this revelation brings him a form of determined peace as he decides to pilot his ship into the uncertainty of the unknown rather than towards the certainty of any of the tyrannical civilizations that have had a hand in oppressing him.

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Den of Geek Pick — Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form

Den of Geek Pick: “Splendor & Misery”

It’s hard to compare relative standalones like “Splendor & Misery” and “San Junipero” to episodes of serialized series like Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, or The Expanse. The same could be true for comparing visual and audio storytelling. Their various formats come with their own strengths and weaknesses.

That being said, “Splendor & Misery” is something special and vital, a work of art that uses the timescape of the future to explore parts of the American past and present that we are terrible at talking about as a country. It does all of this whilst being deeply moving and musically-innovative. TV gets enough credit elsewhere. Give the Hugo to this revolutionary work of audio speculative fiction.

(Runners up: “San Junipero” and “The Door.”)

To see what other speculative fiction works have been nominated for the 2017 Hugo Awards in other categories, check out our full list

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