Ok, I’ll hold my hand up here – I love science fiction.
Star Wars leaves me a bit cold. It is a ham-fisted teen pulp novel about space-wizards, where the acting ability and story telling is inversely proportional to the quality of the fight scene choreography. In the words of Yahzee Croshaw, George Lucas doesn’t write as much as vomit through a pen.
No, Star Wars isnt sci-fi, but can I class the other archetypal “sci-fi” franchise as science fiction?
Disregarding the original series – as anyone sane will – we are left with not a bad set of shows.
The imperfect characters in DS9 are my favourite. Gone is the shiny (boring) utopian federation – here it’s all about an uneasy alliance of mistrustful people dealing with forced relocation, war crimes, the power vacuum left after the departure of an occupation force, and religious suppression of fact for myth. All hard hitting stuff, in a slightly camp (occasionally wooden) way. And this is just the first series, before the Dominion started breaking shit and we saw utopia involved in a total war. Compelling and fascinating TV.
Then we have Voyager – a show centred much more on the individual characters, and consequently better acted. Out in the middle of no-where, with only their own moral compasses a crew try to get home while trying not to slip into madness or depravity. Ok, there are plenty of over sentimental episodes, but Janeway is well acted character – troubled by guilt, prone to anger, stubborness and occasional pettiness, trying desperately to stay to the straight and narrow and act as she knows a captain should.
And then ofc their are the more recent movies.
First Contact is a great film, showing a traumatised Captain being brought face to face with his tormentors and his own demons, all with a nice sense of threat and building tension. Good stuff!
Insurrection was good too, if a bit silly – Jonathan Frakes obviously had a great time directing this one, and who can blame him. But the discussion about the younger galactic powers starting to question the Federations slightly stuffy, restrictive society was a great plot point, if slightly under-used.
So, (some) Star Trek follows sci-fi traditions of social commentary, satire and exploration of issues of humanity. I’m willing to let it into the club.
Likewise (the new) Battlestar Galactica. I liked this series for its drama, and tension. Druidic levels of sex, death and religion in a night-time telly kind of way. (If you got the Eddie Izzard reference, have a jazz chicken). The discussion of what makes us human, what makes us alive is a good old trope of sci-fi. The same can be said of the dilemma of Artificial Intelligence, and defining what makes something ‘alive’.
But I have a gooey spot for ‘realistic’ sci-fi. My favourite from television may be one you haven’t heard of – the anime series ‘Planetes‘. A very good manga originally, I stumbled across the anime first, and fell in love with it. It tells the story of an Earth of the near future, where space industrialisation has begun in earnest. Corporate espionage, anti-space terrorism, issues of sovereignty. All stuff we are starting to deal with, or will be dealing with in the coming century. It feels more terrifying for it; no humanoid aliens with funny noses here, just a backdrop of a breathless humanity trying to keep up with it’s own ambitions, and some of the best characters to come out of a japanese show that I have found. Dystopian elements that appeal to me, cynical misanthropic bastard that I can be.
Ok, I have to admit that I am not as knowledgable about TV shows as I might be. I watched Star Trek as a child, and occasionally stumble across new shows when they are recommended enough, but shows that friends like such as Lexx, The Fringe or Threshold didn’t gain enough traction on my mind to make me watch them. Maybe I missed some gems?
I could go on a whole lot longer on my favourite books, however. Maybe I will at some point, but this is already rambly enough!