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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

old scifi

Realizing that I neglected to expound on the topic of digging up old shows... I guess I should actually tallk about that. I got into Science fiction, as long time readers know, through Star Trek. There isn't one thing that drew me in, it was the whole package. Since I was 5 and not really certain of much, Roddenberry's world was a comfort. Each part behaved as it was supposed to. The Enterprise came to the rescue. McCoy badgered Spock. Spock kept a calm head. The Klingons weren't soft and flabby. The Romulans always kept you guessing. The guys in the redshirts died. Scotty could fix anything and in less time than he told you he could do it. The admiralty behaved like the execs at SciFi [couldn't resisst. It is futile afterall] and people did the jobs they were given to do. The real world is much less predictable. And consequently much more disturbing to a 5 year old introvert.
Roddenberry was not the only purveyor of Science Fiction to draw my attention. Buck Rogers, Dr. Who [Tom Baker], My Favorite Martian, to some extent Lost In Space, the Original Battlestar Gallactica, Thundarr the Barbarian, Super Friends, Superman [either Reeves], Batman in any incarnation were the foundations of my trek through the impossible. For that matter, since I didn't know about technology, Mission Impossible looked a lot like science fiction to me. At the very least it was magic.
The 80s were a little light on hardcore scifi until the dawn of a new Trek era. Horror/suspense enjoyed a revival with Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Darkside and a new OuterLimits and the Ray Bradbury theater. But we had Wizards and Warriors, Beauty and the Beast, Knight Rider, and ALF for a bit of network fantasy until scifi recovered from its 70s hangover.
The 90s really turned the tide with shows like Time Trax, the bulk of Quantum Leaps seasons, The Invisible Man, Seaquest, Andromeda, Forever Knight, to some extent the Pretender, Stargate SG-1 on Showtime before its big move to SciFi, the little known Adventures of Briscoe County Jr., Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Xena, Hercules, Sliders, Alien Nation, X-Files, Babylon 5, Highlander, Millenium, MANTIS, The Flash, Lexx, Firefly, Lois and Clark, Earth Final Conflict, Early Edition, and all the animated stuff that cramps the internal hard drive.
The ot years have been slim. While we had 5 seasons of Atlantis, SG-1 is no longer in production. But we do get the reinvention of Dr. Who, Sanctuary, Jeremiah's post apocolyptic hip hope [yes, I meant hip hope] with an unlikely Malcom Jamal Warner sharing the lead with just as unlikely Luke Perry as SciFi heroes. Invasion, the 4400, LOST, and a new era of fantasy were ushered into the living room with Charmed and Angel.
My point, and yes I had one, is that SciFi channel has 1000's of hours of opportunity to give us what we love about science fiction: science fiction. Of course they don't want to be the ossuary of the obscure, running tons of things that weren't good to start with. But they have lots of options that eliminate the need to fill prime time slots with wrestling, poorly crafted reality tv shows and knock offs of fairly decent big screen movies.
One of the most underviewed and under appreciated films I have ever seen is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. This is especially sad when you consider the making of this movie. The current buzz worthy scifi hit Sanctuary uses the same technology that makes Sky Captain an absolute marvel. SciFi channel is the perfect place to showcase a movie like this. Do they? How often? Obviously, it isn't enough.
SciFi has the name recognition, even if it is a generic spelling, the advertisers and the fan base to make compelling and visually appealing drama/comedy/action the norm rather than the abnorm. So what do they do with this great power?
Whatever it is it isn't done with great responsibility. And it isn't done for the sake of the genre. What is being done at scifi is being done to make the major networks feel better about the poor programming choices, the lack lustre plots/characters and scripts it produces on a regular basis. Scifi is taking the lowest common denominator in the most popular network formula shows and trying to dress it up for those of us with cleaner and more sophisticated palates. Yeah right. Give Calvin some ranch dressing for his green goo and he still won't eat it. Odds are not in mom's favor. The suits at SciFi are going to be left with a lot of green goo to schlep when we decide to get our fill somewhere else.
And what a waste. I watched most of those shows I mentioned on a regular basis. Most of the scifi geeks I know watched most of those shows. And most of us are buying what we can on DVD or doing the download thing because we have been abandoned by our parent, SciFi. I couldn't get into this version of Battlestar. But I do have to agree with the majority posting on the topic across the internets, with the end of BSG, I am at the end of my scifi alegiance. True, I am loyal as always to Sanctuary. Sadly the new season is going to pull a Sopranos on us. But there is always Fancast/Hulu. SciFi could have been something really great. It may have even eclipsed the major netwroks or even HBO, Showtime and UPN as the next best place to make your advertising pay offs. But that is the problem isn't it?

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