Archive for the ‘A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer’ Category

A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer: Earth 2

Earth 2Star Trek Voyager is often cited as the first sci-fi show with a female lead, and it was definitely touted as a selling point before it premiered. But as it turns out, Voyager was beaten to the punch–by this show, Earth 2. Premiering in 1994, Earth 2 focuses on–you guessed it–colonists trying to survive on an Earth-like planet after Earth has become unlivable. It’s very much in the vein of a space western, but it’s also a family show, and these two aspects clash from time to time. Lasting only one season, Earth 2 started off popular but plummeted in the ratings as it went on. Is that a sign of its quality, or did it die right as it was getting good?

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A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer: Century City

Century CityAfter taking a month off, the Obscure SciFi Primer returns with a strange cross-genre offering, Century City. Century City is a sci-fi legal drama–quite possibly the only sci-fi legal drama ever, actually. Airing on CBS in 2004, it managed to film a mere 9 episodes, and of those, only 2 actually made it on TV before it was canceled, so it never really had a chance to succeed at all. Think of all the awful shows you’ve watched throughout your life: even those likely got a 13 episode upfront order produced. So was Century City really that bad, or did it simply get shafted even worse than Firefly and all our other cut short favorites? Let’s find out.

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A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer: Harsh Realm

Harsh RealmWarping in on an unusual day of the week, the Obscure Sci-Fi Primer returns with a fan-requested show: the extremely short-lived 1999 series Harsh Realm. Clocking in at a meager 9 episodes, this is by far the shortest show to appear in the Primer to date. Harsh Realm deals with virtual reality, much like another show we’ve covered already. But while VR.5‘s virtual worlds were highly personal ones, Harsh Realm is far less so, having started as a high-tech training simulation for dealing with potential nuclear apocalypse. It’s also an (incredibly loose) adaptation of a comic book, and had a number of X-Files writers working on it, like Chris Carter and Vince Gilligan (although the latter wasn’t a writer here).

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A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer: Dark Angel

Dark AngelThis month, the Obscure Sci-Fi Primer hops back over to cyberpunk with the Fox series Dark Angel. Unusually for a sci-fi series on Fox, it actually managed to get a second season before being screwed over, which makes it the first show in the Primer to have lasted longer than one (although the two seasons are radically different). More typically, it was shunted to the Friday Night Death Slot and quietly killed to make room for Fox’s next victim, Firefly. The show was created by James Cameron, the king of the box office himself, and Charles H. Eglee, and was originally made with the idea of a feminist superhero in mind. Set in a dystopian version of Seattle, of all places, Dark Angel possesses a lot of cyberpunk themes while focusing heavily on genetic engineering and secret government projects. But is it worth watching now, just 4 years away from the time it was set?

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A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer: Odyssey 5

Odyssey 5 earth destructionThis month, the Obscure Sci-Fi Primer returns to take on the little known series Odyssey 5. It’s kind of a generically vague sci-fi title, something that sounds like it’s referring to some space outpost (or maybe it just reminds me of Babylon 5). The truth of the series is actually quite different, keeping a fairly grounded approach to its time travel-based subject matter. Odyssey 5 first premiered on Showtime in 2002, the same channel that hosted our earlier subject Total Recall 2070. The show was created by Manny Coto, who went on to run the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise, right when it started to get good. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this forgotten series and decide if it’s worth digging into.

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A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer: VR.5

VR.5 RooftopAs we return to the Subjectively Obscure Sci-Fi Primer, we hit upon possibly the most obscure show yet: little known 90’s show and companion to The X-Files, VR.5. Debuting in 1995 and set in 1995, it’s about as “near future” as sci-fi can get. It lasted for one 13-episode season, although several of those never even aired, since it was yet another victim of Fox and the Friday Night Death Slot. As you might guess from the title, this cyberpunk show deals with the concept of Virtual Reality–specifically a multitude of different levels of virtual reality, with the eponymous 5th level referring to perfect immersion, indistinguishable from reality. Or almost, anyway, as we’ll see in a moment.

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A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer: TekWar

TekWarIt’s that time again: the Subjectively Obscure Sci-Fi Primer is here to introduce you to our next little-known sci-fi series. This month’s subject is the cyberpunk-esque series TekWar, based on a series of novels by Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. Naturally, that means Shatner has a role in the show, but it was 1994 and he was a little past the action hero days by then. Set in 2045, TekWar is a cop show (Shatner originally thought of it as “TJ Hooker in the future”). It started off as a series of TV movies, four in all, before being adapted to a single-season series. While the show didn’t last long, TekWar spawned a franchise of sorts and has comics running even now. We’re going to look at both the TV movies and the series for this, as they share the same cast (and may or may not be in continuity–I’ll get to that later).

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A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer: Total Recall 2070

Total Recall 2070 cityscapeThis month, the Subjectively Obscure Sci-Fi Primer returns to the cyberpunk side of things with Total Recall 2070. Don’t be fooled by the title, as it has practically nothing to do with the similarly-named Schwarzenegger film; it’s more of a separate (if not particularly accurate) adaptation of the same Phillip K. Dick story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” although it’s so different that the author isn’t mentioned in the credits at all. Produced in Canada, it originally aired in the US on Showtime alongside Stargate SG-1, before that show jumped networks. Showtime really had a thing for turning movies into series that had very little in common with the original film, apparently. As is typical for these obscure shows, it managed only one season, but what’s there is worth a look. It’s like Almost Human, if Almost Human didn’t hate itself for being sci-fi. Read more

A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer: Space: Above and Beyond

SAB MarineLast month, I kicked off our newest recurring segment, the Obscure Sci-Fi Primer, with Charlie Jade. The idea behind the segment is to introduce binge-watching sci-fi fans to shows they might never have heard of otherwise, be it because they were produced outside the US, one-season wonders, or just quietly performing in syndication for years alongside the heavy hitters. As such, our topic for this month is Space: Above and Beyond, a 1995 series that lasted for one season, ranking among the multitude of sci-fi shows that Fox canceled before Firefly was even a gleam in Joss Whedon’s eye. Space: Above and Beyond is a military sci-fi series that follows a squadron of United States Marines called the “Wildcards,” who are serving in the war against an alien species known as the Chigs. First contact, needless to say, went badly, as they start off by destroying humanity’s only extrasolar colonies. Read more

A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer: Charlie Jade

Charlie JadeWe’re trying a new column this week, with the goal of introducing some of the lesser known sci-fi TV series to a wider audience who might be looking for new shows after binging on more popular works like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica. As such, my intent is to do these with as few spoilers as possible, while still addressing the main points of interest. We’ll be starting off by looking at Charlie Jade, a 2005 television series that was filmed and set in South Africa, lasting only one season. For this, I’m going to use a rating system, where a 5 represents must-see, 4 is good, solid television, 3 is “cult classic” stage, where the show’s appeal is likely limited to a specific group, 2 is flawed, but fun, or even “so bad it’s good,” and a 1 is avoid at all costs.

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