Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

Psychic and Sci-Fi: Why the connection?

Psi CorpsSo, after the abysmal premiere of a certain recent miniseries, people’s reactions to the various twists seemed to suggest a question was forming in the minds of sci-fi fans everywhere: why, exactly, are psychic or telekinetic powers considered to be an acceptable plot device in sci-fi? It’s certainly a divergence from most of the other tropes of sci-fi. After all, one of the ground rules that separates sci-fi from fantasy is “technical possibility.” We believe aliens could exist; we believe Artificial Intelligences are possible; traveling through the stars in massive spaceships? Well, we’re already halfway there. Sure, the execution isn’t always terribly realistic, but those are generally concessions to storytelling than deliberate breaks from reality. Star Trek‘s aliens mostly look like humans because Star Trek is a TV show and the characters have to be played by human actors (at least, until very recently with CGI). Psychic powers are the one exception that’s still often considered to be part of the sci-fi writers’ workbag–so why?

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4 Bizarre Merchandise-Influenced Moments – Friday Four

Spock IDICWe’ve just finished up that time of year when selling the most toys is paramount. There are a lot of shows and films, especially ones aimed at kids, that seem to exist solely to push toys on their impressionable young viewers (looking at you, Transformers. There’s definitely more to some of those price tags than meets the eye). Other shows will indulge in this on occasion as well, often at the behest of some executive, although we the audience can’t always know for sure. So, here are 4 moments in otherwise fine TV shows and films that seem to have given in to that desire to sell the merch.
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4 Shows With Surprise Christmas Specials – Friday Four

Star Wars Holiday SpecialSci-fi shows tend to be set in a time and place very far from modern day Earth, which means that their stories don’t always have to respond to recent events or even the time of year, like some shows do. And yet some people just can’t help themselves, so when a holiday comes rolling around, they embrace it, like with Doctor Who‘s many Christmas specials over the years. The Doctor even has a new one coming up this year where it looks like he’s meeting the “actual” Santa Claus. Better get busy picking up the pieces from that Series 8 finale, Santa.

But while Doctor Who‘s Christmas specials are generally well-received (and not a great divergence from the rest of the show in tone), other series weren’t so lucky. Just try asking George Lucas about the Star Wars Holiday Special, eh? So in the spirit of the season, here are four sci-fi shows you’d never have guessed would have Christmas specials.

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Franchise Potential, Part 2

Enterprise DSo last week I discussed what makes a show capable of producing spinoffs that succeed independently, and a big part of that was the parent show having an open premise. Star Trek was simply about the exploration of space, while Battlestar Galactica was narrowly focused on the story of human survival after the end. The fact that it’s set in space is almost incidental most of the time. But there has to be another aspect to it. After all, Lost in Space and Space 1999 were contemporaries of Star Trek TOS with similarly open premises and yet they’re all but forgotten by comparison. So what else is there?

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4 Great Shows with Awful First Seasons – Friday Four

FerengiWith Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s second season almost half over, I think it’s safe to say that the show has now reached quality-TV levels, becoming a show that’s thoroughly entertaining on its own, and not just as an adjunct to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Defiance, too, proved its worth in its second season and earning the right to a third. But I think most fans would be willing to admit that these two shows had some pretty significant problems when they started, with SHIELD having insignificant, family-friendly standalone episodes and lifeless, peppy characters, and Defiance trying too hard to emulate premium HBO shows like Game of Thrones while centering on a group of people who were almost the polar opposite of SHIELD‘s: selfish, petty and often times cruel. It’s basically the opposite problem of those shows that ruin it all in the ending, but this trip-up is a far more common one. And that’s why it’s so difficult to watch these one-season shows (like Charlie Jade) fail to move on. Usually, it takes time for a TV show to find itself, but often times they don’t get the chance. Just look at these, 4 shows with downright terrible first seasons, and imagine the awesomeness we’d have missed out on if they hadn’t been given a chance.

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Franchise Potential: What has it, What Doesn’t

Voy IntroMedia franchises are a ubiquitous thing these days. It’s rare to see a Hollywood blockbuster that isn’t part of an established franchise already, and even then a lot of them are transformed into franchises after their success (see Pacific Rim for an example of that). But there’s a big problem in that kind of a thought process, and it’s that not everything that’s successful is well-suited for transformation into a full-fledged franchise. Here, we’re going to look at a few examples of shows and films that evolved into franchises and try to look at why some succeeded and others failed. What better way to start off than by continuing the comparisons of Star Trek versus Battlestar Galactica?

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4 Episodes The Creators Hated – Friday Four

Threshold 1Putting on a TV show is a lot of work. They have to get together as many as 26 episodes, and have them written, filmed, and edited by the time that they’re scheduled to air. There’s no flexibility here. Movie dates get moved back sometimes, but this almost never happens with television (upcoming Syfy miniseries Ascension is a rare example, having been moved back from November to December). What all this really means is that, well, they just don’t have time to make sure every script is perfect before sending it out. Sometimes, the writers just have to accept the fact that this episode is going to be crap and there’s nothing to be done about that. Other times, no one realized how bad this would be on screen until it was already too late, and they can’t just throw the footage away. Everyone just has to make it as best they can and deal with it.

That’s how we ended up with these, four episodes so bad that the creators are more than willing to admit that they screwed up. So let’s honor their honesty by taking a look at what made these episodes worth rejecting.

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The Fall of Star Trek and the Space Opera’s Demise

Enterprise Damagetwo weeks ago, when exploring the idea of the “anti-Trek,” I mentioned that I feel the lack of space-based TV shows in recent years can be attributed to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. But the truth is, of course, not so simple, and the path to BSG has its roots in reality. We can point it down almost to the day: September 11, 2001.

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What Almost Wasn’t: 4 Near Misses in Sci-Fi History – Friday Four

StarkOn here, one of my most popular topics is “What Could Have Been,” where I go over the now-public plans for seasons and shows that never developed. But what about those times when these major losses were narrowly averted? Once in a while, things align just right, and looking back, it’s hard to imagine how the show could have continued without this one aspect. And yet, there were many moments of serendipity that ended up playing a huge part in these shows’ success. So today, we honor just a few of those close calls by looking at “What Almost Wasn’t,” with 4 near misses from the annals of Sci-fi history, focusing today on casting and characters.

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The Concept of the “Anti-Star Trek”

Spock and KirkThere’s no denying that Star Trek is a massive cultural force in America and throughout the world. It’s become almost synonymous with sci-fi, and the pop culture image of the nerd or geek stereotype is inevitably a young man with some kind of Trek paraphernalia on him. So it’s no shock that, as time went on, people would try to draw attention to their own works by comparing them to Star Trek. And thus emerges this idea of “the Anti-Trek,” a nebulous descriptor if ever there was one. It’s a term that’s been applied from shows as varied as Blake’s 7 in the 70’s to Farscape to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. To figure out just what this means, and establish what traits an “Anti-Trek” must possess, we’ll have to examine the show itself and what each series is comparing to.

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