Is Sci-Fi on TV dead? Can Steven Spielberg save it? Does it need saving?
Questions which even Dr Spock would have trouble finding logical, the once great TV Genre appears to be deader than if you were on a Star Trek’s away party wearing a Red Shirt. Coming in the summer is the possible Skywalker to TV’s current Lord Vader of scheduling. Falling Skies is the latest attempt to take the Sci Fi TV genre from it’s long stasis sleep, produced by Spielberg and starring Noah Wyle (Dr Carter from ER) the anticipated drama hits our screens in June like a photon torpedo shot. The trailer enough should make any Science Fiction fan immediately form a Rebel Alliance, FX have picked up the rights to show it in the UK.
But why does the genre need reanimation at all, surely the likes of Star Trek, Battlestar Gallatica (BSG) and Stargate mean that Sci Fi fans have been well treated over the years. The last Star Trek series, Enterprise, ended in 2005 after only 4 series and hardly made the same impact that other series had. Fans were clearly not impressed with the trip back in time before the Original Series and instead warmly received the JJ Abrams film reset on the Original cast.
The remake of BSG showed that TV audiences were keen for Sci Fi, it was edgy and fresh, and it mixed the harsh political storylines such as Genocide, Terrorism and Torture with the familiarity of the 70’s series. But the writers strike affected it and the ending was rushed. Since then one prequel, Caprica has already been cancelled and another, Blood & Chrome, is on its way, proof that TV Executives think that BSG’s story has yet to be told in full.
Stargate’s journey has been played out since the film aired in 1994 which has so far spawned three TV series, the longest of which ran for 10 series (exceeding that of any Star Trek). The most recent version, Stargate Universe (SGU), has been cancelled in the States after only two Series, with Stargates’ faithful fans complaining about it’s diversion from SG1 and Stargate Atlantis. I personally enjoyed SGU far more for its Space Opera feel and huge cast led by Robert Carlyle, it made it much more watchable than Atlantis which I felt was poor from the start. That said I did have to watch the pilot of SGU 3 times before getting any sense of plot.
With these 3 major Sci-Fi Giants currently dormant where else can fans look? The V remake appears to be heading towards cancellation with poor ratings being the blame. US audiences failed to grasp the Aliens amongst us storyline which doesn’t bode well for Falling Skies. This genre has also proved unsuccessful in The Event which is currently showing on Channel 4, poor ratings despite lots of hype have led to little excitement about it getting a 2nd series.
So if these are the negatives what are the positives? Fringe continues to explore the more Science side of the genre, currently in Series 3 and already surprisingly renewed for a fourth. It was moved to the Friday night slot in the US which is where shows are sent to die but has somehow survived. Fringe is more in the X-Files genre of Sci-Fi and has continued with a Parallel Universe storyline which most of Series 2 led up to, Fringe is on Sky One at present. It blends real life with Sci Fi, in the same way the X-Files used to, investigating those strange goings on in every day life.
The Sy Fy Channel in the US is the main place to find more niche programs such as Haven, Eureka and Warehouse 13. All are Sci Fi related and each have a following, plus being on a cable channel makes them less likely of cancellation.
UK Sci Fi seems to be stable, Dr Who which returns over Easter is doing well in the UK and worldwide plus recent BBC show Outcasts showed that we haven’t abandoned big ideas based on Sci Fi.
And if you want to watch some classic TV Sci Fi you can not go wrong with Space: Above & Beyond though it’s very hard to track down. It was created by Glen Morgan and James Wong who were writers on the X-Files and went on to develop Sci Fi Films like Final Destination and Independence Day.