Reluctantly last night, I watched Eureka, season two, episode four. My brain was fried from a long day at work where nothing went right, and I was too tired to read. The episode was atrocious, with dialog that a sixth grader could have improved upon and a plot that was so predictable that I simply skipped scenes because I knew what was going to happen next. So, you may ask, if the show was that bad, why did I watch it? Simply because good science fiction on television is simply non-existent. There was nothing else on.
There are exceptions: Battlestar Galactica is one of the best shows to come out of of the TV machine in a decade or more, but it’s on hiatus now and won’t be back for months. There’s Doctor Who, which occasionally causes me to dance around the room and sing paeans to the gods when things go right. But that show normally disappoints for its watered-down plots and overused characters (can anyone say, “Dalek?”).
Stephen Moffat is mostly responsible for making me dance the Kermit; he’s the author of the Doctor Who episodes I loved. Recently, he wrote a fantastically fresh retake on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde called Jekyll that I absolutely adored. But that was only six episodes. Now it’s gone. Let’s also not forget that the ready-to-be-lauded Masters of Science Fiction was canceled before it even aired. We’ll still see six episodes, then, fin.
On the big screen, the only decent science fiction I’ve seen in a long time is Sunshine. Though it resorted to sweeping CGI shots from impossible angles that always ruin my suspension of disbelief (can’t they take a hint from BSG? For things to look real, we have to have a real point of view) I found the the movie to be intelligent, and they tried their darnedest to avoid the Hollywood clichÃ©s that plague similar movies of its kind. I don’t think the film will endure as one of the classics, but the scenes of the two astronauts repairing the sun-shield just inches away from being burned alive will be hard to forget.
So what else is there? The question arose in my mind last night and the answer was a resounding, “Nada.” Is one great Dr. Who episode a season all we are going to be satisfied with? Must we wait months for another episode of BSG to fill our gnawing SF hunger? There are so many good science fiction stories to choose from, so why do we see so few good SF films & shows? I’m not going to accept the stock answer: that Hollywood execs prefer the dumb, watered-down, mass-appealing scripts to the ones that really make you wonder and think, or that the execs are simply too stupid to comprehend the inherent commentary on humanity in such genius stories as James Patrick Kelly’s “Think Like a Dinosaur.” (A story, by the way, which made it into a spectacular Outer Limits episode that still gives me chills today.)
If Ronald Moore can create BSG and Stephen Moffat can write TV episodes that make my bowels loosen (in a good way), then surely there are others out there who can do the same. I say, let’s dig them out of the dusty corners and back offices where some well-fed studio exec has forgotten about them and bring them into the fore. Let’s declipse the SF visual arts and bring them into the light of day.