This is my personal thoughts, opinions and musings place. I will also rant about things, especially politically-correct things that irritate me. And sci-fi. Did I mention sci-fi? There'll be lots of sci-fi stuff here. And movies, too. Mmmmm... Movies

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Of new ideas, and the problem with sci-fi

On the face of it, the latest episode of Stargate: Atlantis, Epiphany, wasn't really all that bad. It had hot babes, ascended beings, McKay going crazy, and a super-powerful, impossible to stop monster that was semi-invisible. What it didn't have, however, was an original plot.

I counted at least four plot elements from different sci-fi shows:
  1. The semi-invisible monster that was the unconscious creation of the local inhabitants - straight out of The Forbidden Planet.
  2. Facing the semi-invisible monster with a knife - straight out of Star Trek: TNG episode Darmok(I think).
  3. Being lost on a planet for several months - straight out of Stargate: SG1 episode 100 Days.
  4. A local woman trying to, and succeeding in, seduce a lost Stargate crew member - straight out of Stargate: SG1 episode 100 Days.
There might actually be more, but those are the ones I noticed on my first viewing.

Now, that's not to say that it I didn't like the episode nonetheless, I did, but I think it exemplifies a problem that's been prevalent in sci-fi, especially tv and movie sci-fi, for a very long time, that is, a complete lack of original ideas. This is one reason why all the comic books and video games are being made into movie, not matter how unsuited the story lines were to the big screen. The argument is being made that they couldn't give them the movie treatment before because the special effects were not really there, but I think it is much simpler than that: they're out of ideas, and if they couldn't remake stories written in the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, they'd have to quit making sci-fi.

Sci-fi, in general, is a product of its time. Star Trek TOS, taking place in the early 23rd century and created in the 1960s, uses B&W tricorders, tapes for data storage and blinking lights for computer displays. Star Trek: Enterprise, taking place a 100 years earlier and created in the beginning of the 21st century, uses full-color, graphic computer displays and personal datapads for storage. As well, in TOS, there were no female starship captains, in fact it was suggested once that men somehow kept women out of the big seat. In Enterprise, a woman was in command of a freighter, and one was preparing to take command of the newest Starfleet vessel.

I suspect that we're in for a long seige of movies and shows that are all very similar to each other in certain particulars but which differ in circumstances. Want to make a show about evil aliens eating their way across the Galaxy? Andromeda and Atlantis did that already. Want to make a show about aliens taking over human bodies as hosts? Stargate did that already, though even it probably wasn't unique in that respect.

One interesting twist that Stargate laid on the whole super-advanced-alien-ship concept was that of burning fires aboard ship. The ships are so advanced, and so powerful, that they don't even have to worry about wasting oxygen by burning it up with torches. Hell, not even the Borg did that.

I don't know what the future holds for sci-fi, but as we reach the limits of American sci-fi, I hope other countries step up to fill the void. Different countries, different ideas. The French, for instance, made the excellent The Fifth Element. It was, in many ways, a very good movie, but more importantly, it was different. Of course, you had to see it in wide-screen format to get the point at the very end, but otherwise it was an excellent movie. On the other hand, it was eight years ago, but maybe the French are up to a good sci-fi flick every ten years or so.

Here's hoping for a decade of sci-fi movie making that's not just rehashing old comic books.

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3 Comments:

At Wed Nov 30, 01:48:00 PM AST, Blogger SOH said...

I thought it also had overtones of the TNG episode where Picard goes off and has a life and family in another dimension. Yes, they are blending themes from all over the sci-fi universe.

On another note, I had a nightmare involving the semi-invisible creature after seeing the episode. The creature won.

 
At Thu Dec 01, 10:44:00 AM AST, Anonymous CT said...

I always consider The Fifth Element to be the "real" movie version of Heavy Metal... the French production tops it, since Heavy Metal Magazine was a translation of France's Metal Hurlant.

 
At Thu Dec 01, 08:11:00 PM AST, Anonymous Matt said...

I was just (finally) introduced to Firefly and found that it was a cool and original Sci-Fi/Western series. Too bad Fox pulled it.

 

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