My wife has Star Trek: Next Generation on in the background, one of the better season 2 episodes, “Elementary, Dear Data.” Episode and series contradict the premise of my post. There seems to be much congratulation about the fine end of the series Battlestar Galactica. Ron Moore did a good job with it, I hear, as he did with the ST:NG series. Moore’s specialty with Star Trek: the many great Klingon stories.
I find myself much less impressed.
The problem with tv science fiction is an extreme lack of originality. When they do hit something good, they try derivatives, otherwise known as spin-offs. The X-Files: now that was original. Who would have guessed an FBI agent as a malcontent? Firefly, too: the best science fiction series since 1987 at least. Great imagination to combine a Western with science fiction. It was crazy, but it worked brilliantly.
To a degree Star Trek and the other two good series derived from stories told before. But they spread out a good bit from the first notion, and mixed in a good dollop of their own originality. It’s no secret that the Star Trek series subsequent to the Picard edition dropped precipitously from the source material in both quality and popularity. tv geniuses figured Star Trek fans would welcome more stories somewhat like the ones they loved. And to a degree, we enjoyed them. For a while. But unlike true science fiction geniuses, they aimed for the safe, the tried and true, and played the game only to hold on to as much of an audience as they could as long as they could. Risk-taking? The temporal cold war, a woman captain, and a tortured commander of a space station.
What made the spinoff programs as good as they were? The original idea carried them a long way, plus the acting and writing was occasionally good. What we were really hoping to find was something truly original like Firefly. tv networks and movie studios routinely can’t deliver.
The SciFi network is promoting another Stargate spinoff. Clearly, they’re not looking for new ground. I see promotion in full swing for the eleventh Star Trek movie. Great: let’s go to an idea that worked forty years ago and spin it twenty years in the past. It sounds more like a historical costume drama than real science fiction. Same idea with the prequel Battlestar spinoff: it goes back into the past, too. More history masquerading as real science fiction.
They just don’t get it.