Thursday, May 2, 2013

Speculative fiction I have been watching.

If much of the time you are too tired to read or write science fiction, like me, the next best thing is watching it, or some good speculative fiction. Fortunately I have Foxtel and an ipad, because if I had to rely on commercial television for my science fiction fix I would be one unhappy trekker.  

My favourite speculative fiction show at the moment is a toss-up between Eureka and Misfits. I always seem to make time to sit down on Tuesday nights and watch Eureka on Foxtel, and after watching the last episode of the first series of Misfits, I immediately downloaded the first episode of the second series.


Eureka, if you have not watched it yet, is set in a top secret town devoted to science and geeks. Each week someone’s science experiment seems to have unforeseen consequences, or the scientist involved decides he wants to be noticed. The main character is an unscientific sheriff who is more into intuition than science in preventing these experiments becoming disasters. It is very tongue-in-cheek and real pop-corn stuff, but I am addicted to its light-hearted exploration of way-out-there science ideas.


Misfits is more fantasy than science fiction. It’s a British show where five twenty-somethings are doing community service for various misdemeanours. One day a shower of small and seemingly harmless meteors lands in the river beside the community centre they are working in. As a result, they all develop semi-super powers that accentuate some element of their personality. For example, one guy who doesn’t fit in and is ignored by others, can turn himself invisible. Another who is a track athlete can travel into the future and influence it. In the hands of an American writer these characters would immediately become crime fighters taking on evil super dudes, but not in this award winning show. If you have an isomething, you can download the BBC app and, last time I checked, watch the first episode for free.

The Fades

I really enjoyed the six part horror mini-series The Fades which was recently shown on ABC2. The spirits of the dead can no longer ascend to wherever they are meant to go, so they hang around on earth. No one can see them except for a group of special human angels, and a teenager. The dead spirits discover that if they eat human flesh they can return to human form, something the angels and teenager try to stop.

Doctor Who

I have been disappointed with Doctor Who ever since Russell T. Davis stopped producing and writing much of it. Since he left they seemed to have dumbed it down for kids, where the thing that really struck me when it was remade, was that it a lot more adult than the original series. But maybe I have just seen too much of it.

I think one of the major problems, besides its lack of suspense these days, is the Doctor can’t die, so at the end of each episode you know the doctor will save the world/planet. In the X-Files they often did not get or even stop the baddy, not in Doctor Who. In The Walking Dead just about any of the main characters could die, without any fanfare, during an episode, not in Doctor Who. Eureka has a lot more suspense than Doctor Who. In Misfits they might accidentally kill their supervisor. Nothing surprising seems to happen anymore in Doctor Who. The last episode of Doctor Who I really enjoyed was the first one of the current interrupted series with the Dalek who thought he was human. It was more slowly played, had a bit of suspense, and surprised me by allowing me to empathise with a killing machine.


And then there is the really bad. A new series has started on Foxtel called Defiance. It is set on the Earth after a war in which the planet was terraformed by aliens. Eventually the surviving humans and multiple alien races called a truce, and live in an uneasy peace.

The main character (Aussie Grant Bowler) is a scavenger of resources. About ten minutes into the pilot episode I thought this guy is going to drive into town like Clint Eastwood, and be asked to save it, which he will decline and leave, but then decide to come back and save them. And WTF?, that is exactly what happened. It is just a western with aliens instead of Indians, Star Wars on Earth. Each week we will have a story about a scramble for power between the town and various baddies, with the man with the biggest gun and/or American righteousness winning. Whoopee. Right-wing crap.

You are better off watching Hell on Wheels if you want to watch a western series, or Game of Thrones if you want to be engrossed in the politics of power.  


Beach Bum said...

I absolutely agree about "Defiance." The Syfy channel has been heavily promoting it for months, to the point I often wanted to puke. I watched the first episode just for giggles and could not remember the last time I saw such a weak show. Most shows like it are canceled with a few weeks but since they have sunk a LOT of money in online game, set in the "ruins" of San Francisco it has already been declared a hit show.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Haven't seen the others and to be honest, don't have the time. Unless its brilliant like Game of Thrones I probably won't get around to it.

I have been recording the new Dr. Who, but also havent had time. Ive watched two eps. I dont think its any worse than previous eps but I do agree that the danger seems irrelevant. Its also too manic, all over the place. I dont think its dumbed down for kids anymore than previous seasons - infact sometimes its so scattered that I lose track. Too many intereconnecting time lines - the doctor's girlfriend is his future wife who killed him or something. I'll keep watching though, for the time being.

Looking forward to the 50th anniversary special. Hope to see the older doctor's turn up. I expect a lot of cameo's like the very good 20th anniversary, The FIve Doctors.

Graham Clements said...

Beach Bum, as I am not a fan of Defiance, I expect it to be a roaring success.

Graham Clements said...

Anthony, if you get time to watch one, I very much recommend Misfits - it's original, clever, with unexpected twists, and has a great British attitude.

Graham Clements said...

Further on Doctor Who: generally one of the roles of a writer is to make the us care about the main character. We should want the main character to survive and achieve her goals. But the Doctor has no goals, and we know he will survive. So therefore the writers should concentrate on us wanting his companions to achieve their goals. At the moment we have no idea what the goals of his new companion are or it indeed she has any and if she dies, then maybe the doctor will show us some emotion. Or the writers could try and make us care about the characters in the worlds the doctor lobs into. The writers should make us care that they are saved. But with the episodes being so manic, we don't have time to care. In that Dalek episode I mentioned we had time to care about the young woman, who turned out to be the deluded dalek. Another episode I enjoyed from a couple of seasons ago was where a child was trapped in a world through the wardrobe, the writers made me care about the child's fate. Doctor who at the moment is like watching one of those c-grade horror movies full of obnoxious teenagers who we are supposedly supposed to care about. The movies fail because we would prefer to laugh at their stupidity and hope they die.