Sunday, December 14, 2014

2014's Small Screen Science Fiction: the Good, the Bad and the Inconsistent.

I have watched a lot of science fiction on television this year. A lot of short series, which I appreciate because there is less padding. Some of the science fiction was very good, some of it inconsistent, some of it pretty ordinary. Let’s start with the good. 

The Good.   

SBS2 screened some good science fiction this year, much of it second seasons. The standout series was the second season of Real Humans. A series set in an alternative Sweden where robots called Hubots are common. The series tackles the issue of androids interacting with society from many angles. It explores the robots as sentient beings and ponders if they will attempt to take over the world. It has humans being infatuated with androids, and also using them as sex toys. It has humans, one dead, one badly burnt, uploading themselves, or at least attempting to, into hubots. It also explores the violent reaction of those afraid of technology against the androids. So it covers many areas through a number of stories that overlap. Real Humans is a brilliantly written series that is full of ideas and mostly believable characters. The second series was as good as the first and left enough storylines unresolved for a third series. 

Utopia and Orphan Black also had their second seasons on SBS, but they weren’t as good as their first seasons. Their second seasons while good to watch, did not add a lot to the world’s they had created. 

Utopia is set in a near future England where a group of people have stumbled upon a plot to….well you will have to watch series one first to find out what the conspiracy is. It is an extremely violent series, full of quirky characters and visually unique as strong greens, reds and yellows are in many shots.

Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black still amazed with her multitude of cloned characters. But the series did not seem to go anywhere. Additional layers were added to the conspiracy surrounding the clones, but at the end a solution seemed no closer. Still it made enjoyable viewing.

Series three of Continuum was screened on Syfy this year. It is a time travel series. A group of terrorists escape their execution and travel back in time to try and stop the world being controlled by a mega corporation. A police officer is caught in the time travel wash of their escape and finds herself trying to stop them from altering her future.

The series had a slow start, but I am glad I persisted, because in the third season it really picked up. There has been a long story arc of the police officer questioning the future she was fighting for, in the third season her agenda changes, as does that of the terrorists.

Another show I persisted with was Extant. An astronaut in a solo research station in space for 13 months returns to earth and discovers she is pregnant. While her husband has created an android child which he is trying to turn into a sentient human being. It took a while for Helle Berry to nearly convince me that she was an astronaut, and it took even longer for Goran Visnjic to convince me that he was more than just a nervous stilted actor. The series had a few gapping plot holes, like why wasn’t the astronaut placed in isolation for months after being exposed to a deadly parasite. But the two main story arcs did manage to come together at the end of the series. I don’t think they should make a second season. 

The Inconsistent. 

Guess, come on, anyone who is a science fiction fan will have this series on the tip of their tongue when inconsistency is mentioned. It is a series that has maintained this inconsistency for years. And this year, many of us were hoping that a new lead actor would get the writers, especially the head writer, to write more consistent good quality scripts with lots of suspense. The massively inconsistent show was Doctor Who. This year there were fewer bad episodes. If the season had been full of episodes like Flatline and Listen, it would have easily been the best science fiction show of the year. I thought the narky and serious Peter Calpadi a vast improvement on the flippant Matt Smith. 

The Bad.

The 100 should be retitled the 100 Gaping Plot Holes. It is set a couple of hundred years in the future, earth has been devastated by a nuclear war and the survivors live in a large orbiting space station. But their systems are failing so they decide to send 100 juvenile offenders down to earth to see if they survive. I was willing to let the writers get away with having the earth habitable only 100 years after a nuclear war, but then…

The 100 morons, I mean juveniles, are packed into a shuttle which is supposed to land near a large warehouse of food, but because of two extra-stupid morons, the shuttle crashes 20 kilometres away from the warehouse. I was stunned at how stupid the writers think viewers are when they sent five people to walk the 20kms and carry back food for the other 95. According to an acquaintance who has watched the whole 13 episodes the plot clangers don’t improve. I only watched two episodes. 

Starcrossed is about original as all those terrible rip-off movies on the syfy channel. Aliens crash land on earth. They just happen to be nearly exactly like humans except for some tattoos on their necks – so their pretty faces aren’t messed up. The aliens go to school and try to fit in. They might as well be African Americans in the sixties, that is how old this story is. I watched only one episode.

The writers of the remake of the Tomorrow People should have watched the vastly superior Alphas before sitting down to write. Then they would have learnt a bit about original characterisation, instead of creating a show with lots of pretty boys who spend an awful lot of time bare-chested. This is obviously a show for teenage girls who daydream about having a pretty boy use their special powers on them. The show has a premise, but who cares about that. 


I still have to watch a few more episodes of the second season of Revolution to judge it. Like Orphan Black it seems to want to cover much of the same ground as the first season, but with none of the ideas and no superb acting. I am also yet to watch series three of Falling Skies and series two of Under the Dome, which I wish had followed the book a bit more closely and only gone for one season.  


Anthony J. Langford said...

Might have to check out Real Humans.
I bought Utopia after your recommendation but still haven't watched it. Wont bother with season 2 though so cheers.

Caught a little of a Orphan Black. Didnt do much for me, though it was way out of context.

Im still working my way through Doctor Who. Have liked the episodes Ive watched so far, though his assistant is beginning to irritate.. i suppose most of the assistants do it time. I like Capaldi. He's good.

I wish I had more time to check out some of those other series but I just dont.

Graham Clements said...

I had more time to watch tv this year because much of the time I was too tired to read at night. Really recommend Real Humans. It is subtitled and the Swedish language grates to begin with. But they cover so much. Utopia season one is great, watch it, I reckon your interest in making videos will be rewarded by the startling images littered throughout Utopia. Great story too.