Atlantis Arisen

Genres of Film & Literature => Science Fiction => Topic started by: Michelle Jahn on September 20, 2010, 01:22:41 pm

Title: Science fiction on television
Post by: Michelle Jahn on September 20, 2010, 01:22:41 pm
Science fiction on television

Science fiction first appeared on television during the golden age of science fiction. Special effects and other production techniques allow creators to present a living visual image of an imaginary world not limited by the constraints of reality; this makes television an excellent medium for science fiction, which in turn contributes to its popularity in this form.

Because of its visual presentation mode, television uses much less exposition than books do to explain the underpinnings of the fictional setting. As a result, the definition and boundaries of the genre are less strictly observed than they are in print media. Because of the relatively high cost of creating a television show compared to the cost of writing and printing books, television shows are obliged to appeal to a much larger audience than print fiction. Some writers and readers believe that a lowest-common-denominator effect lowers the quality of science fiction on television relative to that in books. With the genre boundaries being weaker, screenwriters and viewers must use more inclusive standards than authors and readers. So the category of science fiction on television is considered in many contexts to include all the speculative genres, including fantasy and horror; in Britain this group is referred to as "telefantasy".

Title: Re: Science fiction on television
Post by: Michelle Jahn on September 20, 2010, 01:23:05 pm
Science fiction television history and culture

Science fiction has been a popular genre with television viewers in the United States almost since its inception, and the country has produced many of the best-known and most popular science fiction shows in the world. Most famous of all these – indeed, perhaps the most famous science-fiction program of all – is the iconic Star Trek and its spin-off shows, comprising the Star Trek franchise.

The first popular science-fiction program on American television was the children's adventure serial Captain Video and His Video Rangers, which ran from June 1949 to April 1955.[1] ABC's own attempt to cash in on the success of Captain Video was a small screen version of Buck Rogers in 1950. Other important live-action space adventure series of the early 1950s included Flash Gordon, Space Patrol, and Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers.

Science Fiction Theatre was an early anthology series, running from 1955 and 1957. It was followed by The Twilight Zone in 1959 and The Outer Limits in 1963. Lost in Space, a space opera which aired from 1965 to 1968, became popular with audiences. It was followed by the influential Star Trek, conceived by Gene Roddenberry and produced by Desilu Productions on the former RKO lot, which later was acquired by Paramount; it aired on NBC. When NBC tried to cancel it in early 1968, the show was so popular among fans that a campaign organized by Bjo Trimble successfully demanded its return, redefining the relationship between television networks and audiences. However, the eventual cancellation of Star Trek led to a decline in science fiction on American television.

During the late 1970s, Star Wars reignited interest in science fiction. This led to the production of shows including Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Battlestar Galactica (1978–1980).

In 1983, the miniseries V used both Cold War and World War II allegories about totalitarianism, propaganda, collaboration, and resistance. In 1987, enduring fan interest led to the development of the Star Trek sequel Star Trek: The Next Generation, which became extremely successful, and led to the later sequels Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and finally Star Trek: Enterprise, which ended in 2005.

In 1993, seaQuest DSV explored environmental themes. In the same year, Babylon 5 began, set in a detailed universe, using a multi-threaded multi-level story arc. Although ratings were weak among general audiences, Babylon 5 had unprecedented support within science fiction fandom. It raised the bar expected by audiences and led to a broad increase in the quality of science fiction on television in the late 1990s. The time travel drama Quantum Leap used contemporary settings to find a broader audience.

The X-Files tapped into popular conspiracy fears and generational angst to find great commercial success throughout the decade. Shows with fantasy and horror elements drew much influence from The X-Files, and generally attracted large audiences, most notably Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and spinoff Angel.) Its influence on the sci-fi genre was still greatly felt throughout the first decade of the 21st century.

Near the end of the decade, some comic science fiction shows were popular: 3rd Rock from the Sun, and the animated series Futurama.

In the 21st century, shows with paranormal themes like Medium and Ghost Whisperer had appeared on mainstream networks. Many shows popular with American audiences are now produced outside the US, including Stargate SG-1 and Battlestar Galactica.

In recent years, the much lower costs of reality television shows have hit all television dramas, but especially those with unusual cost requirements such as science fiction shows. This has led to a sharp decline in production since 2003, though shows like the 2004 reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, NBC's Heroes, and ABC's Lost attract strong audiences.

First run syndication was the most important venue for science fiction television between the mid 1980s and mid 1990s. After this period, specialty channels such as Syfy have replaced first run syndication as a significant venue for new shows.

Prior to recent years, science fiction television shows were normally centered around a premise and characters were defined essentially based on what they did or encountered in the course of their adventures. However, the growing trend (or, paradigm shift,) towards character-centered drama and naturalistic plots and settings has replaced the episodic action-adventure format that was once standard for television science fiction. Cosmic themes, sense of wonder, exotic settings, technobabble, so-called Big Dumb Objects, psychedelic imagery, and "two fisted action" have been mostly phased out in favor of human content and contemporary themes. Also, the demographic audience for science fiction has changed from mostly male to a significant female presence demanding more human elements and stronger female character representation.[citation needed] The aforementioned reimagined Battlestar Galactica is one of the most noted examples of the naturalistic approach towards television science fiction. Although television science fiction has always frequently addressed moral and social themes, recent series have done so with less subtlety and with more blatantly political themes. The anthology format popularized by Rod Serling rarely appeared in science fiction television after the 1980s, though aspects of this were used in both The X-Files and the 90s reincarnation of The Outer Limits. The current format, which was unintentionally popularized by Chris Carter of The X-Files, is toward long story arcs and season long plots with character oriented subplots.

At one time, prominent science fiction authors were frequently recruited to write episodes of various series, such as William Gibson's and Stephen King's work on The X-Files. Other writers include Larry Niven who wrote for Land of the Lost. The last major involvement of a science fiction writer was Harlan Ellison who served as a creative consultant on Babylon 5. This has also largely disappeared due in part to the logistics of writing for television and the reality of proper television drama taking precedence over good science fiction.

Title: Re: Science fiction on television
Post by: Michelle Jahn on September 20, 2010, 01:23:41 pm
British television science fiction

The first known piece of television science fiction anywhere in the world was produced by the BBC on February 11, 1938. The piece was a thirty-five-minute adaptation of a section of the play R.U.R..[2]

In the summer of 1953, BBC staff writer Nigel Kneale created The Quatermass Experiment, leading to further Quatermass serials and feature film adaptations from Hammer. Unlike the US practice, British SF on television was mainly broadcast live until the early 1960s, and then mainly on videotape until the 1980s.

In the 1960s, Britain's independent television network, ITV, influenced by Canadian producer Sydney Newman produced the science-fiction serials Pathfinders In Space (1960) and its sequel Pathfinders to Venus (1961).

In 1961, the BBC produced A for Andromeda about a supercomputer artificial intelligence created from instructions received from an alien transmission.

In 1963, the BBC began production of the longest-running science-fiction television series ever, Doctor Who, about a time travelling alien called the Doctor. It lasted for twenty-six seasons in its original form, and has been revived twice, training a generation of writers, producers, and actors. Doctor Who to British television is like Star Trek to the American audience, both rivals of the longest Sci-fi show on television. Although Doctor Who started first, it has been riddled with cancellations, which means that Star Trek has more episodes.[citation needed]

Gerry Anderson was keen on making science fiction for the independent companies. He wanted to make live-action series but did not have the money, so used puppetry instead. His science fiction shows such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Stingray became successful and are still well-known to this day. Later he was allowed to develop live-action shows like UFO, then Space: 1999.

Doctor Who alumni had moved on to produce their own genre programmes, such as Doomwatch, Survivors, and Blake's 7.

In the 1970s, ITV began to produce youth-oriented genre programmes, such as Timeslip (1970–71), The Tomorrow People (1973–79) and Children of the Stones (1977), as well as shows aimed at a wider audience such as the time-travel drama Sapphire & Steel (1979–82). The BBC responded with the 1975 adaptation of The Changes, which featured the quest of a teenage girl, Nicky Gore, to discover the cause of the shift back to the pre-industrial and pre-technological age, and bring it to an end.

In the 1980s, the BBC adapted novels such as The Day of the Triffids, The Invisible Man and Child of the Vodyanoi (adapted as The Nightmare Man), also beginning an adaptation of The White Mountains novels, under the name The Tripods. The BBC's Edge of Darkness was a popular and cultural hit. Later, Star Cops ran for nine episodes before being cancelled, despite critical approval. The BBC also aired science fiction comedy series such as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Red Dwarf. Doctor Who was finally cancelled in 1989, although it was revived as a 1996 television movie (intended as the start of a new series), and in 2005 as a television series.

In the 1990s, Russell T Davies began working in the BBC children's department. His first sci-fi serial was Dark Season; two years later he wrote Century Falls. The BBC also produced the action adventure series Bugs, and co-produced Invasion: Earth with the US Sci Fi Channel. Davies was finally able to revive Doctor Who in 2005, with some financing from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Since then, the show has spun off two series: Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Other 21st century British science fiction shows have included the time travel drama Life on Mars on the BBC and Eleventh Hour and Primeval on ITV. As we reached the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, the UK showed that they could still produce good science fiction for television with shows such as Misfits, a show about a series a group of misfit teenagers who get superpowers and Paradox, a crime series in which events from the future are downloaded from a satellite in space.

Title: Re: Science fiction on television
Post by: Michelle Jahn on September 20, 2010, 01:24:06 pm
Canadian science fiction television

Science fiction in Canada was produced by the CBC as early as the 1950s. In the 1970s, CTV produced The Starlost. In the 1980s, Canadian animation studios including Nelvana, began producing a growing proportion of the world market in animation.

In the 1990s, Canada became an important player in live action speculative fiction on television, with dozens of shows like Forever Knight, Robocop, and most notably The X-Files and Stargate SG-1. Many shows have been produced for youth and children's markets, including Deepwater Black and MythQuest.

In the early 2000s, changes in provincial tax legislation prompted many production companies to move from Toronto to Vancouver. Recent popular shows produced in Vancouver include The Dead Zone, Smallville, Andromeda, Stargate Atlantis, The 4400, and the revised Battlestar Galactica.

Because of the small size of the domestic television market, most Canadian productions involve partnerships with production studios based in the United States and Europe. However, in recent years, new partnership arrangements are allowing Canadian investors a growing share of control of projects produced in Canada and elsewhere.

Title: Re: Science fiction on television
Post by: Michelle Jahn on September 20, 2010, 01:25:16 pm
Australasian science fiction television

Australia's best known Science Fiction show was Farscape; made with American co-production, it ran from 1999 to 2003. Early shows made in the 1960s included The Interparis (1968) Vega 4 (1967), and Phoenix Five (1970). A significant proportion of Australian produced Science Fiction programmes are made for the teens/young Adults market, including The Girl from Tomorrow, the long-running Mr. Squiggle, Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left, Ocean Girl, Crash Zone, Watch This space, and Spellbinder.

Other shows like Time Trax, Roar, and Space: Above and Beyond were filmed in Australia, but used mostly US crew and actors.[3]

In New Zealand, the production of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess created an entire industry, building the foundation for The Lord of the Rings movies and other productions.

Title: Re: Science fiction on television
Post by: Michelle Jahn on September 20, 2010, 01:25:55 pm
Japanese television science fiction

Japan has a long history of producing science fiction series for TV. Some of the most famous are anime such as Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy, the Super Robots such as Mitsuteru Yokoyama's Tetsujin 28-go (Gigantor) and Go Nagai's Mazinger Z, and the Real Robots such as Yoshiyuki Tomino's Gundam series and Shōji Kawamori's Macross series.

Other primary aspects of Japanese science fiction TV are the superhero tokusatsu (a term literally meaning special effects) series, pioneered by programs such as Moonlight Mask and Planet Prince. The suitmation technique has been used in long running franchises include Eiji Tsuburaya's Ultra Series, Shotaro Ishinomori's Kamen Rider Series, and the Super Sentai Series.

In addition, several dramas utilize science fiction elements as framing devices, but are not labeled as "tokusatsu" as they do not utilize actors in full body suits and other special effects.