Science Fiction Themes

By Michael Edmonds 07/07/2011

This is going to be a somewhat self indulgent post coupling my love of science fiction and TV themes. Growing up I was always captivated by science fiction programmes on television and I’m sure this lead to me pursuing a career in science, even if most such programmes presented unreal expectations of what science can do.

Looking back at science fiction over the past 50 years it is interesting to examine  some of the common themes and how they have changed.

In the 60’s and 70’s programmes such as Star Trek, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Space 1999 and Battlestar Galactica were largely about exploring space. Most of these programmes were set centuries from the present day, allowing the scriptwriters to get creative about what might be possible in the future.

In the 80’s there was a greater focus on advances in the here and now, particularly with computer technology. This gave way to programmes such as Knightrider, Streethawk and Automan where advanced computer technologies allowed talking cars, hyperthrust and computer generated heroes, respectively.

Around the 90’s there was a greater exploration of environmental and biological themes. Seaquest DSV, Earth 2, for example. An exploration of alternative time travel and alternate time lines was also seen in tv programmes such as Sliders, Timetrax, Quantum Leap and Seven Days.

The late 80s’ and 90’s also saw the next generation of Star Treks, which as well as exploring the galaxy also explored the human condition and our ability to form communities. A common theme that emerges through series from the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager is the ability to make friends with ones enemies and work with them. Although these episodes did result in the spawning of the term “technobabble” due to the tendency to solve a problem using verbose technical “innovations.”

Another 90’s science fiction series worth mentioning is Babylon 5. Running for five seasons Babylon 5 had a much rawer, less “sanitized” feeling when compared to Star Trek, and had some impressive seasonal and cross seasonal story arcs (It is probably my favourite sci fi series ever). (And they got the physics correct with their spacecraft!)

Since 2000 there have been a few excellent science fiction programmes. Farscape provided some innovative new storylines, as well as impressive use of puppetry to provide several characters. Odyssey 5 proved to be a short lived and slightly confusing yet intriguing series, while a modern version of Battlestar Galactica proved not quite as good as I had expected.

Also since 2000, there have been a number of science fiction programmes focusing on humans developing superhuman abilities. These include The 4400, Mutant X, Heroes, Chuck, Jake 2.0 and most recently, No Ordinary Family. This seems to have coincided with a increased interest in superhero movies.

And of course, as has been pointed out I can’t miss Dr Who. This unique science fiction show, and its off shoots (Torchwood, K9 and The Sarah Jane Chronicles) has been going since the 60’s.

NOTE – some of these clips may not play completely. However, a double click should link you to the original youtube video.

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