What happened to science fiction on TV?

So I am a bit of a science fiction nerd.  It goes well with my scientist persona, and I do my best to hide it behind my librarian glasses.  The nerdiness was partially due to environmental influence — my parents are fans of Star Trek and Doctor Who, so I grew up watching both shows with them.  However, the rest of the nerdification I really just did to myself.

I own Neelix’s Star Trek cookbook (I recommend the earl grey chocolate cake, apparently a Troi and Picard concoction).  One of my life’s goals is to go to the bar with the washroom that looks like a TARDIS.  In fact, I was the 12 year old who wrote an X-Files/Sliders/
ST:TNG crossover fan fiction that was longer then my current thesis draft.  It was called “One More Crossover For Man, One Giant Headache For Mankind.”*  Yes, for serious.  I’m dropping that bombshell to try and establish my nerd-cred, since I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but now it’s apparently “cool” to be a nerd.  And I want to hang out with the cool kids so, so badly.

What has made me sad of late, and the reason I’m airing out my nerdy-laundry, is that I’m trying to figure out where all the sci-fi went.  I mean the type of sci-fi that I grew up with that had actual space in it!  And you travelled in the space, in ships!  Across the stars!

When I was a wee lass (a.k.a. the 1990s), we had series upon series of Star Trek.  We had some show called Babylon 5 that I never watched.  Even Stargate eventually became all about spaceships after trying to be Farscape for a bit.  Or maybe it was because Stargate became where all Star Trek actors went when they couldn’t find work anywhere else?  But I digress, sometime after Battlestar Galactica, the idea of sci-fi being about space travel sort of disappeared.  Where did it all go?  Is there a Firefly out there that I don’t know about, people?  When I look for new sci-fi these days, all I can find is fantasy shows about vampires or supernatural things that are supposedly as cool as vampires.

At the heart of this question, I suppose, is the concern that we just don’t care anymore.  Franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars came into existence when the idea of space exploration was popular and when we (the human race) were interested in pursuing these new frontiers.  We had just landed on the moon, and next stop (naturally) was Mars!  But today we seem to have stopped reaching for the stars (we’d rather just dance with them…). NASA’s space shuttle program has been decommissioned.  We have shifted our interest inwards to focus on important things like the economy.  These days we seem to be more interested in maintaining the status quo, than silly, romantic dreams like exploration of the universe.

And it makes me sad.  Star Trek inspired the scientists and engineers of today to create revolutionary technology: laptop computers, cell phones, medical devices, even the ipad.  Without something like Star Trek, what will the next generation be inspired by?**





*As for the crossover, it doesn’t exist online, in case you were wondering.  (It was written in the days before fanfiction.net.)  I only have one printed copy of it in an old binder of mine in my closet.  Don’t tell my boyfriend or he might try and make a dramatic reading of it.

**I’m calling it – someone in 20 years is going to invent vampire birth control.  For when you don’t want to die from carrying a half-vampire/half-human hybrid.

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13 Responses to What happened to science fiction on TV?

  1. I really dug this blog post, and I don’t think I’m going to be much help. But there’s a show called Black Mirror that I actually haven’t watched yet. Aiming to this weekend. It’s supposed to be like Twilight Zone, but more horrori-ish. Definitely not Star Trek, but it might be something? Just throwing that out there.

  2. hentzau says:

    I think you’re looking at this the right way, but a couple of decades too late. The newer series of Star Trek, Babylon 5, Stargate et al — these were all developed and written by people who grew up when space travel was exciting and vibrant. In the 70s, when the US was still flying Apollo, or the 80s, before the space shuttle had become an embarrassing white elephant. Space travel has been stagnant since the 90s and it’s only now that we’re seeing the effects bleed through into our popular culture.

    (Or there is the Hollywood excuse, which is that Star Trek is seen as an IP that’s totally drained and if you set your show in space you are making it like Star Trek. Better to make it about sparkly vampires and werewolves like that popular film series that made all the money.)

  3. sj says:

    I miss all the space too! I content myself by watching many episodes of DS:9 and Firefly, but I wish there was something new and awesome on.

  4. I’m so sick of vampires. Hope they go out of fashion soon! Yeah, bring back science fiction, by the way I love the title of your 12 year old not thesis! Maybe though science fiction will focus on different things now, not so much aliens and the universe as the possibilities of the web and artificial intelligence and cloning and so on?

    • Very true… I haven’t seen any sort of cyberpunk scifi either on TV right now. I hate to say it, but maybe the inevitable Hunger Games rip-offs will mean we’ll be getting more dystopian TV in the future, rather than more vampires? Who knows… 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  5. I can so relate to all of this. I have grown increasingly more saddened as the space race becomes the space snooze.

  6. marthanewsome says:

    I was born in the 1960’s, there was always a plenty of the great science fiction shows (not paranormal shows, or camp vamps and some man with an excess hair problem calling itself a werewolf, with a moon fetish, and wrestling half naked brainless zombies displaying their non-skills on channel SyFy . .. Sigh what the FFFF???)
    My observations” The really science fiction was always out there to find and enjoy until the past 5 years or so. I have noticed a switch in programmers view of the world, which is very scary.
    In their eyes we shouldn’t have thoughts of great adventures in space, we should instead be fighting off zombies to survive (also remember those wrestling moves!!! they may help you beat the next lot of the undead that want to eat your kids???).
    We should all become paranormal beings like vampires and don’t worry about space anymore since NASA doesn’t give a crap about it either.
    I would like to stake the programmers and curse them para-normally for their lack of innovation and their commercialism copy cat behavior.
    I would kiss a producer or a tv programmer if they would get the fff off their rear and tack a gamble on something new and innovative, instead of sucking the vampire blood trail.
    Sorry of I swore to obvious 🙂

    • Hear, hear! 🙂 More awesome space adventures and less vampire/werewolf/zombie fights! I find in general mainstream media is slow to pick up on what people are interested in watching. And then repetitive (like you pointed out). It’s probably why I spend most of my time watching online media these days.

  7. Pingback: Geekgasm of the Day: Wil Wheaton, why you so cool? | in lost lands

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