Science Fiction on the Big and Little Screen

It’s no surprise: I’m a bit of a scifi geek. But just a bit. I’m not hugely well read in the genre, although I have read a lot of the classics by Bradbury, Hogan, Asimov and Clarke, and even some of the more modern stuff by Gibson and Orson Scott Card. Most of these books are translated into truly dreadful movies and television shows. It’s too bad, and largely while I’m holding my breath about the impending release of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, due out next week. (Expect a podcast review next weekend…)

But sometimes, you do stumble across things which are truly good, and I thought I’d mention two of them here.

The short-lived series Firefly by Buffy creator Joss Whedon is now out on DVD. It’s truly sad that this marvelous series was cut by the geniuses at Fox, because it was the first science fiction show in a great while which wasn’t homogenized crap. Great characters, imaginative situations, and great story telling. I’m comforted in a small degree by the knowledge that it has spawned a movie: Serenity, which will be out this September, but I really wish we had more than just a single 90 minute installment for these characters. If you haven’t watched Firefly, rent or buy the DVDs and scan the episodes and the director’s commentary. Very good.

My other good science fiction experience of the month was provided by the first two episodes of the BBC’s new production of Doctor Who. I really like Doctor Who because it never centers around technology. American audiences seem to be obsessed with technology, but in the Doctor Who Universe technology is just magic: the Tardis moves almost by magic incantation rather than by science. As a result, they never bother to explain technology: it simply is never the point. When you think about it, it’s hardly ever the point in real life either. Nobody ever talks about how a television works, only if it does or does not.

But in anycase, I’m getting astray. Chris Eccleston is really good as the Doctor, it is a pity that he only was signed for a single season. Billy Piper is a gorgeous, likeable sidekick and they seem to have real chemistry on the screen. Effects are improved over the classic episodes, but never quite reach the “totally believable” stage, which frankly, I find a bit good. Anyway, if you get the chance to see ’em, check them out.