Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Best of Science Fiction Film and TV

Many moons ago, I put together a list of my favorite science fiction books. It's a bit long in the tooth at this point; I'll have to update it one of these days. I'm not as hardcore a science fiction fan as I used to be but I still enjoy the genre when the work is quality which, of course, is far less frequently than otherwise.

I mention this because the other day I ran across a pointer to a best-25 of the last 25 years science fiction projects (LA-speak for TV series and films). I don't find most of these things particularly worthy of comment or even the time to read. They're typically either grindingly conventional or just weird. This one (from Entertainment Weekly of all the bizarre places) however was really quite good. It had a few unconventional choices (such as Galaxy Quest) that I might not have thought to put on such a list, but I actually pretty much agree with them. In addition, one of the nice things about the 25-year cutoff for the list was that it excluded various films and TV shows that were inarguably influential but that are perhaps best enjoyed with a degree of "historical perspective."

So, no real disagreements. Just a few quibbles.

On the film side, I'm not a huge fan of E.T. but I appreciate that it was a hugely popular film. And, on the absolutely opposite pole of filmic character, I didn't really buy into the unremitting darkness of last year's Children of Men. But it's clearly a well-made film. I would probably be inclined to include other films instead however. Possibilities that come to mind are Jurassic Park, Minority Report, eXistenZ, The Abyss, and perhaps a superhero double feature of Batman Begins and Spiderman II. (Superman II misses the 25-year cutoff.)

I have even less disagreement on the TV side. I would be inclined to list Star Trek: Deep Space 9--a darker, deeper, and more serialized series in many ways--along with Star Trek: The Next Generation. (A number of the entries group related projects.) And I'd like to find a spot for Babylon 5. The series has its problems. Some of the acting is pretty stiff and the computer graphics are obviously computer graphics. Uncertainties associated with its renewal at various spots also made the final season feel a bit tacked on. But the strong writing, well-developed story arc, and complex backstory made this series worth watching. It does take some work to get into and, at the end of the day, isn't up to the standards that a newer series such as Battlestar Galactica has set so caveat emptor.

In any case, pretty much everything on the list is worth watching. If you're a science fiction fan, check it out.

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