29 October 2009: Space opera on TV

Space fighter craft

This is my fifth and last blog post (for now) looking at the new genre television season by subgenre. I’ve noted before that within speculative fiction — which starts with the question “What if?” — supernatural conspiracy shows, vampire romances, and metahuman melodramas have been more popular lately than space opera. That’s too bad, because my some of first loves in science fiction were the late-1970s TV heroes of Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica (see above and reruns), as well as the novels of Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and many others.

The recent success of Star Trek‘s cinematic reboot could be an early sign of the pendulum swinging back to rockets and ray guns. Not surprisingly, the best space opera on the air right now is the computer-animated Star Wars: Clone Wars. Loosely based on the Tartakovsky shorts that took place between Episode 2: Attack of the Clones and Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, the pilot movie turned off some fans by focusing on young Padawan (Jedi apprentice) Ashoka Tano.

However, since then, I think that Clone Wars has done an excellent job of exploring and expanding various corners of George Lucas’ universe. It has humanized the clone troopers, showed how the Jedi knights are outmaneuvered by the cunning Sith, and demonstrated what Yoda described as the futility of war. Plus, Clone Wars has the blazing space and lightsaber battles, kid-friendly humor, and strange aliens we’ve come to expect from the Star Wars franchise.

I’m still on the fence about Stargate Universe. On the one hand, it’s part of the franchise established by the retro action movie and long-running Stargate SG1. On the other hand, the large conflict-ridden ensemble, dark and shaky cinematography, and focus on survival over heroism are more in the style of Battlestar Galactica: the Plan or Flash Forwardthan I’d prefer.

We’ll see how the major cast and crew changes coming to Doctor Who will affect that British time-travel franchise. I’ve enjoyed its mix of space opera, pseudohistorical swashbuckling, and alien horrors from the Jon Pertwee incarnation through Tom Baker and David Tennant, and I’m willing to give Matt Smith, the eleventh eponymous Time Lord, a shot. Spin-offs include the more adult-themed Torchwood,
the adolescent-aimed Sarah Jane Adventures, and the dubious reboot of K-9
and Friends
. Have a Happy Halloween!


Summer SFTV


The summer 2009 genre television season has picked up, including SyFy’s lighter conspiracy series Warehouse 13, TNT’s returning capers on Leverage, and Disney XD’s Silver Age-style Spectacular Spider-Man. Because of time constraints, I’ve dropped the computer-animated Iron Man and Bible-inspired Kings from my viewing schedule, and although several friends have recommended Lost, I’m  leery of making a commitment to yet another continuity-driven show.

This week promises an embarrassment of riches, with BBC America showing the wellreceived Torchwood: Children of Earth science fiction/horror miniseries and the beginning of the end of David Tennant as the eponymous time traveler in Doctor
: Planet of the Dead.
I’ve been a fan of that long-running franchise since high school and look forward to the good doctor’s next incarnation.

In addition, G4 will be covering the annual San Diego Comic-Con, which has become more noteworthy lately for film previews than for comic books and graphic novels. On DVD, I’m looking forward to the releases of Watchmen, The Middleman, Coraline, Pushing Daisies
Season 2, and Green Lantern: First Flight. I have yet to see Hulk vs., Quantum of Solace, and Tale of Desperaux.