Iconic director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, the forthcoming Prometheus) produces and hosts a new eight-part miniseries for the Science Channel that hopes to be the definitive exploration of science fiction’s ability to spark real-world genius. Profiling one legendary author per episode, the show features a wide range of talking heads, from theorectical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku to Starship Troopers director Paul Verhoeven, discussing seminal works of literature and the scientific facts they predicted. Upcoming episodes look at the writings of Isaac Asimov, H.G. Wells, Phillip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein and... George Lucas.
The premiere episode examines Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, presented as “the first science fiction novel.” The story of Victor Frankenstein and his doomed creation has been widely studied since publication, but examining it through a prism of modern-day organ transplantation, the Human Genome Project, and in-vitro fertilization made the material fresh. However, some of the talking points were a bit forced, heralding Shelley as a visionary who predicted electric batteries and even super-computers.
All episodes seek to answer a central question: What is human? What is freedom? What is reality? To that effect, I’m very interested in seeing some of the more modern classic authors profiled, especially Dick. Yet I bristle at the inclusion of George Lucas. Did no one want to discuss William Gibson, for example? The stories credited (by most) with popularizing cyberspace and virtual reality seems more fitting for scientific dissection than the pioneer of light sabers, midichlorians, and, yes, even CGI. Lucas is certainly a visionary of science fiction, in his fashion, but including him in the line-up dilutes an otherwise cool opportunity to discuss seminal authors. Maybe next season?
Prophets of Science Fiction premieres tonight at 10pm E/PT on the Science Channel.
Theresa DeLucci is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers’ Workshop. She covers games, books, and television, including True Blood and Game of Thrones, for Tor.com. Follow her on Twitter @tdelucci.