The latest installment in the mini-anthology series Short Treks —“The Brightest Star”—is the first of these new stories not to take place on the starship Discovery, but, so far, it’s probably the installment that will be the most satisfying for hardcore fans. Not only do we find out how and why Mr. Saru joined Starfleet, there’s also a huge surprise cameo from a very familiar character at the very end of the episode. But the actions of that person, particularly in relation to Saru’s species, will bring up a very old Trekkie question: was the Prime Directive violated here?
Does the entire canon of the Muppets fall into the genre of science fiction? When you consider the various alternate universes the Muppets seem to inhabit, the answer might be yes. If meta-fiction is the handmaiden of science fiction, then there are certainly some SF sensibilities pervading our favorite gang of witty and colorful creatures. Throughout the years, this sensibility has been somewhat acknowledged by the Muppet-verse via specific crossovers from science fiction celebrities. Here are six instances of science fiction icons with the Muppets!
The original Highlander told us that in the end “there can be only one” but the phenomenon of reboots has proven this maxim universally untrue. While many fans bemoan reboots as a death of originality, one has to admit sometimes a reboot can be fantastic. On the whole Battlestar Galactica was a breath of fresh space air and the 2009 Star Trek a kick in the space pants. Reboots prove there can be several versions of a beloved fantastic universe, so why not hope for the best? In this installment of Reboots of the Future, heads will roll and lightening will strike when Highlander returns to TV screens.
Fans of serious science fiction might debate about the various merits of Star Trek versus Star Wars—but there’s another big space franchise that nearly everyone agrees is just as awesome as it is smart. The 2003-2009 SyFy Channel version of Battlestar Galactica is not only a beloved contemporary genre series but also considered by many to be the best sci-fi show of all time. Aficionados know this is a minor miracle simply because the critically acclaimed reboot show was based on a 1978 show with a dubious legacy and mixed reputation among fans of the genre.
But what do you really know about the making of both this modern sci-fi classic and its cheesy progenitor? If the answer is not frakking very much, then pop culture historians and long-time science fiction journalists Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman are here to help!
Behind-the-scenes books on beloved TV shows or films have a tendency to suddenly turn innocent geeky fun into raunchy tales of sex, drugs and rock and roll. The late Carrie Fisher’s last memoir of Star Wars, The Princess Diarist, dropped the bombshell about the sexual affair she had with Harrison Ford in 1976. And if you read the oral history of Star Trek, The Fifty Year Mission, then you would know there was a lot of crazy shit that went on behind the scenes on literally every version of that franchise.
Ed Gross and Mark A. Altman, the authors of The Fifty Year Mission, have turned their excellent journalistic sensibilities to the real story behind Battlestar Galactica. And guess what? Turns out most of the people who worked with each other on Galactica liked each other a lot. In fact, if there’s one huge takeaway So Say We All, it’s that the struggles of both versions of Battlestar Galactica mirrored the premises of both series. The actors and writers faced more adversity from without than within and were constantly in danger of being shut down by tyrannical forces hell-bent on their destruction.
On Saturday, at the 2018 Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, Sir Patrick Stewart revealed that he will star in a new Star Trek series centered on the life of Captain Picard, set 20 years after the events of Star Trek Nemesis. For Trek aficionados, this series represents the first time since 2002’s Nemesis that a new Trek will actually move forward in time, which itself is a cause for celebration.
Supposedly, the sunny universe of Star Trek is all about exploring outer space, meeting interesting alien cultures, and coming up with peaceful, contemplative solutions to important problems, usually while sitting in a comfortable chair. But, if you only look at the very best episodes of Star Trek, it’s very clear the franchise isn’t about strange new worlds, but instead, exploring screwed up terrible ones. Stand-out episodes of all versions of Trek tend to create trippy scenarios that would make the weirdest Black Mirror episode blush. In other words, the best episodes of Star Trek are almost always exceptions to the supposed rule that Trek is a hopeful vision of the future full of people holding hands and loving each other even if they are a space hedgehog named Neelix.
“For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”
Harlan Ellison, author, screenwriter, and grand master of science fiction and fantasy, has passed on June 28th, 2018 at the age of 84. Via legal representative and photographer Christine Valada:
Susan Ellison has asked me to announce the passing of writer Harlan Ellison, in his sleep, earlier today. “For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”—HE, 1934-2018. Arrangements for a celebration of his life are pending.
— Christine Valada (@mcvalada) June 28, 2018
In many ways the conception of Valentine’s Day feels a bit like a science fiction thing, or at the very least, an urban legend. Unlike Saint Patrick, who totally, for real, drove snakes out of Ireland (maybe), details about exactly what Saint Valentine did are dubiously muddled and/or non-existent. The essential fact is this: at some point there was a Saint Valentine who was certainly a martyr, so it might as well be for love!
But when you stop to reflect on it, science fiction and fantasy is lousy with martyrs, and we probably know much more about them than we’ll ever know about Saint Valentine. Here are seven martyrs who keep sci-fi and fantasy going, mostly because they seem to always come back after they’ve died!
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams—an anthology series consisting of ten standalone episodes based on Dick’s work—arrives in the U.S. later this week. In the meantime, join me as I turn my scanner, darkly, toward the films made from Philip K. Dick’s work and try to figure out which of them are quality movies and which actually have something in common with the source material. I’ll give each movie two letter grades: one for being a good or bad movie and one for being faithful to the source material. (Note: faithful doesn’t always mean just following the plot, but capturing the themes and essence as well.)
The most efficient form of time travel might not be a phone box or a Delorean, but rather a good-old fashion bump on the head…
Though it was Arthur C. Clarke who doled out the maxim “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, it was Mark Twain who originally brought the firestick to the ignorant savages of the past. Though certainly not the first work of English-language literature to deal with time travel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court does predate H.G. Well’s The Time Machine. But unlike The Time Machine, Twain takes his protagonist backwards rather than forwards, and features an unwitting everyman time traveler in opposition to Well’s intrepid inventor and explorer.
If we had an infinite amount of apes banging on an infinite amount of typewriters, I think we can all agree, they’d eventually write every single Planet of the Apes movie, and then rise up and enslave us humans as their copy-editors, gaffers, and interns who get them coffee.
Basically there’s no way any of us are ever going to get over the idea of talking apes, like, ever. But why?
Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, the hero of the new epic Prometheus, wears a crucifix and believes in a higher power. She’s a great, likable character who I enjoyed seeing wield an ax. But she didn’t feel like a scientist to me, at least not in a science fictional kind of way. To say that the search for a higher power occupies the majority of the Prometheus narrative is no spoiler, as the promotional tagline for the film is “the search for our beginning could lead to our end.” And in that search for our beginning, Prometheus pulls a few revelatory punches, and in doing so makes aspects of the film’s thematic noise feel, at least on the surface, to be more religious fiction than science fiction.
Tons of spoilers for Prometheus below.
Coming up with a more audacious title for a science fiction film than Alien would be tricky. Perhaps the only candidates are Science Fiction Film or Space: The Movie. From the earliest previews, the message of Alien was clear: all previous cinematic depictions of extraterrestrials are jokers and this Alien is the only alien, and yes, we only need one alien to convince you of that.
But the reason this movie is so great isn’t because of the singular Alien, or even the iconic design of the monster. The real monster here is the brilliant unfolding of the narrative. Just when you think you know what the hell is going on, something pops out (literally) and changes everything.
In 1967 when Gene Roddenberry was accused of personally organizing scores of protesting fans who physically demonstrated in front of NBC Studios to keep Star Trek on the air he said “That’s very flattering, because if I could start demonstrations around the country from this desk, I’d get the hell out of science fiction and into politics.” This quote is one of thousands found in the new book, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: Volume One: The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman. It’s the first volume of two, and like that Roddenberry quip; the entire text shines a bright light on the chasm between what you think you know about the history of Star Trek and what the history of Star Trek really was.
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