Almost three years ago I asked Whither Science Fiction? That post pondered the state and future of what I see as a platform more than a genre and found both were probably doing okay. Authors still find new territory in a populated landscape (although much of it is well-explored by now).
Today’s question isn’t as deep or important, and my answer is much less positive. It regards a TV series I largely ignored in classic form but came to love as a modern reboot. For a while it was my favorite TV science fiction series. Even when it declined a bit in latter seasons, it still was some of the best SF on TV.
But I think Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who is an unmitigated disaster.
This post’s fill-in-the-blank title (given the “season” clue that we’re talking about television shows) might refer to any of at least three series, all coincidentally from Amazon Prime studios. In fact it refers to all three, although this post is only about two because I already wrote about Upload. As it turns out, I liked it best of the three U___ shows.
The other two are Undone and Utopia (the new one). I’d tried the former last year but wasn’t grabbed. This time I liked it better and binge-watched the whole season. The latter was dark and very murder-y. Both of them were… okay. I don’t quite recommend either, though.
What I do recommend (highly!) is the anime movie, Penguin Highway.
This has the potential to be short since it doesn’t feel that I have that much to say, but I did want to record a few thoughts. I have neither rant nor rave — just some heavy disappointment in one case. In the other case, for me, it’s more a sense of, “Well, what did you expect from a time-travel movie? Time travel is utterly absurd and inherently contradictory.”
The post’s title may have clued you in. This post is about Tenet (2020), the most recent Christopher Nolan movie, plus the most recent effort by his brother, Jonathan Nolan (and wife Lisa Joy), Westworld, season three (also 2020). I’m a little late to the party seeing both of these, but I was so disappointed in season two of Westworld, that I didn’t much care about season three (and nothing I heard encouraged me).
Last night (and into this morning) I binged on all that Nolan.
During the last two weeks I re-watched Cowboy Bebop, an award-winning Japanese science fiction anime classic created in 1998. In contrast with a lot of anime, the show is so adult in its themes that only 12 of the 26 episodes were aired when it premiered on TV Tokyo in 1998. The full series wasn’t aired in Japan until the following year on Wowow, a private, premium satellite network.
In 2001 it was the first anime title ever broadcast on Adult Swim, so it was the first experience many Americans had with Japanese anime. Since then, because of its visuals, music, and themes, it has earned international acclaim, both with critics and audiences.
It’s a definite must-see for any fan of anime or science fiction.
Last Sci-Fi Saturday I savaged Sabrina, which remains a new low to me in dumb TV. This time I have a much more mixed review. I’ve been working my way through Black Lightning (available on Netflix). It’s a superhero show, so it’s fantasy and suffers all the problems and weakness that go with that.
On the other hand, it’s about a Black superhero (three, actually), and the landscape has been sadly and notably deficient in people of color as superheroes. There is also that Black Lightning obviously has a bigger budget, much better acting, and a far stronger sense of authenticity.
That said,… I’m sorry, but superhero stories are just super lame.
With the distraction of the election, on top of the distraction of the pandemic, my note pile has started to accumulate again. I’m way behind on my “Fall Clearance” plan to either finally write the posts or throw away the notes. (The issues I’ve been having with my laptop’s WiFi incompetence haven’t helped.)
Between winter and social distancing, I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on reading. I’ve also been catching up on TV shows I wanted to either check out or re-watch. There have been some new shows I liked so much the first time that I wanted to see them again.
So for this TV-Tuesday I’m channel surfing over all those shows.
I watched the first season of The Feed (2019), a British SF-horror series on Amazon Prime. I can’t say I was terribly whelmed by it. By the time I watched the last two episodes (of ten) I was mostly kinda over it. It has some neat ideas, but far too many tropes and cliches.
Full disclosure, I am not generally much of a horror fan. As with fantasy, I need a bit of something special — original — in my horror (like alien face-huggers or alien trophy hunters). Ordinary horror stories (especially outright slasher flicks), or, for that matter, ordinary Medieval magic fantasy stories, just don’t make the cut.
The problem I had with The Feed was finding it pretty ordinary.
Synchronicity pops up a lot in my life. Between working on drafts about my disappointment with a science fiction series, I took a break to read my news feed and saw an article asking why so many popular SF TV series are so awful. The article made a number of points that resonated a lot with me.
The article calls out Westworld (season three), Star Trek: Picard, and Devs, as examples of awful science fiction television, which seems to match what I’ve read. By which I mean, just about everything I’ve heard, both negative and positive, doesn’t incline me towards these shows (I might check out Devs at some point).
Unfortunately, I don’t think the author answered the question.
My last post was about my disappointment in the science fiction novel series, The Expanse, starting with book four. As it turns out, for me, that’s just the start of my disengagement — it goes seriously downhill from there. To be clear I’m speaking strictly in terms of my personal taste. As the saying goes, ‘One person’s mead is another person’s poison’ (not that I’m a fan of mead).
Given the steep downward trend, book four seems better in comparison. While I like it much less than the first three, I like it much more than what follows. It has some good protomolecule bits, and frontier colony stories are pretty standard science fiction fare.
But I’m particularly struck by what the TV version changed and added.
I feel like a jilted lover. Or a very disappointed one. I found what seemed a delightful bit of science fiction color in an otherwise increasingly grey and dismal world. I let myself get attached (despite a few alarm bells going off in my head). I thought I’d found something truly worthwhile — something to invest myself in.
And it seemed really good at first. There was all the excitement of exploring something new and interesting. But after that great start, there came a most unwelcome left turn into a stinking swamp I want no part of.
This isn’t a Sci-Fi Saturday post or a TV Tuesday post… this is a spleen vent.