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Old 12-12-2006, 03:00 AM
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Default The importance of being Sci-Fi

Just wondering what other people think. What would you say was the Sci-Fi show that contributed the most to the Sci-Fi world? Star Treks amazing ideas and long running? B5's unique 5 year storyline? BattleStar's realism? Star Wars intertwined stories? Doctor Who...for just being Doctor Who....
Any Sci-fi show (Or film) you can think of, that you think helped define or move along the genre more than any other. And why.

Me First. Gonna be boring:
Doctor Who

Why?

Longest running Sci-fi show. It was what the people of today (Directors, Story writers) watched when they were children. Cybermen. Where do you think the Borg came from? And the idea of 'Changing' the lead? Unheard of. Also means there is a different Doctor for every taste. The different stories....Sciencey...Horror...Comical...Mystery.. ..
The Music! Everyone knows the music! The icons it's given us... A police box, a tin dog, A scarf.... Celery?
I really can't think of show that has given us more!
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Old 12-12-2006, 03:08 AM
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If you're going to include film 2001 is a compelling choice, because it made it possible to view sci-fi in a serious light, building on what had been done by Robert Wise with The Day the Earth Stood Still.

For small screen science fiction, I think the innovations of The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits had a lot to do with making possible the serious exploration of sci fi subjects on TV...
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Old 12-12-2006, 04:21 AM
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This is really two questions, as I see it. Each with different answers. So I'll answer each. I guess.

1) Which sci fi series has had the largest impact culturally?

Star Wars, without question. These movies transcend nerddom more than any other example of the genre. Sure, they're basically fantasy tales in space. But they're escapest fun that anyone can enjoy, and countless elements of the films have evolved into genuine pop culture icons. Nothing comes close. Not even Star Trek.

2) Which sci fi series has had the largest impact on the genre?

This question has different answers depending on your generational perspective. Verne's novels, Metropolis, Arthur C. Clarke novels, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and The Matrix are all equally valid answers for different eras.
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Old 12-12-2006, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by ijdgaf View Post
This is really two questions, as I see it. Each with different answers. So I'll answer each. I guess.

1) Which sci fi series has had the largest impact culturally?

Star Wars, without question. These movies transcend nerddom more than any other example of the genre. Sure, they're basically fantasy tales in space. But they're escapest fun that anyone can enjoy, and countless elements of the films have evolved into genuine pop culture icons. Nothing comes close. Not even Star Trek.

2) Which sci fi series has had the largest impact on the genre?

This question has different answers depending on your generational perspective. Verne's novels, Metropolis, Arthur C. Clarke novels, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and The Matrix are all equally valid answers for different eras.
I'm meant in a more simple way. What Show/film/series do you think has moved/improved or added to the genre the most. Not so much the how much people enjoyed it.
For instance, many Sci-Fi shows and computer games now freely use the word Cloaking Device, as though it's a simple everyday term. That term however, was started by Star Trek.
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Old 12-12-2006, 11:22 PM
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It occurs to me that there are a plethora (si, El Guapo) of ways to define the idea of "science fiction." We've seen to that. Depending on your definition of scifi, you could say it started with A Conneticut Yankee, but I'd usually start the proper scifi generation with the works of Jules Verne. At this point, we have:

1. Hardcore sci-fi. Star Wars, Andromeda, B5 and such. The technology (even to the point of midichlorians and such) is an integral part of the society, and any "mystical" properties can be explained fully. Science is as fully understood as is possible.
2. Softcore sci-fi. Trek, Stargate, etc. The technology is important, but new innovations can and do occur. Science is admitted as impossible to fully understand.
3. Bizzare sci-fi. Doctor Who, h2g2 and so forth. Technology is there, it's not really magic, but we don't want to dwell on it. Impossible stuff can and does happen, with some frequency, in fact.

So, if you accept these as broad categories, then you'd have three winners: Wars and Trek would accept laurels for the first two, but the third is more of a tossup.
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Old 12-13-2006, 06:32 AM
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Seeing "Star Wars", "hard" and "Sci-fi" in the same sentence just blew my mind.

Truth be told, just about everything on TV or in the movies is properly labelled "soft" sci-fi, mainly in that it transcends technological and physical conditions beyond reasonable extrapolation. "Hard" sci-fi is a whole different beast. The new BSG and Babylon 5 back in the day have taken babysteps towards hard sci-fi, but they're not there yet.

Compare any of your examples to, say, 2001. Sci-fi does get "harder", but it is a good point of comparison. When was the last time a TV show paid proper attention to the problems of microgravity, for example? (Babylon 5 stands as a good example with the Earth ships and the station itself, but even they can't resist having artificial gravity on their "advanced" races to sidestep the problem.)

I don't think your categories as such are bad, but please relabel them to something that doesn't hurt my brain.

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Old 12-13-2006, 07:57 AM
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Sorry, I know next to nothing about 2001, except that the familiar "dun...dun...dun...dundun!" comes from it. (Right?)

If it wasn't for the midichlorians, I'd have put Star Wars into the softcore category. If the Force is explainable by "science," then everything is, and it's hardcore. For all we know, in Star Wars they can make a capsule of midichlorians suspended in plasma or something to make batteries akin to ZPMs.

Well, if you allow behind the scenes explanations, then Trek does deal with it. As the famous anecdote states, one day someone asked Richard Sternbach how Heisenberg Compensators work. His reply? "Very well, thank you."

Relabel them? Really have no idea what other names would work.
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Old 12-13-2006, 10:14 AM
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What would you say was the Sci-Fi show that contributed the most to the Sci-Fi world?
Trek. Has another show or franchise inspired so many people to become real engineers, doctors, and astronauts?
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Old 12-13-2006, 03:19 PM
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My point is, "hard" and "soft" are already defined along completely other lines than yours.

Let me put it this way:

"Set a course for Altair 3, maximum warp!" is soft sci-fi. "Thruster package 3, fire ten seconds" is hard sci-fi.

It doesn't matter if, within the setting, the technology is well-understood. It's about whether it uses real-world science or has to invent stuff. In this respect, Star Wars is not "hard" in any way; I'm not even sure it's Sci-Fi rather than space opera or science fantasy. In the Expanded Universe, Star Wars picks up way more technical details, but in the movies themselves? Forget about it. They hardly explain anything, and they don't have to.

2001 is, aside from the intelligent story, justly famous for the realistic portrayel of spaceflight (albeit advanced). There are no faster-than-light drives, part of the spaceships rotates to generate the illusion of gravity, everything else is in a microgravity environment. It doesn't get everything right, but it tries damn hard. Trek goes its own way and makes up nice-sounding new words to cover. Star Wars doesn't even try.

As for your categories, I think we can put that into "static" and "dynamic". Star Wars, as a setting, is incredibly stagnant in technology. I'm not saying this is bad, but on the whole, most "new" stuff is merely refining and repurposing, not making whole new inventions. The Death Star was a massive logistical and Engineering archievement, but it didn't have any advanced supertech. By contrast, Trek treats science as a completely open frontier - new technologies are discovered all the time or learned from alien species. In fact, the sheer amount of new species is staggering, and even if it doesn't work out, things are changing. Trek has seen so many new and alien drive systems, for example, that I'm not sure I can just list them all here from memory. Wars is content with repulsorlifts, sub-c drives and hyperdrives being just the way they are.

I'm not saying one is better than the other, I enjoy both for different reasons. But I think we need to watch our terminology.

Gatac
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Old 12-13-2006, 05:05 PM
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Sorry, I know next to nothing about 2001, except that the familiar "dun...dun...dun...dundun!" comes from it. (Right?)
And you call yourself a sci-fi fan?!

2001, without doubt, is the single most important sci-fi creation of the 20th Century.

Nothing else even comes close, in intelligence, beauty, design, reality, good thinking-through, complexity...

Heck, it wasn't made that long after TOS, and still looks more real than Enterprise did.

2001 has inspired, blown minds, shaped people.

Quite simply, it is a gem of immeasurable wonder.

The only downside is the lack of character interaction on the level that you get in TV shows...

For character interaction, the prize, though I am loath to admit it, goes to Blakes' 7. Simply because it was the first, and in many ways the best at developing characters in an ongoing manner. Who played with it, (The Edge of Destruction being a good example...), but didn't really latch onto the idea.

Coming in close second for intelligent plot that makes you think, if we can extend this to all sci-fi, is the game 'Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords'. It breaks the SW mould, it makes you think, and yes, it's a little cliched, but it works well. The characters are a little theatrical in their dialogue, it's true - "There are dark places in the galaxy, where few tread...Ancient centres of learning, of knowledge..." - and the character of Kreia (possibly based on Iago?) being a prime example.

For storytelling and narrative pace, I plump for Doctor Who, particularly from 1974-1978-ish, when it was under the aegis of Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes. They perfected the gothic horror feel, and the stories are still fresh (if a little old-fashioned) today.

Most entertaining current sci-fi: The 4400. I just like this show. I can't explain why, it's just...good. It's got the right balance between characters etc. Whether it really counts as sci-fi, I'm not sure.

Best current sci-fi: BSG - simply because a) it's very good, and b) there isn't much competition. I love the whole pseudo-religious thing going on, the directoral style I think is very refreshing, the writing and the inclusion of moral dilemmas, the dialogue, Tricia Helfer...

Best sci-fi of the last ten years: DS9, joint with B5.

Worst sci-fi in existence ever: Torchwood. What a pile of balls.
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Old 12-13-2006, 06:57 PM
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Sorry, I know next to nothing about 2001, except that the familiar "dun...dun...dun...dundun!" comes from it. (Right?)
Wrong. It comes from Also Sprach Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss. Kubrick just used the introduction (about a minute and a half, from a piece that lasts thirty) for the main title theme.

Do try a little harder than that.
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Old 12-13-2006, 07:18 PM
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What, and no one mentions Sphere? Not one of you mentions that movie? I am appalled. I would definitely put that one into more realistic sci-fi, just because it's so damned plausible. It's even set in modern day, and it makes sense to be. Both the movie and the book bring up a lot of good, realistic points on how humans would probably react to alien life, to the unknown.

I would also say that Stargate isn't as 'soft' as you think it is. No matter what they go out into the galaxy and do and how, those are still humans with modern human weapons and technology, trying to develop something to keep up with everyone else. Although it is simplified in explanation often, they do access and develop new technologies in a realistic way. As opposed to Star Trek, which starts out a couple hundred years in the future. One of the things about Stargate is that it has the potential to possibly be real. None of the advanced tech they mess around with is really anything they made, but they're trying. It's another example of how we might act when confronted with the unknown, too.

I'd call The 4400 sci-fi, yes. I only saw the original miniseries, but it looked good. I never know when it's on now, though.

I got bored of 2001 a half hour in and never watched the rest. Sorry. ;p I did watch The Day the Earth Stood Still, though, and I agree that one wasn't just a classic for how good it was.
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Old 12-13-2006, 08:06 PM
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Sphere was a book of tremendous quality well before it was a film of shoddy quality.
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Old 12-13-2006, 08:13 PM
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Sorry, but I don't have the time, money, or cable to track down all of the so-called classics from any genre. Until it plays on PBS or something and I notice it, it will fail to exist in my consciousness.

I can see that my hard, soft, and bizarre categories have generated quite a bit of controversy.

Most entertaining, which I'd measure as laughs per minute, is h2g2. I'm surprised that this is in dispute.

Stargate is soft because the general user of this advanced tech doesn't have a stinkin' clue how it works. Even Teal'c and his zats and tacs and so forth only knows how to fire the things. Ask him how a liquid naquadah battery works and you'd get a blank look. Oh, and except for the guns, they left "real-world" human technology years ago.

Oh, and my major exposure to Also Sprach Zarathustra is the Buzz Lightyear game in Toy Story 2. I've heard it elsewhere, but that's what comes to mind.
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Old 12-13-2006, 10:07 PM
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I did watch The Day the Earth Stood Still, though, and I agree that one wasn't just a classic for how good it was.
that scared the bejeebers out of me. I saw it for the first time a few months ago. what an amazing film.
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Old 12-13-2006, 11:42 PM
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I would also say that Stargate isn't as 'soft' as you think it is.
Stargate is soft in the traditional definitions of "hard" and "soft" scifi. Like Gatac said, hard scifi is all about the science, while soft scifi is all about the fiction. I find most hard scifi boring because the characters, the plot, everything, is just a means to exploring scientific theory. Most other people would too, which is why hard scifi will probably never make it into a TV series.

Stargate *is* realistic about the scifi. You're right that it's modern humans with modern technology, trying to integrate scifi magic tech into their stuff, but it's still scifi magic tech, like other scifi shows. X-files was similar: Modern humans with modern technology, while aliens, governments, and secret cabals had scifi magic tech. But a sense of realism or plausibility isn't quite what hard scifi is.
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Old 12-13-2006, 11:55 PM
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I assume you mean "magic scifi tech" as in "we can use the stuff, we just wouldn't know how to take it apart and put it back together."
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Old 12-14-2006, 06:31 AM
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I'd say that's magic sci-fi tech. In my mind, it's not so much about whether the thing is actually explained, but how it is approached. For example, the Stargate itself, although there is obviously some theory behind it that the characters know, is never detailed enough that we could extrapolate a working "model" and predict new phenomena that happen to it. In a sense, though, the characters are as surprised as we are and genuinely try to understand it instead of shrugging and taking it for granted. Overall it's still soft, but it does have a good deal of realism in it - we see them reverse-engineer and slowly adapt alien technology to their own ends. As so often, human genius and adaptibility triumphs.

Hard sci-fi I like...well, let's see, that's gotta be a book. Stanislav Lem's The Astronauts has many failings - the obligatory Communism stuff (since it's a book from behind the curtain), several flat passages - and it's approach to space travel is a tad naive, coming before we really reached out to space. That said, there's a fascinating atmosphere in the whole book, and our main heroes are scientists trying to figure out what is essentially a gargantuan logic puzzle on another planet. Along the way, the book manages to take a look at several fascinating phenomena, tests theories about these and comes to a grim conclusion about the whole thing. It's slow, but a good read.

I'll just echo the sentiment: hard sci-fi is about the science, soft sci-fi is about the fiction. That doesn't mean one is better than the other, but people do have their preferences.

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Old 12-14-2006, 10:53 AM
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How can you have fiction be about the science? I'd call science non-fiction. I guess you mean that your version of hard scifi tries desperately to have consistent and realistic tech to the point of Stephen Hawking saying "yeah, that could happen eventually."
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Old 12-14-2006, 11:55 AM
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Maybe I exagerated my language a bit; a completely rigorous scientific essay masquerading as story is surely not my goal in having "hard" science fiction. Perhaps I need to re-explain once more:

Hard sci-fi takes the scientific phenomenon first and then extrapolates the story around it. For example, "The Forever War" uses relativistic time shifts as central plot point, allowing the soldiers (travelling from war to war at near c) to keep fighting while hundreds of years pass on Earth.

Soft sci-fi, on the other hand, has a story first and then pretties it up with tidbits of science, or a science-y flavor. Taking Trek as the "Wagon train to the stars", the main issue is exploration and finding new things. How that is done (warp drive) is completely secondary - you could just as well have most of the stories take place if you had the crew, say, in medieval Eurasia dealing with various ethnic groups and cultures. The science is rarely central to the plot.

Truth is, I'm still not satisfied with my words here. It's a tough line to draw, and surely many basically "soft" stories incoorporate "hard" elements from time to time. At that point, however, one could ask whether the science is treated seriously (i.e. Bab 5 Starfuries use Newtonian physics and don't handle like WW2 dogfighters) or merely as plot contrivance (witness Trek's many attempts at portraying time differentials).

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