ALCOHOLIC RUSSIANS ON BOARD!
by Paul Waldowski
Please welcome our guest author Paplikaplik, who will be featured here occasionally writing about sci-fi movies and tv shows.
So this is going to be a list of my top five favorite sci-fi shows of all-time. Now before we begin, let me say something right now to all those people who are really into a show that lasted about a dozen episodes, but left such an impression on its fans that they went forth unto the internet to continually berate everyone else for not including their favorite show on various "Best of" lists: I don't care about Automan. It sucked. Get over it. Go drown your sorrows with the Manimal contingent in room 322 at the next convention. If you really want to debate me on this, I only have one thing to say:
#5 - Star Trek
1. He doesn't like gods, computers, or anything that threatens his ride
Kirk isn't afraid to tell people what he thinks about them, nor is he wary of destroying a society's entire way of life, especially if it's run by a computer. He also beds a woman in these various ports of call, and then leaves them to deal with the consequences.
I've always wanted to see a TV show where the crew of a ship had to go and deal with the havoc Kirk wrought throughout the galaxy, from the inevitable bloodbaths borne of a society struggling to emerge from a Dark Age of barbarism, to women petitioning the Federation for help and assistance because they've been outcast amongst their people for having a baby fathered by an Earthman.
Perhaps they could go on the Trelane Show and have their babies genetically tested to see if Kirk is the babydaddy. Trelane would milk the whole thing out and at the end declare, "Kirk, you are not the father!" Kirk would jump from his chair,
#4 - Farscape
Farscape was a groundbreaking show. Most televised sci-fi tends to be safe and formulaic. There are established conventions in the genre, especially when it comes to set design, story structure, and camerawork. Farscape ignored most of those and presented something completely new. Sure, the basic plot is a well-worn cliché: plucky crew of a spaceship flees an evil galactic empire, but the writing and characterizations busted the limited confines of the genre to give us something more than just the same moral dilemmas that are the mainstay of sci-fi. No one on this show was asking what it means to be human, nor did anyone really debate the morality of their actions. They just did what they needed to do to survive.
This was a show about friendship and loyalty and what both of those mean in a universe that severely tests those traits. Most of us find ourselves randomly thrown together with other people. We share the same circumstances and face the same situations. We call each other "friends", but are we really just friends of convenience, willing to sell each other out if we think we can save our own ass? That was one of the initial questions on a show that basically chronicled the adventures of a man's descent into madness amongst a ship full of criminals and outcasts.
#3 - Deep Space Nine
It didn't start out too great, though. It featured Avery Brooks, better known to badasses everywhere as "Hawk" from Spenser: For Hire, but they made him a Commander instead of a Captain. They also stuck to the hard and fast Trek rule that everything at the end of the episode had to be as it was at the beginning of the episode, which meant that no matter what apparent peril the crew faced, you knew that no one would die and it would all be reset before the final credits rolled. Here's an example:
Villain: "And now, I shall kill you all! Die! Hahahahahaha!"
Things changed at the beginning of DS9's fourth season, though. Hawk shaved his head, grew a goatee, and became a Captain. The stories became darker. The writers also started serializing the show, which meant that events that happened in one episode would have repercussions throughout the rest of the series, which made the show extremely character-driven, as the characters could now grow and change throughout the series, rather than remaining stock archetypes. If you look at any other Star Trek series, the characters are pretty much the same at the end of the series as they were at the beginning. The same can't be said for DS9. Some died, some were maimed, but all were scarred by the war they had fought.
If you doubt the quality of DS9 or its impact, just look at the creative output of its writers after the series ended: The Dead Zone, The 4400, the first season of Andromeda, and Battlestar Galactica.
#2 - Stargate SG-1
Modern Earth people find the gate, activate it and liberate the enslaved populace on the other planet while destroying the tyrant Ra. The former slaves then break into different sects and start killing each other while a small Earth contingent tries to establish order and promote democracy.
SG-1 is the rare show that exceeds the movie it was based upon, mostly because they dropped most of the Dean Devlin crap and decided to take the show in an entirely different direction than the movie. The result is the best executions of the Trek motif to date: a team of explorers travel to different planets, encounter a problem, and solve it in the fifth act. Instead of a horny Captain, the team is lead by a wise-cracking and irreverent Air Force Colonel. If they had made SG-1 a Marine or Army team, it just wouldn't have been the same. There sure as hell wouldn't have been any dramatic tension, nor any wise-cracking.
General: "Colonel, I know we fucked-up and alerted the Goa'uld to the villager's location, but them's the breaks. Get out of there."
You just can't make an enjoyable 42-minute action-adventure show from that.
#1 - Battlestar Galactica
But for all that, BSG is essentially the world's first science fiction soap opera. It's Dynasty in space. It's the tale of a dysfunctional group of people trying to fuck each other over with twists, turns and surprises around every corner. Will Sharon learn that her baby isn't really dead and is being secretly suckled by the former President? Will Adama and his son finally reconcile their differences or will Lee Adama rebel against his father and try to takeover the family business once again? Will the maniacal and arrogant Gaius Baltar finally get what's coming to him, or will he emerge from defeat to reclaim the
For all the muted colors, shaky-cam action and tribal music, it's still a primetime soap opera, albeit a very good one.
Now I know there will be people who'll say, "But what about Babylon 5 or the X-Files or that obscure show from the 80's with that kid who was an alien prince hiding out on Earth with Louis Gossett, Jr.?"
Well, first off this is my list, not yours. Amazingly enough, people have different opinions about these things. Go figure. Second, while I'm a huge fan of Babylon 5 and I loved the X-Files when it first aired, I just can't watch repeats of episodes from those shows. They were outstanding series, but if I happen to see a re-run of one of them on TV, I can't stop and watch it. I've already seen it, and I just don't feel like watching it again. With the shows I listed, I can watch them over and over again. If I'm channel surfing and spot an episode from Farscape, I'm going to stop and watch the rest of it. For me, that's the criteria to be considered one of my all-time favorites.
Your mileage may vary.
Born to a poor sharecropper in Western Kansas, Paplikaplik is a world-reknowned atomic scientist and ace test pilot. He's currently assembling an Interocetor with the help of his manservant, Skippy. He can also be found at Danger West.