Here is a comment I made to Charles Stross’ blog post about scifi genre TV.
I find his views rather extreme, though he has, in part retracted his “hate” of B5, and some of the comments he makes are actually a bit on the comical side. Read his post and judge for yourself. I think he makes some sweeping generalisations that do not hold water.
I will add more comments later (yes I have some comments on the irony of what he has posted)
As someone possibly more dated as you, Charlie, allow me a few comments on your post.
Apologies for the lengthy comment. If you feel the need, please feel free to edit for length. I will be posting on the subject in more detail on my own blog as well.
I met you and had a bit of a chat at the small con in Copenhagen a few months ago, so I was aware of your dislike of space opera. I am, however, a bit surprised at the strength of that dislike.
I, for one actually like space opera. That you do not is not a problem, we just have to agree to disagree on that.
Since you base the main part of your reasoning about the ST:TNG pilot and the of the Trek derivates, I will start there. You saw some of it and hated it. Then you continue :
– “Babylon Five? Ditto. Battlestar Galactica? Didn’t even bother turning on the TV. I HATE THEM ALL.” (my emphasis)
I see your main complaints as the following (here limited to ST, BSG abd B5, since you imply that they all have exactly the same flaws) :
– “Technobabble”. Agreed, my least favourite aspect of Star Trek. ([tech] the [tech], how awful). I think we can agree that it is most often used as Deus ex Machina in Star Trek.
– “…hit the reset switch at the end of every episode”
– “Sometimes they make at least a token gesture towards a developing story arc but it’s frequently pathetic”
All too true for the majority of Star Trek episodes, even though there are some gems where the technobabble is hardly present and not a part of “the resolution”. Example : “The Inner light” where we get the story of how humans dealt with the situation of a dying ecosphere of their planet (even if they did not survive, they were at least able to tell the story).
I find that none of the above points are true for B5 or BSG, though BSG’s arc seems to have been on hold for a season or two.
Babylon 5 has a planned 5 year overarcing story (with a number of sub-arcs), with excursions into the distant past and distant future, this can hardly be seen as “a token gesture”, even if the last two years had to be compressed into one season, making it truly a 4 year arc due to studio decisions. Not ideal, but the arc was, in general, completed. What came after, when the studio revised its decision is a bit of an afterthought, and filling in some blanks in the original story. Actually, B5 has the structure of a novel, it has just been presented in the audiovisual format.
The BSG ending twist is certainly not very original, it literally has the taste of Deus ex Machina.
– “The biggest weakness of the *entire genre* is this: the protagonists don’t tell us anything interesting about the human condition under science fictional circumstances.”
How can you make such a sweeping generalisation if you have not seen them ? In conjunction with the above statement of “hate them all” I fell that it would be akin to saying “20 years ago I met this [insert *ethnic identity* of choice]. He pissed me off to no end, so now I hate all [*ethnic identity*], – after all they are all the same”. I think we all know what this sounds like, and I doubt that was your intention.
Finally, here comes the biggest surprise for me :
– “….modern audiences want squids in space, with added lasers!”
WHAT !? You can not be serious ! … If this is not a massively sweeping generalisation, I do not know what is. I am glad not every TV viewer in the world sees that statement. Are you psychic (and did not tell us), since you seem to know what all of the TV audience wants ? 😉
I should, however thank you, Charlie, since your post here has given me some input to an article comparing B5 and ST, you know, what it has in common and what not.
I have a few more things to say, but it is already a long comment, so that will have to wait.