The 2000s have provided a relative scarcity of good new telefantasy that I’ve actually liked (in comparison to, say, the 1960s, 1970s or 1990s), and the unnerving policy of cancelling potentially good series (both UK and US) before they even get off the ground still continues to hang over every new television sci-fi creation.
In the UK (and, indeed, worldwide), the modern incarnation of Doctor Who has been a runaway success, and is still going strong after seven seasons. Although not as big a fan of NuWho as I am of the classic series, in my opinion, it still ranks among the very best of recent telefantasy. I was also quite fond of spin-off series Torchwood, although it seems to have petered out after a run of four seasons (I hope I’m wrong and it returns at some point in the future). Another of my favourite UK series was Primeval, which had a decent run lasting for five seasons, but it also seems to have disappeared. The 2011 series Outcasts, was cancelled after only eight episodes, due to poor viewing figures, just when it was getting really interesting and I was starting to really get into it. I was well pissed off about that.
As for US telefantasy series, I quite liked Andromeda (2000-2005), although what seems like a change in tone and general direction in the middle of the run took it down a path that I didn’t like quite as much as I did the earlier seasons. One of my favourite series of the past decade was the remake of Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009). Four seasons of the main series, plus the initial 2003 mini-series and the two TV movies Razor and The Plan, provided a rivetting storyline, which actually managed to wrap up everything neatly by the end. It’s a great pity that the two very interesting BSG prequel series, Caprica and Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome barely made it out of the starting blocks, as they both had a lot of potential.
Star Trek: Enterprise was one that I wasn’t fussed on first time around, but I got to like it when I watched it a few years later on DVD. Sadly it was cancelled after four seasons, the first Trek series since the original 1960s show to be canned prematurely. Stargate SG1, another one that I didn’t get into until a few years afterwards, lasted an incredible ten seasons, ending in 2002, and spawning a couple of spin-off series that I liked quite a lot.
I quite liked Stargate Atlantis, which was sadly cancelled after only five years to make way for its much more serious and BSG-influenced follow-up series, Stargate Universe, which ironically and sadly was also canned, after only two seasons. This one never managed to pick up the big audiences of its predecessors, who were most likely put off by the bleak grimness of the series. Both these series had interesting characters and scripts, and deserved to last longer (particularly Stargate Universe).
The fun Warehouse 13 and its sister series Eureka both made it to a respectable five years, while Sanctuary made it to four seasons. However, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, an interesting Terminator spin-off, only made it to two seasons, as did Alphas. I really, really wish the damned networks would give these series a bit more time to grow before nixing them.
Taking this into consideration, I was delighted that one of my favourite series, Fringe, actually got to finish off its storyline in a fifth season finale. I really, REALLY hate it when a good series is cancelled on a cliffhanger, without the overall story being resolved, as happened with Farscape, another favourite of mine. At least The Peacekeeper Wars mini-series gave some closure to that one, but still left a hugely unsatisfying taste in my mouth.
Worst of all, the excellent Firefly only made it to fourteen episodes before being canned by moronic network execs. The follow-up movie Serenity, as good as it was, was no compensation for that extremely short-sighted and tragically premature axing of the main series. Firefly was, in my opinion, Joss Whedon’s best television series, and it’s really sad that the suits wouldn’t give it more of a chance to spread its wings, as it would’ve been really big. The television network suits only understand viewing figures. They wouldn’t know good TV if it kicked them up the arse and screamed “WATCH ME!”
As for current telefantasy series, There isn’t much out there right now. Two of my favourite series finished recently, Fringe in January 2013, and the adult comedy sci-fi drama Misfits in December 2013. With those two gone, I don’t see any current sci-fi television worth getting too worked up about. Well, maybe Defiance, which isn’t too bad (and it seems has been given the green light for a second season), and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is okay for an hour’s viewing, but nothing special overall.
And then there’s the current US remake of classic 1970’s UK kid’s sci-fi series The Tomorrow People. I wouldn’t really describe this one as “good”. It’s a bit “Meh” to be honest, bland and Americanised, in many ways yet another teenage soap opera, chock-full of pretty boys and girls and mindless fight scenes. It’s lost pretty much everything which made the original 1970s series such fun (despite it being so cheap and cheesy), and falls strictly into the “watch if there’s nothing else good on another channel” category. I do keep watching in the hope that the series comes up with something interesting, but I doubt that it will. I don’t think the scriptwriters have the balls or the talent. But I really do hope that they prove me wrong.
Maybe there have been other recent telefantasy series aside from these, but they certainly weren’t a big enough hit for me to even notice them. Good new telefantasy series in the second decade of the twenty-first century seem to be as rare as hen’s teeth, and, at almost half-way through the decade, this trend shows no signs of improving. It seems like it’s left to good old Doctor Who to carry the lone banner for decent telefantasy right now, and if IT finishes up, God help us all. If it wasn’t for my big collection of classic telefantasy DVDs, I’d go off my head. 🙁
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