Some Good Sunday Night Viewing

Another interesting Sunday night with myself and the mates here at Chez Phil, and we’re all sitting here right now, watching some good sci-fi stuff on DVD.

First up, it was the complete 2-Season DVD box-set of The New Captain Scarlet. This was an impressive modern CGI remake of the classic Gerry Anderson 1960’s puppet show. In my opinion, the stories are more intelligent and more adult than those in the original series, which suits me fine, as I’m not a little kid any more. Likewise, on a visual level, the excellent (for it’s time) CGI visuals of the new series far outstrips the 1960’s version (and its rather wooden actors – couldn’t resist that! 🙂 ). Indeed, the only thing that lets The New Captain Scarlet down is its rather bland theme music, which is pretty lame compared the absolutely brilliant Barry Gray 60’s theme.

Well, four episodes later of The New Captain Scarlet, and it was time to move onto something else. So, what did we watch? By unanimous verdict, we all decided to pop open the lovely Series 1-5 DVD box-set of Warehouse 13, and stick on a few episodes of Season 4. Warehouse 13 is an odd but interesting show, very, very funny at times, with an excellent cast who work very well together. It’s also completely stark, raving bonkers, with some really daft (but fun) storylines, completely tongue-in-cheek, and is always a hoot to watch. But it can also be very dark at times. Sometimes I think that the writers of this show are on LSD or something stronger, and they certainly must have had a complete ball coming up with all the kooky powers for those crazy artifacts that they created for the series. 🙂

This Warehouse 13 box-set actually belongs to a friend of mine, and he has generously brought it (and so much other good stuff) up for all of us to watch on Sunday nights (thanks mate!). He picked it up locally for only £35, which is an absolute steal for the entire five-season run of this entertaining show. Jeeze! I remember the not-to-distant days when we had to pay £13-£14 for VHS videos containing only two lousy episodes of our favourite sci-fi series. That would’ve been somewhere between £400-£500 for this series on video. When you ain’t exactly Rockerfella, there’s a massive difference between £35 and £500 – I’ll try anything decent for £35, but £500 is reserved for computers, electronics and other relatively expensive stuff. At only £35, methinks I shall be stalking in the near future to pick said box-set up for such a trifling sum.

Anyway, four episodes of The New Captain Scarlet and five episodes of Warehouse 13 later, and its almost 1am on Monday morning, and time to pack it in for another night. Pretty enjoyable evening overall.

Sci-Fi on Television (Part 3)

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. 🙁