Archive for the ‘series TV’ Category

Star Trek: significant writers

This is a list of script writers for the original series that I personally consider to be recognised science fiction writers. I think that most of the scriptwriting since then has been by people who don’t write science fiction for a living, which may argue for the higher level of science fiction in their stories in the original three seasons, especially regarding social issues and cultural change as opposed to action and adventure.

Maybe the serious science fiction writers are concentrating more on movie deals?

  • Robert Bloch, who also wrote the story for psycho. He was a horror, fantasy and science fiction writer, as well as a crime writer. He won the Hugo Award (SF), the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award. He wrote the episodes What are Little Girls Made Of, Catspaw, and Wolf in the Fold. These were entertaining, with a nice flavour of horror mixed into the last two.
  • George Clayton Johnston, who co-wrote Logan’s Run, and a number of Twilight Zone episodes. We wrote The Man Trap. I would not call this a great episode.
  • Richard Matheson, who wrote I am Legend and a number of Twilight Zone episodes, including Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. He wrote The Enemy Within, one of the great episodes. This episode addresses the issue of how essential a person’s darker side has a role in her/his life.
  • Theodore Sturgeon, a highly influential write who won the Hugo and the Nebula Awards. We wrote Shore Leave and Amok Time, the latter of which is one of the great episodes.
  • Harlan Ellison, probably the pre-eminent science fiction short story writer of the twentieth century, and a highly prolific screen writer. He wrote my favourite episode, The City on the Edge of Forever. Although largely modified from the original story, it is a touching tale of duty versus love, on more than one level. According to Wikipedia, he has won 11 Hugos, 4 Nebulas, 6 Bram Stokers, and 18 Locus Awards.
  • Jerome Bixby, who wrote the classic short It’s a Good Life (used in the Twilight Zone and the Twilight Zone movie), co-wrote the story behind the Asimov movie Fanastic Voyage, and wrote the great Star Trek episodes Mirror, Mirror and Day of the Dove. He also did Requiem for Methuselah and By Any Other Name, both of which were good.
  • Norman Spinrad, a well respected writer and two-time president of the Science Fiction Writers Association. He wrote The Doomsday Machine. At the time, this was not a cliche issue.
  • Frederic Brown wrote a classic SF short story called Arena, which was the basis for the Star Trek episode of the same name. The tv episode was okay, but the short story was wonderful. He was a well respected writer from the Golden Age of Science Fiction.
  • Last but not least, David Gerrold, who wrote The Trouble with Tribbles. He also won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for the novelette The Martian Child. Finally, he wrote a wonderful comedic SF novel with Larry Niven called the Flying Sorcerers.

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This list is extracted from a much longer list in an ABC Forum which I just noticed. These are mostly shows that I enjoyed when I was much younger. Those items in italics I have seen more than a few times (at least 4 times), and those in bold I have seen and liked. I thought I had seen more than my share of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV series (and I still think so) but I am woefully short of being one who has seen the majority of SF&F during my TV tenure. In fact, I have seen about 90 TV series out of about 700 from the ABC Forum list. Of these, I like 36 to some extent, and I really love 15 (since I started watching TV in the 1960’s).

Here is what I have seen at least four episodes of:

3rd Rock From the Sun (1996) –basically a sitcom.

Adventure, Inc. (2002)- I tried it because Michael Biehn (Reese in the original Terminator movie) was the star. It was disappointing.

Alf (1986) – I only saw a couple of episodes

Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985)- Definitely great suspense and some wonderful mysteries and moral conundra.

Alias (2001)-It didn’t turn me on much. A retake of La Femme Nikita (the movie) without the sharp edginess.

Alien Nation (1989 (Fox)-5/10

Amazing Spider-man The – The classic superhero cartoon. Really cheesy, but still fun.

Andromeda (2000 (Gene Roddenberry’s)-Not that interesting.

Avengers The (1961)- Steed and Emma Peel. What else needs to be said?

Babylon 5 (1993)- Groundbreaking. It was the first to have a continuous plot with believable conflicts and characters extending over five complete seasons. It changed the way SF TV series were made (i.e. the new Battlestar Galactica, the latter half of Deep Space 9, Firefly, etc.)

Batman (1966) –Pure camp,and the ultimate in tongue-in-cheek

Battlestar Galactica (1978)-A bit cheesy, but well done for the time.

Battlestar Galactica (the new one) – Subtle, realistic characterisation and plotting, intelligent and thoughtful black hats and white hats, and a plethora of hidden meaning. Also the special effects and cinematography is exceptional. Highly recommended.

Beauty and the beast (1987) – a bit too much unrequited love and agonising for my taste

Bewitched (1964)- Dr. Bombay, Endora, Aunt Agatha, Tabitha, etc. Good clean fun.

Bionic Woman The (1976)- One of my first teenage crushes, and a surprisingly good actor.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)- 4/10

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – I avoided it for a long while, then saw a couple of unique episodes on the recommendation of my nephew. There’s some amazing directing going on here, and some characters with real depth hidden in the valley girl image.

Charmed (1987)- Kind of like Practical Magic as a TV series.
Children of Dune (2003)- not as good as the Dune miniseries.

Chronicle The (2001) – a few good episodes and ideas

Crusade (1999) (Babylon 5) – based on Babylon 5, but not in the same league.

Dark Angel (2000) – James Cameron always has good ideas, but the execution was fairly good rather than great.

Dark Shadows (1991) – A classic vampire movie, but the vampire Barnabas is a “good” guy.

Dead Zone, (2002) – Nowhere near as good as the movie (I never read the book).

Deep Space Nine (Star trek) – it started weak, but ended very strong, with very good characters.

Dr. Who (1963) (see also K9 and Company aka A Girl’s Best Friend ) (1981)pilot only. – I haven’t seen many episodes, so can’t comment on the overall quality, but it is one of the ultimate cult SF series, and maybe the longest running.

Dune, 3-part Mini-series (2001) – It is very difficult to be faithful to the depth and grandeur of the book, but this is a good attempt, and Dune purists tended to like this better than David Lynch’s movie version.

Earth 2 (1994)it started with an interesting premise, but bogged down partway through the season.
Earth: Final Conflict (1997 (Gene Roddenberry’s) – It had interesting aspects, but never really grabbed me.

Enterprise (2001 (Star trek)) – It was the weakest of the Star Trek series, and I was rather disappointed. However, there were a number of very good episodes.

Fantasy Island (1977) – “Baas, the plane, the plane!”

Fireball XL5 – Related to the Thunderbirds and other Marionation TV series with a British influence. I was a kid and loved the spaceship and other gadgetry.

Firefly (2001) – From the creator of Buffy TVS, this is cowboys in space with a Chinese influence, and rapidly gained a loyal audience. But it was given a bad time slot and the channel scrambled the order of episodes, and it died in the first year. However it was popular enough to spawn a pretty good movie called Serenity.

First Wave (1998) – Alien invaders aka the 1960’s series The Invaders, complete with a hero on the run like David Vincent. Not that great.

Forever Knight (1992) – A vampire trying to go cold turkey in Canada, and the usage of turkey is apt.

Futurama (1999) – from the creator of the Simpson’s with a similar type of humour in the future. It didn’t grab me.

Galactica 1980 (1980) – Run of the mill.

Genesis II ( Gene Roddenberry) – a fascinating TV pilot with a main character called Dylan Hunt, who was in suspended animation for 150 years and woke in a post-Holocaust world where recovery was starting to take place. It had a couple of unique elements from most other post- apocalyptic movies/shows, and was entertaining. I’ve been waiting for it to come out on TV again, for the last 30 years. I’ve seen it about 4 times in the 1970’s, but haven’t caught it since.

Get Smart (1965) – The best spy comedy in my memory. 99, 86, Max, Hymie the robot, the Chief, the Cone of Silence, the Shoe, Steiger, CHAOS, the mobile island with the giant outboard motor,…”And loving it!”

Greatest American Hero (1981) – A cool superhero story, where a guy finds a superhero suit which gives him special powers, but the instruction book is missing.

Highlander (1992) – Based on the movie, and not as good.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – I loved the book, liked the radio play, liked the movie, but never saw the TV show. I’m told it is very good.

HR Puffinstuff – from when I was very young.

I dream of Jeannie (1965) – Simple fun with appealing characters.

Incredible Hulk The (1978) – Lou Ferrigno is the only reason to watch this.

Invaders (1970) – A classic invasion and infiltration story with flying saucers and a lone hero who is hunted by the aliens and the authorities, who does his best to let others know what is going on, as well as to foil the alien’s nefarious plots. Cool flying saucers, and David Vincent does a lot of stuff that is unusual for your run of the mill architect.

Invisible Man (2000) – 4/10

Knight rider (1979) – 4/10

Land of the Giants (1968) – One of Irwin Allen’s classics. The crew and passenger of a sub-orbital passenger liner go through a strange storm and crash-land on a planet where everything is somewhat larger (kittens the size of moose). Lots of cool special effects and crazy situations to get out of.

Lois & Clark: New Adventures of Superman (1993) – Teri Hatcher and occasional amusements, otherwise dull.

Lost In Space (Fox/CBS) – Irwin Allen classic. I didn’t like it that much.

Lost World, The (1999) – Based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s book about prehistoric animals and cultures on a plateau in the furthest wilds of the Amazon basin. The book was much better.

Man From Atlantis (1977) – a man with merman abilities acts as a classic hero. Not great.
Man From Uncle The (1964) – I barely remember some episodes.

Mork and Mindy (1978) – Robin Williams in a sitcom. Often hilarious, and always good.

Munsters The (1964) – vague happy memories.

New Avengers The (1976) – Steed but no Emma Peel. Forgettable.

Night Gallery (1970) – classic in the same vein as The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone. Some great scripts and good acting.

Outer Limits (1963) -great!
Outer Limits The (1994) -Very good and sometimes great.

Planet of the Apes (20th Century/CBS) -Pretty bad, but I watched a few because I loved the movie.

Prisoner The (1967) – Convoluted, subtle, intelligent. Patrick McGoohan plays a British agent who ends up in this British seaside village (called The Village), which he can’t escape from and which is filled with others who seem to be agents as well. However, he doesn’t know whether any or all of them are Us or Them, and he is subjected to mental and physical manipulation in multi-nefarious forms. You have to pay attention, but it is worth it!

Quantum Leap – A wonderful series, where the protagonist has to jump into different people’s bodies within his lifetime and “putting things right what once went wrong, and hoping each time, that his next leap will be the leap home. I loved the main character and the humanistic caring tone of the episodes.

Questor Tapes The (#1 was Genesis II, #2 was Planet Earth) (1974).

Ray Bradbury Theatre (1985) – I would love to have seen some episodes, but I missed it. Bradbury is one of the greats.

Raven The (1998) (highlander) – Based on Highlander, and of similar quality (i.e. not too much).

Red Dwarf (1988) – Hilarious British comedy.

Relic Hunter (1999) – Lara Croft on TV. Sometimes okay, and sometimes boring.
Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (1970) – Wonderful. See Night Gallery above.

Sea Hunt – I barely remember it, but I thought the underwater battle were cool, except that everybody was cutting the other person’s air hose.

Seaquest DSVA combination of Sea Hunt and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Average to occasionally good, with a really nice submarine.
seaQuest 2032 – A follow-on to SeaQuest, with a bit more action and less acting.

Six Million Dollar Man (1974) – I was 12 and a space nut, and Steve Austin comes along. I was hooked. I suspect I would like it less as an adult, but it was great for its time.

Sliders (1995) – People wandering into alternate realities at random. Some cool concepts for some of the alternate worlds, but the execution didn’t live up to the concepts in many cases. Still, some pretty cool ideas.

Space 1999 (1975) – I liked it at the time. I rented the DVD for the first season more recently, and wasn’t as impressed. But cool technology and a really nice Moonbase.

Space: Above and Beyond – The Marines in space. Typical issues, including why they fight, racism, leadership, duty versus humanity, etc. It was reasonably intelligent about it, but lacked a certain spark.

Stargate SG-1(1997) – Based on the wonderful movie, it has a charm of its own, and is currently one of the most succesfull TV series around.

Starlost The (1973) – A great concept about a disaster on a multi-generation spaceship, with many cultures in separate domes within the main structure of the ship, called the Earth Ship Ark. The execution left much to be desired.

Star Trek (Paramount/NBC) – I have no objectivity here. I just love it.

Star Trek: TNG (Paramount/Synd) – It started weak, but it quickly became very good, with occasional brilliant episodes.

Stingray (1964) – Another movie like Thunderbirds, which I vaguely remember. Nice cars.

Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills -I left this in just because of the name!

Thunderbirds (marionette) – I loved it for the vehicles and gadgets. My favourite was Thunderbird 2, the big green one with the multiple payloads.
Time Tunnel (20th Century/ABC) – Another Irwin Allen classic. It was okay, but not great.
Twin Peaks – David Lynch in small town America. Enough said.
Twilight Zone (1959) -Superb
Twilight Zone (1985) -Very good

UFO (1970) – Cool vehicles and stories, and very 1970’s costumes.

V (Warner Bros./NBC) – Two miniseries and a regular series. The series sucked, the second miniseries was fairly good, and the first miniseries was better. What made me like the first series was the way it treated the characters as part of their families, their community and their ethnic backgrounds. They felt real, and they reacted realistically as aliens called Visitors came to Earth and how the people coped.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (Fox/ABC) – The stories aren’t great, but the acting is not bad and sometimes surprisingly subtle. But I was a young kid and loved the submarine Seaview, as well as the Flying Sub.

Voyager (Star trek) – As usual for Star Trek, the series strengthened as time went on, so it became well worth watching.

War of the Worlds (1988) – Not great.

Wonder Woman (1976) – Fairly fun, and a good role model.

X-Files,(1993) – Extremely well done, with good and subtle understated performances by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

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I recently rented the first few seasons of the X-files when I was sick. It was one of the more interesting series on TV, and had a fairly fanatical following. Personally I enjoyed some of the episodes while others left me cold. But usually the plotting and the writing were solid, without too many bloopers, and Mulder and Scully were interesting characters..

Here are a couple of incongruities or synchronicities that I found kind of cool:

  • The last two people in an Arctic outpost commit a simultaneous suicide with pistols. You see the building from the outside with the wind and the snow howling through the night, then you hear the two pistol shots go off. Five to ten seconds later you see the light in the window go out. While dramatically compelling, who turned out the light?
  • An executive goes into his state of the art washroom off his sumptuous office. Some of the facilities malfunction and he tries to leave after the lights go out. He swipes the card reader for the lock on the inside of his private washroom which only has an entrance to his office. When he swiped his card he electrocuted himself, which was the plot hook to the rest of the episode. But why does the bathroom in his private office have a lock, and why is it on the inside of the bathroom door, and why do you need a special ID card to operate it?
  • Mulder’s apartment number is 42! I guess his apartment is the answer to….
  • There is an amazing number of faulty light switches in the series. I know it’s an accepted deux ex machina, but it would be nice to have something horrible happen in glowing incandescence or at least fluorescence. Daylight might be even better (but I think they saved it for the movie).
  • They always have flashlights, the flashlights always work, and they are always weak lights. I would have liked for a case where a flashlight died in a time of possible peril, and then Scully would say, “Just a second, here’s some spare AA’s”.
  • There was a suspect in a small town who had some brain damage. Scully ordered a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan to check on the actual damage. Usually this is done only at major universities or hospitals, because you need a cyclotron in the vicinity to make the short-lived radio-isotopes (about a two hour half-life) required to perform the scan. I guess there was a convenient particle accelerator in the neighborhood?
  • One of my favourite episodes was the three part sequence Anasazi, The Blessing Way, and Paper Clip. However, one unique element was the longest sequence of telephone tag as a plot element that I have ever seen. It lasted through most of The Blessing Way and part of Paper Clip. They kept missing each others calls, and never had time to check their answering machines.
  • There was a really cool episode that made light of itself. It was called War of the Coprophages, and basically made fun of the main characters, the classic plot of insects invading and destroying a small town, and a few other aspects that I will leave for your enjoyment. One classic element that brought a smile to my face was the panicked populace raiding the drug store. During this there was a quick clip showing a U.S. Navy sailor grabbing chocolate bars and packages of nylon pantyhose; it brought back a nostalgic World War II feel for those who noticed, and it also indicated the motivations of the sailor in a nice way.
  • In the episode Jose Chung’s From Outer Space they made fun of abduction stories. One sequence that was surreal involved the two Men In Black, played by a disturbingly articulate and insightful Jesse Ventura and a strangely silent Alex Trebeck.
  • In Quagmire they were investigating the possibility of a Nessie called Big Blue in a lake, after the deaths of several people on the lake shore. In one sequence they were searching in a boat at night and were hit by a large object that they observed moving towards them on the fish-finder. The boat sank and they were stranded on a rock at night in thick fog. While they were sitting there waiting for the light (for some reason they didn’t want to go into the water) Mulder started this conversation:

    Mulder: Hey Scully, do you think you could ever cannibalize someone? I mean if you really had to.
    Scully: Well, as much as the very idea is abhorrent to me, I suppose under certain conditions a living entity is practically conditioned to perform whatever extreme measures are necessary to ensure its survival. I suppose I’m no different.
    Mulder: You’ve lost some weight recently, haven’t you?
    Scully: Yes, yes I have. Thanks for n– (Scully glares at Mulder and he laughs)

    In the next sequence, they heard something moving towards them in the fog. They draw weapons and tensely wait for attack. They see a dark object barely poking above the fog. Then they hear it. “Quack, quack, quack…” and they relax, wondering if it will get close enough for supper. A few moments later they hear a massive movement of the water:

    Scully: What was that?
    Mulder: It ain’t no duck…

    Then through the mist they see one of the citizens approaching them through the water. He tells them he’ll guide them to shore. They ask where he put his boat. He tells the intrepid FBI agents that they are 20 yards from shore (the fog was thick…)

My only other comment is that I’m starting to enjoy the series again, partially for the humourous episodes I’d never seen before, the often surprisingly subtle dialogue, and the compelling yet very understated acting. Also, it’s kind of neat to see the clothing styles, cell phone styles (they’re really in love with them), and hair styles evolve surprisingly swiftly from season to season. Of course there are the unchanging constants of Mulder’s messiness, Scully’s neatness and 80’s professional power look, the generally wet scenery, and the low lighting costs in every episode. Finally, I would argue that Mulder does smile and have an expressive face. I usually see him smiling at least once per episode, and Scully once per every second episode.

End quote from the opening credits:

The truth is out there

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I was watching an old James Bond movie on TV called the Living Daylights, starring Timothy Dalton; for some reason there seem to be a number of old Bond movies on television lately. Now I know that movies have classic illogical or annoying elements; a common one is the way they portray the view though a pair of binoculars, and someday I’ll find a pair that actually shows this view! Then there are the sounds and images of spacecraft banking though a vacuum, and some of them seem to use aerodynamic wings in a vacuum (Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, etc). But here is one I hadn’t really thought about before.

There was a bad guy in this movie who could talk English with a cultured British accent, a Cockney accent, and a flawless mid-American accent. He even spoke with a Russian accent when he wanted some British agents to think he was a Russian agent. But when he was back at his home base speaking English he used a Russian accent. Why would a person who could speak English flawlessly and with great ease use a Russian accent? Especially an agent, who supposedly would have been trained to speak it without an accent, and for whom unconsciously using a Russian accent might be considered a fatal flaw.

I remember something similar in The Pelican Brief. There was a professional assassin who was a polyglot, and who could speak American English with a number of accents and dialects. But when he was talking business with his employers he used a Middle-Eastern accent (since he came from the Middle East)? The same arguments would apply to this person as to professional agents; if you lapse into the wrong accent you compromise yourself.

Then there are the war movies, where people playing Germans and Russians, when not using sub-titles, speak with cultured BBC British accents. I particularly remember William Hurt, an American, trying to speak with a British accent in Gorky Park. I guess American directors suppose that it is more Kulturny than an American or Canadian or Australian accent?

I guess the next thing will be French Canadian movies about Quebec, where the actors use Parisian French or, if speaking English, British English rather than their usual accents.

Then there are Science Fiction shows where characters are “phase-shifted” or something so that they can go through walls, desks, and other people, but never seem to go through the floor…

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These items come from a television series that started in the early 1990’s and which is no longer on the air. With each item are one or more questions. At the end are some more general questions. Personally I’m not that much into trivia, but some of these items appealed to me.

  1. Ancient Egyptian Blessing: “May the Gods always stand between you and harm in all the empty places you must walk”. Who said it (1 pt)? What was the occasion (2 pts)?
  2. Dialogue about a food plan:
  • “But I’ll gain weight!”
  • “Well, briefly, yes.”
  • “Figures. All my life I’ve fought against imperialism. Now, suddenly I am the expanding Russian frontier.”
  • “But with very nice borders.”
  • Who were the two people talking (4 pts)? What was the name or subject of the episode (6 pts)

3. “It was the year of fire, the year of destruction, the year we took back what was ours. It was the year of rebirth, the year of great sadness, the year of pain, and the year of joy. It was a new age. It was the end of history. It was the year everything changed. The year is… (6 pts)?; the place: … (3 pts)?”.

4. “Let me pass on to you the one thing I’ve learned about this place: No one here is exactly what he appears. ” Who said this (3 pts)?

5. “The universe is driven by the complex interaction between three ingredients: matter, energy, and enlightened self-interest.” Who said this (3 pts)?

6. “I know, I know. It’s a Russian thing. When we’re about to do something stupid, we like to catalog the full extent of our stupidity for future reference.” Who said this (3 pts)?

And here are the general questions:

  1. What is the name of the series? (2 pts)
  2. How many years did it run? (2 pts)
  3. Who was your favourite character?
  4. What was your favourite episode?

Good luck, and please don’t use search engines for this.

As a final bonus question:

“Ambassador, it is not my place to speculate on how anything gets in your bed.” Who is the ambassador (4 pts)? Who is the speaker (6 pts)?

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