When Stargate Universe comes to an end in a few weeks, there will be no spaceships shows on US TV for the first time in over two decades. Is there a future for this honorable sub genre, ponders the SFX Blogging crew?
THIS WEEK’S BLOGBUSTER QUESTION: Is there a future for the spaceship-based TV show
Though the format doesn’t always work or indeed appeal, the richness of future and alien world story telling is or should/could be, so wide and luscious or robotic and white or dirty and “normal” (I’m thinking Babylon 5 there, surely the most realistic of all space stories from a human perspective!) there has to be plethora of stories to tell, worlds to create, spaceships to fall in love with (like Moya, I love Moya!), politics to work through, languages to learn or amalgamate (like in Firefly ), green-skinned aliens to love Captain Kirk... erm, sorry wandered off a bit there. Yes give me more like Battlestar Galactica , like Farscape ; more like Babylon 5 and Star Trek . Make it real, make it impossible, make it funny, make it heartbreaking. Just freaking make it, and if it doesn’t quite work, just end that series – don't assume if one space series is not popular all of them can't be. Don’t take away our Final Frontier.
And someone make me a tee shirt saying Geek Girls Love Spaceships – hell yeah!
Will Salmon: There absolutely is a future... but it's hard to imagine one succeeding at the moment. The Battlestar reboot feels like it was a (temporary) full stop to the genre. Attempts to ape it have stalled and it's been an age since someone has done a good episodic adventure show like Farscape .
But then fashion is cyclical. The genre will come around again. The most recent Star Trek movie was huge, so there’s clearly still an appetite for this sort of stuff. Eventually someone will pitch a show in that vein. Whatever that show turns out to be, let's not make it “grim and gritty" please chaps! Keep the danger, and the scares and the real characters, but give it a sense of humour and some fun too.
Likewise,I loved SG:U but it waited close to a season and a half before pulling back the curtain on just what the Destiny was and what it was designed to do and by that time most people had wandered off. It’s a shame too because if the focus had been more on the ship – hell, if the bridge had been found inside the first season – then you could have used Destiny as both a plot and a location and that could have been a lens through which to examine the characters. You move the plot along, we learn to care about the characters, the show gets a third season, everyone wins.
To my mind, Farscape did it right, changing the destination and objective almost every season (Run from Crais! Attack Crais! Crikey it's Scorpius! Other Leviathans!) although in the end, by all accounts, what sunk Farscape was exactly what I'm criticising spaceship shows for tending to ignore; a coherent, detailed, complex universe for the characters to interact with. Battlestar Galactica did much the same – New Caprica plotline notwithstanding – and Galactica did some really fun stuff exploring exactly how living in conditions like that changes people. The pilots competing for the last tube of toothpaste in the universe and Romo proudly showing off his tiny, tiny window both spring to mind.
In the end though, it comes down to this; you either make the spaceship a character or plot in its own right or you make it a piece of narrative architecture, like the Serenity. If you're making a spaceship show, it's not enough to go 'Look! We're on a spaceship!' You have to use that, embrace the limitations and opportunities it gives you. In other words, yes there's absolutely a future for the spaceship show, provided it, literally and figuratively, actually goes somewhere.