Friday night’s episode of Stargate Atlantis featured the computers of Atlantis being besieged by a group of entities seeking to move onto a higher plane of existence (warning, mild spoilers below!).
I for one welcome our new robot overlords.
Most planets featured in science fiction tend to be rather generic. These planets are usually convenient celestial bodies upon which to pitch a narrative tent for a few scenes before the plot moves on. Generic planets also tend to be one-note, reflecting some particular environment on Earth. You have your ice-worlds, desert worlds, lava worlds, jungle worlds, water worlds, city worlds, forest worlds (in particular, forests that look like those near the city of Vancouver), earthquake worlds, and so on.
But sometimes an author will create a world whose presence has a weight and ring of truth, a world that feels like it could happily go on existing on its own terms, with or without a protagonist or antagonist strolling around on its surface. Setting aside obviously artificial habitats like ring words or hollowed out asteroids, here are my top ten best science fiction planets, in chronological order:
Next month, BBC Video is releasing the box set of Torchwood: The Complete Second Season. Available on September 16th, and retailing for $79.98, this series chronicles the further adventures of the staff of Torchwood, an organization set up to protect the Earth from any aliens or advanced artifacts that might wash up on our shores. Set in Cardiff, Wales, (the location of a rift in time and space) Torchwood is a spinoff of Doctor Who, and in this season it really finds its stride as its own show with its own sensibilities. Intended for older audiences than the family-friendly Doctor Who, Torchwood is darker and more introspective, themes which are counterbalanced by humor and a high quotient of action-adventure scenes, as well as a fair amount of sex, on- and off-screen.
Season Two was 13 episodes long, and while this may seem short in comparison to most U.S. programs, a hell of a lot of material gets packed in, and every character is developed in some depth. The series builds up to a shattering finale, and on the way manages to extract some terrific, and surprising, performances from guest stars like James Marsters (best known for playing the character of Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.)
Last night’s episode of Eureka, “Best in Faux,” had many of the town’s supersmart denizens trying to win a contest for the most lifelike robot dog. Despite an interest in more pressing matters, such as a potential volcanic eruption, Sheriff Carter is ordered to investigate why some of the robot entrants have experienced literal meltdowns. Robot dog competitions are taken seriously in the the town of Eureka. He shouldn’t have been too surprised–similar robot competitions have a long (forgive the pun) pedigree.
Last night’s episode of The Middleman did not disappoint, easily being one of the best episodes of the season. In a clever riff on the Austin Powers concept, Kevin Sorbo guest starred as a Middleman placed in suspended animation in 1969, brought back to life once it is surmised his arch-nemesis has returned. Amidst an ever-escalating spoof of 60s spy movies, the current Middleman and his sardonic sidekick Wendy Watson must work with the 1969 Middleman to save the world.
Freezing someone in order to revive them later is a common idea in science fiction. And it’s probably one of the areas where people are trying their hardest to turn science fiction into science fact.
Science Not Fiction’s recommendation for today’s viewing pleasure: check out The Middleman on the ABC Family channel at 10 pm (9 central). The Middleman is a show about a low-key superhero and his sidekick, struggling artist Wendy Watson. Tonight, pulp science fiction TV legend Kevin Sorbo (star of Hercules and Andromeda) is guest starring in an episode titled “The Obsolescent Cryogenic Meltdown.” A la Austin Powers, Sorbo plays a Middleman who was cryogenically frozen in the 1960’s and who now has been revived to battle his old nemesis. If you haven’t seen The Middleman yet, you should, not least for it’s sense of humor, which is so dry it could used for sandpaper.
Nowadays, many TV shows spend as little time as possible on the opening credits, racing to the main action after a few seconds. There are reasons for this (shorter credits can mean more time for the actual show for one), but a side effect is that there is less room for a theme to hit its stride. This is a pity, as a great theme can not only pull you into a program’s world, it can also become a shorthand for the entire show’s vision: just whistling the first few notes of The Twilight Zone theme still speaks volumes, nearly 50 years after the show first aired. So, as nod to a fading art, here are my favorite science fiction TV themes from the good old (pre-1980) days:
Edward James Olmos, who plays Commander Adama, will take the helm as director, and several cast members that play cylon characters have already been attached to the project. Written by Buffy alum Jane Espenson, the movie will follow events in the Colonial’s home system following the cylon attack and the exodus of the Galactica and its rag-tag civilian fleet.
Last night’s episode of Eureka, “What About Bob?” centered on Lab 27, a huge biosphere carved out of the rock underneath the Global Dyanmics research facility. The biosphere is a completely enclosed artificial ecosystem — apart from energy and information, nothing is supposed to come in or out of the biosphere, not even air. All of the food, water, oxygen and so on needed by any inhabitants of the biosphere must be produced by biological processes that recycle every ounce of waste. Like most real-life attempts to construct biospheres, Lab 27 was built for the sake of research that supports human exploration of space.