A Conversation for Talking Point: British Sci-fi vs American Sci-fi

US = straight sci fi

Post 1

JellyGhost

In my view mainstream US sci fi is very very straight and conservative. Take Star Trek, some good ideas but it's basically the US in space complete with it's duplicity. Star Wars , a regurgitation of Flash Gordon with a mish mash of mythology of the hero. Lots of different aliens but little else.US stuff seems very pro authority, pro military and not too inventive. Can you imagine the US coming up with stuff like Dr Who, Red Dwarf, HGTTG and weirdest of all Sapphire and Steel?


US = straight sci fi

Post 2

Snitnop

I remember the majority of Sapphire and Steel to be pretty cringeworthy stuff, except for one episode in which had the villan of the piece could trap his victims inside photographs. A girl ended up getting trapped in this way and as the photograph burned, it was accompanied by the most gut wrenchingly spine chilling screams I had ever heard. So, it had it's moments!


US = straight sci fi

Post 3

Researcher 244568

Dude, the US is pro military for a reason. If earth gains the tecnology to explore deep space then one country would own the tecnology at first. Their military would utilise it.
A perfect example of this is Stargate SG-1 others are StarTrek and SatWars.
British ones are sooooo cool but just a bit of fun, nothing worth thinking about.
I love Red Dwarf, but Stargate SG1 is WAY better!!!!


US = straight sci fi

Post 4

PaulBateman

But can Magyver still build a microlite out of bamboo and a lownmover engine?


US = straight sci fi

Post 5

Kerr_Avon - hunting stray apostrophes and gutting poorly parsed sentences

"British ones are sooooo cool but just a bit of fun, nothing worth thinking about."

smiley - laughsmiley - laughsmiley - laugh Excuse me while I clean the keyboard- I just spat beer over it.

How can you *think* about SG-1? Or Andromeda? You can't watch Sapphire and Steel *without* thinking. Doctor Who constantly asks the audience to think about what's happening. No "We're the military, we're doing everything for the best", we asked to wonder "is the Doctor doing the right thing? Is him helping actually helping, or is it stopping a society solving it's own problems? See the mostly crap "Time and the Rani" to see this in action.

Sapphire and Steel told everything in metaphors, on the premise that stupid humans couldn't understand the complexities the operators deal with, so we're left to our own devices to wonder what's actually going on. I can't think of a US SF series that's actually *challenging* to watch...

smiley - ale


US = straight sci fi

Post 6

Hoovooloo

" Take Star Trek, some good ideas but it's basically the US in space complete with it's duplicity. "

Um... last I looked, the USA wasn't a communist near-police-state.

Star Trek is. It's the ultimate communist ideal.

Think about it:

- Religion is obsolete.

Not a single Starfleet human is EVER shown as having any kind of religious affiliation, as far as I remember, in ANY incarnation of Trek. It's never even *suggested*. Sure, Bajorans have a religion - but it's OK, because *we* enlightened Starfleet humans know that the ignorant ridge-noses are worshipping a bunch of wormhole dwelling aliens as though they're gods. Sure, the Klingons have Kahless, but he was just some guy. They don't have actual GODS.

- Money is obsolete.

Imagine no possessions... it's easy if you have a replicator. The only time Starfleet humans sully their hands with currency is when dealing with races they clearly consider inferior. This is explicitly stated in the episode "The Neutral Zone".

- Property is obsolete.

Han Solo personally owned a ship that could cross the galaxy in a matter of days. He won it in a sabacc game - so personal ownership of spacecraft is clearly no bigger a deal than ownership of a car is today. By contrast, not a single human character in Star Trek is EVER shown to own their own ship. Sure, the odd alien (Okona, Dirgo, various Ferengi) are shown to own small, vulnerable, usually sub-light ships - but only governments have access to routine interstellar travel, the kind of travel that *matters*. Complete government control over the travel infrastructure? How communist is that?

- Technology is stagnant.

Kirk's original Enterprise had transporters, phasers, photon torpedoes, warp drive that could be adapted for time travel, and even (once or twice), food replicators.

Nearly one hundred years later, what does Picard's state of the art Enterprise E have? Transporters no better than Kirk's. Phasers no better than Kirk's (and by some calculations, worse...). Quantum torpedoes a little better than Kirk's. Warp drive not much faster than Kirk's. Food replication.

After nearly a hundred years, is there anything in Picard's world that would blow Kirk's mind? Hardly anything.

Now consider the last hundred years. Bring a military officer from 1903, and give him a tour of the US armed forces. The advances in technology would not impress him, because they are so large he would be at a loss even to understand them.

Consider - in less than 100 years we have gone from no powered flight, to stealth bombers and space shuttles. We have gone from bolt action single shot rifles to lightweight ceramic assault weaponry. We have gone from wheel cannon to ICBMs. We have gone from gunpowder to hydrogen bombs. We have gone from mustard gas to VX. Try explaining the concept of GPS to a man from 1903. Our advances in 100 years have been incredible, and they're accelerating.

Technology in the Trek universe has stagnated, in a way technology only can under an anti-technological communist style dictatorship.

- The military are in charge.

Basically, if anything gets done in Trek, it usually gets done by Starfleet. Not the Federation - Starfleet, the military. Got a gaseous anomaly you want charted? Starfleet. Medical supplies to deliver? Starfleet. Planet to evacuate? Starfleet.

Imagine if any and every large scale project in society was handled by the army... doesn't that sound just a leetle bit like a fascist dictatorship?

- The military is the best place to be

Face it, if you're not Starfleet, you're little people. Starfleet do a dangerous job, and until they can get themselves a blue shirt and a surname they're basically expendable. But they have access to holodecks, warp-capable ships, runabouts, the best training and education - the best of everything. There's a reason why there's such fierce competition to get in - life outside Starfleet obviously stinks. The peasants on earth obviously don't have the chances Starfleet officers get.

smiley - popcorn

Don't get me wrong here - I love Star Trek.

It just tickles me to bits that the US, home of Joe McCarthy and "Kill a Commie for Mommie" t-shirts, has so wholeheartedly and for almost forty years embraced and financed what is such a transparently communist utopian propaganda machine.

There's a reason why those guys wore *red* shirts...

H.


US = straight sci fi

Post 7

Kerr_Avon - hunting stray apostrophes and gutting poorly parsed sentences

No arguements to that lot from this corner, Hoo smiley - ok

...Except-

No Human is ever seen to have a religon-

Dr. Crusher's grandmother has a recognisably Kirk (as in church, not Captain) gravestone, in a Kirk Churchyard, and is buried by a Kirk Minister.

smiley - ale


US = straight sci fi

Post 8

Hoovooloo

Ah, I said *Starfleet* human.

Felisa Howard wasn't in Starfleet...

That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. You're right, of course. Let's not mind that the minister in question was an alien... smiley - huh

H.


US = straight sci fi

Post 9

Hoovooloo

Also... just because she has a Kirk gravestone doesn't mean she believed it in her lifetime. If I lived alone in a Scottish community, chances are when I popped my clogs they'd dig a hole and put a stone on top like they do for everyone else, and never mind what *I* believed. They'd go with what *they* believed was best for me. Wouldn't they?

H.


US = straight sci fi

Post 10

Kerr_Avon - hunting stray apostrophes and gutting poorly parsed sentences

She lived on a colony, established for around 100 years, and had a minister give her funeral service?

smiley - ale


US = straight sci fi

Post 11

A Super Furry Animal

Why shouldn't the future depict a "communist" society? I mean, no-one really believes (I hope) that the so-called former "Communist bloc" had actually got it right? If, however, you could get a communist society right then that's a direction that humanity should head in.

What would we need to get there?

Cost-free energy, comestibles, shelter.

Is this ever achievable? Well, to me, the first stage is not that it is cost-free, but that the cost of transport outweighs the cost of the goods.

Thoughts, comments, flames, all are welcome!


US = straight sci fi

Post 12

Hoovooloo

"Why shouldn't the future depict a "communist" society?"

No reason at all, for all the reasons you give. My point is that the most vehemently, virulently, VIOLENTLY anti-communist nation on earth has produced, as its most pervasive and successful cultural export, a paean to the benefits of communism. Who says Americans can't do irony?

H.


US = straight sci fi

Post 13

Kerr_Avon - hunting stray apostrophes and gutting poorly parsed sentences

Exactly. It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with communisim, doen rightly, it's workable system (and that's a Tory saying that smiley - winkeye). It's just interesting that America of all places should portray a communist society in a successful TV series.

>as its most pervasive and successful cultural export

Have a care lad, we're SF smiley - geeks, don't over-estimate how successful Star Trek is- more people watched ER than Next Gen, after all...

smiley - ale


US = straight sci fi

Post 14

A Super Furry Animal

Americans don't do irony, durr... it's always an unconscious mistake.

So which came first, the unconscious communist irony of ST2G (I don't believe that it was apparent in the original series, correct me if I'm wrong) or Iain M banks's first novel. Who, as they say, is zooming who?


US = straight sci fi

Post 15

Hoovooloo

Interestingly, Banks's first sf (Consider Phlebas) was published in 1987 - the year TNG premiered. Co-inky-dink.

Communism not apparent in the original series...

- Men in red shirts.
- A Russian on the bridge (from season 2) who claims everything of importance was invented in Russia.
- No money, no religion (see above)
- No possessions, including no private ships (see above)
- *Everything* done by Starfleet, diplomacy, war, medical missions, stellar surveys, first contact, everything.

They even had the episode with the Kohms and the Yangs, where people who've survived a terrible war are shown to be foolishly worshipping the American flag (!).

Banks of course *does* realise what he's doing, and explicitly says so in "State of the Art".

H.


US = straight sci fi

Post 16

JellyGhost

Why I think it is just the US in space. It's a US show for starters. The multi-national racial thing is just tokenism. The main driving characters are American or Western. The series is as WASP-ish as can be. USS Enterprise- not far away from USA Enterprise. Mainly it's the use of force to solve every bloody thing, the interfering in planets progrees directly against their own rules. The insistence that their way of life is the right way. It's all in there. Very similar to US foreign policy don't you think?


US = straight sci fi

Post 17

Hoovooloo

"Why I think it is just the US in space. It's a US show for starters."

Well, hang on, you can't hold that against it or you'll never get anywhere. Is "Dr. Who" just the UK in space/time? Hardly. (OK, sometimes it is... but not often)

"The multi-national racial thing is just tokenism."

smiley - huh Hang on... in a not-large cast you've got

1. Captain - US (Iowa, specifically), played by a Jewish Canadian.
2. 1st officer - alien, again played by a Jewish guy.
3. Doctor - about as US as they come, fair enough.
4. Chief Engineer - Scotsman, played by a Canadian.
5. Helmsman - Japanese, played by a Japanese-American who had been interned with his family during WWII.
6. Communications officer - US, an African-American woman.
7. Tactical Officer - A Russian, played by an American.

The only completely US character from the lot of them is the doctor! The Captain and first officer were both JEWISH, one playing an ALIEN for Bod's sake. It think two out of the top three focus roles played by people from such a tiny minority is more than tokenism.

"The main driving characters are American or Western."

Some would say the main driving character, the most interesting and certainly the most popular was Spock - an alien with few traits which could be described as American.

"The series is as WASP-ish as can be."

Apart from the fact that there are the aformentioned diversity of races on the bridge even of the first series. By DS9 the CAPTAIN was a black man - how WASPish is that? Kills the "W" part completely. As for the A and the S, Sulu takes care of that I think, and Protestant? Where is the Protestantism anywhere in Trek? Seriously?

"USS Enterprise- not far away from USA Enterprise."

Genius, isn't it? Make you think they're talking about the USA and capitalism ("Enterprise"), all the while propagandising communism. It's brilliant.

"Mainly it's the use of force to solve every bloody thing,"

Actually one of the definitive features of "Trek" is the NON-use of force. The archetype of this is the episode "The Corbomite Maneuvre", but there are literally dozens of others, to the point where Kirk talking his way out of trouble instead of fighting has become a cliche.

"the interfering in planets progrees directly against their own rules. The insistence that their way of life is the right way. It's all in there. Very similar to US foreign policy don't you think?"

Not really. The US has NO rules against interference. The US explicitly states that it has the RIGHT, practically the OBLIGATION to interfere in the affairs of other nations, even if those nations are not threatening it militarily. See the recent conflict in Iraq. Does anyone seriously think Iraq posed a MILITARY threat to the US? Economic threat, certainly - Hussein was about to go over to selling his oil in Euros, and that could not be allowed to happen...

Furthermore, the US has enacted laws protecting its citizens from the consequences of their actions in international courts, to the point where if a US citizen is held in a foreign country for trial by the International Criminal Court, the President is empowered in law to invade that country with the full force of arms to retrieve said citizens. The ONLY justification for this is to prevent US citizens from facing trials for war crimes.

US foreign policy has a long journey up out of barbarism before it bears any kind of comparison with Star Trek.

H.


US = straight sci fi

Post 18

JellyGhost

Yawnn! The fact remains that Star Trek is an American series with an American slant. Writers that were working on the show have slagged it off for that. I still think it is tokenism to include non Americans when they had so very little to do. The original series revolved around Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Nice white, male, and safe. The multi racial and sexual thing in following series is only just slightly better. Recently it's easy to see the Borg as a representation of Communism where the whole is more important than the individual

As for current US foreign policy. I think the simple matter that they are a member of the United Nations and go against many international laws speaks for itself.

Star Trek presents a safe future and is now resigned to soap opera status. We know nothing will happen to these characters and we know that little original thought or ideas will appear in the series. Star Trek had a few good episodes but over many incarnations and many years that should be the case for any series


US = straight sci fi

Post 19

Hoovooloo



Wow, did you ever miss the point. Ever heard of something called "subtext"? I bet you thought "Animal Farm" was about animals, didn't you?

Award for most massive misunderstanding goes to:

"Recently it's easy to see the Borg as a representation of Communism where the whole is more important than the individual"

Hello? Anyone home? smiley - laugh The BORG? Communists? Wake up.

The Federation and Starfleet are the Communists, as I think I've satisfactorily demonstrated above.

Now consider: the greatest threat to the Federation's Communist utopia comes from where?

The Borg.

A society composed entirely of immigrants, who paradoxically frown on diversity. (sound familiar?)

A society which while it will accept new members into the fold, requires their absolute subsumation in the monoculture they are joining. ("I pledge allegiance to flag...")

A people whose military power comes not from ingenuity or strategic wisdom (indeed, they seem to lack any understanding of military tactics), but mainly from their technological superiority, a superiority based, in the first instance, on acquisition of expertise from outside their own society. (The US projects to develop nuclear weapons and space travel were heavily dependent on European scientists and engineers).

A people who reject the rights of the individual in favour of "national security"...

A collective whose ultimate expression of power is their brutally efficient war machines: USS Nimitz, anyone?

And finally for now - a group who simply ignore you completely if you have nothing they want, but who will fall upon you and destroy you utterly if you have something they need (technology, oil...)

Do I need to go on?

Starfleet and the Federation are Communists, and the Borg are modern Americans. Aren't they making it obvious enough for you? Do they have to paint Borg cubes with the Stars and Stripes and make all Borg drones into obese loudmouths before you get the "message" here? Have you never THOUGHT about this?

Star Trek, especially the TNG incarnation, is subtle, ongoing insult to almost everything America believes about itself.

If you've managed to misunderstand that, it just goes to prove how subtle it is - after all, if they were obvious about what they were doing, then
(a) they'd never have been allowed to make the programme and
(b) they'd have been lynched for being unpatriotic...

H.



US = straight sci fi

Post 20

PaulBateman

The original pilot of Star Trek was very risque. It didn't have Kirk as the captain, but that's not the point. It had a black woman, Uhura, as second in command. When it came to making the series proper she was demoted to communications officer because the public couldn't cope with the idea of a black woman being important.

Star Trek was possibly the first programme with an inter-racial kiss (Kirk and Uhura). In Britain this took a long time before it was shown. And Dr Who was often devoid of blacks or Asians.

This goes to show that the problem doesn't necessarily lie with the writers or any f the production team. It can stem from the public in general. The masses are very unaccepting of certain things. Would the Matrix have worked if Neo had been black? Could the public cope with the idea of a black messianic figure?

It is annoying and unfair that what is acceptable by the public dictates how the programme should run. It's even annoying when programme makers try to appease 'minorities' by having token black or coloured actors who often end up playing charactures such as the Asian family in Coronation Street. And it's still going on.

The original Star Trek should be applauded for attempting to be so daring. It's just a shame that public opinion had to water it down.


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