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

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Post 1

petesbarman

From the sounds of it, most of you seem to accept the idea that American sci-fi is basically a lot of flash with very little substance. Okay, let's take a look at the major american sci-fi scene :

Star Trek - The original was very short on SFX, very long on good scripts and interesting plots. Better effects were added in the subsequent shows, but I would argue that TNG and Deep Space Nine had excellent scripts and plotlines to go with them.

X-files - very few effects, extremely creative plotting, excellent acting, and a wonderfully inventive storyline kept that show going for quite awhile.

Babylon 5 - Great effects, but you have to admit, one of the best written shows ever put on the air.

Buffy the vampire slayer - not exactly sci-fi, but certainly genre. The scripts were consistently in the 5 star range, effects were shabby and silly. Still an eminently watchable show, and deserving of it's place in TV history.

That's just a quick overview of the shows I can think of off the top of my head. But you have to admit, these shows were certainly as good, if not better in some ways than many from europe....


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Post 2

Bobjim2232

The examples you gave all consisted to American TV shows. Science Fiction is not just TV and movies, its books, games, plays and the like.

Also you said compare, but there was little comparison. I cannot think of any British SF tv Shows, but then again I prefer books to movies.

I would also like to point out that star trek was just, and forgive me if I offend anyone, The British Empire in Space. If you want proof of this, then do a little research (on the empire and the show) as I do not know what is taught in British Schoold.

I am Canadian, and I do not mean to offend anyone.


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Post 3

petesbarman

Oh and I'm leaving out Star Wars - Never liked the movies, probably never will. Nice SFX, short on plot, acting and writing....


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Post 4

petesbarman

That's true, I did tend to stay with TV. However, much of the post that started these threads seemed directed towards TV and movies, so I naturally stayed with them. In Books, we have Greg Bear, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Stephen King (True, mainly hooro, but he did do "The Stand" which was sort of sci-fi), and Bruce Sterling, just to name a few of the contemporaries that I can think of.

Radio doesn't exist beyond broadcasting endless loops of whatever Eminem has put out lately so we can discount that.

In movies, Alien, Star Trek, James Bond (Let's face it, it's heavily sci-fi influenced), and a whole host of comic inspired movies (Spiderman, x-men, superman, etc, are definitely sci-fi laced).

In short, american sci-fi has more going for it basically because it incorporates decent SFX with the writing.

Although I'm still a huge fan of Dr. Who and Douglas Adams....


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Post 5

NuclearConfusion -Not a lot of money in the revenge business

... James Bond, eh? I take it you've NEVER SEEN ONE? How much more dull and boring a name can you get! Ian Fleming!?! Yeah! He created it. ALSO British! He'd've never eaten a meal in the states with a name like that! ...bullies stealing his lunchmoney, try and keep up.
Don't think I'm cracking down on ignorance, here; earlier I mistakenly stated that Arthur C. Clarke lived in Madagascar rather than Sri Lanka, but come ON! Shaken, not stirred. SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED!!! Good job on claiming Cyberpunk, though. ...(not to nitpick, but Gibson lives in Vancouver, Canada. No one's perfect)


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Post 6

Blues Shark - For people who like this sort of thing, then this is just the sort of thing they'll like


Geez, would anybody rerally *want* to claim cyberpunk? I mean, yeah, Gibson, Sterling, Effinger, Shirley, Greenwood and Rucker do some interesting work but it has also had some of the worst writing of the 20th century perpetrated in its name...

Though not as bad as the sub-standard Tolkien rip-offs that both sides of the Pond can be held equally responsible for.

smiley - shark


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Post 7

petesbarman

I'm not talking about who created Bond (I'm fully aware that fleming is British), but the movies. They are directed by US Directors, funded by US Producers, and released by US Companies (At least mostly - I admit I didn't do an exhaustive amont of research here).

I also agree on the whole Cyberpunk thing - I thought it was fun at first, but after awhile it sort of dragged on. That's why I stopped with Stephenson on the list - his was the last time I saw a newer author tackling cyberpunk and making it seem fresh (I've read Rucker and I thought he was simply a bad author - never realized he had a following....).

So what is out there in Britain that can stack up against the list we have before us? And I don't mean Dr. Who and Red Dwarf - you need to produce something that is current (I admit it - Dr.Who is still probably my favorite show of all time and that alone would allow it to trump everything in my opinion, even B5, so it's not fair to play that card!).


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Post 8

Andrew 3.0 Pro

i have to admit i've never actually seen doctor who... ever.

i don't get bbca over here yet, so i barely get any british shows at all.


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Post 9

The Rumpled Academic

You've never seen Dr. Who? Shock! Horror!
Alright, alright. So the Americans have Star-Trek (I personally have never been able to sit through and entire movie of it before), but the British had one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century: Douglas Adams.
You've said to only talk about current shows, but the fact is, I would rather watch Dr. Who in ancient Greece helpfully suggesting to the Greeks to build a dirty great wooden horse than watch ANY other glamourous American Sci-Fi.
Dr. Who wins it all for the poms.


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Post 10

mags

Star Trek - all versions - is America in space, not "the British empire". The original series works on the idea a western in space - of expanding the frontiers of the Federation. TNG and the later series just continue this idea: people may be different, but only so different.

The irony is that the great fear of TNG onwards is of being "assimilated" whilst all the characters onboard the Enterprise already have been assimilated into a particular mindset (the Federation). Worf is portrayed as 'more enlightened' than other Klingons because he has fallen into line with the Federation.

If science fiction's main characteristic is using the future to comment on contemporary society, what is Trek saying? Conform, conform, conform!

As to comparing British/American science fiction: I tend to prefer British television. The Quatermass series were astounishing and there are still occassional gems tucked away (like Last Train). The problem is that British television has fallen for the American idea that 'science fiction' means 'special effects fiction' and think they can't afford to make it.

In terms of novels, I don't think either is better. Britain has Wells, Wyndham, JG Ballard etc but America has Philip K Dick and Gibson...


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Post 11

Hoovooloo

I've said this elsewhere so I shalln't labour the point, but Star Trek is NOT America in space. Star Wars is America in space.

Star Trek is the most successful and longest lasting piece of communist propaganda ever produced. The society depicted therein is NOTHING like that in the US.

The US is a capitalist society. Capitalists *do* appear in Star Trek - they're villains or patronised comic relief. It is very clear that we're supposed to highly admire Rom in DS9 for seeing the light, rejecting his Ferengi heritage and throwing in his lot with the Federation/Starfleet commies.

Compare and contrast the world of the Federation and Starfleet with the world of the modern day US...

- in the modern US, anyone can own almost any form of transport they can afford; cars, boats, helicopters - the guy who plays Worf collects and flies decommissioned fighter jets, for Bod's sake.

- in the Federation, the only "owners" of vessels are the governments. Seriously - what human have you ever seen in Trek who has their own ship? Apart from the odd alien trader, nobody owns any means of transport. Not a single person on earth seems to be in a position to leave whenever they like - they're dependent on the government for transport. Sounds pretty communist to me.

I could go on and bore you with a huge list, but suffice to say that a moment's thought, looking at it without prejudice, shows Star Trek for the communist propaganda that it is, and it's hilarious that the US viewing public continues to swallow it uncomplainingly and indeed it seems uncomprehendingly year after year.

H.


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Post 12

The Rumpled Academic

You're obviously not a communist, hmm?
I've never sat through an entire Star Trek Movie, and, being a communist, I am now sorry that I haven't. This is the first mention anywhere of Star Trek being Communist "propaganda."

Hoo, this debate is about whether UK Science Fiction is superior to American Science Fiction. Let's keep your ( and my) biases out of this, shall we? If you want to argue about Capitalism and Communism (I'd be more than happy to oblige) how about you try it in a thread about the subject?


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Post 13

Awix

Star Wars isn't 'America in space'. Star Wars - the original trilogy anyway - has a fairly blatantly fascist subtext, if we're going to get political about this.

I wouldn't really describe Trek as communist, either, certainly not the 60s series.

Are we really here to argue about whether UK or US SF is better? Both have their classics, both have their turkeys. The differences between the two are surely more interesting than a futile argument where one's position is largely decided by where one was born...

I could even argue that English-speaking SF evolves in a series of 'waves' that rarely have much to do with geography, more with like minds bouncing off one another (quite a few American New Wave writers of the 60s were based in the UK, albeit briefly).


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Post 14

Researcher 247489


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Post 15

TIMELORD

Star trek was of course based on the books of Horatio Hornblower by C. S. Forester but that of course was what Gene Roddenberry said anyway.
OK many people seem to be forgetting that the US also have there share of wobble sets and naff ideas or am i the only one that remembers Jason of Star Command and street hawk not to mention almighty Isis the truth is both sides make great sci fi and both sides make rubbish.
In the UK we make great short shows 13 episode is a long series over here but in the US a first series can be 26 episodes take the new series of Survivors just 6 episodes by the time it was getting interesting it was over no time to build a long running plot.


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Post 16

Awix

Roddenberry also said Trek was based on the old Western show Wagon Train... and personally I've always felt it bore a striking resemblence to Forbidden Planet (you could rewrite FP as a Trek episode fairly easily).

I've seen barely any non-Upper Boat SF since leaving the UK in mid-2006, so I can't really comment on the New Golden Age of British TV SF we're currently experiencing. Except to say the little I've seen of New Survivors didn't make me want to watch the rest.

Turning Tom Price into a hunk and remaking the Terry Nation scripts but not the Clive Exton ones... I mean, really... smiley - erm


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