Shakespeare, Serling, and the growth of mature scifi …

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-classic-hollywood28-2009oct28,0,1202866.story

An odd set of coincidences occurred over the past few days … hardly even the most important things to happen, yet they stuck out as something of an odd set of coincidences.

First, on Sunday, while eating dinner with my parents, my father had Turner Classic Movies on the television, and it was broadcasting Forbidden Planet. When the film concluded, the host reminded us that the film was based on Shakeepeare’s The Tempest, and was considered the first truly respectable work of cinematic science fiction (note: I guess we are tossing out Frankenstein, but since that was “supposed” to be directly based on the Shelley novel, and not some futuristic adaptation, I guess FP is the first semi-original piece of legitimate scifi for film). It is hard to disagree. Despite being over 50 years old, the film has aged remarkably well … you never hear about anyone trying to remake it … it is perfect just the way it is,

The link above is to an LA Times piece about Rod Serling. Serling was a well respected TV writer when he suddenly shucked his career over a precipice to write, host, and produce kiddy scifi. Of course, there was nothing kiddy about The Twilight Zone … quite the opposite. TTZ was quite probably for TV what FP was for film: an attempt to produce high quality science fiction that could be entertaining, but more importantly used the trappings of science fiction (space ships, ray guns, monsters, aliens, etc) as the backdrop for a moral, philosophy, or most importantly, to comment on the current state of humanity (something that even journalism had a hard time doing). The LA times article further points out that with Serling, you had a writer in charge instead of a suit. This lay the groundwork for the better scifi series that would follow … everything from cop show/western writer Gene Rodenberry’s little “wagon train to the stars” in the 1960s, to Ronald D. Moore taking the lessons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and applying them in masterfully recreating Battlestar Galactica.

Weird coincidence …..

I happened to read that LA Times article while waiting for this evening’s feature attraction: ABC’s attempted relaunch of the old NBC miniseries “V“. For the 2% of you not familiar, “V” is an exceptionally veiled parable which relates how totalitarianism (notably, the Nazis) not only came to power, but that even in the warm Los Angeles sun of the 1980s, it would be very easy to happen all over again. It is a miniseries that reminds us that all good wars have nothing to do with religion or ideology (its always about resources … in the case of “V”, our reptilian overlords want our water, and want us as a new protein source). The original miniseries was a tremendous application of science fiction … the aliens and their spaceships were the backdrop … the lessons about allowing society to be swayed into devotion to a charismatic individual or group was the real point. The sequel miniseries and subsequent series was not as good, and was really not needed (the points about totalitarianism were dropped, and the point became all about plot).

This new series has already thrown the gasoline onto the fire. In the first episode there was a moment when a the alien leader is being interviewed by a newscaster, and she calmly explains that her people are going to be expanding their “healing centers” to every major city around the world. The reporter returns with “you mean, you are offering us universal health coverage”. The reptile-in-human clothing smiles and responds “yes, you could call it that.” I’m not sure if Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama were watching, but if they were, you could tell there would be a small chill going down their spine. That piece of overt politics aside, I thought this was not bad as remakes go. The exotic good looks of Morena Baccarin could not have been a better choice to play the alien leader … a combination of intelligence and warmth mixed with a very cold demeanor buried beneath. This will be worthy of a second look next week

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5 Responses to Shakespeare, Serling, and the growth of mature scifi …

  1. Beth says:

    Oh, goody! A head start on what FOX news will be covering for the next week:

    “Could the President be an alien? Not just from another country, but actually another PLANET? He still hasn’t shown us his birth certificate…”

    “Reptilian Overlords on TV support universal health care–Nancy Pelosi does the same, eerie coincidence or more science fact than fiction? The answer may shock you–Glenn Beck investigates”

    (rolls eyes) Thanks, ABC…

    • teganx7 says:

      To be fair, the series has also established most of the wars of the past 30 years to have been caused by aliens infiltrating the governments of the world … so based on that, W. is pretty much a reptile too.

  2. Beth says:

    Actually “W” would be two Vs put together….

  3. Alan P. says:

    That’s awesome, Beth!

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