Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's not just for kids

While Wife is in the UK, I get to choose the viewing, and today was reminded of a series first aired on British TV in 1970, UFO. It was one of my favourite TV shows at the time, and has to rank with some of the more sophisticated sci-fi ever made despite it's vintage. Well, I was young then (Hells teeth! I was once young! Oh tempera! Oh mores!). Of course the costumes and everything were a bit naff, rather like the wigs, but as I recall, it was the first sci-fi show I ever saw that dealt with adult issues like relationship problems, betrayal, and racism in a mature (for the period) manner.

UFO was cancelled then followed up with Space: 1999, which I found rather corny by comparison, but then many TV studios appeared to think and probably still do, that sci-fi is for kids. All this despite Firefly and a few other popular shows that have done the rounds over the years. The best sci-fi programming addresses adult themes, it has, for want of a better term, edge. I think this is why I don't much care for Doctor Who, Star Trek and Andromeda. They're too anodyne, too safe, too glib and glossy, or too PC. I liked Farscape for the same reason, there was a certain goofiness of the characters that made them each unique and very plausible.

It's possibly the anodyne PC stuff that makes some sci-fi such a turn off for so many people. The characters, like Kirk, Picard, or The Doctor have a particularly constructed quality. They move through the scenes and episodes, yet appear unchanged by them. There is the odd exception of course, but these seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

Drama, no matter what its genre, should have characters that change. Like people change throughout their lives. For example Wife says that I behave sometimes as though I've still got the body of a 23 year old, well I have, but it's a bit shop soiled and creaky sometimes, and rather like an early model automobile, no longer has the full fuel economy or top speed of when it was new. Stercus accidit. I understand this and no longer try to figuratively leap tall buildings in a single bound. People adapt with age and experience. I've ridden a Motorcycle round Europe, scrounged my way around the UK, won a couple of fights, and lost a couple, got much too drunk too often, married, seen two teenage girls safely through adolescence to University. I'm not the same as I was at 23. I'm smoother, more self aware, more laid back (Well, with exceptions). We all change. So should characters in a TV show, regardless of genre. It's what gives them immediacy and interest and adds to the story.

That's my take on it anyway.

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