Top 10 Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book

I know, I know!  This is really late.  I’m sorry.  I had a rough week.  Please forgive me.

Now onward.  I got the wonderful idea for this post from Ashley Prince’s blog The Bibliophile’s Corner, and couldn’t resist doing a similar list.  My list actually ended up being 11 instead of 10, but I won’t tell if you won’t.  Also, I’ve discovered that 1995-96 was a bad time for me.  Three of the authors on this list died in that period of time.  And fourth on this list died in 1975.  So there’s little chance of actually getting another book out of those four authors, unless someone finds a long-lost manuscript somewhere, or someone learns how to channel them long enough to write their books for them.

Anyway, please enjoy:

The Top 10 Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book!

1)     Roger Zelazny: If you don’t know this yet, let me inform you: Roger Zelazny was one of the greatest scifi/fantasy novelists of all time.  Ever.  Period.  The Great Book of Amber is a brilliant and complex fantasy series with one of the greatest main characters ever written.  And Lord of Light… don’t even get me started on Lord of Light! An fascinating mix of fantasy, science fiction, Buddhist philosophy, Hindu mythology, and good old-fashioned adventure, Lord of Light will make you think, question, and explore more than some classic philosophers I’ve read.  Zelazny wrote plenty of books – many many MANY books, in fact.  But it’s still a crime and a serious detriment to the world that he didn’t write even more before he died in 1995.

2)     Michael Ende: Almost everyone knows his story, but many don’t know his name.  Michael Ende, very popular in Germany where he lived and published many children’s books, is known in the U.S. for only one: The Neverending Story.  And if you’ve read that novel, than you know why it’s a TRAVESTY that he never wrote any other books in that same story-universe, or that few of his other books were ever published in English.  Every single time I re-read The Neverending Story, I wish with a fervent passion that he had written some sort of sequel to it before he died (also in 1995).

3)     Austin Grossman: This man mainly works as a game designer, but he also wrote one novel called Soon I Will Be Invincible, which follows two parallel storylines – a young woman who has just joined the world’s most famous super-hero team, the Champions; and a Dr. Impossible, an evil-genius super-villain who is determined that next time, he will win.  This novel is AWESOME.  At time hilarious, at other times surprisingly sad.  At all times, amazingly human.  I have always loved stories that try to think through the real-world implications of superheroes, and this book does a brilliant job.  I just cannot understand why Austin Grossman hasn’t written another book yet.  Come on, man!  Get with the program!

4)     Frank Beddor: When I read Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars trilogy, which is a intricate reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, I was FLOORED.  It was so different and original, the characters were complex and fascinating, and the action was intense.  I love love LOVE these books, and I seriously NEED him to write something new.

5)     Walter M. Miller, Jr: Walter Miller only wrote two novels (and a slew of short story and essay collections): A Canticle for Leibowitz and Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse WomanA Canticle for Leibowitz is considered one of the greatest science fiction classics (the prequel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman received mix reviews at best), and is one of my favorite novels ever.  It’s a post-apocalyptic tale about a Catholic order of monks who survive through a couple millennia of chaos and war.  It is strange, and dark, and epic, and sad, and oddly funny at times.  And I wish to God Walter M. Miller, Jr. had written at least one more really awesome novel before he died in 1996.

6)     Kenneth Patchen: Patchen was best known as a pre-beat poet in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, who was more than a little mad and extremely avant garde, but he also wrote two novels: The Journal of Albion Moonlight and The Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer.  I have yet to read Shy Pornographer, but The Journal of Albion Moonlight is HANDS-DOWN the most insane, most frustrating book ever written.  It’s beautiful and terrifying and hilarious and absolutely MADDENING.  I’d tell you what it’s about but I’m not sure I really can… I guess I’ll need to write a whole post about it at some point, just to get at a FEW of the things that make this book AMAZING and INSANE.  I wish he had written another book, and I don’t know why he didn’t.  He wrote Albion Moonlight in 1941 and Shy Pornographer in 1945, and didn’t die until 1975.  He had the time, dammit!!

7)     Richard Adams: best known for Watership Down (which I’ve raved about before), Richard Adams has actually written plenty of other books, most of which I have not read mainly because I’ve never seen any of them in the U.S.  He published a novel called Daniel in 2006.  And he released a short story a couple years ago.  But he’s 91 years old, and I hope that he writes at least one more.  Even though I haven’t had a chance to read most of his other works, I still wish he’d write another.  I’ll get to them eventually, I know, though it might require ordering books from the U.K., and I want to have many many to choose from.

8)     Harper Lee: She only wrote one novel, but it was doozy.  To Kill a Mockingbird is beautiful, and it will forever remain a classic.  It’s easy to understand why she might not want, or feel the need, to give a repeat performance.  But I wish she’d think of her adoring public and give us one more beautiful piece of art to cherish forever.  She’s only 85.  It could still happen.

9)     John Case: When I read the first book by John Case (which is actually a pseudonym for husband and wife team Jiim and Carolyn Hougan), The Genesis Code, I fell in love.  The Genesis Code, a suspense/mystery thriller with religious themes and slightly scifi undertones, was amazingly sharp and intelligent, fast-paced, intense, exciting, and truly suspenseful.  Their next book, The First Horseman (separate story but also containing religious themes) was equally brilliant.  They have now published 6 books, but the last one came out in 2006, and they need to hurry up and write another.  NOW.

10)   Tim O’Brien: Probably best known for his intense, emotional, and strange Vietnam War novels: The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato (which happen to be two of my favorite books ever), Tim O’Brien has written eight novels.  The most recent of these, published in 2002, was July, July.  Tim O’Brien is brilliant.  He needs to write more.  Period.

11)   Garth Nix: I have loved Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series for years, and while he’s written a number of other books, some of which I thoroughly enjoy, nothing can quite match the wonder of reading Sabriel for the first time.  Since he finished his Seventh Tower series and Keys to the Kingdom series for the Independent Reader age group, I’ve been waiting patiently (sort of) for him to write something else.  He would be much higher on this list, except that I’ve found news that we should be expecting a new addition to the Old Kingdom series some time in 2013.  Thank goodness!

 

(Click on the cover image to go to the Goodreads page for each book)

So, what authors would make it onto YOUR list??

Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Pt 3

Science/Fantasy Monday: Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Pt 3

Here we are at last!  The end of my three-Mondays-long countdown of my personal Top 10 SciFi TV Shows.  For those of you who missed the first two parts, or just need a refresher, you can find them here:

“Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Part 1”

“Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Part 2”

Back?  Good.  Now, let’s get down to business.  I’m sure that most, if not all, of you can probably guess what shows are coming.  The big question now is what order did I put them in?  Which show got #1 and which got pushed down to #2?

Well, wonder no longer!  We have a tie for First Place!  And it goes to Star Trek and Doctor Who!  (Who’s shocked?  Raise your hand.  No one?  Didn’t think so.)

#1: Star Trek (whole universe) and Doctor Who (original and revival)

I love them both.  They are both amazing and brilliant.  They were both so foundational to science fiction television, and scifi of any medium.  I simply could not find any way to say definitively that either was better than the other, so a tie seemed the best solution.

Star Trek:

Star Trek: Original Series

Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry and first aired in 1966 and ran for three seasons before it was canceled due to low ratings.  It wasn’t until it went into syndication that Star Trek: the Original Series (TOS) truly gained the immense popularity that made it the icon it is today.  It was followed by a short-lived Animated Series, and six movies: Star Trek the Motion Picture, The Wrath of Kahn, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier, and The Undiscovered Country.

Star Trek: Next Generation

Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) started in 1987 and last seven seasons, during which time it became, I believe, the most popular of all the series.  Even many of those who grew up with TOS are usually willing to admit that TNG is better.  There is a decent-sized group of people who would argue that the third series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) is actually the best incarnation of the show.  My brother, a few of my friends would count themselves among that group.  I’m sort-of, kind-of there too, though I’m a little more on the fence.  For a more detailed discussion of my reasoning behind that argument please see: “The Age Old Question: Which Star Trek is Better?”

Still, TNG was an absolutely fantastic show.  And even if I like some parts of DS9 better, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starfleet Enterprise NCC-1701-D will always ALWAYS be MY Captain.  He is one of my favorite characters ever.  Data, the android who wants to be human is definitely near the top of my favorite list also (and TNG’s answer to Spock who is also one of my favorite characters).

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

As for DS9… it was much darker than either of the two series that came before it, which is also cited as a mark against it, but which I really enjoyed.  And it had a large overarching plot that really tied the show together and gave it an amount of tension and suspense that TNG only managed on a few occasions (though it was AWESOME when TNG pulled it off, most especially in “Best of Both Worlds,” Pt 1 and 2).  But again, you can get more of rant about DS9 on my previous post, linked above.

During this time, there were four more movies, focusing on the TNG crew: Generations, First Contact, Insurrection, and NemesisStar Trek: Generations was emotionally-taxing because we all had to watch Kirk die not once, but twice.  But the best of the bunch has to be Star Trek: First Contact, which featured fantastic special effects, the creepy arch-nemesis of the TNG crew The Borg, a cool plot, and Picard at his absolutely most awesome.

Star Trek: Voyager

After DS9, we had Voyager. This was the first Star Trek show to feature a female captain (there have been plenty of woman captains within the universe of Star Trek, of course).  Voyager has been argued about for a number of reasons.  It is very popular with some fans, and hated by others.  It was, admittedly, a little hit-or-miss sometimes, but the first four seasons, at the very least, were consistently good.  Most of the characters were well-written and complex.  But I think many people didn’t like the heavy focus on romance in a number of episodes, especially in the second half of the series.  This is a complaint I understand, and I would admit that some of the relationship stuff definitely got tiring.  But overall, the show was intelligent, well-acted, exciting, and fun.  And Captain Kathryn Janeway was an absolutely KICK-ASS female character.

Star Trek: Enterprise

Last on the list is Star Trek: Enterprise.  I watched most of the first season, and I have seen a few other episodes here or there.  But this series just could not match up to the Star Trek tradition.  The producers/writers tried to change too much, make it more “theirs” instead of Roddenberry’s, and it just didn’t work (though Capt Archer, played by Scott Bakula, was a pretty good character).

What I think makes Star Trek so important, despite its flaws, the occasional hit-or-miss series, the cheesiness, etc… is that it is able to critique society (like much of scifi) and show us ourselves in all our nastiness, but it is ultimately built on a fundamental hope and optimism.  Star Trek: The Original Series featured the first interracial kiss aired on television.  It attempted to show the world that tolerance and peace and prosperity were possible, despite all the problems we face.  And that optimism seems even more important now than it did in the 60s.

I will add, briefly, that the newest movie was very good.  I approached with trepidation, but it seriously impressed me, and I’m looking forward to the next one.  There are also rumors of a new Star Trek series, which would be AWESOME, because it’s just a tragedy that it’s been so long since we had a new Star Trek adventure to enjoy every week.

Doctor Who:

The First Doctor: William Hartnell

Doctor Who premiered in 1963 and run for 26 consecutive seasons until 1989, making it the longest running science fiction television show of all time and one of the longest running tv shows of any genre (even before its revival).  In 1996 a television movie was released in the hopes of reviving the show for an American audience. This failed.  But in 2005, the show was finally revived by BBC and has now run for 6 more seasons.  This revival is not a reboot, but an actual continuation of the same universe and timeline, which means that seasons 6 of the revival can also be called season 32 of Doctor Who.  And the show is still going strong.

Anyone who knows me (and people who have been following this blog for awhile), knows that I am obsessed with Doctor Who.  I could go on about the show for hours if you let me (I don’t suggest you let me if you plan to do anything else for the next few days).  Thankfully, I have already written three blogs about various aspects of Doctor Who. So, rather than ramble for quite as long as I did for Star Trek above (which I haven’t written about as much before), I will now start by referring you to those previous blog posts:

“The Doctor Is In: A Brief History of Doctor Who, Pt 1”

“The Doctor Is In: A Brief History of Doctor Who, Pt 2”

“They’re Never Really Gone: The Top 3 Doctor Who Villains”

These three posts should give you good handle on some of the major elements of Doctor Who.

DALEKS!

It always fascinates me that Doctor Who was originally intended as more a history lesson for children disguised as action-adventure television.  But very very quickly the historical episodes (which are still a ton of fun) gave way to the flashier, more dramatic, more iconic Doctor Who-ish space/alien episodes.  Doctor Who is still the most popular television show in England, and whoever is playing the Doctor at the time, is consistently one of the most popular actors of the time.  Every single person in England knows who the Doctor is, what Dalek is, understands the significance of celery and a really long striped scarf, and realizes that the Master is never really dead.  Now, thanks to the revival’s growing popularity in America (which, I think, was actually spurred on by Torchwood: Children of Earth, surprisingly), almost everyone in America is beginning to know these things too.

Doctor Who is smart, crazy, exciting, hilarious, dramatic, intense, and occasionally depressing, all wrapped up into one insane hour-long program.

10th Doctor with companions: Rose, Martha, Donna, and Sarah-Jane

It has featured some fascinating characters as the Doctor’s companions, such as his granddaughter Susan Foreman, The Brigadier, Sarah-Jane Smith, Ace, Rose Tyler, Jack Harkness, Donna Noble, and most recently Amelia Pond and her husband Rory Williams (who is awesome, by the way).  While the Doctor does sometimes travel with a variety of aliens and even robots (such as the robot dog K-9), he has always had a special affinity for human companions (despite the fact that he often looked down on humans as the First Doctor).  And these human companions are US.  They are our entrance into his world, they are our emissaries into the insane, exciting, dark universe of the Doctor.

John Sims as the Master

What I think makes this show so amazing and enduring is that it can take the strangest characters, the strangest places and plots, and make them emotionally important.  We care about alien races destroying each other.  We care about the Companions who die, or get left behind.  We are terrified (and exhilaratingly fascinated by) the Daleks and the Cybermen and the Master.  But really, it’s all about the Doctor.  He is a genius, a pacifist and warrior at the same time, compassionate and, at times, ruthless, always off for an adventure, with a entourage of humans and aliens and robots, and yet ultimately alone.  He is an alien, of course, and in so many ways he is completely non-human.  And yet, he is very human.  And that’s what makes him so amazing.

To end, here is a quote about the Doctor from episode 9 of Season 3 of the revival, “Family of Blood.”  It’s a little melodramatic, but it’s awesome anyway: “He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night, and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the universe. And… he’s wonderful.”

All Eleven Doctors

That concludes my Top 10 SciFi Television Shows list!  Please let me know what you think!  I love to hear from you! See you on Wednesday! (and I’ve got to stop using so many damn exclamation points!)

Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Pt 2

Science/Fantasy Monday: Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Pt 2

Last Monday, I started my personal  SciFi Top 10 list with Part 1, which included numbers 10-7.  This Monday I present Part 2, with numbers 6-3.  And next Monday, I will finish off the list with the first and second places.  If you missed the beginning of the list, I suggest you dash back real quick and skim that.  You can find it here: Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Pt 1.

Now, before I get into it, I feel I should warn some people about something.  I am about to incur the wrath of many people, but I’d like a chance to preemptively defend myself.  Battlestar Galactica is NOT on this list.  This is not an intentional insult to any fans.  I simply have NOT seen it, and so can’t legitimately make any claims about it one way or the other (when I say I have it seen it, I mean the new version; I watched the original and enjoyed it as a kid, but still wouldn’t put it in a top 10).  I have heard it is very good, and I believe it.  But folks, I’m in grad school, and I simply have not had the time to watch it.  I’ll get around to it one of these days, at which point I might have to change my Top 10 list.  Until then, however, please do not be insulted, okay?  Okay.

Moving on.  Here is my Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Pt 2:

#6: Firefly

Speaking of incurring the wrath of fans… some people are going to pissed that Firefly is not higher up the list.  As I was working on the list, I wrestled with this show; it was both higher and lower on the list at various points.  I finally settled on #6 because it is an fantastic show, and it definitely deserved to be higher than the bottom 3, but I cannot make the argument (as some people have tried) that it is the best scifi ever.  That is not to say, however, that it isn’t completely awesome.  Because it is.

Created by Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, Firefly takes place in a future where humans have colonized many planets.  The “core” planets are high-tech, wealthy, and governed by the Alliance (a mix of American and Chinese culture), but the out-lying planets are reminiscent of the pioneer culture of the American West.  Before the show starts, there was a war between the Alliance and the rebel “Browncoats,” who tried to halt the Alliance’s power over the outlying planets.  The Browncoats lost.  As the show opens, former Browncoat Mal Reynolds captains the firefly-class spaceship Serenity, with a crew: fellow Browncoat Zoe, Zoe’s husband and the pilot, Wash, engineer Kaylee, gun-hand Jayne, the Companion Inara, the preacher Book, and Simon and River – a brother and sister on the run from the Alliance.  Firefly only lasted 13 episodes, plus an awesome movie.  The mixture of spaghetti western with space opera was a brilliant marriage of styles/themes that led to a fascinating and detailed world construction, and some truly entertaining characters.  The dialogue, as always with Whedon, was sharp, snappy, fast, and often hilarious.  The production values especially the more movie-like camera work were highly impressive. And this little show led to a huge fan following and a reimagining of what could be done with scifi.

#5: The Twilight Zone

I honestly don’t know how any list of the best scifi tv shows could NOT include The Twilight ZoneThe Twilight Zone was created by Rod Serling, one of the most influential people in early television, who had serious love for science fiction and horror, and strongly believed in the power of scifi to reveal social problems and promote social change.  The Twilight Zone, as I assume most people know, was a series of individual, self-contained episodes with scifi, fantasy, and horror themes, which usually ended with a surprising, ironic, or macabre twist.  The original series ran from 1959 to 1964, and spawned two revivals, one from 1985-1989, and one from 2002-2003.

As a sign of how impressive and hard-working Serling was, he wrote a full two-thirds of the 156 episodes of the original series.  As a sign of how impressive and serious the show itself was, the other writers including some of the biggest names in scifi and horror, including Charles Beaumont, Earl Hamner, Jr., George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, Reginald Rose, Jerry Sohl, and two of the most brilliant prolific scifi writers ever: Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison.  These writers often used scifi as a vehicle for social commentary, using plot devices, styles, and implicit argument to get past the censors of the time who often removed any hint of social commentary from mainstream dramas.  Some of the most popular themes were nuclear war, McCarthyism, prejudice, mass hysteria, the dangers of scientific advancement, etc.  The Twilight Zone gave birth to some of the most iconic and most-parodied scenes in scifi tv, including but not limited to the infamous scene of William Shatner spotting a gremlin on the wing of a plane in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”  However, I think my all-time favorite episodes, and two of the most famous are: “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” which shows the lengths humans are willing to go to when they think they are in danger (and asks whether the rumored aliens are the residents of Maple Street are the real monsters), and “It’s a Good Life” in which Billy Mumy (Will Robinson on Lost in Space and Lennier on Babylon 5) plays a child who terrorizes a community with his psychic powers.

This show gave necessary space for some of the biggest writers of the time to try new things and make important social critiques.  It was new and original and provocative.  It is simply impossible to over-estimate the importance and influence that The Twilight Zone had on scifi.

#4: X-Files

Yes, the X-Files.  It HAD to make the Top 5, don’t you think?  Everyone (I think) knows the story.  FBI agent Fox Mulder is obsessed with the X-Files, a group of unsolved cases involved unexplained or paranormal phenomena, which are largely ignored by the rest of the FBI.  Mulder believes in aliens and conspiracy theories and a variety of other paranormal events.  His partner, Dana Scully, who is originally sent to monitor Mulder and report back to her superiors on his behavior, is a medical doctor, a scientist, and the quintessential skeptic. Some of the overarching plot-lines of the series include: an enormous conspiracy to cover-up impending alien colonization and experiments to create human-alien hybrids, clones, and super-soldiers (among other things), as well as Mulder’s continuing search to find his sister, whom he believes to have been abducted by aliens as a child.  At the same time, the show also held to the new-monster-every-week format.

This show had some of the fastest, wordiest, most intelligent dialogue of any show ever.  Though some people (my mother included) complained that it was almost nothing BUT talking, it also had intricate plot-lines, some very intense, exciting, action-oriented episodes, and one of the most complex tv mythologies ever thought up (though Fringe is trying to give it a run for its money).  It ran for 9 seasons (the last of which was, admittedly, a bit weak in parts), produced two movies, and created an enormous cult following that comes close to rivaling that of Star Wars and Star Trek.  It made the phrases “I want to believe” and “The truth is out there” and “Trust no on” cultural touchstones, it gave us some of the most recognizable scifi (or drama) characters ever: Mulder, Scully, The Smoking (or Cancer) Man.  It touched a powerful cultural nerve, an obsession with the supernatural, with UFOs, and most especially with government conspiracies.  It became one of the biggest cultural icons of the 90s, and its legacy, I think, will endure for quite a long time.

#3: Babylon 5

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love this show. I could go on for pages and pages about how much I love this show and why.  But this post is getting ridiculously long already, so I’m going to try to keep it short.  Babylon 5 was a scifi series that was created by J. Michael Straczynski and ran for five seasons, from 1993 to 1998 (the pilot episode having aired in 1993, but the first regular season not beginning until a year later).  Babylon 5 focuses on a deep space station called Babylon 5, which is neutral space and used an a hub for alien diplomatic relations with humans and each other, as well center of commerce, culture, and science.  The main characters include the Captain and command crew of the station, as well as several of the more important ambassadors who live on the station.  While many of the episodes follow the general “new adventure every week” format, the vast majority build a heavily connected story arc that deals with the corruption of Earth’s government and an imminent attack from an alien species with enough destructive power to effectively wipe out the entire universe.

J. Michael Straczynski envisioned this series as something vastly different from the only other serious scifi series around: Star Trek.  Whereas Star Trek is eminently optimistic with a fairly “pure” working government, a claim to the near-eradication of sickness and poverty, etc Babylon 5 is very much a reflection of all the problems humans have always had: corruption, oppression, war, prejudice, poverty, addiction, etc.  Straczynski made several promises: the show would have a reasonable budget (and indeed, always managed to go under budget), it would take a serious adult approach to scifi (and would therefore have no children or “cute” robots), and it would have a thoroughly planned well-written and executed overarching plot (that would not leave any loose ends).  To that end, Straczynski wrote 92 of the 110 episodes himself, and when he brought in other writers, they were told about the overarching plot-lines so that everything could be tied together effectively (incidentally, Harlan Ellison was a creative consultant on the show and is credited with 2 episodes).

And Straczynski succeeded.  Babylon 5 contains some of the most human, complex, fully-realized characters in television to date including but not limited to Susan Ivanova, Delenn, John Sheridan, and probably the two most complex and dynamic: G’Kar and Londo Mollari.  The plot is intricate, vast, intense, entertaining, and ultimately concluding with all the wrapped up satisfaction of a well-plotted novel.  One friend of mine has argued that Bablyon 5 is the most epic (in terms of scale and the consequences of the conflicts) of any story ever.  I’m not sure I would go that far, but with alien races capable of bringing about total oblivion, and a collaborative force of something like a hundred difference alien species trying to fight them (and looking like ants swarming a tiger), I can certainly see how someone might think so.  I might at least be the most epic scifi around.  Possibly.

So there, Ladies and Gentlemen are numbers 6-3 of my Top 10 Scifi TV Shows Ever.  I’d like to take a second to name a few honorable mentions: V: the Series, Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda (both series created by Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame, and produced by his wife Majel Baret after his death – both of these series had a lot of potential, but for a variety of reasons just could not be as good as Star Trek).

I’m assuming everyone can guess what first and second place will be, yes?  If not (and even if you can guess), please come back next Monday to see how I wrap things up!  And in the meantime, sound off! What do you think of the list so far?  Which of your favorites am I missing?  (If one of them is Battlestar Galactica, I refer to the explanation at the top, and beg that you don’t get too vitriolic.)

Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Pt 1

Science/Fantasy Monday: Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Pt 1

I have been having this conversation with a few of my friends lately: what are the best science fiction television shows of all time?  I’ve been debating with my brother, with several classmates, with my mother, and others.  It is not an easy question to answer.  There are so many fantastic shows to choose from, and there are so many shows that, while not necessarily the BEST ever, have so much nostalgic power, and so initial influence on the growth of science fiction in television, that it’s difficult to ignore them.

So I’ve come up with my own personal list.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m not very good at putting things in a hierarchy.  While I’m confidence that all 10 shows I’ve chosen deserve to be in such a list, I am not quite as confident in the particular order that I have settled on.  Still, an order had to be decided on, so this is my somewhat tentative final list.

Today I have shows 10 through 7.  Next Monday I will have shows 6-3, and the following Monday will be numbers 1 and 2. (And please note, that I am keeping this strictly scifi. I will probably do a separate list for fantasy shows later.)  And so, without further ado:

The Top 10 Science Fiction Television Shows, Pt 1

#10: Farscape

This show begins with modern American astronaut John Crichton (played by Ben Browder) accidentally flying into a wormhole during a test flight, being thrown across the universe, and picked up by the crew of the living space-ship Moya.  At about the same time, the crew of Moya find a stranded Peacekeeper named Aeryn Sun (played by Claudia Black) which could be a problem as the crew is currently on the run from the Peacekeepers, a corrupted military/police-esque force.  Having gathered the full cast, the show races through a number of plot arcs with increasing speed and intensity, including being captured by the Peacekeepers, Crichton’s attempt to find a wormhole home, and a frantic arms-race later in the show.

My brother says that this show was very hit-or-miss, but I disagree.  Granted, EVERY show has a few weaker episodes here and there, but this show was very strong for me.  The cast was varied and fascinating, including a warrior falsely accused of killing his wife, a thief/con-artist, and an ex-priestess of a plant-like species, just name a few.  This is the only show I’ve seen that really takes the “living ship” concept (which has been done before as a novelty in such things as an episode of Star Trek, etc) and really made the ship a character, which I really loved.  I also really really LOVE Claudia Black.  She is a brilliant, snarky, gorgeous actress, and I could probably watch her do dishes and be entertained, so that helps.  The costumes, make-up, and set design on this show were also creative and cool, especially considering the show did not always have the biggest budget.  Farscape had some very devoted fans, but it didn’t get as much attention in the big scheme of things as I think it should have.  It was a wonderful, entertaining, and ultimately human show that I definitely believe deserves a place in a top 10 list.

#9: Futurama

If you are surprised by this inclusion (or haven’t seen Futurama) well… you’re just crazy.  Pure and simple.  Futurama, an animated half-hour sitcom by Matt Groening and David Cohen of The Simpsons, takes every scifi tv show, movie, trope, theme, and cliché and turns them on their head.  But what is so important to remember is that you can only do an effective parody of something when you really and truly love it at the same time, and Futurama, through all the hilarious insanity and oh-so-true parodies of scifi clichés, never ever forgets their love (or ours).

Everyone, I think, knows the basic premise of this show: useless, idiotic yet somehow endearing delivery boy Philip Fry falls into a cryostasis chamber on New Year’s Eve of 1999 and wakes up in the year 3000, left to deal with strange technology, aliens, crazy people, and once again being a delivery boy. With the main cast of Fry, Leela, Bender, Zoidberg, Farnsworth, Amy, and Hermes, as well as recurring characters like Zap Brannigan, Kif, Mom, and the Robot Devil, this show just cannot go wrong.  Every character is insane, idiotic, neurotic, and absolutely hilarious.  Every episode lambasts some social event or attitude with shocking audacity, and throws in every ridiculous scifi motif they can find to amazing effect.  It is so difficult to pick a favorite character or episode of this show I think Bender is my favorite, but I really love Fry and Zoidberg as well.  But, I think, for the perfect balance of insanity, character highlights, social and scifi parody, and actual plotline, nothing beats watching the first movie, Futurama: Bender’s Big Score.  It is absolutely BRILLIANT.

#8: Fringe

You’ll notice pretty soon that MOST of the shows on this list are not current shows (Futurama is still running, but I think that’s it and it’s been around for awhile).  As good as some of the current shows are (Eureka, for instance, is fabulous), they aren’t don’t quite have that something that makes them the best, or they just haven’t had the time to prove themselves yet.  But I’m making Fringe the exception because it is just that amazing.  It is not the first show ever to deal with the idea of alternate realities and how a variety of small and big choices change the outcome everything.  But it has done such a fabulous job taking that concept and running with it.

Fringe began with a fairly simple premise of mixing scifi with police procedural: FBI agent Olivia Dunham works for a special Joint Federal Taskforce group called Fringe Division, which investigates crimes and unusual events that deal with “fringe science.”  She is assisted by Dr. Walter Bishop, the quintessential mad scientist, whose inventions are often the foundation for whatever crime has been committed that week, and Dr. Bishop’s son Peter, a highly intelligent and versatile man who has worked on both sides of the law.  By the end of the first season, however, it becomes obvious that viewers have more than a police procedural masquerading as scifi on their hands, as we discover that Peter was actually stolen from an alternate reality by this dimension’s Walter when his version of Peter died as a child.  The Walter Bishop of the alternate reality, dubbed by writers and fans as “Walternate” has thus declared war on this dimension, believing that the two cannot co-exist.  From there, it just gets weird.  With a cast that includes Anna Torv very believably playing tough, intelligent, yet vulnerable Olivia Dunham, the brilliant John Noble as adorably insane Walter Bishop and creepy scheming Walternate, and the ever-attractive Joshua Jackson as wickedly smart and smart-ass Peter Bishop, this show was definitely destined to be good.  The insanely complex, thought-provoking, mind-boggling plot lines and the endlessly fascinating bits of real and imagined science (which are both celebrated and critiqued in turn), make this show an absolute winner.  It’s fast-paced, intense, full of human drama and crazy scifi, and highly intelligent.  In other words, why isn’t everybody watching it?

#7: Stargate: SG-1

Perhaps it is simply because I love this show so much that I’ve decided to put this on the list.  But considering it lasted 10 seasons, launched not one but TWO spin-offs (neither of which were all that good if you ask me, but whatever), and has a enormous fan-base, I can’t be that far off the mark.  Right?  Stargate: SG-1 was based off a 1994 movie Stargate, which starred Kurt Russell as Col. Jack O’Neill and James Spader as Dr. Daniel Jackson, two members of a team of Air Force special forces (except Daniel, who is an archeologist) who travel through a large ancient Egyptian artifact called the stargate to another world, where the people speak an Egyptian dialect and worship a powerful alien creature (called a Goa’uld) as the god Ra.  The tv show picks up a year after the end of the first movie, with Richard Dean Anderson now playing the part of Col. Jack O’Neill (can we all say thank god!) and Michael Shanks as Dr. Daniel Jackson.  They are joined by Christopher Judge playing the Jaffa alien Teal’c, and Amanda Tapping as astrophysicist and Air Force Captain Samantha Carter.

This show, like many scifi shows before it, was a classic “new adventure every week” sort of show, in which the four main characters, as the Stargate team SG1 (the first of several such teams), travel through the Stargate to explore new worlds and meet new alien species (yes, I know that sounds familiar), while simultaneously trying to find allies and new weapons to help them defeat the evil, universe-conquering Goa’uld, who have set their sights on Earth.  Of course, a show that goes on for 10 years is going to have to change bad guys eventually, so we also had the creepy sentient machines called the Replicators, Anubis a Goa’uld who became an even bigger threat by “ascending” to a higher (read: more powerful) plane of existence, and finally the ascended beings who would be gods, the Ori.  I will not deny for a minute that the last three seasons of the show were fairly weak.  The show probably should have ended with the defeat of Anubis, and Richard Dean Anderson’s departure was definitely the death-knell for the show.  But for all that, it was an absolutely fabulous adventure scifi, with a perfect main cast (most especially Anderson and Shanks) and slew of great supporting actors.  They came up with some truly fascinating alien species, despite an occasionally low budget, and I loved the continued theme of how aliens were the basis for many of our world religions.  This show was just flat-out fun, and its staying power proves it should not be ignored.

(Note: I had originally intended to just do this is two segments, 10-6 and then 5-1, but this got very long very quickly, so I decided to cut it off here.  And that will allow me to save numbers 1 and 2 for a big finish all their own in a couple weeks.)

So, what do you think of my list so far?  What’s missing?  What do you hope makes it in the rest of the list?  What do you think will be #1?  Let the debates begin!

And please return next Monday for Numbers 6 through 3!