Sci-Fi month may be officially over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t show the genre some love. And as anyone knows, relationships are complicated enough on their own. Adding aliens to the mix only makes things even more difficult. This is what has always fascinated me about alien shows. Not the storylines about evil aliens taking over the world but rather how people behave towards each other because of the presence of aliens and how communication and politics is complicated by the culture clash aliens present. So for those of you who feel the same way, here are some shows to check out:
Falling Skies– With the Earth in ruins after an alien invasion nearly wiped out most of the Earth’s population, the survivors are trying to sustain the human race. This show is great because you get to see the different directions people take when they’re desperate and scared. Some band together, some selfishly hoard supplies, some run scared, some grow up too fast, some get angry, and some get stupid. You never can tell until they’re in the moment. You have characters like Pope, who always seems so selfish but ultimately can be relied on when it really matters. Then there’s Tom Mason, the leader who sometimes makes questionably selfish decisions that may benefit his family over the entire human race. The question of who to root for and who is right gets more and more complicated as the series progresses.
V- Alien invasion done quietly. This series didn’t last long for good reason. It struggled to find the balance between the behind the scenes rebellion and the delicate situation they had to balance. The sullen teen son did not help matters. (Much the same way that Charlie did not help Revolution.) The show didn’t know how to juggle the dynamics that could have potentially made it interesting—it never really delved deeply into the aliens’ culture, history, and traditions and it didn’t invest in exploring their motives (power-hungry conquerers are never as interesting as finding out that say, they are a group of aliens on the run who have been persecuted, for example). Sci-fi shows need to capitalize on what makes them unique and V did not do that.
Torchwood- Jack Harkness! Need I say more? Well, I guess if you don’t watch Doctor Who then this pre-Face of Bo character doesn’t mean much to you. It should though, because he is one of the few out and proud bi-characters to cross our TV sets. What’s interesting about this series is that it evolved drastically over the course of its run. The first two seasons were the standard case of the week fare, with the Torchwood team having to figure out what dangerous alien is roaming the streets. The next season went in a different direction, with a self-contained storyline about aliens that want to take a large portion of the planet’s children. The final season went international, dealing with a situation where no one could die, no matter how old or injured they were. Torchwood was never afraid to push boundaries or get dark.
Stargate- Over this multi-series franchise, we were taken all over the universe—alien planets, an undersea Atlantis, deep space. The first series, SG-1, was a bit campy (fitting right into the 90’s when it premiered) and formulaic, with case of the week-type issues. The most interesting element to the series was the various cultures they encountered and the aliens, who are in fact the origins of mankind’s gods. The second series, Atlantis, is very similar to SG-1, except it deals more heavily with politics and danger. The expedition team that comes to Atlantis must deal with limited assistance from Earth while struggling to protect themselves against the dangerous aliens known as the Wraith. The final series Universe has a team ending up stranded aboard an alien spaceship at the far reaches of the galaxy. Unlike in Atlantis, the team had not been properly prepared for its isolation and needed to perform extensive work to make the ship inhabitable and organize themselves into a survivable hierarchy. The third series was the darkest of the three. Although it lasted for less time than any of the others, it delved most deeply into the complicated elements of mankind’s survival instinct.
Andromeda- It’s weird to see Hercules (aka Kevin Sorbo) being anything but Hercules. After being frozen in time, Captain Dylan Hunt must assemble a new crew to help restore the great Commonwealth that has collapsed. As sci-fi series go, this is good for an escape but isn’t anything particularly deep. Perhaps one of the more unique elements of the series was that the ship, Andromeda, is an active character thanks to its powerful AI and holographic body.
Star Trek- The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine were all before I started watching so I can’t say much on those. I loved Voyager, particularly once Seven of Nine came on board and Kes left. The Ocampo storyline never did it for me, but Seven’s attempt to regain the life that had been stolen from her always struck a cord with me. I’ve always been a sucker for redemption storylines and for people having to discover their humanity, so Seven’s story was perfect. Enterprise never quite did it for me. It tried modernizing the show while also feeling older than the other series we’ve all come to love. Sure it was fun to watch them fret over transporters malfunctioning, but we also knew what transporters could do. It felt like we lost a lot of the cool things the series has to offer over the years. Even so, should the series ever come back with another show, I would happily join it to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” In time I hope to get through the other series as well.
Farscape- John Crichton is an astronaut who accidentally gets sent through a wormhole and finds himself on the other side of the galaxy with no way home. Like with Andromeda, the ship is a living being and a character, but it is much more complicated—the ship is a living being bonded to another being known only as Pilot. This adds for some unique perspectives and storylines. The ship, Moya, does not speak the way Andromeda does, but it is no less sentient and important. Easily one of my favorite characters is Aeryn, who works as a Peacekeeper (who are obviously not nearly as peaceful as the name would imply) until she gets swept up in a jail break and slowly discovers that the world is not the way she always thought it was.
Doctor Who– Doctor Who gives you a little bit of everything—deep space adventure, redemption, case of the week, alien invasion, and more. It deals with so many complex ideas. What does it mean to be a good man? Do you sacrifice the few for the many? Who decides who lives and dies? If you could change the past, should you? Can you be your own grandpa? Just kidding. Maybe.