Without Being Overly Negative, Why Does Science Fiction Suck Right Now?

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Yeah, it’s politics and money. I get it.

Come on, guys! Doctor Who used to be fascinating and hilarious. I’ve laughed out loud at stuff Tom Baker or Matt Smith said. I’ve sat back after episodes like “Blink” and marveled at the well-designed symphony of story and concepts. That’s just good TV. I miss that. These days, Doctor Who is a string of nonsense action shots spiced with “guns are evil” and a parade of “women of history” that is honestly just too in-your-face with the politics for me. I’d hoped with Season 12’s “Spyfall” opener, maybe things might be different because the dude playing The Master now is pretty good…also hints of a larger narrative than the monster-a-week they went with in Season 11. No luck, though. Ep 2 was a boring train wreck that trashed the intriguing characterization of Michelle Gomez’s Master from earlier seasons.

I’m not jumping on the Disney ‘Star Wars’ hate wagon, though I do hate it. That’s not really my point here. My point is an evening with my Dad back in 1983.

The first ‘Star Wars’ came out when I was 6. It’s all anyone talked about; and it inspired me big time. I remember after ‘Empire’ speculating along with everyone else what would become of Han Solo frozen in carbonite. I remember seeing this cover in a book store somewhere and getting incredibly pumped because here was something outside the movies I could interact with.

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Then Dad took me to the opening of ‘Return Of The Jedi’. I smacked his arm excitedly when the camera zoomed in on Darth Vader’s helmet with the Emperor’s lightning showering around them. I couldn’t help myself. I wanted that bad guy to help his son so bad, to turn back and be a good guy, that I was practically crying. That’s a great moment for me, in my mind, and illustrative of the power of good fiction, well executed.

I hated the prequels too, honestly, though I chuckled with some delight when Anakin screamed “Noooooooo” after learning of Padme’s death. A little girl beside me was dumbstruck and asked me during the movie why I was laughing. I just told her, “I’ve been waiting a very long time to see that.”

It isn’t just the ridiculous McGuffin-driven storytelling or vapid, meaningless action sequences or grammar school characterization. I just miss heart. I miss there being heart in the story.

‘The Mandalorian’ at least gets that very right. The dude in the helmet has a soft spot for Baby Yoda, probably because he was orphaned as well. Tough guy, softie at heart. Very dangerous when baby is threatened. That’s some heart, man. Give those people more money to make this kind of thing. We need it.

So I thought I’d offer some unsolicited advice to Hollywood and anyone else looking to bring some new science fiction into the world:

  1. Leave your blatant politics at home, please. Your objective as mythmaker should be to make something timeless. Politics bleeds that, so stop it. You’re also alienating half your potential fan base.
  2. Focus. Trim. Be concise. Narrow your plot’s conceit so it can be summarized in a sentence or two. Stop masquerading nonsense action shots from video games as if there is meaning there. If I could delete an entire section of your movie and have the same ending, you missed the boat.
  3. Twist something other than just a character’s gender or skin color. We’re not stupid; and we’ve heard every story there is. You’ll have to do more than tweak superficial window dressing to seize attention.
  4. Please, for the love of God, make character motivations clear and make them believable. Palpatine’s plan in ‘Rise Of Skywalker’ was for Rey to kill him? Really?
  5. Find heart. Please. Please. Please. Go back and watch the introduction of Wolverine and Rogue in the early X-Men flicks. Watch the scene in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies when the New Yorkers hid the mask-less Peter after saving them. Go listen to Spock, McCoy, and Kirk joshing with each other on the bridge of the Enterprise. Drill your character roster down to 2 or 3 people that have a true relationship that matters and with which we can relate. Please get back to that.

Anyway, I’m trying. ‘The Witcher’ was worth the time, though a bit muddled in timelines. ‘Messiah’ on Netflix seemed to have a great start till the last episode when it sort of fizzled. Just to spoil that for you, it’s much more interesting and makes more sense if you watch that thinking the guy is the Antichrist.

So go forth and help spread the word to anyone writing for Hollywood. Less noise, less clutter, less politics.

Can we have heart again?

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