Past Viewing for Sci-fi Saturday

In honour of Sci-fi Saturday, here are a few chestnuts from the past.  Some cool, some quirky, some downright kitschy, but all worth a look-see.

U.F.O. (1970  Seasons: 1, Episodes: 26)

The team that created the marionette Thunderbirds created this live-action (blended) 26 episode cult classic.  Set in 1980, S.H.A.D.O. defends the Earth from alien enemies.  Set on Terra firma and the a futuristic moon base, the show is still known for the ahead-of-its-time special effects as well as the female characters’ purple wigs and short space-age mini-skirt outfits.  Dwindling ratings near the end of the first year led forces to alter plans for a second season and instead led to the creation of…

Space: 1999 (1975-77  Seasons: 2, Episodes: 48)

Based on the completely unscientific premise that the moon could be blown out of Earth’s orbit by a nuclear explosion, somehow resulting in the hunk of rock travelling fast enough to encounter new civilizations each week (Google: ‘suspension of disbelief'), the first season was actually not bad.  Filled with stories from the metaphysical to the outright supernatural all with a heavy post-2001 Kubrickesque flavor, year one still holds up as worthy viewing.  The problem (beyond the scientific) is year two.  Taken over by Fred Freiberger, known as the man who killed Star Trek, the show became little more than a Saturday morning cartoon with a funky disco soundtrack.  Even the actors could barely contain their disgust.  Still, for its pre-Star Wars time the special effects were amazing – word is this was the first show to cost $1 million per episode – and there has never been a more practical spacecraft ever created in the genre than the Eagle.  Plans for a third year were scrapped and the money allocated apparently went to produce the excellent Gregory Peck – Lawrence Olivier film The Boys from Brazil.

Firefly (2002  Seasons: 1, Episodes: 14)

At the top of my list of most under-appreciated, most overlooked sci-fi show ever.  This Joss Whedon cult favorite became a pop culture classic long after it disappeared from view.  Before Castle, Nathan Fillion was Mal Reynolds, a former Independence fighter and current owner of the ship Serenity.  His post-war life is one on the outer-ridge.  Along with his crew – perhaps the best collection since Star Trek – he sometimes blurs the ethical line to survive.  Superb is the underlying foundation: a totalitarian government, although mostly benign, is still totalitarian.  Mal is the rebel who values his liberty above all else.  Beautifully blends some serious plots with comedy.  Spawned the film Serenity, one of the best sci-fi films of the past 30 years, and which contains its own important message: if you wish to social engineer a world without sin, be careful what you wish for.

Honourable mention…

Andromeda (2000-2005  Seasons: 5, Episodes: 110)

This Gene Roddenberry creation was a Saturday afternoon staple at the turn of the millennium.  Filled with underlying social and political commentary, this Kevin Sorbo vehicle mixes cool effects with great dialogue.  Great characters fill the screen, even the oddballs which the actors sometimes straddle the line of caricature, but not quite.  Check your critical thinking at the door and enjoy the ride.

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