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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We are watching "Deep Space Nine" on our Roku box. It is SO last century. The Bajorans are the Jews. The funny nose and religion thing are a little obvious. The Cardassians are the Nazis who put Bajorans (see, there is even a "J" followed by a vowel sound!) into labor camps. The Ferengi are the cagy Arab merchants (though they could ALSO be Jews, being cagy merchants and all. With a religion.) 

So there we are. I really hope that we can come up with some new plots in the 21st Century, even if we don't have rocket packs.


Jay Agan said...

That's the problem with todays so-called "science fiction". Todays & yesterdays "social issues" set in outer space. Forget it!

That's why I like anime. At least the stuff I've got isn't bogged down in "social commentary". At least not to the degree "our" stuff is.

Michael W said...

Actually, Jay, science fiction has always been used to examine social issues, or reflect the nature of people in a particular time or place. Rabelais was doing it back in the 16th Century with "Gargantua And Pantagruel", and it's been going on full-tilt boogie ever since. Some people manage to make their fortunes and reputations with it (e.g. Rod Serling with "Twilight Zone", Gene Roddenberry with "Star Trek", Aldous Huxley with "Brave New World").

To make this sort of thing work, though, one needs subtlety. Jesus, for instance, didn't just hammer His lessons into people, He threw curve balls by employing parable. People were getting The Message while being royally entertained.

("Hey, you check out that rabbi up the street? Wow, can he tell stories.")

Post-Roddenberry Star Trek ably demonstrated how tight a hold Roddenberry had on the reins. Without that hold Subtlety jumped over the fence and ran off into the hills.

("Well," says Rick Berman as he sits down to his beans and biscuits, "we still got four more horses.")

("Yeah," says Brannon Braga, reaching for the salt, "lemme tell you 'bout this new pony I saw. His name's 'Enterprise'. He has three gimpy legs and a theme song, but he's Real Cheap.")

Practically every plot in science-fiction has been used and re-used (and, to be fair, the same can be said for Westerns and detective stories and practically any other genre). Look for Gahan Wilson's classic "SciFi Movie Plot Generator" for evidence. Good science fiction hinges not only on execution of plot, but on characterization and dramatic setup.

The reason B'rer Weatherly was able to make his observations concerning "Deep Space Nine" proves that the job wasn't done properly in some instances. If such wasn't the case then Weatherly would've been breathlessly caught up in the episodes and wouldn't have noticed the shortcomings until later. This is why some older SF television shows (with worse special effects) are still considered classics. Better stories and direction.

Weatherly also referred to the "funny nose". I used to call the modern Star Trek Universe as "The Galaxy Of People With Weird Noses". Too many times they thought that a bizarre nostril was all you needed to have an alien. The tragedy was that, if the writing and direction (and occasionally the acting) had been better, then funny noses would've been enough.

(And I think back to the original "Outer Limits", which had significantly less of a budget, but went the extra mile in trying to depict genuinely alien creatures. Sad.)

OK, now I can go have breakfast!

Michael W said...


Characterization is to me the strong point in anime (just ahead of cute girls in short skirts. You have your priorities and I have mine). I have always been impressed by the Japanese approach to letting even characters in animated features breathe and expand.

Take "Gundam Wing" for instance. Treize Khushrenada was initially a bad guy of the old school. But, by the time the series ended, you actually became sympathetic with his views and motives. And when Dorothy Catalonia first appeared I felt she had this big neon sign floating above her saying SHOOT ME! I'M EVIL! I thought to myself "she is SO gonna eat a bullet". But, with time, the audience got a further look into Dorothy's head and she wasn't quite the viper she appeared to be.

And then you had "Revolutionary Girl Utena" . . . a cross between "M*A*S*H" and "The Prisoner". A head trip if there ever was one.

(Meanwhile, here in America, animated features still mean cute little CGI cars running around . . . or more knockoffs of "The Simpsons".)

The Aardvark said...

Michael. how DARE you praise my brilliance and perspicacity from one side of your mouth, while deriding the talent, and ground-breaking work of the likes of Disney/Pixar, Matt Groening, and (pauses for angelic choir) Seth McFarland out of the other. Seth alone has remade the face of Sunday night TV on FOX between the hours of six and nine PM. What a masterstroke, his refit of "Family Guy" (a cartoon about an unpleasant white family and their unpleasant friends) by doing "The Cleveland Show" (a cartoon about an unpleasant black family and their unpleasant friends). Not only that, but he draws on the rich tradition of the minstrel show, by having- get this- a WHITE guy doing the BLACK voice work of Cleveland. It's radio Amos and Andy all over again. It's like vocal blackface.

Michael, all your pretensions about Rabelais and Huxley, and Treize Khushrenada do nought to disguise where you are coming from, you, YOU anti-American-animation ELITEST!

Sure, you may laud Winsor Mackay, but the mind-numbing production of say, Hanna-Barbera is quite beyond you, I fear. A daresay you will have no invitations to the ScoobyCon I have planned, nossiree.

...and I managed this on one cup of coffee. I shall post Gahan Wilson's Device next.

Michael W said...

"A daresay you will have no invitations to the ScoobyCon I have planned, nossiree."

It was those darned kids!

Jay Agan said...

Michael W.: Points well taken but they weren't what I was getting at. My fault.

What I should have "said" was:

That's the problem with todays' so-called "science fiction". Todays' & yesterdays' SOCIALIST issues set in outer space.

I'm tired of PC propaganda passing itself off as SF. I greatly dislike going to the movies or turning on the set, expecting to see SF only to have what I believe & care about having an ideological "drive by" done to me.

To top it off, any opposition is portrayed as some form of Nazi grotesquery. The implication being that I must be of like mind.

If this is SF, I fear for the "future". If there ever is a "United Fed. of Planets" it should be fought. Every time Picard et al opens their collective mouth I end up rooting for the Klingons. At least they don't pretend to be my friends.

To heck with the Prime Directive. I'm gonna shoot something!