An Old Friend
2007 - THE BEST AND WORST OF THE YEAR IN SCIENCE FICTION
The best surprise:
The best surprise:
Much as I hate to cheat on the very first thing I'm going to talk about, I'll make the exception for Heroes, which although debuting in the tail end of 2006 didn't first arrive here in the UK until this year. Much has been said about the show, and I'm sure much will continue to be said, as commentators find the show either relentlessly gripping or terminally boring. I'm with the former camp, but the fact remains that love it or hate it, no TV show has been as talked-about as Heroes in 2007. And when was the last time such an overtly science fiction show proved to be such a mainstream success? Even my girlfriend got into it, and she's a hard woman to please when it comes to the "nerdy" stuff. Oh, and enough with the "nothing ever seems to happen" criticism, which is overdone and, quite frankly, wholly fallacious. Heroes is a great show that came out of leftfield to be one of the biggest hits of the year, and it's fully deserved.
The resurrection of Futurama, which started the year as a fond rumor and ended with the release of a full-length feature movie on DVD. Simply wonderful to see one of the best TV shows of the decade taking on a new life.
Simon Pegg cast as Scotty in the upcoming Star Trek prequel. Seriously, what the hell? This gets an inclusion here for being one of the most random and surreal tidbits of news all year.
...and the biggest disappointment:
Hang on, am I cheating again already? For shame. Well, although the WGA strike was not confined to the sci-fi genre, it certainly had a lasting impact, with the second season of the aforementioned TV show being one of the more high-profile victims, and no less an authority on the subject than Joss Whedon writing an impassioned article on the subject. I've given my take on the whole issue in previous columns (quick summary: I'm against it), but it's hard to argue that any other event this year has been as disappointing for everyone involved - the writers feel treated like lowlifes, the studios are forced into emergency measures, and most importantly the viewing public is consigned to a life in front of the box watching none of their favorite shows. It's a sad situation, and the lowest point of the year for the industry.
The best trailer:
I'm not going to dish out my two cents on the movie itself, although I'd place my money on it being a stinker due to it apparently being one of Hollywood's Shameful Secrets (© Eric D. Snider) and not being screened for critics, but the unashamedly R-rated trailer for Alien vs Predator: Requiem somehow managed to completely turn around the complete apathy for the franchise. The first AvP was, undeniably, **** - and yet, given a few minutes in the company of one of the goriest trailers I can remember seeing, you can't help but feel as though the sequel is going to be an ***-kicker of a sci-fi action movie. Even if they crammed in the only decent bits of the movie for this trailer, it was a worthy exercise, and was the best bit of publicity I saw all year. Incidentally, for my money, the crowning glory comes at 1:47.
I Am Legend, which combined some gloriously tantalizing shots of a deserted New York with a feeling of paranoia that threatened to match the source material, while managing to cram in an explosion and some zombies. All in a day's work, eh.
Cloverfield, which reveals absolutely nothing about a film no-one knows anything about, and still has me frothing at the mouth in expectation.
...and the worst trailer:
I will add the caveat here that I am still very much looking forward to seeing Richard Kelly's sophomore film Southland Tales, but after a disastrous reception when the first cut was screened for critics, it was obvious that was going to become another The Fountain - a massively divisive SF movie. And then came the trailer, which frankly does absolutely nothing to further Southland Tales' reputation. It's glossy, it features too much Seann William Scott and not enough Sarah Michelle Gellar (as a porn star no less!), The Rock's charisma seems dampened, the soundtrack is weird, and it barely explains anything about the film. Poor effort guys, this was a trailer that needed to be epic to get people talking about the movie's potential and it has singularly failed to do so.
The best TV show:
After a slow start to the "reimagined" Doctor Who a few years ago with a disappointing performance from Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant took over and made the role his own. 2007 saw the entire run of the show's third season since its (re)inception, and managed to lurch from poor plotlines and ridiculous inconsistencies with its own storyworld in the earlier stages of the season, to providing in episodes 7 to 13 one of the highest quality consecutive blocks of a SF television show I can ever recall seeing. The episode 'Blink', in particular, is probably the best forty five minutes of television I watched all year. Sure there were flaws (Gollum Doctor? Dalek-men?), but a mesmeric showing from Tennant coupled with some extremely strong writing and the return of the f'ing Master more than compensated. My undisputed pick for best sci-fi show of 2007.
Heroes, the first season of which built to an explosive climax that asked more questions than it answered and was easily the most "must-watch" show to appear since the first season of 24. Despite poor reviews, the second season has been pretty darn good, too.
Journeyman, which although quality-wise wasn't one of the three best SF shows of the year, is getting a mention here so I can once again rail against the networks for canceling a genuinely intriguing show before allowing it the time to properly build itself. A horrible decision was made canceling this show, which had more potential in its premise and execution than most other new series' of the year.
I should probably mention Battlestar Galactica here as well as my housemate constantly raves about it, but I've yet to find the time to give it a chance. He's just bought the second season on DVD though, so chance would be a fine thing indeed.
...and the most under-appreciated TV show:
Anyone watch Hyperdrive? Anyone? I didn't think so, which is a complete mystery to me. The best British science fiction since Red Dwarf was left to a late-night slot, given a "meh, it's pretty good" by the critics, and almost completely ignored by the viewing public. Travesty! It seems to have all the ingredients for success - tight chemistry between three deft comic leads, one of whom (Nick Frost) has credibility as an international movie star; a surprisingly large and well-utilized budget; a heavy dose of satire and some good old-fashioned Britishness the likes of which were perfected by Douglas Adams. And yet, its performance has been completely and utterly underwhelming. Check it out on DVD if you can find it, as I can't recall seeing an reruns around. You won't regret it.
The best movie:
I remember walking out of the cinema having seen Sunshine and absolutely tearing the film to shreds with the film students with whom I'd gone to the cinema. And yet, here I am nominating it as the best science fiction movie of the year. Paradox, or something more sinister? More likely I've simply been able to overlook the movie's flaws (although the first two-thirds of the film do promise more than the final act delivers) and see it for what it is, which is a **** fine piece of genre work. There's something almost ethereal about Sunshine, with seven astronauts taking to the stars in search of salvation for the Earth and finding instead... well, I wouldn't want to spoil it. If you get the chance to watch this on a big screen, the visuals will sear themselves into your brain (quite literally in places), and the atmosphere the movie invokes is one of the most simultaneously unsettling and satisfactory, and above all unique, of anything I've seen in 2007.
I Am Legend, which just falls short of doing the Matheson novel justice but still proves that "Will Smith in sci-fi blockbuster" can work very well more often than not.
Stardust, which although probably more of a fantasy genre film was still a worthy adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel and one of the most creatively fulfilling movies of the year, with a remarkable visual flair.
...and the worst movie:
Although not truly horrendous, The Invasion sets the bar for out-and-out mediocrity higher than almost any other movie of 2007. On a losing streak from the outset (Invasion of the Bodysnatchers is really one of those movies that just doesn't need to be remade), the movie suffers from a glut of bland performances - particularly culpable is Nicole Kidman, who I don't think has turned in a decent role in years - and bears all the hallmarks of a totall unnecessary motion picture. No other sci-fi movie I've seen this year has been as eminently forgettable as The Invasion. I watched Daniel Craig in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider earlier, and I think I prefer him in that. Take that as you will.
Ah, I'm not going to end this feature on a downer, because overall 2007 has been a pretty good year. Here's something from the archives to cheer you up - have a great Life Day New Year's, you groovy ****ers.
Reactions and interactions
Last week's review of cult Christmas B-movie Santa Claus Conquers the Martians generated the most feedback of any of my columns ever, with a total of three whole comments! This is what I like to see, people.
Posted by: Dirk
"The Evil Dead/Bilbo reference **** near made me choke George W. Bush-style on my pretzels. I'm actually quite disappointed that the 4400 was canceled, it was a great series. You should definitely check it out on DVD. Netflix it or something. Well worth your time. After reading your recap on SCCTM, I've decided to grab it at the Wal-Mart bin. It's there for $1.50, so I guess it can't hurt too bad to get it. By the way, Kudos to the 411 staff for the great comment boxes. I'm extremely lazy, too lazy to bother with Hotmail, so this makes it a lot easier to leave feedback."
**** right on the comments, it's great to see 411 taking on even more community aspects. Unless idiots like Johnny Sorrow get wind of the whole scheme. I'll make sure to check out The 4400 on your recommendation, although I've no idea whether it'll be any harder to get hold of here in the UK. Hope you enjoyed Santa taking on the Martians!
Posted by: JLAJRC
"Wrestlecrap did a great reposting on Santa Claus Conquers the Martians last week. I'd rather have Tate/Piper than Martha Jones. At least those two have emotions besides "lovesick teenager" that Jones did in every episode. Are they going for a "Smallville" approach with the Justice League movie with all the young casting? I like Jay (he's great on How I Met Your Mother), but he doesn't scream evil mastermind to me. Maybe he'll surprise us. He seems more like a good choice for a Wally West Flash or even a Kyle Raynor Green Lantern. Heck, he'd be a great Firestorm, even."
Yeah, Freema Agyeman wasn't exactly the best companion, and I think that's probably been noticed by the producers who have shunted her over to the Torchwood spin-off. It will be nice to have Piper back, I just think it's a bit of a cop-out after the apparently conclusive narrative device that wrote her out of the show. The JLA producers are definitely aiming for a franchise approach with the hope that the various actors will grow into their roles. Whether they pull it off successfully is up there for debate with the Watchmen cast as the biggest bit of comic-movie gossip right now. Incidentally, have they actually confirmed Adam Brody on the cast list yet? I may have reported it already but there's so much going on with this movie I can't keep track.
Posted by: Airwolfman
"Ordering for the Airwolf Themes tracks you mentioned has gone live. Check out the following two direct URL's: http://www.airwolfthemes.com/archivedownloads_mp3.html http://series.airwolf.tv/themes/ The music is pretty impressive and brings back memories of some kickin' episodes."
Awesome, cheers for the links. Remind me to buy this show on DVD some time soon. At least once I've finished catching up on Farscape and The 4400.
Unfortunately the Infosphere is on hiatus this week due to time constraints, but will be back next week with a vengeance. Or at least, a bit more content than usual.
As always, reader feedback and suggestions are welcome, I respond to everything so just drop me a line or leave a comment. You can also check out my other "year in review" column "The Wonder Years" over at 411 Games, looking at the best in retro gaming the year had to offer. Next week in "The Flux Capacitor" - we've looked at the past, now we cast our eyes to the future! Until then - keep watching the skies.