February 26, 2007
He Blinded Me With Science (or Why I Watch Those Geeky Sci-Fi/Fantasy T.V. Shows)
Recently, as I was enthusing about my obsessive love of all things Battlestar Galatica, someone asked, "Why do you waste your time on that weirdo, geeky, sci-fi crap?"

Which got me to thinking, why DO I "waste" my time on that weird, geeky, sci-fi (and fantasy) crap?

Well, for starters, the story lines. From a writer's perspective--and a writer that dabbles in scriptwriting at that--MOST (and by most, I mean the fantasy/sci-fi T.V. shows that I watch which are usually chosen (and viewed) a la Netflix after careful review, a process that includes recommendations and scouring the Internet for information before actually ordering the damn things) shows have amazingly complicated story lines. No, I don't mean they're hard to follow--although, on occasion they are (Lost, anyone?) but rather that the story lines are multifaceted and woven together so that every single piece of information that the view could possibly want be it personal information about a character or the larger arch of the plot is revealed at just the right moment. There is nothing worse, call it the kiss of death if you will, then a Big Reveal that isn't actually a Big Reveal cause you saw it coming. Unless, of course, its a Big Reveal that makes absolutely no sense and was, clearly, included just for shock value. This falls under the category of Not Good.

In writing, I think that something that is frequently overlooked is the value of the minute detail. The minute detail is something that once introduced, needs to be carried out through out the entire course of a plot arch. It is these same minute details that often make the characters more rich and fully realized, more complicated and multi-dimensional vs. stereotypical and flat. For example, in Battlestar I love the fact that Starbuck is this bad -ass chick--she can hold her own in a fight as well as at the gambling table, has this very masculine habit of smoking stogies, flies Raptors better than any man, has a bit of an attitude problem--all things that, in a sense, have the potential of creating a stereotype: The anti-girl, a girl who is so bad-ass that she out bad-ass's the bad-asses. A lot of "strong" women characters fall into this trope--apparently, to make a woman strong, she must be more masculine then the actual men who she interacts with. Yet, on Battlestar, the writers manage to soften, if not feminize, this character through a few small details. Kara Thrace is devoutly religious (she prays to the Lords of Kobol on a few occasions, keeps what looks like little fertility statues statues of Athena and Artemis--greek goddesses of Wisdom and the Hunt/Fertility--in her footlocker), she is a painter (beautifully rendered in the episode "Valley of Darkness"), was close to her father (same episode--she listens to his music and takes only one item from her apartment: her father's jacket) and also may have been the victim of abuse (again, same episode and suggested ever-so-briefly via conversation). All of this is portrayed beautifully through minute details that, if you blinked or stopped listen or got busy doing something else in another room, you totally missed. What's neat about these little aspects, is that they're picked up again and again and again, they aren't just introduced and dropped, all "Hey look, this character's got some neat attributes that we're never going to bring up again." Rather, the writers occasionally re-sprinkle them through out the series, reinforcing those character traits. And thus, my friends, a truly full bodied character is born.

And what about those characters! And the worlds they inhabit! Sci-fiction, and to a lesser degree, fantasy (though, the two are not mutually exclusive of each other) offer us one of the (forgive the pun) final frontiers of exploration of not only places (i.e. space) but of human interaction. What will happen to a group of high school students if one of their own is tagged with super-human strength and near impossible mission to seek out and destroy the Big Bad? What happens to a group of people, the sole survivors of the human race, when they're forced to flee from the technology they created? Or, better yet, what happens when that technology becomes too human? What happens to a rag-tag group of space cowboys when they're forced to become reluctant heroes? As a creative mind, it amazes me how much of the new is poured into these characters and their predicaments--these stories are, after all, a reflection of our humanity now and the multitude of questions that encompass our existence: who are we? Where do we come from? Is there a higher power? Why are some people bad, and others good? What is "bad," "good"? How do we explain who and what we are? It amazes me and makes me incredibly jealous that these teams of uber creative people can address and express these questions (and so many others!) in a way that is not only entertaining, but thought provoking.

And if that isn't enough to convince you how about this:

I'm mean seriously, if you can't get into the the show itself, turn off the volume and watch these people just strut around... seriously. Number Six alone is just too, too sexy and who ever is the costume designer truly knows how to show off Tricia Helfer's body in just the right way.

Sidenote: And don't EVEN get me started on Buffy... or the cast of Firefly! I mean, talk about your truly character driven series... *sigh* Joss Whedon is a God...

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posted by Tina at 1:29 PM
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