Bad Writing Kills Sci-Fi Shows
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Nov 11, 2010
Recently it was announced that the show Caprica on the SyFy Network was being canceled for, or course, low ratings. People have started speculating on the dearth of science fiction shows and how they’re dying out and coming up with all sorts of reasons for the possible demise.
One site called Airlock Alpha had its writer come to a determination that what was killing many of these shows was injecting religion into the mix. Indeed, it lists Caprica, Lost, and the final shows of the very popular Battlestar Galactica as shows that decided to inject a religious bent into them and, for whatever reason, drove people away.
I tend to take a different view of this type of thing, and in a weird way it can be related to blogging as well. I tend to believe that some science fiction shows, like shows in other genres, might fail because of bad writing. Well, not necessarily always bad writing as much as a loss of what the shows were supposed to be about in the first place.
For instance, there was a great show called The 4400 on the USA Network. The first season, and it seems funny calling it a season since it started with, I believe, 8 or 10 shows, was absolutely fantastic. The general premise was that people had gone missing over decades and suddenly one day they all show up in Seattle, 4400 of them, with no recollection of where they’ve been. And, over the first set of shows, all of them started showing signs of genetic mutation that gave them superhuman powers of some sort, all different.
The second season came and everything went into the trash. No one had any idea what was going on with the show; it was like they had started a totally new series as opposed to continual exploration of what was happening beforehand, and that was that for the series. Nothing made sense; and you really weren’t sure who to pull for and who the bad guys were supposed to be. What you did know, though, was that it had nothing to do with religion.
For that matter the Sarah Connor Chronicles, one of the most awaited science fiction shows in history, flopped for the very same reason. The pilot was very good, but after that, the show made absolutely no sense. When the cyborg that’s come back starts having “flashbacks” of being a young girl when she not only was never alive but didn’t have a past to even be considering, you knew someone had been watching Dallas in the 80’s and decided adding ridiculous scenes was what made that show good (supposedly; I never could watch that stuff either).
In other words, bad ideas and bad writing killed those shows, not religion. I’m not a religious person, as you know, but this is one time where I just can’t let religion take it on the chin for something that has nothing to do with it.
The same kind of thing goes for blogs. I personally believe that almost any type of blog has an opportunity to make a big and positive impact in some fashion if some of the writing was better, and I’m not talking about spelling. Unique ideas, or old ideas written in a different and entertaining way will help a blog sustain itself. Being informational or even confrontational can help as well. But if you take a position on something such as gun control and the best you can write is “I don’t believe in gun control because I want to shoot my guns at stuff”, your blog is going to fail. Even supporters would be ashamed to own up to stupid writing like that.
As another point, in closing, I believe that Caprica ended up running into the same type of problem that Enterprise ran into. It’s hard doing a prequel to a popular show because we’ve already gotten used to certain things. A one time movie explaining the history of something works really well, but a full series is hard to pull off, and hard to keep on direction. As much as I loved Enterprise, as well as every other Star Trek themed show, it ultimately lost its direction in one full year by leaving what people expected in the series, that being ever changing themes and “baddies” along the way, not spending an entire year on one theme and then, when everyone thinks “finally, they’ve ended that arc”, going in a totally different and confusing direction; anyone who ever watched the show knows what I’m talking about (it went from chasing aliens who wanted to destroy earth from afar to aliens suddenly being Nazis; what the hey?).
Of course all this is my opinion, so I ask you what your opinion is. And it doesn’t have to be on science fiction; in your opinion, what type of thing usually kills new TV shows, if you watch TV?