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Bad Writing Kills Sci-Fi Shows

Posted by 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?

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Hi Mitch

In Australia it is all about ratings. Sadly some new shows don’t even get a chance to cement their place when they are pulled off the air and repeats fill a lot of time slots at different times of the year. Ratings, ratings, ratings that’s all that seems to count on the commercial stations. I don’t watch sck-fi so can’t comment on them.

Patricia Perth Australia

November 11th, 2010 | 9:48 AM

Pat, it’s all about ratings here as well, but most of the time the shows that end up being canceled are written or conceived poorly. Not every show, but most of them. I sometimes see the line up of new shows and wonder who the heck approved them.

November 11th, 2010 | 10:13 AM

And they get sent over here!!! Sometimes I think we must be the 51st state of the USA only we talk different and speak English lol

Patricia Perth Australia

November 12th, 2010 | 9:13 AM

I’ve heard that Pat, and I’ve also heard that sometimes these shows play better elsewhere than here. That plus shows that infer nudity here show the nudity in other countries; how weird that is to me.

November 12th, 2010 | 11:53 AM

I would contest your assertion that the pilot of the Sarah Connor Chronicles was good. I eagerly awaited the show and was grossly let down by even the pilot. The whole show felt clunky and terminator violence in a post Gun-Fu era just doesn’t fly. However you’re right on the point that sci-fi is getting killed consistently by bad writing. It’s more than that thought. Sci-Fi is getting a bad name from bad writing. Personally I’m glad a network that purported to be all about science fiction changed it’s name to SyFy, particularly after such stunning examples as Sharktopus. Films like that hurt the whole genre.
Television like Star Trek (ToS) and the new BSG succeed because they push the envelope. They make you see what the world would look like in the ‘near’ plausible future. They take socially relevant events and explore them in detail in a slightly different lens. The blasters and warp drives are simply a backdrop that enables you to separate out the complex issues from the everyday minutia. It’s when shows get wrapped up in that background and the social implications get obscured by technobabble that these shows cease being compelling and then lose viewership.

November 11th, 2010 | 10:02 AM

Hi Mike. Well, the first SCC was good, but I didn’t give it a “great”. Still, it went downhill from the first show, and that’s what was most disappointing. And you’re right, SyFy does have some abysmal movies, especially the ones they’ve made, that make you wonder whether a 10-year old was running things.

November 11th, 2010 | 10:15 AM

That is really the sad new and the trouble here is just a writting skills. That is also a lesson for anyone which care anything even small things.

November 11th, 2010 | 10:34 PM

That’s true Ryan. Don’t obsess, but don’t forget the small things either.

November 11th, 2010 | 11:13 PM

Well basically, they probably focusing on the outcome of the show without making any sense for every word they say. It is not a new story after all.

November 12th, 2010 | 8:03 AM

If they were focusing on the outcome the story would be better, so I believe.

November 12th, 2010 | 11:52 AM

bad writing has killed more than SciFi shows… Have you seen Family Guy lately??

November 12th, 2010 | 10:29 AM

I watch it every Sunday. I think cartoons can get away with more because of site gags, but there are some cartoons that can’t even overcome that.

November 12th, 2010 | 11:54 AM

Honestly Caprica is not that bad, but I think people that have watched BattleStar will not gonna watch it as the story had already finish. Sarah Connor Chronicles is a good show. Actually I am awaiting the 3rd season of Fringe, the first two seasons were absolutely stunning. It have become one of my favorite.

November 14th, 2010 | 8:31 PM

Carl, you must be the nice one because I think they totally ruined Sarah Connor Chronicles, and I’ve never seen Caprica, so I can only go on what’s been written. But other stuff… ugh.

November 14th, 2010 | 8:47 PM

Having been a fan of Battlestar Galactica since the start (the re-imagining, not the crappy ’80s version), I was quite excited when it was announced that there would be a spin off series called Caprica, which would be based on the planet and would tell the story of how the war between humans and Cylons came about. After watching the first season I was a little bit disappointed in the lack of real scifi content but I must admit I started to like the characters. I think Caprica had another season in it really and I think it has been cancelled too soon, before it got a chance to show its true potential. Of course I am getting excited all over again as there is supposed to be a new spin off in the making. Can’t wait….

November 20th, 2010 | 12:04 PM

Wayne, I didn’t like the previews of Caprica, and thus never watched it. When I was reading about the direction things were taking, I wasn’t all that surprised. It seems the only show that actually had a full five year plan that they got to realize was Babylon 5; loved that one to the end.

November 20th, 2010 | 1:46 PM

I missed the Cylons in Caprica, no more danger, too watered down for me. Plus, w/o commander Adama (Lorne Green), it just wasn’t the same anymore, for me.

January 21st, 2011 | 6:45 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

It just looked like a bad premise from the get-go. It’s hard creating prequel shows, and without great writing they all tend to fail miserably.

January 21st, 2011 | 8:22 PM

Remember Starship Troopers? The first one was excellent, and the second one terrible. A real shame, since it could have easily been made into a series. I just Love The Underworld series of Vampire Movies, and yes, I even liked Blade, LOL
Hated to see Star Trek Voyager and Next Generation End too.

January 21st, 2011 | 11:41 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

I only saw the movie Starship Troopers and hated it the first time I saw it. After reading the book, which was nothing like the movie, I saw the movie again and appreciated it a little better, but it still felt, well, kind of cheesy. I didn’t know there was another one; when did that come out Chris?

January 22nd, 2011 | 1:31 AM

It came out a few years later, it was terrible! I read the book too, and an inter galactic war with insects vs humans could have sustained a sci fi series, imho.

January 22nd, 2011 | 9:15 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

It was supposed to be a TV show? Oh no, I wouldn’t have watched that! I bet the production costs would have been high to actually try to do it right.

January 22nd, 2011 | 10:01 AM

No, both were movies, and you are correct, TV shows seldom do justice to a book like a movie will.

January 22nd, 2011 | 10:11 AM

Not wholly accurate. Starship troopers was made into a TV series. It was 100% CGI and 100% terrible. Although the medium afforded them the opportunity to do some things they could have never even attempted with any live action.

Both films were terrible, although the first one was palatable. Particularly when you attempt to stack that film up against the book, then it really falls apart. The second one however was so bad they didn’t even take the time to name the characters. During the credits they just showed pictures with the actors names underneath. There was a 3rd film, however at that point I’d gotten sick of the terrible so I didn’t bother seeing it. Both the second and third films were straight to DVD atrocities.

January 22nd, 2011 | 1:31 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Mike, that must be why I never knew they’d tried it again, and twice no less! My mind would think the book wouldn’t make a good movie, and I guess I was right. lol

January 22nd, 2011 | 6:03 PM

I kind of liked the first one, especially Denise Richards 🙂
There is just something about an interplanetary war between man and insects that can hurl plasma across space!

January 22nd, 2011 | 2:36 PM

Most of the issue I take with it (besides the cliche camp factor) is that it almost completely managed to miss the point of the book. It took what was a reasonable social commentary and stripped it down to the gimmicks that were only there to give you enough distance to look down at reality and see it in the authors eyes.

January 22nd, 2011 | 4:00 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Well now, both Denise Richards and Dina Meyer looked really good in that first movie; that was pretty much the highlight for me. 😉

January 22nd, 2011 | 6:04 PM

Far too few Movies are successful at capturing the Intent of what they are based on. I read Marvel Comics for years, and am appalled at the Movies made from Stan Lee’s writings at times. Hollyweed of today seems more into getting special effects right, and little else.

January 22nd, 2011 | 4:36 PM

Denise Richards is truly a pretty girl. I WISH she was in the love scene, instead of the other girl, who wasn’t bad, BTW.

January 22nd, 2011 | 6:45 PM