Friday, 27 May 2011

The Future's Not Bright, The Future's British

Before the reboot of Battlestar Galactica brought in the new era of gritty, realistic science fiction, US television was the home of the bright and shiny future. From STAR TREK through to STARGATE SG-1, the future was shiny and bright.

Not so in the UK. The British view of the future has been unremittingly bleak.

 The most recent example of this was the BBC space opera OUTCASTS, set on a far flung colony planet where life is near to impossible and the colonists don't know if Earth has been destroyed in some sort of cataclysm of mankind's own making. Gritty drama it might be, but bleak and depressing it most certainly was as well and it wasn't just part of the current trend for dark material reflecting the current climate.

Way back in 1978, the BBC created its own space saga to rival STAR TREK in the shape of BLAKE'S SEVEN, but instead of a huge ship full of integrated crewmembers from a peace-loving Federation spreading joy, love and the American way throughout the galaxy we got a bunch of thieves, killers and murderers on the run from a crushingly oppressive totalitarian regime. It's true that this show came from the mind of Terry Nation who created that other bleak British future SURVIVORS in which virtually the entire world's population was wiped out by a manmade plague in the scariest opening montage sequence ever. It was remade recently.

Even the otherwise bright and cheery dinosaur nonsense that is PRIMEVAL posits a future in which mankind's few survivors are at the mercy of carnivorous predators and giant insects in the ruins of a destroyed civilisation. And the list doesn't stop there. THE LAST TRAIN had a world devastated by a natural catastrophe and the survivors reduced to a medieval standard of life and THE CHANGES had a future where mankind had developed a terror of mechanical things and had destroyed them all.

About the most positive of the futures were from Gerry Anderson's puppet shows, but even though mankind has created the most incredible machines and structures, they are needed to avert a string of huge disasters in THUNDERBIRDS and the Earth is fighting a destructive war of attrition with martians in CAPTAIN SCARLET. Even the human shows didn't escape since SPACE 1999 had the moon blasted out of orbit and UFO had another alien race at war with the Earth.

The more realistic MOONBASE 3 had us on the moon, but struggling to finance the mission and the most recent QUATERMASS had the youth of world turning on their elders to destroy the fabric of society before being eaten by a space entity.

One thing seems clear, if you want a bright and better future then US TV science fiction is the place to be.

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