A mixed year for science fiction, but the fact that there’s enough shows out there to have a range is good news. Whether you call it sci-fi, SF, ‘genre’ or SyFy (although I’d really rather you didn’t) it’s now an enthusiastic part of the schedule. The slightly daft fact for me is that I’m not actually watching the two “most popular” sci-fi shows on US network television. I gave up on Lost back in season 3 when I lost faith that the writers knew what they were doing. I’ve heard that the most recent season is back on form, but I’m going to wait until the series finishes to make the call as to whether to go back and watch the whole thing again. As I mentioned a couple of days ago I watched the pilot of Fringe and didn’t get on with it. However I do plan to pick it up at some point.
Even without Doctor Who British sci-fi had a pretty strong year in terms of quantity, if not necessarily quality. I’ve already mentioned the really excellent Being Human, on the flip side we have the spectacularly disappointing final season of Primeval – a show which I started watching because of the fun idea of dinosaurs tromping through modern shopping centres. Then they introduced a complex and interesting timetravel-esque storyline which made me think there was more to it than just the cgi dinosaurs. But in season 3 the cleverness disappeared, several of the original actors disappeared and my will to care disappeared along with. The resolution of the big threat was absolutely ridiculous and made the previous two seasons seem a bit of a waste.
Then there’s Torchwood. I’m always faintly nervous watching Torchwood as for some reason I really like it, despite the fact that season 1 was pretty rubbish. However season two had really picked up in quality and I was intrigued by the new formula of 5 episodes in 5 nights although vaguely of the opinion that there was no way it could possibly pull it off. By the end of the first episode I was watching with my mouth open, astounded at the quality of writing, acting and story. It reminded me a lot of Battlestar in the way that I thought it was absolutely superb, but I’m not sure I want to watch it anymore. If it comes back it’s a completely different show and that makes me a bit sad. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the ‘resolution’ of the main plot was pretty bloody stupid, but that didn’t seem to matter as much to me as it maybe should of, so I’m shoving the point in brackets.)
Two big SF shows came to an end this year. I can’t say much more about Stargate Atlantis than it was a fun way to spend 45 minutes. That’s not a bad thing, a little bit of froth was definitely needed to balance out the weight of Battlestar Galactica. It seemed to take them an extraordinarily long time to get through just 70 odd episodes of Battlestar, although any faster and my brain might have exploded. The final season continued to excel and managed a mostly satisfying resolution to all the stories and mysteries (the final cylon was absolutely inspired – I never saw it coming), although I found the character resolutions less than satisfying. There were (as always) a few decisions and directions that didn’t really seem consistent to me, but I’m willing to put up with those for the otherwise superbness of the show and the fact that it did at least End.
Speaking of things that should maybe just end… Heroes continues to struggle along. I adored this show in its first season but it’s been going downhill ever since. I didn’t hate season 2 as much as some, more disappointed at the decrease in quality than actively thinking it bad, but the first volume of season 3 may have edged into that category. The writing was sloppy and all over the place with holes you could drive a truck through. Almost everything about the show now just irritates me, from wildly flip-flopping character choices to the over use of lip gloss! I’m a couple of episodes into the next volume and I’m hating it. I watched episode 15 with a housemate last night and we spent nearly twice as long bitching about it afterwards as we had watching it. I’ll stick it out until the end of the season for the sake of completeness, but unless there’s a dramatic turnaround, I don’t think I’ll be watching the next season.
My favourite new discovery of the year is Supernatural, I picked up season 1 for just eight quid on dvd and in less than two weeks I’d burnt my way through the whole four seasons. It starts off as a fun series with cool ideas and great characters, but the fourth season takes it to a whole new level which the writers pull off with style, skill and humour. I’m really looking forward to the fifth season, the show was apparently always planned to be five years and the pacing has been perfect for it, although I’d be sorry to say goodbye to the characters at the end of the year.