This year there have been at least three new science fiction shows on television. Defiance by the Syfy channel in the US and two from the UK, Utopia by Channel 4 and Orphan Black from the BBC , well BBC America really. It is a UK production with US money, filmed in Canada. And they are great. I agree with Mo Ryan at the Huffington Post, who said in a recent review of Defiance, "too many shows in recent years (on Syfy and other networks) have skirted that label, and that waffling has often resulted in watered-down programs that have pleased neither sci-fi fans nor the mainstream audiences that were presented with genre-lite dramas like FlashForward, V and Terra Nova. Those shows, and dozens more like them in recent years, ultimately failed to take full advantage of the kinds of the social, cultural and personal stories that can be explored best from the center of the genre." But someone has been listening.
Canadian show, Continuum is just going into its second season on Syfy. It is fun and ambitious and a cut above the usual sci-fi action show. The second season of TNT's Falling Skies jumped in quality in relation to storytelling and plot structure with the addition of Bradley Thompson and David Weddle as co-Executive Producers and writers. The Battlestar Galactica alumni are also co-Executive Producers of Defiance along with co-creator Rockne O'Bannon, who created and produced Farscape, one of the best sci fi shows of the last 15 years, showrunner and co-creator Kevin Murphy who Executive Produced Caprica (the prequel to Battlestar Galactica), and co-creator Michael Taylor, another Battlestar Galactica alum. Are you seeing a trend in US sci-fi shows yet? Defiance is set in St Louis, or what was St Louis, but it also has its own online first person shooter video game set in what used to be San Francisco. Both stories are separate but they exist in the same world at the same time. If there is a storm front crossing the country, it will be part of the show and when it would get to San Francisco it would show in the video game. Nice.
Across the pond, the UK has been pumping quite brilliant science fiction for many many decades, and the two recent series are the latest in a long line of sci-fi. Utopia is described as a conspiracy thriller, but really it is a near future 'science used for evil' story that includes technology, a graphic novel and biological experiments as plot points. Visually stunning and metophorically down the rabbit hole with storytelling and reveals. Orphan Black is about a woman who discovers that she is one of many clones. It is set in New York and it peels away the layers of story bit by bit. We are up to episode three, but it is looking very good. The future of science fiction on television seems to be bright and shiny. Long may it stay that way.