Of all the arts I enjoy, movies and rock music being at the top of that list, I get the most unique and unusual delight from watching science fiction on television. TV sci-fi shows are at the top of my list of things I probably shouldn't be spending so much time on, along with playing on Facebook and eating chocolate chip cookies.
My kids and I polished off the entire 10 year run of Stargate: SG1 on DVD (which we own) last year, and that was on the heals of catching up on all the episodes of Battlestar Galactica (own). Previous years have seen us breezing through the entire seven-year run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (own). Of course, I have seen every episode of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation and many episdodes of the other Trek franchises. My son and I are finishing up the first season of Stargate: Atlantis (own), the subsequent seasons of which I will be Netflixing.
Add to that list the new series, Caprica, which just debuted on the Sci-Fi channel on cable and which brings me to the motivation for this blog entry. While watching Caprica, I have been salivating over the previews and promotions for other Sci-Fi (or SyFy as they now prefer) "original" offerings that are currently on hiatus but will be coming back, specifically Eureka and Warehouse 13. SyFy also runs Doctor Who. And if you have never encountered the Doctor, well, you really do not know what you are missing.
I don't think I'm your typical science fiction fan. I have read a few sci-fi classics (can't recommend "Stranger in a Strange Land" enough). I have read almost everything Kurt Vonnegut ever wrote and consider him one of my earliest and most important influences, and Michael Crichton is also on my list of best reads ever. I'm no slouch when it comes to sci-fi movies either (you have to see "Brother from Another Planet"). Still, I've never thought of myself as a sci-fi nerd. I totally dig NCIS, for example.
But when I say that the promos for Eureka got my heart racing, I'm not exaggerating.
Which brings me to my point: I love a good dose of "what if" in the stories I read or watch. I also like a good mystery and an upbeat ending (with said mystery solved). Most of my favorite sci-fi stories have involved both. Doctor Who, for example, is always trying to figure something out (and it usually results in saving the known universe). Jean Luc Picard, in stark contrast to his counterpart James T. Kirk, uses the muscles in his brain more than the ones in his arms (yeah, I know, no muscles in the brain, it's a metaphor, get over it).
I also tend to like stories that teach us something, or reinforce something, about human behavior and the importance of doing the right thing. So Captain Kirk will always be a hero, as will Ian in the Jurassic Park franchise ("Life finds a way").
The sci-fi I gravitate towards, then, captures all of these elements. Thus, while I could appreciate Battlestar G, I wouldn't put it at the top of my list. Too dark. Eureka, on the other hand, is pure delight. Lots of really smart, nerdy scientists working on ideas that will probably never come to fruition in my lifetime, but which seem to pretty consistently get their creators in trouble. And who saves them? The dumb sheriff who may not know the difference between string theory and single-stream recycling (they sound alike!!), but he saves their asses every single time, and sometimes he saves the planet from destruction too. And they love him for it. In fact, they depend on him saving them, which leads them to even greater risk-taking. I love the characters (the brave, dumb sheriff; his exuberant, ninja sidekick who is also beautiful; the thoughtful, serious scientist-leader who is also a mom; the list goes on). I also love that their connections to each other is also what saves them.
And I love the gadgets, because that's where the "what if" comes in. As a culture, we Americans love to ask "what if." We love crazy ideas. We love heroes, both the military and the scientific kinds. We love risk-takers, especially when they succeed. We also like to know that the future holds greater promise than the present. Right now, we face an uncertain future, and our leaders keep disappointing us. But in the world of science fiction TV, the leaders get it right, and the heroes are us. What could be more fun to watch.