One of the most famous and popular writers of science fiction for
over four decades, Asimov is best known for his robot novels. He remarked
on the similarity between his robot hero R. Daneel Oliver, first seen
in The Caves of Steel in 1957, and Star Trek's Spock.
The director of Bladerunner and Alien - widely copied, but unequalled.
The combination of the original and humane imagination of Phillip
K Dick, with the filmatic grasp and scope of Scott, and the very fine
cast, produced in Blade Runner one of the most satisfying films
ever made in the genre.
Blade Runner has a dedicated website,
as well as a list.
One of the "founding fathers" of science fiction, Verne's work continues
to be very popular with each generation. Several of his books have
been filmed, including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The
Island of Dr Moreau, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Wells had parallel careers as a "serious" novelist, and as an innovative
science fiction master. Two particularly interesting films were based
upon The Time Machine. The earlier, made in 1960. The other,
Time After Time is from a book written by Karl Alexander, in
which Wells uses his time machine to chase Jack the Ripper through
the centuries. His non sci-fi work is very fine. Presently out of
fashion, it is both humourous and penetrating, with superb pictures
of man/woman relationships (Wells had a deep and clear-sighted understanding
Delenn from Babylon 5. If you have ever wondered how much of Delenn
is in the script, and how much is in the actress, read Mira Furlan's
moving letter to her countrymen in the former Yugoslavia.
The first two series were superb, with an exciting sweep to the storyline,
but recently the writing has been variable. The acting continues to
be excellent, even when the scripts are less so. My favourite character
was recently killed off, so I am none too pleased just now.
The BBC celebrated the Milleniumwith a re-run of the first series
(and why not the rest? why not, indeed. Ask them!) A new generation
now sighs over Avon,
and the cast are still very popular, and much in demand at conventions
Chases with armoured cars, tanks, hi-tec everything, and a well-chosen
trio of actors for the leads, Bugs moves fast and doesn't let
up. Fireballs and/or explosions appear to be compulsory every week.
The last series showed a dangerous tendency to concentrate on one
member of the team each week, lessening interest.
Ahhh! 35 years on and still going strong! An attempt to Americanise
it with a full-length film was a disaster (although Paul McGann was
a worthy incarnation of The Doctor). The original programmes continue
to delight. Readers of The Radio Times could recently choose between
this poster, or polar bears, or teletubbies...
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams' reputation was built on this, his most famous work.
Whether you come to it as a book, a series on BBC radio, or on TV,
it is sheer delight. Thought: would there have been a Red Dwarf
without the Guide?
Another series of amazing longevity. The Prisoner continues to intrigue
and enchant those who saw it back in the '60s, and makes new converts
with each generation. Even among sci-fi fans, the loyalty of Prisoner
fans is legendary.
Arguably the best of all TV sci-fi series: writing and acting consistently
excellent. Scott Bakula has possibly the most envied role on TV, where
else could anyone have such a huge range of parts in one series? Probably
the only show where you would never make the tea during the credits.
Became an instant hit with a smallish number of fans, but proved to
be a "sleeper", and the number has grown over the decade since it
was introduced. Fans may be recognised by their dialect, eg "smeghead",
and frequently profess a devotion to curry.
VCRs at the ready...
Trek - The Original Series
Where many people's interest in science fiction began. Fashionable
to decry it now, but just look at the quality and economy of the writing.
It made its audience work to keep up with it, thereby using their
own imaginations instead of relying on photographic effects. It set
the pace for everything that came after.
Trek - The Next Generation
Very variable quality. Suffers from a leisurely approach compared
to the original series. The main reason for its success lies in the
character of Data (a direct descendent of Spock in the writing of
this one) played by Brent Spiner. Killed off its other most interesting
character (Tasha Yar, played by Denise Crosby) in the first series.
As ever, all sci-fi fans are grateful that the BBC is an enthusiastic
Trek - Deep Space 9
As with TNG, its success stems largely from one character, Odo, played
by the marvellous Rene Auberjonois, although there are several excellent
actors in the cast.
Well acted (the cream of British screen villains, including Peter
Cushing, Julian Glover, Michael Pennington), likeable heros, a sparky
heroine, Alec Guinness to lend a touch of class, mix well and enjoy.
You'd have to look back to the old Korngold scores to find quite such
eloquent story-telling music.