Rowman & Littlefield “Science Fiction Television” Series

Potential Topcs

When I first proposed the series to Scarecrow Press, I had made a list of concepts that I thought would fit it well. I’ve reproduced it here, with a few deletions and some additions. The range of potential topics for this series is vast, however, and this list is meant to spur, not limit, your thoughts . . .

The Science Fiction Television of Gerry Anderson . . . the genre’s most prolific, and arguably most successful creator/producer, who before his death in late 2012 was responsible for “Supermarionation” puppet animation, and the series Supercar, Fireball XL-5, Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90 and Terrahawks as well as UFO and Space 1999 (among others).

The Science Fiction Television of Glenn A. Larson . . . another astonishingly prolific writer/director/producer of SF television -- overlooked because most of his work was pulp-level at best -- but involved (as writer, director, producer, creator, or executive producer) with The Six Million Dollar Man, the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Knight Rider, Manimal, Automan, Night Man, The Highwayman, Millennium Man, and The Darwin Conspiracy.

Animated SF Television . . . the overlap between “children’s” and “animated” is substantial, and any treatment of SF animation would need to deal with children’s programs, but the differences are significant, and intriguing. Early animated television SF included straightforward adventure stories with adult characters (Journey to the Center of the Earth, Fantastic Voyage, Jonny Quest,) and comedy designed for multi-generational appeal (The Jetsons, and parts of Rocky and Bullwinkle), and the animated Star Trek relied on plots similar to the live-action series. More recently, Aeon Flux, SeaLab 2021, and (especially) Futurama have been written explicitly with adult audiences in mind . . .

Adapting Print and Film SF to Television . . . the multiple adaptations of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and various SF comic-books heroes (Superman, Batman, Ironman, Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, the Flash, the Fantastic Four are just one piece of the story. Print SF stories were adapted in anthology series like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, but also in TV movies from the pulpy Killdozer! (based on a story by Theodore Sturgeon) to the literate The Lathe of Heaven. SF cinema inspired Alien Nation, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles . . . again among others.

Long-Form SF Storytelling . . . SF, via Deep Space 9, The X Files, and especially Babylon 5, played a key role in establishing season- and series-long story arcs, establishing them as a viable narrative technique for television, and so laid the groundwork for series -- such as Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Crusade, The 4400, Surface, Threshold, The Event, Jericho, and Fringe -- in which the season-long arc is inseparable from the concept of the series.

Japanese SF Television . . . Astro Boy, 8th Man, Speed Racer, and (a bit later) Starblazers introduced a generation (or two) of young American television viewers to something that they didn’t yet know was called anime on the other side of the Pacific. A book exploring the Japanese SF television tradition (which extends to later, and far more sophisticated, works like Cowboy Bebop and Mobile Suit Gundam ) and its impact -- in adapted form -- on American television SF is long overdue.

Time Travel and Parallel Worlds on Television . . . stories of time travel and parallel worlds are staples of science fiction, but series television, with its short, self-contained stories, lends itself to extended explorations of the form. Captain Z-Ro, The Time Tunnel, Voyagers, Quantum Leap, Sliders, and Fringe were built around that concept . . . and selected episodes of other series (including more than a dozen in the Star Trek universe alone) exploited it . . . .

Comic Science Fiction Television . . . the comic thread in SF television has attracted virtually no scholarly attention, but it encompasses everything from The Jetsons and My Favorite Martian to Third Rock From the Sun, The Middleman, and Futurama, as well as the comic use of SF tropes -- robots, aliens, advanced technology, self-aware computers -- in non-SF series such as Get Smart.