The fantastic force of Star Wars is back in our collective awareness in a really big way—like it or not. After Disney purchased the film rights from George Lucas in 2013—along with his legendary special FX company ILM—the house of mouse fast tracked new movies and various spin-offs. As genre fans now fully absorb the respected saga’s new characters and ramifications and try to embrace The Force Awakens, the newest chapter to the Lucas sci-fi universe, old questions and observations on the pop-culture saga emerge. Why is this multi-billion dollar global franchise so preoccupied with family dysfunction? Does Luke Skywalker have more in common with Luke from General Hospital? As Rogue One looms on the horizon, can we expect more of the same?
When Tony Soprano sat down on his psychiatrist’s couch, it was a television and pop cultural milestone. Here was a big time gangster—the epitome of toughness and criminally cultured masculinity—airing out his dirty laundry, childhood fears, and insecurities to a shrink. Talk about shifting societal norms. HBO’s The Sopranos changed the landscape for Hollywood tough guys. Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, or Al Pacino getting psych advice in front of millions? James Gandolfini pioneered Tony Soprano into a figure which allowed many to think: “Going to a therapist is no shame.”
Sci-fi TV, like any category of entertainment, sees an ebb and flow in its popularity and supply. These days it is back in a big way, and not just on cable outlet SyFy— it's coming on strong in the streaming arena. Netflix changed the game in Hollywood in distribution, and now it's competing with the big production studios to offer up some of the best original content around. Shows such as Orange Is The New Black and Grace And Frankie are great drama/comedies, but Netflix isn't leaving out nor forgetting its genre loving fans or geek squads. Stranger Things is one of the hottest new TV shows in years. You won't find it on broadcast or cable. Jessica Jones, Sense8, Black Mirror and Stranger Things are all original and exclusive to Netflix, and cable outlets like SyFy are now encouraged to make more stimulating science fiction for fans.
For the proud accomplishment of lasting half a century, a 50th anniversary is golden. It deserves a celebratory toast for any species in any part of the galaxy, and in the latest Trek film, fans get a fun tip of the glass after a fashion. Early on in Star Trek: Beyond, director Justin Lin’s action packed entry in Paramount Pictures feature film franchise, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) share a rare quiet moment by drinking together in Enterprise’s officer’s lounge. The two friends and Starfleet officers take the time to down a little Saurian Brandy—an alien drink all too familiar to fans from way back in the day of the start of the original series.
Is sci-fi about going forward boldly into the future or reminiscing and reliving the past? Certainly, with time travel preoccupying science fiction as both an awesome gadget, concept, and plot device, the beauty is you can do both timelines at the touch of a blinking button or the roar of warp drive. However, as a purely solid and compelling narrative—is it better to keep reaching for the mysterious future or revisiting the well trod past?
“I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it's the government.” - Woody Allen