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Netflix Is Bringing Back Sci-Fi TV

'Stranger Things', 'Black Mirror', 'Sense8' and 'Jessica Jones' have revive Sci-fi TV with the help of streaming giant Netflix.

By Will StapePublished 8 years ago 5 min read

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.

Netflix is still home to sci-fi classics like Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, but it has also excited fans by creating new sci-fi shows. When it announced the return of the classic space opera, Lost In Space - created by Irwin Allen - it was clear a commitment to producing science fiction was real. Space family Robinson adventures with Will, Dr. Smith and the loyal robot will be rebooted and re-imagined for a whole new generation.

Jessica Jones- Potty Mouthed Protagonist 

Illustration by Craig Drake

Comic book fare is traditionally preoccupied with seeing vengeful men with anger management issues dressed in tights fight crime in a gritty, urban environment - the crazed Bruce Wayne turning into Batman or the sarcastic Peter Parker spinning his web as wall crawling Spider-Man. After awhile, it seems like the only thing about comic books are revenge, vigilantism and crime. Even some hardcore fans forget that sci-fi encompasses much of that pulpy fun.

Even the most outlandish comic book is often science fiction at its core. The whole reason for Superman being such a super man is that he’s from Krypton - an alien life form. He’s unusual because of his non human DNA - his biological make-up which reacts different;y on the Earth, than on his home planet. For fans of the Netflix Original Series, Jessica Jones, it’s clear that her biology is far different from a normal human most anywhere. Kristen Ritter (Breaking Bad) plays the super powered gal and she’s a match for most any bad assed male who’d foolishly challenge her.

Jones is a super powered heroine, who departs from the usual clean or even holier than thou hero formula by being a hard drinking, foul mouthed and even nasty gal. This isn't the nobility of Supergirl or mythic awe inspiring exploits of Wonder Woman. She’s sort of a modern interpretation of the hard boiled gumshoe detectives of yesteryear. Jones hail from the Marvel Comics stable and as the show progresses, fans should see more characters from the Marvel list turn up.

Stranger Things - 1980’s Sci-Fi Romp

Illustration via False Positive Comics

Winona Ryder (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) leads a cast of excellent actors - including Matthew Modine (Vision Quest) - in this supernaturally tinged science fiction drama. Set in the 1980’s, and full of great 80’s music and references, comparisons have been made to Steven Spielberg films - as the show channels a retro, yet still engaging feel.

Stranger Things focuses on a young boy who’s gone missing in a small rural town. After a search turns up his body in a lake, the Mom, played by Winona Ryder, refuses to admit or believe it’s her son. She calls the corpse a 'thing' and not my offspring. Soon, the town’s sheriff joins Ryder’s character’s skepticism, and we’re treated to strange things, indeed.

An overarching theme of the show is the weird lure and fear, yet mystery of the unknown, most well seen and exhibited in the charismatic, young lead characters. However, instead of simply passing it off as superstition or based in something prosaic or psychological, the characters strive to understand the odd phenomenon in as understandable scientific terms as possible. When several of the child leads seek out their physics teacher to lend a possible theory to what’s behind their friend’s disappearance, a believable texture of conjecture is lent to the far fetched proceedings.

Black Mirror - A Dark Tech Reflection

Illustration by Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo

Traveling through the looking glass and far beyond is a notion perhaps most dramatized by the classic Alice In Wonderland stories from Lewis Carroll. This British created anthology show from Channel 4 in the UK has more in common with The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Each week, a new cast takes a new script with all new settings and characters and explores the dark nature of technology and science and how it can impact humanity.

The show has so impressed its wide fan base, that it counts master storyteller, novelist and screenwriter, Stephen King among its loyal fans. Actor Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) was so impressed with an episode, he optioned it to possibly make into a feature film through his production company. Here is how the creator, Charlie Brooker, describes his sci-fi, speculative TV show, "If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The 'black mirror' of the title is the one you'll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone."

Sense8 - Emotional Entanglements

Illustration by Caity Hall

Science fiction films and television can be presented as inaccessible or even cold - either intentionally by a director’s vision or by the mishandling of the source material. One of the greatest example of a sci-fi film which keeps the viewer at length is Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. At its most ambitious, it’s a journey from the very beginning of humankind’s primitive struggle for survival onward into a space race which leads right into cosmic infinity.

In this series, created and produced by Lana and Lilly Wachowski of The Matrix fame, various people - eight in total - who are total strangers become linked together. They are ‘sensates’ - people who now are connected both in their emotional and intellectual faculties.

Unlike many other sci-fi driven programs, this one strives to explore new character types, topics and directions. One very thrilling aspect of the production is the filming on location all throughout the world. This provides a dynamic backdrop and realism for the series and communicates a real authentic flavor for the audience. Filming locales include: Chicago, San Francisco, Mexico City, London, Berlin, Seoul, Reykjavik and Nairobi. Viewers don’t have to accept cheap imitations of real locations, since they are really there for the show.

Lost In Space - Lost In Translation?

As of this writing, there’s no actual details about how Netflix will be rebooting the classic TV show, but one thing’s clear—millions of Lost In Space fans are anxiously awaiting this new interpretation.

Creator Irwin Allen had such a dynamic grasp of the things that people cared about - adventure, family, the unknown and weird mystery which intrigues people to find out more and explore. Although by today’s demanding and sophisticated viewing standards, the old series may appear dated and quaint, the narrative core of what worked back in the 60’s remains appealing to modern audiences today.

In 1998, a big feature film was released starring Gary Oldman as the scheming and nefarious Dr. Smith and Matt LeBlanc (Friends) as Major Don West. Though knocking Titanic off its long running winning streak for #1 at the box office, It met with poor reviews and moderate box office receipts, but it’s since amassed something of a mild cult following.

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About the Creator

Will Stape

Screenwriter, book author, and producer. Wrote for 'Star Trek: The Next Generation & Deep Space Nine,' and has created docudramas for cable TV and the web.

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