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Movies and Television > Are the Brits better at doing science fiction than the Yanks?

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message 1: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) First off, I am an American. But I am an American who was raised on PBS, so got a lot of British entertainment growing up. I've noticed that I seem to like a lot more Brit movies & TV of the sci-fi persuasion than Yank stuff. (Of course, there are outliers like the original Star Trek, The X-Files, Kolchak, Babylon 5, etc.)

But how do you explain:
- BBC radio programs like Journey Into Space by Charles Chilton
- anything written by John Wyndham
- classic films like X The Unknown, the Day the Earth Caught Fire, Island of Terror, The Crawling Eye, the Quatermass series
- classic tv like the original Doctor Who, Space: 1999, Blake's 7, Red Dwarf, UFO
- contemporary series like the rebooted Doctor Who, Orphan Black, Jekyll
- contemporary films like Sunshine

Is it just me? Or maybe the Brits just have higher quality and we only do quantity. Any thoughts?


message 2: by Nick (new)

Nick (nickanthony51) | 81 comments Higher Quality?

Define quality...


message 3: by Mickey (new)

Mickey | 589 comments In my unprofessional opinion.... Yes. I enjoy BBC shows much more than the low budget TV science fiction shows that the U.S. is producing.


message 4: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments No. But maybe.

TV and movies...probably. But who cares about all that really?

But in writing, no. I'm American (as well as a bit of an Anglophile) and read a lot of British authors: Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks, Ken MacLeod, Peter F. Hamilton, Adam Roberts, Simon Morden. But there are a bunch of American authors I read just as much: Philip K. Dick, Greg Bear, Joe Haldeman, John Scalzi, Dan Simmons, etc.


message 5: by Jaime (last edited Apr 27, 2014 04:44PM) (new)

Jaime | 61 comments Assuming the OP was about film and televison - I think the British have had a lot of practice using good and/or clever writing to compensate for shoestring budgets. Furthermore, British actors are compensated rather differently than their Hollywood peers - the former traditionally work a lot, moving from TV to film and back easily, so it seems to me that they don't feel the need for a massive payday. Consequently there's as much, if not more, emphasis on the writing as on star power. Their TV seasons are also shorter (fewer episodes) and the BBC is perfectly happy to tell one story over 12 eps then end it. So the impulse to stretch a story out over multiple seasons isn't there, with less chance for the quality to slip or for the show's premise to extend past its original freshness and relevancy.


message 6: by Jaime (new)

Jaime | 61 comments @ Micah - as for prose, don't forget there are any number of Anglophone writers - Canadians, Australians - of science fiction who are IMO as worthy as anyone from the UK and USA.


message 7: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments I actually failed to notice this was in a Movie & TV section!

@Jaimie, I didn't check to see if my list of American authors were all from the US. I was expecting someone to say "but so-and-so is Canadian" to which was prepared to respond: "I said American, not US!"

;P


message 8: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) I was mainly thinking about tv & movies. I guess I was basing it on the stories told in British (not necessarily BBC) tv, radio, & film. The stories are so much better.

Take an old B film like The Crawling Eye (UK Title: The Trollenberg Terror). It isn't just a giant creature from outer space. There's a whole complex back story and the love story is secondary or even trivial.

Take the classic film X the Unknown. There's NO love interest in it at all.

These old films, the original Doctor Who series, the stuff that came from the mind of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson - they were just better stories. The special effects and production values may have been better "over the Pond" but I sure didn't enjoy them half as much.

Now, there were good American sci-fi, but when I look back to my childhood memories in the late 60s and 70s, I was more fascinated by these British shows.

Except for Star Trek, I didn't see that kind of quality until The X-Files and Babylon 5. In fact, the newer Star Treks in some ways had inferior storylines to the one in the 60s. Is that because the 60s was a golden age? With authors like Ellison, Block, Matheson?

To the Canadians and Australians, I'm sorry I have less to judge you by. I can't remember any Aussie series aired up here and the only Canadian born series I know of is Red Green (hardly scifi).

As to authors, I'm not sure. I mentioned Wyndham because many of the best films and miniseries were based on his stories.


message 9: by Scott (new)

Scott Jaime wrote: "Their TV seasons are also shorter (fewer episodes) and the BBC is perfectly happy to tell one story over 12 eps then end it. So the impulse to stretch a story out over multiple seasons isn't there, with less chance for the quality to slip or for the show's premise to extend past its original freshness and relevancy."

Yep, that's the big difference between UK and US TV in general.

I think (perhaps because of this aspect) the British are more willing to take risks and defy convention; look at what happened at the end of Blake's 7. Can't really see that happening in a U.S. series as they always have to leave them open for continuation and further marketing.


message 10: by Leonie (new)

Leonie (leonierogers) | 97 comments Speaking as an Australian, I grew up on BBC produced Sci-fi such as Dr Who, Blake's 7, and Space 1999. I did enjoy Star-Trek, TNG, and also Stargate.

I do think that the UK story lines are generally stronger, but there have been some stand out series from the US in latter years. The problem is, that the good US series (IMHO) don't usually last more than one or two seasons. (Am still recovering from the lack of Firefly...)

In Australia, we've had fingers in many of the pies, so to speak. Farscape is one particular example. There's also been quite a strong tradition of producing YA/teen Sci-fi series.

If you look around though, you'll find Australian actors doing quite well in many Sci-fi/Fantasy productions all over the world. I suspect our actors are very much like their British counterparts, moving from screen to stage to big screen frequently.


message 11: by mark, personal space invader (new)

mark monday (happy-end-of-the-world) | 1274 comments Mod
Farscape is one of my favorite things.


message 12: by Mickey (new)

Mickey | 589 comments I did like "Eureka", not a space sci-fi, but I still liked it.


message 13: by Rion (last edited May 01, 2014 05:27AM) (new)

Rion  (orion1) | 87 comments R.I.P. Stargate Universe and may the SyFy channel choke for not putting up the money to at least produce another season or movie to finish the story arc and give a bit of conclusion.

Good sci/fi doesn't need to be exclusive to any national boundaries. Lexx was a fun harder sci/fi show and a good example of intercontinental cooperation with it's Countries of origin being Canada, United Kingdom and Germany?

I see Star Trek being mentioned, and I think we all must agree that it's made in the U.S. and hard to dismiss as not being instrumental in the continued success of the Genre in Film and on Television. Sadly, no new series have been made since Enterprise ended in 2005. So the end of the two great series in the states Stargate/Star Trek and the lack of funding by networks like syfy for hard science fiction with a lot of imagine space is highly discriminatory and short sighted in my mind. Especially when the audience/market is and always has been there. Ironically, Hollywood and science fiction in Film seems to have risen substantially. Even so Hollywood is hardly a complete product of the States anymore. Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and even South Africa in the case of District 9 took advantage of cheaper labor markets and international actors? Industry has moved out of the States due to high labor costs, and this seems extremely pronounced with sci/fi series that require elaborate set construction and international incentives and tax breaks. I will mention that other series like J.J. Abrams Lost and Fringe were very successful. Dr. Who however does appear to be a reigning champ currently in getting another season. Lets hope that the future does hold some interest for new writers to attempt to create new T.V. series in franchises like Star Trek and Stargate someday. The more Science Fiction I read, the more I discover the possibilities with possible new shows that would make a killing.

I haven't looked yet but it makes me wonder if there is already a forum in the group devoted to book series people think would make great television. I'll start by nominating Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet. I'd prefer it to be a U.S. Production simply to allow for a slightly larger budget. Where it's shot, who shoots it or who writes it? I really don't think it matters as long as they are among the best at what they do.


message 14: by C. (new)

C. Love a lot of Brit comedy[To The Manor Born,Good Neighbors],and period dramas[Lark Rise To Candleford,North & South],and their Hammer Horror is also a favorite,but sci-fi ala....Dr. Who,no thanks!


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