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Old November 12 2011, 04:31 PM   #136
Kegg
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
The fundamental difference is that the Falling Skies aliens potentially can be negotiated with (and if my theories are correct, the skitters are possible allies.)
'Negotiated with' is I think too strong a term. I'd prefer 'have motives'. Obviously the zombies on Walking Dead do not think beyond shambling towards things to eat, but the aliens in Falling Skies can have a real agenda that we probably will discover the entirety of over the run of the show.

And... that's actually kind of benefical in the long run, which is probably why we get the likes of Cylons and Skitters more than we do zombies (in the first season of Battlestar Galactica the Cylons were also largely an opaque threatening menace.) The zombies can't change, can't be understood, can't be anything other than a mass of diseased killing flesh. Good enough premise for a feature film but one will see if it'll sustain Walking Dead... so far, Walking Dead's solution seems to have been to push the zombies to the background as much as possible. The human element drives much of that show, I think.

And speaking of AMC, I guess they were piqued by the way I singled them out for being absent from my sf/f development list, because they just announced that they're picking up the alien first-contact drama.

The cable network has bought Thunderstruck, an hourlong UFO project from feature writing/directing duo Paul Boardman and Scott Derrickson and former Battlestar Galactica executive producer David Eick. Boardman and Derrickson will write the drama, about powerful and enigmatic entities that begin appearing all over the world.
Sounds vaguely interesting. David Eick isn't exactly my favourite BSG alumni, but maybe they'll pull together something interesting here... or not. I suppose it's too much to hope for something like early Earth: Final Conflict, with humanity being watched over by an alien race with highly ambiguous intentions.
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Old November 12 2011, 06:18 PM   #137
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

I'm not sure it's valid to use "first-contact drama" as a synonym for "UFO project." "UFO" implies mysterious ("unidentified") unearthly entities that are keeping hidden and avoiding contact. "First contact" generally refers more to the beginning of open or formal exchange between species. They're two rather different kinds of story. (Although one can transform into the other, as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.)
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Old November 12 2011, 06:45 PM   #138
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

Kegg wrote: View Post
The zombies can't change, can't be understood, can't be anything other than a mass of diseased killing flesh.
<smacks own forehead!> Gah! The Borg are zombies! Well, until they were ruined with the introduction of the queen.
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Old November 12 2011, 10:21 PM   #139
Temis the Vorta
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

On further reflection, Thunderstruck is a bad name and they should change it. It sounds like a workplace sitcom about TV weathermen.

'Negotiated with' is I think too strong a term. I'd prefer 'have motives'.
I'm jumping ahead in the story - they could be negotiated with, and I'm hoping they will be. It could take the story in interesting directions, and there does need to be some evolution in the story beyond just "skirmish with aliens and run away" which has already gotten boring.

so far, Walking Dead's solution seems to have been to push the zombies to the background as much as possible. The human element drives much of that show, I think.
That's really the only way you can do a zombie story, unless you're changing the zombies into something entirely different. "Thinking" zombies just undermines what makes a zombie story cool, and then it starts to become more of a vampire story, like I Am Legend (I'm thinking of the original novel).

I'm not sure it's valid to use "first-contact drama" as a synonym for "UFO project."
The premise sure sounds like "first-contact" with aliens to me - "powerful and enigmatic entities that begin appearing all over the world." And obviously the story is going to have to evolve just beyond that kind of shadowy presence, or they're not going to have any story at all.

First contact" generally refers more to the beginning of open or formal exchange between species.
Or it refers to aliens arriving on Earth regardless of whether they want to set up formal diplomatic relations and cultural exchanges. Simply being present and making humans aware of them unambiguously constitutes "contact."

But now that I've dug up the article from last May where I read about an alien-contact drama at AMC, I'm wondering whether this is a different series altogether with a very similar premise to the first-contact series that I was thinking of?

Space epic Voyage, from writer/executive producer John Shiban and executive producer Lynda Obst, is described as a grounded look at human beings’ first contact with extraterrestrial life seen through the eyes of an ambitious female scientist and her team at Jet Propulsion Laboratories.
AMC reportedly wanted this to be re-developed, and if it's the same concept, they re-developed it pretty thoroughly and brought in a new creative team. Or maybe that pitch just whetted their appetite for the subject matter and made them more receptive to Eick's pitch.

I actually like the idea of it being centered around Great Falls, Montana (my mom's home town!) rather than JPL, although of course they'll need to have a scientist character in the mix.

sojourner wrote: View Post
Kegg wrote: View Post
The zombies can't change, can't be understood, can't be anything other than a mass of diseased killing flesh.
<smacks own forehead!> Gah! The Borg are zombies! Well, until they were ruined with the introduction of the queen.
Oh don't tell me that just occurred to you! And yeah, the fact that the Borg are zombies is why the queen thing sucks.

Last edited by Temis the Vorta; November 12 2011 at 10:36 PM. Reason: blah blah blah blah
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Old November 13 2011, 12:59 AM   #140
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
The premise sure sounds like "first-contact" with aliens to me - "powerful and enigmatic entities that begin appearing all over the world."
Well, that depends on what they mean by "entities." Since they describe it as a "UFO" drama, that suggests something more like mysterious phenomena showing up here and there, rather than alien ambassadors who show up and say "take me to your leader." As it's generally used in SF, the phrase "first contact story" implies (in this context) a story where aliens come to Earth with the intent of revealing themselves to us and interacting openly with us, thereby changing the world forever, while the phrase "UFO story" implies a story where aliens come to Earth to observe or influence us in secret and most people don't know or believe they're here, or at least have very little information and no understanding of the visitors' goals or motives. The X-Files is a UFO drama; V is a first-contact drama. They're more or less opposing ways of approaching the "alien visitation" trope.


And obviously the story is going to have to evolve just beyond that kind of shadowy presence, or they're not going to have any story at all.
Again, I'd cite The X-Files as a counterexample. Or Lost in its early seasons. The story could be about the characters trying to cope with the mystery of these entities or the effects they inflict for inexplicable reasons.

I vaguely recall reading a prose SF story involving a situation where aliens had been causing certain bizarre, inexplicable manifestations on Earth for years and humanity was just trying to cope with the consequences and adjust their lives around these phenomena, without ever understanding where they came from or why they happened.


Or it refers to aliens arriving on Earth regardless of whether they want to set up formal diplomatic relations and cultural exchanges. Simply being present and making humans aware of them unambiguously constitutes "contact."
Strictly speaking, yes, but "first contact" is a term of the art which carries certain specific connotations, ever since Murray Leinster coined it in the 1945 novelette of the same name. Or to put it in more broadly familiar terms, consider the Star Trek episode and movie that used that title. In both cases, the TNG episode "First Contact" and the movie Star Trek: First Contact, the more advanced of the two cultures had been observing the less advanced one for some time, even clandestinely moving among them, but actual first contact was not considered to have occurred until the two species officially met and communicated openly. I concede it's not a rigidly defined term, but I'm talking about its general connotations.
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Old November 13 2011, 01:18 AM   #141
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

Well, that depends on what they mean by "entities."
I would imagine those are the aliens. They may not look humanoid (I hope not) but they will be some sort of intelligent alien life form that is capable of interacting with humans. I don't think that term means inanimate objects or weather events or whatever else you think it might refer to.

So basically, it's some alien intelligence making contact with humanity or maybe just making their presence known after years of doing the whole UFO/abduction thing, and where the story goes from there, who knows.

Since it's AMC, I'm just hoping it will be surprising.

Again, I'd cite The X-Files as a counterexample. Or Lost in its early seasons. The story could be about the characters trying to cope with the mystery of these entities or the effects they inflict for inexplicable reasons.
There were various alien/supernatural characters in both cases that showed up as actual characters in the drama in both cases.
The X-Files is a UFO drama; V is a first-contact drama. They're more or less opposing ways of approaching the "alien visitation" trope.
They're not all that different. Both are about first contact with aliens, in the sense that they aren't the second contact or the ninety-fifth. They have aliens who appear as characters in the story. The X-Files pussyfooted around because they needed to maintain some kind of mystery to drag out the story. V just dumped the aliens right onto us, in the remake anyway, which probably helped kill the story because then the writers had to spin out various motivations and goals for the aliens, which became stupid and incoherent.

Here's hoping AMC will avoid the twin threats of stalling out the story through too much mystery or making the story inane by too little mystery.

You can make up whatever definitions you want for things, it doesn't really matter to me. Discussions on that basis are a pedantic waste of time.
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Old November 13 2011, 01:32 AM   #142
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

There's a movie coming out where aliens show up on Earth and claim that we are the invaders of their world. How's that for an idea? For real. It was probably some plumber who thought of that. I can't remember the name of the movie but it's coming out.
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Old November 13 2011, 01:36 AM   #143
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

[To Temis:] I'm not "making up" the definitions, and I find that characterization needlessly dismissive. I'm describing how the different terms are widely used in the industry and in society. "UFO" carries undeniable connotations of mystery and eerieness. The "U" stands for "unidentified," after all, and the UFO mythology that's evolved in society since 1947 is basically the Space-Age version of ancient beliefs and fears about fairie folk and demons. This isn't just my opinion; there are whole scholarly studies about the UFO cult and culture.

As for your first paragraph, I can imagine possible meanings for "entity" beyond what you suggest, but since you sadly seem more determined to narrow your perspective than attempt to broaden it, I don't see why I should waste my time suggesting any.
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Old November 13 2011, 02:43 AM   #144
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

Didn't see this one listed, but just saw a commercial for a new SyFy series Lost Girl. Premiering in January.
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Old November 13 2011, 02:54 AM   #145
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

sojourner wrote: View Post
Didn't see this one listed, but just saw a commercial for a new SyFy series Lost Girl. Premiering in January.
It wouldn't be listed on a development slate for next year because it's been on Canadian TV for two seasons already. Syfy has picked it up for US rebroadcast.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Girl_(TV_series)

Apparently its lead character is a bisexual succubus. Interesting...
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Old November 13 2011, 11:08 AM   #146
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

^^ That does sound interesting. The link doesn't quite work, though (the closing parenthesis isn't included). This one should work.

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
sojourner wrote: View Post
Kegg wrote: View Post
The zombies can't change, can't be understood, can't be anything other than a mass of diseased killing flesh.
<smacks own forehead!> Gah! The Borg are zombies! Well, until they were ruined with the introduction of the queen.
Oh don't tell me that just occurred to you! And yeah, the fact that the Borg are zombies is why the queen thing sucks.
The Borg are definitely in the tradition of zombies, but that's not what ruined them. They were originally presented as a hive mind, so a queen makes sense. What ruined them was overusing them, weakening them, straying from the concept and, in the case of First Contact, bad writing.
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Old November 13 2011, 04:47 PM   #147
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

^I fixed the link. Thanks.

The problem with the Borg was that, as originally conceived, they were just an impersonal force of nature, and since story is fundamentally driven by character, you can't tell many stories about something impersonal. So it was an intrinsically flawed concept from the beginning, at least from a dramatic perspective. The only way they could do more than one story about the Borg was by changing the concept to personalize them more.
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Old November 13 2011, 07:48 PM   #148
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

sojourner wrote: View Post
Didn't see this one listed, but just saw a commercial for a new SyFy series Lost Girl. Premiering in January.
Looks like a CW reject.
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Old November 14 2011, 01:31 AM   #149
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

Christopher wrote: View Post
The only way they could do more than one story about the Borg was by changing the concept to personalize them more.
Well, no.

As was kind of observed upthread, the Borg have some similarities to zombies, and multiple zombie stories can be told without personalizing them. In fact if memory serves, the similarity of the Borg to zombies was the problem, Braga and Moore had intended to write the Borg as faceless adversaries in First Contact before the similarity to flesh-eating undead was pointed out.
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Old November 14 2011, 03:27 AM   #150
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Re: the state of sf/f TV development for 2012-13

The way to do Borg episodes is the way The Walking Dead handles zombies. No personalization, no queens, no nuthin. The story is about the people. The Borg/zombies exist to serve only as the boogieman, to show us what the people are/aren't made of.

I don't know why Star Trek couldn't do a Borg episode every so often without destroying them if there's a whole series about nothing but zombies, zombies and more zombies, no Klingons or Cardassians to relieve the monotony, and it works just fine. But doing zombies/Borg right does mean that everything gets tossed onto the shoulders of the human characters, and how well or not so well the writers are able to write straightforward human drama.

That's probably the problem: zombies/Borg give bad writers nowhere to hide. No gimmicks, no technobabble saves, just the merciless glare of humanity under a microscope.
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