Is TOS the best sci-fi TV American series until 1985?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Grant, Oct 17, 2012.

  1. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Anthologies and series are really two different kinds of shows. As a series, committed to a repeating cast and setting, Star Trek was the best series. Twlight Zone was the best non-realist anthology. But it had plenty of dogs and tough competition from The Outer Limits.

    TZ indeed had lots of SF but more was fantasy or fable or allegory or even surrealism/absurdism. The Outer Limits was committed to a SF mode of storytelling but focused more narrowly on the horror genre. So technically, Star Trek wins as the best SF series.

    But it's all moot in one sense, because opinions are not created equal. No one is required to bother to exercise the best objectivity they can when making this call. As a result, nostalgia trips are mixed in. If Twilight Zone were being broadcast now people who like things like Farscape, Firefly and Buffy would despise the moralizing, sentimentality, obtuse lack of self-awareness and general unhipness of Twilight Zone. Or, for that matter, Star Trek. But those shows inspire nostalgia, which is assumed to mean goodness. When Voyager shoe-horned in a Twilight Zone episode into a series format*, very few people liked the results, no matter what. Many specifically and explicitly criticize the "episodic" structure!

    (Some episodes that would have been right at home on Twilight Zone, just by changing character names around: Emanations; The Thaw; Innocence; Ashes to Ashes; The Chute;
    Remember; Memorial; Retrospect, even 11:59.)
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2012
  2. UnknownSample

    UnknownSample Captain Captain

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    The more recent shows are filled with self-awareness? For sentimentality, substitute unapologetically adult drama. I like Farscape more than the others you mention, but shows these days seem embarrassed to deal with human issues straightforwardly, and think they need to add a sort of ironic wink as if to say "It's all just TV, don't worry about it". Ironic, dark humor is great, and Farscape had some of that. Buffy and too many other contemporary shows, though, went for a sort of light, teenage, often witless jokiness, that got irritating.

    These shows certainly seem certain that they represent some sort of "hipness"... to me it's a sort of mass-produced, lighter substitute.
     
  3. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    At times The Twilight Zone could be quite sentimental, but that overlooks a great deal of episodes with a much bleaker worldview.

    Like all television, the series was a product of its time. It is, of course, being frequently broadcast now, but if new episodes were being produced they would be quite different (witness the differences between the original series and the revivals that were produced in the mid-80s and early-2000s). The original series really is quite good and appreciation of it hardly comes down to simple nostalgia.
     
  4. Captaindemotion

    Captaindemotion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    This is exactly how I'd view it. And while I'm not a writer, I would imagine that it's easier to have a regular rota of continually turn out independent, self-contained and unrelated stories (brilliant one, it must be said) for an anthology show than to get writers to write stories set within the confined settings of a regular series with its own premise, setting and 'rules.'

    Plus for all the undoubted brilliance of TTZ, I don't imagine that many fans can have the same sort of affection for it, the way that they do for Trek, with its regular characters, its iconic spaceship and optimistic take on humanity (though you can't deny the uniqueness of Serling's own vision).
     
  5. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I don't know. The fact that a fairly primitive black-and-white TV series from over fifty years ago is still airing regularly on cable and is still burned into the memories of generations of fans has to say something. I mean, I suspect that everybody on this board is familiar with most of the classic episodes and would quickly recognize any reference to some of the show's more iconic images or plots: the monster on the wing of the plane, Burgess Meredith breaking his classes, little Anthony sending people to the cornfield, "To Serve Man," etc.

    As to whether it trumps TOS . . . well, it really is an apples-and-oranges comparison, given that one was an ongoing series and one was an anthology. How about we just say that they're both the crown jewels of that era's genre programming, and are of more or less equal stature?
     
  6. Admiral2

    Admiral2 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The original Twilight Zone owns the title Best Science Fiction Show until 1978, when the original Battlestar Galactica debuted. Trek is good, but it's never been "best" hands down.
     
  7. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    To each their own, I guess, but I confess that my mind boggles at the idea that the old BSG is the "best" anything.

    Never saw the appeal, even back in the eighties.

    Maybe this is a generational thing?
     
  8. BillJ

    BillJ Admiral Admiral

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    I liked the original BSG, but better than Trek or The Twilight Zone? They're not only not in the same ballpark, they're not even in the same national park as far as quality goes.
     
  9. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    I don't think so. I was 12 in 1978, and at the time I thought BSG was a Star Wars rip-off. Three years earlier, I had found the first season of Space: 1999 to be much more engaging than I'd find BSG to be. At the time, I found that both BSG and 1999 paled in comparison with Star Trek. We never had The Twilight Zone syndicated on any of our three network channels. I didn't get to watch TZ until high school, when we got cable.
     
  10. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I thought I did.

    The failure of the subsequent Twilight Zones speaks for itself, I think.

    The classic episodes that everyone is supposed to know and love is a small fraction of the series.

    Even the bleaker episodes have what would today be perceived as sentimentality. The monsters on Elm Street episode today would be like Spielberg's War of the Worlds, about the tragic need to unleash our inner monster to survive the threat. Etc.
     
  11. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    You know I think the weakness of 1970s sci-fi is perhaps in part one of the reasons Star Trek did so well in reruns. Neither Space: 1999 (which I did like) nor Battlestar Galactica could come close to Star Trek firing on all cylinders.

    The thing about TNG's last seasons was that while its first years could be hilariously, mind-boggingly, painfully awful ("Code of Honor", "Up the Long Ladder") it was rarely if ever bland.

    But I'd still say that overall TNG was a series that consistently provided a mix of good-to-excellent episodes and I'm surprised how well it's aged for me considering there's pretty much nothing I watched at eight I can watch now and still respect quite that much. When TNG was great - "The Inner Light", "The Measure of a Man" - it remains a touchstone to me for what great sci-fi TV is.


    Even if we agree that there are cartoon shows from the period that can be called good, it'd be hard to claim that any of them can be called best, I think that's basically the issue there. Nobody's going to put Filmation's Flash Gordon or their Star Trek over TOS or TTZ.


    That's true. Compare it to the fate of the highly respected, Emmy-award winning and socially conscious The Defenders: There's a single episode on youtube and unless you request to see the prints at a university (or watch snippets from that one Mad Men episode that aired part of its episode on abortion) the show might as well not even exist.
     
  12. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Of course. I was mentioning them more for the point of filling out the ballot than actually voting for them. My point was that aren't those children's shows science fiction too (or at least some of them, if say one excludes super hero shows)?
     
  13. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Hardly surprising given that the series was on the air for five seasons, broadcasting 156 individual episodes. Compare this to, say, Dallas, which is also an important series to American television, and one hat most viewers were probably still aware of even before the current follow-up. Yet if you asked all but the most hard-core of viewers to recall certain episodes they'd likely run out of answers pretty soon after "A House Divided" (where J.R. is shot) and "Return to Camelot" (where Bobby shows up in the shower).

    Do you mean "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street?" I think it's quite a reach to label such an episode sentimental. Moralizing, yes, but hardly sentimental. (Considering this is a forum devoted to Star Trek, it stands to reason most of the posters here don't have a problem with television engaged with moralizing.)

    If it's your point that contemporary film and television is far less sentimental, I don't think it's very useful to trot out Spielberg as an example. Even the darkest entries in his filmography are ripe with sentiment, including his lousy version of War of the Worlds (in which Tom Cruise wins and his family survives...somehow, because a happy ending must be reached).
     
  14. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^^^No, the point is that there is a widespread perception that Twilight Zone's (and Star Trek's and Outer Limits') humanism (or liberalism or optimism, if you wish) is sentimentality. The subtext is that it is weakness or even treason.

    But, as to War of the Worlds, the survival of Cruise's family is as much a well earned triumph given by the moral universe (subtext here, God, though it was text in the Pal adaptation.) Why overlook the suicide bombing effort, though? Of course, what I was thinking of was the fate meted out to Tim Robbins.
     
  15. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I don't know. Couldn't you say the same of TOS? Or most venerable cult series?

    In both cases, you're going to have the knowledgeable fans who can reel off chapter and verse about umpteen episodes. And the more casual viewer who is only going to remember a few classic episodes or moments.

    "Let's see, there's the tribbles, and the one with Joan Collins, and that time Spock had to mate with a Vulcan chick or die, and the one where Kirk outsmarted some sort of computer . . . ."
     
  16. RandyS

    RandyS Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It probably is. Speaking for myself, as a member of the original audience of BSG:TOS (okay, I was only eight in 1978, but still...), I can honestly say I don't see what the younger folks see in Ron Moore's overrated, pompus remake.
     
  17. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Hah! That's not the generation gap I was thinking of! I was in college when the old BSG debuted and thought it suffered in comparison to the shows I grew up on, like TOS. Maybe you need to be exposed to old BSG at the right age. By the time it debuted in 1978, I was already too old for it. To my oh-so-sophisticated freshman self, BSG was kid's stuff.

    But, for the record, it's not just "the younger folks" who prefer the new BSG. I'm an old coot who found the reboot much more dramatic and engrossing than the seventies version . . . .
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2012
  18. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I admit a nostalgic fondness from the original Battlestar Galactica -- I first saw the original pilot and an episode or two (on video and in re-runs) when I was perhaps nine or ten. But nostalgia doesn't get in the way of my critical evaluation of the series; Ron Moore's version of Battlestar Galactica is far superior to my eyes.
     
  19. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Mine too.

    But to reiterate, for me, I have zero nostalgia for the original series, despite being 12 y.o. during first run. Heck, I even saw the theatrical film release in Sensurround, and "everyone" from my school was there. Still, no nostalgia for original BSG. Although, I gotta admit that was kinda fun, but any nostalgia that I have is for that movie theater which no longer exists and for my friends. It was fun once, but I didn't get in line to see it again, like I did Star Wars.
     
  20. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I remember seeing the pilot for BUCK ROGERS in the theater around the same time. That was fun, too, although even though I had no illusions that it compared to STAR TREK or STAR WARS.
     

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