Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by BoredShipCapt'n, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. BoredShipCapt'n

    BoredShipCapt'n Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I thought this might deserve its own discussion.


    Why does it seem that much of post-1980's sci-fi is so bleak and humorless? I ask this as a ST:TOS fan. You could see the beginnings of this trend in ST:TNG with the characters taking themselves oh-so-seriously, but at least there was the occasional glint of humor or an appearance from Q to deflate their pomposity.

    Compare the new Battlestar Galactica with the original. I can enjoy something that is "dark," but there's no need to be humorless. Doctor Who has its dark and serious moments, but it's equally funny. Firefly certainly got dark, but the humor was there too. Why is it missing in some other shows?

    Are we seeing the work of former fanboys who were a bit too obsessed as adolescents, cringed at every comical robot or cute Ewok, and grimly vowed that if they ever made sci-fi, things would be different? Could they never lighten up?

    I guess humorless sci-fi must appeal to some people, but I'm not one who would keep coming back for that. "Realism" is just fine, even "grittiness" (whatever that really is), but with no levity it's not even realistic because humor is part of human nature.
     
  2. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The early Trek novel "How Much For Just The Planet" (as you might guess from the title) had a nice amount of humor in it. The modern Trek novels are down right grim.

    Comedy is missing in post-TOS series to a great degree. There are occasional funny pieces, A Fist Full of Data's comes to mind. Plus there are scenes that I think were supposed to be serious that are quite funny. Janeway discovering her tiny "spirit guide" while drugged up on Chakotay's electronic peyote always get a giggle out of me, but I don't think it was intended to be funny.

    :)
     
  3. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Well Red Dwarf has plenty of humour in it. True it is a sit-com but it is also Sci-Fi. You say DW has it's humour. So on the surface of it, it appears as if British Sci-Fi hasn't fully it's humour.
     
  4. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    I can appreciate humor in science fiction when it's used as comic relief in an otherwise tense story. I'm not as tolerant toward sci-fi comedy, though there are some exceptions, like Red Dwarf. Science fiction requires a willing suspension of disbelief, and if the humor is not done well, there's the risk of the audience laughing at the production instead of with it. Star Trek was always uneven with its light-hearted scenes. I don't know if the fault was in the writing, the direction, or actors' performances, but they often had trouble getting it right.
     
  5. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I'm not sure humor is all that missing from modern sf. Look at shows like Warehouse 13, Eureka, Haven, and so on that feature lots of humorous situations, as well as plenty of snarky quips and banter.

    And I'm don't think I've ever written a Trek book that didn't have some (hopefully) funny dialogue in it . . . .
     
  6. marksound

    marksound Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Two reasons:

    A. The people creating it have no sense of humor and couldn't write a joke if their lives depended on it.
    B. The people consuming it would only bitch about the lame attempts at humor, and they wouldn't get the jokes anyway.

    3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
     
  7. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis were often very funny.
     
  8. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Up until the early 1970s, sci-fi generally projected a utopian future, and had a lighter mood. Since then, sci-fi has taken a darker turn overall, reflecting our angst and disenchantment by showing a largely dystopian future. Thus, the lack of humor.
     
  9. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Battlestar Galactica is the exception here, not the rule (and even it had more humor than its reputation for bleakness). I don't think the charge that sf in the 1990s and 2000 has much merit.

    Consider Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, Farscape, Futurama, Red Dwarf, etc. Even The X-Files, for all its conspiracies, tragedy, and dark cinematography had plenty of humor, featuring comedic characters like the Lone Gunmen on a regular basis and frequently producing entirely comedic hours.
     
  10. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, absolutely. "You ended that sentence with a preposition, you bastard!"
     
  11. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, that was supposed to be funny.
     
  12. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Well, the jokes work better in the original Klingon . . .
     
  13. jayrath

    jayrath Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    "Doctor Who" is often very, very funny, but I take your point. As somewhat suggested above, comedy is hard.

    I imagine that part of its general absence from sci fi is that the strand of believablilty is already so stretched. As soon as there's humor, the whole story stands the risk of being instant self-parody (for example, the seatbelt scene at the end of NEM, which was done for a single cheap laugh). But there remain many good opportunties for humor in characterization, and so we at least have such nuggets as Mudd and "It's . . it's green."

    Anyway, the lack of real humor in modern sci fi likely results from the fear of risk. There's no shame in that; again, comedy is hard work, best left to specialists. The stakes are even higher these days because everyone is creating such dark futures; the resulting contrast is higher if even the lightest joke is introduced.

    I don't want get all academic, but such an outlook is an error. Shakespeare's best laughs come in the most dire scenes. Of course, we have few Shakespeares today. Likely none.

    I'm rambling, but one final example: I think that "Tribbles" is rather unfunny, with one exception -- when Kirk is questioning everyone about who started the fight on the space station. That is character humor, rather subtly played, and I laugh at it still.
     
  14. RandyS

    RandyS Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I do. And I find the idea that New Galactica had anything even approaching humor in it to be (ironically) laughable. There was NO humor in that show whatsoever, which was only one of the things wrong with it.
     
  15. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    It was a dark show, but no humor whatsoever? You know that's an exaggeration. Here's a whole thread on this BBS about the show's sense of humor.

    Or perhaps I should just quote this post from another thread:

    Yep. No humor whatsoever. :rolleyes:
     
  16. 1001001

    1001001 I Like the Beats and the Shouting Moderator

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    This is a great thread idea, but it's not TOS specific.

    Moving to Science Fiction/Fantasy.

    Woosh!

    :beer:
     
  17. Gotham Central

    Gotham Central Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I do not understand the logic of the original post. Why must EVERY scifi show or product have humor? Does one expect copious quantities of humor on The Shield, The Wire, The Walking Dead or any other drama out there? What I have a huge problem with is this idea that its a problem when a scifi show actually takes itself seriously and does not veer off into the realm of the goofy. BSG is a prime example. Its a show about the end of the world and humans being hunted to virtual extinction. The original series barely took that premise seriously and had them stopping at a casino shortly after the bulk of mankind had been exterminated. The new series does not make that mistake. Its suitably apocalyptic...as the basic premise demands.

    As for Star Trek, there is no way you can say that DS9 and Voyager did not have humor (voyager not always intentionally). From Take me out to the Holosuite to Bride of Chaotica, there was plenty of humor in both shows.
     
  18. Sindatur

    Sindatur The Grey Owl Wizard Premium Member

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    Yea, I fully enjoyed NuBSG, but, that is a reason I'm in no hurry to rewatch it. Charlie Jade went far darker/longer with Rena's Arc (Amongst others) then some of NuBSG's darkest moments, but, you Had 01 Boxer adding humor, so although intense, didn't linger and fester.

    Torchwood: Children Of The Earth, also is pretty humorless. It was an awesomely intense week when it first aired. With Much of ScFi, I would watch a 5 hour story over a day or two, but Children of Earth, I don't think I could watch more than an episode a day on a rewatch, and likely would spread some of it out even more.

    But, there's been lots that has Humor...Stargate (SG1 and Atlantis), DS9, Farscape, Babylon 5, Fire Fly, Andromeda, most of the current SyFy shows... I think Falling Skies has kept a good balance of Humor, Terra Nova kept a good bit of humor. Even The Walking Dead has it's one liners and it has gone pretty dark.

    But, yea, I agree, if you go overboard on the "Realism" and "Grittiness" to where you actively prevent all humor or fun or hope for seasons at a time it becomes very heavy. I think this does become unrealistic, because even in War, soldiers play soccer, throw frisbees, play cards at times.

    That heaviness decreases my rewatch Drive. I'm working up to giving SGU another chance (I did really enjoy the last half Season, and most of the first half season 2 as well)
     
  19. teacake

    teacake Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yep. I feel like I have to prepare myself if I'm going to do a BSG rewatch. Gird stuff.
     
  20. bigdaddy

    bigdaddy Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I don't think it's that sci-fi now-a-days is humorless, I think it's more that there is less sic-fi show in general around.