Serious discussion about science fiction
Anton Karidian | Tennessee | 11/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This fine 4-part documentary is a serious attempt to probe both the history of science fiction and its interaction with society. It was made in 1997 for The Learning Channel, where I first saw it. I won't reiterate all the details about this show as related in Amazon's good review above, so I'll make a couple of points. For one thing, there's quite a breadth of sci-fi issues dealt with here, including genetics, cloning, time travel, high-tech weapons, aliens, relations between the sexes, faster-than-light travel, and much more. I thought some sections were particularly fascinating, such as the interaction of science fiction and the development of the atom bomb, and the involvement of science fiction writers with Ronald Reagan's missile shield program. And how did the producers get such great writers and scientists to talk to them? I mean, writers Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, Brian Aldiss, Kim Stanley Robinson, William Gibson, Forrest J. Ackerman, astronaut Story Musgrave, scientists Lawrence Krauss and Steve Jones, and others. WOW! What a treat! With such people there are inevitably many great observations made.
I do have a couple of carps. One is that there is much more emphasis in this documentary on filmed rather than on written science fiction, yet I guess that's inevitable since it gives the producers the ability to show us film clips. Oddly, at times the producers make an attempt to discuss writers and their stories, while other times they don't. For instance, founders H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are talked about at substantial length, but on the other hand there are few mentions of works by the writers interviewed here. Also, some of the films shown are not great quality ones, and several clips are unnecessarily violent, especially from the bloody "Robocop." However, many of the great filmed sci-fi classics are covered, such as "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Forbidden Planet," "Blade Runner," "Frankenstein," "Planet of the Apes," and the like.
Overall, THE SCI-FI FILES is a welcome relief to the many superficial discussions of science fiction. That's why I gave it 5 stars, although my reservations made me consider giving it 4. It is an interesting documentary even for veterans of the field, and would be a great introduction to those who have not felt the sense of wonder that good science fiction gives us. Oh, and it's great for us "Star Wars" fans to hear Mark Hamill narrate the show."