Sunday, July 10, 2016

Space Opera: some observations

With both Dark Matter and Killjoys having just begun their second season a week ago, I feel it's about time I take some time to write about Space Operas once again. Most of this could have been written during the first season of each of the shows, but I didn't actually do so then, so I'm doing it now.


With Space Opera having come back after such a long period of almost nothing, you basically say we are in a new generation of the genre. What are the things that stand out in this generation so far?

Tasers are hot

Whether it's the bad guys using them for torture and stealthy take-overs or the government trying to do things in a non-lethal way (but often still being more brutal than necessary), everyone is using tasers. Both Dark Matter and Killjoys went with more futuristic "Shock sticks", whereas The Expanse went with traditional tasers, giving the feel that the future isn't all that different after all.

Aliens are not

It's just humans everywhere. Aliens are nowhere to be seen. The only exception to this was Otherspace, which had non-corporeal aliens. However, the only times these aliens could be "seen" they were pretending to be human. Unlike Stargate Universe did some time ago, we do often get fully populated galaxies, it's just that all that population is human.

Space zombies

Everyone's doing space zombies in some sort or form. There's different stories behind each show's zombies but somehow space zombies are a craving that is shared by all the writers.

Space is gorgeous

Of course it depends on resolution and black-quality of your screen, but there's a lot more possible in sfx these days and it shows. Even the low-budget shows like Otherspace showed us some gorgeous outer-space shots. Dark Matter was the one coming up the poorest in this regard in my opinion, but even they upped their sfx game for the second season.

Interpersonal conflict is important

One of the ideas that Gene Roddenberry was very keen to build Star Trek on was the fact that the human race had grown beyond interpersonal conflict. Every other show has some form of this conflict, but there's a lot more of this in this generation if you ask me. Dark Matter is all about people who don't know themselves and trust is a big issue there. Killjoys has a closer team, but what happens between the team members is ultimately what drives much of the plot for the first season. The Expanse has people fighting everywhere, but one of the clearest examples might be the "main crew" which does a lot of fighting before they really start considering themselves a crew. Otherspace was just about a single crew, so much of what they do is getting on each other's nerves. It's always been there, but I feel it's even more there now.

Star Trek

I'm very much looking forward to what the new Star Trek will bring to the table early next year. Many of the observations above wouldn't quite fit the Star Trek brand, which is filled with aliens, doesn't really have a suitable place for taser and doesn't feature interpersonal conflict. It will be interesting to see where they take the genre, even if it's uncertain whether it will be suitable for watching by real Trekkies.

Other shows

The interest in the genre seems to have died down a bit. When the entire pie was on the table, everyone wanted a piece of it. Now, there are three solid shows eating that pie, leaving little for any new venture. Both the Blake's 7 remake and Space: 2099 seem to have died a silent death. Of the other things that were in various stages of development, nothing had been heard for some time, so I assume they aren't getting made. I also haven't been able to find anything hinting towards more new things being developed.

I can understand it. I mean, three shows is a lot and I doubt enough people would be willing to watch yet more Space Opera. That said, I would have loved to hear of more Space Opera, because I definitely would want to watch another series.

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