Monday, September 25, 2006

Focus on Sci-Fi Part 3: Adventures in Galaxies Far, Far Away

As part of our ongoing look at science fiction, this week's focus is on the adventures set on other worlds in other galaxies and in other times either past or future. There's a lot of ground to cover, to be sure, so we've picked our favourite Space Adventures to discuss in regards to their fame and fortune, as well as their own commentaries on the goings on here on earth.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century...
Buck Rogers began with a pair of novels in 1928, and has since become synonomous with early sci-fi adventuring. Following in the footsteps of H.G. Wells, Buck Rogers is arguably responsible for the popularization of space exploration. Whether in comic strip form, movies, radio or television, it quickly became an important part of American pop culture. As a pop phenomenon it paralleled the development of space technology in the twentieth century and introduced Americans to space as a familiar environment for swashbuckling adventure.

Such was the fame of Buck Rogers, that it became the basis for one of the most fondly remembered science fiction spoofs in a series of Daffy Duck cartoons. The first of these was Duck Dodgers in the 24-1/2th Century, which was directed by Chuck Jones in 1953. There were also two sequels to this cartoon, and ultimately a Duck Dodgers television series.

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series

Star Wars...
No discussion on the topic of Sci-Fi Adventures would be complete without the mention of a certain series by a certain Mr. George Lucas. First released with what is now known as "Episode IV" in 1977, Star Wars became a pop culture worldwide phenomenon - spawning five more feature films , three spin-off films, five television series and an extensive collection of licensed books, comics, video games, and other products - all of which are set within a fictional "galaxy far, far away."

Science fiction since Star Wars, particularly in film, has often been influenced by and compared to Star Wars. References to the main characters and themes of Star Wars are casually made in Western society with the well-qualified assumption that others will understand the reference. Many say that the visual and virtual effects that take over today's movies would have never been created if not for Lucas's revolutionizing of the movie industry with Star Wars.

The Phantom Menace
Attack of the Clones
Revenge of the Sith
A New Hope
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi

Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon, which was originally penned as a competitor to Buck Rogers in 1934, began its days as a comic strip. Since then, it has branched into TV, radio and Film in much the same way as its 25th century counterpart. In contrast, however, Flash Gordon has become more celebrated for its "campy" qualities than for its contribution to culture at large. This paved the way for the 1974 semi-pornographic parody "Flesh Gordon".

The franchise follows the adventures of Flash Gordon, for whom the series was named, and his companions Dr. Hans Zarkov and Dale Arden. The story begins with Dr. Zarkov's invention of a rocket ship, in which the three of them make a journey to the planet Mongo, where they are stranded. Mongo is inhabited by a number of different cultures, some quite technologically advanced, that have been falling one by one under the domination of the vicious tyrant Ming the Merciless.

In 2004, the franchise rights were obtained by Stephen Sommers (Director of Van Helsing and The Mummy), and rumours have put this series back on the charts. At this time, though, no cast information is available, though a 2008 release date has been rumoured.

Check out our inventory of all things Flash Gordon

Star Trek
If Buck Rogers popularized the exploration of space, then Star Trek made it cool. Beginning with the short-lived original series starring William Shatner and Leonard Nemoy, and continuing on to this very moment as a script for a new movie is being developed, Star Trek has become a phenomenon to be reckoned with to say the least.

The series is largely allegorical, putting its altruistic characters in situations that test their moral convictions. The 1960's series generally approached issues of concern for the day (such as racism, technology and the role of the miniskirt in 23rd century society), while more current members of the franchise deal with more modern problems (i.e. political conflict, more technology, and the importance of leotards in the 24th century).

Having just celebrated its 40th anniversary on September 8th of this year, Star Trek has become one of the most influencial franchises in Science Fiction. It has inspired many of the technological innovations we enjoy today, such as cell phones and palm pilots. Going into its 41st year now, the series continues to boldly go where no one has ever gone before.

Check out our inventory of all things Star Trek

Battlestar Galactica
First introduced in 1978 in a bold effort to capitalize on the interest in science fiction generated by Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica has recently been resurrected from the halls of Sci-Fi Camp to become the hottest science fiction franchise currently available on TV.

The original franchise has enjoyed a cult following from its jumbled beginnings, and has been subjected to several attempts at revival. Not until the recent revisioning of the series, however, has it enjoyed any great commercial success. The new series, which carries the same basic storyline featuring the unceremonious near-destruction of the human race and the quest for the 13th colony of Earth, has been hailed as a breath of fresh air for a genre which many believe was getting a little tired after 30 years of recycling ideas from a few sources of inspiration.

The series is now growing with great momentum. A new series ("Caprica") is in the works that will take place 50 years before the Cylon attack, and is being touted as "television's first science fiction family saga." It is clear that this franchise has a lot more up its sleeve.

The 1978 Movie
The Original Series
The 2003 Miniseries
The New Series (Season 1)

Doctor Who
This programme is one of the longest-running science fiction television series in the world and also a significant part of British popular culture. It has been recognised for its imaginative stories, creative low-budget special effects during its original run and pioneering use of electronic music. The original series ran from 1963 to 1989, and the programme was successfully relaunched in 2005 with a new cast, including the 10th face of 'the doctor'.

Elements of the programme are well known and identifiable even to non-fans. In Britain and elsewhere, the show has become a cult television favourite on a par with Star Trek and has influenced generations of British television professionals, many of whom grew up watching the series. It has received recognition from critics and the public as one of the finest British television programmes, including a BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series in 2006.

Check out our inventory of all things Doctor Who

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