To Boldly Go Backward Again, by Mike Gold
They say there’s nothing new under the sun. Well, now I’m saying that as well, but I’m saying it about science fiction.
S-F was supposed to look forward and, at its best, teach us something about today’s human condition. You can look forward by looking into the past, but you’re not looking forward by burying your nose in your belly button. Sadly, our popular fiction has been spending the past decade or so snorting lint.
After a lengthy rest, Star Wars returned to us with a three-part prequel renown for its tedium and lameness. Star Trek countered with Enterprise, which told us the secret origin of a starship. It was pretty good – after two exceptionally lame seasons. At least those who hung in there were slightly rewarded. Boosted by the enormous success of the show’s concept (it was the most short-lived of those that followed the original series), now Paramount is polishing up a “major” motion picture about Kirk, Spock, McCoy and friends at boarding school. I think Mickey Rooney and Liza Minelli are playing instructors.
Now we see that our friends at Battlestar Galactica are doing a pilot for a spin-off show. No, make that another spin-back series. Entitled Caprica, instead of capitalizing on all the careful and intricate concepts established in the original series (itself a remake of one of the worst S-F shows of all time), it’s set 50 years prior. The big deal: the Cylons are created. I’ll bet you didn’t know the Cylons were created. Certainly not, if you hadn’t watched either of the original shows.
As a comic book enthusiast and producer, I can hardly bitch. I don’t mind the clever and occasional continuity implant – I’d add “if it’s well done,” but that’s the standard by which everything should be judged. But we’ve been strip-mining our own past so intensely we’ve turned our own continuity barren.
There’s no more suspense. Nobody dies forever. Nothing that happened before is safe from terminal reinterpretation. Ignoring continuity points that simply did not work is fine – Roy Thomas’s reinterpretation of Atlas Comics World War II stories so that they fit into the Marvel Universe comes to mind. But we need to know that the continuity game is on the square. It ain’t.
And so it goes in the S-F media racket. In the new Star Trek movie, will Kirk, Spock and McCoy get into jeopardy? It’d be pretty boring if they don’t, but we know they’ll survive because we watch Boston Legal. Same thing for Caprica. The Adama family will not get wiped out; little Billy Adama will make out just swell.
As for Star Wars… well, the most recent development on that property was the Robot Chicken special. I don’t think it actually revised or rebooted anything, and it was a damn sight better than any of the recent movies.
I’m tired of seeing a new dress on an old hag. It’s time to show us some new moves. For a change, let’s boldly go where no one has gone before. Again.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.