To Boldly Go Backward Again, by Mike Gold

Mike Gold

ComicMix's award-winning and spectacularly shy editor-in-chief Mike Gold also performs the weekly two-hour Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, and on iNetRadio, (search: Hit Oldies) every Sunday at 7:00 PM Eastern, rebroadcast three times during the week – check above for times and on-demand streaming information.

You may also like...

12 Responses

  1. Peter David says:

    It's hardly restricted to films. Thomas Harris, rather than continue from the (admittedly abysmal) conclusion of "Hannibal," rolled backwards to give us "Hannibal Rising." Furthermore, SF stories–although they have conclusions (such as "Star Wars") often have such copious backstory that the creators never have the opportunity to use that prequels allow them to lay out that vision for the audience. The "Star Wars" prequels didn't suffer from being prequels so much as they did from the fact that in a quarter century Lucas did nothing to hone his craft as anything other than an FX maven. The original SW ("New Hope") was poorly written, stiffly acted and badly directed; it succeeded because audiences were blown away by the FX. If Lucas had, instead of a prequel, made Chapter 7 a few years ago, it STILL would have been poorly written, stiffly acted and badly directed, just as Chaps 1, 2 and 3 were. And audiences are a lot harder to impress with FX these days, so the weaknesses are more evident.What it comes down to is not lack of vision, but lack of talent. Personally, I'll take prequels crafted by the likes of J.J. Abrams or the BSG creative team over, say, a Lucas-created sequel any day.Plus let us remember that after "Babylon 5" JMS has given us exactly what you claim no one is doing: follow-ups set in the B5 universes, through ongoing series, TV movies and straight to video releases. I also disagree with your assertion that there is no suspense in a prequel. I mean, come on: On a weekly basis, did we really think Kirk, Spock and McCoy were going to snuff it? Of course not. We didn't need to see next week's episode to know that the main guys would be in it. It all depends upon the story. Did you ever see a production of "1776?" Or the current HBO "John Adams?" In both instances, you're on the edge of your seat during the final vote on whether the colonies should declare independence, even though–obviously–we know the outcome. As long as the creators have you in the moment, knowing the next moment doesn't lessen the suspense.PAD

    • Mike Gold says:

      "Personally, I'll take prequels crafted by the likes of J.J. Abrams or the BSG creative team over, say, a Lucas-created sequel any day." I share in your optimism, and it's hard for me to imagine either group turning out anything as tedious as the Star Wars implants. But both remain to be seen — unless you have read the Trek screenplay, which is quite possible. Are you writing the novelization? That's be great."Plus let us remember that after "Babylon 5" JMS has given us exactly what you claim no one is doing: follow-ups set in the B5 universes, through ongoing series, TV movies and straight to video releases." That's an overstatement of my position. My complaint is focused on the current preponderance of half-assed, tedious and boring implants, and not on future-looking sequels. Follow-ups that actually follow up can be quite interesting. ST:TNG and DS9, to name but two. AfterMASH, not so much."On a weekly basis, did we really think Kirk, Spock and McCoy were going to snuff it? Of course not. We didn't need to see next week's episode to know that the main guys would be in it." That's true for the mid-60s; today, we're somewhat more likely to see a major character get killed off. Assuming we dodge all the online spoilers."It all depends upon the story." Absolutely agreed, 100%. A great writer can take the dumbest idea and make it sing — of course, the odds that the rest of the Hollywood system will let it take flight are a bit remote, but that's a metaphor of a different color."Did you ever see a production of '1776?'" Yep. Loved it. Particularly the casting of blacklisted actors as American patriots. I think the suspension of disbelief is a bit different for historical drama, although it places a greater burden on the writer. But I quite agree: 1776 was a musical, and at no point did my worldview alter to believe that back in the day our founding fathers actually broke out in song during their deliberations. Although that would have been cool."Or the current HBO "John Adams?" Your opinion of this series appears to be higher than mine — three episodes in, and I think it's a bit of a historical whitewash. I'll reserve my opinion until the miniseries is over, but I didn't see any historical implants thus far (although I liked the implant in the middle of Monty Python's Life of Brian). There was one moment last night when Adams was coughing up a lung where I turned to Linda and said "Hey, wouldn't it be something if they killed him off?" I'd say more, but HBO has about another thousand reruns of the episode scheduled and I don't want to spoil it for anyone.

  2. Jess Nevins says:

    "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."And then you go on to discuss…what? Charlie Stross, Iain Banks, Ken MacLeod? Alasdair Reynolds, John Scalzi? What Baen, Tor, Pyr are putting out? The popularity of space opera versus the Mundanes? What the New Weird means for steampunk? The Hugo nominees?No. You talk about Star Trek, Galactica, and Star Wars. Let me try this out for you: "They say there’s nothing new under the sun. Well, now I’m saying that as well, but I’m saying it about comics." I'll then go on to discuss Smallville and the Batman and Superman movies. How's that sound to you?

  3. Rick Taylor says:

    The odd thing about the 'backward' tale is like watching Titanic.Unless the have something significant to add the history, you know the end of the story.

  4. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    The prequel has a long history in SF. Both the Darkover and Dorsai series went back and filled in ideas, and the books were so good many readers argue that newcomers to the series should read the prequels first. Done well, a prequel gives you a new set of characters to cheer for, and even if you know the ultimate end of the story, the bumps they put in the way should be enough to provide drama.But too often, the prequel is an easy way to return to the well. Those who expected great things from Dumb and Dumber 2: When Harry Met Lloyd were sadly disappointed.Staw Wars eps 1-3 gave us nothing of great import, or at least not until the third one. Even when they tried to fill in some of Boba Fett's story, history had already repeated again and the fans had fallen in love with a background character who was already dead; Darth Maul. The characters who were designed (by committee, I'm sure) to be the new hot marketables of the series (the Gungans) were met with universal derision and vitriol, and the guy they killed off was the new Fonzie. George can't pick 'em like he could before, can he?

    • Mike Gold says:

      Actually, as a DIRECTOR Lucas has had a fairly undistinguished career. American Graffiti, his original college version of THX 1138 (highly regarded but hardly professional), and the original Star Wars, and that's it. If that latter movie didn't create a lumbering monster his career would be akin to a fart in a blizzard. Of course, he managed to turn Star Wars into an opportunity to direct three more astonishingly forgettable sequels. Yes, I know, those movies raked in a lot of bucks and Hollywood is a business — but I said "distinguished." As a director, he'll be better remembered as a mogul and a technician with a genuine commitment to style over substance. And for a great appearance on The Colbert Report.

      • Vinnie Bartilucci says:

        George Lucas' career is unimpressive, I'll agree. As a mogul, as you say, he is one of the most influential and powerful people in hollywood, and very few people realize it. There's hardly a film that comes out of Hollywood he doesn't have a finger in. Can you name a film that HASN'T done sound work at Skywalker Sound, or had effects done by ILM or was projected in THX? I'm surprised he doesn't own a branded digital film projection process (considering he's such a proponent of it), but I'll bet he owns a good share of one of them. I'm betting Peter Jackson will take that route – WETA is already doing work for other companies, and I expect it to get the point that if you do work in New Zealand, you'll do work with Peter.

        • Mike Gold says:

          That's true — and that aspect of Lucas' career impresses the hell out of me.That, and the fact that he owns a lot of art by folks we work with.

  5. Elayne Riggs says:

    Well, here's the thing, not that I need to tell you: All these mass-market lint-examinations are to serve one purpose — the bottom line. Just about anyone investing big money into a SF TV show or movie is going to prefer a brand-name product, with as many elements as possible intact from the original. Nobody puts money into something new until that something new comes along, usually under the radar, and proves it can make money. Then we have umpteen films looking like 300 or Sin City. And because the money people are so wedded to the idea of familiarity, they feel a great need to mess with somewhat original stuff; witness what happened when the SciFi Channel got a hold of LeGuin's Earthsea books. If you want decent, original-feeling sf media stories based on a solid foundation but with actual forward movement, you have to look to the Beeb and the Dr. Who franchise.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Amen, Jess. Hollywood's always lagged about 25 years behind literary SF. The Matrix was radical for them, but it was a combination of Philip Dick's 1959 TIME OUT OF JOINT with Gibson's 1984 NEUROMANCER. I long for the day when Hollywood actually deals with contemporary literary works. Towards that end, I can applaud Mike's lambasting of the entertainment industry for drilling into their own pasts instead of moving forwards, even as I applaud you for challenging him to check out the real forward-thinking prose works before tarring all of SF with a cinematic brush! Lou Anders

  7. Jasmine Loucks says:

    Honestly, it all depends on the story. I know that's been said earlier, but that's what all of this boils down to.A great example of the prequel comes to us not in sci-fi, but rather in fantasy. "The Hobbit" is one of the greatest prequels for any kid or young adult because of the reader's lack of knowledge about the whole story. If you read the trilogy first (and between the ages of 3 and 13 I read both and had others read to me both so many times I have no idea what order I learned the stories in) the most you really know about what's going to happen in The Hobbit is that Bilbo, Gandalf, and Gollum all live and Bilbo gets the One Ring. But that's not really the important story in "The Hobbit," and therefore the first time you read it you don't know how it's going to end, even if you read it last.Basically, what I'm trying to say is that you can still tell a good story in a prequel, but if there's a heavily established back-story to a well established sci-fi franchise it's more difficult to make a good prequel that won't be too obvious (which I think is the whole point of this post). The trick is to make a prequel with a new story that we haven't heard before, with new characters we don't know anything about, and therefore open up a lot of the possibilities that are closed when making a prequel.Or you could just, you know, include lots of bits of refrences to the well-established part of the franchise so that at least the fans will come and laugh at those bits even if the rest of the series/mini-series/movie is trash.