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Get Your Frakking Religion out of my Science Fiction

March 29, 2009

Once upon a time in the good old days when cars were made in Detroit, skirts were short and everyone hated the Irish; a Science Fiction TV Show meant you would be watching a series focusing on science. SCIENCE. And that was usually the way it went. When James T. Kirk encountered a religion, it was usually a computer programming people to be ignorant, so naturally he blew it up, had sex with some of the locals and flew away faster than light before he could be hit with a paternity suit.

And do you know why he did it? Because James T. Kirk knew what Ron Moore didn’t, that Religion and Science Fiction don’t mix. The great adventure of space is space itself. Take a look at a Nebula, a black hole, the entire Milky Way galaxy. Study a pulsar, discover alien life and alternate forms of evolution. You didn’t need religious awe, when you had the awe of the amazing universe around you.

Then all that began to change. George Lucas brought in technomysticism, Battlestar Galactica mixed together Mormonism into a frontier travel metaphor. None of that was too bad. Yet. Because Science Fiction on TV was still basically Science Fiction. It might be bad, it might be good, but it was still basically about exploring and experience strange things.

The end began with Babylon 5 and DS9. The X-Files played their part, but it was hardly the series to influence the rest of SciFi TV. Instead B5 and DS9 set the standard for turning Science Fiction TV into Pseudo-Religious gibberish. Henceforth every Starship Captain would also double as The Chosen One, with a great prophesied destiny, e.g. Andromeda. And if it wasn’t him, it would be someone else. There would be tests of faith, discussions on the meaning of religion and none of it would matter a damn.

When Battlestar Galactica ended with the “revelation” that the whole damn thing had been orchestrated by two “angels”, it was the ridiculous but inevitable end that reflected the kind of stupidity that Ron Moore had brought to DS9. Deep Space Nine began with Sisko coming on board and learning to communicate with aliens who perceived time in a whole other way. That was one of DS9’s most intriguing episodes. By the time the series had ended, half the cast was worshiping the aliens as gods, and Sisko had been revealed to be their spawn with a mission to fight the other aliens, who were “evil”. This on a Star Trek series, which had never even accepted that a race was hopelessly evil.

That was what Ron Moore’s injection of religion into DS9 accomplished. It turned Science Fiction into religion. It turned the idea of making contact with an alien race that saw the world differently, into taking their statements on faith, viewing everything that happened as inevitable and outright worshiping them.

I don’t have to tell you what it did to Battlestar Galactica. At least there Ron Moore was honest about wanting to get rid of Science Fiction in favor of religious twaddle. So we had a non-SF series about a bunch of starships created by a society that still drives hummers, uses projectile weapons and corded telephones… all dedicated to the idea of accepting religion and turning into primitive savages by giving up technology.

This is your Science Fiction. This is your Science Fiction on Religion. Any questions?

The worst part of it is that after all that, none of these attempts to inject religion into SF TV actually tell us anything new about either religion or Science Fiction. The idea of aliens who experience time differently than we do is an interesting one. The idea that the Captain is a half-divinity whose mission is to fight evil sparkly aliens by jumping into a pit of fire or something… well it’s not an idea at all. It’s just a collection of badly cribbed cliches.

Science Fiction TV shows have nothing new to tell us about faith. Zero. Zippo. All they can do is dramatize it. And drive the Science Fiction out completely.

It’s time to actually bring back Science Fiction to TV. And I don’t mean Caprica airing on the SyFy channel. I mean Space. The big adventure. Worlds unexplored. Lifeforms that are strange and different than us. The big questions. And to do that, you’ll have to get your frakking religion out of my Science Fiction.

I don’t want to hear any more stories about Faith, or Prophecies or some idiot Hollywood producer’s idea of religion that he picked up by watching an episode of Oprah. Enough. I am not watching them anymore. I want Science Fiction. I want Robert Heinlein, I want Isaac Asimov, I want Arthur C. Clarke. I want the kind of vision of humanity’s technological future that Science Fiction used to inspire.

If you want to tell a story about religion, wait till your next confession.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Heavy Armor permalink
    June 14, 2009 7:18 am

    Wow.

    I found this entry completely by accident. And it happens to encapsulate just about everything that is wrong with modern “Science Fiction.”

    Congratulations on a concise and thought-out post.

  2. drnormalblog permalink*
    June 25, 2009 4:19 pm

    Thanks. Seemed like it needed to be said.

  3. Zeppelingraphics permalink
    January 29, 2010 12:22 pm

    yep, couldn’t agree more.

    The thing that pissed me off most about BSG was that for the first 2-3 seasons there seemed to be some kind of balance between rational explanations for events and the religious hokum. It wasn’t clear whether Moore would go one way or the other with the ultimate explanation of things. Yes, characters believed in prophecy etc. but I always suspected the rug might be pulled from under those characters later on.

    Ultimately it seems I was just seeing what I wanted to see, and Moore had the spooky, simplistic agenda right from the start! Very dissapointing.

  4. June 20, 2010 8:14 am

    I have a lot of sympathy for your position. I think it’s possible for religion to be interesting and thought-provoking in Sci-Fi. eg, We expect people to eat, sleep and love, so it’s allowing for a possible world where spirituality (however ignorant) might be part of life.

    I’m thinking Frank Herbert’s Dune, or The Sparrow, or some of Greg Bear’s stuff that leans towards “atheist spirituality” or certainly evokes awe.

    Problem is, they’re all books. TV and film probably has a hard job doing something subtle so they tend to go for the crass.

    Remember when Deanna Troy (ST: Next Generation) was all “Woooo! I Feeeeeeeel something” in the first series? “I am a new age channeler… where’s my crystals? Oooh, we’re flying through Virgo.” Made me wanna puke. So glad they toned that down afterwards.

    Good blog, well written:

    “When James T. Kirk encountered a religion, it was usually a computer programming people to be ignorant, so naturally he blew it up, had sex with some of the locals and flew away faster than light before he could be hit with a paternity suit.”

    Bahahaa! Brilliant.

    Jonathan from Spritzophrenia

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