William A. Hainline: Reality Engineer

The Blog Of A Science Fiction Writer Living Just A Half-An-Hour Into The Future . . . Or Maybe, Y'Know, An Hour And Some Change. Sci-fi, politics, visual arts, music, writing, fantasy, and general weirdness. NSFW. Probably not safe for YOU, either, really. But don't let that stop you.

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A Few Favorite Things

 

The world is full of media. Books, movies, TV shows, music, comics, video games . . . they all compete for our affections, our love. And there is so little time to go around! Luckily, there are people like me around to tell you what you should like and not like, what's awesome and what's not. Right? Right! And you should listen to me, because I'm right. I'm always right. I'm never wrong. I can't be wrong. I'm infallible. I'm totally the most infallible authority that ever existed. I'm like the Wizard of freakin' Oz, man. When I say something is good, it's like the best thing that ever existed . . . it's beyond good. It's extraordinary. To adapt the mannerism of our misfit, idiotic Moron in Chief, nobody is better at telling you what's good than me. Believe me. So without further ado, allow me to unveil a few of my favorite things in this world, a few of my own personal loves in the arena of the mass media. These are the things I believe that no sane human being can afford to miss out on, because they are, I think, essential works of art in some way. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present, my Personal Top Fives:

 

TOP FIVE TV SHOWS

 

5. STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE

 

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was, for its time, a fairly groundbreaking show, both in terms of television and in terms of Star Trek. It was made in a time when a lot of science fiction did not go for ongoing storylines (the honor of being the first show to have an ongoing story, however, goes to Babylon 5, mentioned later on in this list), especially Star Trek shows, which had, up until this point, all favored a "reset button" at the end of every episode that conveniently tied up every loose end. Not so with DS9. No, on DS9, things had consequences. Relationships evolved, events had ramifications, the stories continued beyond the individual episodes. Characters had depth, and continued to grow beyond each individual episode, developing long arcs over the course of the show, going on journeys of growth and development as they went along. This was new territory for scifi television and for Trek, too. Also, it was new territory for Star Trek in terms of the overall tone of the show. It was not lighthearted nor silly, nor did it have the same spirit of squeaky-clean optimism or general conviviality that Star Trek was known for . . . No. Usually, Star Trek took place in a world where everybody got along swell, and where personal foibles and problems were kept to a minimum; personal struggles were tamped down and the threats were always external. Not so on DS9. No. On DS9, the characters had personal demons. They had problems. They had worries, fears, all-consuming passions and worries, and deep flaws and imperfections. They had failings, and they often didn't live up to their own ideals. They often fell short of their goals. They did not meet with each other's approval. They could be frustrated, isolated, alone, afraid, and often lost and searching for answers. They could also feel joy, lust, betrayal, and anger. And they didn't sugar coat anything . . . and neither did the show. The show showed us the gruesome face of violence and warfare without flinching or pulling any punches, which was something else that Star Trek had always shied away from. And it also wasn't afraid to get downright political and in-your-face with its messages — even tackling race and sexuality and religion — which, up to that point, were topics that Trek had always held at arm's length. Hell, scifi itself had always held those topics at arm's length. Only Babylon 5 had dared to tread those waters up until this point (and it did a spectacular job of that; see below). But DS9 did it with every bit as much style and grace as B5 did, and they did it in the Star Trek universe, which is saying something. It was cool, it was hip, and hey, it had Captain Benjamin Sisko, who was one hell of a smooth operator — probably the best of the Starfleet Captains.

The premise of DS9 is thus: Commander Benjamin Sisko is a Starfleet Commander whose wife, Jennifer, died when his ship was attacked at the Battle of Wolf 359 (when he faced Captain Picard in battle, after Picard was taken captive by the Borg). He is assigned to Deep Space Nine, formerly Terrok Nor, a Cardassian space station in orbit of the planet Bajor, which hopes to join the Federation soon. The planet is torn apart by civil strife after having recently survived Cardassian occupation for over 60 years. Sisko does not like his new position, and at first, he resents being assigned there. He first gets to know his crew: 

if you ask me. DS9 will forever live as the best of the Star Trek series, the one that broke the mold and made history with just how damn good it was, and that probably made the most of Gene Roddenberry's bold vision of the future.

 

4. DOCTOR WHO

 

Doctor Who is like a drug. Once you watch it once, you're hooked forever. It's a fun show. It is a show about — in a nutshell — as late show host Craig Ferguson said so succinctly and brilliantly — about "the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism." And as showrunner Stephen Moffat said, it's really mostly a fairy tale about a madman with a box.

The premise behind Doctor Who is thus: