The futures of the past

GorT recently found a Popular Mechanics list of the 50 greatest “sci-fi” television shows. Most of the shows listed were aired after I quit watching teevee, but there are a few I can comment on.

41. Battle of the Planets — I bought the first disc of Gatchaman to fill out an order a few years ago. It’s of great historical importance in the development and popularization of anime and all that, but Gatchaman Crowds is better.

36. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century — Dumb, but it had what’s-her-name in spandex during the first season.

35. Cowboy Bebop — A great classic, I suppose, but I lost interest after a few episodes. Yoko Kanno’s soundtrack almost redeems it. My recommendation: skip the DVDs and track down the CDs.

31. Lost in Space — A dumb show containing the germ of a better one. Keep the Dr. Smith and the robot, add Will Robinson to tweak Smith’s vestigial conscience and generate plots, dump the rest of crew, and you’d have a pretty good sf comedy. The actual show was watchable only when Smith was onscreen with the robot.

30. Battlestar Galactica (1978-79) — I watched the first episode or two. I was embarrassed for Lorne Greene.

27. Red Dwarf — I never saw any of this, but I read a couple of the books. They’re okay, but Douglas Adams did that sort of thing better.

26. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex — I haven’t watched all of it, but what I’ve seen is very good. And there’s Yoko Kanno’s music as well.

11. Firefly — I watched a couple of episodes while visiting friends a few years ago. I might watch the rest sometime.

10. The Outer Limits — When it was good, it was great, or so I thought when I was eleven. I haven’t seen it since.

8. Neon Genesis Evangelion — What the hell is this doing in this list at all, let alone in the top ten? I watched the first disc of Anno’s neurotic fantasy, and I’d like those two hours of my life back. The only character who isn’t repellent is the penguin.

7. The Prisoner — I never saw the final episode. I have Thomas Disch’s novelization somewhere in my piles of books. Someday I may read it.

6. Star Trek (the original series) — A favorite when I was young, despite my contempt for Kirk.

5. The Twilight Zone — Another favorite. Unfortunately, it was seldom broadcast at a time when I could watch it.

1. Dr. Who — I saw a few episodes during the Tom Baker era. It was okay.

The Popular Mechanics article is missing a qualification: all the shows listed were broadcast in America. A true list of the best science fiction shows of all time broadcast anywhere would have to include these:

Shin Sekai Yori — What are the consequences of a change to human nature? What is human?

Serial Experiments Lain — Cyberpunk meets ontology; Teilhard’s noösphere gone wrong.

Dennou Coil — Augmented reality and kids. Imagine Ghost in the Shell as done by Miyazaki.

Shingu — A friendly town with a secret, kids with strange powers and invaders from space. And they’re all genuinely likable, except for the killer robots.

And perhaps these:

Oh! Edo Rocket — Aliens beasts and rockets in 19th-century Edo, with repression and corruption, slapstick and horror, and a faux Glenn Miller soundtrack.

Kaiba — You can take a person’s memories from one body and put them in another. What could possibly go wrong?

Mouretsu Pirates — High school girls and space pirates. It was directed by Tatsuo Sato, the man responsible for Shingu. As with Shingu, the story is good but the ultimate value of the show is in the characters whom you enjoy spending time with.

Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita — The twilight of the human race, with fairies.

… and probably several others I’ve forgotten or haven’t seen. There are undoubtedly worthy shows from other countries as well that I’ve never heard of.

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