British SciFi vs American SciFi.

Torchwood: Children of Earth poster
Torchwood: Children of Earth poster

Over the weekend, Graeme McMillan over at had an interesting story that got me thinking about the differences between American science fiction and British science fiction television.

I can’t agree with any argument that disses Blake’s Seven while holding Quantum Leap up as an ideal of good science fiction – but there’s a certain ring of truth to it, nonetheless… For all of British TV’s genre successes, whether they’re Primeval, Being Human or even Jekyll, there’s always something weirdly… apologetic about them. It’s not just a question of budget and ill-conceived special effects – although, yes, that as well – but almost as if they can’t quite conjure up enough abandon to let themselves not be slightly embarrassed and/or arch about the whole thing.

For me, the difference has always been similar to the DC vs Marvel Universe argument.  British Sci Fi tv has always been fun, whimsical and adventurous, and American sci fi television has always played in real world themes but in fantastic settings. This is probably why the Fox attempted revival of “Doctor Who” in 1996 didn’t work. It was trying to put a character in American Science Fiction, making him half human and all of that business which, so far, I think hasn’t even been touched by the hugely successful British restart.  And I love the revival, I get hives thinking about a new episode its so good and so fun.

Where American Science Fiction, like Marvel, puts you in a fantastic setting but works in themes that are very much the real world with real people concerns. You know, literally, “Your Universe” as Marvel pushes.  “The Twilight Zone” literally started this thought process, and it continued to today with “Battlestar Galactica.”  The idea behind American Science Fiction plays with things that are reminiscent of today’s issues but putting it in a fantastic setting.

Where British, like DC, just puts it in a fantastic, completely unrealistic setting and just gets more and more fantastic and out there.  I mean the season ender of “Doctor Who” season four was the TARDIS towing multiple planets back to their original locations. Sorry, that just can’t be done in American television without being totally laughable.

Though apparently where these two roads meet is in “Torchwood.” According to some of the early reviews of the Children of Earth miniseries that aired in the UK this past week shows a combination of these two thoughts. I guess, I’ll just have to wait with baited breath until it airs on BBC America on July 20th.

Also, for the record, I’m a Doctor Who guy over Star Trek.

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