Sci-Fi Film Marathon, Saturday 5th July-Sunday 6th July, 2014

I’ve said several times before that Sundays at our house have become a favourite of mine for sci-fi on TV and DVD, so much so that I’ve taken to referring to the day as “Sci-Fi Sunday”. Well, this weekend was no different, with the local UK Freeview television channels coming up with the goods yet again, airing some excellent sci-fi films over the weekend. The only unusual exception was Channel 5, which most weekends has at least one sci-fi film on, but not this time around (but lots of Disney stuff on today, for anyone who’s into that kinda thing).

The additional plus this weekend was that Saturday was almost as good as Sunday, for a change. This week it’s not just “Sci-Fi Sunday”, but an entire “Sci-Fi Weekend”, during which Film4 hosted no less than four classic sci-fi films, and Channel 4, ITV2 and BBC Three aired one each. Add to that the two sci-fi DVDs that I watched with my friends on Sunday night, and that amounts to quite a sci-fi marathon over two days.

Unfortunately the BBC channels, particularly the two big ones, BBC One and BBC Two, are very poor when it comes to airing any kind of sci-fi, preferring instead to aim for the lowest common denominator and concentrate on an unrelenting garbage diet of soaps, sport and reality TV. I think the BBC considers Doctor Who to be their absolute limit for sci-fi these days, and tough luck if we want anything else. When there’s no Doctor Who on the BBC channels, there’s very rarely any sci-fi at all. If it wasn’t for the news or documentaries, I wouldn’t watch BBC One or Two at all. The same for BBC Three. Aside from a couple of episodes of Doctor Who on Friday evenings, it’s complete crap.

Once again, Film4 was the undisputed champ, with two sci-fi films on Saturday, and two more on Sunday. Saturday afternoon started off well, with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). Then we did a bit of channel-hopping over to Channel 4 for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), and then it was back to Film4 again for some Arnie in Conan the Barbarian (1982). Sunday afternoon saw Film4 picking up where they left off on Saturday night, with The Phantom (1996), running straight into Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). The usual Sunday evening visitors started drifting in by that point, so once the Star Trek V film was over, we switched from TV to DVD, with the first part (of three) of the Sci-Fi Channel’s excellent Dune mini-series (2000).

Then it was back to the TV for another film. Given what I said earlier about the BBC channels being very bad for sci-fi, I almost died of shock when BBC Three actually aired Tron: Legacy (2010). This was followed soon after on ITV2 by The Matrix Reloaded (2003), the very good second film in the Matrix Trilogy. Finally, and taking us from late Sunday night into early Monday morning, it was another DVD, the much underrated fourth film in the Alien series, Alien: Resurrection (1997). I’ve heard many people whinge about how bad they think this film is. I disagree with them. I always enjoy it when it is re-run on TV.

I’m slinking off to bed now at just after 4am, exhausted, but very satisfied after two days of great sci-fi films. Here’s looking forward to next weekend! 🙂

A Quiet Night In…

Tuesday nights have always traditionally been visiting night at our house, something which we all look forward to eagerly. Several friends arrive shortly after tea-time, and we spend the entire evening until 2 or 3am watching DVDs and stuffing our faces. This has been going on for almost twenty years now, and is one of the most enjoyable nights of the week.

This week, we had a bumper session of DVDs for our viewing pleasure. We started off with several episodes from Season 3 of the classic British sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf, which is always guaranteed to have us laughing our heads off. After that, we stopped for “refreshments”, before sitting back to enjoy The Animatrix, which showcases half a dozen excellent animated stories, each one closely tied in with, and helping to flesh out, the background universe of the three Matrix films. The style of animation in all of the stories varies widely, from ultra-realistic (in the style of Final Fantasy), through animé, to more “comic booky” and cartoonish. All of the stories have excellent scripts, and, to be honest, I prefer The Animatrix to any of the Matrix films, especially the second and third movies, which I thought were a big disappointment after the first film.

Another break for refreshments, and we were on to the climax of the evening, Serenity. I think that this is a very good film, but, then, I’ve always enjoyed Firefly, an excellent sci-fi series which was shamefully cut short by the networks after only thirteen episodes. The series was never really given a chance to fulfill its considerable potential, a fate that has befallen far too many good sci-fi series over the years.

The US network ratings system is grossly unfair and inefficient. It doesn’t give any real chance for a new TV series to warm up and gain an audience, and the network execs have always been prejudiced against sci-fi anyway. Most new sci-fi series are given little chance to succeed, and if they aren’t a big ratings success right from the start, they get the chop almost immediately.

So many potentially great sci-fi series have never really got out of the starting blocks because of this pathetically short-sighted approach to producing TV series, as can be seen as most of them pick up large audiences of faithful fans in re-runs, long after production has stopped on the show. Firefly was killed before it had a chance to really show us what it could do.

Overall, a great night was had by all. Here’s hoping that next Tuesday is as good. 🙂