The Rise and Fall of Science Fiction on Television

Enjoy this fabulous guest post. I’m one of those nerds who enjoy good science fiction. šŸ™‚


When considering what the future might hold, many people think of science fiction, those fantastical visions that we’ve created of the far-flung future where technology has advanced to a point that seems magical to use. Science Fiction gives people hope in a future. So why exactly has the popularity of Science Fiction based television shows decreased so dramatically in recent years? And what exactly, if anything could be done to stem the tide of science fiction shows, one after another being canned after only a season (or less)?

The Ascent of Science Fiction

To find why science fiction died on television, we need to go back and discover why it initially came into being. During the 1950s and 1960s, the world was enjoying a time of exponential technological development, on a very noticeable level. While this development was prevalent throughout culture, nowhere was it more noticeable than in the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. This extremely fast expansion outside existing boundaries instilled this massive and overarching belief in the possibility that mankind represented, and spawned television shows like Star Trek, which ended up pushing outside societal boundaries in and of itself.

The Fall

And then, after making it to the moon, our dreams of space as a society collapsed. As funding for space travel further space development shifted to military programs, society as a whole realized that we were not going to be able to sustain this exponential rate of technological development, and people became somewhat cynical about science fiction, forcing a bit of a “recession” in science fiction TV.

Short-lived Resurgence

After a while though, the United States finally went back to space in a big way during the 80s with the Space Shuttle, and sci-fi television exploded back onto the market, with a new Star Trek series, The Next Generation, leading the charge. Science Fiction came back in a huge way to the television market during this period, and at one point they even considered building a full sized starship Enterprise in Las Vegas to act as a tourist attraction.

The death of this wave is actually not directly attributable to real life scientific developments though, and we’re still sitting at the tail end of it. What more or less happened was the genre was just milked dry. So many science fiction television shows were being produced and aired at the same time that the market became saturated to the point at which no one could make an advertising profit.

So how exactly do you bring Science Fiction television back into the forefront? Honestly, I don’t know if it is possible. The few science fiction television shows left that are considered good by critics and the general public, like Fringe, get very mediocre ratings, which, while enough to keep the TV show alive, are not making a huge profit. To realistically bring back Science Fiction TV to television you need to be able to market to people that aren’t your traditional science fiction fans, but by doing that you risk alienating your main market. It’s a very tricky thing to try and do, but to bring back sci-fi television, it needs to be done.

Matthew Warren is a science fiction fan who runs Sci-Fi Stuff a website that offers gifts and collectibles from some of TV’s bestĀ science fiction series.