Science Fiction Television: A History

By M. Keith Booker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3

Lean Years to Star Trek: The Next Generation: Science Fiction Television Is Reborn

The cancellation of the original Star Trek series marked the beginning of a relatively slack period in the production of SFTV, even as Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), with its unprecedented special effects, had just demonstrated as never before the capabilities of visual-media science fiction to produce astonishment and wonder in its audiences. Indeed, the production of new series was so slow that, if Star Trek was ultimately the most important science fiction series of the 1960s, it was probably also the most important series of the 1970s, reemerging in syndication with a popularity it had never experienced in its first broadcast run. Otherwise, the most successful American science fiction series of the 1970s were The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-79) and its spin-off, The Bionic Woman (1976-78), though these series were only vaguely science fictional, relying more on action-adventure plots typically derived from international rivalries related to the cold war. Meanwhile, seemingly promising SFTV series such as Planet of the Apes (canceled after only fourteen episodes on CBS beginning in 1974) went nowhere.

In the 1970s, cold war fears were on the wane, even as the culmination of the race to the moon in 1969 lessened America's fascination with the space race, The possibilities (and threats) offered by science were thus much less in the public imagination than they had been earlier. The lack of American SFTV production in the early 1970s can be attributed to other factors as well. In the meantime, events

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