Science Fiction Television

By Prchal, Tim | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), June 2005 | Go to article overview

Science Fiction Television


Prchal, Tim, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


Science Fiction Television M. Keith Booker. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004.

In a sense, television is a very appropriate medium for science fiction. While TV technology pervades and impacts human life, it is only fair for this medium to make room for a genre that often explores the pervasive impact of technology on human life. Indeed, beginning in the early 1950s with shows such as Tales of Tomorrow and Tom Corhett, Space Cadet, and continuing into the early twenty-first century with Star Trek: Enterprise and Star gate: SGl, television has made science fiction something of a programming staple. M. Keith Booker's Science Fiction Television offers a chronological overview of the dominant series broadcast in the United States and Britain. Though Booker touches on the historical contexts in which these programs were first viewed, the volume primarily introduces readers to the programs themselves by summarizing key episodes and sketching main characters.

The first chapter, "Early Predecessors to The Twilight Zone: The Birth of Science Fiction Television," does a fine job of looking at nonhterary antecedents, starting with silent film and moving on to the relationship between radio and television. Here, Booker mentions that the thoughtful, mature program Tales of Tomorrow actually started on TV and went to radio, the reverse of what one might expect of the relationship of those two media. (Curiously, the children's science fiction shows Tom Corbett, Space Cadet and Space Patrol similarly stepped from TV into radio.) However, any influence that prose-based science fiction-including important "pulp" magazines such as Amazing Stories, Galaxy, and Weird Tales-had on those early shows is not discussed. Tom Corbett, for instance, appeared on the page and on the screen, and though Booker credits the 1930s Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers movie serials as being models for the TV series featuring those characters, he does not mention the original comic strips that had established the main characters, the settings, the plots, and even some of the basic visual imagery. …

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