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Masters of Science Fiction: What Went Wrong?

The 4th episode of Masters of Science Fiction aired this past weekend. This was the final episode to be aired, even though two more were filmed.

Like the ones that preceded it, I thought the episode was uninspired, too long and, ultimately, just plain boring. And that’s the general consensus elsewhere. The only reason I gave it a chance was because of the high-caliber talent attached to the project and the fact that they were based on some short stories by big name authors.

So what happened?

I have not read the source material…did it stink because it was adapted poorly? Or was it poor material to begin with? (Did Heinlein and Ellison let us down?) Was it too little material stretched out to cover an hour?

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

11 Comments on Masters of Science Fiction: What Went Wrong?

  1. Personally, I think anthology series went out with the Twilight Zone.

  2. The last story by Ellison was a poor choice for a show. I assume he wanted to portray a social message but it fell flat. The acting was good in my opinion and directing was decent, but the story itself was boring.

    So my opinion is that the show fell down because of the choice of material. Twilight Zone-style shows will work today if the material is solid.

  3. Hmm, I wonder if there is a post here on what stories the readership thinks would make a good TV episode?

  4. I agree with scottsh. Of all the great short science fiction out there, I think they used ones that just weren’t that interesting. I own many short story collections by Harlan Ellison, but was hard -pressed to find the one used on this show. ( It certainly wasn’t in “The Essential Ellison”.) I finally found it on Fictionwise as a download, read it, and was far from impressed. (I believe it was an early work.) Maybe they used stories they could buy the rights to “on the cheap”? I can’t speak about the other stories because I haven’t read them.

  5. If there is not episodic content to get you to become interested in the characters then the only thing left is STORY STORY STORY.

    They just were not good stories. Not a single one sucked me in to the story.

  6. Matte Lozenge // August 27, 2007 at 5:13 pm //

    For an outstanding example of a standalone sf short, look no further than They’re Made Out of Meat. Of course, presenting a concise and memorable story takes skill, talent and a bit of daring (not to be confused with a willingness to be gratuitously crude or gross).

  7. They picked lousy stories. They had access to great talent in all aspects. The actors, the directors, the original authors- all of it was good. But they picked stories that have some appeal to sci-fi fans, but little to the larger population. The Heinlein story was one I didn’t recognize at first (and I’m a fan of his) but understand that it was more of a social commentary saying “people suck”. The last one had the same message. Not exactly the story most people want to get from their TV time. Most people want their escapist tv viewing to be positive. If they want the message “people suck” they can watch the news. It is a good message to give as a sort of cautionary tale, but you sandwich it in with more positive stuff. This series didn’t do that.

  8. My sister (who is not a scifi fan in particular, though I’m working on her) called me up laughing, and told me to hurry and put the show on. She started describing the bad dialog and insane-looking mutants, and I thought she was talking about an episode of MST3K. Needless to say, I had a good laugh too, before shutting it off 10 minutes later.

  9. I have a friend who has never read science fiction. She “wouldn’t understand it”. She watched all four shows and thought they were “wondeful”. She has asked me for some Sf books she might start out with. I haven’t seen the shows myself. Maybe they seem good if you’re unaware of what excellent SF can be.

  10. I tried watching the first one, but I didn’t like the “look” of it. It was like watching a stage play, kind of claustrophobic.

    I then tried the second one, but it had that look too. I don’t know if it was the medium used to film it or what, but I didn’t enjoy watching it.

  11. I think TV either “gets” SF or they don’t.

    This was obviously a case where they didn’t understand it and chose awfully dull stories.

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