Addicted though I am to almost all types of TV and film, Sci-Fi always has been and probably always will be my first love. Undoubtedly that is to do with my technical bent, but must also be the wide open opportunities the genre provides for new stories, allegorical commentary on contemporary or historical situations or visions of potentially better, or worse, futures.
When the day finally comes that I find the perfect solution for indexing and categorising my DVD collection I will surely find that the largest percentage of it is taken up with Sci-Fi. On the occasions that I am looking for something to just throw in the DVD player and enjoy it is Sci-Fi that I turn to most often. Like over the weekend when I had time in the flat to myself, always an opportunity to watch something with the volume cranked right up. What better to enjoy at ear drum splitting volumes than a good old fashioned Sci-Fi romp. Why is it then that I am always disappointed? Why is it that I stand and stare, searching the collection for almost an hour, never satisfied with a choice as my eyes hover on any particular title?
As I scan the spines of my collection, as my sight rests on each box, the whole story of that show or movie flits through my mind. Like a flick book going at a thousand frames a second. In that moment I will decide no and move on through the collection. Arriving at the end I will usually start looking at random points on the self, thinking that there must be something that I have missed, that I have forgotten that I own. Some perfect piece of Sci-Fi that will satisfy my desires.
Those desires are for the two things that I want most from Sci-Fi on screen. I would settle, and mostly do have to, for one of those things done well, but I still burn for something that does both perfectly. What is it that I want? I want space opera, involved and emotional character driven plotting, and I want massive and intricate space battles that go on and on.
There's plenty in Sci-Fi, and my collection, that offer one or the other done well, some offer both to near perfect levels, but none of this satisfies me. Star Trek, in all incarnations, is weak on both points (yet it is of my childhood and wonderful in so many ways that I forgive and love it). Some standout episodes come close, especially in the two-parters (Improbable Cause/The Die is Cast spring instantly to mind).
Star Wars, through all its episodes, would in an early, more innocent age, have provided all that I want. But now it all seems too simple, the operatic story to small and the battles to short and without depth. The opening space battle to Episode 3 would be a winner, but the comic stylings of Obi-Wan and Anakin left me caring little for them by that point in the saga.
Battlestar Galactica shows promise, and is fresh in my mind having just watched the latest season 3 episode, but the space battles are too fast cut, to confined to a single aspect, to small conflicts. Can it ever reach the heights that I would like with such a small fleet on one side or will some maguffin always allow for an out for Adama, Thrace and the others.
The list goes on and on. Babylon 5, high on the operatic scale and moments of battle wonder but not enough. Alien/s/3/resurection, great films (each in their own way) but low on the 2 axis that I required. The Fifth Element, some literal opera but little else for me.
To me space opera should involve stories with galaxy spanning impact, fate of the race stuff played out in the relationships of great characters. Near to pure good versus evil stuff. Characters I truly love, characters I truly hate. Heroism that could end in destruction. I want to care, want to sit on the edge of my seat with worry and then leap up in celebration, or collapse with sadness. That's what I want the story to do for me, I want to feel it in my throat.
While the above could be offered by any genre, and is in wonderful ways, my other requirement can only be provided by Sci-Fi. When I talk about "massive and intricate space battles that go on and on" what I want is a scale that is almost unbelievable. I want a whole hour of a space battle, that we have been brought to through the operatic story that I described before. But I don't just want to see explosion after explosion, lasers flashing all over the place. I want every moment of the battle to have meaning. Each bank of a ship, each impact to have resonance to the story. To see the battle from many perspectives, each one that I have cause to want to see. But not the Bay style flash cutting between them, more standard story based editing, moving from one strand of the battle to another in a directed way.
All I ask is for just one film, one episode of a series to embody the perfection of these two things and I will be happy to watch it again and again and again. Never more to complain that there's nothing to put on during those times I want the experience to flow over me. If I could have only one selfish wish this would be it.