Thursday, May 5, 2011

How important is an ending?

 Recently, while watching one of my favorite TV Sci-Fi shows, Farscape, on Netflix I realized that the show ended it's run without having a proper finale to wrap things up in a nice little package. Farscape went 88 episodes and a couple of made for TV movies but the series ended without conclusion.
 "Although the series was under contract for five seasons, it was abruptly cancelled after production had ended on its fourth season, effectively ending the series on a cliffhanger. Co-producer Brian Henson later secured the rights to Farscape, paving the way for a three-hour miniseries to wrap up the cliffhanger, entitled Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, which Henson directed himself. New webisodeshave been announced, but production has been repeatedly put on hold. A comic book miniseries was released in December 2008 that was in continuity with both the series and the hoped-for webisodes"
This little tid-bit of knowledge got me wondering. What other famous, liked or little known Sci-Fi shows ended abruptly? In today's world of VOD, Streaming content, wild-west style Internet environment (where if you label it fan-fiction you don't have to worry about being sued) and an entire cable channel dedicated to the genre, is it necessary for a show to end without conclusion?

World English Dictionary
science fiction
— na. 
a literary genre that makes imaginative use of scientificknowledge or conjecture
b. ( as modifier ): a science fiction writer

 I have compiled a short list of TV shows that have all ended without proper endings. I know I didn't list the most obscure or probably your personal favorite shows in this list. I'm not making a best of or top ten list. All I did was gather various shows that I thought represented different times in television history. Some of these were super popular and some you may have never heard of.

1. Firefly

       Firefly is an American space western television series created by writer and director Joss Whedon, under his      Mutant Enemy Productionslabel. Whedon served as executive producer, along with Tim Minear.
      The series is set in the year 2517, after the arrival of humans in a new star system, and follows the adventures  of the renegade crew ofSerenity, a "Firefly-class" spaceship. The ensemble cast portrays the nine characters who live on Serenity. Whedon pitched the show as "nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things".[1] The show explores the lives of some people who fought on the losing side of a civil war and others who now make a living on the outskirts of society, as part of the pioneer culture that exists on the fringes of their star system. In addition, it is a future where the only two surviving superpowers, the United States and China, fused to form the central federal government, called the Alliance, resulting in the fusion of the two cultures as well. According to Whedon's vision, "nothing will change in the future: technology will advance, but we will still have the same political, moral, and ethical problems as today."[2]
Firefly premiered in the United States on the Fox network on September 20, 2002. Despite high expectations for the Joss Whedon-led project, by mid-December 2002, Firefly had averaged only 4.7 million viewers per episode and was 98th in Nielsen ratings.[3] It wascanceled after eleven of the fourteen produced episodes were aired. Despite the series' relatively short life span, it received strong sales when it was released on DVD and has large fan support campaigns.[4][5] It won an Emmy in 2003 for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series. The post-airing success of the show led Whedon and Universal Pictures to produce a film based on the series, Serenity.[4]The Firefly franchise expanded from the series and film to other media including comics and a role-playing game. *
 Firefly went on to become a very popular comic book and movie that helped wrap up the adventures of the Serenity and her crew in a properly heroic fashion that all the fans wanted while leaving the door wide open to  sequels. Those sequels will follow up in many different formats including print, (comics,novels and fa-fiction.) Fan made short films and further Joss Whedon projects. Whedon has gone on to say "There's a time and place for everything, and I believe it’s called 'fan fiction'." Whedon fully embraces the concept of his conceptual properties being used and explored in various formats online. 
The following is an excerpt from an interview Whedon did while promoting Serenity. These few paragraphs are a good example of Whedon's grasp of his fan base and the ability to keep telling your story in other formats. It can be found here...

Q. Now, you've said you had at least 100 stories to tell with these characters. And I know you've said the film compressed two or three years of a "Firefly" story arc. But what are a couple of the cool side stories we never got to see?


Q. Well, the "Serenity" comic resurrected what I presume was an idea for the TV series -- where you brought back Agent Dobson from the pilot episode, and he's got one eye and he's psychotic.

A. Yeah. I would have done that on the series. I love Carlos [Jacott, who played Dobson in the TV episode].

Q. He's always got this great look of wounded dignity to him. 

A. He's one of the guys I can always count on -- and just about the funniest man on the planet.

Q. Now, that comic has been a surprise blockbuster.

A. It's done well.

Q. I know it's on its third order at my local comic-book shop

A. I felt like it was kind of an event, and I worked really hard on the story, we got really good people working on it, and we got all the best artists in the business to do all these covers. I wanted it to be more than a comic -- I wanted it to be a collector's item. But then people were really happy about the story and the contents as well. 
Dark Horse told me they underestimated the first printing -- but now, here we are with a third? That's pretty sweet. If you think of the number of fans of the DVD, comic-book numbers are smaller. They work on a different scale. So I don't think it's totally shocking that we managed to make a splash -- it's very gratifying -- but at the end of the day, comic books are a smaller pond. So we have become, if not a whale, then a shark.

2. The Phoenix.

       The Phoenix is a 1982 television series starring Judson Scott which was on ABC for about one month in 1982. The plot revolved around an ancient extraterrestrial named Bennu of the Golden Light, who is discovered in a sarcophagus in Peru and awakened in the 20th Century. Bennu displays superhuman abilities and behaves in a manner meant to represent an enlightened culture (kind, nonviolent, environmentally responsible, etc.).  Only a 90-minute pilot and four regular episodes were broadcast. Four additional episodes were scripted, but never filmed nor broadcast. The episodes were:

  1. The Phoenix (Pilot)             
  2. In Search of Mira
  3. One of Them
  4. A Presence of Evil
  5. The Fire Within
  6. Trial by Fire
  7. Deadly Cargo
  8. Dark Hunter
  9. The Star Needle

 I remember this show fondly and have always have wondered what happened to these characters and how their story could have ended. I was eight years old at the time of this show and it made a profound impact on my taste for sci-fi. Unlike Joss Whedon the writers and creators of this show did not have the Internet to help continue telling their stories to it's fan base. I was able to find one website that linked to some fan-fiction but that is it.

3. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

     Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (sometimes abbreviated as Terminator: TSCC or simply TSCC) is an American science fiction television series that aired on Fox. The show was produced by 20th Century Fox TelevisionWarner Bros. Television and C2 Pictures (C2 Pictures was replaced by The Halcyon Company in season two). It is a spin-off from the Terminator series of films. It revolves around the lives of the fictional characters Sarah and John Connor, following the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The series premiered on Sunday, January 13, 2008, on the U.S. television network Fox. Production for the series was provided by Terminator 2 and Terminator 3 producers and C2 Pictures Sony Pictures Entertainment (International) co-presidents, Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna, C2 Senior Vice President James Middleton, David Nutter, and Josh Friedman, who not only served as Executive Producer but also wrote the script for the first two episodes.

The show opened mid-season with a shortened run of nine episodes, January through March 2008. It was the highest-rated new scripted series of the 2007-08 television season[1] and was renewed for a second season,[2] which began on September 8, 2008, and ended April 10, 2009. On May 18, 2009, despite fan efforts,[3] Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly announced Fox would not renew the show for a third season.[4][5]

On February 22, 2011 , the SyFy channel announced it had gained the rights to all 31 episodes of the series, and they will be shown starting April 7, 2011. [6]  

 The TTSCC is probably on of the most recent Sci-Fi shows to get the axe way before it's time. The show was well written, well acted and well put together. I thought it was answering question about the Terminator movies that until then had been unanswered or completely ignored by the big screen equivalent. An easy Google search for TTSCC Fan-fiction results in a huge number of various options, including stories,videos and artwork. Tho I believe with the release of the 5th movies and the restructuring of the Terminator timeline has completely erased the shows history.


4. Space Above and Beyond.
    Space: Above and Beyond (abbreviated as S:AAB) was a short-lived mid-90s American science fiction television show on the FOX Network, created and written by Glen Morgan and James Wong. Originally planned for five seasons, it ran only for the single 1995–1996 season. It was nominated for two Emmy Awards and one Saturn Award. More recently, it was ranked "50" in IGN's top 50 Sci-Fi TV Shows, described as "yet another sci-fi show that went before its time".

Set in the years 2063–2064, the show focuses on the "Wildcards", members of the United States Marine Corps Space Aviator Cavalry, 58th Squadron. They are stationed on the space carrier USS Saratoga, and act as infantry and pilots of SA-43 Endo/Exo-Atmospheric Attack Jet ("Hammerhead") fighters.

This by far is one of my all time favorite shows. Ever! Tho at the time of it's original airing I looked down on it as something not worthy of the Sci-Fi mantle because of the heavy military presence the show brought. Later in life this would be a feature that I would like the best in my Sci-Fi. Once again a simple google search for SAaB will show many fansites dedicated to keeping the memory of the show alive in most geeks minds. Although there are plenty of fan-fiction for SAaB, there isn't much in the way of fan-films or other media being used to continue the story.

5.  Misfits of Science.
     Misfits of Science is an American superhero fantasy television series that aired on NBC from October 1985 to February 1986. It featured a cast of super-powered humans and their madcap adventures. A double-length pilot and 15 additional episodes were created; however one episode was yet to be broadcast when the show was cancelled due to low ratings (due to fierce competition from CBS's Top 10 hitDallas)[citation needed]

In France, the series was known as Superminds, and in Germany as Die Spezialisten unterwegs (The Specialists on Their Way).
The name 'Misfits of Science' (and other conceptual ideas) was the brainchild of the then president of NBC Entertainment, Brandon Tartikoff.[1]

The Misfits of Science was one of those shows that as a child of the late eighties and nineties that, for me, changed TV and my TV viewing habits. And after watching clips and episodes on YouTube, I think the special effects still hold up. True they are very dated but they still look good. I am and always will be a big fan of physical effects and effects created by hand . 
It seems that the older the show is the less likely there will be to many fan made films or other visual based media to explore. There are plenty of Fan sites and fan-fiction to fill a google search with millions of links tho. 

 In conclusion I believe that in today's media based, instant news and information culture there is no reason a creator, producer of a Sci-Fi show should let his or hers creation die. It's no secret that the general Sci-Fi fan base will petition to keep a show alive(original Star Trek), protest the ending of a show (20,000 pounds of peanuts to CBS to show support for the short lived show Jericho) and write thousands upon thousands of letters to help that groups favorite show keep going even if it's just for one more season. Today tho, that same fan base has easy access to cheap, high quality software and hardware to make and produce their own version of popular Sci-Fi shows. Taking their product, labeling it fan-film, putting it online for other like minded people to view. 
 I think Hollywood and television studios and writer, creators, producers should follow suit and shrink their budget, focus on the core of the material and continue on making what they love and their fans love. Joss Whedon has proven that with a good story, good writing and a love of a genre can result in a project that will be wildly successful being distributed solely online and marketed directly to hardcore fans (Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog.)
 I can see a time where the majority of TV content, especially Sci-Fi material, will not just be produced and aired by big time Hollywood studios and TV companies. It will be produced by individuals and little film studios that will pop up all over America (Robert Rodriguez's Trouble Maker Studios) and will be able to make better material and be more financially successful and staying truer to the maker's vision.  

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