Notice that the SCIENCE is Capitalized. We need some standard for what qualifies as REAL SCIENCE Fiction. People are calling comic book stuff sci-fi these days and fantasy is leaking in everywhere. We need to be sufficiently advanced to not be magic.
I started reading sci-fi before the Original Star Trek. It was obvious then that Star Trek was not as good as the better SF literature. Paramount practically advertised this by rejecting the first pilot, The Cage, saying it was "too cerebral". So they expect the audience to not be too bright. Maybe only a dozen episodes are on par with The Cage.
Babylon 5 is the closest thing to good sci-fi literature that I have seen on television. This does not mean there is nothing wrong with it. It is peculiar that there is no head engineer on a 5-mile long space station. There is no Scotty-type character. Trek got carried away with the techno-babble but that does not mean you don't need people that can keep the tech running.
Of course you have to wonder what society will be doing with computers 200 years from now. I carry a pocket computer most of the time. It's a 200 MHz ARM processor with a 30 gig hard drive in an Arhos PMA400. I mostly use it as a book reader but I also keep 5 gig of music on it. But it is also a calculator and appointment calendar and game machine and it's THREE YEARS OLD. What kind of computers will they have in 200 years? This stuff is changing our society now so the creator of B5 has no idea what the improvements in cybertech over that time will be and how it will affect society.
So the creators of Babylon 5 and Star Trek have taken two different approaches to projecting the future. Roddenberry has the everything is wonderful and it is other aliens that are causing problems for the humans and JMS took the business as usual and we keep muddling through approach. Each approach can be thought provoking and inspire peope to think about what we should do to improve things now. I like B5 better overall.
Considering that JMS claims to be an atheist he took off in a weird direction in the second episode after the pilot. Basically he is telling us that the B5 universe runs on reincarnation and the Minbari know it. Not all of the aliens agree however. The soul hunters say the Minbari are superstitious religious fanatics. But this turns out to be part of the axis around which the entire Babylon 5 arc rotates.
Why did the Minbari surrender just before destroying Earth?
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the best of the Star Trek series. That is quite simply because it is the least like other Star Trek series and most similar to Babylon 5. It appears that the corporate officers at Paramount are not as honest as Star Fleet officers are supposed to be. You see when JMS was trying to get someone to produce Babylon 5 he pitched it to Paramount and left a Bible describing the show. Then low and behold two years later Paramount comes out with a whole new Star Trek which they claim is darker and grittier than your daddy's Star Trek. There are a number of sites listing the similarities between B5 and DS9.
But how good is it. Star Trek got religion from a professed atheist. How weird can science fiction get?
We get a Black Captain for a space station orbiting a planet of religious fanatics who happen to have alien gods that operate outside the space time continuum. Well they move the space station in the pilot but they don't take it 1000 years back in time so maybe it is not quite as ridiculous as Babylon 5. LOL
The do pull some nice tricks involving the Original Star Trek though. They hook up with the Mirror Universe and Sisko meets the alternate version of his dead wife who he blamed Picard for killing. And they go back in time to the Trouble with Tribbles episode so Kirk gets to strut his stuff again.
But DS9 has a kind of story arc like B5 which Treks did not usually have though there mat be a bit of one in Enterprise. The Wormhole with the alien gods led to another quadrant of the galaxy who decide to invade and so a long Dominion War arc began. Very similar to the Shadow War and Earth rebellion in B5, but with Romulans and Kilngons. But the goody two shoes of the Federation get thrown our the window.
A Star Fleet officer involved in assassinating a Romulan senator. Wormhole Aliens forbid!
In the Pale Moonlight is definitely one of the best DS9 episodes involving one of its best characters, plain and simple Garak. For anyone that hasn't researched it, there really was an Obsidian Order: "In Ancient Rome, the Obsidian Order was the most elite of the elite Praetorian Guard, containing Caesar's assassins. They specialized in liquidating dissidents… The Obsidian Order was the group, which quietly liquidated those who dissented and any who threatened to tell the truth."
I didn't discover Stargate Atlantis until some time into its 3rd season. This was because I was ignoring all things Stargate since the 2nd season of SG-1. I stumbled across the pilot on some website that was probably showing it illegally anyway. The pilot seemed to be decent so I started watching more.
This brings up the peculiar question of what makes science fiction good versus why do I like it. It is possible to like something that is really bad just because it appeals to some personality quirk. I think a lot of people don't try to distinguish when that is the case. But I think good sci-fi should be revealing about some aspects of the REAL WORLD and not just be fun escapism. I believe Stargate Atlantis shows us something that I don't recall seeing much in other TV shows or movies.
The egotistical and petty competition among brainiacs. Rodney McKay is obviously the star of this neurotic aspect but Zelinka is necessary as a foil. This is grossly exaggerated for effect in the show but how much of this actually happens in the real world in certain circles. Have you ever watched a high school senior cry in class because he got a B in math one grading period. I almost started laughing. But then I thought about the HUNDREDS OF HOURS of idiotic busywork that had to be done to get straight A's in Everything and to then blow it all senior year. I got straight D's in religion freshman year because I wouldn't do the stupid homework so what does it say about the personalities that would do the stupid homework?
But we must not forget we live in a high technology world where there is no telling what might pop out of some laboratory next week because of people like Rodney McKay. We can hope that they do not figure out how to blow up the entire solar system. But that is just SO COOL! Maybe I can do that when I grow up. LOL
Another aspect of the problem is the Brains vs Brawn conflict. This showed up most prominently at the beginning of the episode titled Hot Zone. Rodney and Zelenk are playing a game with prime numbers and insist that Ford play. Ford is doing badly and Zelenka comments on this. Ford finally blows up asking, "is this revenge for guys like me beating up guys like you in high school?"
But there are numerous incident throughout the show with Rodney being arrogantly obnoxious but being shocked to find that Major Sheppard could have been in Mensa. How dare he not join?
But what does this say about such people in REAL LIFE with computers permeating the culture and genetic engineering likely to become a BIG DEAL this century?
I also "liked" the Wraith better as alien villians than the G'auld of SG-1. Being able to just suck the life out of people with your hand must be such fun.
I bought my first VCR because of ST:The Next Generation. I didn't even own a television. LOL I hooked up the VCR at a friends house and walked over to her place after TNG or 60 Minutes was recorded and watched and would fast scan through the commercials. Many times we would then discuss the subject of the episode. I was never enthusiastic about the idea of families and children on the Enterprise. That episode where the Yamato, a sister ship of the Enterprise, exploded demonstrated the point quite well. But TNG was better than the original series in many ways. TOS degenerated into the Kirk and Spock show with McCoy for comic relief. More of the main characters in TNG had things to do and revolve around them in various episodes. It is even funny how Spock got split up into multiple characters. Data got Spock's logic and physical strength and the conflicted character. But in this case wanting to be human while not being human instead of not wanting to be human but stuck with some of it. LOL Ryker got Spock's rank as second in command and Kirk's libido. Troy got the psychic powers. And of course Picard was THE CAPTAIN. But actual Vulcan's virtually disappeared from TNG and DS9 for that matter. But then they came back with a vengence in Voyager and Enterprise. You just can't keep a logical race down. I have seen the science in Star Trek described as rubbery. They will do things that make little scientific sense just to create a story. The episode with the duplicate Will Ryker is my favorite bad example. Supposedly this was caused by the reflection of a transporter beam but two men means twice as much matter therefore twice as much energy. So where did the extra energy come from. Sorry, BAD science means BAD science fiction. But there were plenty of better episodes.
In terms of total number of hours of video Star Trek may be the biggest thing in science fiction. It might be beaten by Dr. Who but I have never seen a total for that. I don't think Dr. Who has had as much global influence even if there are more hours.
Although I watched the original series back in the day on a Black & White television and consequently did not know what a red shirt was the primitive special effects still look crude to my eye today. I am rarely moved to watch an a 60 Trek episode. Actually I thought Trek was too 50s and 60s even then. I watched Mr. Spock and immediately thought of Tonto with the Lone Ranger. That is one reason I love the Mirror, Mirror episode. Spock telling Kirk that he had orders to kill him was GREAT! Bware of Vulcans with beards. LOL
But since Star Trek has become so culturally iconic there are MUST SEE episode from the original series if one is going to pay attention to Trek at all. So this is my list.
====== Star Trek Original Series =======
Where No Man Has Gone Before The 2nd pilot, real start of show.
The Cage (if you can find it) The 1st pilot rejected by studio
The Menagerie Criminal Spock includes The Cage but cut up
Balance of Terror Romulans
The Galileo Seven Shows Vulcan management style aggravating humans, LOL
Space Seed Kahn, movie prequel
The City on the Edge of Forever Best Original Trek episode
Amok Time Vulcan home world and pon farr, Spock's wife
Mirror, Mirror Mirror universe, used in DS9 & Enterprise
Journey to Babel Spock's parents are introduced.
The Trouble With Tribbles DS9 episode link, a fave episode, Trek humor
The Ultimate Computer demonstrating relevance of sci-fi to reality in technology
The Enterprise Incident demonstrating relevance of sci-fi to reality in politics (Pueblo Incident)
The Tholian Web added to Mirror universe in Enterprise, though I never thought the episode was that good.
This episode is not must see but it is really good:
The Doomsday Machine
I suppose it might be compared to the nuclear weapons that the US and the USSR had pointed at each other for decades. Don't forget, they are still there.
Another point that most Trekkies don't discuss, at least not from a perspective similar to mine is, T'Pring in the Amok Time episode. To most people T'Pring is a B___H, but I do not agree. Spock is running around the galaxy with a nitwit human and the nitwit human is in charge. And apparently he doesn't even think about her until it is biologically unavoidable. So she is supposed to put up with a one night stand so he can run off again. YEAH RIGHT! Well she came up with a better plan as soon as she saw Kirk. It was GREAT! She put herself in a win, win situation no matter which one of the dummies won.
Dragon Ladies are wonderful as long as you aren't the target. That episode was done by Theodore Sturgeon one of the real sci-fi writers to do a Star Trek Episode.
I watched the pilot and have not seen an entire episode since then.
The trouble with BSG is that the basic assumption on which the entire series makes no sense. Why would an Artificial Intelligence with faster than light capability give a damn about wiping out the human race? A true AI with FTL could expand through the galaxy as fast as it could mine the necessary metals to produce more robot bodies and those machines could inhabit places that would kill human beings. Why would a TRUE AI care about humans enough to kill them?
But that would eliminate the motive for the entire TV series. So that is why IT IS NOT GOOD SCIENCE FICTION. The show is based on an absurd assumption simply to justify its existence.
We have been hearing about THE SINGULARITY and Trans-humanism for a few years now so I would like to add my 2 cents to the issue since it seems to relate to how the Cylons can become so human. This concept of uploading a human mind presents a peculiar problem even if it worked.
Suppose you stuck your finger into a candle. How long would it take the pain signal to reach your brain? A 1/10th of a second doesn't seem unreasonable and it makes the calculations easy. Electricity moves almost as fast as light so let's say in a 1/10th of a second electrons would travel 15,000 miles. That is quite a bit compared to the 4 feet from your fingertip to your brain.
The human brain is composed of billions of neurons with complex interconnections of dendrites and synapses. These neurons perform switching functions somewhat similar to transistors in a computer. They have more states than transistors though. So for the sake of argument let's say an electronic brain can be built and a method is developed to upload a human consciousness into it. Let us say this process is non-destructive to keep things from getting to creepy. So imagine you are uploaded and there is now an electronic duplicate of YOU. How long will it stay like you?
Let's say the it functions 1000 times as fast as you do. So what takes you an hour to figure out it does in 4 seconds. One hour to the electronic you is like 40 days of your life. How much will your electronic clone be like you in a month? One month would be equal to 80 YEARS for The Thing that used to bejust like you. How fast would it be assimilating information from how many sources? And wouldn't it have a perfect memory?
So I think even if we develop this uploading capabilities the minds we upload won't be human for very long. Assuming they could stay sane they would become unknowns. We would probably bore them. How do you communicate with someone that takes 5 hours to explain what they had for lunch when you don't need to eat anymore. LOL
So I think sci-fi stories that make electronic intelligences very human are being unrealistic and catering to our vanity. I think Collosus: The Forbin Project is one of the most reasonable projections even though it is really old.