American Science Fiction TV: Star Trek, Stargate, and Beyond / Edition 1

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From “The Next Generation” and “The X-Files” to “Farscape” and “Enterprise,” science fiction television shows have millions of devoted fans. American Science Fiction TV is the first full-length study of this popular genre. Writing with the clarity of a scholar and the enthusiasm of a fan, Jan Johnson-Smith shows how science fiction television has displaced the Western in the American cultural imagination. As advances in special effects have made science fiction television technically feasible on a more lavish scale than ever before, visual style has become as important as narrative—sometimes even more important—in expressing the meaning of the genre. The main part of the book uses case studies of several key science fiction series, including “Space: Above and Beyond,” “StarGate SG-1,” and “Babylon 5,” to exemplify particular narrative patterns and visual styles. The case studies explore themes such as politics, ideology, race and ethnicity, gender difference, militarism, and the use of science fiction narratives as allegories of present-day social and political concerns. American Science Fiction TV opens an important new area of genre studies and will be of interest to scholars and fans alike.

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What People Are Saying

James Chapman
"An original and significant study. American Science Fiction TV is the first thoroughgoing analysis of the genre. Johnson-Smith writes with both the authority of a scholar and the passion of a genre fan. The book is to be welcomed as an important contribution to TV studies."
James Chapman, author of Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films
James Chapman
“An original and significant study. American Science Fiction TV is the first thoroughgoing analysis of the genre. Johnson-Smith writes with both the authority of a scholar and the passion of a genre fan. The book is to be welcomed as an important contribution to TV studies.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819567383
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 1/10/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,109,508
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

JAN JOHNSON-SMITH is Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Theory at Bournemouth University’s Media School in the U.K.

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Table of Contents

PART ONE Chapter One: Science Fiction in Context
Questions of Genre
Creating New Worlds
Formalism and Realism
Science Fiction and Estrangement
The Novum
Post Modernism
The Language of Science Fiction
Speculative Epics
The Gothic and the Sublime
Chapter Two: Histories: The Frontier, Television, and Televisuality
American History
Creating a Destiny
Mise-en-scence and Special Effects
Location Television
Repetition and Mass Media
Narrative Forms
Science Fiction and Television

PART TWO Chapter Three: Yesterday’s Enterprise: Representation, Ideology, and Language in Star Trek
Chapter Four: The Sacrifices of Angels: Military History and Ideology
Chapter Five: Wormhole X-Treme! Images of Space and Time
Chapter Six: Between the Darkness and the Light: Babylon 5

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    evolution of themes in TV science fiction shows

    Johnson-Smith, a lecturer in film and TV at an English university, reaches the conclusion that unlike earlier periods of science fiction, 'modern American sf fiction is neither utopian or enforces a critique of the Western mythos whilst renegotiating its finer aspects.' This Western mythos centers on the desire for exploration. This desire was seen as far back as the Gilgamesh myth of the ancient Babylonians; and it emerged in American culture especially in Westward expansion and the related romance of the West. It entails a sense of wonder and the hope of encounter with the Sublime--elements undeniably evident in modern TV sci-fi, which are a major reason for their appeal. But imparting this sense of wonder and picturing the Sublime became possible only when TV technology improved from its first days. Only in recent years has TV arrived in an 'era where far-seeing 'tele- vision' can finally live up to its name' by making use of 'brilliant colors and dynamic motion' to enhance sf narratives. Today's TV science-fiction shows, notably 'Star-Trek,' are contrasted with earlier ones such as 'Twilight Zone' creating an atmosphere mainly by suggestion, leaving much to the viewer's imagination. The author identifies a new era in science-fiction TV and analyzes the bases of its themes and popular appeal.

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