Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Missed Sci-Fi Opportunities

I got thinking on this topic whilst watching voyager recently. Here is my list.

1. The Borg

The idea: A group of cybernetic beings that have shared thoughts and one collective mind. They have no leaders, no command structure, no need to consult each other or communicate as they act as a cohesive, unified deadly enemy. Turns the idea of a typical sci-fi bad guy around by doing away with the concept of individuality entirely.

The Mistake: The borg queen destroyed the entire concept on which the borg was based. Then came Hugh, Then Seven of nine. Then borg children, then “we’ll always have uni-matrix zero’. It’s easy to forget that the borg were supposed to be a collective at all. And The borg ship design became less cube-obsessed, and more like a kids set of building blocks. Bah.

2. The Ewoks:

The Idea: A group of primitive, tribal aliens who do not use modern technology can, despite this disadvantage, bring a technologically superior foe to it’s knees using ingenuity and determination. A long-cherised idea of George Lucas’s, based on his love of anthropology and his feelings about the Vietnam War. Originally planned as wookies at the end of Star Wars Epiosde IV, later shelved.

The Mistake: Making them look like cuddly toys.

3. The Daleks:

The Idea: race of highly mutated aliens who can only exist within their metallic cases, after a long running nuclear and biological war which left their ‘parent’ race destroyed and their homeworld an irradiated wasteland. Genetically designed to consider pity and compassion as weaknesses, so as to be the ultimate weapon.

The Mistake: They Can’t climb stairs. Universal conquest ends here

4. Star Trek: Enterprise:

The idea: Go back to pre-kirk days to discover the early years of starfleet. Throw away all the conventions of later trek series and put humans and the federation on the back foot. Bridge the gap between the present day and the original series of star trek to tell the story of how it all started.

The Mistake: Basically ditching the idea within minutes. There is little to distinguish Enterprise from TOS or Next Gen. Ships have phasers, artificial gravity, and familiarity with tons of aliens. Did nothing to show a weak, technologically early federation. Suspiciously sexy vulcan strips off in very first episode. Sad….

5. The Matrix:

The Idea: The world as we know it is a simulation. A war rages between machines that mankind created and the last few free humans alive. These human freedom fighters jump between the real and virtual world battling against virtual opponents with awesome powers.

The Mistake: The sequels. Some bullshit about keys. Endless car chases. Inability to realise the mistakes made when doing a sequel to Highlander. (Don’t).

What’s on your list?

11 thoughts on Missed Sci-Fi Opportunities

  1. Churchill with Daleks

    The Idea: Churchill has Daleks ready to fight and win the second world war.

    The Mistake: Making it into 45 minutes of Doctor Who house keeping to let everyone know the Daleks are still around, and there more powerful than ever.

    Daleks (in revived Doctor Who)

    The Idea: as cliffs above

    The Mistake: bringing them back every year.

    The Idea: Casting Paul McGann (a great actor) as the Eighth Doctor

    The Mistake: Casting him in a terribly written american TV movie which had no chance of it reviving the series.

  2. You covered some good ‘uns there. No mention of Jar Jar Binks? – secretly your favorite character? :)

    Yeah, Borg was a v cool idea.

    I’d forgive Daleks – Dr Who was low budget stuff, its amazing what they achieved, very imaginative.

    Robocop: great comic-book violence, humour, and comment on society.
    The mistake: sequels that contain none of the above.

    (if you allow me to call Lost sci-fi)
    Lost: pretty cool mix of ideas, mystery, weird science stuff.
    The mistake: dragging it out for a million confusing episodes which never get anywhere.

  3. I’m going to have to go with Star Wars episodes 1-3

    The Idea: Show how Darth Vader became so very, very bad. Cast a whole bunch of very good actors to make sure the movies can live up to everyone’s expectations.

    The mistake: Either through poor direction, overuse of special effects, or something else entirely, make all of the good actors into terrible actors. Also, make Darth Vader grow up as a spoiled brat who throws continual temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.

  4. They fixed the daleks in the new series by making them on levitation pads instead of uniballs. Now they were capable of being a real threat.

    Mistake – In every dalek episode they’re killed once and for all and every time they come back with some lame notion.

    But here’s my personal pet peve for more than 2 decades now:

    Star Control – A series of games that are developed by two truly innovative people, Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III. Game play insipred by Space Wars, Archon, and RPG adventures and story line inspired by classic Sci-Fi, Star Control II was heralded in it’s time and our by many who remember as one of the best games of all time.

    The Mistake: Deciding to ditch FF & PR3 for Star Control 3. After the success of SC2 Accolade wanted them to make a part 3 and offered them the same amount of money. However FF & PR3 had to work for several months basically without pay to make SCII what it was so they asked for more money. Accolade refused and hired another company to make SC3. However, while Accolade owned the name FF 7 PR3 retained the rights on the universe and characters. So the team who made SC3 was slated with making a new universe and phasing out the old one in one game. Did no alarm bells go off in anyone’s head?

  5. Re: New Daleks – the whole programme is about time travel, and the Daleks apparently do travel in time. So how come every time the Doctor meets them is ‘after’ the previous time? They could have so easily had them as Daleks from before they were destroyed, and then not had to have them destroyed forever and magically OK again each time.

  6. @baz: Dalek’s are forgivable in the original series’ of Doctor Who due to the low budget, but now Doctor Who appears to be a Megabucks series. They should move on from the old enemies entirely (the new ones are pretty good).

    The idea – Starhunter. A series all about Bounty Hunting in space, in a ship captained by an ex-raider.

    Mistake – Only running it for two series.

    The idea – Continuing the Bounty Hunting theme, an open-galaxy action-rpg called Freelancer.

    Mistake – Similar to above, not making a sequel. Even though it was released almost a decade ago, it still has quite a large and dedicated modding community who are still developing and expanding mods. I’m sure Microsoft could have made a fat killing out of a sequel.

  7. RE: Daleks. ELEVATE!

    The idea – Indiana Jones 4. Indy, being a pulp throwback hero, in a classic pulp alien encounter. It’s a tiny reach for Indy, but it’s possible.

    The mistake – The skull had obvious supernatural powers from the getgo. The beauty of Indy is his dogged skepticism of the supernatural until the end of a movie when the artifact (or whatever) comes to life and does something interesting that he can’t explain.

    Further mistake – A professor being so thick as to never get a translation correct on the first try.

    After the initial viewing (and shock and horror) I backed up and realized that this was exactly the kind of story that fits Indy and his world. They just ruined it so hard it was nearly impossible to make the connection.

  8. Daleks have (per canon, which took a while to settle) always been able to climb stairs. The effects to show them doing it on TV (as opposed to books and comics) didn’t arrive until the late 1980s, though.

    CGI now means we can have any kind of Dalek we like, so the Spider-Dalek may yet make it to the screen!

    The TV Tropes term for what happened to the Borg, and countless other villains, is “Badass Decay”:

  9. I recently was flamed to death for making similar arguments about Starcraft I aND II. I think what tends to happen is that a series loses track of it’s “literary” influences, or, maybe, it stops being so thoughtful about the premise or the designs, as it gets lost in a world of it’s own — or more accurately, as it falls back on the conventional meanings of certain things. I think the elements of a structure that was supposed to be tight and meaningful becomes disintegrated so that the elements once again take on their conventional meanings.

    For example, the Kung Fu element in the original Matrix was really meaningful, in a weird sort of way, maybe having to do with how mathematical and artificial Kung Fu, with it’s highly intentional, robotic, yet free-flowing movements, tends to be. But it devolves into just another “stylistic” rather than philosophical element. So that you have to work hard in order to preserve the original intention, you can no longer rely on the same things, but would have to do something else that was original — something about, the only way to preserve something is to constantly change it. So that stylistic updates, such as Starcraft II, tend to sell very well of course but completely lose contact with the original.

  10. Lexx:

    The idea: Dark, sexy, psychedelic space opera. Characters whose moral compasses are light years away from the likes of Kirk or Skywalker. Set on a living spaceship that must destroy planets to survive.

    The mistakes: Hiring writers who mistake ‘sexy’ and ‘psychedelic’ for ‘bad porn’ and ‘nonsensical’. ‘Misfit’ characters all utterly unlikable. Coolness of living spaceship completely negated by the worst. robot. ever.

    (for anyone who missed this late-night gem when it aired, this clip pretty much sums up the series:

  11. Well I don’t have to contribute besides saying that I agree with all you guys and these are all great points made!

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