Science fiction is dead, they say, but this time on television


In the same way that pundits like to declare written science fiction “dead,” it seems that they have a similar opinion about sci-fi on television. It’s glory days are past and it is effectively as dead as the Western on the small screen.

News magazine Macleans wonders about the future of the genre on TV, noting that it has been wildly successful on the big screen, but not so much on television.

Similar sentiments have been echoed by bloggers like this one who wonder if we are in danger of losing sci-fi on network television and instead seeing it migrate to specialty channels.

I think the bigger issue is what is the future of television? The distinction between network and cable channel is blurring as internet distribution becomes more commonplace. Amazingly, people still sit around a TV set at an appointed time to watch a program and sit through the commercials, but an increasing number are content to watch it online or grab torrents to watch them when and where they like.

The ability to commercially profit from producing television shows is what is going to govern the sort of content we get to watch. The rise of reality programming is directly proportional to the decline in profitability of the networks. Cheap shows means more profits on lower revenues. There’s been less science fiction as a result, but there has been less of all kinds of fiction, so it’s not just our favourite genre that is affected.

Still, there is hope for optimism. Great shows are still being made, like Doctor Who and Fringe, and a recent addition was Falling Skies and this week will see the debut of Terra Nova. From what I can see, the genre is far from dead on television and will soldier on for as long as the medium continues.