Syfy Is Finally Venturing Back Into Space
Sci-fi TV is supposed to be about boldly going where no one has gone before, but in recent years networks have all but abandoned stories of humanity’s future among the stars. It’s been a dark time for sci-fi fans like screenwriter Rafael Jordan.
“A decade ago, between the Syfy channel and other networks, we had Farscape, Firefly, all the different incarnations of Stargate, Star Trek: Enterprise, even Andromeda,” Jordan says in Episode 167 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And then after Battlestar and Caprica, we just had nothing for a few years.”
But that’s starting to change. This summer the Syfy network released two new space adventure shows: Killjoys, about a trio of spacefaring bounty hunters, and Dark Matter, about a starship crew who wake from hypersleep with no memory of who they are. The new shows are a welcome development to Andrew Liptak, weekend editor of io9.
“They’re not what we call ‘A’ TV, the really high-concept, story-driven stuff,” he says. “This is more of ‘a small group of people going into space and getting into weekly adventures.’ That’s what I really like, and that’s what I’ve really missed.”
For years Syfy has been listless, moving away from core sci-fi shows in favor of a hodgepodge lineup full of gimmicks and trend-chasing. That looks set to change under new network head Bill McGoldrick, who’s betting big that their next space adventure show, The Expanse, will replicate the success of the critically-acclaimed Battlestar Galactica.
“My theory is that Dark Matter and Killjoys came out this summer because The Expanse is coming out later this year, and they’re basically getting the audience ready to watch space stuff again,” says Liptak.
Jordan is optimistic that Syfy’s trio of new sci-fi franchises can help resurrect the moribund space adventure genre.
“Right now the interest in space and science is as high as it’s ever been, so I don’t think that’s really going to go away,” he says. “I think the period where we didn’t have space shows was kind of an aberration, and hopefully it won’t happen again.”
Listen to our complete interview with Rafael Jordan and Andrew Liptak in Episode 167 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Andrew Liptak on Killjoys:
“What I really liked about Killjoys was the simmering upper class vs. lower class conflict that was sort of brewing over the whole season, and I hope that they’ll continue to do stuff with that, because you have Westerly, which is really sort of the dump of that Quad system, and then you have the other planet that everyone’s trying to go to. So they tackled things like immigration, and they tackled things like wealth inequality, and with the acid rain burning the people alive, you just sort of see that there’s a governance system and people who in charge who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing, and they have no idea of what the impact of what they’re doing is going to be on the regular people that ultimately support them.”
Andrew Liptak on women in science fiction:
“The guys behind The Expanse were talking on Twitter a while back because Variety had posted an article saying, ‘These are the worst shows coming out this year for women directors,’ and The Expanse was on there, because they didn’t have any women directors. And Ty Franck basically went to Twitter and said, ‘Yeah, we don’t have any women, but we also went to a lot and all of them turned us down, because they were busy doing other things.’ So it’s a little more complicated I think than just [shows] not hiring them. It was great to see Amanda Tapping getting behind the director’s chair for one of the episodes [of Killjoys], and it was also great to see that really women led the shows.”
Rafael Jordan on Firefly:
“Firefly is revered, and rightfully so to a large degree, but this is where I’ll delve into the unpopular opinion too—I think it is overrated. At the time I wasn’t enamored with it that much. I remember watching it in real time and thinking about two-thirds of the episodes were pretty forgettable. But it was promising, and it was really well-written in terms of the dialogue, because of course, Joss Whedon. And then the Serenity movie was really good. But I didn’t care for the series that much. I didn’t think it was nearly as good as Farscape or some other things. So I think the fact that it got cut down in its prime was almost like a rock star dying at 27 [years old]. We never had the misfortune of seeing it grow old and lose steam.”
Andrew Liptak on the Syfy channel:
“We had space shows and then they were replaced by superheroes or urban fantasy or other things, which also seemed to work pretty well for the Syfy channel. I think the Syfy channel just stopped innovating. They stopped really taking risks, and really focused on, ‘What will immediately get us ratings to get us bumped up to be a premium channel?’ And while they were focused on that they lost sight of the types of shows, like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, that showed that speculative fiction could really succeed on TV. Those are shows that should have been on the Syfy channel, but they didn’t have the infrastructure, money, or willingness to take the risk for it.”