Science fiction on TV

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Science fiction has also been part of the television program since 1949 . It shows series and television films specially produced for television as well as cinema films (which are not the focus of this article, see science fiction film ). TV series were often so successful that they were continued in the cinema (such as Star Trek ). In the last 20 years, however, there has also been a reverse trend towards continuing cinema films on television ( e.g. Stargate ).


Overall, compared to other genres , relatively few science fiction films are produced directly for television. Even pure science fiction series have a hard time surviving several seasons.

Reasons why science fiction does not play a major role on television are the high cost of special effects and low audience figures due to a lack of interest from the mass audience.

In the US, attempts were usually made to present elaborate backdrops. Many series followed the pattern of preventing evil invasions by good Americans ( V - The extraterrestrial visitors are coming ) . In contrast, series like Outer Limits - The Unknown Dimension show more sophisticated stories.

The European television producers usually did not have the financial means for expensive special effects. Instead, many series showed biting social and social criticism or did not take the genre very seriously (such as the English series Doctor Who )

In the GDR (as well as in the FRG) science fiction played only a subordinate role for a long time. Nevertheless, there were also a number of very good films here, for example the Jules Verne film adaptations by the Czechoslovak director Karel Zeman (some of the films that were shown on television, such as The Invention of Verderßen , Auf dem Komet , Reise in die Urwelt ) or the Hungarian cartoon series about Adolar Hot Wire into the Hereafter and Adolar's fantastic adventures .

Very good cinema films also made it onto television, including the films Solaris , Stalker and Victims by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky . From 1978 to 1981, ARD brought a series of dozens of films in "Science Fiction", which consisted of popular classics from the 1950s and 1960s such as The Incredible Story of Mr. C. and Barbarella, as well as some that were quite new at the time B-productions composed like Phase IV (film) . More recent A productions in the genre such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars were not among them.

In the 1980s, a series of science fiction films by director Jack Arnold, often referred to as the "B-Movie King," also wandered through the Third Programs . Each film was followed by a small make-of documentary in which the director himself commented on the film. This series was repeated several times in the third up until the 1990s.

In the USA , the science fiction specialty channel SciFi-Channel was founded in 1992 , which was renamed Syfy in July 2009 . Syfy not only shows reruns of older productions, but also produces its own series such as Stargate SG-1 (originally on Showtime), Stargate Atlantis , Farscape and Battlestar Galactica . Syfy meanwhile also has a German offshoot that can be seen on various PayTV platforms.

Milestones in science fiction television series

The first science fiction television series was Captain Video and His Video Rangers , which was broadcast by the American television station DuMont from 1949 to 1955 . The format of the show was copied shortly afterwards by other broadcasters for the series Tom Corbett, Space Cadet , Space Patrol and Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers . All four series were broadcast live . Only a few episodes of these series that were recorded using the kinescope method have survived .

In 1953, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger was the first to produce a science fiction television series that was recorded on film, so that a considerable increase in content and technical quality became possible. It was followed a year later by Captain Midnight , which was based on a radio play of the same name from 1938 and a serial from 1942. Flash Gordon (TV series 1954) , which was partly shot in West Berlin in 1954/55 and co-produced by Wenzel Lüdecke , also appeared in this context . It should build on the Flash Gordon series from 1936 to 1940.

The first television series to address the phenomenon of time travel was Captain Z-RO , which was produced from 1951 to 1956 and broadcast until 1960. It was one of the first television productions to be recorded on video .

One of the most famous science fiction series is Raumschiff Enterprise (original title: Star Trek ), which ran on US television from 1966 to 1969 with the crew of Captain Kirk and Commander Spock. After only three years of running, the series was canceled due to poor ratings. Only after the successful syndication and the subsequent demands from fans for new episodes was the follow-up series Spaceship Enterprise: The Next Century filmed (original: Star Trek - The Next Generation , with a new crew around Captain Picard).

However, the British series Doctor Who was shown on the screens much longer . It ran for 26 seasons with 720 episodes on the BBC from November 23, 1963 to December 6, 1989. In 1996 a television film was made. Since 2005, more new episodes have been added. It holds the record for being the longest running science fiction television series in the world. In addition, it received an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the most successful science fiction series in the world.

The US series Twilight Zone , broadcast in the 1950s, was influential, especially in the later area of mystery .

The first (West) German science fiction series was Raumpatrouille from 1966. Although it was shot on a low budget and could not last long, it is now considered a "cult" and brought about a revival on the screen in 2003, the feature film Raumpatrouille Orion - Fall back into the cinema . The first SF television series ever to be broadcast on German television was Menschen im Weltraum ( Men Into Space , USA 1959/60); however, around 1960 only 13 of 38 episodes were shown on regional evening programs.

In the 1970s, Rainer Erler in particular enriched the genre with several critical and sometimes demanding productions. In particular, the series Das Blaue Palais should be mentioned here, which in turn was based on the early evening series Alpha Alpha .

See also


  • Jean-Noel Bassior: Space Patrol. Missions of Daring in the Name of Television , Jefferson, NC / London 2005.
  • John Clute : Science Fiction . ISBN 3-453-11512-0 .
  • Donald F. Glut , Jim Harmon: The Great Television Heroes , New York 1975.
  • Cynthia J. Miller, A. Bowdoin Van Riper (eds.): 1950's "rocketman" TV series and their fans. Cadets, rangers, and junior space men. Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2012, ISBN 978-0-230-37731-8 .
  • Mark Phillips, Frank Garcia: Science fiction television series. Episode guides, histories, and casts and credits for 62 prime time shows, 1959 through 1989. McFarland, Jefferson, NC et al. a. 1996. ISBN 0-7864-0041-2 .
  • JP Telotte (ed.): The essential science fiction television reader. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington 2008, ISBN 978-0-8131-2492-6 .
  • JP Telotte: Science Fiction TV. Taylor and Francis, Hoboken 2014. ISBN 978-0-415-82581-8 .
  • Science Fiction Volume III. Kino-Verlag, Hamburg 1990, ISBN 3-89324-080-2 .

Individual evidence

  1. Forum discussion on the ARD film series "science fiction" from 1979 , accessed on 8 January 2010

Web links