This year has seen a dramatic change in sci-fi. Not only is there more of it on television than there’s been in ages, but the quality for the most part is exceptional. Reality TV seems to be heading to its well-deserved demise. All three of what were once called “the major networks” have their own sci-fi offerings this season, and interestingly, all are of a sub-genre which has never been done as a series before: first contact. (No, I don’t count V, I’ll explain later.) What’s more, the most-hyped sci-fi movie of 2005, was also a first-contact story, a remake of the first first-contact tale, H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.
The “first contact” story—present-day humanity meeting extra-terrestrials for the first time—was once very common in film, before true masterworks such as Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T. created heights which very few directors would attempt to match. Instead, the monster-on-a-spaceship/space station sub-genre was trotted out as a poor substitute for the work of honestly considering what might really happen if today we found ourselves face-to-face with proof that we are not alone. . . continue reading