Having just finished the brain-bending Mindhunter 2, I’ve been struggling to find something decent on Netflix. I’ve tried watching Another Life twice, but the naffness of the script means that not even Katee Sackhoff can save it. No wonder it only got a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yes. 6%. And then I’ve tried to watch the first episode of the Dark Crystal Age of Resistance series… twice. I just can’t get past the massive exposition dump at the start (full of meaningless, made-up names), the hopelessly out-of-date use of a 1970s ‘Crystal-of-Truth-as-source-of-all-life’ macguffin (the fantasy genre has evolved a fair bit since then, guys and gals!) and the actual changing of the ‘lore’ of the original 1982 movie. And then it struck me – it’s not that I’m becoming too old and grumpy for such fare (I just looked at the original movie again and still love it) – it’s that Netflix keeps commissioning absolute tosh in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. I pondered further and recalled the utterly atrocious fantasy called Bright (starring Will Smith) that Netflix put out in 2017. That got 29% on Rotten Tomatoes… BUT they’re still going to make a follow-up apparently! Then I reflected upon Star Trek Discovery season 2… I know hardcore fans who enjoyed it but would never claim much of the writing was any good.
So what’s going on? Well, turns out you can’t just sit down and write decent science fiction or fantasy if you don’t really know the basics of the genres in question. Current Netflix writers (and I’m not letting Amazon Prime, with their horribly derivative Carnival Row, off the hook either) seem to think they can simply make it all up and everything’ll be fine. Chuck in a few pretty actors and no one will spot how dire proceedings are, right? Wrong.
Look, you numpty screen-writers and TV producers, think about it. What’s the best fantasy that’s been on screen since Lord of the Rings. Correct. It’s HBO’s Game of Thrones. Who wrote that? Precisely. A proven master of fantasy literature (George RR Martin) who’d been writing within the genre for 50 years. When did it go wrong? When later series were written by other people – namely, people who weren’t proven writers of fantasy. Which episodes of Doctor Who are the best? Precisely. The ones written by proven writers of the genre(s) i.e. Terry Nation and Neil Gaiman. And I could go on.
Now, you may wanna leap to the defence of some of the above named series. If so, you’re in the 6%. Identify yourself if you wish, but you might get trolled by the 94%, so think hard about it. Hmm. Trolls. We need more trolls in fantasy. Oh, yeah. Lord of the Rings did that already. And The Book of Orm (rather splendid, if I recall).
But where does that leave us? How do we make Netflix and AmazonPrime produce superior fantasy and science fiction? Ah, yes. Stop watching their nonsense until they start connecting the names of genuine fantasy and science fiction writers to their shows. Could work. Might not. Ah well.