Dan Nexon on Doctor Who and the New Science Fiction

My old colleague Dan Nexon over at Duck of Minerva (also a guest at Lawyers, Guns and Money) has a take on the new Doctor Who very different from Jenny Turner’s in the LRB.

Within the span of five months in 2004-2005 remakes of two “classic” science-fiction series entered their regular seasons. The first regular episode of the “re-envisioned” Battlestar Galactica aired in October of 2004. The first episode of the new Doctor Who series aired in Britain in March of 2005. Battlestar Galactica has already emerged as perhaps the best science-fiction television series ever made, and probably one of the best television dramas ever produced. Despite some missteps in the second season, BSG arguably outshines the current fare being offered on HBO; it comes close to the glory days of the Sopranos and Homicide: Life on the Streets. I consider BSG, along with the short-lived Firefly, to be part of a new “new wave” of science-fiction programming that clearly draws influence from the sensibilities of the HBO renaissance in drama that began with the Sopranos. Like the Sopranos, both BSG and Firefly adopted unapologetic attitudes towards sex, religion, and the portrayal of ambiguous ethical situations. BSG arguably represents a further evolution than Firefly on many of these counts. One could also make the case that BSG shows what Star Trek: Deep Space Nine might have been if its creative talent, including Ronald Moore, had been freed from the fetters of Star Trek conventions. Although the distance between Homicide and The Wire is less extreme than between ST:DS9 and BSG, there is something of an analogy here.