I don’t tend to watch television or movies as often as I read, and I really didn’t pay much attention to SF&F movies or television for a long time. I think I expected all of them to be something like Star Trek, and I had never been a Trekkie at all. I’ve never seen most of the episodes of any version of Star Trek. (I have recently started to watch TOS, though, and I plan to go through the other series and the movies.)
It Started With Babylon 5
Way back around 1996, a then-SO got me to watch Babylon 5 with him—he wanted me to watch just one episode. Once. Really. Of course, he showed me the first part of a two-part episode, which was cheating. Then insisted that I watch all the previous episodes (two seasons worth, as I recall) before seeing part two! Of course, I was completely hooked by then and continued watching through the rest of the series’ five-year run.
The biggest difference between Babylon 5 and anything else I’d seen was the quality of the J. Michael Straczynski’s writing and the fact that there is a cohesive story that connects the entire series. The arc may be moved along a lot in one episode, and barely at all in another, but it is always there. I like that much more than the solely episodic nature of Star Trek. B5 also had very good special effects for a TV show at the time it was produced (they look cheesy now, but few special effects age well).
The characters also made B 5 pretty special. They weren’t painted in black and white. Even the main characters had their faults. You couldn’t be sure that a main character would always be around, as some were killed. There wasn’t one character who was always the hero, but an ensemble working together. There was at least one love story going on between two main characters, but that wasn’t the main thing in their lives or in the show. They showed women being strong, assertive fighters who were still feminine, and men who were sensitive but certainly not wimpy. These are all Good Things in my book.
And Then Came Xena
Katie somehow got me to watch Xena: Warrior Princess. She even got me to learn how to program the VCR so I could tape and pre-screen the episodes before she saw them (they weren’t all appropriate for children by any means). Heck, she even got me to go try horseback riding because she wanted to be like Xena, and to have a cool Xena costume sewn for her one Halloween. I was happier to have her emulating Xena rather than Barbie!
I can’t claim that my fondness for Xena was solely due to Katie, though. The show was entirely unbelievable, but happily, campily so. It didn’t claim to be true to traditional Greek mythology. It hopped around from stories involving Aphrodite to retelling the Biblical story of David and Goliath. The combat scenes were sillier than anything I’d seen since the ’60s version of Batman. And all that was just fine—if you’d suspended your disbelief enough to think that a warrior is going to run around in a leather miniskirt and armored bustier, what couldn’t you believe?
Xena was funny and smart and moody and no-nonsense. She was strong and irreverent. She had, and acknowledged, her dark side, although she strove to be a good person. Neither she nor Gabrielle was ditzy. They were occasionally silly, and Gabrielle was naïve at times, but they weren’t stupid. They were both strong while staying very feminine. Reversing the more traditional order of things, they were usually rescuing the menfolk rather than being rescued. I had to like that role reversal! I didn’t like some of the storylines in one of the last seasons (the whole messianic thing) as much as I liked the earlier, campier episodes—but they were still entertaining and engaging. I did like the fact that Gabrielle grew and changed into a very different person than she was in the earlier seasons.
Buffy Snuck In
I didn’t even plan to watch one episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer—in fact, I don’t think I knew it was a show, though I’d heard of the movie when it came out. We didn’t have cable at the time, and rabbit ears didn’t really work that well in our area. But I was ordered to bed rest due to a back injury, tired of reading and stitching, and bored silly, so I picked up the remote one night and started flipping channels. I saw a group of teenagers tossing off wisecracks while fighting people with weird ridged foreheads, yellow eyes, and fangs. The too-skinny blonde was obviously some sort of superhero. The dialogue pulled me in. I watched the rest of the show and found myself watching it again the next week.
I didn’t see all of the episodes until this past year when Rick and I watched the whole DVD set of Buffy, then Angel. I did read most of the original novels that were released years ago. We rented and watched the original movie, which was cute and campy but didn’t have the same quality of writing as the TV show.
Willow is my favorite character on the show. She’s intelligent and sweet but always comes through when the chips are down. I was unhappy when Oz left. Why couldn’t he have stayed? They could have shown Willow involved with both him and Tara in a nice, healthy, polyamorous vee. Surely that couldn’t upset anyone any more than her being part of a lesbian couple, right?
I remember when we first started hearing about Firefly. We were so excited, knowing the quality of Joss Whedon’s writing! When it came out a friend came over to watch with us and we had the whole family in front of the television. That was unusual because we didn’t even keep the TV out most of the time. “The Train Job” was the first episode broadcast, but it was somewhat confusing because “Serenity” was supposed to be the first episode. The show was as good as promised, though, and we were hooked.
We were terribly disappointed when the show was canceled. Sam and I participated in the fan campaigns to save it, but it just wasn’t to be. Serenity was a huge treat when it finally came out, of course, but the show should have been on for years.
By rights, this should be near the top, because I actually watched it before any of the others. Way back in the early ’80s, Scott (the fellow who would become my first husband) and I ran across a weird British science-fiction show on PBS quite late one Saturday night. The sets and special effects were terrible. The acting was silly. The main character was a tall fellow wearing a striped scarf longer than he was tall, and he went around offering jelly babies to everyone he met. We enjoyed it so much that we made an effort to see it on the following weekends, but the episodes didn’t seem to be shown in order. When I moved to a dorm at Agnes Scott College in the fall of 1984, Scott bought a little black-and-white TV for my dorm room so we could continue watching. It was scheduled right up against the dorm’s curfew, though, and we fell out of the habit of watching it, then never picked it up again. The next time I ran across the show, the Doctor was a new guy and I didn’t take to him. I pretty much forgot about the whole thing
Fast forward to 2005. I started hearing about a Doctor Who reboot. I watched the first episode and found it much more interesting than the old show. The production values were far better (although it still required a lot of suspension of disbelief, of course). I liked Christopher Eccleston, but when David Tennant came along, he was my favorite Doctor. I wasn’t a Matt Smith fan, and Peter Capaldi always seemed to be a bit off-kilter, but I’m enjoying Jodie Whittaker.
Then there was Torchwood in 2006, and I liked it even more. It was aimed at more mature audiences and the leading lady wasn’t a sidekick. I didn’t like where the show went in later seasons (I didn’t ever finish watching the last season), but the first two were marvelous. Rick and I are watching them now. (I introduced him to the Doctor shortly after we met.)
I enjoyed Lost Girl, but Rick never got into it so I lost interest and didn’t finish the last season or two. I keep meaning to go back and do so. I like Killjoys but it’s the same—Rick doesn’t enjoy it so I don’t get around to watching it. (Another tough chick. Yes, I have a type.) We watched the first season of The Witcher and are looking forward to the next. Rick had played the video game, but I was new to that universe. The Mandalorian was good, too. We’ve just begun Picard, but since neither of us saw most of the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation or saw most of the Trekmovies, we think there’s a lot that we’re missing. We’ve seen most of the first season of Altered Carbon but haven’t finished it yet. The series has a very high “ick” factor for me and it’s extremely dark, but it goes well with the Shadowrun campaign we’ve been playing in.
Galaxy Quest is one of my favorite movies. It’s cute and funny, and while it’s obviously a parody of the original Star Trek series it was obviously done by people who appreciated Star Trek and its descendants. Rick and I went to see Never Surrender: A GalaxyQuest Documentary a few months ago, celebrating the movie’s 20th anniversary. It has aged very well!
Contact is the only movie I’ve ever described as beautiful.
One of the very few movies I’ve ever bought on video for myself is The Princess Bride. I was amused when I found that Katie absolutely loved it. She watched it four times the first weekend. For a while, she was constantly going around doing an Inigo Montoya imitation and giggling (which is rather confusing to those who haven’t seen the movie).
Sam and I saw Practical Magic expecting to hate it, fearing just what kind of nasty things it would have to say about witches. We were more than pleasantly surprised. It’s a wonderful movie. I adore the soundtrack, as well. I’ve recently heard talk of a movie or TV show featuring the aunts from the movie in their younger years. That would be worth watching!
Another movie whose soundtrack I love is The Fifth Element. That’s a movie I can watch over and over again despite not being a Bruce Willis fan. It’s marvelously quotable, too.
Way back in 2008, when the Marvel movies started coming out, I didn’t pay that much attention to them. I did see each one (eventually) and enjoyed most of them. I wasn’t listening to fan chatter so I didn’t realize how many there would be, or that there was an overarching plan for them. When we saw Guardians of the Galaxy, I don’t think I even knew that it was a Marvel property. I’m not sure when that changed, but it was sometime after seeing GotG in the theater. I think we saw most of the Marvel movies that came after it in the theater. I know that we saw Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War there. I enjoyed the whole series, but the chronology starts to run together on me when I try to look back at them. Deadpool, though—that stands out on its own because it was hilarious. It didn’t hurt that it had Morena Baccarin from Firefly in it, either.
I admittedly haven’t kept up with the D.C. movies nearly so well, but Wonder Woman got me to wondering how they were, so we went back and watched them. I’m just not into the characters other than her for whatever reason. I didn’t really care about the Batman v. Superman conflict and Justice League left me cold. I did see Suicide Squad recently, but it was only in preparation for Birds of Prey. I don’t feel any need to own any of these movies other than Wonder Woman, or to see them again. I think the darkness of so much of the D.C. universe just doesn’t appeal to me.