Great Achievements in Sci-Fi History

Achievements that changed the face of the science fiction genre… Yikes, this could be a big one; not to mention incredibly broad! But with Doctor Who celebrating its 50th Anniversary next year, I thought it a good idea to sound off on some great moments in sci-fi. And before anyone gets all up in arms about me excluding literature, please keep the following in mind:

  1. There is an obscene amount of books and authors that have aided and abetted the science fiction world.
  2. There is the very likely case that they influenced many (if not, all) of the titles listed below.

On with the list…

First Noted Sci-Fi Film — Le Voyage dans la Luna by Georges Méliès (1902)

We’ve all seen the image, no doubt, of the rocket stuck in the face of the moon. These days it’s easy to CG any effect with computers and a green screen (albeit, costing thousands of dollars in the process), but with camera work, lighting, editing, frame tinting and imposing, real film magic was made.

Big Budget Sci-Fi Film — Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927)

This German silent film has been deemed a cult classic and a must-see for any sci-fi fan. It also made use of camera tricks and illusions to capture some of its stunning expressionistic visuals on screen. The film cost five million marks to make, which is a hefty sum for a movie of its day.

First Special Visual Effects Award — The Rains Came (1939)

What is this film doing on this list? It’s not remotely sci-fi! Easy, let me explain… this is not about the film but more so about the Award. This is the first time Special Effects was recognized as a category at the Academy Awards (prior to that, they were just considered special awards or “honourable mentions” if you will). Let’s be honest, sci-fi films, according to the Academy, never stood a chance against those epic movies and gut-wrenching dramas but with the introduction of this Award, the genre would eventually own it.

From Page to Screen: Comic Books — Superman (1941)

You can’t spit on a badger without hitting a comic book movie in the face these days but in the Golden Age of Comics, there was only one (not true, but bear with me). Superman leapt from page to screen (as well as air waves with a radio serial). From theatrical animated shorts, a TV series in 1951 and a feature film in 1978 starring Christopher Reeves, Supes became a household name. Though he was the “one” he certainly wasn’t the only nor the first; but certainly the biggest.

Longest Running Sci-Fi Television Series — Doctor Who (1963)

It may not have been running for 50 years straight but its fandom has along with many novelizations to fill in the gaps of our beloved Time Lord’s exploits. Fifty years ago, with Styrofoam props and cardboard sets, and 11 incarnations with about 50+ companions later, Doctor Who has made history as the longest running sci-fi television series of all time.

A Sci-Fi Franchise is Born — Star Trek (1966)

Man, the 60s was a crazy time for sci-fi television. The Brits had their TARDIS and North Americans had the U.S.S. Enterprise. Creator Gene Roddenberry had an idealistic vision of the future that we would all aspire to attain.

Enter the Re-invented Space Opera — Star Wars (1977)

Sometimes, it’s not about the science but more about the fiction. We’re introduced to a doe-eyed yet strong-with-the-force farm boy, a swash-buckling captain, a powerful and rebellious princess, a Laurel and Hardy pair of droids and a wise old mentor – all the archetypes of the rainbow.

Horror and Sci-Fi — Alien (1979)

Should Alien be the one that stakes this claim? Not likely seeing as horror and sci-fi was mixing together long before in the 50s with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and It Came From Outer Space (1953). Plus, the mad scientist motif unleashed unsavory terror in Frankenstein (1931), Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933). But Alien really brought fear to the genre and was soon followed by The Thing (1982), Predator (1987) and Event Horizon (1997). Plus, best tagline alert: “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

Whew! Are you still reading? Seriously? Okay, I’ll try to condense the following points…

Quality Sci-Fi Becomes Mainstream… in a Good Way

Though Star Wars was breaking records and getting a piece of that sweet galactic sky, it wasn’t the only one. While some slipped into B-movie obscurity, others emerged like Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Bladerunner (1982), The Terminator (1984), Back to the Future (1985… What? There’s time travel; it counts!) Then in the 90s, The X-Files broke ground in Fox’s TV line-up and ushered in a slew of programming focused on alien life (too many to name so I’ll just link you to this).

Now the sci-fi genre has expanded and is sometimes referred to as “genre” and encompasses fantasy, the supernatural, the odd and the quirky. Ugh, that’s a whole ‘nother list. I know I breezed over some years decades and possibly some notable titles. Well, pipe up and educate me!

(Source – SPACE.CA, originally posted November 2013, no longer live)


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