ISN News: The Guide to Crusade
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The Zocalo Newsletter!

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 An Open Letter to Science Fiction Television Fans Everywhere:

        Let’s get this out of the way up front. Not since the late 1980’s has SF on television faced such a dismal future. That’s right. I said dismal. I know that the looming event horizon of bad SF is hard to see for some but it is there and we are getting closer to being sucked into another dry patch every ratings period. Some at this point are probably thinking to themselves : “Okay..he is as nuts as a Y2K cultist. Look at Stargate and Farscape. ”. I agree that both of those shows are doing wonderful at the moment. I would in fact go so far as to say that they are some of the only groundbreaking shows in SF except that they don’t appear on a mainstream outlet. Not everyone has the Science Fiction Channel or Showtime to see these shows in their first run. Even syndicated “SG-1” is on very late or not at all in some major markets. I am referring to the major broadcasters and cable stations in this little letter and the lack of programming that awaits us if we don’t act now.

        Think about the current shows that are airing right now. Can you honestly say that all of them will be around next year? “X Files” is on it’s last season. Some would debate that it has never recovered from the movie of last year and would go on to say that the sixth season was somewhat of a major letdown. FOX even at one point toyed around with the idea of ending the show more than once this past season. “Voyager” is another big name that could be looking at it’s last season if UPN goes the route of TNT with the WWF. As it is you can expect to see wrestlers in make up in astrometrics talking with 7 of 9. Plus you will see a lot less of her this season as well because UPN has cut the episode length back by two minutes for more ad time. And as long as we are on the subject of TNT…I think that this year will be one of the darkest in SF history with the handling and eventual public execution of “Crusade”. The times are definitely changing when the franchise name alone can’t garner viewership.

        Now we take a look at the upcoming season from the last pillars of network SF. FOX brings us another in the line of Chris Carter projects called “Harsh Realms”. This show is based loosely off the comic of the same name and will draw Harsh remarks from SF fans due to it’s “Are we in the real world or the computer one” [ Matrix ] style. Another show that is coming to us from the WB this time is “Roswell”. This is a show that capitalizes on the teen drama of high school but this time out you aren’t the alien..they are. Finally, don’t forget about “Angel”. This poor show has been accused of being to dark for it’s core demographic and was fighting off network involvement that was trying to brighten up a show about vampires and demons in it’s leading roles.

        So let’s look ahead now to the future eh? Okay, we have “Buckaroo Banzi” on FOX as a mid season replacement if things can be ironed out between FOX and the creators/producers of the spin off series to the classic early 80’s movie. If is always a word that goes hand and hand with SF ever notice that? Anyway, “Battlestar Galactica” is moving ahead and looks to be in great hands with Richard Hatch at the controls but there is no final deal yet and until there is it is still vaporware for us who watch the glowing tube. “Witchblade”…Oh yeah, I remember what’s holding this series back. TNT. Guess they are trying to bat 1000. At least there might be hope for some of these projects. The thing that scares me is that we are still seeing the trend to dig from the well of the past instead of starting with a new concept. Knowing that a big name alone can’t pull a series along by it’s self is something I have already brought up once so pretend I said it here too.

        Where am I going with all of this? I will tell you. I didn’t go into depth because of two very important reasons. One is that in a ever changing marketplace you are going to have to make some serious choices and research on what shows you like to watch. The 500 channel universe is coming with the growing adoption of broad band communication. You are going to have to really think about what you want to see as far as entertainment goes because now ratings can be gathered like hits on a website. No longer can we blame the Neilsons for distorting the SF demographic. Nope, now it will be simple raw hard numbers of who watched and for how long. Think hard vast viewer. The second is more of a personal thing and it is the whole point of this long and uselessly thin letter. You had better stand up and be counted now because if you don’t expect more shows like “Space Rangers” to be made. You got it. Mindless violence in a techno non logical 2D character universe. That’s what is going to happen if your don’t express you views on what you like.

        I urge everyone who reads this to write TNT, SFC, Showtime, FOX, The WB or whatever entity that makes the shows you watch. Not for “Crusade” or “Babylon 5” or “Star Trek” but for Science Fiction as a whole. Tell them you want to see more of the good not the lazy writing that you find unmatchable. Be honest and truthful but mostly be polite. Also, do not e mail the network brass. Anyone who has fought to save a show or make a point can tell you that real physical paper means more to the weight of your convictions than any form of electronic media. After all, someone has to open your letter and read it plus store it. That means that someone has to spend money to listen to your views. How cool is that eh?

        Lastly, make your voice heard when it comes to buying merchandise. You don’t have to dress up like a Klingon and go to the mall but there is nothing wrong with wearing a Star Fleet Com badge or a DS9 tie to work. Look at the tons of people who dress up in different costumes to support their colleges or professional sports teams. I think a com badge is small when compared to someone who paints themselves orange and sits in the stands in 15 degree weather to show their undying support. Let others know that there is nothing wrong with liking Science Fiction. Remind them that the love of the pulp novels is what got us to the moon. If that doesn’t work then take away their cell phone, microwave, cd player, computer and other technology that spun off from the space program. Maybe they might feel a bit different after that. Science Fiction is the real stuff of dreams and as we approach a new age of awareness it will become much harder to ignore SF’s influence on the world around us. What I have said here is nothing new. It just bears repeating from time to time.

Good luck with the new battle of the line.

Joe Steinkamp
Ranger and Ranger1138
Moderator and contributing reporter for

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