For some time I've been tracking new topics on the SyFy (formerly well known as the American SciFi network), bulletin boards. One third to one half of the new topics board wide are from users condemning and complaining about the new line up. It's true, they've been straying for years, adding wrestling, reality television, terrible ghost hunting shows and most recently a cooking program to their lineup. It's depressing watching the channel that brought us hits like Farscape, Stargate Atlantis, and Battlestar Galactica go straight down the crapper. Their heyday is over. Their core audience feels shunned.
All that has little to do with what's happening on our very own Canadian Imagination Station: Space. I love this channel. Any day of the week you'll find wall to wall Star Trek with shows like Lost, Smallville, V, and Doctor Who (yes, the new one!), sprinkled in. As my writing takes me stoically striding away from regular Space Opera convention (the Spinward Fringe series is taking a decidedly un-Star Trek / Star Wars turn), being able to flip to the Space station while I'm house sitting is a warm comfort.
That's why, when I was receiving yet another new topic notification from the SyFy bulletin boards entitled "Sci-Fi fans should fight back" a thought occurred to me. I'm in Canada, where we still have a science fiction themed channel that's true to itself, why not praise it for doing things the right way instead of attack a channel that has clearly lost its way?
Space: The Imagination Station doesn't have much original programming, and what little it has is pretty low budget, but it's not bad. They have a show called Inner Space that reports on science fiction and pop culture and the reruns they have are absolutely appropriate. They're the reruns we love, ranging from Star Trek to canceled shows like Defying Gravity and Flash Gordon. Most fans think these shows were canceled before their prime, and Space isn't afraid to pick up the completed episodes of these orphaned series. I appreciate a lot of the reruns because I can't afford to buy boxed sets of Star Trek: Generations, Deep Space 9, Voyager or Enterprise. I'm not alone, many of us science fiction fans can't afford to buy these huge collections.
Missing are the awful SyFy movies, made on a pauper's budget with screenplays that leave viewers choking on bad dialog and cliche. This week on the Space channel they're featuring Final Draft (B Grade starring James Van Der Beek), Hitcher (the A Grade Horror remake), The Mist (B Grade starring Marcia Gay Harden), The Fog (B-ish grade remake starring Tom Welling, Selma Blair), The Last Sect (B Grade vampire film starring David Carradine). They may not be top shelf, but every single one of those films beats the most recent SyFy films: Mega Piranha and Monster Ark. To me, it's better to pick from the B Movie shelf than to continually try to make a low budget scifi/horror film and fail every single time, at least in SyFy's case. I'm aware that many great directors started with B grade low budget film, but there's no spark in the SyFy drivel. I've never seen a quality film made exclusively by SyFy. Over the last year those films have been a continual source of complaints on the SyFy bulletin boards.
There are shows like Stargate: Universe, Caprica, Eureka, Sanctuary and Warehouse 13 that live on SyFy, but those few bright spots don't redeem the station. I hope the lower budget shows in that list have other buyers lined up, because I doubt the all new SyFy network will continue to carry them with the way they're going. The funny thing is that all those shows are filmed in Vancouver.
So, looking away from the tragic example the American SyFy network is setting and back to our own lower budget but higher quality Imagination Station, I'm compelled to say thank you. Thank you for being the home of beloved reruns, fantastic B and low A grade films, original programming that may be short in size and budget but big on ambition, and for staying true to your own name.
May you forever be absent of terrible reality television, wrestling and cooking shows.
If I were offered a television deal from the SyFy station at a one million dollar budget per episode, and another deal from the Space Station at three hundred thousand an episode, I'd take the deal from the Space Station. It's better to be amongst respected reruns, instead of crammed into the embarrassingly bad SyFy schedule.