Sci-Fi has a long and proud history of cancellation. Perfectly good shows (and plenty of plain awful shows) have seen the axe for a multitude of different reasons. Let’s take a look at five sure-fire ways to ruin a decent show.
1) Air your show on FOX
As Firefly, The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse has shown, quality has no impact on the lifetime of your show if you choose to air it on FOX. In fact, it would seem that longevity in FOX is inversely proportional to quality. Firefly was absolute quality. Just Google “firefly cancelled” to see the outcry. Dollhouse, although still a good show, wasn’t near Firefly’s calibre, and therefore lasted for slightly longer before reaching the same grisly demise. And let’s not even get started on Sliders! That’s it, Fox: create some of the finest science fiction of the last decade before callously shooting it down. Good call!
2) Kill off the lead character (or at least get rid of them unceremoniously)
Once they’re gone, the show can’t be far behind. Although Earth: Final Conflict lasted for some time after the death of William Boone, played by Kevin Kilner. However, when you base your show so firmly around the lead character’s personality and moral conflicts, you have a huge amount of creative rebuilding and restructuring that is not easy to successfully achieve. Even Ben Browder’s introduction to Stargate SG-1 to replace Richard Dean Anderson, although relatively well managed, signalled the beginning of the end for the show (even if it did provide enough energy to delay the inevitable for a year or two)
3) Go on for too long
Star Trek is probably the finest example. You can’t keep producing top quality stories week-in, week-out for fifteen years. Voyager and Enterprise probably didn’t need to happen. Deep Space Nine was tremendous, and after that the franchise should probably have taken three or four years out to refresh and re-energise. Voyager’s premise was strong, but it’s implementation was poor. As soon as the writer’s think creating an incredibly inaccurate Irish village in the holodeck is a good idea, it’s time to panic. Being from Ireland, the whole thing was laughable. And it was never going to be good sci-fi.
4) Sex it up!
Ratings are falling, reviews are mediocre, what do you do? Get your most attractive female cast member to take her clothes off, regardless of the plot making sense. Nudity is always a winner, right? Sadly, it’s not. Enterprise’s attempts to “sex it up” in season three were, frankly, ludicrous. Star Trek, according to Gene Roddenberry, was never adverse to lascivious female aliens: Orion slave girls, anyone? But quite frankly, making Jolene Blalock little more than eye-candy was a poor call. It didn’t fit the character, and was blatantly an attempt to attract an audience of hormonal college boys. Are the same men interested in Jolene Blalock’s “assets” going to care about the ramifications of a temporal anomaly? I doubt. Voyager and Enterprise’s writers made the other cast act like giggling school girls around Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine and Blalock’s T’Pol respectively. It wasn’t clever, nor effective.
5) When all else fails, add zombies
Note the stirring music, high production values, moral conflict and powerful premise.
Now, take five years later:
Note the alien vampires, poor acting, poor dialogue and little or no moral/emotional conflict whatsoever? Just gunshots and explosions.
The decline still brings a tear to my eye.