Minor, but surprisingly widespread SF&F themes

Was watching my DVD of Phantom Menace the other day, and realized: “Oh yeah, the old ‘No Form Of Mind Control Can Override Pure Greed’ cliche”. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen versions of that. Any other subtle recurrent themes you’ve noticed?

I dunno how subtle it is, but almost invariably the problem isn’t solved by technology but by some ineffable quality of the human spirit blah blah blah…

Fuck that. Gimme a laser and I’ll show you some solutions. BZZZZZap!

I’ve always thought the scene in The Terminator where Reese escapes as a perfect example of the hero-overpowering-the-guard-with-a-single-blow syndrome. (While handcuffed yet!)

Now that I think about it, that’s not just limited to sci-fi, is it?

Apparently you’ve never seen an episode of any Star Trek series from the last fifteen years.

Problems don’t get solved with lasers or by the human spirit…but instead are solved by changing subroutines and rewiring shit.


Well, episodes that hinge on technobabble problems typically do have technobabble solutions, but there were also numerous episodes where the “problem” (such as it was) could be solved easily by a bit of judicious violence but instead the audience is subjected to 49 minutes of hand-wringing, soul-searching and speechifying, i.e. just about every episode of Voyager where doing the right thing means doing the stupid and pointless (but “moral!”) thing.

This was limited mostly to STtng, it seemed like 90% of the villians were spacial anomalies.

And don’t forget, robots will always turn into Killer Robotstm. Even if they have the three laws hardwired in.

Any technology that’s really cool and everybody (except the hero) thinks is beneficial to mankind and couldn’t be lived without, will ultimately turn out to be evil.

e.g. the farcaster portals in the Hyperion/Endymion saga

Humans are to blame and the aliens were only trying to help! :smack:

Well, in one off episodes like the Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone at least :smiley:

Creating life any way but the traditional method is almost always a Bad Idea.

Likewise, Artificial Intelligence.

Replacing people with robots within the timeline of the story is almost always a bad idea, regardless of how many peoples’ jobs were replaced by robots before the story began.

Westerns: Good guys wear white.
Science fiction of the 70’s-90’s: Good guys wear black.
Science fiction of today: Good guys wear grey.

Oh, yeah. Forgot the biggest, most overused plot point of all: The Good Guys Win.

Characters who start out in the “present day”, time travel to a past time period & muck up history as it was already established invariably return to a “present day” that is significantly altered to the characters’ benefit. (e.g. “Back to the Future”, countless “Star Trek” episodes).
Any ship, even minor shuttles, and barely space-worthy vessels, that fall into a wormhole will be shot out the other side of it in some other, far-off corner of the universe – rather than say, be crushed by the intense gravitational pressures and radiant energy necessary to create such effects.
Alien beings who come to Earth are sinister conquering villains, yet humans who visit other planets are peaceful explorers intent only on expanding their knowledge of the universe.

Not really a story plot, but the everpresence of “zap” guns that shoot colorful energy beam projectiles. What’s wrong with shooting an old-fashioned bullet at your enemy?

They tried that. It got cancelled.

Not always.

In Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder”, the characters return from mucking up the past to find that they have altered the outcome of a Presidential election so that a Hitler-like figure has been elected.

More likely, the altered present is horrible, but when they go back a second time and muck things up more, the present is “restored” nearly perfectly, with the only significant anomaly being the person the character fell in love with in the altered (horrible) present still exists in the corrected present. That person won’t recognize the main character, of course, but it’s clear that love will be re-established.

“There’s a ship on the screens that looks exactly like us, oh it is us, from the future or some parallel universe or some-such trying to warn us about…”

“Not a-frikkin’-gain, I hate it when that happens”
My personal hate is that every single artificial life-form, 'bot and droid wants to be more human, to learn how to feel emotions, go with hunches rather than logic etc. Gah! Give it a break!

Not just androids, but often every single alien species (especially those far more advanced than humans) are jealous of “the ineffable human spirit, which makes you unique and special and don’t you feel all warm and happy inside?” was in Dark City, where, at the end of the movie, John Murdock proudly states that the aliens, who were looking for what makes humans human, won’t find it in the brain, which is where they were looking. Where the fuck are they gonna find it, then, moron? That’s where it is!

Second least favorite has to go to the end of A.I., which sucked.

Three words:Love Conquers All.

Oh, how I hate that theme. I hate it with the fire of thousand suns; I hate it with the fury of a thousand women scorned. To recap, I hate it a lot.

The captain, under the influence of some insidious alien mind-control, has engaged the ship’s self-destruct sequence and set a course straight for Fleet Headquarters. But in the final moments, just as all seems lost, the beautiful Commander Loveinterest looks deep into his eyes, reaches into the depths of his soul, and through the Power Of Love, reawakens his humanity just in time to save the day.

The heroine is lying on her deathbed, victim of the deadly Plotdevice Virus. The hero stands anxious and horror-stricken at her side. The doctor takes performs the final test, then looks up and faces the hero, slowly shaking his head. “There’s nothing more I can do,” he says. “She’ll be gone within the hour.” He departs, leaving the two alone. The hero stares in silence for a moment or two. Then he decides he can take no more. He takes her hand, looks into her eyes, and begins speechifying for all he’s worth. Just as the heart monitor begins the Monotone Death-Annoucement Squeal, he leans over her for one…final…kiss. Suddenly, the heart monitor starts beeping. The heroine’s lips begin to move, and her arms fly up to embrace her lover. The virus won the battle, but lost the war, thanks to the Power Of Love.

I could go on, but you all know the scenarios. Overwhelming odds, inevitable consequences, impending defeat, destruction, and death: all of these are nothing more than mere triflings when faced with the Power Of Love. As long as two main characters have feelings for one another, you can be sure that they will triumph, because in the end, Love Conquers All.

Such complete and utter bullshit.

You must not be a very big fan of the ending to the first Matrix movie, then, I take it.

Well, what he meant is that the aliens thought they could find out what it meant to feel alive by tryng to find out the holes in human behavior - the difference between the intent and the result. What they found was that they couldn’t really measure things that mattered, and that they were crushing the very things that made humans interesting because it interfered with the experiment. Its capsulized in the moment when they try to upload themselves into Main Character (he was pretty generic!) - they very nearly killed the answer they were looking for, because they were simply incapable of understanding people.

Finish this phrase: “The Hunters become…”“the Hunted.”
If you missed that, your ClicheSpotter membership is revoked.