Things That Bother Me in Science Fiction Movies

I can put up with artificial gravity and suspend disbelief for FTL travel, but some things in science fiction movies make them almost unwatchable for me:

  • Sound in the vacuum of space
  • Blast waves
  • Ships banking as they turn
  • Space ships always managing to be facing each other right side up when they meet
  • “Let me know when the blasters are in range”
  • Universal translators that can figure out a new language after hearing a dozen words
  • Any talk about “speed”. Relative to what? Acceleration is the only thing that matters
  • Aliens always being humanoid in appearance and roughly human sized
  • The prevalence of planets with breathable atmospheres

There are so many interesting angles to explore with space travel and alien contact. If you are going to ignore the physics of space, just make it fantasy like Game of Thrones or LOTR.

2001, Gravity, The Martian, The Passenger, and others at least try to actually make use of the fact that they are set in space.

We’ve discussed this one a few times before on the Dope and I’d come down on the other side.

In movies, the camera’s “ear” jumps around as much as its “eye” does, and they are not necessarily always in sync. For example, a common thing in regular movies might be hearing the loud sound of horses galloping, and then in the next shot see the actual horses. Or generally hearing a lot of things clearly, that no single vantage point would hear so well in reality.
So when I hear a rocket launch in space say, I’m happy for that to be the sound as if my ear was pressed against the rocket, or in the ship that launched the rocket. Even though that is not where the camera’s eye is right now.

Of course, it’s different if it is a character in the story e.g. someone floating in space, hearing a rocket launch, that would irk me too. (Unless it’s science fantasy).

You might like the Europa Report from 2013. Not a high-budget film, but it tries to be hard science while also being speculative.

Your criticisms are valid, but one must also take into account the time which a particular show was made. The initial episode of Star Trek had a silent fly-by of the Enterprise in the opening sequence and shots from space but audiences of the time wouldn’t accept that so the “swoosh” was added. Fast-forward to 2004’s version of Battlestar Galactica that was praised for its silent space sequences, audiences by that time being much more informed that there is no sound in space.

Things like universal translators are a gimmick that, at least in theory, allows one to focus on other aspects of the narrative than having to laboriously learn a new language each episode. Like other narrative tools they can be used well or poorly.

The humanoid alien problem is down partly to the limitations of using human actors, or so the story goes. On the other hand, the Horta of Star Trek was a well-received non-humanoid alien. Star Trek, even in the original series, had several but making a non-humanoid also relatable and sympathic to an audience can be difficult. Not an excuse to avoid them entirely in my view but I don’t run the entertainment industry.

Others are, to some extent, lazy writing. One problem is that for many SF shows the writers are not, in fact, actual SF genre writers. You do get some - the original series Star Trek had several - but other shows have non-genre writers who often don’t understand science as well as nerds and geeks do and it shows in the results.

Especially when they keep calling you “ugly bags of mostly water”. The cheek!

The truth hurts

Wasn’t it part of the plot line in the original Star Trek series that all humanoid species are related and must have been “planted” around the galaxy?

That was Next Gen.

And the lady that planted them was leader of the Dominion. (Ok not really but played by the same actor)

Thanks. I thought it traced back to TOS because of that episode where the “space hippies” were looking for Eden.

It was clearly a post hoc rationalization for why aliens are so humanoid and (worse) can mate with humans.

Ultimately Star Trek is much more on the science fantasy side of the spectrum. I love ST; it’s great that there’s a positive vision for the future, but realistic it ain’t.

Realism isn’t always a requirement for me in fiction. I like the story. If the writer must inject some “suspension of disbelief” into the story, that’s okay provided it’s up front and not used as a “gotcha” to cover up bad writing.

The biggest thing that bothers me is the presence of gravity. At least in 2001 and 2010 they were using centrifuges (and, in fact, they used the lack of gravity to make a point near the end). You left out 2010, not to mention Destination Moon, the series The Expanse, and a few others.

People can object that filming without gravity is prohibitively expensive, but it isn’t – you just have to be clever in your practice. What bothers me even more is that they don’t portray the moon, Mars, and other such locales as lower-gravity environments. Not even 2001 or The Martian. I’d like to see an adaptation of Heinlein’s The Menace from Earth or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress wit proper lunar gravity.

Ships bank when they turn so balancing centrifugal forces doesn’t require additional power use by the artificial gravity system.

Science fiction has nothing to do with scientific accuracy. It’s about people dealing with situations, many of which are created by new technology.

It’s a form of fantasy where the fantastic element is presumed to have a “scientific” explanation. Note I put quotes around “scientific.”

For me, it’s all about story. A good story can ignore science as necessary.

Plus you only have to replace the inertial dampeners every 50,000 light years that way.

Agree completely. In fact, I’d say, outside of media that is meant to be depicting real historical events, I don’t care about realism at all. The only thing relevant to telling a good story is self-consistency. But this might be a hijack.

This is the one that I thought was stupid even as a kid watching Star Trek, before I gave a thought to any of the others. They visit a strange planet, Spock says to Kirk “it’s an M-class planet, captain”, so they beam down to check it out with no spacesuit or absolutely no protection whatsoever, just the uniforms they wear on ship.

I was like 8 when I read War of the Worlds. I was well aware that any strange planet, despite how Earth-like its climate and atmosphere were, could have any number of dangerous bacteria, viruses or a million other things that could sicken or kill a non-native visitor.

The first sign of this is when the writer/director, especially if they hold that dual role, comes out with the belief that their scifi film is exploring a new idea in a new way. It is almost always something that was done and redone in written scifi decades ago.

M-Class means you can breathe the atmosphere and there’s nothing present that will kill you instantly. The transporter bio-filters take care of the rest upon your return to the ship. :smiley:

Ah, ok, I withdraw my objection then, your honor. :smile:

The benefits of incorporating deus ex machina in your ship designs from the start.