SQT posted last week about some of her kitschy favorites. I’ve been thinking about cheesey sci fi for a long time, probably since my movie-loving friend took me to a bad movie festival when we were in junior high that featured Plan 9 From Outer Space, Horror at Party Beach, and I Was a Teenage Werewolf. It seems to me that you could talk endlessly about cheesy science fiction.
Sure, there’s a lot of science fiction out there that’s smart or well made, Forbidden Planet or the new Battlestar Galactica for example. But for every one of those, there has to be a couple dozen more that occupy the cheese-filled realm like Independence Day or Star Trek TOS.
Star Trek had its share of “smart” science fiction and social commentary, such as Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. But the whole series is most known for its cheap sets, some lame effects, and a hammy William Shatner getting his shirt ripped, then doing a combat roll followed by a double fist punch to his opponent’s stomach.
If you really want to talk about cheese though, I think the best thing to do is look at Glen Larson’s body of work. Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Automan, Manimal, The Highwayman, and Night Rider have all seen the airwaves thanks to Larson.
Now when I was a kid I never saw much of Galactica, but my dad and I enjoyed watching Buck Rogers a lot. I remember seeing an episode where a robot/cyborg/whatever tracked Buck through a desert and attacked him at some kind of outpost. When Buck threw a computer component at the monster, it became obvious that the impromptu weapon was actually a cardboard box with the appearance of machinery taped to the sides of it.
Buck Rogers had a lot of cheese going for it. It had roller discos, it had Gary Coleman, child genius, and it had Twiki . Remember this was post-Star Wars, so you had to have cute comedy relief robots. Twiki’s job was to haul Dr. Theopolis around and to make the occasional sardonic comment. Twiki was voiced, of course, by the immortal Mel Blanc and featured that memorable “Bee-dee-bee-dee-bee-dee-bee” whenever he talked. Sure the robot was amusing, I guess, but he also ensured that the show was well entrenched in the “realm of cheese.” He even got to dance with a female robot once at a space disco.
It seems like the list of cheesy sci fi goes on and on, even calling the genre “sci fi” gives it an air of cheesiness. I think that it sometimes makes the product easier for consumption, my dad was never a fan of SF but he sure enjoyed the goofy, roguish Buck Rogers. I have no problem letting my four-year-old daughter watch Batman, but I think twice about letting her see Farscape (though the last time she did, she assured me that she understood that it was all pretend).
So do you think cheesy sci fi hurts or helps the genre? Just because something is cheesy, that doesn’t mean it’s worthless or substandard does it? Is there something cheesy out there that you really love or absolutely can’t stand?