Many of science fiction and fantasy's most epic stories are also great love stories. Love is the ultimate mystery, and a huge motivation for many of our favorite characters. But sometimes, even with warp drives and magic flying horses, the hardest part of a fantastical story to believe in... is the romance.
When creators don't take their time to build a love story, or there's just no chemistry, you end up with a bland, uninspiring mess — or worse. Here are the 10 most unconvincing love stories in science fiction and fantasy. Have you been caught in a canned romance?
1) Pen and Cinnaminson (Terry Brooks' Shannara Series)
It seems like Brooks decided that almost every Ohmsford boy who set out on an adventure needed to find a girl to marry along the way. For example, in The Wishsong of Shannara, Wil Ohmsford has feelings for Amberle, an elven girl who sacrifices herself to save the world, and Wil experiences an immense loss. That's okay, though — Eretria, a Rover girl who helped him out in his quest to protect Amberle, is still around, so he just marries her instead. And then the relationship between Pen Ohmsford and the blind girl Cinnaminson in The High Druid of Shannara feels as though the author had to pair off the main character for no other reason than, "Well, that's what always happens." Like Amberle, Cinnaminson sacrifices her bodily self and becomes part of a tree to help Pen save the world. Her spirit, however, is free as an Aeriad. She can even see the world for the first time. She's happier as an Aeriad than she ever was as a human — but then she gives it up, simply so Pen can have a love interest again.
2) Donna Troy and Terry Long (Teen Titans)
It's Scans Daily's favorite couple! Terry Long is the creepy history professor with an outrageous beard and a habit of flirting with every member of the Titans — even after he marries Donna Troy. She even gives up her superpowers and becomes a normal human for him, and has his baby and everything. He's the kind of guy who will tell Donna that she looks just like her mother, right before he has sex with her on an airplane. And then he and his kid die in a car crash, and we never speak of them again.
3) Arthur Dent and Trillian (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
In the book, radio and TV versions of the story, Arthur approaches Trillian at a party, only to get cockblocked by the flamboyant Zaphod Beeblebrox. And that's pretty much the end of it. Trillian and Zaphod have an ambiguous relationship that lasts a while, but there are no further sparks between Arthur and Trillian — until the movie version, where Trillian is suddenly Zooey Deschanel, who's somehow much more fascinating than Sandra Dickinson. (Fans of The Tomorrow People would no doubt disagree.) In any case, the Arthur-Trillian romance feels shoehorned into the story — especially the notion that Trillian winds up reciprocating Arthur's feelings for her. The only time on the journey that Trillian seems to love Arthur is during the scene on Magrathea where she shoots Zaphod with the Point-of-View gun. In any case, the romance still feels like it only exists because someone figured there had to be a love story.
4) Susan and Caspian (Prince Caspian)
Speaking of romances that aren't in the source material... Like the H2G2 film, this movie had this pointless love story added to it, only H2G2 did it better. The romance between Susan and Caspian never happened in the book either. Another case of "You know what would make this story better? Romance!" Sadly, the scenes where they're supposed to show attraction to each other are painfully awkward, and the kiss at the end doesn't make us feel anything other than the need to facepalm. As one person at Yahoo answers puts it, "Caspian had better chemistry with Peter, and I don't mean that sarcastically."
5) Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley (Harry Potter)
This is more the movies than the books — but it's a meh romance, either way. Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright are like two dead fish flopping together. It's clear that J.K. Rowling just doesn't want Harry third-wheeling it at the end of the series — but at the same time, we just didn't quite understand: "Why Ginny?" They never seem to have a reason to be into each other, except that Ginny's brother is Harry's best friend. Harry's like a part of the Weasley family already, in fact. But everybody knows siblings are off limits. In the books, too, Harry's jealousy of Ginny and Dean — the "monster in his chest" — seems to come out of nowhere.
6) Leela and Andred (Doctor Who, "The Invasion of Time")
This is actually the first thing that comes to mind when we think of completely unconvincing romances. Even by the standards of classic Doctor Who, which was notorious for giving the Doctor's traveling companions a completely random motivation for leaving his side, this one is especially dreadful. Maybe because the barbarian Leela has such a strong personality, and then she suddenly gets smitten with this completely bland nebbish who never seems to be into her at all. And then she randomly decides to stay behind on Gallifrey, so she can spend the rest of her life being frustrated with the Time Lords' policy of non-interference. (Although you just know that Leela probably started the Time War.)
7) Chakotay and Seven of Nine (Star Trek: Voyager)
When we first heard Raoul from Eating Raoul was starring in a new Star Trek series, we were beyond excited. But then Chakotay was rapidly drained of life and became the blandest character on an altogether bland show — except for the occasional brief moments where Chakotay had romantic sparks with Captain Janeway, and then he would flicker to life. Meanwhile, Seven of Nine also had huge romantic chemistry with Janeway. This could have been an epic love triangle, as both Chakotay and Seven were into the Captain, and Janeway exercised her usual decision-making skills. Instead, the show randomly manufactured a Chakotay-Seven romance at the last possible moment, first in a holodeck simulation and then, forgettably, in the final episodes. You never, for a second, feel that these two are into each other, even when their "love" faces a tragic ending. (Compare that with the utterly real Tom-B'elanna romance.)
8) Lex Luthor and Lana Lang (Smallville)
This whole relationship felt like pointless drama-mongering on the part of the writers. Lex is initially sorta interested in Lana, but his role in Season 1 is helping his friend Clark to get close with her. They eventually become friends, because they're both friends with Clark. And then, for the first three seasons, you could almost see them getting together. He's a good friend to her - he uses his billions to keep the Talon, her beloved coffee shop, going, even when it turns out not to be so profitable; gives her relationship advice, etc. — but when they actually get together, it requires Lana to accept waay too much. For instance, when she moves into the Luthor mansion, she finds that Lex has put cameras into her bedroom. Creepy. And yet, she gets over it in time to have sex with him and get pregnant. Oh, and then they get married. And then she finds out she wasn't pregnant at all, but Lex had been injecting her with hormones to make her think she was pregnant, so she would marry him. She then fakes her own death to frame him for the crime; and then goes on a long revenge spree against him. It all feels horribly forced.
9) Saul Tigh and Caprica 6 (Battlestar Galactica)
In a show that frequently detoured into weird storylines in its final half, this could actually be the most random. We get that Saul Tigh is feeling existential angst over his discovery that he's actually a Cylon. And he's feeling bad about poisoning his wife, and Six happens to look just like her... if you squint a lot. A lot. And he's been drinking that home-made moonshine that the knuckle-draggers make in their private still. And yet, this romance seems to come out of where — especially when it goes from self-hating prison sex to tender relationshippiness, after Six is pregnant with Saul's baby. It just seems to come out of nowhere — and then, the second the baby is gone, it goes back to nowhere again.
10) Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala (Star Wars: Episode II & III)
We didn't really want to pick on the Star Wars prequels again. But then it felt like leaving this pairing off the list was a grave injustice, because these two really are the poster kids for unconvincing, chemistry-free pairings. It's not just the fact that Ani is a little kid when they first meet, and then suddenly they're all smoochy in the second movie. Or the weak dialogue, like "Ani, you're breaking my heart." It's the sense that this romance is inserted purely so that Anakin will have a reason to turn to the Dark Side, and this is all just another giant plot hammer. It's as though millions of pieces of story logic cried out in pain and were suddenly silenced.
Thanks to Cyriaque for suggesting Terry Long!