As Torchwood finishes its acclaimed Children of Earth miniseries, one British critic declares that its success is an aberration for a country that has consistently failed to produce any good science fiction television whatsoever. And yes, he's including Doctor Who.

Admittedly, Patrick West may shoot himself and/or his argument in the foot with his first example of quality American SFTV:

[W]hereas the US has given us Flash Gordon, The Twilight Zone, many incarnations of Star Trek, The X-Files, Quantum Leap, Futurama and, more recently, a re-vamped Battlestar Galactica, Britain's principal contribution to the field can be summed up in two words: Dr Who. Granted, The Quatermass Experiment was popular back in the 1950s, and The Hitchiker's Guide to The Galaxy was superb - but the latter was sci-fi parody, and inadvertently betrayed our timidity when it came to taking this genre seriously. It was also perhaps even an unconscious admission that our previous attempts to do so had been execrable... Perhaps we like to think [Who] was good because the Americans liked it. We Brits always seem to think that Americans liking something is a seal of approval. Monty Python's Flying Circus, The Office, etc. [Who] remains correctly categorised as a ‘cult programme'. And as everyone knows, ‘cult programme' is euphemism for ‘shit programme'.


Them's more than a few fighting words - not least because I can't agree with any argument that disses Blake's Seven while holding Quantum Leap up as an ideal of good science fiction - but there's a certain ring of truth to it, nonetheless... For all of British TV's genre successes, whether they're Primeval, Being Human or even Jekyll, there's always something weirdly... apologetic about them. It's not just a question of budget and ill-conceived special effects - although, yes, that as well - but almost as if they can't quite conjure up enough abandon to let themselves not be slightly embarrassed and/or arch about the whole thing.

What do you think? Is British SFTV lacking behind American shows? And if so, why?

British TV's sci-fi inferiority complex [Spiked]

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