Science Fiction Franchises

I spent some time jotting down a few commonalities of various popular Science Fiction franchises. Here’s what I have so far.

FranchiseGenreLocationTimeAliensFocusProtagBase of OpsAntag
Star WarsSpace FantasyOther GalaxyPastCountlessWarSoldiersShipEvil Empire
Star TrekSpace OperaOrion spurCenturies in the futureCountlessExplorationSoldiersShipEvil Aliens
Babylon 5Space OperaOrion spurCenturies in the futureManyWarSoldiersSpace stationEvil Aliens
FireflySpace WesternDistant systemCenturies in the futureNoneCrimeCriminalsShipEvil Empire
FarscapeSpace OperaDistant regionPresentManyExploration, EscapeFugitivesShipEvil Empire
Eve OnlineSpace OperaDistant clusterMillenia in the futureNoneWar, Economy, ExplorationVariousShipEverybody else
Mass EffectSpace OperaMilky WayCenturies in the futureManyWar, ExplorationSoldiersShipEvil Aliens
TravellerSpace OperaOrion spurMillenia in the futureManyExploration, EconomyVariousShipEvil Empire
Known SpaceSpace Opera40lyCenturies in the futureSeveralExplorationExplorersPlanetsVarious
Battlestar Galactica (2004)Space OperaMilky WayPastNoneWarSoldiersShipRobots
StargateSpace OperaMilky WayPresentSeveralExplorationSoldiersEarthEvil Aliens
Doctor WhoSpace ComedyMilky WayPresentManyTimetravelSpecialShipRobots
AlienSpace HorrorClose to EarthCenturies in the futureFewHorrorSoldiersPlanetsEvil Aliens
Warhammer 40kSpace HorrorMilky WayMillenia in the futureManyWarSoldiersPlanetsEvil Aliens
Dune?Orion spurMillenia in the futureNonePoliticsNoblesPlanetsEvil Empire
PiperSpace OperaMilky Way GalaxyCenturies in the futureSomePolitics, ExplorationVariousPlanetsVarious

Now, obviously a few of these entries require  comments:

Dune: Not exactly sure what “genre” this is. I’d say science fiction politics, since the dynastic struggle is a big focus. But then there are also religious/philosophical tones to it. I do have to admit I never could bring myself to finish even the first book, so take this with a grain of salt.

Warhammer 40k: It’s also a space fantasy if there ever was one (Elves and stuff, hello?)

Doctor Who: It isn’t really a comedy, but while it has gotten more “mature”, I still have a hard time taking the show serious. It’s a weird mix, at any rate; it’s kind of a time travel show (though time travel is really only a gimmick), sort of space opera, and sort of zany. The protagonists are The Doctor (a time traveller) who is aided by “everyday people” companions.

Traveller: Did not really have an antagonist per se. The Zhodani work as an “evil empire”. The New Era featured the vampire computer virus.

Known Space: Doesn’t really have an enemy per se. The Pakh protectors, the Kizinti, the Thrint, and so on all count but there is not really one standard enemy. It’s more a series about exploration in my opinion.

Piper: Very similar to Known Space in that there is not one enemy species or polity. The Federation serves as an antagonist in some novels, but is the protagonist in others.

So, what sort of conclusion do we draw from this?

A successful space franchise should either have no aliens at all or a whole bunch of them (and in any case most of them are clearly strange humans in strange rubber suits). It’s set centuries or millenia in the future, covers a large volume of space and features soldiers or rebels who use a spaceship as their basis. No real surprises there.

Of course this ‘research’ is very unscientific, I’d like to include more franchises and a measure of success for each franchise (Star Trek is more successful than Firefly – by far – and thus should probably weigh more in the analysis).


2 thoughts on “Science Fiction Franchises

  1. You forgot to include 2 of the biggest never heard of before, Dragonfly and Aventus 🙂 Whaddaya say we give Whedon, Moore, and Roddenberry a run for their money?

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