I spent the first two days of the new year at work, so when I was up at absurd o’clock on Sunday, I saw on the news about the Sunday Times’ article on Nasa’s list of Worst Science Fiction Films [no link – daft paywall]

Nasa, deciding that bad science fiction is bad for science, named and shamed the least realistic sci fi flicks and praised the most realistic (lists at bottom).

Together with the Science & Entertainment Exchange (SEE), they would like to campaign for more realistic science fiction, to include Nasa specialists and vehicles as “product placements” – in films that it approves.

Professor Sidney Perkowitz, member of SEE, has also designed a mark of approval: No scientific ideas were seriously hurt during the making of this movie.

I had a long argument with my director friend about scientific realism in movies, based in part on TV Tropes’ Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness (though his main problem was that Star Wars and Marvel Universe were in the same category).

The conclusion we reached was this: It Doesn’t Matter. Stories are fundamentally about people. Science Fiction, while possessing genre conventions, is essentially just another setting, another world in which people (and other sentient beings) live their lives and create conflict.

Sure, you’ll please a subset of people by being realistic (i.e. scientists) but, as long as you tell a good story and capture the imagination, you can get away with pretty much anything.

Another interesting point about Nasa’s list of most realistic films is that the latest one was released in 1997. The worst films start at 1997. Perhaps Nasa believes that this year was the watershed of film accuracy and all concepts of realism took flight when Tony Blair came to power.

Perhaps we’re just bigger thrillseekers now – we have amazing feats of CGI and now 3D, so now we’re only seeking a spectacle. I personally don’t buy that but it may be why Nasa’s believes we’ve forsaken realism.

All in all, though, it doesn’t bode well for my sit com pilot ‘The Greenwich Problem’ – in which Nasa plays a significant side role that they would never in a million years “approve”.

Good job they’re not running the show then.

Worst Sci Fi Films:
1) 2012 (2009)
2) The Core (2003)
3) Armageddon (1998)
4) Volcano (1997)
5) Chain Reaction (1996)
6) The 6th Day (2000)
7) What the #$*! Do We Know? (2004)

Best Sci Fi Films:
1) Gattaca (1997)
2) Contact (1997)
3) Metropolis (1927)
4) The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
5) Woman in the Moon (1929)
6) The Thing from Another World (1951)
7) Jurassic Park (1993)

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