Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Viking Funerals

Science fiction occasionally involves some strange coincidences. I don't mean the fictional ones, which are usually the result of bad writing. I mean the real ones, where two authors seem to be experiencing telepathy or something. For example, in 1967 both Brian W. Aldiss with An Age (aka Cryptozoic!) and PKD with Counter-Clock World wrote challenging novels where time ran backwards. Then in 1979 both Arthur C. Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise and Charles Sheffield's The Web Between the Worlds featured the building of a space elevator.

Another weird coincidence showed up in both the season premiere of Dr. Who and the season finale of Fringe. (If you haven't seen them yet there will be some spoilers ahead, so be forewarned.) For one thing both featured the killing of the lead character. The two-part opener of Dr. Who had everybody's favorite Time Lord getting blasted by a mysterious figure in a vintage Apollo spacesuit. In Fringe, a future Olivia gets offed by a vengeful Walternet. As if that weren't enough there was an even bigger coincidence to come. Both characters are sent to their final rest by being placed in a boat which is set on fire and set adrift. That's right, they're both given Viking funerals.

I don't know what the odds are of two different show on two different continents having exactly the same major plot developments, but I'm sure they're astronomical. Other than that the shows each took very surprising turns.

In DW, Amy may or may not have been pregnant. She keeps having visions of a woman wearing a metal eye-patch looking in at her through a peephole. I'm not sure what to make of that. In any case we've seen a picture of her holding a baby and later seen an orphan girl who can regenerate. Which strongly suggests that River is Amy's daughter, although how many red herrings are involved in all this is hard to tell.

Meanwhile, Fringe took a dramatic twist when it revealed that Olivia's death was just one possible future that Peter was witnessing, and then abruptly veered into left field by having Peter merge the two universes -- and then vanish from existence! It was like that Red Dwarf episode "The Inquisitor" where that rouge mechanoid goes around erasing "unworthy" people from time and no one remembers they ever existed. I have no idea how they'll resolve that story line, but it was one hell of a cliffhanger.

There are obviously a good deal of overlap between the plot devices employed by the two shows. Both of them draw more heavily on the tropes of Horror fiction than those of science fiction. I'm not going to start some futile squabble by claiming they aren't science fiction, but I do think they owe more to Stephan King than to, say, Frederik Pohl. In the US DW is even advertised as being part of "Supernatural Saturday." Maybe this more occult tilt to these shows has resulted in astral energies bringing their plots into brief alignment. Or maybe it's just that both shows rely so heavily on spectacle that they decided to kill their main charter and set them on fire in the hopes of lighting the way to higher ratings.

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