Space Ramblings

SCiFi TV: Am I going Crazy?

Why does it seem every genre show set in some kind of science fiction or fantasy universe feel the need to do an episode where a character finds himself or herself in a mental institution and being convinced that his universe is really a made up delusion of his own demented psyche.

Smallville is the latest show to do it, giving us a pretty tedious alternate reality Smallville. Buffy did it before in one of the remarkably bleaker 7th season episodes, and for the later seasons of Buffy, bleaker is saying a lot, but then having Buffy trying to murder her friends including her little sister, in order to “get well” is definetly on the bleaker side.

Before that Star Trek had camped out on the whole “you’re only hallucinating all this” doorstep basically refining and replicating this same kind of plot line, Smallville and Buffy lifted. Star Trek The Next Generation gave us Riker locked up in a mental institution, in a genuinely disturbing episode, that used the context of a play and distorted realities to simulate real mental illness.

By contrast DS9 churned out a pretentious Far Beyond the Stars, an episode so full of itself, it almost gagged on the stench of its own platitudes. Never mind that the show’s entire premise distorts reality by passing DS9 off as the progressive work of a black man in the 50’s, when it’s actually the tedious work of some white writers and producers in the 90’s. This dishonest attempt at historical revisionism then gave us a ‘sequel’ in the form of Sisko briefly hallucinating himself in a mental hospital.

Voyager put out an episode that had the EMH flashing back through its memories imagining itself to be human, that was made a good deal more entertaining by the presence of Barclay. Not to mention the EMH informing Janeway smugly that she and the rest of the crew are about to be taken away and tortured.

Of course what almost all these episodes have in common as a driving mechanism is a weird brand of psychiatry in which therapists insist the character has to literally kill or destroy people or themselves in order to get “better.” You have to wonder if this entire plotline is a signal that the writers think they’re nuts or that the premise of the shows they’re writing is.

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