Obviously all TV shows are a product of the time, place, and conditions under which they were made. Take a movie about the Shootout at the OK Corral made in 1950, and another made in 1960, and you can instantly tell them apart, even though they’re covering the same event. Even if they do it in the same way, with the same cast, there’ll still be differences because of changing mores, changing tech, fashion, etc.
Part of Star Trek’s inherent greatness is its inherent 60s-ness. Ditto: The Prisoner. Part of TNG’s inherent weakness is its lack of this 60s-ness, coupled with its reticence to adopt any inherent 80s/90sness. Part of B5’s inherent awsomeness is its overwhelming 90s qualities. Lost’s ‘slice of life’ quality made it immediately amiable to audiences, but would have been a hard sell in the ’70s. Part of what makes Firefly great was its post-9/11 misanthropy. That’s the same thing that made the RDM Galactica awful. Stargate would have fit just fine in the ’80s, so fine, in fact, that I sort of feel cheated it wasn’t made then.
The question, then, is: how would our favorite series have differed if they were products of an earlier or later time. If you had a time machine, and could ‘invent’ The X-Files in 1955, or *prevent* it from being invented in the ’90s, and cause it to be “Invented” now, how would that change the composition of the show?
Casting, obviously, but this is different. Star Trek has always been a vaguely leftist show. Not something we take issue with, it just is. Yet, being born in 1965 like it was, its brand of ‘leftism’ was more enlightened and pragmatic, and less reactionary. They actually came out in support of the Vietnam war, because opposing the war hadn’t become a liberal value yet Had the show turned up just three years later, it probably would have been far less military. Had it shown up a few years earlier, it probably would have been considerably *more* military, and likely would be a semi-forgotten artifact of the cold war, like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
So: some random speculation:
If Trek appeared in the late 40s, it probably would have been much the same show, but there wouldn’t have been a ‘one world’ government, or any of this Klingon/Romulan hoo-hah. It would have been the United States Space Force, the “Klingon” role would have been filled by the Soviets, and the Romulans (Eventually) would have emerged as Communist China. Earth is the Europe of the Future, with tensions between the US, Soviet, and Chinese empires in space, much like the ongoing tensions between the British, French, and German empires in their day. These threaten to blow back and start war on Earth as in Europe in the past.
Probably no aliens on the principle cast, Spock is just a really smart guy. Probably no vague atheism. Uniforms would look embarasingly gay now.
If Babylon 5 had appeared in the 1960s (Probably with James Garner in the Bruce Boxleitner role), it would have been a modest success, probably slightly more successful than the Trek of its day, mainly because it was a really economical show to make, and generally was pretty intelligent. Not a huge hit, but a consistently modest one. It’s got a narrow window of opportunity, though: If it didn’t exist from about 1965-1970, it wouldn’t have worked at all.
*FAR* less special effects. Uniforms would probably be slightly less gay than the ones we got on the actual show. Music would be considerably better.
SG1 really could have been made at pretty much any point from 1948-present, and it would have been pretty much exactly the same show, probably running forever like Dr. Who. (VERY low budget, generally good writing, good audience identification). Exception: If it had been made around 1968, it wouldn’t have been military at all. It would have been a hippie-dippie peaceful scientific exploration show with a lot of preachiness. It probably wouldn’t have lasted 22 eps.
If Eureka had been made in the 90s, it wouldn’t have been a damn bit funny. Well, check that, it isn’t a damn bit funny now, and the science would be just as bad, but it’d be intentionally non-funny: A tense, paranoid, ultimately rather pointless Chris Carter-styled series that would have run 200 episodes, jerked the audience along for no good reason, then just abandoned them without resolution. I think we got the better end of the deal on that one.
Battlestar Galactica would probably have been made as a ‘cautionary thriller’ in the early 50s, probably told through the eyes of an average family on Caprica (Identical to the US circa 1950) who survive a sneak attack, and are rescued by the Galactica. No civilian government angst, no self-loathing: It’s be the military was right all along, and the civilian leaders are fools. Not too much different from the original, really. There’d be no Kobol/mystical nonsense. Earth would be the mother world, long lost and abandoned, and they’re trying to find their way home again.
Interestingly, Dr. Who always comes up about the same, no matter how I fiddle with the time. If it showed up in the 1930s, it would have been a saturday morning serial, 15 minutes a week, and after 6 or 8 chapters, the story ends. A few months later, a new serial begins. That’s really not different from the actual show in the ’60s. It would have moved to TV in the 50s, been more-or-less re-invented to keep pace with changing times and formats, but, basically the same.
Ironically *the* show about time travel is the one that would be changed least by using a time machine to relocate its origins.
Thoughts? Pick a show and speculate irresponsibly! It’s fun!