icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


Prometheus and the Fiction in Science Fiction

I love science fiction. Actually, I love good science fiction. Good science fiction takes its basis in science fact and stretches that to create fictional scenarios that, while not necessarily probable, are at least plausible within the bounds of scientific theory. There are exceptions, of course: on 'Star Trek', the 'Enterprise' can communicate instantaneously with Federation headquarters across millions of miles of space, which simply couldn't happen. There's that little thing called the speed of light - which, of course, the 'Enterprise' itself appears to at least push up against at times. And the whole everybody-speaking-English thing? Yeah, well. But by and large, they are tolerable (to me) cases of pushing the factual envelope because they are incidental, rather than fundamental, to the main plot.

Where I have a real problem is when a movie ostensibly takes an element of science as its main plot component and then makes absolutely no attempt to get that science right.

I'd been waiting a few months to see 'Prometheus', which is nominally a prequel to 'Alien.' 'Alien', by the way, remains to my mind arguably the greatest of all science-fiction movies, and has only been diminished by the succession of sequels, spin-offs and crossovers, in no case more so than the dire Alien v Predator disasters. The notion of a movie that preceded the first one was intriguing to me, especially given that it was directed by Ridley Scott.

But the fundamental premise was that - forgive me for any plot spoilers here - human life was created by a race of extraterrestrials, who then at some point decided to destroy us, only to be destroyed themselves. This was established during the movie when it was demonstrated that the extraterrestrials' DNA and 'human DNA' were an exact match. See, here's the thing. My DNA and your DNA are not an exact match, and I'll wager we are the same species. We may look quite alike, we may not: I am a shortish, brown-haired, blue-eyed Celt; you may be of different heritage, ethnicity, eye color or gender - or all the above. Dollars to donuts, you're not 12 feet tall and from another planet. Unspoken, of course, was what this would mean for our nearest relatives, which share 98 percent or so of genetic material with us; if the extraterrestrials created us and only us, then where on Earth did chimpanzees come from (well, from on Earth, presumably) and hiw did they wind up so genetically similar?

And so it goes, and so it goes. Many other issues, inconsistencies and flat out inaccuracies permeate the script. Look, I am happy to suspend disbelief, to accept the scientifically improbable on occasion in the service of a good story. But when a writer fails to even fact-check the science at the heart of his plot, that's lazy and insulting.

And if this seems like an odd subject to which to devote a lengthy rant, this seems an opportune time to emphasize that I am a science nerd and I live alone.
Post a comment