Laser Time – Underrated Sci-Fi

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Following the collective mindblow that was Guardians of the Galaxy, we’re anxious to return to space, alien worlds, and parallel dimensions. With so many unsung spaceships in the pop culture ‘verse, we’re asking what’s your favorite piece of underrated Sci-Fi?

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56 thoughts on “Laser Time – Underrated Sci-Fi

  1. You pronounced Coober Pedy right Chris. I love that part of the country but Coober Pedy is a scary place. Thousands of unmarked and deep mine shafts around the place. Lots of bodies end up at the bottom of those holes.
    Anyway, Sci-Fi! I love ‘Roadside Picnic’ by the Strugatsky brothers and the film version of it, ‘Stalker’ (directed by the same guy who directed the 1972 Solaris). Probably underrated because its so damn bleak. It did directly influence those S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games though.

  2. I too specifically love my sci-fi in space, and lament the dearth of quality films in the genre. I really hope Guardians and the upcoming Star Wars films can ignite a renaissance of the like.

    Glad you’s got Mackey back.

  3. Children of Men is incredibly overrated.

    Ice Pirates was a favorite of mine as a kid. It’s very schlocky now, but still enjoyable if you can handle that early 80’s style.

    I recently saw Battle Beyond the Stars, speaking of schlock, sci fi by Roger Corman. It fits into that early 80’s scene, when they made a lot of lower-budget sci fi that doesn’t quite reach the level of Star Wars (or even Star Trek) movies, but it’s nice on a Sunday afternoon, when you don’t feel like getting too engaged in what you’re watching.

    1. Children of Men is overrated? By whom?

      I’m genuinely curious. I love the film, and find it to be a work of directorial and cinematographic genius. But it certainly isn’t a film whose name pops up too often in gushing conversations about the great films of this young century.

      It’s one of those films I’ve recommended to countless friends over the years, to the title recognition of MAYBE five percent.

      I’m not sure a film is overrated solely because you found it to be lacking.

      1. I’ve heard it come up in a number of podcasts, and people are always gushing about it. I thought the premise was interesting, but it turned into a regular action movie, with too much shooting and chasing for me.

        1. How many podcasts? Just this one? That’s like seven people. Here’s a trick for comparison- go see how many people watched trailer for 50 Shades of Grey. Now take that number and go look into how much Children of Men made. Not as much huh?

          Something can’t be overrated if no one has heard of it.

          1. No, several other podcasts about movies. I didn’t think no one had heard of Children of Men, I thought it had done pretty well in theaters and was well known around the time we were getting a lot of zombie and post-apocalyptic movies. And the people who I’ve heard say such good things about it seem to be more into action movies than I am, so it seems to interest them more than it did me.

          2. There’s only one other Laser Time episode where they’ve mentioned Children of Men, and that was in the quiz episode about movies coming out on Christmas.

  4. Honestly the only thing that comes to mind for me immediately when thinking about Underrated Sci-Fi is the Christian Bale movie Equilibrium. While the concept of suppressing emotions through medication and a society that feels nothing while resembling Nazi Germany may not be the most original idea out there, I felt that the film played it interestingly and took some cues from The Matrix for the better. It’s not necessarily a “great” film, but considering its standing on Rotten Tomatoes, I think it deserves a little more praise.

  5. Halo. The games are obviously played because they’re fun. I don’t have a single friend who knows who Preston Jeremiah Cole is or why he’s so integral to the canon of the series, but I do.

    Why? Because he’s explained in the novels. Yes, the dreaded books made out of paper with words in them expand the universe to such as scale that the games have about as much content in them as a short story; you want to know about the original SPARTAN program? That’s in “Contact Harvest”. How about the SPARTAN-III program? That’s “Ghosts of Onyx”.

    This isn’t getting into the comics, the animated compilation (Legends), or Forward Unto Dawn. Simply the books have taken what was at face value a rather simple science fiction story, and turned it into a realized world. While the Master Chief fought the Covenant and Flood on Halo Installations 04 and 05, Earth, High Charity, and so on, the UNSC was splitting its forces to deal with an organized rebellion that the SPARTAN-IIs were originally created to fight.

    I’ll stop gushing about this now because it all sounds like fanboy drivel (it totally is), but my point is this universe is HUGE and constantly overlooked by so many people simply because most people know Halo for either Master Chief, its multiplayer, being teabagged and called homophobic slurs, or Red vs Blue (which I enjoy). That’s not a bad thing, but the expanded canon is so under-appreciated it HURTS.

    1. The Halo expanded universe is great. I was never a huge Halo fan before the release of Reach back in 2010, and I believe reading Ghosts of Onyx is what pushed me to finally jump into the series as a whole.

  6. I really want to bring up my small issue with the last few minutes of Mass Effect 3: the sudden change in overarching theme.

    Everything was perfect until that elevator lifts up and the child AI tells you that the overarching theme of the series is now synthetics vs organics (that synthetic life will always destroy organic life), in contradiction to the previous games and ME3 up to this point.

    Just in-game days before the reaper-starchild-ai appeared my Shepard settled an eternal conflict between the Geth and Quarians, the outcome of which was the entire galaxy accepting that synthetic life is still life. (Yes Legion, this unit has a soul). The overarching theme of all three games in my opinion is that Synthetic life is life, and it can exist in harmony with organic life.

    Saren forced the Geth to kill people in ME1 and Tali tells you all about Geth sentience etc.
    In ME2 you help Legion defeat the separatist Geth and through him learn more about the nature of synthetic life.
    And finally in ME3 you either unite synthetic and organic life in a fight against extinction, or choose a side to eradicate. Either outcome resulting in the player concluding that Legion had a soul and synthetic life is true life.
    These are just the the cornerstone expressions of this theme, it’s prevalent in many side quests, dialogue trees and encounters etc.

    The events of all three games literally prove the reaper AI’s logic to be flawed, but the player is unable to mention this in the discussion. Instead you must listen to the AI give a summary of the new lead writer’s interpretation of the themes presented in Mass Effect.
    Then you’re asked choose between three options (one of which involves literal space magic as opposed to the series’ traditional pseudo-science).

    Personally, I think that Mass Effect 3 would have been perfect if Shepard died while trying to reach the crucible’s activation panel, leaving the combined armies to fight the reapers to their death. Even if this resulted in the complete extinction of sentient life, I would have been satisfied.

    I like the indoctrination theory, and choose to view the Mass Effect universe in this light, but it’s unfair to reflect critically on the end of Mass Effect 3 given that ending itself is flawed and contradictory. There is a disconnect between the themes/messages delivered in the previous games, and the new lead writers reductive summary of them. The ending itself is bad, however interesting the indoctrination theory may be.

    The whole indoctrination situation reminds me of Kieron Gillen’s run on the new Iron Man. Similar to Spidey’s magic spider-god revisionist origin, Gillen decided that Tony Stark’s achievements and intelligence were given to him by a space robot tweaking his genetic code before birth to make him super-human.
    A few issues later, Gillen decided to revise this origin, revealing that Tony an is adopted child and that his secret brother (Howard Stark’s biological child) was the one who was genetically altered.
    Perhaps this was due to fan backlash, or perhaps this was always the plan. Regardless, the space robot storyline was still stupid and should be subjected to critique.

    For the record, I despise the babies Chris mentioned for obscuring criticisms like mine with ridiculous petitions and claims of ambiguity and disdain for sad endings etc.
    That last five minutes did not harm my enjoyment of the 300+ hours I spent with the series.

  7. I don’t read too much sci-fi, but I’ll give a shout out to Ira Levin’s novel The Stepford Wives. I obviously don’t care much for the most recent “chick flick” movie adaptation, but the original novel was a brilliantly paced suspense mystery that I guess can technically be considered sci fi.

  8. I’m sick of people dismissing the criticism of the ME3 mainly by claiming that purple hated it because it was a “bummer and ambiguous”. When that really isn’t the case. The last of us’ ending WAS a bummer and ambiguous, and it was great. The ME3 was simply poorly written, and clearly not meant to be a bummer given the tone of the last two scenes of it.

    My problem with the ending was never a lack of choice, nor that it was sad, or a downer. (because again, it isn’t. You effectively did save the galaxy and all your crew, and even Sheppard can survive if certain conditions are meet.) My problem is that is simply badly written and thought out. And it pisses me off when people equate something badly explained as “ambiguous”. That’s just being pretentious.

    1. Yeah, Mass Effect 3’s ending is one of the most misunderstood controversies in recent memory. I’m not saying there wasn’t any whining for those poor reasons, yet most of the game’s media at the time seemed to keep reporting on it as such when many actually did not like it due to script issues.

      Angry Joe’s video summarized it quite nicely.

      Aside, I love Galaxy Quest, still have yet to see Guardians of the Galaxy, is this a spoiler free podcast?

      1. Yes Stabby, it is pretty spoiler free, they just gush about how great the movie is, but no plot details are wrecked, though they do spoil which characters are “bit” characters, but you probably could have guessed they were anyway.

        And I think the fault in Mass Effect’s lore and ending is the assumption that it was planned out. If you have played the Dragon Age series, you can kind of tell Bioware is making this shit up as they go along, so yeah… bad writing? Probably.

  9. Great episode, although I see Chris’ pro-Mass Effect 3 ending argument is still hilariously reliant on the “crybabies hated it because it was ambiguous and sad” strawman. I actually disliked the ending because I thought the Crucible was a really stupid deus ex machina pulled out of the asses of the writers because they didn’t know how else to kill all the reapers. After hard sci-fi for most of 3 games, we get an ending that is basically just… space magic. I mean come on, synthesis? Blending all synthetics and organics into one species? That is straight up space magic dogshit. We found the magical mcguffin and it magically ends the galaxy-spanning war in like two minutes. And yes, it does have a lot of plot holes. I’m not talking about ambiguity, I’m talking about characters being in places that they couldn’t have possibly gotten to for plot convenience. It was rushed and lazy, and saying we can’t criticize it because the writers were making their own vision, not ours? Well fuck, let’s never criticize anything’s story ever again then.

    1. Agreed. I dislike it when people generalize a criticism of a story/game/movie/whatever as just being ignorant if you disagree with their view. I disliked the ending because it was, for me, of a completely different tone than the rest of the series and seemed very rushed. It was sad to see such a great series stumble so hard at the finish line.

      I don’t need a sunshine filled power-fantasy ending for every story, I just need one that makes sense and respects the narrative that the story had been building. Mass Effect 3’s ending did neither of those in my opinion.

  10. Man, I really gotta see Galaxy Quest again… Last time I saw it was in theaters, and I’d never even watched an episode of Star Trek.
    Also I was only 12 when it came out so chances are I missed a ton of jokes that I’d be able to appreciate much more if I saw it now.

  11. I like how Chris said he wanted the episode to specifically be about space shit, and then 75% of the stuff they talked about wasn’t. Quantum Leap? Lost? C’mon guys.

    Especially egregious was stuff like Waterworld and Mad Max. Those are post apocalyptic films. The tech in them is actually LESS advanced in those shows people. Taking place in the future does not equal sci-fi.

    1. Babylon 5 and Farscape are both fantastic shows. Not sure if I’d consider them underrated though. Sure, they aren’t as well known as Star Trek, but in the geek community those shows are both huge.

      Also, I enjoyed the Stargate shows, though I definitely don’t consider them to be as good as the shows mentioned above, or the good Star Treks.

  12. Funny show but I was surprised that Henry never mentioned that Drax wasn’t an alien he is a human whose family was killed by Thanos and was turned into the destroyer in order to kill him.

    1. I am not that familiar with Drax in the comic but I knew he was human, but in the movie he is referred to as some different race, which explains why he doesn’t understand metaphors.

      If he had been human at any point, he would understand metaphors.

      But regardless, it isn’t that big of a stretch to think alien worlds which resemble Earth culture wouldn’t have a concept of having a family and children. There are other species on this planet who have one mate their entire life. It isn’t that strange of a concept.

      Just because their is a new age progressive movement against marriage that you might prescribe to, doesn’t mean your viewpoint would hold true to the entire universe.

  13. I didn’t hate the original ending of Mass Effect 3 to the same degree everyone else did, but I still found it disappointing. I disliked it for purely narrative reasons, as in it had no leadup, no build, it made zero sense and it used themes that were never present in the game, that theme being man vs. machine which made no sense because the Reapers are less machine and more Cthulhu-esque organics. It makes further less sense because I solved the Quarian/Geth dilemma with a peaceful resolution and any reason for the Reapers success in the war was due to human interference.

    Did it ruin my enjoyment? At the time, yes. But after the extended ending and DLC (Leviathian) that both integrated foreshadowing of the ending and helped explain it further than the EE did, I have gone from dislike to the game being my favorite in the series.

    Also, blanketing criticism for the ending as a bunch of whiners or complaining babies is a lame thing to do- that’s what a chid or narcist (or stoner) does when confronted with criticism, not what an adult of even a mediocum of intellect does. I would work on that.

    1. Wow are those typos I made above embarrassing :/

      I want to say, I love this episode otherwise and I also love ME 3 now, and even when it came out I didn’t hate it as much as others did, I just found it disappointing.

      Peace and chronic to you Chris! I just disagree with your stance :3

  14. alot of things was wrong with ME3 least of all the original ending
    not having the great squadmates from 2 in, was a big mistake (Liara fuck off!)
    fantastic multiplayer and still better than ME1

  15. I can think of a few things you guys didn’t mention. “Sunshine” is a fantastic and (relatively) hard scifi movie about a mission to restart the dying sun with a big bomb. Oddly enough, it stars a TON of actors who have appeared in recent super hero movies: Cillian Murphy, Mark Strong, Rose Byrne, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Chris Evans. Then there’s one of my favorite movies ever: Event Horizon. I don’t care what anybody says, Event Horizon is a fucking amazing horror movie AND scifi space movie. Plus, there’s a very obscure, low-budget Kurt Russel movie called “Soldier”, where he basically plays the Master Chief without the armor and fights a bunch of super soldiers on a planet that’s just a garbage dump. Judging from the comments, there’s a lot of potential for a sequel to this episode, guys.

    And I kinda love hearing Chris in full contrarian mode. Don’t ever stop, you magnificent bastard!

    1. Everything this guy just said!! ^^^^

      Also, oddly Soldier is apparently in the same universe as Blade Runner. So I hear anyway.

  16. A few things:

    2010 is really good. Definitely check it out, just for the impressive special effects alone. It was directed by Peter Hyams, who also made a couple other underrated sci-fi gems:

    Outland – It’s High Noon in space, with Sean Connery as the marshal of a mining outpost on Jupiter’s moon Io. Amazing visuals and production design, and just a flat out great thriller.

    Capricorn One – A conspiracy movie about a fake mission to Mars with James Brolin, Sam Waterston, Eliot Gould, and OJ Simpson(!).

    And as for Michael Crichton: He actually directed several movies, many of which are really good:

    Coma – a creepy corporate conspiracy movie about harvesting organs with Michael Douglas (seriously, don’t miss this one).

    The Great Train Robbery – an awesome western/heist movie with Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland.

    Runaway – the robot spider movie with the super bullets that can shoot around corners with Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons.

    1. Maybe I should check out more films by Hyams, because the two I’ve seen (End of Days and A Sound of Thunder) are fucking terrible

  17. whoever mentioned Night Of The Creeps, yes. if you haven’t seen it, go watch it now on Netflix. completely unique and awesome horror/sci fi/comedy.

  18. That reminds me as I contemplate Captain Power. I am reminded of Chris going on about Treasure Island. That there is a modern version RIGHT NOW. There was one released on Redbox a few years ago. But the most recent is none other than Black Sails. A prequel, sure. But it’s the basis for it. And violent. Which is awesome. There’s boobs too.

    1. I will always enjoy Sam Raimi’s Cleopatra 2025 and Jack of All Trades. Some of the most fun watching anything on the weekend since i was a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons.

  19. I remember Sunday afternoons became something to look forward to while Sam Raimi’s Cleopatra 2025 and Jack of All Trades was on the air. They were really fun shows to watch.

  20. I’d like to thank you for introducing me to “Irresponsible Captain Tylor”. That shit is hilarious.

  21. Check out the 2009 movie called “Triangle” staring Mellisa George and Liam Hemsworth but don’t hold it against it.

  22. I’m surprised Chris remembered that I threw in “2010” but forgot Mikel suggested “Strange Days.” One of the best trailers – grabs your interest, intrigues you, then smacks you with action.

    I second “Outland.” Peter Hyams’ career path makes me sad.

    “Day the Earth Stood Still” (the original), the first two “Body Snatchers” and “Forbidden Planet” I would’ve added, but they’re not under-rated. “Mars Attacks” and “Dark City” on the other hand…

  23. The Fifth Element, a movie that maybe a fifth of people I talk about stuff like this with have seen or heard of, most of them love it but then I get blank stares from other people and wonder how they have avoided such an amazingly fun movie for so long.

    Great topic for a show, hope it gets revisited at some point with some other guests, always fun hearing all y’all’s opinions on these types of episodes.

  24. Thank you for “getting” the ME3 ending, Chris. I’ve been saying the same thing for years now but it seems the majority of Mass Effect fans are in the camp that wanted a perfect ending, rather than something unique.

  25. So yeah, based on the recommendation from this episode I went and watched Treasure Planet on Netflix.

    I can confirm it’s a fantastic movie until the Martin Short robot shows up halfway through. It’s still good after, but he does feel 100% unnecessary to the story other than his contrived plot connection.

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