Monday, May 9, 2011

Romance and SciFi: When is Enough Enough?

Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson share a tender moment

Warning: SPOILERS ahead for those who haven't seen the most recent episodes of Fringe or Doctor Who.

The first three episodes of the new Doctor Who season have been heavy on the romance; in fact, there's more romance in this season than there was even in season two, when Billie Piper's Rose spent most of the season mooning over David Tennant's Doctor. In a mere three episodes we've seen not only sexy (some would say inappropriate for a family show) interactions between the Doctor's current companion Amy (Karen Gillan) and her husband Rory (Arthur Darvill), but some serious flirtation between Alex Kingston's mysterious River Song and the Doctor (Matt Smith). The relationship between Amy and Rory in particular has been milked for plot fodder, via a Rory-is-dying storyline, a few too many times.

Of course, Doctor Who is hardly the only science fiction show that makes time for romantic plotlines in between the time travel and telekinesis. Everyone who watches Fringe knows that, for the past season, much of the time that wasn't spend on possible world-ending cataclysms was spent on a love triangle between Joshua Jackson's Peter, Olivia and alternate-universe Olivia (both played by Anna Torv). Even though I would be terribly upset by Fringe without Peter after he blinked out of existence at the end of the finale (!), it might be nice to have a few episodes where we don't have to worry about whether alt-Olivia's new baby will throw a wrench into Peter and Olivia's relationship. (Also, it's possible that the baby blinked out of existence with Peter, which would serve the same purpose.)

While I certainly like to see some relationships on even my sci-fi shows, and while I enjoy rooting for both Peter and Olivia and Amy and Rory, sometimes it's a little too much. On the most recent episode of Doctor Who, a thoroughly entertaining romp involving pirates and a siren who was actually a medical program, an unnecessary emotional climax was added when Amy had to perform CPR on an unconscious Rory. This moment played extremely over-the-top, to the point where it was reminiscent of the moment in the first season of Lost when Jack pounded Charlie's chest in the rain, while Kate looked on crying, for what seemed like five minutes.

Additionally, while the build-up to the Fringe finale was certainly epic and while I loved all the twists and turns, I was extremely happy when the idea that the home of whichever Olivia Peter chose would be saved, while the other universe would perish. I had a hard time believing that the destruction of a universe could hinge on something so... well, silly, and I didn't like the way that the rather tired love triangle was forced into the main story arc.

So, here's my question for you; when it comes to science fiction, how much romance is too much?

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