Science fiction fans put up with a lot in the name of entertaining television. There are ridiculous characters, premises, and worlds that we can blithely accept without a second thought in the name of being entertained and, truthfully, they’re usually things we actually look forward to in a new science fiction debut. The issues arise when we manage to get past the barriers needed to really love a show, and then that show — or the network that pays for it do something extreme.
Sliders makes the list for having one of the biggest dick moves in science fiction that wasn’t a cliffhanger. Even though the show did have kind of a bullshit cliffhanger ending the real dick move came during the second season. A recurring element of the show was the main cast running into “doubles” of themselves. They would land on a parallel Earth, so it made sense that there would be parallel versions of the characters as well.
On one of these parallel worlds the show ended with a showdown between the original Professor Arturo and his double just as the portal was opening. The portals in the show only stay open for a minute, and if they choose not to jump in they’re stuck on that world for decades. As the two Professors fought it out the main character, Quinn opted for the standard evil twin scenario answer; he wanted to take both of them through the portal and figure out which one was the real one, and which one was the double.
Instead, one of the Professors knocked the other one down and jumped through the portal. The episode ended with only one of the two sliding, and the one left behind expressing his worry and slightly disbelief at what had happened. Not the overwhelming cry of despair you’d expect from a man behind trapped on a world he didn’t belong on forever, but not the disgruntled resignation of a plot successfully foiled, either.
It begged the question, “Which Arturo slid?”
The question was never answered. The character was killed off in the next season, and Tracy Tormé, one of the co-creators had walked away from the show by then. He stated in an interview that he wanted it to be the double who had slid, but as he had left the show and the character had subsequently been killed the question was never resolved.
Deadwood was an incredibly polarizing show; either you adored it or you hated it. It told the highly fictionalized history of the town of Deadwood, South Dakota during the late 1800s and showcased a massive collection of characters, their politics and interactions with each other, how the community responded to the American government moving in and, perhaps most importantly, and a wide variety of curse words in everyday conversation. It’s probably the reason anybody in North America who watched Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides knew who the dude who played Blackbeard was.
Throughout the show’s three seasons there are numerous references by Al Swearengen and others to the Pinkertons, the 1800s’ answer to private military contractors and freelance spy agency, and introduced a force of them as allies of the main antagonist. The rest of the season is small event after small event building up toward a potential all-out war between the main characters and Hearst, the main antagonist. The show ends with an attempted murder, some actual murders, and Hearst being escorted out of the town. There’s a distinct lack of resolution and definite hooks for an additional season, but the show was canned before a fourth season could be produced.
Two movies were supposed to be made to wrap up everything that had been left unanswered, but they never materialized and in 2007 the sets were torn down, killing any chance for an additional taste of one of the best shows ever on television.
3) The Sarah Connor Chronicles
The Sarah Connor Chronicles asked a question that probably didn’t need to be asked. “What would happen if Terminators got their sexy on?” It was enough to draw in a surprisingly large fanbase, and the fact that the story arcs of the show didn’t absolutely suck was a nice bonus. There was decent mix of science fiction, killer robots (different from science fiction, we swear), teen angst, and attractive actors to make the Terminator franchise worth talking about again.
And then it got cancelled.
The fact that it got cancelled isn’t the dick move we’re talking about, though, it’s when it got cancelled. The last episodes of The Sarah Connor Chronicles had a bunch of crazy stuff happen, culminating with Teen John Connor being sent into the dystopian world where Terminators reign supreme and the human Resistance rally around an almost messianic Adult John Connor… only to find John Connor never existed. Everything else was fairly standard, considering the apocalyptic nature of the future; Terminators still roamed the lands like wildebeests, the humans still formed and, depending on your definition, successfully initiated a resistance, and people on the brink of extinction were still surprisingly good looking. John Connor never becoming the figurehead he is in Terminator mythology didn’t seem to change anything one way or the other, contrary to popular belief.
It was a massive paradox. If John Connor didn’t matter, why would Terminators come back in time to kill him? Would Kyle Reese have come back to stop them? Would John Connor have ever been born? It was the sort of cliffhanger that most people can agree was pretty awesome. And then the series got cancelled. One brief, tantalizing look at what could have been and then any kind of resolusion was snatched away.
2) Stargate Universe
Stargate Universe was another cancellation and another cliffhanger, but with a twist. After a kind of rocky first season SGU went into the second season and ended up with a different timeslot. Ratings for the show dropped and there was plenty of talk among Stargate fans about how much they didn’t like the show. Those of us who were able to see past the Stagate brand wound up quickly identifying with or relating to a wide variety of the characters, like Colonel Young, the overworked single father, or Eli Wallace, the fat kid pining for the hot girl, or even Doctor Rush, the guy faced with the fact that there was someone better than him at something. It wasn’t really a Stargate show, but it was pretty awesome. It was a story about a family dealing with all the crap being thrown at them and somehow still surviving.
Early in the second season the rumors of an impending cancellation started flying around, and around the mid-season those rumors became official. SGU wasn’t getting renewed for a third season. The axe was a super shitty thing, to be sure, but a cancellation with enough warning to try and wrap up the season with some semblance of a proper finale. They definitely did that with their ending, just not in any satisfying manner and incredibly obviously on purpose.
The lead up to the finale of SGU has the humans living on the ship realizing that, in order for them to continue living – a very desirable outcome – they will need to put themselves in stasis to conserve power so their ship can make it through the void between one galaxy and the next. The downside is that someone needs to stay out of stasis for some reason, and it’s either going to be the head military guy, the chaotic neutral genius, or the smarter than the genius civilian. It winds up being Eli, the civilian, and he informs the Colonel and the Doctor that they’ll either be woken up in a few weeks or after a thousand years, depending on whether the ship makes it out of the void.
The show ends with Eli, alone, as the ship begins the journey.
The writers could have come up with anything else — anything at all to give their show some kind of closure. But they were banking on being picked up for a movie to wrap up, and a movie was being considered until last year when the whole idea got scrapped. We’ll never know how what happened.
In a contest of television shows cancelled at the absolute worst time, Jericho is the king. The follow up comic book miniseries meant to wrap the story up, then takes that crown and adds another, tinier crown on top of it. This show was the equivalent of a narcoleptic having the best sex of his life – a huge buildup to what promised to be the greatest climax ever, and then he fell asleep.
Jericho was a show tailored to every nerdy kid in the world. The entire premise of the show was based around survival in a post-apocalyptic America from nuclear attack. It’s a concept that we’ve all imagined, and played in video games, and read in books, and watched in other movies. It touched on everything that would be a concern for the citizens of a town that happened to be safe from all the radiation: lack of communication, contaminated water, dwindling food supplies, lack of an electrical grid, and more. It had a town going to war with a neighboring town, showcasing how quickly a world without rules can devolve into survival of the fittest.
The show reveals an undetonated nuclear bomb that can prove the attack on the States was done by Americans, introduces a new corrupt government, a corporation profiting from a destroyed America, and ends with a nuclear bomb being flown to Texas while being shot at by fighter jets, only to have the Texas air force arrive, shoot down the fighters with their own, and escort the bomb to a safe landing.
And the show ended. No answers to practically any of the important plots and sub-plots, and the fans went nuts. A comic book was eventually announced and produced, which in itself took years for all six issues to be released, and which then ended things on the brink of a massive civil war… and that was it. In 2009 there was a report of a movie being made to wrap Jericho up, but there was no other word on that. At one of the Comic-Cons in 2011 it was said that the numbers for the graphic novel version of the six issues of ‘Season Three’ were being closely watched, and could lead to a motion picture.
Six issues and another cliffhanger, and we have the biggest dick move in science fiction.