It used to be the case you had to pay to go to the cinema to see the best actors with the best effects. Now you can get HD streamed right to your tablet and watch it anywhere in the world. This means that there is now bigger money in TV than in movies. HBO were the best at creating movie like TV shows a decade before the rest of the Networks cottoned on that this was the future. Now you are likely to see A list actors appearing on the small screen for years. Part of this is due to the handsome money in it for them, guaranteed future work and great exposure.
This rise in TV status has meant we have seen a shift of genres from big screen to small screen. The ability to tell a decent sci fi story in 90 minutes is a skill, but it all too often leaves fans waiting years for a sequel that never quite captures the magic the original did due to the time lapse between. TV shows on the other hand can shoot series continuously if commissioned and then let you watch 60 minutes of brilliance one after the other until you can no longer stay awake. This rise in TV budgets has meant many of the best Sci fi creations over the past 10 years has been on the small screen. The movie industry has taken a back seat with big budget effects and seem less likely to take a punt on an idea than they previously might have been, instead investing in countless sequels, remakes and the latest craze of re-imaginings which take an idea already done and try to do it better ignoring the original completely.
Lets put to the test the top five Sci Fi TV shows of the last ten years vs the top five sci fi films and see if we can't agree that the small screen is in fact the place to be for sci fi.
Battlestar Gallactica VS District 9
The remake of battlestar was well received and made you almost forget that the original Starbuck was in fact a womanising man instead of a maninising woman. District 9 was a socially commented alien movie that featured some amazing effects along with some great acting. But lets look at the elements and the winners of each.
Originality - District 9 (alien apartheid wins easily as Battlestar was a remake)
Acting - Battlestar (some heavily established names made the acting believable and dramatic)
Depth - Battlestar (in spite of district 9 being a great social commentary Battlestar was able to delve deeper into the issues of Human and AI existence)
Effects - Battlestar (the space battles and jump motion camera is stunning)
Overall - Battlestar was an epic success and wins this hands down.
Children of Men vs Life on Mars
An equal pairing featuring some great acting with little in the way of big budget special effects. Children of Men had some epic fight sequences whilst Life on Mars was more a TV Drama that had sci fi back story.
Originality - Life on Mars (Time travel is much more original than post apocalypse surely?)
Acting - Children of Men (The cheesy British cop thing wore old in Life on mars)
Depth - Children of Men (The story was emotionally evocative and played on our fears of future society)
Effects - Children of Men (The fight sequences were both powerful and immersive)
Overall - Children of Men was a great example of hard hitting future imagining.
Dr Who vs X-Men
Including here are all the different version of the X-Men and their spin offs. Dr Who is the most successful British franchise TV show and X-Men is the the biggest comic franchise so seems like a fair battle.
Originality - Dr Who (Hands down due to the unique storyline each week)
Acting - X-Men (This franchise has some of the biggest names in acting)
Depth - Dr Who (Dr Who is able to touch on far more of societies issues)
Effects - X-Men (The explosions, flying machines and make up are just wow)
Overall - Dr Who because if it wasn't on I'd miss it and I always live in the hope that they will cast the DR as either Idris Elba or Bruce Campbell (can you imagine how good that would be).
V vs Cloverfield
V is a remake of a alien invasion series from the 70's and Cloverfield is a blair witch project of sci fi. Cloverfield was a unique shot film with a low budget whilst V had a big budget from the start.
Originality - Colverfield (Hand held camera of alien landing is pretty unique)
Acting - V (They had some established movie actors enter the small screen)
Depth - V (great commentary on racism and politics)
Effects - V (No contest given the USP of cloverfield being a handheld camera)
Overall - V wins this one easily against a good movie that if you managed to not get sea sick whilst watching on the big screen you were doing well.
28 Days Later vs The Walking Dead
These two are at opposite ends of the zombie imagining, one is a virus that causes rage with superhuman strength and speed, the other is the George A Romero style slow walkers. Both enjoy huge cult following.
Originality - 28 Days later (The opening sequence of a man in hospital wondering a baron land perfectly captured the post apocalypse feel a zombie movie should)
Acting - 28 Day Later (It doesn't have fake accents)
Depth - The Walking Dead (Have you seen the press coverage about its commentary on gun control?)
Effects - The Walking Dead (close up zombie killing at its best)
Overall - The Walking Dead because the new style fast zombies are too scary to imagine so lets stick with the old slow walkers.
So there we have it, TV wins overall and I think going forward the gap will widen further as TV is seen as the pinnacle for actors and Production companies.
I'd welcome your views and opinions or if you think I have missed out a favourite of yours let me know. I'm in the camp of Small screen but willing to be persuaded otherwise if merited.