Comment of the Day: The Tradeoff Between Science and Story

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In today's comments we fretted over the definition of average, oohed and aahed over some DIY costume skills, and (with the help of Gravity's science advisor) teased out the precise intersection of science and story-telling.

We were joined for an "Ask The Expert" session by Kevin Grazier (whose credits, in addition to Gravity, also include stints at NASA and Battlestar Galactica). In response to a question by chulo333, on how to strike a compromise between scientific accuracy and good story-telling, Kevin shared his thoughts on the benefits of emphasizing both science and fiction in science fiction:

There is ALWAYS a compromise between story and science in a science fiction or science-themed show. We're not doing documentaries, and the science should serve the story, not the other way around.

There was a scene in "Battlestar Galactica" where the Big G was plummeting through the atmosphere of a planet, launching fighters as it dropped, jumping away just before impact with the ground. The scene is a HUGE fan favorite, even though there are many many technical issues with that scene. Who cares when it's just so FRAKKING COOL?

What upsets me, as a science advisor OR a viewer, is when the science is inaccurate and did not have to be. For me that happens increasingly less. The sheer fact that a production chooses to use a science advisor, means that they already have a pretty high dedication to scientific accuracy.

In one episode of "Defiance" last season (episode 107, "Goodbye Blue Sky"), our showrunner Kevin Murphy actually bent over backwards to an astounding degree until we found a science solution that made the story work.

So it can be frustrating when there is hesitation on the production side to changing something obviously wrong, but I think that writers/producers/directors are ever-increasingly listening to the input of their science advisors, showing that science and story often can play in the same sandbox.


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