By Joe Strange
Inspired by the potential of Destiny’s version of the universe, I’ve decided to acknowledge what I think to be the most engaging and most successfully realised settings in sci fi media.
The list comprises of settings that are rich and well thought out, as well as engaging and believable, as well as some which are just fun and appealing.
10) Hitchiker’s Guide
The Hitchhiker’s Guide series, whether it’s in radio, book or film form, has a definite character to it. Douglas Adams’ writing had such an essence of insanity and ridiculousness to it while still somehow making absolute sense, and this is portrayed in the worlds that he’s created.
Whether it’s the casual observation that Dolphins are the 3rd smartest creature on earth, or that earth itself was manufactured in a planet sized factory, or the silliness of the creatures he’s created, the universe that Adams’ has created is extravagant, crazy and incredibly convincing. It’s so full of inanity that you can’t help but buy into the world, when you’re reading you could be forgiven for thinking ‘yeah, that could totally exist’, and that’s what a good setting should do.
Where Hitchhikers guide is bright and silly with more than a pinch of insanity, the world portrayed in the Alien series is bleak, dark and terrifying.
The cramped confines of the Nostromo accompanied by the dread that’s brought about by the Xenomorph creates such a rich atmosphere of fear that you can’t help but get roped in, but it’s not until the later instalments of the franchise that you see the world that Ridley Scott has made; humanity’s struggle to expand in the universe and the Weyland Corporation’s corruption make the world believable, and the characters that Ripley encounters through the series are diverse enough to sell you on the world.
Say what you like about Prometheus, but it did quite a few things well in building Scott’s world, most of all was the apparent dichotomy between the rich and technologically advanced and the scrape by, bare bones ship of the original film, and its working class crew.
The first in the list not set in space; Tron is set in the Grid, the ‘digital frontier’, crafted by Kevin Flynn. In this world programs take the form of humans, and users have the ability to manipulate the virtual reality around them. The city in Tron Legacy is rich and familiar, with just enough neon lights and technology references to remind you that there is an outside world.
With a tyrannical leader and a regime of zero tolerence in both films, the grid isn’t a place you’d like to misbehave, but let’s face it, we’d all love to jump on a light cycle for an afternoon of racing on the grid.
7) Transformers (1986)
If you’ve not seen the 1986 Transformers movie, you’re missing out. Quite frankly, the only reason that the universe in Transformers made it on this list was because the film is set on earth in 2005, which, obviously, was the future back in the 80’s, but they maybe set their sights a little too high; hover boards, giant robot cities and, obviously, armies of transforming cars and planes make this vision of the future laughable.
But still, the planet of Cybertron is shown as a planet sized metropolis, and while still ravaged by civil war, looks much more convincing as a city than the brief glimpses we see of it in the Michael Bay versions.
The Halo series is set at a point in humanities progression where we’ve already populated other planets, we’ve created faster than light travel and made super soldiers in power armour. Not only that but we’ve met another collective of creatures and immediately waged war on them. If that’s not fundamentally human then I don’t know what is.
Whether you’re skulking through the streets of new Mombasa in ODST, or weaving through the catacombs of the first halo ring, the Halo series does a great job of making the world seem real and with a sense of purpose.
The reality of the world is furthered in the second Halo game, where you get a look into the covenant’s system of belief and the society behind the wailing grunts and roaring brutes.
Check back next week where I’ll finish the run down of the best sci fi settings in media, but until then, feel free to comment below and throw any ones you think I might have missed.