This chapter surveys the history of radio and television science fiction, emphasizing the development of industrial and aesthetic approaches to narrative, the integration of cultural concerns into SF narratives, and the creation of ambitious narrative experiences rivalling those offered by film. Radio readily recognized the speculative appeal that is at the heart of SF, helping to establish an “electronic” audience for the genre on which television would capitalize. The chapter chronicles how television SF quickly recognized its potential to visualize new imaginative spaces, from The Twilight Zone to Star Trek, The X Files to Battlestar Galactica. While TV SF was initially limited by minimal budgets, movie-serial-type plotting, and a near absence of special effects, in recent decades it has greatly expanded its scope with large casts, elaborate effects, and epic plot trajectories that recall big-budget films.
This article builds on the assumption that studying television cultures under socialism thoroughly muddles the Cold War framework of two opposing, radically different world systems. The article examines features of socialist television in the Soviet Union and the former Eastern Bloc in order to revisit some of the valuable experiences of socialism that were automatically relegated to the dustbin of history in 1990. It shows how television recorded, reflected, and facilitated the shared experience of socialism’s complicated temporality and helped make socialism manageable, redirecting its high ideals into the ethical principles of everyday habits. The article demonstrates how these principles worked through some exemplary program types and how they got stripped of their collective dimensions after the end of socialism, to be infused with paranoid, anxious nationalism.