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Schizo Tech / Live-Action TV

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  • Babylon 5 has a few examples:
    • The Minbari and the Centauri are the two most advanced among the Younger Races, yet many of the formers carry metal sticks as weapons (often very advanced sticks that retracts and extend through technology too advanced for anyone else to understand, but other times it's just oversized extendable batons), and the Centauri are liable to carry swords remarkably similar to the Roman gladius. In both occasions it's a cultural thing: the denn'bok (the Minbari take on the Simple Staff) is a versatile weapon that in the hands of a master can kill as easily as it can simply stun, and being allowed to own and carry one is a sign of prestige (to the point that family heirlooms will be confiscated and seized if the family has no heir of sufficient skills), while the Centauri coutari is mostly a ceremonial weapon that is sometimes used in honour duels, and both races have far more advanced weapons when needed.
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    • The Narn Regime and the Earth Alliance have relatively advanced technologies in most fields, but are behind other races in many fields (to the point that Earthforce ground soldiers are usually equipped with BiLPro weapons, that are nothing more than advanced firearms. They actually have better penetration than most handheld energy weapons, though energy weapons like PPGs are specifically designed not to have good penetration, because they're meant to be used inside places where a ruptured hull is a bad thing). Both Narn and Humans are relative newcomers in the galactic scene who scavenged and bought any technology they could find, and they haven't managed to reverse-engineer everything.
      • The Centauri too have some BiLPro for their ground forces, mostly mounted on aircraft for air support, but, like Earth Alliance, they use it for artillery (and may be where Earth got it).
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    • The Expanded Universe has the Attarn Union. Most of their technology is relatively advanced, they even developed Artificial Gravity on their own (something that most races in the setting failed to do)... And their weapons are either missiles or BiLPro. That is, chemically propelled firearms. They too have a good reason for this: when they first reached for space they just lacked the funds to develop energy weapons, and before meeting the rest of the setting they easily won two wars with similarly-sized empires that used them and decided it just wasn't worth the effort.
  • Battlestar Galactica: The 12 Colonies were very similar to our world in lifestyle. Cities look like they would on Earth. People use cars easily recognisable to us. Until you look at the sky and see the starships whizzing about. And their computers? They are much weaker than ours: A Colonial Laptop shown in one episode looked like it was from the 1980s!
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  • Caprica makes an interesting example. It takes place on another planet, and a lot of the technology seems Twenty Minutes In The Future, but a lot of it is far more advanced than others of it would allow, while other aspects are strangely primitive. For instance, the police are still using rather bulky, easily visible bugs instead of remote listening equipment we have available now.
  • The level of schizo tech in Danger 5 has to be seen to be believed. It's about WWII in the '60s – and yet much of the technology is far beyond 60s level, including dinosaur clones, and weaponised robot dogs.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The main character flies around in a super-advanced sentient Time Machine made by his advanced alien race. The console of said time machine is partly composed of typewriters, water faucets and skipping rope, while having viewscreens resembling modern day LCD screens and control throttles straight out of an old-fashioned aircraft. The TARDIS is basically an old jalopy held together with whatever the Doctor can find, and the retro-futuristic nature of the TARDIS' interiors is an explicit hint that it was not built by a human civilization.
    • "The Time Meddler" has a sequence where the Doctor, in 1066, pauses while drinking mead by the fire to listen to the sound of monks singing in the church nearby. Which slows down and distorts for a second, revealing it to be a recording. Turns out the church contains only one monk, who is a time traveller running electric devices with a cable coming out of his TARDIS, plotting to destroy a Viking invasion fleet with futuristic missiles.
    • "Genesis of the Daleks" lampshades this, as it features a war between two advanced civilizations (possessing nuclear capabilities, energy weapons, and genetic engineering) which nevertheless mostly resembles World War II (allowing the Daleks to be compared to the Nazis). This is because it is a thousand year long war, and they've quite simply run out of resources. A highly ranked soldier might still have a laser gun, but his subordinates are now reduced to gunpowder based weaponry.
      • Shows up again in the 2015 episode "The Magician's Apprentice". In the opening, set in what is quickly revealed to be Skaro, we have: soldiers dressed in World War I-era uniforms running across a muddy battlefield dodging incoming energy-weapons fire from a biplane, one of the soldiers carrying both a wooden longbow as a primary weapon and a high-tech scanner, who is subsequently killed by some kind of apparently biological/supertech minefield.
    • The Tesh and Sevateem in "The Face of Evil", as descendants of a planetary exploration team that had lost most of their knowledge and adopted a virtually Neolithic lifestyle, but with access to some space-level technology, as well as iron weapons.
    • "The Androids of Tara" had the Doctor and Romana visiting a world with a strictly medieval culture yet possessing technology such as androids and laser-firing crossbows.
    • "Utopia": The control system Professor Yana built for his rocket is made of a combination of unusual items, since he lives Just Before the End of the universe and doesn't have a great deal of resources.
      The Doctor: [incredulous] That's food! You've built this system out of food and string and staples?!
    • "The Beast Below": Life on the high-tech Starship UK involves a lot of low-tech things like bicycles and washing lines.
    • "Victory of the Daleks" has spaceflight-capable, laser-equipped Spitfires. They were created by using Dalek technology via an android the Daleks built to infiltrate human society, who had, unaware of his status, been putting in technology far beyond that of the 1940s.
    • The asteroid in "The Doctor's Wife" is also this. It has everything from the remnants of destroyed space ships, to washing machines, to Elizabethan period dress-wear. This is because it's a Landfill Beyond the Stars, only in a pocket universe created by an Eldritch Abomination.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in "The Wedding of River Song". As the Doctor puts it, all of time is happening at once — steam engines are traveling between modern skyscrapers, commuting is done on cars hanging from hot air balloons, and Charles Dickens is being interviewed on TV about his new "Christmas special".
  • Emerald City:
    • Even though most of the technology in Oz seems to be medieval, the Wizard has access to unmanned drones equipped with video photo equipment. Although the drone footage is in color, it's projected by cranking a handle and has an old-style cinema feel.
    • At the same time, the city of Ev displays a far more advanced and uniform level of technology, with monorails, factories and electrical lights in every building.
  • The Firefly/Serenity Verse mixes starships and Wild West technology indiscriminately. There's a good in-Verse explanation for this: the Alliance tends to dump colonists on recently-terraformed worlds with the bare minimum needed to survive. As well, high technology is concentrated in Alliance hands, due to the Unification War between the outer planets and the core worlds, which ended in an Alliance victory, and they have no intention of letting the outer planets rise again.
  • Fringe offers an interesting three-tiered use of this trope.
    • In the show, scientific and technological advances have been taking place for decades under the radar of the public. In addition to typical present-day technology, mega-corporation Massive Dynamic produces space age future tech weapons and gizmos. However, a third tech level exists as the protagonists have some rudimentary prototype gadgets designed by Mad Scientist Walter Bishop. The prototypes were designed 20–30 years in the past, as Walter has spent the 17 years before the first season in a mental institution. His laboratory and devices have a low-tech look but function beyond the scope of conventional science. For an example of the latter, witness Walter's amazing matter transporter machine. It looks like some metal, wires and computers or even obvious power source. But it can teleport a person from any point in space and time to any other point in space and time. Shit just got real.
    • There's also an aversion. While tech developed by Massive Dynamics is sleek and efficient, the various reality bending gadgets (old and new) essentially never work as advertised or have bizarre complications involved. The development process is very much apparent.
    • The technology of the Alternate Universe folks, or of the Observers: in the Alternate Universe, mainstream technological development is accelerated in certain areas. In the 1980's, the AU already had dashboard CD players and small lightweight digital cell phones. By the time the series is set, the AU possesses advanced technology like Nanite Regeneration Chambers, Energy Weapons, and computers in thin, flexible paper-like form. The Observers have some really advanced technology similar to the AU, but they tend to disguise it (and themselves) in retro stylings.
  • Gotham intentionally uses sets and props from different periods to give the series a timeless feel. The vehicles are from the 1970s or older, the interior sets look like they're from the 1950s or 1960s, clothing design covers the gamut from the 1960s to more modern, there's no personal computers, information is still filed in cabinets on paper, offices use typewriters (and not even electric ones), people carry cellphones (but not smartphones), there are ATMs at convenience stores, VCRs but no disk players, televisions are all CRTs, Gordon carries a modern semiautomatic and Bullock an old fashioned snub-nosed revolver, someone carries around a Walkman with modern-style earbuds, and so on.
  • Max Headroom had computers with old-fashioned manual typewriter keyboards. Think "steampunk" but dirtier.
  • Mockingbird Lane has some fun with this - Grandpa writes with a quill... as a stylus for his iPad.
  • Person of Interest features an AI superintelligence that uses payphones to communicate with its human followers. In addition, though all technology that isn't The Machine is modern, it otherwise often has a rather cyberpunk feel.
  • Earth in Power Rangers. Fully functional interplanetary spacecraft by 1997, space colonies by 1999, and Ridiculously Human Robots indistinguishable (literally) from the real thing by 2007, and yet everyday technology looks and works exactly the same. One would think that if antigravity technology is advanced enough to show up in earthmade Ranger bikes, it'd show up in at least the very high class cars, but no.
  • The Price Is Right, especially during the Bob Barker era, stubbornly refused to update its props: even into the 1990's, the show still used outdated props such as trilons, legacy vane and eggcrate score displays, and the like most of their contemporaries had abandoned. (For example, Wheel of Fortune abandoned its trilon-based puzzle board for touch monitors in 1997, and replaced its egg crate score displays with LCD screens after going HD). Starting in The New '10s under Drew Carey, they began slowly adding more "modern" touches such as video screens and LED to new and refurbished props, but they still haven't fully abandoned the "older" props, so the show has a mishmash of old and new.
  • Another game show with vibes of this from time to time has been Pyramid. Firstly, the 1991-92 revival of $100,000 had the trilons in the front game replaced by monitors early on, though the trilons were still kept for the Winners' Circle. The 2009 $1,000,000 pilots had pure trilons again, and the current ABC revival of $100,000 has a very interesting case- trilons are back, but now have monitors in place of plastic slides, resulting in a rather cool fusion of old and new.
  • Red Dwarf has more than a bit of this too, video tapes and spaceships for example. Lampshaded in the Back to Earth specials when Kryten explained that the human race abandoned DVDs in favour of videos because mankind could never be bothered to put them back in the cases and videos are too large to lose. Parodied by Holly, a tenth-generation AI Hologrammatic computer whose one true love was unreliable ZX Spectrum.
  • One episode of Sliders had policemen, wearing modern police uniforms, driving a modern police car... and armed with swords. Another episode takes place on a world that had tricorder-level medical diagnostic technology and modern methods of hygeine and quarantine, but their treatments were stuck at the level of medeival apothecaries. It turns out that the plague ravaging the entire world could be cured with a simple course of penicillin made by the protagonists.
  • Space: Above and Beyond: the setting, mid 21st century Earth, and various outposts and colonies involved in the Human-Chig-Silicate conflict have a general level of human technology that is advanced beyond the late nineties when the show was made in many areas, but humans of the mid-21st century still use CD and Mini-CDs , and most computer screens shown appear to be CRT monitors, without any cosmetic enhancement to disguise them as flatscreens, as some other shows from this and earlier eras have done. The CRT monitors, CDs , and other tech looks Hilarious in Hindsight, because Technology Marches On, but fits the generally modernistic aesthetic and themes of the show, despite co-existing with advanced androids, Artificial Humans, several different modes of faster-than-light travel (the series is inconsistent about this, but at the very least, human-built ships use both naturally occurring, predictable wormholes an type of onboard propulsion system implied to FTL ), and a Standard Sci-Fi Fleet that includes single-stage-to-orbit, combat-capable "Hammerhead" spaceplanes.
    • The Chigs and Silicates both have a degree of Schizo Tech in their military hardware: The Silicates are humanoid androids, advanced artificial intelligences, that rebelled and stole "military hardware" that they used to flee to outer space. It's not known what the capabilities of these ships are, and they are rarely seen, but the quick glimpse of one of these spacecraft in an early episode showed a rather primitive-looking "space capsule" type vehicle that might have been a kind of dropship. It's probably justified given that the Silicate Rebellion occurred when T. C. McQueen was a relatively newly-batched "tank". Human technology has probably improved by then, and the Silicates have had some time to augment their ships, possibly with technology obtained from their Chig allies.
    • The Chigs themselves possess advanced spacecraft and ground vehicles constructed of ceramics and well as organic materials and (possibly) partially living materials. They are stated to have a higher rate of climb than their human Hammerhead counterparts, but the Hammerheads have more firepower. The weapons used by the Hammerheads but are stated by background sources and supplementary materials to be magnetic projectile weapons like railguns or coilguns, proving that in-universe, Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better than the bright, energetic blobs fired by Chig fighters. Of course, the super-advanced fighter that runs on Sewell Fuel beats any human spacecraft that isn't flown by T. C. McQueen .
    • Some human ships are implied not to possess onboard faster-than-light drives and are entirely dependent on naturally occurring wormholes; they use nuclear reactors that aren't much more advanced than what was available at the time the show was made to travel interplanetary distances and wormholes for interstellar transport, despite carrying advanced materials and equipment, and even Artificial Human personnel in stasis.
  • Used deliberately in Spellbinder:
    • The protagonist from our world initially thinks he's traveled back in time to a standard medieval setting, but then sees a flying machine. It turns out that this is in fact an Alternate Universe in which the titular Spellbinders are a ruling class who keep the people ignorant so they can claim their technology is magic. They also punish anyone who makes something new. The pilot has a village kid make a paper airplane, which the protagonist "improves". Then Ashka appears and blasts the paper airplane out of the sky with a plasma ball. She then stuns the village kid with it and tries to do the same to the protagonist (who's wearing rubber-soled shoes, resulting in a No-Sell).
    • The second season has the (new) main characters travel to a different parallel universe every episode. The machine inventor's home universe is set in a variant of Ancient China... with photonic computers, holograms, and energy weapons. The machine itself is mostly wood with some glass pieces that act as controls. However, no one in this land knows how to operate or fix the central computer, which has protected them for generations. It takes an engineer from our world to help fix it - not because she's familiar with photonic technology, but because she at least understands how computers work.
  • Stan Against Evil has people using smartphones and the internet, but still using Bakelite phones and drinking beer out of pull-tab cans, possibly to help establish a throwback style similar to 1970's horror flicks.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • The Jaffa are a starfaring race who, after overthrowing their Goa'uld overlords, rule a pretty sizable interstellar empire. They fly through space in ships that use higher technology than is available on Earth, have teleportation technology, and use energy weapons as personal sidearms. Yet every time we see them on their own planet, we see thatch-roofed huts, homespun clothing, and "technology" that would have looked right at home on Earth during the Fifth or Sixth centuries AD. Justified because the Goa'uld deliberately gave the Jaffa various pieces of technology for their use as Slave Mooks but didn't explain how any of it worked to ensure they would be dependent on the System Lords; once they're freed, the Jaffa have to play catch-up and have much further to come than the already-Information Age Earthlings.
    • The SGC becomes this in the later years of the franchise, combining modern Earth technology with any alien tech capable of being reverse-engineered. A textbook example comes from the Season Nine finale, where Colonel Carter is beamed from a starship built and manned by the United States Air Force to disable the Ori Supergate, while wearing a spacesuit that could have been stolen from NASA.
    • The SGC cobbled together their dialing computer from several supercomputers, meant to replace the missing Dial Home Device. Even though several episodes highlight the drawbacks to their system, they never bother to replacing it at any point and are clearly quite proud of it being a testament to human ingenuity. Also, in several episodes they managed to pull off tricks with their "hacked" Stargate controller which would have been impossible with a stock Dial Home Device, because the DHD locked out dangerous/risky/unstable Stargate operating modes that nonetheless proved worth a gamble in desperate times. All the more reason to stick with their custom controller.
  • Some of the planets visited on the various incarnations of Star Trek exhibit this trope.
    • One NextGen episode had a relatively primitive, vaguely industrial society that had dissolving doors that spontaneously re-formed after use. And faster than light communication that a school-age child could build and operate for a school science project, but were too primitive to contact.
    • One planet had a floating city with technology on par with Starfleet, but the mining industry their entire economy depended on was done by manual laborers with hand tools.
    • One planet had technology equal to The '60s, but used weapons and armour similar to The Roman Empire instead of guns. Another had gladiatorial combat between slaves using melee weapons wearing Shock Collars, kept in cells with automatic doors between fights with teleporters in use. One world had android and time travel technology far beyond The Federation, black and white videos and no space travel. Another world was inhabited by stone-age tribespeople who worshipped a sentient computer which communicated wirelessly with their cyborg chieftain.
    • In Star Trek: Voyager episode The 37's the crew encounters a planet populated by humans who were abducted by an alien civilization in 1937 for use as slaves. Their ancestors rebelled and formed a new civilization in the Delta Quadrant, but their technology is not quite up to Federation levels—they don't even have space travel, much less interstellar travel, despite having 400 years to work on the problem; the knowledge of early 20th century industrial civilization to start with; and existing tech to reverse-engineer (or at least serve as proof of concept).
  • Tales from the Loop: anti-gravity vehicles, Ridiculously Human Robots, and super-advanced prosthetic limbs in the The '80s alongside dial telephones and first generation personal computers with floppy drives.
  • Warehouse 13.
    • There are magic lightning guns from Tesla and video phones from Farnsworth.
    • A Eureka crossover episode has Fargo and Claudia combine Benjamin Franklin's ring (which amplifies a person's bio-electricity to make his/her hand glow) with a laser cutter from Eureka to make a fully-functional lightsaber with appropriate sound effects... for all of 12 seconds until the cutter's battery runs out.
  • The Wild Wild West series is a sterling example of the trope. The Wild West setting mixed with gadgets worthy of James Bond and plenty of mad scientists with anachronistic inventions.


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