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Series / Masters of Science Fiction

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"From the very beginning, we have wondered how life began, what our purpose is and where we are headed. We have struggled to understand time, matter, the infinite universe, who we are and if we are alone. Great minds have imagined the most wonderful and terrifying answers to these questions. We invite you to join us on this great expedition."
Stephen Hawking, at the beginning of each episode

A 2007 American anthology tv series hosted by Stephen Hawking, conceived as a Spin-Off of Masters of Horror. Each of its episodes is an adaptation of a story by a famous science fiction author, hence the title. It aired for only six episodes in 2007. The episodes are:

  1. "A Clean Escape", based on a story by John Kessel
  2. "The Awakening", based on the story "The General Zapped an Angel" by Howard Fast
  3. "Jerry Was a Man", based on a story by Robert A. Heinlein
  4. "The Discarded", based on a story by Harlan Ellison
  5. "Little Brother", based on a story by Walter Mosley
  6. "Watchbird", based on a story by Robert Sheckley

Tropes for the series:

  • Adaptational Species Change: Jerry from "Jerry Was A Man" was a genetically enchanced chimpanzee in the original Heinlein story. In the series, he's a type of bio-android known collectively as "Joe's", aka "working joe's".
  • Adaptation Title Change: The episode "The Awakening" is based on a story called "The General Zapped an Angel". Other episodes retain the title of the story they are based on.
  • After the End: "A Clean Escape", which is actually set in a high-tech government bunker after a nuclear apocalypse.
  • Body Horror: The mutants from "The Discarded", who have deformities ranging from disturbing to outright horrifying.
  • Computerized Judicial System: In the episode "Little Brother", computer personalities oversee trials, and the uploaded minds of deceased people act as jurors. However, this turns out to work poorly.
  • Do Androids Dream?: "Jerry Was A Man" revolves around whether or not Jerry, a bio-android, is a person or a machine. Interestingly, one of the arguments in favor is that Jerry shows self-preservation; his model was designed for disposing of explosives such as mines, and his lawyer reveals an incident where Jerry preserved himself by allowing another android to blow up instead, something a machine wouldn't care about.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • "The Discarded" begins with the leader of the mutants killing himself, and being replaced by a subordinate. Said subordinate also kills himself in the end after realizing they'll never be allowed to return home no matter what.
    • "Watchbird" ends just before the main character gets killed by his own creation because he's showing killing intent - towards himself.
  • Fantastic Racism: "The Discarded" mutants are all forced to live on a space station away from Earth, because of the belief that their mere presence caused further mutations.
  • Freudian Excuse: In "Watchbird", the main character is obsessed with stopping murders before they happen, due to losing his parents as a child. This is not part of the original short story.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The A.I controlling the Watchbird drones is incredibly effective at tracking down any potential killers before they can even put their crimes into action. Problem is, it starts attacking anyone with any sort of killing intent, even legal ones, such as abortion doctors, or state officials overseeing a prison execution.
  • I Lied: The Earth representative from "The Discarded" implies that the mutants would be allowed back to Earth if they agreed to donate blood for research to prevent further mutations. In the end, it turns out to be a ruse just so even more mutants can be abandoned on the space station.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: The main plot of "A Clean Escape", which revolves around a psychiatrist treating a patient with a severe case of retroactive amnesia. He can't seem to form new memories beyond leaving his house and being sent to her office, which occurred 24 years prior. The "office" is inside a government bunker, and the patient is the former president of the United States. Having ordered a nuclear strike, the Kill Sat that was used had a much stronger effect than intended, and ended up causing a nuclear holocaust that wiped out humanity. Faced with this and his family's death in the retaliatory strike on Washington, the President's mind cracked and sealed away all memories of him ever having been President, with his last memory of himself being still a government weapons contractor.
  • Unnecessarily Creepy Robot: The Watchbird drones from the episode "Watchbird" were originally designed for military use in the Middle East, and like any other military drone, move too fast and too high up for the target to be able to see them clearly for them to have any psychological effect. Despite this, they were designed to look like creepy metallic eagles.