Science fiction first appeared on a television program during the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Special effects and other production techniques allow creators to present a living visual image of an imaginary world not limited by the constraints of reality; this makes television an excellent medium for science fiction, which in turn contributes to its popularity in this form.
Science fiction has been a popular genre with television viewers in the United States almost since mass media broadcasting's inception.
The first popular science-fiction program on American television was the children's adventure serial Captain Video and His Video Rangers, which ran from June 1949 to April 1955. Within eight months of Captain Video's debut, two other landmark series were launched - Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (8/50 - 6/55) and Space Patrol (3/50 - 2/55). ABC attempted to cash in on the burgeoning television science fiction market with a small screen version of Buck Rogers in 1950, but failed within months. Another series of the fiftes, Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers broadcast live Saturdays from April 18, 1953, to May 29, 1954. The show was eventually cancelled due to a copyright infringement lawsuit based on the shows conceptual similarity to Tom Corbett.
Other children's series of note in the 1950s would be Captain Z-Ro which was broadcast starting in 1951, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, and Flash Gordon (1954 TV series) syndicated in 1954.
The first science fiction series for adults, was also its first fully science fictional anthology Tales of Tomorrow by ABC on August 3, 1951, lasting until 1953, as there were already similar shows for children. This was followed two months later by Out There on CBS only lasting twelve episodes. Science Fiction Theatre was another early anthology series, running from 1955 and 1957. It was followed by The Twilight Zone in 1959 and The Outer Limits in 1963.
The mid-1960s brought a resurgence of episodic science fiction to the airwaves, mostly thanks to producer Irwin Allen. In 1964, he launched Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, based on his 1961 film of the same name. The series ran for four seasons. His next series, Lost in Space, a space opera which aired from 1965 to 1968, became popular with audiences, and quickly led to two other sci-fi favorites in 1966; Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants.
Next came the unexpected sleeping juggernaut, Star Trek, conceived by Gene Roddenberry, and aired on NBC. When NBC tried to cancel it in early 1968, the show was so popular among fans that a campaign organized by Bjo Trimble successfully demanded its return, redefining the relationship between television networks and audiences. However, the eventual cancellation of Star Trek led to a decline in science fiction on American television.
During the late 1970s, Star Wars reignited interest in science fiction. This led to the production of shows including Logan's Run then there was Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Battlestar Galactica (1978–1980). In the earlier 1970s before this, there had also been, Planet of the Apes, and later movie sequels
In 1983, the miniseries V used both Cold War and World War II allegories about totalitarianism, propaganda, collaboration, and resistance.
In 1987, enduring fan interest, partially preserved by the first four installments of the film franchiseStar Trek from 1979 to 1986, those films' popularity led to the development of the Star Trek sequel Star Trek: The Next Generation, which became extremely successful, and led to the later sequels Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and finally Star Trek: Enterprise, which ended in 2005.
In 1993, seaQuest DSV explored environmental themes. In the same year, Babylon 5 began, set in a detailed universe, using a multi-threaded multi-level story arc. Although ratings were weak among general audiences, Babylon 5 had strong support within science fiction fandom. It raised the bar expected by audiences and led to a broad increase in the quality of science fiction on television in the late 1990s. The time travel drama Quantum Leap used contemporary settings to find a broader audience.
The X-Files tapped into popular conspiracy fears and generational angst to find great commercial success throughout the decade. Shows with fantasy and horror elements drew much influence from The X-Files, and generally attracted large audiences, most notably Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and spinoff Angel). Its influence on the sci-fi genre was still greatly felt throughout the 2000s (decade).
Near the end of the decade, some comic science fiction shows were popular: 3rd Rock from the Sun, and the animated series Futurama.
In the 21st century, series with paranormal themes like Medium and Ghost Whisperer had appeared on mainstream networks. Many shows popular with American audiences are now produced outside the United Series, including Stargate SG-1 and Battlestar Galactica.
In recent years, the much lower costs of reality television shows have hit all television dramas, but especially those with unusual cost requirements such as science fiction shows. This has led to a sharp decline in production since 2003, though series like the 2004 reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, NBC's Heroes, and ABC's Lost attracted strong audiences.
First run syndication was the most important venue for science fiction television between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. After this period, specialty channels such as Syfy have replaced first run syndication as a significant venue for new shows.
Prior to recent years, science fiction television series were normally centered around a premise and characters were defined essentially based on what they did or encountered in the course of their adventures. However, the growing trend (or paradigm shift) towards character-centered drama and naturalistic plots and settings has replaced the episodic action-adventure format that was once standard for television science fiction. Cosmic themes, metaphysics, sense of wonder, exotic settings, technobabble, so-called Big Dumb Objects, psychedelic imagery, and "two fisted action" have been mostly phased out in favor of human content, contemporary themes, and strong focus on character relationships. Also, the demographic audience for science fiction has changed from mostly male to a significant female presence demanding more human elements and stronger female character representation.][ The aforementioned reimagined Battlestar Galactica is a primary example as it's strictly adult character drama focus is a polar opposite to the original Galactica's congenial, family-friendly heroic adventure format. Although television science fiction has always frequently addressed moral and social themes, recent series have done so with less subtlety and with more blatantly political themes. The anthology series format popularized by Rod Serling rarely appeared in science fiction television after the 1980s, though aspects of this were used in both The X-Files and the 1990s reincarnation of The Outer Limits. The current format, which was unintentionally popularized by Chris Carter of The X-Files, is toward either long story arcs and season long plots with character oriented subplots or more recently, shows whose primary focus is character studies and relationships while using a fantastical element as merely a backdrop setting (Lost, Caprica and Walking Dead) .
At one time, prominent science fiction authors were frequently recruited to write episodes of various series, such as William Gibson's and Stephen King's work on The X-Files. Other writers include Larry Niven who wrote for Land of the Lost. Recent involvement of science fiction writers include Harlan Ellison who served as a creative consultant on Babylon 5 and John Scalzi who served as a creative consultant on Stargate Universe. However, this has largely disappeared due in part to the logistics of writing for television and divergent trends in the techniques of the two media.
The first known piece of television science fiction anywhere in the world was produced by the BBC on February 11, 1938, a thirty-five-minute adaptation of a section of the play R.U.R..
In the summer of 1953, BBC staff writer Nigel Kneale created The Quatermass Experiment, the first of several Quatermass serials. In the 1960s, Britain's commercial television network, ITV, influenced by Canadian producer Sydney Newman produced the science-fiction serials Pathfinders In Space (1960) and its sequel Pathfinders to Venus (1961). In 1961, the BBC produced A for Andromeda about a supercomputer artificial intelligence created from instructions received from an alien transmission.
In 1963, the BBC began production of the longest-running science-fiction television series ever, Doctor Who, about a time travelling alien called the Doctor. Lasting for twenty-six seasons in its original form, it was successfully revived from 2005, now having 33 seasons. Doctor Who alumni moved on to create their own science-fiction programmes, such as Doomwatch (1970–73), Survivors (1975–77) and Blake's 7 (1978–81).
Gerry Anderson made science fiction series for ITV using the puppet based 'Supermarionation' technique including Fireball XL5 (1962–63), Thunderbirds (1965–66), Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967&68), and Stingray (1964–65) which all retain a following. Later he was able to develop live-action shows such as UFO (1970) and Space: 1999 (1975–77). A similar puppet-based series to the Anderson ones was Space Patrol (1962–64), produced by Roberta Leigh, for Associated British Corporation (ABC).
Other popular shows created during the 1960s that have achieved cult status included a tendency to look at the secret service for inspiration. Popular examples include the allegory Orwellian series The Prisoner, The Avengers and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), all produced for ITV.
ITV produced youth-oriented genre programmes during the 1970s, such as Timeslip (1970–71), The Tomorrow People (1973–79), and Children of the Stones (1977), as well as shows aimed at a wider audience such as the time-travel drama Sapphire & Steel (1979–82). Meanwhile, the BBC adapted The Changes (1975), which featured the quest of a teenage girl, Nicky Gore, to discover the cause of the shift back to the pre-industrial and pre-technological age, and bring it to an end.
The BBC adapted novels such as The Day of the Triffids (1981), The Invisible Man (1984), The Nightmare Man (1981, from the novel Child of the Vodyanoi) and The Tripods (1984–85), which however remained unfinished. The BBC also aired science fiction comedy series such as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981) by Douglas Adams and Red Dwarf (1988–99, 2009, 2012). Doctor Who was finally cancelled in 1989, not to return as a regular television series until 2005.
The BBC also produced several children's science fiction series in the late 1990s to mid-2000s (decade). The most known examples of which being Aquila (1997–1998) based on the novel by Andrew Norriss and Jeopardy (2002–2004) which won the 2002 BAFTA for Best Children's Drama.
Russell T Davies, responsible for the latest Doctor Who revival in its earlier seasons, began working in the BBC children's department in the 1990s. His first science fiction serial was Dark Season; two years later he wrote Century Falls. The BBC also produced the action adventure series Bugs, and co-produced Invasion: Earth with the US Sci-Fi Channel. The new Doctor Who has spun off two series: Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Other 21st century British science fiction series have included the time travel drama Life on Mars, its sequel Ashes to Ashes, Being Human, Eleventh Hour and Primeval on ITV.
At end of the 2000s (decade), current series included Misfits, a show about a group of misfit teenagers who get superpowers and Paradox, a crime series in which events from the future are downloaded from a satellite in space. Outcasts is set in the middle of the 21st-century on Carpathia, a so-called Goldilocks planet five years' travel from Earth.
Science fiction in Canada was produced by the CBC as early as the 1950s. In the 1970s, CTV produced The Starlost. In the 1980s, Canadian animation studios including Nelvana, began producing a growing proportion of the world market in animation.
In the 1990s, Canada became an important player in live action speculative fiction on television, with dozens of series like Forever Knight, Robocop, and most notably The X-Files and Stargate SG-1. Many series have been produced for youth and children's markets, including Deepwater Black and MythQuest.
In the early 2000s (decade), changes in provincial tax legislation prompted many production companies to move from Toronto to Vancouver. Recent popular series produced in Vancouver include The Dead Zone, Smallville, Andromeda, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe, The 4400, Sanctuary and the reimagined Battlestar Galactica.
Because of the small size of the domestic television market, most Canadian productions involve partnerships with production studios based in the United States and Europe. However, in recent years, new partnership arrangements are allowing Canadian investors a growing share of control of projects produced in Canada and elsewhere.
Australia's best known Science Fiction series was Farscape; made with American co-production, it ran from 1999 to 2003. Early series made in the 1960s included The Interparis (1968) Vega 4 (1967), and Phoenix Five (1970). A significant proportion of Australian produced Science Fiction programmes are made for the teens/young Adults market, including The Girl from Tomorrow, the long-running Mr. Squiggle, Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left, Ocean Girl, Crash Zone, Watch This space and Spellbinder.
Other series like Time Trax, Roar and Space: Above and Beyond were filmed in Australia, but used mostly US crew and actors.
Japan has a long history of producing science fiction series for television. Some of the most famous are anime such as Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy, the Super Robots such as Mitsuteru Yokoyama's Tetsujin 28-go (Gigantor) and Go Nagai's Mazinger Z, and the Real Robots such as Yoshiyuki Tomino's Gundam series and Shōji Kawamori's Macross series.
Other primary aspects of Japanese science fiction television are the superhero tokusatsu (a term literally meaning special effects) series, pioneered by programs such as Moonlight Mask and Planet Prince. The suitmation technique has been used in long running franchises include Eiji Tsuburaya's Ultra Series, Shotaro Ishinomori's Kamen Rider Series, and the Super Sentai Series.
In addition, several dramas utilize science fiction elements as framing devices, but are not labeled as "tokusatsu" as they do not utilize actors in full body suits and other special effects.
After the second world war English became the main language for large television productions, which caused a blooming of science-fiction series in the United Kingdom, but not in continental Europe. This together with a cultural climate that places more interest in historical and fantastic speculative fiction then the futuristic made the mostly German and French science-fiction sparse and mostly aimed at children. The same sparseness science-fiction can be found in the literairy tradition, but not in comics with the Franco-Belgian and Dutch comics producing several scifi like titles.
Among the notable German language productions is Lexx and , a German series first broadcast in 1966. Also well remembered in Germany are the movies by Rainer Erler, including the miniseries .
Star Maidens (1975, aka "Medusa" or "Die Mädchen aus dem Weltraum") was a British-German coproduction of pure SF. Danish television broadcast the children's TV-series Crash in 1984 about a boy who finds out that his room is a space ship.
Early Dutch television series were Morgen gebeurt het (tomorrow it will happen), broadcast from 1957 to 1959, about a group of Dutch space explorers and their adventures, De duivelsgrot (the devil's cave), broadcast from 1963 to 1964, about a scientist who finds the map of a cave that leads to the center of the earth and Treinreis naar de Toekomst (train journey to the future) about two young children who are taken to the future by robots who try to recreate humanity, but are unable to give the cloned humans a soul. All three of these television series where aimed mostly at children, but became popular with adults as well.
Later television series were Professor Vreemdeling (1977) about a strange professor who wants to make plants speak and Zeeuws Meisje (1997) a nationalistic post-apocalyptic series where the Netherlands has been built full of housing and the highways are filled with traffic jams. The protagonist, a female superhero, wears traditional folkloric clothes and tries to save traditional elements of Dutch society against the factory owners.
Italian TV experienced a stint of interest in SF between 1970 and 1975. "A come Andromeda" (1972) was a remake of 1962 BBC miniseries (from the novels of Hoyle and Elliott). Two original teleplays created by Flavio Nicolini : "Gamma" (1974) and "La traccia verde" (1975). "Geminus" (1968) and the highly influential "Il segno del comando"(1970) should be classified into mystery-stories than strict SF.
French series are Highlander: The Series French science-fiction/fantasy television series (both co-produced with Canada) and a number of smaller fiction/fantasy television series, including Tang in 1971, about a super secret organization that attempts to control the world with a new super weapon, "Les atomistes" and bizarre 1970 miniseries "La brigade des maléfices".
Another French-produced science fiction series was the new age animated series (English: Once upon a time...space). An interesting phenomenon has been the continuing collaboration between French and Japanese animators, resulting in a series of French-Japanese cartoons/anime, including such titles as Ulysses 31 (1981), The Mysterious Cities of Gold (1982), and more recently, Ōban Star-Racers (2006).
Serbia produced The Collector (), a science fiction television series in the style of The Twilight Zone, based upon Zoran Živković's story, winner of a World Fantasy Award. Several science-fiction series were also produced in various European countries, and never translated into English.
Because of the need to market television to a wide audience, series outside the loose realm of science fiction will often tend to gravitate to established tropes, such as time travel or superheroes.
The classic mode of science fiction on television is space opera, in which a protagonist or a group of brave men and women venture into the black unknown. Starships are a conventional setting in this category, with Star Trek being the definitive example. Because the spacecraft environment is by definition limited, a very small number of sets can be heavily used, lowering production costs and allowing producers to focus on character development, setting detail, or sometimes simply to keep a production in the black so it can stay on the air. Variations on this are space station series, notably Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, based on an open-port paradigm in which trouble comes in through the airlocks. Rarer are series based on space travel without vehicles; Stargate SG-1 is the prime example.
Near-future settings work well for science fiction on television; series such as The Six Million Dollar Man, TekWar, Quatermass, Star Cops, Mutant X and Fringe allow budget conscious producers to use street clothes and contemporary locations, using only minimal props and effects to foster viewers' suspension of disbelief.
Using stock sets for other series results in odd subcategories like the science fiction western; some established series also have the occasional episode.
Due to the potentially upsetting nature of horror, many subject matters and themes that are acceptable in films (many of which are Rated R) would be unsuitable for general television audiences or must be heavily tamed, if not removed completely. On the one hand, horror can often be produced with inexpensive techniques: creative cinematography, pacing, lighting, fake blood or other simple props, prosthetics, or costumes. However, horror relies on a definitive resolution, often with a negative result for main characters. The episodic nature of television generally involves a resolution at the end of the episode, with characters surviving to the next episode; over time, this lessens the extreme tension required in horror. This makes horror an excellent genre for films, but much less so for television, though many anthology shows, notably The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery, avoid the problem. Investigative shows, related to the mystery genre, such as Kolchak: The Night Stalker, also mostly avoid the issue (though they are hard on secondary characters). Shows with humorous elements, like The Chronicle, relieve tension for viewers but not characters in the show, making things more accessible to audiences. Some horror shows use common horror tropes such as vampires with more conventional dramatic forms like the heroic myth (for example Buffy the Vampire Slayer) or even gothic romance (Dark Shadows). Demonic powers and black magic are common themes in series like Brimstone, Charmed, Hex and Supernatural.
Television is used as a medium for the visual presentation of fiction. In order to draw on an established audience, or simply to leverage the existing creativity of an author, television shows are sometimes based on novels or series of novels. The process of converting a print story is called adaptation. Producers, studios, or other intermediaries acquire the rights to produce shows based on a book with a contract known as an option; one might say "the studio optioned the book". Many popular novels are optioned, but only a tiny fraction of these ever materialize as an actual show; often, a producer who is interested in a particular show has to purchase an option from another producer who originally negotiated with the author. Rarely, other media are adapted for film, notably computer games.
The reverse process of adaptation also occurs. Shows may be translated into print novels as novelizations, where an author is contracted to write a prose version of the storyline. Just as television series are a collection of episodes, if there is a plan to convert a series to print, that usually is done as a series of novels. A popular series like Star Trek has resulted in hundreds of novelizations over the years. The visual content of a film is an excellent resource for the development of computer strategy or action games. As well, a series, particularly one that has lasted several seasons, has a rich background of character and setting detail that can provide a strong background and an established market for a role-playing game. The most popular series and novels can result in adaptation in many different media.
The need to portray imaginary settings or characters with properties and abilities beyond the reach of current reality obliges producers to make extensive use of specialized techniques of television production.
Through most of the 20th century, many of these techniques were expensive and involved a small number of dedicated craft practitioners, while the reusability of props, models, effects, or animation techniques made it easier to keep using them. The combination of high initial cost and lower maintenance cost pushed producers into building these techniques into the basic concept of a series, influencing all the artistic choices. By the late 1990s, improved technology and more training and cross-training within the industry made all of these techniques easier to use, so that directors of individual episodes could make decisions to use one or more methods, so such artistic choices no longer needed to be baked into the series concept.
Special effects (or "SPFX") have been an essential tool throughout the history of science fiction on television: small explosives to simulate the effects of various rayguns, squibs of blood and gruesome prosthetics to simulate the monsters and victims in horror series, and the wire-flying entrances and exits of George Reeves as Superman.
The broad term "special effects" includes all the techniques here, but more commonly there are two categories of effects. Visual effects ("VFX") involve photographic or digital manipulation of the onscreen image, usually done in post-production. Mechanical or physical effects involve props, pyrotechnics, and other physical methods used during principal photography itself. Some effects involved a combination of techniques; a ray gun might require a pyrotechnic during filming, and then an optical glowing line added to the film image in post-production. Stunts are another important category of physical effects. In general, all kinds of special effects must be carefully planned during pre-production.
Babylon 5 was the first series to use computer-generated imagery, or "CGI", for all exterior space scenes, even those with characters in space suits. The technology has made this more practical, so that today models are rarely used. In the 1990s, CGI required expensive processors and customized applications, but by the 2000s (decade), computing power has pushed capabilities down to personal laptops running a wide array of software.
Models have been an essential tool in science fiction television since the beginning, when Buck Rogers took flight in spark-scattering spaceships wheeling across a matte backdrop sky. The original Star Trek required a staggering array of models; the EnterpriseUSS had to be built in several different scales for different needs. Models fell out of use in filming in the 1990s as CGI became more affordable and practical, but even today, designers sometimes construct scale models which are then digitized for use in animation software.
Models of characters are puppets. Gerry Anderson created a series of shows using puppets living in a universe of models and miniature sets, notably Thunderbirds. In recent years, series like Greg the Bunny and Puppets Who Kill have portrayed puppets as an oppressed minority, for which the politically correct term is "fabricated-Americans" and the racial epithet is "sock". ALF depicted an alien living in a family, while Farscape included two puppets as regular characters. In Stargate SG-1, the Asgard characters are puppets in scenes where they are sitting, standing, or lying down.
As animation is completely free of the constraints of gravity, momentum, and physical reality, it is an ideal technique for science fiction and fantasy on television. In a sense, virtually all animated series allow characters and objects to perform in unrealistic ways, so they are almost all considered to fit within the broadest category of speculative fiction (in the context of awards, criticism, marketing, etc.) The artistic affinity of animation to comic books has led to a large amount of superhero-themed animation, much of this adapted from comics series, while the impossible characters and settings allowed in animation made this a preferred medium for both fantasy and for series aimed at young audiences.
Originally, animation was all hand-drawn by artists, though in the 1980s, beginning with Captain Power, computers began to automate the task of creating repeated images; by the 1990s, hand-drawn animation became defunct.
In recent years as technology has improved, this has become more common, notably since the development of the Massive software application permits producers to include hordes of non-human characters to storm a city or space station. The robotic Cylons in the new version of Battlestar Galactica are usually animated characters, while the Asgard in Stargate SG-1 are animated when they are shown walking around or more than one is on screen at once.
In general, science fiction series are subject to the same financial constraints as other television shows. However, high production costs increase the financial risk, while limited audiences further complicate the business case for continuing production. Star Trek was the first television series to cost more than $100,000 per episode, while Star Trek: The Next Generation was the first to cost more than $1 million per episode.
The innovative nature of science fiction means that new shows cannot rely on predictable market-tested formulas like legal dramas or sitcoms; the involvement of creative talent outside the Hollywood mainstream introduces more variables to the budget forecasts.
In the past, science fiction television shows have maintained a family friendly format that rendered them suitable for all ages, especially children, as the majority of them were of the action-adventure format. This enabled merchandising such as toy lines, animated cartoon adaptations, and other licensing. However, many modern shows include a significant amount of adult themes (such as sexual sitiuations, nudity, profanity and graphic violence) rendering them unsuitable for young audiences, and severely limiting the remaining audience demographic and the potential for merchandising.
The perception, more than the reality, of science fiction series being cancelled unreasonably is greatly increased by the attachment of fans to their favorite series, which is much stronger in science fiction fandom than it is in the general population. While mainstream shows are often more strictly episodic, where ending shows can allow viewers to imagine that characters live happily, or at least normally, ever after, science fiction series generate questions and loose ends that, when unresolved, cause dissatisfaction among devoted viewers. Creative settings also often call for broader story arcs than is often found in mainstream television, requiring science fiction series many episodes to resolve an ongoing major conflict. Science fiction television producers will sometimes end a season with a dramatic cliffhanger episode to attract viewer interest, but the short-term effect rarely influences financial partners. Dark Angel is one of many shows ending with a cliffhanger scene that left critical questions open when the series was cancelled.
One of the earliest forms of media fandom was Star Trek fandom. Fans of the series became known to each other through the science fiction fandom. In 1968, NBC decided to cancel Star Trek. Bjo Trimble wrote letters to contacts in the National Fantasy Fan Foundation, asking people to organize their local friends to write to the network to demand the show remain on the air. Network executives were overwhelmed by an unprecedented wave of correspondence, and they kept the show on the air. Although the series continued to receive low ratings and was canceled a year later, the enduring popularity of the series resulted in Paramount creating a set of movies, and then a new series Star Trek: The Next Generation, which by the early 1990s had become one of the most popular dramas on American television.
Although somewhat smaller, Doctor Who fandom considerably predates Star Trek fandom. Meanwhile, Star Trek fans continued to grow in numbers, and began organizing conventions in the 1970s. No other show attracted a large organized following until the 1990s, when Babylon 5 attracted both Star Trek fans and a large number of literary SF fans who previously had not been involved in media fandom. Other series began to attract a growing number of followers.
In the late 1990s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer drew a large mainstream audience into fandom; greater demand allowed (even obliged, for the sake of time management) Buffy actors to charge much higher appearance fees than the Star Trek actors had. This pushed appearances out of the reach of some volunteer non-profit fan groups towards commercial event promoters. At the same time, a market for celebrity autographs emerged on eBay, which created a new source of income for actors, who began to charge money for autographs that they had previously been doing for free. This became significant enough that lesser-known actors would come to conventions without requesting any appearance fee, simply to be allowed to sell their own autographs (commonly on publicity photos). Today most events with actor appearances are organized by commercial promoters, though a number of fan-run conventions still exist, such as Toronto Trek and Shore Leave.
The 1985 series Robotech is most often credited as the catalyst for the Western interest in anime. The series inspired a few fanzines such as Protoculture Addicts and Animag both of which in turn promoted interest in the wide world of anime in general. Anime's first notable appearance at SF or comic book conventions was in the form of video showings of popular anime, untranslated and often low quality VHS bootlegs. Starting in the 1990s, anime fans began organizing conventions. These quickly grew to sizes much larger than other science fiction and media conventions in the same communities; many cities now have anime conventions attracting five to ten thousand attendees. Many anime conventions are a hybrid between non-profit and commercial events, with volunteer organizers handling large revenue streams and dealing with commercial suppliers and professional marketing campaigns.
For decades, the majority of science fiction media fandom has been represented by males of all ages and for most of its modern existence, a fairly diverse racial demographic. The most highly publicized demographic for science fiction fans is the male adolescent; roughly the same demographic for American comic books. Female fans, while always present, were far fewer in number and less conspicuously present in fandom. With the rising popularity of fanzines, female fans became increasingly vocal. Starting in the 2000s (decade), genre series began to offer more prominent female characters. Many series featured women as the main characters with males as supporting characters. True Blood is an example. Also, such shows premises moved away from heroic action-adventure and focused more on characters and their relationships. This has caused the rising popularity of fanfiction, a large majority of which is categorized as slash fanfiction. Female fans comprise the majority of fanfiction writers.
For a list of notable science fiction series and programs on television, see: List of science fiction television programs.
People who have influenced science fiction on television include: