The sci-fi genre has seen a resurgence across the board in virtually every major medium. It’s television though where the genre has really taken off. From the Syfy network’s hit series, The Expanse to CBS’s plans for a Star Trek revival, the genre has blown up on the small-screen. At Netflix, we see the genre taking an even more compelling turn, thanks to the thrilling work of the Duffer Brothers on Stranger Things. The series is set in 1980s Indiana and follows a group of kids who stumble on a secret government project that changes their lives forever. But even that’s a massive simplification of a much more complex and nuanced story.
Stranger Things lives up to its name in every sense, helped by a solid cast (both children and adults), killer writing, and a subtle twist that gives us just enough to look forward to in the second season. More than that, Stranger Things ushers in the new age of sci-fi on TV, which coincidentally looks a lot like the a bygone era of science-fiction…
1. It makes the old feel new again
The thing that immediately shines through the second you start watching this show is the eery 1980s vibe that feels reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind or E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. What we soon find out is that things are far less whimsical than your average Steven Spielberg-in-his-prime film. The show infuses elements of Stephen King’s horror sensibilities along the way and Stranger Things never feels like a by-the-book homage to Spielberg’s heyday as a sci-fi filmmaker.
Stranger Things is a story that sets itself apart in every way. The show pits a group of kids against an inter-dimensional monster, the former helped by a telepathic young girl who escaped from a government facility. It takes a skilled creative hand to take an old concept and make it feel new again, and that’s exactly what Stranger Things accomplishes in spades.
2. The soundtrack. Oh man, that soundtrack.
The art of the soundtrack has been lost on much of modern sci-fi TV, with most shows opting for your basic, run-of-the-mill foreboding-type music that could be copied and pasted into any other drama. When a show adopts a musical score specifically tailored for its unique tone, it’s not hard to perk up the second the theme song rolls across the opening credits. The Nerdist just about nails it, describing the synth-led soundtrack as “a coalescence of John Carpenter’s and Tangerine Dream’s extensive film scores.”
3. A refreshing, original story
There are so many reboots, sequels, and adaptations out in the world right now, so when a series bubbles up with an entirely original concept behind it, viewers immediately take notice. It’s usually just an added bonus when that story is halfway decent, but in the case of Stranger Things, we get all that and more. Of course this show will inevitably get extended and dragged on for as long as it’s popular, but there’s something thrilling about witnessing the genesis of a brand new sci-fi story. Sure, the series admittedly borrows from a tried-and-true ’80s aesthetic, but we also get an entirely original story that utilizes that ’80s-feel more than its actual narrative elements.
4. It’s confirmed the Duffer Brothers’ sci-fi expertise
Showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer, while not household names, have spent the last two years entering the world of sci-fi in style. Their first major project was just last year when the brothers got signed on write a run of episodes for M. Night Shyamalan’s Wayward Pines series. Season 1 of Wayward Pines was an interesting case study in and of itself into the resurgence of sci-fi television, despite a less-than-stellar second season that coincidentally didn’t feature the Duffer’s as writers. Between that and their considerable work on Stranger Things, the duo has already put together an incredible resume of short-season sci-fi TV.
[Update, 9/1/16: Confirming prevalent rumors following the series positive reception, Stranger Things has officially been picked up for a second season]
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