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A Deep Fried Look at Sci Fi Fatherhood

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You know it’s funny that Man of Steel was released Father’s Day weekend because Superman has a complicated relationship with Dads. His biological father sends him to Earth to save him and dies and then he is raised by a pretty great, adopted Dad who then dies when he’s in high school. Then he again has contact with his original father through Krypton technology. While Superman is a comic book character, his story is also Science Fiction due to the fact that he’s an alien, and as you may know, Sci Fi is riddled with complicated Dad relationships.

In fact, Sci Fi films and television are really quite full of downright bad Dads. There’s Darth Vader for one, a terrible Dad at least until the end of the original Star Wars trilogy, and of course probably the most famous bad dad of all Sci Fi bad dads. The island in Lost was actually dubbed “the Island of Bad Dads” by recappers back when it was still on TV because most of the main characters had either horrific or mostly absent fathers. Spock and his father in Star Trek TOS had a contentious relationship in that cold and logical way that Vulcans have about such things. Al Calavicci of Quantum Leap and his Down’s Syndrome sister were abandoned by their father. Richard Dreyfuss becomes so unglued after his alien visitation in Close Encounters of the Third Kind that Teri Garr leaves with the kids. Captain Kirk was never around for his son, David Marcus as we found out in Star Trek II. The father in E.T. has just run off to Mexico with his girlfriend before the action of that film starts. In the fantasy show Buffy, The Vampire Slayer,  Buffy’s Dad is rarely seen or heard from. And whiny Wesley Crusher of Star Trek TNG didn’t get to know his father very well because he died when Wesley was quite young, so he had to rely on child hating Picard to be his surrogate father; it rarely worked out. It is almost expected that with most Sci Fi you are going to find a lot of walking wounded people who have suffered at the hands of a really damaging father or suffered from his absence. So are there good role models of fathers in Sci Fi, too?  Let’s see.

On the good dad side there is Sam Beckett’s tough but loving father in Quantum Leap. There’s Nolan in the new Sy Fy show, Defiance, who is raising the Irathient girl, Erissa. Princess Leia had a good adoptive father in Bail Organa, but we never get to see her with him except as a baby in Revenge of the Sith. Chief O’ Brien on Star Trek TNG  and DS9 was an involved and loving father to his two children and Captain Sisko was a great father to Jake on DS9. Even Worf, who had a rocky relationship with Alexander, was at least in the game and trying to understand his son. Wilfred Mott and Brian Williams looked like awesome Dads, and Rory Williams and Pete Tyler are great examples of fathers from Doctor Who, even if the former was robbed of his opportunity to really adequately be a parental figure in Melody/River’s life (and frankly, Pete was robbed as well in not one, but two universes). In the fantasy realm we have Ron Weasley’s father, who is a hands on and loving parent in the Harry Potter books and films, and although a wedge was driven between William Adama and his son Lee “Apollo” Adama on Battlestar Galactica when Lee’s brother Zak died in a tragic accident, eventually their relationship was repaired and you could almost always tell that the elder Adama loved his son.

Look closely at all of these relationships of Sci Fi fathers and their children, though and you will see that it isn’t all cut and dried. Some are truly horrific dads  such as John Locke’s completely callous and vicious father, but most on the “bad” Dad side are just fallible humanoids who meant well but screwed up. Some redeemed themselves like Darth Vader and some simply had the misfortune of dying like Crusher’s father. Conversely, some on the “good” side such as William Adama did not start out having a great relationship and it was always touch and go, really. Same with Worf and Alexander as I said before. So, I guess we can say by looking at these lists that these Sci Fi fathers are like everyone as a father. They are doing the best they can and trying hard to not make damaging mistakes. That is usually what most parents are aiming for, nad sometimes, many times we fall far short. It’s good to see that our popular Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Comics are really adequately reflecting the experience of paternal love and care that most of us have or don’t have in real life–just you know, on a more dramatic and galactic scale and occasionally with cool spacesuits and stuff.

Happy Fathering Day! Please comment with other examples you come up with.

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