Room 101: Why Fern Britton needs a crash course in science fiction
She made the comments during a guest appearance on Friday’s edition of ‘Room 101’ on BBC1. The show invites celebrities to compete with each other to put their pet hates into the fictional room and Britton was mounting an argument for why science fiction should be assigned to Room 101.
Her opening gambit wasn’t particularly strong, she stated that science fiction ‘wasn’t real’ only to be reminded by Frank Skinner that the word ‘fiction’ suggested as much. Britton also confessed that she had attempted to watch ‘Star Wars’ several times but could not get past the first 12 minutes without falling asleep.
She went onto to describe fellow guest, comedian Robert Webb as a ‘nerd’ after he started explaining that ‘Star Wars’ was set in the past, in answer to her remark that science fiction was always set in the future and never in the past or the present.
The fact is that the genre generally looks towards the future because it is constantly questioning how we will develop both technologically and socially. The foundation of science fiction is the question of what if? And the future is a very good way in which to explore what if notions because there is no certainty as to what will happen, thus making it the perfect blank canvas on which to create something. Saying this, there are examples of science fiction set in the present such as ‘Torchwood’ and ‘Misfits’. Alan Moore’s graphic novel ‘Watchmen’ was set in 1985, the same period he was writing in, while Philip K. Dick’s ‘The Man in the High Castle’, a Nazi dystopian novel, is also set in the year it was published.
However, Britton’s criticisms continued when she asked: ‘Why do they always imagine these outer space creatures are going to look human but with some kind of mask on them – that’s it? And talk in a funny voice and wear a cape and have extreme chest muscles and ten feet? I don’t understand any of it.’
The fact that Britton admitted that she didn’t understand any of it was a fairly succinct summary of her comprehension of the genre. The body is so broad that to try and pin it down to stories with aliens and set in the future is narrow-minded. There are so many different facets to science fiction such as dystopian worlds, artificial intelligence, time travel, space travel, alien worlds, etc.
The truth is that everyone likes science fiction on some level. There will be at least one film or book or television programme that falls into the category that someone somewhere will enjoy. Here are some examples of science fiction that I recommend Britton should read: ‘1984’ by George Orwell, ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood, ‘Never Let me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro, ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley.
The irony of the whole incident was that she was making her remarks on ‘Room 101’, the title of which is taken from a concept in ‘1984’ which in turn is considered to be one of the greatest works of science fiction ever.
Irony to one side, the final attack was on ‘Doctor Who’, Britton said that the television programme was ‘the most dreary thing on.’ Perhaps Fern was trying to stir up some controversy by slating one of the most successful television programmes on at the moment? As the media mantra goes ‘all publicity is good publicity’. But perhaps she wasn’t attacking the series for the sake of it and genuinely loathes Whovians and their ilk? Who knows, either way it’s unlikely that she will be making a guest appearance on next year’s Christmas special.
Image credit: BBCTagged in: doctor who, fern britton, Room 101, science fiction
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