Love, Death & Robots Could Have Been So Much Better

Love, Death & Robots Could Have Been So Much Better

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Love, Death & Robots Could Have Been So Much Better
'Zima Blue' is one of the better shorts in Netflix's Love, Death & Robots anthology series. Netflix

The new Netflix series Love, Death & Robots has a brilliant premise—take science fiction stories and adapt them into an anthology of animated shorts. Science fiction author Tom Gerencer loved seeing so much variety in such quick succession.

“I just couldn’t stop wanting to watch the next one, and I couldn’t stop being amazed that the next one seemed even better than the one before, and that there were so many of them,” Gerencer says in Episode 356 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Totally inventive ideas, and the visuals on them were gorgeous and stunning.”

The show is at its best when it focuses on serious, thoughtful science fiction by top authors such as Peter F. Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds. Screenwriter Rafael Jordan was impressed by the Reynolds stories in particular.

“‘Beyond the Aquila Rift’ kind of blew me away,” he says. “That’s probably my favorite thing I’ve seen—feature or short film, period—in a while. Alastair Reynolds was the MVP of this whole thing, because ‘Zima Blue’ was great too, in a totally different way. Just really cerebral, with interesting plot twists.”

Unfortunately many of the episodes, particularly the shorter ones, feel silly, tasteless, and forgettable. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley wishes the show had focused its budget on a smaller number of high-quality episodes. “I’m sure that a lot of these studios did the best they could with the practical constraints that they were working under,” he says, “but from a storytelling perspective, I thought a lot of these episodes just did not have an emotionally satisfying conclusion.”

Fantasy author Erin Lindsey also felt that the show’s heavy emphasis on female nudity and military action narrowed its appeal. She hopes that future episodes reflect a more diverse perspective.

“I would love to see a Season 2 of this show where they did a better job of representing the genre, and did a better job of representing humanity,” she says. “Which I feel like is one of the fundamental jobs of science fiction.”

Listen to the complete interview with Tom Gerencer, Rafael Jordan, and Erin Lindsey in Episode 356 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Erin Lindsey on sexual violence in fiction:

“You can make a case in both ‘Good Hunting’ and ‘Sonnie’s Edge’—which again were two of the strongest ones, in my opinion—[that the] traumatic background could have been a different type of trauma. It’s not that it’s a problem as such, it’s that this is always the go-to backstory every time you need a woman who’s wrestling with demons, and it’s just lazy, I think, at this point. And again this isn’t a criticism specifically of these standalone stories, more that we have two, within an 18-episode arc, that use this same plot device. … Why is this the universe of options that we have, and we keep getting presented these same things in this same way? It gets overwhelming at a certain point.”

Tom Gerencer on visual effects:

“I’m a huge fan of 1950s and 1960s science fiction short stories, and I’ve read thousands of them, and I just love them, because they’re like, ‘We’re just going to do this, and it’s going to be really different, and it’s going to freak people out.’ And that’s what I felt like this anthology was, but it was done beyond my wildest dreams of when I was a kid. I would read all this stuff, and I would think, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if they could do this on TV?’ And then you would watch something on TV where they tried to, and it’s like, ‘No, they just can’t pull it off, it just looks goofy, there’s just somebody in a suit and it just looks really stupid.’ But with this the visuals were so stunning, and it was so well-done, that I just found the whole show completely astounding.”

David Barr Kirtley on ‘Zima Blue’:

“It turns out that [Zima] had started his life as a robot that cleans a swimming pool, and the blue color is all that he saw all day—that he was cleaning. And then he got augmented, and augmented with biology and stuff, and eventually turned into this cyborg artist. But for his final performance he returns to the swimming pool where he was first living. … It’s almost to me like a mirror of ‘Flowers for Algernon,’ where losing your higher cognitive functions is a horror in ‘Flowers for Algernon,’ but in this it’s sort of a release. You’ve thought everything you can think, and you’ve done everything you want to do, and now you just want to become a simpler organism, and just exist in a constant state of flow.”

Rafael Jordan on ‘Fish Night’:

“Do you think the story was metaphorical? Because I’m kind of inclined to think it was. I think he died in the middle of the night, and him joining the sea of ghost fish was essentially an illustration of that. But I don’t think he literally went up into the sky as an alive human being, started swimming through the air, and was swallowed. I think that as he’s dying we start to see the fish appear, and then as he’s able to actually join them that’s when he’s dead. … Because otherwise the whole thing is just so damn convenient. The guy mentions, ‘Do you ever wonder about dead fish that used to be here?’ and then all of a sudden we see them.”

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