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The Best Use of Science in TV and Film in 2016

The Best Use of Science in TV and Film in 2016

As another year draws to a close and we prepare to look ahead to a new year full of hope and promise, we can’t help but think back on 2016 and take stock of all it had to offer. The last 12 months have yielded amazing scientific achievements and stunning discoveries. As interest in science continues to grow, we’re seeing this fascination reflected in our favorite TV shows and movies. The best of these engage our intellect, ignite our curiosity, and inspire conversations with others that last far longer than the runtime of the show or movie itself. It’s these spectacular 2016 standouts on both the big and small screens that we’ll revisit today.

In TV, a number of trends stood out. The use of cutting-edge technology to battle perceived threats remains popular, whether in the long-running series Person of Interest or the new Syfy endeavor Incorporated. Futuristic colonies, either in space like The Expanse or on Earth itself like Colony and The 100, also serve as rich backdrops for dramatic tension. But one of the biggest sci-fi trends in TV this year was time travel, as seen in such varied interpretations as 12 Monkeys, 11.22.63, Timeless, Frequency, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and The Flash. That last CW superhero series shares the sci-fi concept of alternate realities with the Amazon adaptation, The Man in the High Castle, which goes all-in on this aspect in its second season. Even 2016’s darling series Stranger Things featured a competent and compassionate high school science teacher who gladly imparted his knowledge upon his young students. It’s just too bad that the show is rooted more in dice rolls and demogorgons than hard science, but I’m not complaining.

As for movies, 2016 was a year in extremes which saw a lot of films do some simple hand-waving in place of science while others made it a cornerstone of their plot. There were your typical big-budget and super sci-fi cinematic experiences like Star Trek BeyondIndependence Day: Resurgence, and the upcoming film Passengers, which seems to be asking some interesting philosophical questions at the very least. Equals filled in the year’s requisite future-set romance in a society that has outlawed emotion, while Morgan attempted to capitalize on the philosophical cachet of Ex Machina by focusing on an artificially intelligent female humanoid. The 5th Wave found Chloe Grace Moretz attempting to save her brother from an alien invasion, and Paul Feig attempted to stand beside his female-led Ghostbusters in the fight against Internet trolls, but neither was completely successful. The good news is that there were definitely some scientific gems available for our viewing pleasure in 2016.

But these are just the runners-up! Check out the gallery below for our favorites, and be sure to let us know your thoughts (and any shows we missed) in the comments!

Image: Paramount Pictures

Gallery

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