This final post about the Hugo fiction categories is intended to review short and long dramatic presentations from 2016 that I think were particularly impressive. There has been a ton of science fiction and fantasy television in recent years, and a decent number of films as well. I can’t possibly watch everything, but here’s my favorites out of the films and shows that I have seen.
Dramatic Presentation: Long Form
For science fiction movies, I think my clear winner would be Arrival. It’s both an interesting original story about first contact with an alien species, and a deeply touching story about love and time. There are also a few franchise films that, while they had some flaws, I thought were pretty good entertainment: Star Trek Beyond and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This category can also include seasons of television shows, and the one I think would particularly fit this bill for 2016 is the 80s-style sci-fi thriller Stranger Things. In true Netflix style, the season fit together nicely into a compulsively watchable story about a missing kid, a mysterious young girl, and a creepy government experiment.
I usually default to science fiction first in these categories, but there were some notable fantasy films as well. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, written by J.K. Rowling, introduced us to the adorable Newt Scamander and the wizarding world of the United States. Also, Moana was a touching adventure/coming-of-age story with truly amazing music. On the television side, season one of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was a highly original show that works well when considered as a full season arc.
Dramatic Presentation: Short Form
In some ways, this is a more difficult category. Each television show has so many episodes, and it is hard to narrow seasons down to the episodes that are the most dramatic and effective. These are a few of my favorites:
12 Monkeys, “Lullaby”: This was a relatively self-contained episode, which involved using time travel in a desperate attempt to destroy the origin of time travel. It ends up as a kind of Groundhog-Day-like story about the day the inventor of time travel’s daughter died.
Orphan Black, “The Scandal of Altriusm”: There were a number of episodes that were really good in this season, but this one stood out above the rest. As part of a desperate plan to save themselves, Sarah and Cosima attempt to make a deal with the enemy. This goes even more terribly than I expected.
The Expanse, “Leviathan Wakes”: This is another show that has a number of award-worthy episodes. I chose the finale, which brings the story of season one to a climax.
The Magicians, “Thirty-Nine Graves”: The Magicians is another new Syfy show which had a killer first season. This episode stood out, because it marks a major shift in various storylines, including the reveal of what exactly Jane Chatwin was up to, Julia and Quentin’s reunion, and the journey to Fillory.
3%, “Button”: This episode is the finale of a Brazilian Netflix dystopian series. It showed that the series has more story to tell outside the testing of the process, and brings all of the surviving young adults a better understanding of themselves, their society, and the philosophy of the offshore community.
Killjoys, “Johnny Be Good”: This was the standout episode of season two, for a show that is getting more and more interesting as it goes. This episode involved a city penned in by government walls, and the horrifying resolution of a particular character’s arc.