“We are a curious race.” A truer statement was never made about humanity than this introduction provided by Colonel Jack O’Neill to the Asgard, a race of advanced yet cautious aliens, on Stargate SG-1. We humans are, after all, the only race that sticks its nose where fancy strikes, regardless of risk. We have an endless, unabating wish to discover the mysteries of the unknown, whether they lie hidden in the depths of space or in our own hearts.
Maybe that’s why we like science fiction so much (including the aforementioned Stargate, of course). It’s a genre that’s profoundly in touch with our human desire to know and discover, and it places on page and screen those very explorations, leading to a better understanding of ourselves and paving the way to answering all those questions we’re so curious about.
And, clearly, artist Martin Firrell thinks so too. He’s just released a sneak peak at his latest project, Metascifi, and this mysterious first look is possibly as tantalizing as the subtitle, which reads “Inspiration for Living Well from American Television Science Fiction.” Firrell’s project is a work of humanistic philosophy, a valiant attempt to discover how to live a good, meaningful, and productive lives through Star Trek, Stargate, Firefly, Farscape, and Warehouse 13.
The project itself is a series of interviews with the actors who have played iconic characters on these shows. They’ll be providing their own insights, drawn from the shows themselves and from working on them, about how to live life well (rather than investigating the content of the shows themselves, as one might think). Of course, answering the pesky question of how to live life seems like a tall order, but Mr. Firrell has a rather impressive line-up of stars portraying our favorite roguish heroes, captains, scientists, and aliens whose interviews will be part of the project: Nathan Fillion (Captain Mal Reynolds, Firefly), Kate Mulgrew (Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek Voyager), Joe Flanigan (Colonel John Sheppard, Stargate Atlantis), Torri Higginson (Dr. Elizabeth Weir, Stargate Atlantis), Ben Browder (Commander John Crichton, Farsape), David Hewlett (Dr. Rodney McKay, Stargate Atlantis), Christopher Judge (Teal’c, Stargate SG-1), and several others.
One may wonder, of course, why Firrell eschewed interviews with writers, producers and other creators in favor of interviews with the actors, but he has a couple of very good reasons behind this decision:
“I chose to speak to actors rather than writer-producers [because] the audience has a pre-existing relationship with the performer who brought the character to life. So when I see Ben Browder for example, immediately I am starting to think about John Crichton or Cameron Mitchell, about wormholes and possibility. And so I like that shorthand.
The second reason is that the actors are the only people who have truly felt the character from the inside out – in order for us to have a sense of John Crichton, Ben Browder had to have a prior sense of John Crichton based on the writing or course and on the production and direction. But in the end, the performer must synthesize that into a whole. And it’s this synthesis that gives the performers a privileged position from which to speak about the characters, and also what the character has meant to each performer as they have been engaged in the act of embodying them.”
A series of interviews with science fiction actors may seem to be a strange way to go about the whole humanistic philosophy thing, but Firrell’s thought long and hard about what he’s doing. The project in its current form is the culmination of two earlier artistic endeavors undertaken by him and informed by the things he’s learned. The first project in question was “The Question Mark Inside,” a collection of contributions from individuals about what makes their lives meaningful and purposeful.