In some cases, works of fiction, including science fiction, are not solely about reflecting our real-world reality, as much as it's about relating to the experience of a character or characters, going on a journey with them, often amplified through some kind of extraordinary situation and/or executed with good plotting.
What I came to understand that, in the end, for a wider audience, the
single most important caveat for writing science fiction is to
remember your premise is ultimately simply a tool for placing
characters in situations that we as human beings could not experience
except in science fiction.
Science fiction allows fathers to become younger than their sons. It
allows long-lost loved ones to return from the dead. It allows us to
come into conflict with duplicates of ourselves. It allows us to go
back in time and rectify the mistakes of the past. How these things
happen, for the most part, doesn’t really matter to most audiences.
Science fiction stories are the new fairy tales – and in fairy tales
we rarely get any details about how the magician cast his spell. I
learned this lesson the hard way – through years of wasted work – and
it’s something I must remind myself of all the time.
A lot of science-fiction is genre fiction or speculative fiction and the science-fiction aspects tend to act more as a plot device, as means for the characters to go through things and challenge their identities.
There's surely a difference between something like Fringe, Agent Carter, or Arrow compared to something like Westworld, Mr. Robot, or Man in the High Castle in the sense that the first three are on network TV.
Network TV tends to gear to younger demographic as their target audience and their execs push for hybrid of episodic and serialized story structure, where many of their shows don't become more serialized until later seasons. Although they can be more expensive to produce than other network shows, they are still cheaper than those on premium cable and streaming.
However all six of these shows, despite that the last three mentioned come off as more real, having higher production budgets, being better scientifically researched, are not limited to PG 14 standards, and with heavy psychological and nuanced approach to their respected subject matter that is often blended with greater real-world complications, all tend to care a great deal about character over accuracy in technology or technological advancement.
Critical Response: Season one received favorable reviews, with a
Metacritic score of 73 out of 100, based on reviews from 25 critics,
making it the highest rated CW show in five years. Review
aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes calculated an approval rating of
86%, based on 35 reviews, for the first season. The site's consensus
reads: "The CW nails the target with Arrow, a comic book-inspired
series that benefits from cinematic action sequences, strong plotting,
and intriguing characters
Broadly using your example of Arrow, Arrow is a genre sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero TV series featured on the CW. The CW, even more than the other networks, is geared towards a very young, and often female audience and is often thought to be their marketing success:
And it isn’t just the visuals that make The CW’s programming so
effective. Unlike some of the more procedural dramas on other
networks, The CW’s shows all make character-driven storytelling a
priority. Even on the most formulaic of its shows—i.e. The Flash,
which employs both a police procedural and supervillain-of-the-week
The CW has a reputation for and history of romance drama, and perhaps
this is directly related to its prioritization of character over
action. Last week, NPR’s Linda Holmes lamented the dearth of family
drama on television today. She dug out Ken Tucker's decades-old
assessment of TV drama for Entertainment Weekly as divided into two
categories: the drama of action and the drama of emotions. Most of The
CW’s programming employs both kinds of TV drama in fun and compelling
ways, but—when it comes down to it—these shows care about emotion
first, and that’s what makes them great. And, until recently, unfairly
Catering to a younger, often female audience.
The CW manages to stay on television despite relatively low ratings
because of its success in the coveted 18-49 demographic. And though
the network has increased the number of men watching with the
introduction of Arrow and The Flash, a majority of those viewers are
still women. Perhaps this is why The CW is full of female characters
and that shows with female leads don’t become That Show With the
But really, in most cases, it's about the experience and how the science-fiction, fantasy, or metaphysics is applied to the story and how the characters deal with it that makes many works so compelling. That's not to say that there shouldn't also be works that are more contemporarily accurate like The Martian, but I think fiction is about our humanity and how we respond to all of our problems, weaknesses, or flaws.
As an aside, I did catch consultant "Futurist" Amy Webb on NPR last night who advises on many television shows, including the upcoming The First, which is premiering on Hulu. Some evidence again that high productions on streaming/premium cable can more easily afford consultants!
I consult on TV shows and movies, helping talented show runners,
writers, producers and production staff see the future. Most recently,
I worked with Beau Willimon and his team on The First, which is his
upcoming series on Hulu and portrays members of a team of astronauts
as they become the first humans to visit Mars. It’s set in the year
2031 and it stars Sean Penn and Natascha McElhone.