Module Code: fm2004 Module Name: Science Fictions Module Booklet 2011-12

Screening: Zardoz (John Boorman, UK 1974)

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Screening: Zardoz (John Boorman, UK 1974).

Secondary Films: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1926, Ger), Things to Come (William Cameron Menzies, 1936, UK), The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951, US), THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971, US), Demon Seed (Donald Cammell, 1977, US), The Terminator (James Cameron,1984, US), Demolition Man (Marco Brambilla,1993, US), The Matrix (Larry & Andy Wachowski, 1999, US)
How are science, technology and rationality represented in science fiction? Are scientists seen as heroes or villains? Do new technologies promise liberation or the destruction of humanity? What kinds of futures are imagined in SF? Why might nightmarish dystopias be more common than shining utopias? Is this a reflection of social attitudes towards science and technology – or is it more to do with what makes for good entertainment?
Primary Reading:

  • Bruce Kawin, ‘Children of the Light’, in Barry Keith Grant (ed.), Film Genre Reader II, Austin, University of Texas Press, 1995.

  • Constance Penley, ‘Time Travel, Primal Scene, and the Critical Dystopia’, in Annette Kuhn (ed.) Alien Zone, London: Verso, 1990.

Secondary Reading:

  • Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska, Science Fiction Cinema, ‘Rational Dreams and Technological Nightmares: Utopia and Dystopia in Science Fiction Cinema’, pp. 10-19

  • David Desser, ‘Race, Space and Class: The Politics of Cityscapes in Science Fiction Films’, in Alien Zone II, London, Verso, 1999.

  • Michael Ryan and Douglas Kellner, Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1988. Ch 9 ‘Fantasy Films’.

  • Forest Pyle, ‘Making Cyborgs, Making Humans: Of Terminators and Blade Runners’, in Jim Collins et al (eds), Film Theory Goes to the Movies, London, Routledge, 1993.

  • Geoff King, ‘The Scientist as Pioneer Hero: Hollywood’s Mythological Reconciliations in Twister and Contact’, Science as Culture, vol.8 no.3, 1999

  • Annette Kuhn (ed.), Alien Zone, London, Verso, 1990.

  • Vivien Sobchack, Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film. New York, Ungar, 1993.

  • Mark Jancovich, Rational Fears: American horror in the 1950s, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1996. Ch 1 ‘Alien forms: horror and science fiction in the 1950s’.

Week 3: 1950s American Science Fiction and the Cold War
Screening: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956, US)
Secondary Films: The Thing From Another World (Christian Nyby, 1956, US), Them! (Gordon Douglas, 1954, US), The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951, US).

Critics often interpret science fictions as allegories of the political situation at the time the film was made. The cycle of science fiction B-movies made in the United States in the 1950s has been seen as reflecting contemporary anxieties over Communism. How convincing are these interpretations? How do science fictions represent or mediate political issues?


Peter Biskind, Seeing Is Believing. London: Pluto, 1983.

Mark Jancovich, Rational Fears. Manchester University Press, 1996.

J. Hoberman, ‘Paranoia and the Pods’, Sight and Sound, May 1994.

E. Smoodin, ‘Watching the Skies: Hollywood, the 1950s and the Soviet Threat’, Journal of American Culture, 1989.

B. Grant, ed. Film Genre Reader Vol. II, essay on The Thing

Nora Sayre, Running Time (available from DI during office hours)

LaValley, A. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (ditto)

Roberts, G. G. ‘Revelation, Humanity and A warning: Four Motifs of 1950s Science Fiction Invasion Films’, in P. Loukides and L. K. Fuller, eds, Beyond the Stars vol. II (available from DI during office hours)

Torry, R. ‘Apocalypse Then: Benefits of the Bomb in Fifties Science Fiction Films’, Cinema Journal 1991. (ditto)

Samuels, S. ‘The Age of Conspiracy and Conformity: Invasion of the Body Snatchers’, in Sayre, P., ed, American History, American Film (ditto)

Week 4: Design in Science Fiction Cinema
Screening: Pi (Darren Aronofsky, 1997, Can).

Secondary films/TV: Dune (David Lynch, 1984, US); BladeRunner (Ridley Scott, 1982, US), Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1926, Ger); 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968, UK); Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979, Soviet Union); Barbarella (Roger Vadim, 1968, US); Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985, UK); The Alien Quartet.

There has been a tendency for critics to focus on themes in SF and not on design. Yet a primary pleasure of cinema fiction cinema is the environments dreamed up by production designers to represent strange new worlds, the future, or fantastic alternatives to the present. What design vocabularies are used in science fiction cinema? Some of these are gleaned from the visual arts, such a Futurism, Bauhaus, the Gothic, 70s comic book airbrushing, realism, computer generated imagery (fractals). Others are more specific to cinema, such as noir and the hybrid retro-futurism of cyberpunk. As well as the design of setting and landscape, we will also look at the function of costume in science fiction: from the fetishistic and the camp, to the realism of spacesuits. There will also be some address of the design of science fiction ‘soundscapes’ and lighting.

Primary Reading

  • Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska, Science Fiction Cinema. London: Wallflower Press, 2000. Part II pp 63-83.

  • Vivien Sobchack, Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film. New York: Ungar, 1993.

  • Peter Wollen ‘Delirious Projections’, Sight and Sound, August 1992 pp. 24-27

  • Scott Bukatman, Terminal Identity. Durham/London: Duke University Press, 1993. pp. 119-156

Secondary Reading

  • On the analysis of Costume: Jane Gaines ‘Costume and Narrative: How Dress Tells the Women’s Story’ in Jane Gaines and Charlotte Herzog (eds) Fabrications: Costume and the Female Body. Routledge/AFI: 1990.

  • On the analysis of Sound: John Belton ‘Technology and Aesthetics of Film Sound’ in Mast and Cohen (eds) Film Theory and Criticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

  • Books pertinent to the various ‘styles’: Fred Botting, Gothic. London: Routledge, 1996; Caroline Tisdell and Angelo Bozzolla, Futurism. London: Thames and Hudson, 1977; Kim Newman, Apocalypse Movies: End of the World Cinema. London: St Martin’s Press: 2000.

Week 5: Special Effects in Science Fiction

Screening: War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg, 2005, US,)
Secondary Films: Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993, US), Terminator II (Cameron, 1991, US), Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Lucas, 2002, US)
Special effects are a major component of Hollywood science fiction – and often one of the main attractions of the genre. But what exactly do special effects offer to the viewer? What is the ‘meaning’ of special effects? What implications do they have for the way we watch science fiction films? Do they function to make imaginary worlds more ‘realistic’ – or do they appeal in their own right, as effects? Have qualities such as narrative/story and character been surrendered to special effects, as is often claimed. Or is the relationship more complex?
Primary Reading:

  • Geoff King, Spectacular Narratives: Hollywood in the Age of the Blockbuster, London, I.B. Tauris, 2000. Ch 2 ‘Digital Dinosaurs’ (see also index for other references to special effects)

  • Michele Pierson, ‘CGI effects in Hollywood science fiction cinema 1989-95: the wonder years’, in Screen vol. 40, no.2, Summer 1999 (ER)

  • Steve Neale, “‘You’ve Got To Be Fucking Kidding!” Knowledge, Belief and Judgement in Science Fiction, in Annette Kuhn (ed), Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema, London: Verso, 1990. See also Kuhn’s ‘Introduction’ to Part IV.

Secondary Reading:

  • Brooks Landon, The Aesthetics of Ambivalence; Rethinking Science Fiction Film in the Age of Electronic Reproduction, Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press, 1992, especially chapters 4 and 7

  • Andrew Darley, Visual Digital Culture: Surface Play and Spectacle in New Media Genres, London: Routledge, 2000, especially chapter 5, ‘The waning of narrative: new spectacle cinema and music video

  • Angela Ndalianis, ‘Special Effects, Morphing Magic, and the 1990s Cinema of Attractions’, in Vivian Sobchack (ed.), Meta-Morphing: Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick-Change, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000

  • Michael Stern, ‘Making Culture into Nature’ in Annette Kuhn (ed), Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction. London, Verso, 1990.

  • Scott Bukatman, ‘Zooming Out: The End of Offscreen Space’, in Jon Lewis, ed, The New American Cinema, Durham/London: Duke University Press.

  • Scott Bukatman, ‘The Artificial Infinite: On Special Effects and the Sublime’, in Annette Kuhn (ed.), Alien Zone II.

  • Albert La Valley, ‘Traditions of trickery: the role of special effects in the science fiction film’, in George S. Slusser and Eric S. Rabkin, eds, Shadows of the Magic Lamp: Fantasy and Science Fiction in Film, Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985. [Much-cited essay, but hard to obtain]

  • Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska, Science Fiction Cinema: From Outerspace to Cyberspace, ‘Special Effects’, pp. 58-63

  • Mark Cotta Vaz and Patricia Rose Duignan, Industrial Light and Magic: Into the Digital Realm, London: Virgin, 1996. (A big glossy how-they-did-it book, useful for background but lacking analysis)

Week 6: Science Fiction and the Disaster Movie
Screening: Deep Impact (Mimi Leder, 1998, US).
Secondary Films: When Worlds Collide (Rudoph Maté, 1951, US), Independence Day (Roland Emmerich, 1996, US), Godzilla (Roland Emmerich, 1998, US), Armageddon (Michael Bay, US, 1998), The Day After Tomorrow (Roland Emmerich, 2004, US).

Since its inception, cinema has been drawn to what critic Susan Sontag called the ‘imagination of disaster’. Science fiction films have created scenarios in which the Earth is threatened by external forces, such as meteorites and asteroids. To what extent can these fictions be read as political allegories? Recently, the disaster movie has been reinterpreted for our era of ecological anxieties and fears. How do the narrative and aesthetic conventions of the disaster subgenre affect the representation of issues such as global climate change?


Geoff King, Spectacular Narratives: Hollywood in the Age of the Blockbuster (London: I. B. Tauris, 2000).

Michael Ryan and Douglas Kellner, Camera Politica

Branston, Gill. ‘The Planet at the End of the World’: ‘Event’ Cinema and the Representability of Climate Change, New Review of Film and Television Studies, 5. 2 August 2007. (available from DI)

Ingram, David. ‘Hollywood cinema and climate change: The Day After Tomorrow, in Words on Water: Literary and Cultural Representations, ed. Grewe, Christa (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2008). (available from DI).

There will be NO lecture, screening or seminar this week.

Your CW1 essay is due before 1.00pm on Thursday 17th November

Week 8: Art Cinema and Science Fiction

Screening: Alphaville (Jean Luc Godard, Fr/It, 1965)
Secondary Films: THX 1138 (George Lucas, US, 1970), Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979, USSR),The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nick Roeg, 1976, UK), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968, US), Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 1971, UK), Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1972, USSR), Zardoz (John Boorman, 1974, UK), Solaris (Steven Soderbergh, 2002, US), Fahrenheit 451 (Francois Truffaut, 1966, UK), The War Game (Peter Watkins, 1965, UK), La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962, Fr).
Intellectual, often enigmatic, breaking from Hollywood forms, art-based science fiction cinema could be regarded as providing a stark contrast to the trashy B-movie science fictions of the 1950s. Many examples of art cinema science fiction appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and ‘auteurs’ such as Lucas, Truffaut, Godard and Kubrick focused their lenses on the genre. What motivated their interest? What differentiates art-based science fiction cinema in aesthetic, market and thematic terms from blockbuster and B- movie SF?
Primary Reading:

  • Michel Chion, Kubrick’s Cinema Odyssey London: BFI: London, 2001.

  • JP Telotte, Science Fiction Film Ch 4 (on THX 1138).

  • Mark Le Fanu, The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky BFI: London, 1987.

  • ‘Stalker’ (entry for Science Fiction section) in Steven Schneider (ed) Understanding Genres. McGraw Hill, 2003.

  • Steven T Brown, Cinema Anime, Palgrave, 2006.
Secondary Reading

  • Robert Kolker, The Cinema of Loneliness Oxford University Press, 1988.

  • Norman Kagan, The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick Continuum: New York, 1989.

  • David G. Stork, Arthur C. Clarke (Editor), "Hal's Legacy" MIT Press 1998.

You can read some chapters online

  • Helen McCarthy, Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation: Films, themes and Artistry. Stone Press, 1999.

  • Susan Napier, Anime from Anime to Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation. Palgrave, 2002.

  • Luis M Garcia Mainar, Narrative and Stylistic Patterns in the films of Stanley Kubrick Camden House, 2000. Ch 3.

  • Andrey Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema University of Texas, 1989. Ch 7.

  • John Madden, The Sacred Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky Cresent Moon

  • George Slusser, Eric S Rabkin (eds) Mindscapes, the Geographies of Imagined Worlds Southern Illinois University Press.

  • Vida Johnson, Graham Petrie, The films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue Indiana University Press, 1994. Ch6 & 8.

Week 9: SF and the supernatural: Medievalism and Demonology

Screening: Event Horizon (Paul Anderson, 1997, US)
Secondary Films: Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983, Can); The Alien cycle, Dune (David Lynch, 1984, US); Lawnmower Man (Brett Leonard, 1992, US), Spawn (Mark Dippe, 1997, US), Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1926, Ger.).
Apocalypse, demonic possession, esoteric languages and strange incantations are common in SF and SF hybrids such as Event Horizon, Videodrome, and Dune. The hi-tech enlightenment world of computers and new digital technologies seem millennia away from the dark and gothic medieval world. What role do medievalist ideas play in science fiction cinema and TV? Why has cyberspace and deep space been made in the mould of medieval notions of hell and populated with an array of cyber-demons? What does ‘medievalism’ bring to the meanings of science, particularly in terms of postmodernism, anti-humanism and morality?
Primary Reading:

  • Tanya Krzywinska, A Skin for Dancing In. Flicks Books, 2000. Ch2

  • Christopher Frayling, Strange Landscape: A Journey Through the Middle Ages, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996. Part 1 ‘The Middle Ages Today’.

Secondary Reading

  • Tanya Krzywinska ‘Hubble-Bubble, Herbs and Grimoires: Practical Magic and Witchcraft in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ in David Lavery and Rhonda Wilcox (eds) Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Rowman and Littlefield, 2001.

  • Mark Jancovich, Rational Fears, Manchester/New York: Manchester University Press, 1996. Pt 1 Ch 1 ‘Alien forms: horror and science fiction in the 1950s’

  • Allan Lloyd Smith ‘Postmodernism/Gothicism’ in Sage and Lloyd Smith (eds) Modern Gothic: A Reader. Manchester/New York: Manchester University Press, 1996.

  • David Seed ‘Alien Invasions by body snatchers and related creatures’ in Sage and Lloyd Smith, Modern Gothic: A Reader 1996.

  • Barbara Creed ‘Gynesis, Postmodernism and the Science Fiction Horror film’ in Kuhn (ed.) Alien Zone.

  • Carole Clover Men Women and Chainsaws. London: BFI, 1996. Ch 2 ‘Opening Up’.

  • Per Schelde Androids, Humanoids, and other Science Fiction Monsters. NY: New York University Press, 1993. Ch2 ‘Dangerous Science’ & Ch11 ‘Have Mind, Seek Soul’.

Week 10: The cyborg: computers and robots in SF
Screening: Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982, US)
Secondary Films: AI (Spielberg, 2001, US), Eve of Destruction (Duncan Gibbons, 1991, US); Robocop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987, US); Alien Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997, US); Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990, US), Terminator series.
Blade Runner is perhaps the most celebrated example of science fiction cinema. As well as its distinctive and influential design, it also deals with the question: what is the human in a ‘postmodern’, cybernetic world? In a world in which we are increasingly becoming dependent on machines it is not surprising that anxieties around traditional definitions of the human abound. We will consider if, as Donna Haraway says, the cyborg can challenge conventional figurations of gender. We will compare and contrast a range of cyborgs, assessing their relationship with the ‘human’, and ask what dystopian and utopian fantasies they might embody.
Primary Reading:

  • Alison Landesberg ‘Prosthetic Memory: Total Recall and Blade Runner’ in Cyberspace, Cyberbodies, Cyberpunk .

  • Donna Haraway ‘A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s’ in Linda Nicholson (ed.) Feminism/Postmodernism. London: Routledge, 1990.

  • Scott Bukatman, Terminal Identity Ch. 5.

Secondary Reading:

  • Forest Pyle ‘Making Cyborgs, Making Humans: Of Terminators and Bladerunners’ in Collins, Radner and Preacher Collins (eds.) Film Theory Goes to the Movies. London: BFI, 1993.

  • Cynthia J. Fuchs ‘Death is Irrelevant: Cyborgs, Reproduction and the Future of Male Hysteria’, Jonathan Goldberg ‘Recalling Totalities: The Mirrored Stages of Arnold Schwarzenegger’ in Hables Gray (ed.) The Cyborg Handbook. London: Routledge, 1995.

  • Jean Baudrillard Simulacra and Simulations.

  • Halberstam & Livingstone (eds.) Posthuman Bodies. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995.

  • Samantha Holland ‘Descartes Goes to Hollywood: Mind, Body and Gender in Contemporary Cyborg Cinema’ in Cyberspace, Cyberbodies, Cyberpunk

  • Nick Land ‘Meat (or How to Kill Oedipus in Cyberspace)’ and Vivian Sobchack ‘Beating the Meat/Surviving the Text, or How to Get Out of this Century Alive’ in Cyberspace, Cyberbodies, Cyberpunk

  • The Gendered Cyborg and The Cybercultures Reader

Week 11: Virtual Reality in Science Fiction
Screening: eXistenZ (David Cronenberg, 1999, Can/UK)
Secondary Films: Avalon (Oshii, 2001, Japan), Strange Days (US, Kathryn Bigelow, 1995) The Matrix (Larry & Andy Wachowski, 1999, US); Lawnmower Man (Brett Leonard, 1992, US); Brainstorm (Douglas Trumbull, 1983, US); Johnny Mnemonic (Robert Longo,1995 US/Can); Final Fantasy (Hironobu Sakaguchi Moto Sakakibara, 2001, Japan), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Simon West, 2002), The Matrix Reloaded (Wachowski Bros, 2003).
A range of SF films/TV serials have taken VR as their central thematic interest. We will consider the ways that such films represent virtual reality. Is VR technology represented in dystopian terms, if so why? Are VR technologies presented as liberating or potentially dangerous? How have videogames and videogaming influenced recent films?
Primary Reading:

  • Scott Bukatman Terminal Identity Ch 2 and 3.

  • King and Krzywinska Science Fiction Cinema ‘’Interactivity and Immersion: Beyond the Second Dimension’ pp90-94

Secondary Reading:

  • Steve Keane ‘From hardware to fleshware: Plugging into David Cronenberg’s ExistenZ’ in ScreenPlay: cinema/videogames/interfaces.

  • Chris Rodley ‘Game Boy’ Sight and Sound April 1999 (on eXistenZ)

  • Marsha Kinder Playing with Power. Berkeley/LA/Oxford: University of California Press, 1991. Ch3 and Ch5.

  • Nigel Clarke ‘Rear View Mirrorshades: The Recursive Generation of the Cyberbody’; Michael Heim, The Design of Virtual Reality’; Mark Poster ‘Postmodern Virtualities’ in Cyberspace, Cyberbodies, Cyberpunk

  • Damien Broderick (1995) Reading By Starlight. London: Routledge Ch6

  • Cheris Kramarae ‘A Backstage Critique of Virtual Reality’ and Elizabeth Reid ‘Virtual Worlds: Culture and Imagination’, in Steven Jones’ Cybersociety.

  • David Tomas ‘The Technophiliic Body: on Technicity in Gibson’s Cyborg Culture’ in The Cybercultures Reader.

  • William Gibson Neuromancer {A Novel}

Week 12: Science Fiction and Time Travel
Screening: The Time Machine (George Pal, 1960, US).
Secondary viewing: Back to the Future (Zemeckis, 1985, US), Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Herek, 1988, US), Planet of the Apes (Schnaffner, 1968, US), Time Bandits (Gilliam, 1981, UK), 12 Monkeys (Gilliam, 1996, UK), Terminator 2 (Cameron, 1991, US), Doctor Who (1963 – to date, UK).

Like all SF subgenres, time travel stories can be interpreted in several ways. They can explore the philosophical implications of time and history, such as the paradoxes produced when characters travel in time and intervene in human history. They can also be seen as metaphors exploring human psychological and emotional needs – e.g. nostalgia, regret, loss. They can also be satires on the society which produced them.

Primary Reading

Paul Nahin, Time Machines (1999).

_________, Time Travel (1997).

Penley, Constance. Close Encounters (1991).

Penley, Constance. ‘Time Travel, Primal Scene and the Critical Dystopia’ in Alien Zone, ed. Annette Kuhn.

Elsaesser, Thomas, Studying Contemporary American Film (2002), on Back to the Future.

Coursework 1:
Due date: before 1.00pm on Thursday 17th November 2011
The word limit is 1500 words.
These essay questions are related to the topics discussed in the first half of the module.
Choose ONE question from the following. Write in depth about ONE film or television episode.
1. ‘Science Fiction films display a negative view of science and technology’. Discuss, with reference to ONE film or television episode.
2. Is Science Fiction simply a ‘special effects’ dependent cinema? Discuss, with reference to ONE film or television episode.
3. Discuss the relationship between design and narrative in ONE film or television episode.
4. Compare and contrast the design of a cityscape in ONE film or television episode.
5. ‘SF disaster movies are about the human values necessary for survival.’ Discuss with reference to ONE film or television episode.
This assignment constitutes 40% of the overall mark of the module.

Coursework 2:
Write an essay on ONE question from the following. 2500 word limit. This constitutes 60% of your overall mark. Hand in before 1.00pm on Friday 13th January 2012 to the School of Arts office in the Gaskell Building.
N.B. Do not repeat work done in Coursework 1 in Coursework 2. Choose a different topic and do not write about the same film in Coursework One and Two.

1. To what extent did 1950s science films endorse the United States’ involvement in the Cold War?

2. Analyse the narrative strategies employed by the science fiction disaster movie.
3. What is meant by the concept of the ‘post-human? With reference to two films of your choice, discuss the meanings and fears associated with the post-human. Make sure you answer both parts of the question.
4. Does the fictional figure of the cyborg challenge conventional gender roles? You should compare the representation of more than two cyborgs from film or TV.
5. Is audio-visual style more important than theme and content in science fiction film or television?
6. In what ways does ‘art’ science fiction differ from mainstream or blockbuster cinema?
7. What is the appeal of special effects in science fiction cinema? Answer with detailed reference to at least two examples.
8. Why might the ‘medieval’ feature in the representation of technology and science?
9. Compare and contrast TWO representations of computers in different films or TV shows.
10. Compare and contrast the depiction of EITHER (a) aliens, OR (b) robots, in two films or television programmes.
11. With close reference to a range of illustrative examples, show how set and costume design correspond to the main themes of two Science Fiction films or TV shows of your choice.
12. Discuss time travel in SF as EITHER (i) social satire, (ii) an exploration of time and history. Compare AT LEAST TWO films or TV shows in your answer.

Brunel University

Generic Undergraduate Grade Descriptors

Grade A*

Clearly demonstrates a highly sophisticated, critical and thorough understanding of the topic. Provides clear evidence of originality and independence of thought and clearly demonstrates exceptional ability to develop a highly systematic and logical or insightful argument, solution or evaluation at the current Level. Demonstrates exceptional ability in the appropriate use of the relevant literature, theory, methodologies, practices, tools, etc., to analyse and synthesise at the current Level. Shows an exceptionally high level of clarity, focus and cogency in communication at the current Level.

Grade Band A (A+, A, A-)

Clearly demonstrates a sophisticated, critical and thorough understanding of the topic. Provides evidence of independence of thought and clearly demonstrates the ability to develop a highly systematic and logical or insightful argument, solution or evaluation at the current Level. Demonstrates excellence in the appropriate use of the relevant literature, theory, methodologies, practices, tools, etc., to analyse and synthesise at the current Level. Shows a high level of clarity, focus and cogency in communication at the current Level.

Grade Band B (B+, B, B-)

Clearly demonstrates a well-developed, critical and comprehensive understanding of the topic. Provides some evidence of independence of thought and clearly demonstrates the ability to develop a systematic and logical or insightful argument, solution or evaluation at the current Level. Demonstrates a high degree of competence in the appropriate use of the relevant literature, theory, methodologies, practices, tools, etc., to analyse and synthesise at the current Level. Shows clarity, focus and cogency in communication at the current Level.

Grade Band C (C+, C, C-)

Demonstrates a systematic and substantial understanding of the topic. Demonstrates the ability to develop a systematic argument or solution at the current Level. Demonstrates a significant degree of competence in the appropriate use of the relevant literature, theory, methodologies, practices, tools, etc., to analyse and synthesise at the current Level. Provides evidence of clarity and focus in communication at the current Level.

Grade Band D (D+, D, D-)

Provides evidence of a systematic understanding of the key aspects of the topic. Demonstrates the ability to present a sufficiently structured argument or solution at the current Level. Demonstrates an acceptable degree of competence in the appropriate use of the relevant literature, theory, methodologies, practices, tools, etc., to analyse and synthesise at the current Level. Provides evidence of effective communication at the current Level.

Grade Band E (E+, E, E-)

Provides evidence of some understanding of key aspects of the topic and some ability to present an appropriate argument or solution at the current Level. Demonstrates some competence in the appropriate use of the relevant literature, theory, methodologies, practices, tools, etc at the current Level. Provides some evidence of effective communication at the current Level. However, there is also evidence of deficiencies which mean that the threshold standard (D-) has not been met.

Grade F

Work that is unacceptable.

Assessment Criteria

Indicative Mark Band

Degree class equivalent


Grade Point

90 and above
































































29 and below





Submitting your work
In order to be marked without penalty for lateness, work must always be handed in before 1.00 p.m. on the day it is due.
It should be submitted with an official blue cover sheet (available in the foyer of the Gaskell Building).
Your work must be date stamped in 4 places

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The assignment and the attached cover sheet should be “posted” in the appropriate coursework collection box in the foyer of the Gaskell Building.

You must add your student number to the top of every page of your work.

You must NOT write your name on the pages of your work.

You are also required to submit an electronic copy of every piece of work submitted. This electronic version must be submitted within 48 hours (2 working days) of the coursework submission date.

Your work is to be submitted through U-Link. In order to submit work, you need to click on Assignments on the left hand side of the Module page and follow these instructions:-

  1. Click on the Assignment button on the left hand side of the page.

  1. then select the correct coursework you want to submit for; and scroll down to Add Attachment – click into this.

  1. This will take you into a Browse screen, then double click on my computer and this will take you into your computer files then you can select the c/work you want to attach. Now double click your work and this will place it underneath the box for attachments, once you are sure this is the correct piece, then press SUBMIT – there is no need to add any comments. You will now have successfully submitted your coursework on to U-Link.

If work is submitted late, the following penalties will be uniformly applied, in the absence of accepted relevant mitigating circumstances:

  • Up to 1 working day late              Grade capped at A- (GPA14)

  • Up to 2 working days late            Grade capped at B- (GPA 11)

  • Up to 5 working days late            Grade capped at C- (GPA 8)

  • Up to 10 working days late          Grade capped at D- (GPA 5)

  • Up to 15 working days late          Grade capped at E- (GPA 2)

  • More than 15 working days late Grade capped at NS

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Mitigating circumstances are defined by the University as: “A serious or significant event” (Senate Regulation 4.31). For example, serious illness or death of a close relative. Please refer to the School of Arts handbook for further details.

Feedback on your work
Coursework and feedback will be posted to your term time address. If the deadline is at the end of the term it will be posted to your permanent home address. Please check your addresses are correct on e-Vision to ensure it is sent to the right place.
Academic staff aim to grade work and provide detailed and constructive feedback, normally within three weeks of the hand-in date. However, there may be delays for work submitted at the end of terms and for modules that have particularly high numbers, although you will be notified via your Brunel webmail account if this is the case.
If your piece of work is amongst a sample sent to an External Examiner, you will only receive your work when the External Examiner has returned it to us. However, you will still receive detailed and constructive feedback.


Plagiarism is passing off ideas words, illustrations, ideas or other materials created by someone else as being one’s own ideas or words. The following penalties currently operate:

First offences for undergraduate students

a mark of zero/grade F is assigned to the piece of work in question and to the associated assessment block; where permitted under the Regulations, reassessment may be allowed for a maximum grade of D- in the assessment block (this reassessment shall not contribute to the reassessment volume limit defined in SR2); the assessment block in question shall contribute grade point 0 to the GPA calculation for the classification of any award.

Repeat offences for undergraduate students

a mark of zero/grade F is assigned to the piece of work in question and to the associated module; the student shall be expelled from the University and barred from re-entry; any credits already achieved will be retained and an intermediate award may be awarded as appropriate, unless the Panel determines that there is just cause to deprive the student of any credits already achieved and any intermediate award to which they may lead.

For further information on plagiarism, and how to avoid committing this serious offence, please refer to the School of Arts handbook and Senate Regulations 6 -

The School of Arts Handbook contains detailed information on referencing and the presentation of coursework.


A good assignment will:

  • make close reference to the question and keep it central throughout (spend some time at the start of the essay identifying how you will approach the question and detailing what you understand it to mean).

  • demonstrate an understanding of, and a critical engagement with, key theories and debates around production and consumption relevant to the question.

  • show evidence of reading and research beyond material given in lectures, including the use of journals and other research materials held in the college library (or from the internet) or in the BFI Library, 21 Stephen Street, London WC1 .

  • have a well-planned and structured argument that focuses on and engages critically with the question.

  • have a good standard of spelling, punctuation and grammar.

How the assessment relates to the learning outcomes

  • Both CW and CW2 will allow you to demonstrate your understanding of the key concepts and vocabulary used in the analysis of the representation of science and technology. They will demonstrate your awareness of the main areas of debate on science fiction and science fact and the way in which science fiction and science fact inform one another within media representations.

  • A good essay will demonstrate a wide ranging use of secondary materials gleaned from sources other than materials given in lectures, and communicate in a coherent and informed way about the representation of science and technology in the media.

Core reading list

  • Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska Science Fiction Cinema: From Outerspace to Cyberspace (Wallflower, 2000)

  • Sean Redmond, ed., Liquid Metal: The Science Fiction Film Reader (Wallflower, 2004)

  • Annette Kuhn (ed.) Alien Zone (London: Verso, 1990) or Alien Zone 2 (London: Verso, 1999),

  • JP Telotte, Science Fiction Film (Cambridge University Press, 2001)

You may like to approach the writing of essays in this way:

  1. Examine the title.

  2. Produce a plan and collect relevant material.

  3. Organize your material.

  4. Write a first draft.

  5. Review it.

  6. Complete the final draft (checking grammar, punctuation, and spelling).

  7. Do the bibliography.

Often these steps will overlap and you may find yourself going backwards and forwards between them.

In producing a plan you might like to take into account the following:

  1. Note down what issues you feel are important to answering the question.

  2. Divide this into sections and arrange an order.

  3. Read strategically, checking that your material supports your argument.

You should aim to convince your reader of your argument. Try to take your reader through your argument step by step, demonstrating your points to be valid by using examples (do not simply state a point: provide evidence to support your point).

Aim to stick to a single point in a paragraph, and try to make each paragraph fit into a coherent structure, which should be provided by your argument. Include an introduction and a conclusion.
It is vital that you leave time to read through your essay thoroughly several times, checking references, and spelling and punctuation (spell-check does not catch all problems). Make sure that you have answered the question, and that you have provided support for your points. Aim for clarity of expression, and try to remove repetition.

Correct referencing is crucial if you are to avoid accusations of plagiarism (see separate section). But it is also a requirement in its own right for all written work. You will lose marks if you do not reference properly, so make sure you understand how to do it. If anything here is not clear, seek clarification from one of your tutors. It is a basic requirement that you understand the fundamentals of academic referencing procedure.
You need to reference in each of two ways:

  • references to texts that you use as you go along during an essay


  • a bibliography that needs to appear at the end, listing full details all of the sources used.

References made as you go along apply to everything, including the right way of citing films, TV programmes or other media. You can include films, TV shows, etc, in your bibliography at the end if you wish (or in a separate filmography), but this is not essential as the key details will be provided in the text. A bibliography for written work cited is essential in all cases.

If any of this is unclear to you, check with one of your tutors. Also, look at how references appear in the books and academic journal articles you read.
Referencing films, TV programmes, etc.
Titles of films or TV programmes should be given in italics (or underlined); titles of individual episodes of TV shows should be given in quotation marks and not italics. On first mention of a film or TV programme, you must give a date in brackets (or dates for longer running TV shows, for example, 2000-2004). If you wish, or if it is appropriate, you might also give the name of a film’s director, studio or nationality (or the equivalent for a TV show), but these are optional.
Referencing books, chapters from edited collections, journal articles, etc.
Referencing sources as you go along in a piece of written coursework:
Whenever you are drawing on an argument or background information from a source, that source must be referenced. It is not sufficient just to put sources in a bibliography at the end. You must indicate in some specific detail where you are drawing on which sources. Not to do this can be to risk accusations of plagiarism, or at the least to be marked down for poor referencing. This is the case regardless of whether you are directly quoting or putting a source words into your own terms. There are two basic ways of doing this – you can do either, as long as you are consistent, but do not mix the two together or do both.
The two options are:

  1. Endnotes (which appear at the end of the essay) or Footnotes (which appear at the end of each page).


  1. References in brackets in the main part of the essay text.

In either case, you need to provide information that allows the reader to know who the author is, what the text by the author is, and what page or pages of the work you are referencing. You do not need to give every last bit of information about the source in these kinds of references (for example, the publisher), as some of these can be put just in the bibliography at the end. Please note: one very common error occurs in references to essays in collections of essays. You must cite the actual author of the essay you are using, as well as the editors of the collection. Do not just cite the editors of the collection, as they didn’t write piece.

Titles of books, like those of films, should be in italics or underlined. Titles of chapters from edited collections or titles of journal articles should be in quotation marks and not in italics.
1. If you use footnotes or endnotes, do it this way. Place the note number at the end of the relevant sentence, after the full stop. In the note, give name, title of piece cited, and page number/numbers – for example. John Smith, Book About Film, 34-5. In this format, you do not need to provide the date or the details of publication, as they will be in the bibliography.
2. If you use references in brackets in the text, do it this way. Place the reference in brackets at the end of the relevant sentence. If there is only one text by this author in your bibliography, you can just give the surname of the author and the page number: e.g. (Smith, 34-5). If you use more than one source by the same author, you need to add the date of the work (Smith 2004, 34-5) to make it clear which of the sources you are using. The full details – the title of the work, publisher, etc, will then be available in the bibliography and not needed in the bracketed reference.
Slightly different information is given in each case, but those are the dominant conventions in widespread use.
If you use long quotations, of more than three lines or so of text, these should be presented off-set into the text: indented from the left. When you do this, you do NOT use quotation marks. An indented quotation of this kind can then be referenced by either of the methods outlined above
You must provide a bibliography at the end. This is an alphabetically ordered list of sources cited. If you want to include films and TV programmes here, do them separately, also alphabetically, in a filmography. If you do not include a bibliography you will lost marks.

A book should be cited this way:

Names of Author (surname first), Title of Book, Publisher’s Name: Place of Publication, year of publication
For example:
David Bordwell, Poetics of Cinema, Routledge: New York, 2008.
For the whole of an edited collection:

Chris Berry (ed), Perspectives on Chinese Cinema, BFI: London 1991

If you have only cited one essay in a collection, cite that in its own right only (don’t cite the collection as well), eg:

Peter Kramer, ‘Disney and Family Entertainment’, in Linda Ruth Williams and Michael Hammond (eds.), Contemporary American Cinema, London: McGraw-Hill, 2006

A journal article should be cited as follows (sometimes there will be an issue number, sometimes a volume number and issue number – if the latter, give both, as in vol. 34, no. 3):

Mark Gallagher, “Masculinity in Translation: Jackie Chan’s Transcultural Star Text”, Velvet Light Trap, 39, Spring 1997

When citing internet sources, give the fullest details you can. Never just give a web address or url. If the piece has an author and/or title, give those in the same way as you would for any other text, followed by the name of the website and its web address. The aim is to give the reader as much information as is available to understand the nature of the source (internet sources being so variable in kind). If no author’s name is given, cite it as ‘anon’ (short for anonymous).

Student Support:

Academic Skills Services (ASK)

Study skills support is offered in the Library. This covers a number of areas including:

Academic Writing; Critical Reading; Maths, Numeracy and Statistics; Time Management; Presentations and Seminars; Note Taking; and Critical Thinking.

For further details, please contact the Library or go to


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