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May 16, 2004

A further expansion of the conservation of quality hypothesis

SFSignal have suggested that maybe my inverse trilogy theory is but a mere manifestation of a larger conservation of quality law. And so like the good experimental scientist that I am (well okay, used to be) I shall postulate a theory and provide empirical evidence. I think that proving the conversation of quality across the whole genre may be too much of a big step. So I will start with conservation of quality across trilogies (or quadrilogies or whatever).

So lets start with something easy, the original Star Trek movie series. It's well known that they follow the rule that the odd numbered ones are rubbish the even numbered ones are good. Therefore overall their quality is neutral. Quality conserved? Yes.

Right lets move on to some others.

Highlander: First film brilliant. Second film the worst ever. Third I was unable to watch because I was so traumatised by the second. Alright TV series. Quality conserved? Yes (but it could have been so different).

Alien: First and second films brilliant. Third looked cool and had Brian what-his-name in it (the Yorkshire bloke). Fourth looked weird but got silly. Quality conserved? Yes.

2001 and 2010. Not quite a trilogy so breaking the rules a bit. However first one a classic, and very cool, but no one understands it. Second one tries to explain stuff and shouldn't have bothered, but was okay. Quality conserved? Yes.

Superman: First film so dull I can't remember what happened. Second had some good fights. Third was brilliant, mainly because of Richard Pryor, and has the immortal line "Both keys...at the same time." Fourth film I refuse to acknowledge exists because the villain was nuclear man or something crap. Quality conserved? Yes.

Batman: First two films great in a Burton-fest way. Next few (they sort of melt into one) looked okay and were refreshing for a while but then Arnie spoilt it with his Ice bloke. Batman Begins might tip into into the positive but for now... Quality conserved? Yes.

Star Wars. A New Hope is beyond legendary. The Empire Strikes Back is supremely awesome. Return of the Jedi lost its edge (but I still love it). Quality conserved? No, overall quality is in the positive.

Back To The Future. First film a classic. Second film brilliantly confusing. Third film fun. So overall I would say its quality is in the positive. However they did cheat a bit by making the third film a western (even if a steam train does get changed into a time machine). Quality conserved? No, positive quality.

Well that is but a brief summary (please add more examples if you feel like it) but in general most SF film series seem to have a neutral quality. Eureka!


This is an interesting examination of quality conservation within a series. Although I disagree with Superman III being "brilliant" (Pryor falls from a skyscraper unharmed?!?), I do agree that there is an overall Conservation of Quality amongst all Superman films (very good, very good, very bad, very bad).

Have you considered the validity of the Quality Conservation Law between series? For example, while the Star Wars series and Back to the Future series may yield a positive Q-rating, how many other series generate a negative Q-rating? The Quality Conservation Law is upheld if we can say that for every Star Wars trilogy, there is an equal and opposite Friday the 13th (granted, not sf, but there was Part X: Jason in spaaaaaace!). Of course, Hollywood being what it is, bad movies tend not to have sequels. But then again…Friday the 13th Part X?!? Some might even say that lone movies like Battlefield Earth contain enough bad filmmaking for several installments – stockpiling low quality like some sort of suck-battery.

I’d be interested in seeing your assessment.

Oh no it's turning into a PhD! However now you've suggested it I'll be thinking non stop about film series' quality. I shall ponder....I feel a graph coming on.