Back in the 80s, there was a science fiction series directed by Stephen Spielberg called Amazing Stores. Aside from its intro sequence, which was rather impressive for that time, most episodes were pretty uninspiring and dismal. There was one episode that it seems everyone (including me) remembers: The Mission.
‘The Mission’ was by all accounts a superstar episode – directed by Spielberg, music by John Williams, and starring Kevin Costner and Kiefer ‘Jack Bauer’ Sutherland. You can read a synopsis of the episode at the link above and when I watched it, I was very impressed. Admittedly, I couldn’t have been any older than 10, but by browsing on some forums on the Internet it seems other older people were similarly impressed.
For some reason, I’ve always mixed up ‘The Mission’ with the movie ‘Memphis Belle’ even though now I think about it, I’ve never seen the latter. Anyway, it’s a shame that there isn’t much good short story SF on TV any more. I was never privy to the Twilight Zone or the original Outer Limits, shows that many die-hard SF fans swear by, but I did think that the first few series of the new Outer Limits weren’t bad. A fair number of people watched the new Outer Limits when they were on BBC2, I recall.
Alas, production values dropped and perhaps the constant grind of depressing stories wore viewers down. If only some enterprising TV producer would decide to adapt some published SF short stories… while many are merely average, the best are truly excellent and some are very well suited to adaption, even on low budgets, if necessary.