By Darren Franich
Updated September 03, 2010 at 10:40 PM EDT

Image Credit: Lucasfilms LtdWhen I read Variety‘s report about Syfy’s upcoming Peter Pan prequel Neverland, my head hurt a little bit. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed Syfy’s steampunk version of Alice, and on a deeper level, I just plain want all sci-fi/fantasy things to be cool. (Yeesh, I collected every volume in the Star Wars: X-Wing: Rogue Squadron series, even the Wraith Squadron spin-offs!) But people, we need to have a talking moment here. No matter how hard extremely creative people have tried, there has never been a good prequel to anything, ever.

I’m not just picking on Star Wars here, either. If you look at any science-fiction/fantasy franchise, you invariably see them going wrong when they start telling the story before the story. Martin The Warrior: the worst book in the Redwall series! The Magician’s Nephew: the Narnia that nobody remembers! Two different directors tried and failed to make a non-mediocre prequel to The Exorcist. Even deep prequels set centuries before the original story — like the Tales of the Jedi comic book saga — have an unbearable stench of lameness. They’re just not, at a certain base level, the cool part of the story. At best, a prequel is a shameless cash grab. At worst, it’s a freakishly zombified version of the creator’s original background notes.

Really, the only truly successful prequel was J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, and it only worked because it did everything a prequel isn’t supposed to do: changed the timeline, threw decades of canon into the wind, and got down to the more important business of telling a good story. The best parts of Caprica are a lot like that — at times, it almost seems to be purposefully subverting Battlestar Galactica — but much as I try to love the show, it still can’t avoid the implicit awkwardness of feeling like The Adventures of Adama…When He Was A Boy!

I realize that there are some good video game prequels, but those are a special case. Video games are still improving so quickly that Metal Gear Solid 3 feels more like a perfected sequel to Metal Gear Solid, even if the narrative runs backward. (And honestly, once you get by all the camouflage, Metal Gear Solid has a way cooler plotline than Snake Eater.)

PopWatchers, I’m hopeful that Neverland will be cool. But how many more The Scorpion Kings will it take before we agree, as a species, to put prequels where they belong: in the past? And no, Shadow of the Colossus doesn’t count as a prequel to Ico. Anyone who comments to that effect will be shunned.