Comedies – the best ones, are about being human, and the break down of appearances to reveal truths. Science fiction works in a similar way. The worst comedies think it is about the punchlines, and the worst science fiction thinks it’s about the gadgetry window dressing. Horror movies also make the same mistake, and how many people fail to think with the fact that Stephen King is successful because his characters live and breathe on the page, and you care about them?
If characters aren’t fleshed out and the whole scene moves across the screen purely for the sake of getting from A to B, then it doesn’t work. There is nothing for you to hook into because there is no soul in any of the people you are engaging in.
I read an interview with Samantha Morton when she was in Minority Report, where she explained her process for understanding her character, and how the pivotal moment came when she realised that the future her character was living in was not alien for her. That, for me, was a revelation – I am not sure that I had been writing characters as if they were experiencing the future in away that i might be, were I transplanted there, but this was like a Lego brick clicking into place.
You could probably divide up successful Star trek episodes into ones with a human centre, and ones with a gadget at the centre and the good ones would be the human ones.
Best jokes and best stories always remind about our humanity.
I will sometimes rate a movie higher because it hits the human angle and that trumps the lack of technical brilliance. A flawless technical movie will likewise get marked down for being vapid and inhuman.
To be any kind of decent writer you have to like people and have your ear pressed against the human heart.