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Last week in Off Track, I listed several works that I felt shouldn’t be redone. This time, I look at shows that are possibly long overdue for a remake.
Starlost was one of the first Canadian science fiction TV series. It failed. At the time it was made, Canadian writers and directors had no idea of what to do with science fiction. Those who did tended to head to the US where there were publishers and studios with a semblance of clue. Glen-Warren Studios of Toronto, Ontario, however, did not. There’s a longer explanation of what happened in Harlan Ellison’s Phoenix Without Ashes on just how badly things went. Short version – the Canadians involved couldn’t see past the studio walls. The result was a low budget mess that had plot holes bigger than the Ark. However, it had potential.**
Since Starlost was first aired, many things have changed. Cameras have improved. Special effects have improved. Canadian studios have learned a lot about both making TV series and doing science fiction.*** The approach to writing TV scripts has gone from episodic with reset button to ongoing with development. And, people may have forgotten about the original. The only thing stopping a remake is Ellison himself – he may just want to wash his hands of the entire original mess and forget it ever happened.
A dystopia where televisions have no off button, where news channels run 24/7 and manipulate events for ratings. Turns out, today isn’t as smog-ridden as the original show expected. Doesn’t mean that biting commentary about how corporate news media works isn’t needed. Shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have demonstrated how broken news reporting has gotten. Turning the issue into a drama would bring the problems to light to a larger audience. Modern technology alone will let the titular character get to more places, and computer graphics have come a long way since Max Headroom first aired.
The question becomes, who would dare? A specialty channel, like HBO or A&E, could present the remake without question, but the show needs to be seen by a larger audience, something that the traditional broadcast networks could provide. One the other side of that coin, would Fox really air something that calls their news department’s behaviour into question? Would any of the traditional broadcasters give the show a chance to survive if ratings weren’t stellar out of the gate?
A lot of the hard work in developing a series, beyond selling it, is creating the setting. Shadowrun, a tabletop RPG that crosses cyberpunk with Tolkein-style fantasy, has a lot of the setting creation already done, across four editions and multiple setting books. Many of the setting books, past and present, have minimal game mechanics and focus on the flavour of the game world. All that a creative team would need to do is come up with the characters while being mindful of the setting. What could make the series difficult to make is the cost of special effects. Between the various subspecies of humanity and the effects of magic, the production budget would have to either work around limitations (the mage needs to hold back on spellcasting and conjuring) or plan ahead (no trolls or dwarves in the core cast). Still, the setting is broad enough to allow numerous style of campaigns; there should be plenty of room for a creative team to get at least a mini-series out of the game.
So, what do you suggest? What do you think is overdue to be remade?
Next time, something may be here.****
* That rumbling sound you hear? Harlan Ellison just exploded in a rage.
** I watched the show as a pre-teen. I could tell it was a cheap Canadian show, despite not having seen that much to compare the show with. But, elements were still chilling, including the computer counting down the time before the Ark was destroyed.
*** Ever wonder why many planets look like British Columbia? 🙂
**** It’ll be a surprise!