Thursday, February 09, 2012

Space: 2099

Several media outlets, including the Hollywood Reporter, are now reporting that HDFilms and ITV are working on a re-boot of Space: 1999 (1975 - 1977) called Space: 2099

I'm assuming this news isn't a hoax, which was my first thought.

One of the talents involved in the project, Jace Hall, worked on the re-imagination of V that aired in 2009 and 2010.

From the press release:

"Science fiction is a powerful format capable of visualizing the human condition in thought-provoking ways," said HDFilms president Jace Hall, who will spearhead the effort and serve as an executive producer. The project is in the development phase and has yet to be shopped to networks.

"While we are indeed re-imagining the franchise and bringing something new and relevant to today’s audiences," continued Hall, who recently revived V at ABC, "I feel strongly that some of the overall tones set by the original Space: 1999 television show represent an exciting platform to explore possibilities.”

Already tonight, I've been asked about my opinion of this news in many reader e-mails and tweets.  My response right now is surprise, but not necessarily horror. 

If reviewing films and television series has taught me anything in the last seven or eight years, it's this:  take each remake, re-imagination and re-boot on its own terms.   

Some may be good, and some not.

I do feel sad a bit at the news, but mainly because my friend and mentor Johnny Byrne worked so long to see Space: 1999 continue, and he passed away before he could be involved in real terms on this new project.  I would have loved to see Space: 1999 resumed under Johnny's auspices, but that's something that will never happen.  Right now, this series producer would go a long way towards proving noble intentions by retaining Christopher Penfold in some capacity, I would suggest.

Since I was seven years old, I have dreamed about continuing Space: 1999, as many fans have.  I have written novels based in the series universe, which was that dream made manifest.  But as much as I love that universe and will continue to love it, I also realize that Space: 2099 can't be the EXACT same TV series as Space: 1999 -- the world is no longer in the same place as it was in 1975.   For the new series to work, it must speak to who we are now, not to the kids we were thirty years ago.

So my opinion?   It's too early to tell what Space 2099 will be, but I firmly believe -- as I always have -- that Space: 1999 as a concept possesses tremendous value, and has a lot of life left in it.  I've written these words before, but 1999 is not an expiration date.   The conceit of space as a place of mystery and terror -- a realm we are psychologically unprepared to experience -- remains a potent one.  A new series could mine that territory rather effectively.

And one last thing: there are no real space operas airing on television right now.  I miss the genre, and Space: 2099 is different enough from BSG, Star Trek and Stargate that the concept, if intelligently handled, could really catch fire.  

Whatever his unique flaws, Newt Gingrich's comments last month about a moonbase got people talking about space exploration again, and his words certainly made me wonder why our politics have grown so small; why discussion of a revived space program must always be met with guffaws and denigration.

Science fiction is about dreaming big, and maybe Space: 2099 is just the shot in the arm Americans will need to remember that the future can be "fantastic."  I certainly hope so.  

How do I feel about a remake?    I want it to be great.  I hope it will be.


  1. I appreciate your insights, John. I've been thinking a lot about the possibilities for a remake so this has really caught me by surprise.

  2. Space: 1999 is one of my Top Four TV Shows of All Time, so the thought of this leaves me somewhat worried.

    (New 'V' was shite, IMHO.)

  3. G. Moriguchi9:47 PM

    Very well said!

  4. They better not cast Will Farrell as Commander Koenig. Just saying.

  5. Wow.

    I never thought I'd see a remake of this series. I have to assume that anyone even remotely interested in doing this would be dedicated enough to bring to it the dimension of mystery that characterized the series' first year, and not the monster-of-the-week boorishness of its second year.

    Here's hoping it gets done right, including a more plausible mechanism to get the moon out of orbit and onto the doorstep of another solar system week and after week!

    And also, here's wishing that perhaps they might tap the shoulder of a certain J.K. Muir for a script or two... ;-)

  6. Hi everyone,

    I think the Space:2099 announcement has caught all of us by surprise, but like I said, wouldn't it be nice to have a great "space" show on the air again?

    Mark: I agree that the Space premise promises a universe of possibilities. I'm excited about the potential, definitely!

    Riker: I totally understand your apprehension, but also think there is cause for hope. I did not like the remade V either. I thought it was pretty terrible, but I also know that series went through a series of show runners in short order, so there was a lot of creative turn-over. Hopefully that won't happen on Space:2099. My stance for right now is to hope for the best, and see how the show looks...

    G. Moriguchi: Thank you, sir! I'm glad you agree with what I wrote here, regarding the remake.

    Enik: Your comment reminds us of a very bad re-imagining, the travesty of a Land of the Lost movie. I'm certain that Space:2099won't take that route, turning a serious franchise into a stupid comedy. But it remains to be seen if the series can keep the best qualities of the original, while updating it for the times. I'm absolutely rooting for it to do so!

    Hi Brian: Let's hope that air of mystery gets maintained. And like you, I'm intensely curious to see by what mechanism the moon leaves orbit and travels the galaxy. Should be interesting!!!

    Best to all,

  7. This was a stunner.

    I would love to see a new series using the spirit of Space:1999's premise.

    As you mentioned, it won't be the same, but I'm still open to it if they come up with something special like the reimagined Battlestar.

    I would welcome the risk and the shot in the dark at this. It won't change my love for the original or have any bearing on it.

    So YES, I welcome it!

    I could see something really special happening here. I'm desperate for a strong sci-fi series. Maybe tey take it places the original never had a chance to go.

    Casting would be important. Strong writing too. I think your Penfold idea would be a good one.

    And you'll appreciate my reflection on Newt. I think he is a smart man and I agree with his comments about a moonbase. It's very bold and fresh and we need more of it, but it was awfully pandering prior to the Florida primary.

    Cheers for this great news.

  8. Anonymous3:44 PM

    I have always been a fan ever since I was a boy and first saw Space:1999 from the 1975-1977. I own a copy of your insightful EXPLORING SPACE:1999 book that I purchased back in 1997. I recommend it. John, like you, I (want to be) am optimistic about this SPACE:2099 television series. I am extremely pleased that it is a TV series and not just one motion picture.


  9. Agreed. V did, indeed, have behind-the-scenes drama, so...

    Let's be optimistic.

    Fact is, as we all know, if they ran with this and captured a lot of first season elements (tho I love s2, also, for different reasons) they could really deliver a TV series that would be wonderful.

    For me, the look and epic scale of the show is nothing compared to the bleak world the Alphans inhabit. Constantly moving from crisis to crisis and never fully understanding what exactly is happening to them or why. The best episodes, for me, are the ones where things don't quite make sense to Koenig and the gang, and the credits freeze-frame on some somber realisation or other.

    After Star Trek, Stargate and BSG have had success with their take on 'outer space', it would be utter bliss to have a show with such a 'fresh', distinct view (to a modern tv audience).

    If the show was (a) good, and (b) successful they could deliver stories for years that would blow people away, who had never heard of the franchise before, and capture all of our imaginations with the utter weirdness of the stuff out there.

    Believe me, I want to be optimistic...

  10. Anonymous11:32 PM

    I'm apprehensive, as I am getting pretty sick of remakes, and I don't like that they're changing the name. Still, the reboots of BSG, Trek, Bond and Batman have all been excellent, so who knows... it could be good.

    --Rich Handley

  11. I wonder if it will be anything like my idea for a revival of Space: 1999:

    It's no longer set on the moon, but on a L-5 colony between Earth and the moon, and it's a
    spherical shaped L-5 station (there are already several of these in orbit, as well as space
    stations; the moon has been colonized, and Mars is in the process of being explored as well.)
    This L-5, called Alpha-1, has a slight spaceflight capacity, and is powered by a fusion reactor
    and ion reactor working in tandem as a result (kind of like deuterium and dilithum being
    used together to provide power for Starfleet ships on Star Trek.) The Meta probe is being
    launched from Alpha-1 as the movie begins, and Jane Koenig (Juliet Landau) is in charge of
    the project. On hand as well is Victoria Bergman (Sharon Stone), a genius scientist, and
    Medical Section head Harold Russel (Alan Tudyk), whose wife Mary is one of the pilots of the
    Meta Probe ship (coincidentally powered by the same fusion/ion hybrid reactor as Alpha-1!)
    However, the crew of the ship is incapacitated by a virus (in reality radiation-induced
    cerebral cancer that's possibly caused by the magnetic radiation from the hybrid fusion/ion
    reactor, but no one has been able to figure this out).

    On September 13, 2099, a freak mishap in the ship's computers caused by the same magnetic
    radiation, itself caused by the transmission from Meta, causes Alpha-1 to power up it's
    engines and leave Earth-Moon orbit, due to a false positive statement about the hybrid
    fusion/ion reactor going critical and becoming a threat to Earth if it crashes there. The
    colony manages to exceed the speed of light, leaving the Sol System completely behind; when
    control is regained, the personnel of Alpha-1 find that they are hopelessly lost in space, and
    have no way of getting back as the computer memory cores of Alpha-1-which has all of the
    knowledge of astronomy from years of study due to the Hubble Space telescope-are
    scrambled and will have to be rebuilt (even though the hybrid fusion/ion reactor has become a type of FTL drive that can theoretically take them anywhere in the galaxy!) As with the original, there have been casualties, with about half of the pilots of the Eagles dead as well as some of the personnel who were vented into space due to breaches. Amazingly enough, the Meta Probe ship is still anchored to Alpha-1 and is still working, and a set of functioning Eagles (plus a squadron of Mark IV Hawks!) is on-board the station, as well as a functioning dry dock where new ships can be built if needed!

    But the people/crew of Alpha-1 are still lost....

    Juliet Landau-Commander Jane Koenig
    Sharon Stone-Victoria Bergman
    Alan Tudyk-Harold Russel
    Alicia Carter-Katee Sackoff
    Paul Morrow-Dominic Keating
    Director-J. J. Abrams
    Writers-Orci & Kurtzman

    Have I got a great idea/concept, John?

  12. Anonymous1:29 PM

    I have high hopes for this effort, but with a few strings attached. As I've already posted on the new 2099 website, the Eagle and Alpha exterior designs just must not be changed.

    I came to terms with Year 2 changes as I grew into adulthood- and in many respects even prefer Year 2- so I look forward to the reimagining. I always thought that the character development and storylines in Firefly and Serenity would have been a perfect fit for the world of Moonbase Alpha. Imagine Christopher Penfold and Joss Whedeon working on a MUF story arc for the new series...

  13. Hi everyone,

    SFF: I share your optimism, at this point, about the remake. We really need a great space show, and why shouldn't it be Space:2099, right? Why not use a great concept from the 1970s and see what sticks?

    I felt that Newt -- who has his share of issues as far as I'm concerned -- was being inspirational, and I liked that aspect of his persona. I'm a liberal progressive as you know, so it's not easy for me to say this, but in an election where everyone is talking about limiting access to birth control, I was thrilled to see a Republican candidate endorse and advocate strongly for the idea of a moon base. Let's expand our frontiers, not retard them. At least Newt got that right.

    SGB: Thank you for the kind words regarding my book, Exploring Space:1999. I appreciate those words tremendously. Like you, I am thrilled that 2099 is going to be a series, not a movie, because then the producers have 24 (or more realistically, 13) chances to tell us a great story. We need space adventuring on TV again, to inspire the next generation as we were inspired, all those years ago, by 1999.

    Riker - Ditto! I love every word you wrote in that comment. THAT's the Space:2099 I want to see; the very one you just described. That would be bliss wouldn't it?

    I'm being optimistic for now, and crossing my fingers that the producers get it! God, I love your comment. So well said...

    Lionel: Other than all the bizarre, seemingly random sex changes of the characters (you're doing that to goad me, aren't you..?) some of your ideas track with what Brian Johnson told me, several years ago, he would have liked to do with Space:1999. Which makes your idea very interesting, I think.

    Best to all,

  14. Anonymous3:53 PM

    Honestly, I don't think that a remake of the classic British science fiction series should be made. Like all remakes in general, especially the Battlestar Galactica remake, this would be a desecration of a work of art(television art to be precise).

    Honestly, I think this series should be left the way it is, and enjoyed for what it was then(1975 to 1977)and for what it is now(the current Powysmedia book series).

    Like what Ron Moore did with the original Battlestar Galactica, we DON'T need another bastardization and desecration of another science fiction classic. Let alone any classic work of television and cinematic art.

    The film industry really needs to focus and direct its resources toward more original and artistic projects. Not rehashing what once was or then. Hollywood needs to go forward and open its mind to new material. Not look back to the past and stay in its current state of uncreativity and artistic stagnation.

    But, that's my opinion.

  15. But, that's my opinion.

    And, a very limiting one as far as what art is or should be. If your attitude existed in the world of plays, we wouldn't be seeing productions of Shakespeare or any other playwright be performed each and every night someplace else in the world. Or seeing productions of Hair or Oklahoma be mounted again with the best and brightest of actors existing today.

    You speak of Hollywood 'making new things', but the brutally frank truth is, people like you usually hate and detest the new things (Avatar or any other new movie/TV series) and also compare them unfairly to older TV shows and movies. You want to see Hollywood adapt other sci-fi novels for the screen, but the truth is, again, when the production's announced on the 'Net and elsewhere, people like you who are rabid fans of said novel scream that 'HOLLYWOOD'S GOING TO KILL IT!!!' without even knowing if it's really going to be bad or not (especially when it's still in pre-production.) And when a new videogame, singer, artist, TV cartoon or novelist becomes popular, with an original work or an original work based on a older one, you blast away, because according to you, 'Everything made today is crap; the only good things made were in the past' (the typical refrain I hear each and every time I'm on YouTube.) And, incidentally, when was the last time you brought or listen to any new music that wasn't classic rock/pop/R&B/soul? Never, I'll bet. But still, you want to stand in sanctimonious judgement over the movie industry for doing a few remakes of older material/properties every year.

    Therefore, it's no wonder why Hollywood is remaking things (actually, they really aren't: it just seems that way), since you don't really care for any original works anyway. Speaking of the prevalence of remakes, I have a nice quote I love to use whenever I hear this meme from people-it's a Hollywood producer/film company executive's response, and it's a good one: 'I'll stop doing remakes when Broadway stops doing revivals.'

  16. Anonymous and Lionel,

    You both state your points very clearly, and very directly here.

    I understand the pros and cons, and the point of the matter is that it gets tricky.

    I don't believe that remakes ipso facto desecrate original works of art. Look at John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), or Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978).

    But in terms of plays and Broadway shows, there does seem to be more respect for source material than Hollywood showcases, which may be why we so much anti-remake sentiment these days.

    What I'm saying is that a Broadway show has a pre-existing song book to haul out. Familiar tunes. The staging may change, but the essence of the art form does not. Similarly, for the most part, Shakespeare plays don't get "re-imagined" so that the MEANING of the work changes.

    The remade Battlestar Galactica philsophically represented the polar opposite of the original, which made it distinctly un BSG like. So the question becomes, can you update, remake, re-do and re-imagine but also, in some way, honor the essence of the art work being updated?

    When that occurs, I think we do get good remakes. It's not a simple black or white issue. Not all remakes are bad. Not all remakes are good.

    But I do believe each must be taken on its own terms.


  17. Hi John,

    After I posted an earlier comment, asking a question, to your blog post Cult-TV Theme Watch: Models and Miniatures, from a few days ago (March 10th, 2014), I decided to see if you had written earlier about Space: 2099. Indeed you have.

    With the benefit of hindsight I can see why producer Jace Hall and Co have nixed the idea of making a new version of Space: 1999. It makes no business sense to remake an "obscure" series, as one commenter said recently on the 'board' dedicated to Space: 2099 (and where I got the news that the new version is a totally new series with no connection to the original).

    I posted on the subject right after the news was announced:

    We must move forward.

    1. Hi Barry,

      Interesting to read your thoughts. I would be satisfied if Space:2099 captured the spirit or atmosphere of Space:1999. If it captured the idea of space as a realm of the unknown, mysterious and dangerous, that would be tremendous.

      I don't think you can go back, at this juncture, and do the exact same show, for a variety of reasons. You can't go home again in that regard.

      I will be disappointed, however, if 2099 has no world building, like the new BSG lacked it. I find that lack of imagination intolerable...

      best wishes

    2. Hi John,

      I agree with your points. One thing I believe, and I've said this before in comments to your blog, Space: 1999 had an identity all its own. It's a shame that this attribute, which is what it is as far as I'm concerned, might not be explored or extrapolated on... on television, of course.

      My point about 1999 being obscure -- as I quoted that fan from the board I mentioned -- is a killer from a business standpoint. Knowing the way that suits are, I'm sure that Jace Hall actually had an honest intention to make a true descendant of the original series, but after much discussion and "research", the decision was made to start with a fresh slate.

      I'm taken aback when I ask people around my own age (late 40s/early 50s) if they remember Space: 1999 and they reply with either a blank expression or say, as a friend of mine did recently, "I remember it being on but I never watched it".

      Studios, networks, and investors like to know that there is an audience ready to eat it all up. Then the crap-shoot of whether or not the program actually catches on can be dealt with.

      You know all this, of course. You've dealt with this issue before.

      Thanks for your response, John.


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