Better in high-definition.
It’s a good time to be a fan of classic science fiction TV. While there are still a few cult classics that can only be found on torrents or at convention bootleg tables, many of the SF shows we grew up watching are available on DVD in their entirety. Even better, we’ve seen some shows making the transition to Blu-ray, and in the case of the first two Star Trek series, getting a massive high-def restoration with updated visual effects. It’s not surprising that the older Trek series are leading the pack in this area, but there are other shows out there that would benefit from the upgrade treatment. Here are the four shows we’d most like to see get a high-def makeover.
This is the show that inspired the entire list. While it has never achieved the widespread popularity of the Trek franchise, Babylon 5 is still one of the best science fiction series ever made, and it is in dire need of an effects makeover. Sadly, its visual effects suffer not just because they’re 20 years old, but because the show was an awkward casualty of the transition to high-def and widescreen TV. (You can read a detailed explanation of the problems here.) Ironically, it might be more of a pain in the ass to upgrade B5 than it was Trek’s Original Series. The chances of Warner Bros. ever dropping the cash to make it so seems unlikely, leaving B5 fans with a great science fiction show that often looks lousy. That’s a real shame, because the show featured brilliantly choreographed space battles, and they have the potential to be truly stunning if rendered in high definition.
We may be getting the equivalent of a visual effects upgrade in the form of Syfy’s upcoming reboot of the cult-classic British series. Whether the show itself will be worth our time remains to be seen, but if nothing else I’d love to see it generate enough attention that somebody decides to send the original show to Blu-ray with a little tender loving care. This was a BBC show of the late ‘70s / early ‘80s, so its effects are about on par with Doctor Who of the time…in other words, cheap at best, unintentionally hilarious at worst. But in spite of the budget constraints, Blake’s 7 — created by Doctor Who writer Terry Nation — has a storyline and characters that still stand up today, even when the effects don’t. I hope Syfy’s Blake’s 7 does it right, but I’m not holding my breath. Either way, I’d love to see the adventures of Roj Blake, Kerr Avon, and the rest kicking around the galaxy in a Liberator that doesn’t look like a plastic Christmas ornament. Upgraded effects could do for Blake’s 7 what the Blu-rays did for original Trek: make the show more accessible to a generation that has never known a world without CGI.
Space: Above and Beyond
Still one of my favorite one-season wonders, Space: Above and Beyond was created by X-Files staples Glen Morgan and James Wong. It followed the men and women of the “Wildcards,” a group of spacefighter jocks in a future war between humanity and an insect-like race nicknamed “Chigs.” Like its contemporary, Babylon 5, Above and Beyond featured for-the-time awesome space battles, but after all these years they look…well, they look very mid-’90s. And as with B5, the show’s story and characters are still just as good as they were in 1995. Space: Above and Beyond was very much a show ahead of its time. If it had come along a decade or so later, I could easily see it living out its proposed five-year run on one of the cable networks, safely away from the fickle attentions of the Fox network. But since that’s a pipe dream, at least give us a groovy Blu-ray upgrade.
Of all the shows on this list, this one is both the least in need of a visual effects upgrade and the most likely to actually get one. So far the only X-Files available on Blu-ray are the two movies…and let’s face it, neither of them are likely to be high on the wish list for the devoted X-Phile. Thankfully, it sounds like we won’t have to wait long for Blu-ray X-Files sets, but why not spiff up the CGI work while they’re at it? There wouldn’t even be that much to work on; for the most part the series holds up very well. All the practical work still looks fine, but the occasional CGI work suffers the same problem as the other ‘90s series on this list. Namely, cutting edge for 1993 is a long way from cutting edge for 2012. And hey, the longer we keep Fox focused on X-Files Blu-rays, the longer we delay the inevitable “Hey, why don’t we just reboot this thing?” conversation. Upgraded X-Files Blu-rays would be a great gift to celebrate still being alive and un-colonised in the aftermath of December 21st!