With Disney taking a break from making Star Wars movies, there’s more room than ever to explore new ideas. There’s a wealth of science fiction out there, just waiting for some movie studio to pick it up and do something with it. No more waiting. Drop that Back to the Future remake Hollywood and do something with these already brilliant sci-fi properties instead.
The Expanse: The Movie
Recently saved by Amazon and given a fourth season, The Expanse is by the recollection of most serious fans, the best science fiction currently on television. It’s based on a series of critically acclaimed books, books which the series is still in the early stages of scratching the surface of. The stories keep getting bigger as it goes on, and The Expanse is from jump a dense narrative examining complicated human politics and dynamics in a far off future where man has begun traveling to the stars. Despite its futuristic setting the show and the books are propelled by how realistic it is. The Expanse gets all the little details about both science and human nature right. When you delve into this world it feels exactly like what humanity colonizing outer space would really be like.
The Pitch: As impressive as The Expanse has been as a TV series, I’d love to see what it might look like on the big screen. Each book in the series, while continuing a linear narrative with the same group of characters, also has the ability to stand on its own. The best move for The Expanse is for them to simply take one of the books the show hasn’t gotten to yet, and film it as a feature. Fans of the show would be more connected to it because of their history with the franchise, but newcomers would still be able to jump in for the movie if its done right.
Stargate: Lost In Space
Stargate started out as a movie, way back in 1994. But it was after that movie was over when Stargate became a franchise, thanks to the television series which took the movie’s premise and ran in a completely different direction with it. The fans of that franchise deserve a feature film set in that universe. It shouldn’t use the same actors, they’ve grown to old for that. I don’t think we need a reboot either. I’d position this movie as a sequel to the 1994 film, but skew the style and script of the sequel to fit more in line with the television series. Better still, the sequel could easily follow a course similar to the one charted by Stargate Universe, before it was cancelled after only two seasons.
The Pitch: Decades after the discovery of a stargate which allows humans instantaneous travel to other planets, a breakthrough happens. While exploring the universe via the gates a group of humans stumble on an ancient alien starship traveling the galaxy. When they board the ship, our heroes are stranded there and must use the alien vessel to try and find their way home. Lost in a hostile galaxy full of strange dangers and incredible creatures they discover the key not only to existence, but themselves.
Orville: The Motion Picture
As the show has progressed, Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek homage has become increasingly cinematic. The Orville’s focus on delivering a cinema quality product for television has become so intent that the third season will end up taking nearly two years to complete, by the time it’s finally released exclusively on Hulu some time in 2021. If they’re going to all this trouble to make The Orville look and feel like a movie, they might as well actually make one and release it in theaters.
The Pitch: The ideal path here is to simply deliver a normal Orville adventure on a movie scale. They’ve already had a massive battle on the show, so I wouldn’t necessarily go that route. The Orville Movie should be about creating bigger stakes for the characters, not necessarily about bigger special effects or bigger galactic consequences. If they’re smart, they’ll pattern The Orville movie after Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with some sort of existential threat which questions the very nature of their existence and demands a difficult sacrifice. But since it’s The Orville, they’ll be able to take that concept and make it less boring, with weird humorous quips and snappy crew banter.
The Futurama Movie
Turning in a movie worked for The Simpsons and they ran out of jokes fifteen years ago. Futurama on the other hand, thanks to frequent network cancelling, still feels young. Matt Groening’s other animated masterpiece has never gotten a fair shake, but with its spacey setting and tendency towards blaster fire, it’s far more suited to the big screen than Springfield’s favorite family. It’s animation, yes, but animation for adults. Feel free to take things up a notch for the theatrical version, hook Bender up with a three-nippled robot hooker, and slap it with an “R” rating. Or if you’re really feeling spendy, ditch the animation and give us a live action version.
The Pitch: A pizza delivery boy is accidentally frozen for a thousand years, and wakes up in the future. There he finds employment at the interplanetary delivery company, Planet Express, and struggles to fit in with the company’s strange assortment of employees. His best friend is an alcoholic robot, he’s in love with a smoking hot kung-fu Cyclops who finds him repulsive, and he’s employed by a mad scientist with an increasingly bad case of dementia. Hilarity ensues. Think Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Encino Man.
Quantum Leap: The Movie
We’re running out of time on Quantum Leap. Scott Bakula isn’t getting any younger. In fact we’re probably out of time and if there’s any hope that the early 90s most brilliant sci-fi show will ever get its cinematic due, it’ll have to start all over with a new Sam Beckett. Much as I love Bakula, I can live with that. Quantum Leap’s resonate style of character-driven storytelling is still as relevant as it ever was. Maybe even more so. Imagine Sam leaping into 9/11. Oh boy.
The Pitch: A botched experiment sends Sam Becket leaping through time. But Sam can explain it better than I can. “It all started when a time travel experiment I was conducting went… “a little caca”. In the blink of a cosmic clock, I went from quantum physicist to Air Force test-pilot. Which could have been fun… if I knew how to fly. Fortunately, I had help – an observer from the project named Al. Unfortunately, Al’s a hologram, so all he can lend is moral support. Anyway, here I am, bouncing around in time, putting things right that once went wrong, a sort of time traveling Lone Ranger, with Al as my Tonto. And I don’t even need a mask… Oh Boy”
The Mote In God’s Eye
It’s one of the greatest science fiction books ever written, and perhaps also one of the most overlooked. Written in through a collaboration between Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and first published in 1974, this two book duology charts the first contact between humanity and an alien race. I know what you’re thinking, we’ve seen this before. No you haven’t, not like this. Sure, much like Alien this first contact doesn’t take place until far off in man’s future, when we’ve already explored most of space. But any similarities end there. What really sets this apart is the complex, utterly realistic, detailed way in which Niven and Pournelle develop the alien race, known as the Moties, which humanity encounters out there in that far off place.
The Pitch: Popular science fiction usually ends up portraying aliens either as monsters or as something nearly human. Rarely is there a middle ground. Avatar’s Na’vi for instance, are barely alien at all. They’re more like some blue African tribe. Mote presents an intelligent alien species that is truly alien, not just in appearance but in the way they think, and then uses them as part of a gripping tale which asks this simple question: How can we possibly trust something so alien, let alone understand it? Maybe they lack the sex appeal of blue cat people (you’re unlikely to be aroused by a Mote’s gripping hand), but the story’s brilliantly written characters and massive, epic scope could turn the science fiction genre on its head if it ever made it up on screen.
Babylon 5: The Movie
With all due respect to Star Trek, Babylon 5 (at least for the first four seasons), may have been the greatest science fiction series in the history of television. At the least, it was one of the most revolutionary. It was the first television show, for instance, to use computer generated effects on whole sequences. The show’s plot plays out as a single complicated, linear story arc of the type now used by Lost and every other show currently on television but unheard of back in the early 90s. It told a complete story wrapped in a single series. Most importantly though it’s character-driven, epic, and utterly compelling. Many of the show’s cast members have sadly passed away. So if you do this Hollywood, it’ll need to be a total reboot.
The Pitch: The show began every week with a monologue which, much better than I ever could, tells you all you need to know. Here’s how Babylon 5 described itself in Season 2: “ The Babylon Project was our last, best hope for peace. A self-contained world five miles long, located in neutral territory. A place of commerce and diplomacy for a quarter of a million humans and aliens. A shining beacon in space . . . all alone in the night. It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind – the year the Great War came upon us all. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2259. The name of the place is Babylon 5.
The Hyperion Cantos
There have actually been rumors that Dan Simmons masterful far-future series of novels (collectively referred to as the Hyperion Cantos) may be turned into a movie, but it hasn’t happened yet, and we’re tired of waiting. The material is challenging and heady, but also utterly unique. It starts out as a group of pilgrims journey to a far off planet called Hyperion, where they’ll visit the legendary Time Tombs. The tombs are guarded by the Shrike, an unstoppable, unknowable, spikey, metallic creature which snatches up travelers and impales them on its tree of thorns.
The Pitch: Hyperion tells the story of the pilgrims as they travel, and as the story spans multiple books it goes beyond them. It works brilliantly because it’s character-driven, scratch that it’s more than character-driven, it’s emotion driven. Simmons puts his characters through hell and takes us with them through every step of suffering, sadness, and pain which gradually comes together to form a larger picture. Hyperion is a story with something to say about the human condition, and it does it in an epic, potentially visually stunning, package. It’s science fiction’s Lord of the Rings, and done right, it’ll win just as many Oscars.
Battlestar Galactica: The Movie
The have been frequent talks about Battlestar Galactica getting the movie treatment. One problem: Most of those talks have been about making a movie out of the wrong version. When the fantastic, award-winning, Ronald Moore reboot of the classic franchise went off the air, Hollywood immediately cast it aside and rehired the creator of the less successful 80s version to start the whole thing all over again. If this less good goes into production, when you see BSG up on the screen in a few years, Starbuck will be a dude, Cylons won’t be sexy, and the plot will be full of all the silly 80s sensibilities Moore worked so hard to get rid of in his modernized version.
The Pitch: The right version of Battlestar Galactica is about a small group of survivors fleeing the destruction of their home worlds by an army of robotic entities of their own creation. Their tiny, rag-tag fleet is led by the only surviving fighter carrier, an aging battlestar known as Galactica. While struggling to survive Moore’s character driven show also tackles issues of spirituality, morality, and friendship as different personalities are pushed to the limit of human endurance, trapped together in space and on the run.
Farscape: The Movie
Farscape was critically acclaimed from day one, but it’s so linear and so deeply character driven that missing even a single episode meant finding yourself adrift without a paddle. A movie presents an opportunity to solve that. Instead of one story stretched out over several seasons, we have the chance to get a complete story in a single, epic film. And if you thought Farscape’s visuals were impressive on a basic cable television budget, just imagine what the geniuses at the Jim Henson workshop could do with a $30 million budget. It seems impossible to do it without the original cast. Get it done before Ben Browder gets any frelling older.
The Pitch: It’s the story of modern day astronaut John Crichton, flung through a wormhole into a distant galaxy. There, he’s stuck on a living ship with a group of escaped prisoners who though at first his enemies, become his allies, and eventually his friends. It’s the classic tale of a stranger in a strange land mixed with piracy and full of deeply rooted, character drama. It’s romantic too, full of realistic relationships against a fantastic backdrop.