The sci-fi TV renaissance just won’t stop. HBO and Jonathan Nolan are adapting Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. The newly reinvigorated Syfy is working on small-screen versions of James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse, John Scalzi’s Ghost Brigades, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, and Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin, to name just a few. Spike TV isn’t a network we would have expected to jump on this bandwagon, but a few months back word broke that they were adapting Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy. We were already intrigued, but our interest level just shot through the roof because Deadline reports that the man writing the script will be Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski.
Robinson’s Red Mars was first published in 1993, and was followed by Green Mars in 1994 and Blue Mars in 1996. Collectively they chronicle the colonization and terraforming of the Red Planet over the course of two centuries and from many different viewpoints. Between them, the books collected a boatload of Hugos, Nebulas, and Locus Awards. Vince Gerardis, co-executive producer of HBO’s Game of Thrones, is producing Spike’s Red Mars series, and Robinson himself is onboard as a consultant.
Red Mars is perfect fodder for television, the sort of extended story that a single film just couldn’t do justice. Spike isn’t exactly the first place that you think of when you think of smart science fiction television, but then again neither was Syfy until their recent campaign to imagine themselves greater. With the series being so atypical of the content Spike has become known for, what Red Mars needed more than anything was a steady guiding hand to prove the network is taking the material seriously, and J. Michael Straczynski is just about the best name they could have pulled from the hat.
Straczynski — or “JMS” as he’s become known in his two-plus decades of online interaction with the fans — ensured his place in sci-fi history by giving the world Babylon 5, one of the best speculative fiction TV series of all time. After a few ill-fated attempts at expanding the universe of B5 beyond its original planned five-year run, Straczynski oversaw Showtime’s post-apocalyptic Jeremiah before shifting focus to feature screenwriting on films such as the Oscar-nominated Changeling and the surprisingly good World War Z, as well as extensive comic-book work over the past decade or so.
Fans of Babylon 5 have long hoped JMS would eventually return to the medium where many of us first encountered him, and he was set to do just that with Sense8, an upcoming science fiction series for Netflix, which finds Straczynski collaborating with The Wachowskis. We can’t wait to see Sense8, but with Red Mars we’ll be getting Straczynski back in the world of space-based science fiction, and on a project damn near tailor-made for his talents. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed and hoping his involvement extends beyond just writing — Spike would be hard pressed to find a better showrunner for the series, assuming Straczynski’s schedule permits.