It sometimes seems like Hollywood isn’t interested in adapting classic science fiction literature unless it was written by Philip K. Dick. (And let’s face it, their raiding of his back catalog has been a hit-or-miss proposition.) Now it’s another beloved SF legend’s turn in the spotlight, as Frederik Pohl’s Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winning novel Gateway is being developed as a television series.
Deadline reports that Entertainment One Television (Hell on Wheels) and the De Laurentiis Co. (patriarch Dino executive produced David Lynch’s Dune film) have snagged up the rights to Pohl’s award-winning 1977 novel, and apparently they put up a bit of a fight, bidding against other entities that wanted Gateway for themselves. In fact, the De Laurentiis folks have had their eye on Gateway for years now, waiting for a chance to grab the rights as attempts to adapt the book have ranged from film to TV. Producer Martha De Laurentiis told Deadline, “Television gives us the opportunity of exploring the rich world of the novel and the complexity of its characters.”
Gateway, which launched Pohl’s “Heechee Saga,” is set on a mysterious abandoned space station, one populated by thousands of abandoned alien vessels. Figuring out how to pilot one of these vessels could mean an easy fortune, or it could mean a swift death. Here’s how Amazon describes the book:
Gateway opened on all the wealth of the Universe…and on reaches of unimaginable horror. When prospector Bob Broadhead went out to Gateway on the Heechee spacecraft, he decided he would know which was the right mission to make him his fortune. Three missions later, now famous and permanently rich, Robinette Broadhead has to face what happened to him and what he is…in a journey into himself as perilous and even more horrifying than the nightmare trip through the interstellar void that he drove himself to take!
De Laurentiis’ Lorenzo De Maio said, “It is an absolute, complete, desperate gamble with very high stakes that attracts all those desperate people to a border town.” Sadly, Pohl passed away last year at the age of 93, so he won’t get to see his book make the transition to television.
Since the demise of Enterprise, Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate Universe, there’s been a serious shortage of TV science fiction that actually involves, well, space. I appreciate a good post-apocalyptic tale as much as the next guy, but when Doctor Who is one of the only current shows taking us on adventures throughout the galaxy, that’s just depressing. I understand the business end of it — doing space opera right is expensive, which is why it’s crucial to put the right people at the helm of this project. The next step in the process is to find a writer to handle the actual adaptation. Deadline says that “a number of established showrunners” are already interested in the project, so let’s hope that whoever they get is the perfect match to bring the material to the small screen in a smart, exciting, engaging way.
But please…for the love of God…don’t stick it on Fox. I don’t care if a major network will get you a bigger budget to work with. Cable is the place to be when it comes to bold dramatic storytelling, so I am desperately hoping that this winds up somewhere like HBO, AMC, or Starz, all of which have shown willingness to take risks with genre material such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, or Black Sails. With the right network backing it, Gateway could be something truly amazing. Or it could be just another case of wasted potential. Fingers crossed for the former.