I haven't been a fan of Hollywood's "Let's Remake Everything That Was Ever Popular!" plan, but I was pleasantly surprised by the reboots and reincarnations of Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, and even J.J. Abrams' new Star Trekmovie, which is out on Blu-ray and DVD today. I'd argue that maybe science fiction is immune to the remake syndrome, but then you have Michael Bay's two awful Transformers movies. So that sort of shoots my theory in the foot.
Whatever the case, it's been great to have so much quality science fiction to choose from lately. There's also a hell of a lot out there that deserves a second look. Forgotten series from the 60s and 70s that have classic storytelling, great characters, and a lot of elements that make up truly good sci-fi: robots, spaceships, and time travel. So while you're enjoying that slick new Trek Blu-ray (even the menus are amazing!) and waiting for James Cameron's Avatar to hit screens, here are some classic science fiction properties that need some new life.
This was my first introduction to Martin Landau, and even now whenever I see him in something I keep expecting him to don a white tunic and take command of things. Landau co-starred in this with his then wife (and recent Mission: Impossible co-star) Barbara Bain. The series was set in the "far future" of 1999 via 1975, and revolves around the Moon getting knocked loose from orbit around the Earth. When it goes bye-bye, it takes with it the 311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha. So the Moon, in effect, becomes their U.S.S. Enterprise, and they have adventures around the galaxy. Highlights included the Eagle, a spaceship that looked like it was made out of scaffolding. My best friend had a model of this when we were kids, and it was highly coveted. There have been some attempts to revive it, even as a movie, but nothing has happened. Yet.
Click here for the disco-tastic opening credit sequence for Space: 1999, then head beyond the break for more sci-fi reboots we'd like to see.. object width="425" height="344">
The Time Tunnel
Time Tunnel Creator Irwin Allen was a master of science fiction, having created this series, along with the classics Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (futuristic submarine), Lost in Space (futuristic Swiss Family Robinson), and Land of the Giants (futuristic planet where everything is huge). He definitely had a thing for people ending up in strange places. Time Tunnel was no different. This 60s series came years before Quantum Leap, but had a similar storyline. The U.S. Government is trying to create time travel (Operation Tic-Toc!), but once the budget begins to approach that of the entire space program, the Senate decides to shut things down. However, in an effort to prove that it works, one of the scientists jumps inside, and ends up on the Titanic. However, they can't get him back, even after a colleague joins him. They end up jumping from era to era in history, unable to change things. Fox produced a pilot for a remake in 2002, but they didn't pick it up so they'd have room for Firefly. A 2006 Sci-Fi Channel remake never ended up happening... so let's make a movie!
The Six Million Dollar Man
If Six Million Dollars could really make you into a superhuman, then folks like Richard Branson would be out there with bionic limbs galore. Thankfully, it is probably a lot more expensive than that. Maybe in 1974 a million bucks went a lot farther. It's amazing to me that this series hasn't been made into a movie already. In fact, it hasn't even been released on DVD in the United States, which just boggles the mind. It even had a successful spin-off in The Bionic Woman, although you'll have to work hard to purge the recent NBC remake of the same name from your head.How many kids had a Colonel Steve Austin action figure, complete with rubber skin and an eye you could look through? He was an astronaut who had both legs, his right arm, and left eye replaced by bionic counterparts, and then became an agent for the government. With advances in modern prosthetics and computer technology, the new Steve Austin could pretty much be a badass, and they could return the series to the original name from Martin Caidin's novels, Cyborg. I can see the teaser trailer now: a series of medical operations underway, and then this iconic sound.
Anyone remember this show? It only had one season back in 1994-1995, but it was fantastic. In the future (2192 to be exact, thankfully someone finally sets a science fiction show in the real future), most of the Earth's population has fled the planet to live on orbiting space stations. The problem is, living off-world has somehow given rise to a disease simply called The Syndrome. It affects children and stops them from living past the age of nine. A group of pioneers decide to settle a planet 22 light-years away that resembles old Earth. Of course, something always goes wrong in sci-fi, and the ship crash lands on the planet, separated from their supplies, on the wrong side of the planet, and scattering the crew. It also turns out that they also aren't the only people on the planet. Already this sounds better than Avatar (sorry, James). The show featured a female commander, a first for a science fiction series, and had guest stars including Terry O'Quinn (Lost's Locke), Virginia Madsen, and Tim Curry. Heck, Highlander nemesis Clancy Brown was one of the regulars. It definitely needs a big-screen treatment.
Gerry and Sylvia Anderson created several science fiction shows featuring marionettes aimed at children, including the iconic Thunderbirds. But UFO was their first attempt at a live-action show aimed at adults, and it's become a cult classic. People even dress up in costumes from the series, which was way ahead of its time. The storyline involved aliens coming to Earth in a fictional 1980 (the series started in 1970) and start secretly stealing organs from humans. An organization called SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation) was created, and operated behind the cover of a movie studio. A movie studio! It was just a way to save money at the time, but it's perfect for a self-obsessed movie studio to pick up and hopefully plug their own flagging studio tour operations. The series features tons of cool gadgets, vehicles, and super-shiny futuristic costumes, so just imagine the merchandising options. Given how badly the Thunderbirds movie turned out, we'd love to see this one remade with some real talent behind it. No offense, Sir Ben Kingsley.
What's with our obsession with time travel? Voyagers! (yes, it has an exclamation point in the name) was a classic 1980s series about a group of people called Voyagers who travel through time to "help history along". They are selected from eras throughout history, trained at Voyager Academy (yes, it's a lame name) and given an Omni and a Guidebook to help them throughout their travels. Our Voyager, Boggs, was a reformed pirate when he was recruited, and he accidentally travels to 1980 winds up with young Jeffrey in tow as his companion after Jeffrey's dog steals his guidebook. Sounds a little too close to The Greatest American Hero, right? Still, who wouldn't want to follow the adventures of a time-traveling rogue and a precocious teenager throughout history? The Omni, the pocketwatch-sized device that let them travel through time, remains one of the coolest science fiction gadgets ever created. Even if it wasn't ever explained that well and was incredibly simple: green light meant history was okay, red light meant history had gone bad. Give this one a green light, please.
Buck Rogers has existed as a science fiction series since 1929, and was responsible for the first ever laser pistol toy in existence, the XZ-31 Rocket Pistol from 1934. However, most people probably know it today from the Gil Gerard-starring Buck Rogers in the 25th Century television show from 1979 created by Battlestar Galactica creator Glen Larson. Even though it first appeared on radio back in 1932 where it ran four episodes a week for 15 years (!). There was also an ABC series back in 1950 that starred later Academy Award-winner Eva Marie Saint as Wilma Deering. So where's our modern-day Buck Rogers? The original story is about a US Army officer, Buck Rogers, who falls into a coma due to a gas leak while exploring a mine, and he awakens in the super-futuristic 25th century. The 1979 TV show changes him to an Air Force captain, but either one would work for us. We just want to see Buck back on the big screen, where he has never really been (the original TV pilot was edited into a theatrical release). Toss some up and coming young star with good looks and a strong chin in this, and revamp everything. Just keep the cool laser pistols in it, and for god's sake don't let Buck disco.