Tomorrow (April 13th), Netflix’s Lost in Space reboot has its premiere on the streaming service (all ten first season episodes will be available that day). And as reboot targets go, that seems like a good one because the original series is well known for having had a decent idea that morphed into what many consider one of the worst sci fi TV series of all-time (but at least it counts as one of those so-bad-its-good shows). Though early reviews are mostly mixed on the new show, this one could follow the Battlestar Galactica path of going from camp to cool and delivering a decently strong sci fi entry (after giving it some time to grow).
And while I know that the sci fi community continues to let out a collective groan over the many reboots and revivals out there, network execs are always going to prefer name recognition over a brand new property when developing shows, especially in the uber-competitive Peak TV era. With that in mind, and knowing that further reboots are inevitable, here are some suggestions of properties that could benefit from a fresh start, just like Lost in Space.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
Originally Aired: NBC, 1979-81, 2 Seasons Totaling 37 Episodes
What Is It? Buck Rogers is of course the classic space opera hero who awakes from suspended animation five hundred years in the future to bring his 20th century grit against threats like the tyrannical Killer Kane as well as a society too dependent on computers. This late 70’s series starring Gil Gerrard and Erin Grey (for which Buck is best remembered today) started out as a tongue-in-cheek sci fi romp, then changed course in its second season to an ersatz Star Trek / Battlestar: Galactica hybrid.
Why Reboot It? Because its Buck Rogers, and seriously, how is it that we do not have a decent series (or even movie) with this character by now, especially with all the advancements in special effects? The entertainment industry loves name recognition and you don’t get much more of that than with Buck Godammed Rogers. You don’t have to do much explaining with this character and you can take him in any of a number of directions. The reboot could pay homage to the original comic strip and movie serial and take a similar tongue-in-cheek approach to the late 70’s series (just hire some decent writers). It could also go the darker, Battlestar Galactica reboot direction, but then we have more than enough grim sci fi / fantasy on television at the moment, and The Orville has already shown that there is definitely an audience for a fun (but clever) space-based show.
There are currently talks of a Buck Rogers movie, but I don’t know that anything is moving too quickly on that front. I’m thinking that a TV adaptation with a decent budget would play well in the States and internationally and could be almost a sure fire hit if done right (i.e., not the snooze-fest that was Syfy’s Flash Gordon). It seems like almost a travesty that neither Buck nor Flash Gordon has received a deserved revival in the current age when they are such iconic characters of the sci fi genre. The time to change that is now!
Gene Roddenberry’s Genesis II
Originally Aired: The first pilot aired in 1973 on CBS and the second pilot (Planet Earth) aired in 1974 on ABC
What Was It? This pilot for a TV series that never happened focused on scientist Dylan Hunt who, through and experiment gone awry, falls into suspended animation for 150 years (shades of Buck Rogers!). He awakes in a post-apocalyptic world where a group calling themselves PAX controls an underground system of “subshuttles” and they are trying to rebuild the world through peaceful means. A second pilot titled Planet Earth followed the first which tweaked the idea a bit but followed basically the same premise.
Why Reboot It? You can’t get much better name recognition for a sci fi show than Gene Roddenberry, and this is a mostly forgotten gem that had quite a good concept and that could have become a major genre franchise if given the chance. Consider it a grounded Star Trek of sorts as the subshuttles would have provided the means to encounter the different societies across the planet each week. And PAX would be the equivalent of the Federation, though much less organized (in the first pilot at least). Dylan Hunt (played by Alex Kord originally) offered an interesting lead as he was presented as a flawed character in Genesis II who brings far too much of his violent 20th century nature into this new world (Planet Earth subbed in John Saxon as much more of a Captain Kirk wannabe).
Keeping the original version of the Dylan Hunt character would allow for more dramatic potential and moral dilemmas with a storyline following his attempts to overcome his violent nature. The show could work in plenty of stand-alone stories similar to the original Trek while also interweaving the over-arching story that the sci fi audience has come to expect these days. The premise definitely presents a wide range of possibilities and looks just as capable of sustaining an ongoing series today as it did when the pilot first bowed back in the 1973.
Land of the Lost
Originally Aired: NBC Saturday Mornings 1974-76, 3 Seasons Totaling 43 Episodes
What Is It? You know the story behind this one. “Marshall, Will, and Holly, on a routine expedition, and the greatest earthquake ever known . . . “ causes them to fall through a inter-dimensional portal and enter into the closed universe known as the “Land of the Lost” populated by dinosaurs, the lizard-like Sleestak, the monkey-like Pakuni, and more.
Why Reboot It? Sure, this series was super-cheesy, even for its sfx-challenged era (though they did do a bang up job on the dinosaur stop motion). It also had plenty of cutsey and/or angsty family-skewed stories, and sometimes you just wanted to put a muzzle on the ever-whining Holly. But Star Trek veteran David Gerrold had been brought onboard early to flesh out the mythology of the Land of the Lost and also to establish an over-arching theme for the series. That quickly became a strengthand helped it rise above being just another kids’ show on Saturdays. The pylons that tied together and controlled the land, the tragic history or the Sleestak, the many visitors that passed through this universe, and more all made for some interesting stories and a nice break from the family-centric episodes. Plus, Gerrold brought science fiction writers such as Larry Niven, Norman Spinrad, Ben Bova, and more into the fold to pen some to the episodes.
Those strengths are what the reboot should key on, and today’s CGI could easily bring the world of the Land of the Lost to life. Many of us have fond memories of the show as one of the few decent sci fi entries airing at a time when the genre was considered anathema on television. Done right, a reboot of this show could turn into a great sci fi series. (What big screen reboot? You must be hallucinating. Never happened . . .)
Originally Aired: Syndication, 1973-74, 1 Season Totaling 16 Episodes
What Is It? This mid-1970’s TV series was set on the multi-generational colony starship named Earthship Ark that is comprised of multiple dome enclosures, each housing a different society from Earth. The ship was sent out to space to save the last remnants of humanity from a dying planet, but an accident caused it to go into emergency mode and cut off each dome from the rest. Now, hundreds of years later, the people have forgotten their original mission and live their lives in their isolated domes. But three people discover the interior of the ship and the truth of its mission and also learn that the Ark is on a perilous course.
Why Reboot It? This show had a promising concept as evidenced by the award-winning script for the pilot–written by sci fi legend Harlan Ellison–and it aired in syndication where Star Trek had become a huge hit at that point in the 70’s. But the technical limitations of television at that time couldn’t quite realize the show’s ambitions (despite having Douglas Trumbull onboard as sfx consultant) and the studio had a much more dumbed-down vision for the show. Plus, they cut the budget and switched from film to video tape (like classic Doctor Who) at the last minute, making it even more difficult to follow the show’s original plan.
Ellison’s initial script was recently adapted to comics (IDW’s Phoenix Without Ashes), proving that there was a good idea in place when this thing started. And with the technical advancements since the original aired (leaps and bounds above 1970’s sfx), this idea would work quite well on television today. It could do dome-of-the week stories which would be less costly and give it somewhat of an episodic feel similar to Star Trek: TOS while also working in an overall story arc involving the ship’s mission. With the recent space opera revival, this one would fit in quite well.
What Is It? Another 70’s Saturday morning show, this one followed a group of scientists (and their talking chimpanzee) who travel around post-apocalyptic America in the high-tech vehicle of the title in an attempt to bring civilization back to the world.
Why Reboot It? Okay, I know this one isn’t going to happen because it’s too obscure of a show, but stay with me here. Like Land of the Lost, this was one of the few sci fi shows on TV at the time it aired in the 70’s. And surprisingly, this one holds up much better than you might think. It’s true that it pandered to the younger audience and could be a bit preachy with its non-violence and science-will-save-the-world themes. But it still managed to work in some decent stories that were more than just Saturday morning fodder.
I’d love to see this done as a sequel to the original where they have found that peaceful answers don’t always work, especially when humanity has been reduced to a state of nature. But they still have a hope that they can get there and have to work through some moral quandaries where idealism clashes with reality. I think it would be a great show, but I am probably in the minority there and doubt that any of the networks would take a flyer on this one.
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