What’s Past is Prologue?

The Star Wars TrilogyIn William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the term “What’s past is prologue” is, more or less, used as a justification to commit murder – that the past has led the characters of Antonio and Sebastian to a moment in time where their choice is to kill the King so that they can forge their own destinies.  In more modern times, the phrase has come to mean that history creates context for the present.

With a certain science fiction property, it feels a little like the creatives behind the scenes have had similar conversations to those had by Sebastian and Antonio, as they have contemplated the future of a notable and beloved film series.

Out of all of the science fiction properties that I’ve fallen in love with over the years, Star Wars had always ranked up there with Star TrekSpace: 1999, Battlestar GalacticaV and Doctor Who. They shaped my young mind and my worldview and to some extent still influence me today.  Star Wars, sadly, and only days ago, fell out of that top six, despite a long internal argument to keep it there. An argument that started in December 2015.

Why?  Because the new trilogy didn’t have to be what it has become.  The choices that were made didn’t need to be made.

I’ve tried very hard not to be one of those “you ‘shat’ all over my childhood” fans, but maybe I’ve become one despite my best efforts because I feel the new films betray the spirit of the original trilogy and even the prequel trilogy, which, while not perfect, still feels like Star Wars.

The Original Trilogy Small

When not talking about Space: 1999 or scientific advancements that may help us colonise our solar system, this blog usually comments on re-imaginings, reboots and continuations because I so desperately want a Space: 1999 reboot.

While the new trilogy of Star Wars movies are a continuation, they also feel, in a way, like a soft reboot.  What was past is indeed prologue.  While no one has quite murdered Star Wars (depending on who you ask), the property is now another example of an existing universe that has undergone/is undergoing some pretty big changes – and they’re changes I’ve not been able to justify.

I understand that some of the properties I’ve mentioned have undergone change over the years, but those changes were managed without unpicking the fabric of or totally setting fire to the soul of those shows.  The recent cosmetic changes made to the Star Trek universe initially bothered me, but I understood and accepted them.  Star Trek: Discovery is still very much Star Trek, it’s just had a face lift because, to remain relevant and to attract new viewers, that was essential.  Velour uniforms and big flashing lights for buttons don’t cut in the age of smart phones and flat screen TVs.

I had a similar reaction to the re-imagined V (2009-2010).  The changes they made were more extensive than those made for Star Trek: Discovery, and I would have rather the writers and producers had done a more faithful retelling, but the spirit of the original was left intact.

Something else is going on with Star Wars and I can’t reconcile it.

Before I go any further… heads up.  SPOILER ALERT!  If you haven’t seen the seventh and eighth feature films, I spoil the crap out of them below.  Look away now, or continue on.

Ready?

I enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I’m one of those fans who was by and large happy with Star Wars: The Last Jedi (except for the Canto Bight nonsense – Finn, great, Rose, great, Canto Bight… stupid diversion that added nothing to the film).  My issues with the new Star Wars films began, sadly, way before Canto Bight was a gleam in anyone’s eye.

Star Wars The Force Awakens Poster

Like most old school Star Wars fans born in the ’70s I was excited (okay, jumping for joy) to hear that Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie and the droids were coming back.  Before Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford’s appearances were officially confirmed, I was expecting J.J. Abrams and Disney to do what George Lucas had done with the prequels and set the new films in a different time frame.  As a fan of the Old Republic comic books and as someone who had enjoyed the prequels for what they were, I was in favour of that idea.  The Star Wars universe is a BIG universe.  Now I know that the prequels were set only about 18-20-something years before A New Hope, but it was a different era.  It was the mighty Republic and its fall, it was the Jedi Order at its height, it was the first stirrings of what would become the Empire.  It felt entirely different to the original trilogy while still being the Star Wars I knew.

When it was confirmed the films would be thirty-something years in the future and that Leia, Luke and Han would be in them, I was thrilled.  J.J. had jumped ahead in time, and jumped forward a longer span of time than the prequels had gone back, so maybe we would get a story that would focus on the children of our heroes and a frightening new threat to the galaxy!

Then the first movie dropped.  No Leia for ages.  No Luke for even longer, and then, barely.  Han and Chewie showed up pretty quickly but it felt too convenient.

I was okay with waiting to see my childhood heroes as I sat there in the cinema, and I was willing to believe Han had lost the Falcon, because I knew they had to establish a bunch of new characters and because Han had always been a little loose.

Leia and Han Reunite

Then, finally, Leia turned up.  I was so happy to see her as she walked down that ramp to a waiting Han.  Then mine and a bunch of other fans’ hopes were dashed because our Princess and her scoundrel were no longer together.

We learn that they had had a child together, which was something, but then we discover that their son had fallen to the Dark Side and turned into an angst ridden millennial with a sense of entitlement the size of Coruscant, and a level of sulky-petulance that would put any soap opera teen to shame.  And STILL no Luke… where was he?

Eventually we’re told that Luke went into hiding.  So… he abandoned his sister in her time of need, right as a new threat was emerging in the galaxy.  WTF?

The triumphant ending we had enjoyed in the closing frames of Return of the Jedi was no more.

I get that the choices the writers, producers and director made were ‘realistic,’ but I don’t watch Star Wars for realism.  I watch it to feel a sense of joy and hope, and to be swept up in an adventure that will take me out of the shitty world we all live in for a while.

All of the above was bad enough, but to add insult to injury, not long after Leia and Han are reunited, they kill Han.  Just as horrible as that, his killer was his own son.

Han Solo Star Wars Episode VII

Han was never my favourite character, I related to Luke and Leia more, but Han had earned a place in my heart.  How couldn’t you love the guy?  Everyone loved Han.

I thought Han’s death was Harrison saying “I’ll only play him if you kill him off,” because he’s long been arguing for the character’s death (he wanted Han to sacrifice himself for Leia and Luke in Return of the Jedi), but then along came the second film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, where they killed Luke.

A trend was starting to emerge.

It was becoming clear that the plan was to also kill off Leia Organa in the third movie.  Of course, Carrie tragically passed away in December 2016 before even one frame of Episode IX could be filmed, but regardless of that horrible blow, the writing was on the wall for the Princess and General.

Star Wars The Last Jedi Official Poster

I started to feel a little irrational anger about it all which, almost a year after the release of number eight, has refused to go away.  Accompanying the anger is an all-pervading sadness which slaps me around every time I think of Star Wars.

Just like the crew of the original series Star Trek or it’s successor, TNG, and just like the team on Moonbase Alpha, or on board the Galactica, and just like the Doctor and the Resistance fighters in V, Leia, Luke and Han had been my dear friends, and they’d been with me through some really difficult times.  They’d been my safe space through trauma, and when I was a kid and a teenager, they’d shaped my moral compass.  At times, throughout my childhood and early teen years, I would often find myself thinking what would Leia do if she were faced with this bullyHow would Luke handle this family fightHow would Han get himself out of this situation?

I had always subliminally known that those characters were important to me, but facing their cinematic deaths showed me just how important they had been and still were.

Sound weird?  I get that. I thought my reaction was ridiculous, even a tad pathetic, so I did some research and it turns out a lot of long time fans of various fictional properties feel a significant impact when the characters they love die.

Leia Finally Grieves for Han

It’s such a frequent occurrence, American University in Washington DC researched it in 2014 and found that “superfans can feel a strong sense of loss in the aftermath of a character death.”  You can find that research here at Science Daily.

For me, part of it comes down to the fact that I felt (and still feel) that this trio of heroes deserved a happy ending.

I had imagined Han and Leia growing old together, surrounded by children and grandchildren.  I’d imagined Luke building and inspiring a new Jedi Order, and falling in love and having his own children.  I had imagined Chewie back on Kashyyyk happily retired, and R2 and 3PO both entertaining and being tortured by the children of Leia and Han, and Luke and whomever he married.  Can’t you hear C-3PO begging one of the children to stop doing something rambunctious?  “Please young mistress, put your brother down – it’s rude to levitate people!”

For a while we did have that, with what is now known as the Star Wars Legends novels (previously the Expanded Universe).  Horrible things happened to Chewie and the Organa-Solo/Skywalker children in those books, but in the very last installment Han, Leia and Luke were still soldiering on side by side, hope-filled and resolute.  The path to their happy ending was punctuated with tragedy and trauma, but Han and Leia still had their daughter, though they had lost their sons, and Luke still had his son, though he had lost his wife.  Still, despite everything they’d suffered, they ended their adventures as they started, together, with each other.

J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson decided we needed to see our heroes die on screen.  It looks like they’ve also decided that the Skywalker line must end.  If my suspicions are correct and Leia was always going to die in the ninth film, there will be no more Skywalkers because Ben (Kylo) also has to die.  He killed his father.  It’s an irredeemable act.  So, not only did the current creatives in charge of Star Wars feel we needed to lose our heroes, we also needed to wipe out the most important family in that universe.

Hence my feeling that this is an attempt to softly (with a sledgehammer) reboot Star Wars.

I’ve read a lot of nonsense, some from the mouths of the film-makers themselves, about how important it is for the old to make way for the new.  That’s fine, but the way they’ve gone about it is not Star Wars.  The story of the First Order and Rey, Finn and Poe could have easily happened 100 years or more after the events of Return of the Jedi.  Having the main protagonist be Leia and Han’s child doesn’t really add anything to the story, so a brand new bad guy would have worked just as well or better – or turning Rey, or Finn or Poe into the bad guy at some point in the new trilogy would have been equally if not more impactful.  Nothing would have been lost and the integrity of Star Wars could have been maintained.

Star Wars is a fairy tale.  It’s my generation and my nephews’ generation’s (who grew up with the prequels) Snow White or Cinderella.  We have Princesses and Dark Knights, Queens and paupers, noble Paladin (the Jedi) and Scoundrels, armies of light and darkness doing battle, and strange locales inhabited by even stranger creatures.

Our heroes should remain heroes, their deaths unseen, so that we can imagine them having lived wonderful lives or off on other adventures. Luke should have remained the noble knight, rather than become a burned out shell.  Leia should have ended up running the bloody New Republic, not being scorned by it.  Han should have grown fat and happy with a bevvy of children, standing strong by Leia’s side no matter what, rather than being slaughtered by his own son.

Luke Skywalker

I so very deeply wish the sequel trilogy had either never happened, or had jumped forward in time, so that my memories of the heroes I have loved and cherished for so long had remained untarnished.

Luke, a coward too afraid to try again?
Leia considered a joke by the very government she was integral in restoring and probably setting up?
Han a washed up and worn out man who left his wife because it all got too hard?
The only offspring of the Skywalkers a sulky little murderous prick?

No.
These are insulting endings to heroes who have meant a lot to a great many people.

Star Wars The Last Jedi

I think J.J. Abrams is an incredibly talented man.  I forgave him for the liberties he took with Star Trek when he rebooted it, but I wish he’d never gotten his hands on Star Wars.  Transwarp beaming vs killing off a beloved character?  I’ll take the crud that was transwarp beaming any day over losing my friends.

It is possible to do a continuation or even a reboot or remake without betraying the essence of a property, and J.J. and Rian Johnson should have looked harder (or just looked) at those examples.

Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, with heavy support from Angela Mancuso reimagined Battlestar Galactica, giving us a few character changes and an important story shift that intensified everything in the right way (Starbuck became a woman and the Cylons were created by humanity), but still remained faithful to Glen A. Larson’s original idea.  What they did, particularly Eick and Moore, they did in a way that was not cruel and did not destroy what was loved by fans of the 1970s show (though it took a while for some fans to embrace it). It built on and modernised the original in a relevant and poignant way.

Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless did a reboot (slight reimagining) of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space and it’s faithful to the original idea and has been updated respectfully.  Yes, Maureen and John are separated, but their adventures rekindle their romance and it works.

Judge Dredd with Karl Urban?  That was a freaking awesome reboot.  Superman?  It’s had the crap rebooted out of it, but all of them have managed to be respectful.  Not all of them have been successful (we’re looking at you Superman Returns and that Zod stuff in Man of Steel), but that’s beside the point.  Batman, the same.  Wonder Woman?  How great was the Gal Gadot movie?!  Spider-Man…?  Like Superman, he’s been rebooted a lot to varying degrees of success, but each time with a great deal of respect.  Star Trek: Discovery?  Roseanne, now The ConnersPrison BreakVThe X-Files?  Faithful continuations/reboots/remakes/reimaginings/new takes on beloved themes.

Will this latest Star Wars trilogy become a lesson in what not to do when you reboot or continue a beloved property?

Maybe. I hope so. I’d hate for other fans of any film or series to feel this way.

Feel free to disagree with me and shoot me an e-mail or send through some comments on the subject.  I’d love to hear what other fans think about this because I have honestly been wrestling with it for ages.  Maybe it’s not a soft reboot, whether the Skywalker line dies off or not, but to me this new trilogy is a crap continuation.  What happens after Episode IX?  There will be more Star Wars movies, we can all safely bet on that, but if the Skywalkers are gone will it still be Star Wars?

For me, I’ll watch the sequel trilogy as a diversion, but will re-read and enjoy the Star Wars Legends series and treat them as canon. They are a lot better than what Disney has given/is giving us.

J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson made wonderful films that I enjoyed for a variety of reasons, they just didn’t make great Star Wars films.

Space 2049 Page Break

Everything Old is New Again

Space 2049 April 2018 Update

There has been a lot of criticism leveled at the entertainment industry for their habit of “rebooting” or “re-imagining” existing television shows and movies.

Sometimes that criticism is deserved, and other times it’s not.  Sometimes it does make you wonder if Hollywood has run out of ideas, but at the same time there are some stories that deserve to be retold for a new generation to enjoy.

In science fiction, probably the two most notable examples of this are Ronald D. Moore’s re-imagined Battlestar Galactica and J.J. Abrams’ rebooted original series Star Trek film.

I’m probably a little bit of an odd fan.  I don’t become instantly resistant to reboots or even remakes.  I approach either with cautious optimism.

My first exposure to this was the sort of reboot that was Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I was a very young teenager at the time, and remember being incredibly excited by the idea.  The four or five other friends I had who were Trekkers were not.  They thought it was a terrible idea, though almost instantly became Next Gen fans when the series finally hit Australian shores (as good old video cassettes we had to rent).

When it was announced Ronald D. Moore was going to re-imagine Battlestar Galactica I was a little more cautious than optimistic, because he was going to make some pretty significant changes, but there was excitement and I ended up loving it.  Both the BSG of my childhood and this more adult version could happily coexist and receive equal amounts of affection from me.

When news broke that J.J. Abrams was rebooting the original series Star Trek I was more optimistic and excited than cautious.  I admired his skill as a director and really liked some of the actors that were being announced.  Plus, thanks to the new BSG, I had learned the difference between a reboot and a re-imagining.

A reboot is a mostly faithful remake of an original property.  The characters and a lot of their backstories are intact, though parts of the overall story may differ.

A re-imagining is where the overall premise stays the same, and maybe even a number of the characters, but many things can and often do change.

Both Moore and Abrams delivered genre defining classics, approaching their material from different perspectives.  Battlestar Galactica became an almost instant hit.  There was initial fan backlash but that quickly faded, especially when BSG shining light Richard Hatch (Captain Apollo in the original), accepted a role on the new series. He told fans we could enjoy both and that both were shows worthy of admiration.  The 2009 Star Trek film was also an almost instant hit.  It has the highest US opening gross of any Trek film, and knocked the Dark Knight off it’s highest grossing IMAX perch by more than two million dollars.

The 2009 version of Star Trek has some issues (hello transwarp beaming and the destruction of Vulcan and death of Amanda), but highlighted the best of each main character while delivering a wonderful story.

Galactica’s story of survival against overwhelming odds, and Star Trek‘s story of a better and brighter future for humanity are stories that deserve to be retold so that new generations can appreciate them, learn from them and be inspired by them.

That’s when a reboot or a re-imagining works.

And, now, another beloved series has been given new life because it has a story of family, ingenuity and overcoming extreme odds as a team that is worth telling to a new audience, and that series is Lost in Space.

Rescuing Doctor Smith

Unless you’ve been holidaying on an island without an internet connection for the last six-months, you know that the reboot aired in April of this year and was very well received.  So much so it has earned a second season.

As should be expected (unfortunately) there were plenty of professional critics who found fault with the show, but no one listened to them because we’ve learned their opinions are just that… their opinions, and they are rarely worth the time taken to deliver them.  The rest of us loved the show.  The series has a 95% approval rating on Google from every day viewers like you and me, a 68% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and IGN gave it an 8.5 out of 10.

The series is based on the original 1965 slightly campy television show starring Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Jonathan Harris, Marta Kristen, Angela Cartwright, Bill Mummy, Rick Turfeld and Bob May (both as the robot), and the reboot is a relatively faithful recreation of the fan favourite.  The new robot even manages a “Danger, Will Robinson.  Danger” or two.

The Robot and Will

While being a pretty faithful reboot, there are some differences.

The biggest changes are a Battlestar Galactica worthy gender swap, with Doctor Smith now a female and played by one of my favourite actresses, Parker Posey (seriously, if you haven’t seen her over the top performance in Josie and the Pussycats – the movie, you are missing out), and the robot who is now an alien mechanism that initially menaces everyone before befriending Will.  Then there’s Don West, who is now an interstellar mechanic rather than a military man.

If you’re a fan of Lost in Space those changes might irk you, because, let’s face it, Jonathan Harris in his iconic role as Doctor Smith became the star of the series, but I do encourage you to give this new version a go.  This isn’t the first reboot we’ve experienced, but it is the best and you should check it out with a little more optimism than caution.

For anyone who isn’t a long time fan, here’s a very brief LiS history: there have been two previous attempts to reboot Lost in Space, one as a film series and another as a television series.

In 1998 there was a film reboot that had great potential but was sunk by a bad script and some overly ambitious special effects.  Starring Matt LeBlanc, Mimi Rogers, Gary Oldman, William Hurt, Heather Graham, Lacey Chabert, Jared Harris and Jack Johnson, Lost in Space the movie had no shortage of talent but it’s story was average and largely disappointing.

The film reboot featured cameos by original series cast members June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, and would have featured cameos by Jonathan Harris and Billy Mummy but both declined because the roles weren’t suitable.

Then, in 2004, The Robinsons: Lost in Space tried to recapture the original’s magic with a very serious pilot that is actually not bad.  Starring Jayne Brook, Brad Johnson, Mike Erwin, Adrianne Palicki, Ryan Malgarini, Dick Tufeld and Gil McKinney as new character David Robinson.

This particular reboot was sort of faithful to the original, but chose not to include Doctor Smith, and made John Robinson a retiring war hero who helped save Earth from an alien invasion.  The robot was there, and was the worst thing about the show, and for some reason Penny was a baby and they had a second son, but everything else was pretty spot on.

The unsuccessful pilot had a little too much teen angst and it’s pacing was off despite having been directed by John Woo, but it put a smart framework in place around the whole idea of the Jupiter 2, making it part of a colonisation effort.  It always seemed a bit weird to me that the original Jupiter 2 and the movie Jupiter 2 were crewed by just one family, off on an interstellar voyage alone – the original series family to colonise space, the movie family to build a jump gate so people could go off exploring.

Though the pilot failed to go to series, elements of it seem to have made it into this new version.

The new Jupiter 2 is part of a massive colonisation effort and is housed with many other Jupiters about the colonisation vessel Resolute. That mothership is knocked off her flight path by an alien attack, forcing the families and their Jupiters to launch prematurely and they all end up stranded on a mysterious planet.

Jupiter 2 2

This latest version boasts incredible special effects, a really wonderful cast, a solid story and a story arc that is both engaging and smart.

Having said that, it’s not a perfect show.

It feels like the writers don’t quite know what to do with the new Doctor Smith.  As much as we all loved Jonathan Harris’s over the top, magnificent scene stealing portrayal, that approach wouldn’t have worked with a modern audience.  So they took the humour away from Doctor Smith and made her a little more menacing, and most definitely mentally unbalanced. It’s a good choice, but the character still feels rough around the edges despite Parker Posey’s strong performance.

Likewise, it feels like they’re still trying to sort out Don West, played by Ignacio Serricchio.  His character is probably the least developed.

The Robinson family, however, are – to me – pitch perfect.  The characters are beautifully realised and their relationships are very convincing.  The stand outs are definitely Mina Sundwall as Penny and Maxwell Jenkins as Will.

The rest of the cast is made up of Molly Parker as Maureen Robinson, Toby Stephens as John Robinson, and Taylor Russell as Judy Robinson.

In this iteration of Lost in Space, Maureen is the Mission Commander.  She’s an aerospace engineer who is taking her family to a pre-established colony on Alpha Centauri where she hopes they can build a new life after a disastrous impact event left the Earth largely devastated.

Maureen is the biological mother of Judy, Penny and Will.

John Robinson is a former US Marine.  His marriage to Maureen has been a little rocky, thanks in large part to the numerous secret missions he was often on, keeping him away from his family.

John is the adoptive father of Judy and the biological father of Penny and Will.

Judy is a bit of a prodigy.  At 18 years of age she is the medical doctor for the mission (multiple colonists travelling to Alpha Centauri, not just the Robinson family).

Penny is, as with the original, the middle child.  She’s artsy, dreams of publishing the first book written on another planet, and is the most outspoken of the Robinson children.  Where Judy tows the line, Penny looks for ways to bend and twist that line.  Or abandon it completely.

Will is really the character who we, as the audience, experience this adventure through.  He befriends the robot, and through his influence changes the mechanoid from what appears to be a killing machine, into a helpful, human-friendly companion.

As mentioned above, Don West is one of the mechanics on the Resolute, the colony ship carrying the Jupiters to Alpha Centauri.  He’s a bit mercenary, but has real heart which we slowly get to see throughout the first ten episodes of season one.

Doctor Smith isn’t Doctor Smith.  She’s actually June Harris, a criminal and potential psychopath who drugs her sister, assumes her identity, and lies her way onto the Resolute.  In the attack that strands multiple Jupiters on an alien world, she impersonates Doctor Zachary Smith who is wounded by the robot (and played by Bill Mummy from the original series).  She leaves him to die and spends most of the first season lying to and manipulating everyone.

Jupiter 2 1

The Jupiter 2 probably isn’t as much of a ‘character’ yet as it was in the original, but it does play a large part in every episode of the show.  It’s a relatively faithful reproduction and amalgam of all of the Jupiter 2’s that have come before it.

As with the original series, the show is very much about family.  This version of the Robinson’s is a little more dysfunctional than any of the others we’ve ever seen, which is a good thing because it creates drama without resorting to overly annoying angst. How does this version of the Robinsons differ? Maureen and John are separated, Judy is Maureen’s only child from another marriage, and Will is a very anxious and slightly lost but still, eventually, heroic little boy. In previous versions he was a lot more confident and driven. In this version we see him earn his confidence and strength and it’s beautiful, because it’s incomplete and we know, like us, he still has a long way to go.

The show is compelling and full of heart and worth your time.  It’s visually beautiful, wonderfully acted and well written.  The direction and cinematography are outstanding and like watching a feature film, and every set and prop drips realism and functionality.  You believe you’re on board the Jupiter 2, and believe a vessel like it would have been made by human hands and launched into space to serve as home for a family as it joins a colonisation effort.

What the show proves is that the old can become new again, and that there really are some stories that deserve to be retold over and over again because they’re important, and because they’re relevant. Every generation deserves its own Lost in Space, it’s own Star Trek, and even its own Star Wars because those stories will never not be morality tales that can inspire and positively affect us. Humanity is a work in progress, and these stories are our touchstones and are the signposts that help us aspire and dream and grow.

Since watching the new Lost in Space series, I’ve spoken with friends and family about it.  All of them have universally enjoyed the show, with many saying that one of the things they loved most was the fact they could watch it with their children.  That doesn’t mean that the show is childish in any way.  It’s not.  It’s intense, breathtaking and exciting, but not in a way that alienates children, though in a way that could make them snuggle down in mum or dad’s arms during the tense moments!

Every time I see a remake done this well, it gives me hope.

There are ways to bring back beloved shows with powerful messages that will work in the 21st Century, with just a few simple tweaks.

As always, I maintain hope that we’ll see a reboot of Space: 1999.

Until then, enjoy this wonderful blast from the past.  Season 2 of Lost in Space will air in the first half of 2019 on Netflix.

Lost in Space was developed by Matt Sazama, based on the work of Irwin Allen.  It’s score is by Christopher Lennertz, featuring snipits of John Williams’ iconic original theme. The cinematographer is Sam McCurdy.

The show is produced by Zack Estrin, Kevin Burns, Jon Jashni, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Neil Marshall and Marc Helwig.

It was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Each episode runs from between 47 minutes and 65 minutes.

For more information on the original series, visit the LiS Wiki.

For more information on the Netflix series, visit the official Lost in Space page.

To watch the unsuccessful 2004 pilot for The Robinsons: Lost in Space, visit YouTube.  The resolution is terrible, the special effects are unfinished, and it’s broken up into ten or so minute chunks, but you’ll find it engaging if you’re a fan.

Here’s hoping the rights holders for our favourite 1970s sci-fi series get the message and consider a reboot of a fan favourite show that still has an important and relevant story to tell.

Space 2049 Page Break

Moon Dust Key to Lunar Construction

Earth and Lunar

Mars is more often than not in the news these days as the primary focus for future human settlement, having surpassed the moon as everyone’s number one go to in the popular consciousness.

Though the moon might no longer be foremost in everyone’s mind when it comes to space colonisation, it’s still front and centre for a number of space agencies.

NASA, the European Space Agency, Roscosmos, the Indian Space Research Agency and the Chinese National Space Administration are all progressing plans to build everything from an International Lunar Village to an operational moon base on our satellite.

One of the challenges that has confronted these various space agencies as they seek to put a permanent settlement on the moon, has been how do they build the various structures without bankrupting their respective countries?

Taking materials from Earth and launching them to the moon is time consuming and incredibly expensive.  Multiple launches would be needed to build anything big enough to house a research facility or even a mining operation, with each of those launches costing millions of dollars.

Now, however, European researchers are wondering if they can use moon dust to build an International Lunar Village.

The entire surface of the moon is covered in regolith (moon dust), which is fairly fine particles of silicate.  The regolith covers everything on the surface of the moon to a depth of between four to five meters, going as deep as 15 meters in the Lunar highlands.

European scientists suggest the dust could be used to create bricks using a 3D Printer.  These bricks would build roads, launch pads, habitats and other necessary facilities.

Artistis Impression of Future Lunar Base

Tests are currently planned to see how the regolith will withstand radiation once it is compressed and used as a building material.

The big thing is that Lunar dust is electrostatic because it is constantly bombarded by solar and cosmic radiation.  It’s electrostatic nature is what causes it to cling to everything it touches.  This could pose a problem and may prevent it from being a common building material, but we’ll know more soon.

The tests won’t actually be done using real moon dust, but an Earth substance that is comparable – volcanic soil.  The geology of Earth and Lunar is very similar, and scientists have discovered that remnants of a 45-million-year lava flow near Cologne in Germany closely mirrors moon dust.  Using that volcanic dust should give them an accurate idea of whether or not the moon dust will be a viable material.

The tests will not only determine functionality under radioactive extremes, but the actual longevity of any structure built using the material.

3D Printed Model of Habitat

So, what about this lunar village?

The image above of a bisected habitat module was created by architectural design and engineering firm Foster+Partners for the European Space Agency.  The proposed building looks appropriately futuristic, and a little Space: 1999.  Which I love!

The ESA plans to build the village in the southern polar region, where a good deposit of ice water has been discovered.

In a joint effort between the ESA and Roscosmos, the ESA will be sending their PROSPECT (Package for Resource Observation and in-Situ Prospecting for Exploration, Commercial exploitation and Transportation) mission to the moon in 2020 aboard a Russian Luna-27 mission.

This will be the first of a series of planned ESA missions to the moon, that will, the ESA hopes, deposit robot workers to help kick start their colonisation efforts.

This is all exciting news.  I do wish NASA were more involved, but perhaps that will happen as the missions draw closer to launch, or perhaps NASA has their own plans that they just aren’t ready to share with us.

To learn more about these exciting initiatives, visit Phys.org, Space.com, and Syfy.com.

I love it when we take one step closer to life off our planet.  Let’s face facts and be proactive, Earth is stretched beyond it’s capacity to safely support human life and we need to be reaching for the stars if we hope to have any kind of future.

We’ll keep you up to date on this initiative as more information is released to the public.

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In Loving Memory

In Loving Memory Banner

As fans of Space: 1999 we knew him as the indomitable Commander John Koenig.  To others, he was Rollin Hand in Mission: Impossible, Bob Ryan in Entourage, Major General Adlon in Meteor, Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, Alvin Kurtzweil in The X-Files, and Leonard in North by Northwest, among many other roles.

To his peers in Hollywood he was an incredibly versatile actor, chameleon-like in his ability to “slip into the skin” of a character.

To Barbara Bain he was a large and important part of her life, having been a loving husband and her acting and producing partner for many years, and of course, to his daughters, Susan Landau-Finch and Juliet Landau, he was an inspiring and devoted father.

A couple of days ago, on the 15th of July, Martin left this world, leaving behind an enviable acting, producing and teaching legacy that will be long remembered.

Martin was 89 at the time of his death, and passed away from “unexpected complications” while hospitalised at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Centre in Los Angeles.

Martin Landau

Space 2049 sends it’s deepest condolences to Barbara, Susan, Juliet and every single one of Martin’s family and friends, and we also extend those condolences to his many fans.

For me, Martin will always be John Koenig, and it saddens me that he won’t get the chance to guest star in some future version of the show helping a new Commander Koenig to battle some impossible situation.

If you’d like to learn more about this incredible actor, producer and acting coach, you can visit his Wikipedia page here, his IMDb page here, and his biography.com page here.

Hopefully one day Space: 1999 will get the reboot it deserves, and through it’s re-emergence into popular culture, thousands of new science fiction fans will revisit the original series and, through that, explore Martin’s remarkable body of work.

Rest in peace, Martin.  You will be missed.  Thank you for Commander John Koenig.

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A New Space Age

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

Space, and our place in it, is a big topic of discussion right now.

We have private companies vying for a place beyond our atmosphere, alongside governments attempting to position themselves for the future as our world continues to struggle with mounting population, resource and climate issues.

We even, apparently, have the United States’ Congress contemplating a ‘space army’… because… um… the Covenant are coming?  Could be the Cylons.  We’d probably want to stop the Cylons.  Probably the Covenant too.  But I digress.

Space is a hot topic and it’s only going to get hotter.

In previous articles, we’ve reported on the body whose job it is to encourage the nations of the world to cooperate on all things “outer space” – the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.  It’s also this body’s job to keep a register of all objects launched into orbit.  And there are a lot.

All of that is a hefty responsibility, particularly for what is, essentially, a very small group of people operating from what is, nowadays, outdated legislation.

Governing all things Outer Space for Earth is the ‘Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.’  Yes.  That’s something of a mouthful!

The Treaty, in brief, provides a basic framework on international space law, and includes the following:

  • the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind;
  • outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
  • outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;
  • States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner;
  • the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes;
  • astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind;
  • States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by government or non-governmental entities;
  • States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects, and;
  • States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.

Obviously, they need to update the language to say “humanity”, instead of “mankind”, but they also need to review the whole thing because unless I’m mistaken we’ve launched quite a few harmful objects into orbit that threaten the safety of any mission that carries humans into space, as well as the lives of every astronaut on the International Space Station (and if a satellite goes rogue and smashes into the ISS, I don’t know if any nation could afford to repair it), plus, things fall to Earth and if they survive re-entry, some of those things are very radioactive.

I’m also pretty sure some businesses, and perhaps even governments, want to lay claim to certain celestial bodies for mining rights.

The International Space Station

The Treaty was signed in January 1967, by the Russian Federation, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.  Over time, others have become signatories or ‘party’ to the Treaty, though not all nations on Earth have bothered – mostly because they don’t have space programs.

The Treaty has been amended over the years, but could still do with a rework as we face that once final frontier, right now.

Treaty Declaration - UN

50 years ago, when the Treaty came into being, years before most of us were born, all of this was the stuff of science fiction.  Now it is science fact.

Elon Musk intends to die on Mars, Australian Scientists have just worked out a way to make astronauts safer in space (thank you Australian National University) thanks to a new nano-material they’ve created that can reflect light on demand and has a temperature control, and can, it is believed, be developed further to protect our brave space pioneers from harmful interstellar radiation.

As each year passes, we grow closer and closer to making those things that inspired my generation – and possibly yours – a reality: China and Europe are exploring the idea of building a human outpost on the moon (hello Space: 1999), multiple agencies and governments and businesses are gearing up to travel to Mars (hopefully not is any sort of a disastrous way – we’re looking at you, Mission to Mars and Red Planet), and multiple space-mining companies are springing up (Planetary Resources, Deep Space Industries, and Kepler Energy and Space Engineering bringing with them visions of The Expanse and the dynamics that exist between Earth, Luna, Mars and the asteroid belts in our solar system) looking at ways to help Earth and humanity.

What’s going to happen as industry and government vie for control of the incredible resources that exist beyond the atmosphere of our small but beautiful blue-green planet?

What happens if greed overrides the common good?

News.com.au and other outlets around the world, recently reported that one particular asteroid’s precious metal deposits could crash the world’s economy.

How long will idealism stand against the level of wealth available to us beyond Earth?

The ideal would be that we could all come together, like Space: 1999 and Star Trek propose, but the reality of human nature is that greed is here and it’s been around for a long time, and, sadly, a lot of people are motivated by that.  As a result, we’ve justified wars for resources on this world for centuries and chances are we will find ways to justify wars for resources off world too.  Is it possible our next big conflict won’t be a World War, but a resource war fought over the Asteroid Belt or the Kuiper Belt?

One thing is certain, we as a species are finally heading into space.  We got there, at least as far as our moon, then sort of retreated, built an international space station, and dreamed while waiting for someone with courage to propel us forward again.  Now it looks like we’re finally returning to space and planning to go further than we’ve ever gone before.  Hopefully we’ll be able to do it in a way that is measured and sensible, and that benefits all of humanity and not just the rich, and hopefully the United Nations will help us do that and do it with wisdom.

It’s an incredibly exciting time to be alive, and an incredibly frightening one as well.  Some of our greatest minds don’t believe we, as a species, can survive on Earth much longer because of our growing population and disappearing resources, and as a result have to go out into space.  They’re probably right.

The decisions we make right now, the precedents we set, and the way we go about establishing this foundation of exploration, is so vitally important.

What can you do about it?

Get involved.  Whether through aspiring to be one of those space pioneers one day, or by holding your elected representatives accountable, you can, in some small way, have a say on whether or not our future as a species takes these next steps wisely, or selfishly.

We’ve kind of screwed up Mother Earth.  It would be nice if we at least learned from the mistakes we’ve made.

As much as I love some of the almost dystopic science fiction out there, I don’t want our future generations living any of those possible realities.

Do you?

As all of this starts to ‘nut’ itself out, we’ll report on it here. The future is being built right now, and hopefully it will be built on strong and lasting foundations.

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Where No Shadows Fall

Vir Cotto Babylon 5 Header

Any visitor to this site knows that I’m a massive Babylon 5 fan.

I love the show.

Love it.

As sacrilegious as it is to some science fiction fans, Babylon 5 shares equal place for me with Star Trek, Space: 1999 and Star Wars, three shows that defined my childhood.  Each hold equal first place for different reasons, and each is special in its own wonderfully unique way.

But… one way in which Babylon 5 is head and shoulders above most, if not all other science fiction shows (even Star Trek and Space: 1999), is in its story and the way that story was executed.

Yes, Sheridan really pissed me off toward the end of the series and I’ll never forgive the character for the way he treated Lyta, yes the conclusion to the Shadow War was a little rushed but that was the studio’s fault and no one elses, and yes Season 5 had a really average first half, but over all that show kicked ass.

The incredible story J. Michael Straczynski wrote would not have transferred to the screen though, without the excellent performances of its main cast.  The characters he created were brought to life, beautifully, by a collection of exceptional actors.

One of those actors was Stephen Furst, who, sadly, passed away on Saturday.

Stephen played Vir Cotto, the efficient, long-suffering aid to Ambassador Londo Mollari.  He was Londo’s conscience, his foil at times, and his friend when that character most needed one.

Stephen played the role with humour, sensitivity and passion, making a character that could have been one-dimensional an integral part of that series.

Stephen first came to the notice of audiences in 1978, in the movie Animal House.  From there, he appeared in multiple roles in television and film, and eventually moved into directing and producing.

To some, he was Flounder from Animal House or Doctor Elliot Axelrod from St. Elsewhere, to many he was Vir from Babylon 5, but to others he was an activist and spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association.

It was that disease that took Stephen’s life, as it took his father’s life in 1972.  Stephen died from complications related to diabetes at his home in California at the age of 63.

He will missed.

Vir Cotto 3

J. Michael Straczynski, when he heard the news, made the following posts to his Twitter account:

First, in response to a notification from another Twitter user, Jeremiah Holt:

“Goddamnit… a really decent, great, kind guy.”

Then:

“On behalf of everyone who worked on Babylon 5, Stephen Furst will be missed profoundly and everlastingly.”

In another post:

“Lost Babylon 5 Main cast: Michael O’Hare, Andreas Katsulas, Jeff Conway, Jerry Doyle, Richard Biggs, now Stephen Furst, all too soon.”

JMS Post RE Stephen Furst

Space: 2049 extends its deepest condolences to Stephen’s family and, alongside them, his colleagues and his fans, we grieve his loss.  Deeply.

It is our sincere hope he is sleeping in starlight, in a place where no shadows fall.

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SciFi Standard Bearers

SciFi Standard Bearers

Televised science fiction has been enjoying something of a resurgence these last few years, with some people wondering if we’re entering into a kind of ‘Golden Age’ of scifi.

Maybe!

People my age, who were born in the 1970s and 1980s, once thought that the latter half of the 1980s and the entirety of the 1990s was that Golden Age, because of the number of science fiction shows on free-to-air TV at the time.  Shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and its spin-offs, Quantum LeapThe X-Files, Space: Above and Beyond, Farscape, Babylon 5 and it’s spin-off Crusade, Stargate SG-1Earth: Final Conflict, SlidersSeaQuest DSV, and more.

Honestly, it was pretty amazing.  Even in Australia, where we still don’t get a lot of scifi content on free-to-air and have to wait for those shows to arrive on DVD (or at that time, video cassette), we could still catch two or three shows a week – The X-FilesFarscapeSeaQuest DSVBuffy the Vampire Slayer and Space: Above and Beyond.  All while waiting for the latest Star Trek or Babylon 5 episode to arrive on video.

With that amount of content, you’d expect some duds, but most of the science fiction and, what eventually came to be known as ‘genre shows’ (thanks to Buffy) were pretty good.

Then it all stopped.  We had the odd ‘sputter’ with the amazing Battlestar Galactica reboot, and we had CharmedAngelV, and the Stargate spin-offs for a while, but suddenly genre series seemed to all but disappear from our screens.  Until recently.

Now, over the last few years, all sorts of incredible, not easily definable television shows have captivated science fiction and fantasy fans, as well as mainstream audiences alike – The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Vikings, the revamped Doctor Who, Westworld, Ash vs The Evil Dead, Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, The Strain, Legion, Once Upon A Time, Grimm, Agents of SHIELD, The Exorcist, The Expanse, Dark Matter, Killjoys and soon, the brand new Star Trek: Discovery.

There are so many ‘genre’ shows airing right now that it’s actually difficult to keep track of them!  But, how many are traditional science fiction?  Scifi set in space, on a starship, zooming about all over the place?

Very few, actually.

I don’t think anyone really knows why.  At one point it might have been an issue of cost, because science fiction shows have never been cheap, but with Game of Thrones costing a whopping six million dollars per episode, that’s probably not a consideration any more.

It might be because, as Commander Jeffrey Sinclair from Babylon 5 would say, “Nothing is the same anymore.”  We’re not watching television in the same ways as we used to.  We’re streaming shows and we’re watching them on multiple platforms.  Also, we’re getting, on average, half as many episodes per season as we once used to.

People are time poor in the 21st Century, and on top of that the old studio system doesn’t hold as much sway as it once did.  Plus, many of us are paying for our content and because of that we’re expecting something special.  We want ‘event’ television, but event television that tells an intimate tale.

Science fiction is definitely event television, but it hasn’t always done the intimate bit very well.

Thankfully, that is changing and we’re starting to see more traditional scifi again.

Right now, there are three standard bearers for science fiction television.

The Expanse, Killjoys, and Dark Matter.

All three take place on a larger canvas, telling bigger stories, but focus episode to episode on the lives of a few characters, taking us deep into their worlds.

With The Expanse, we’re following a crew of four, learning about them and their relationships episode to episode.

With Killjoys, we’re following a crew of three people, unravelling the mystery of their lives.

With Dark Matter we’re following what was a crew of six (but that fluctuated in Season 2) as they try to remember who they are – and on discovering that, try to fight against who they were and become better people.

In just two seasons, for each of these shows, we have learned more about their main characters than we did most of the characters on any of the old Star Trek shows.

These new series are showing the way for modern science fiction, and it’s exciting.

I haven’t seen The Expanse yet, because it hasn’t aired on television or been made available to us on DVD or BluRay, for reasons that are just stupid, but I am a fan of the books and follow all of the news on the show and it looks amazing.

Killjoys and Dark Matter, however, I can comment on, and both are outstanding.

Killjoys took me four episodes to get into, but by episode five of Season One I was hooked and I’ve been in love with the show ever since.  What hooked me?  The characters.  Dutch, Johnny and D’avin.

Dark Matter grabbed me straight away and has kept me wanting more season to season.  What grabbed me?  In particular Two (Portia), Three (Marcus), Five (Emily), Six (Kal) and the Android.

All of the other stuff in both shows is just icing on the cake.

As well as the intimate story lines mentioned above, those shows have something else in common – they have strong female leads, they don’t shy away from issues of sexuality and gender, and they show us a multicultural future where light and dark dance around the edges of what are very ‘grey’ realities.  I love Star Trek‘s utopia like future, but I get that today’s audiences want some sort of discourse on just how screwed up we all are.  They want to it see it reflected and mirrored on television, and they want to see our heroes fighting, and at times submitting, to that.

Rather than break these shows down in any detail, I encourage you to watch them if you haven’t – and to continue to support them if you already enjoy them.

If you want to know more about these three excellent series, you can visit their official websites here: The Expanse, Killjoys, and Dark Matter.

As someone who hopes to see an old favourite, Space: 1999, rebooted, there are lessons that can be learned from these new shows about how to structure a series and most especially about what a modern audience wants.  Intimacy.  Inclusion.  An exploration of modern issues.

Space: 1999 was already doing some of that back in the 1970s, with a very multicultural crew on Moonbase Alpha, and any reboot of it would no doubt be able to tackle that and other things that are important to us now, and in very creative and intimate ways.  I can imagine a transgender crew member, and with a character like Maya an episode or two or five focused on inclusion and the occasional bigotry that can come with not understanding something or someone.

More and more, as I dissect both of these more traditional science fiction shows and compare them with other genre offerings, I see a place for Space: 1999 in modern television (obviously with a few changes), and get more and more excited about the possibility.

Moonbase Alpha was a microcosm of Earth, and it’s philosophical ‘bent’ was all about us (in the 1970s) asking “who am I?”  “Why am I here?”  Where am I going?”  Things many of these genre series are debating right now in their own unique and dramatic ways.

I hope that this renaissance of science fiction that we are enjoying right now continues for some time, and I hope that a new Space: 1999 becomes a part of that.

I first wanted the show to get a reboot in the 80s.  Then again in the early 2000s.  But now, looking at the world as it is, and looking at what genre television has become, I feel NOW is the time.  It would have been too soon a couple of decades ago.

As far as I know, ITV still own the rights to the television series.

Hopefully they realise the potential of Space: 1999, and give it the new life it deserves.

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