Believing in a Better Future

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Space: 1999 took a somewhat jaded look at the future on Earth, while at the same time focusing on our ability to survive and build something better as the survivors of an horrific accident clung to hope against a backdrop of mystery, struggle and the implied terror of being lost in deep space.

The Alphans were at the mercy of nature, unable to control the trajectory of their accidental gigantic spaceship (the moon) – but able to control the way they lived and maintained a focus on the possibility of something better.

It’s a message as relevant to today as it was to the often times tumultuous 1970s.

Space: 1999 taught me that while we can’t always control the bigger things in life, we can control the ways in which we react to them and, through our choices, make a gradual impact on what might initially appear to be something we cannot effect.

It’s a message we might want to consider as we make the transition from one year to the next, particularly as we look back on 2016 – a year that has brought us great challenges, and as close to a guarantee of an uncertain global future as we’ve had, at least since the days of the Cold War.

What a year.

In my day job, I’m a Counsellor and a Community Development specialist.  I’ve built an accidental career around working with the survivors of trauma with a primary focus on young people and professionals in the industry, and in turning what are purportedly community spaces into more inclusive places for people who are often (accidentally?) excluded or feel excluded or not catered to – young people, refugees, and unexpectedly these last two years, people from what we in Australia call the QUILTBAG community (Queer/Unisex/Intersex/Lesbian/Trans/Bisexual/Asexual and Gay) – particularly Trans and Non-Binary individuals.

I’ve been doing this work for two decades, starting it in my early twenties.  Back then, it felt like we had a real chance at solving the world’s problems (which was, I now know, naive).  Now, in my fourth decade, life has “reality checked” me and more often than not I’m seeing more inequality than ever before, and more turmoil and uncertainty.

I don’t know a way to fix that, but I’m still dedicated to doing my own small part.

Because of my day job, I’m a big fan of reflection.

At the end of every year, particularly since hitting my 40s, I lock myself away from the world and deep dive into the experiences I’ve had over the previous 360ish days.  This process is my way of staying grounded, of planning my way forward into a new year, and it’s my way of avoiding vicarious trauma and eventual “burn out” (in my industry, the average ‘life expectancy’ of a professional is 2.5 to five years).

Part of that process is remembering what’s inspired me.

Over the years, I’ve made no secret of the fact that the reason I do the work I do is because I was inspired to do it by my love of science fiction.

Recently, in a supervision session (which is where professional allied-health workers review their performance at regular intervals with someone older, more experienced, and better qualified than them), I was asked by my supervisor how I got into the industry and why I thought I was still surviving it.  I was at a career impasse.  I’d reached the top and had no idea what to do with the rest of my life, and my supervisor felt looking back would help me see my way through and forward into the future.

I reflected to her that from a young age I’d been inspired to try and reach an ideal – one that had been shaped by Star Trek, and influenced by the actions, bravery and compassion of characters in shows like Space: 1999, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica (the original) and Star Wars.

She gave me a look that clearly indicated she thought I might be losing my grip.

Maybe I’ve been losing it for years, but I can’t deny how much my inexplicable love for science fiction has influenced my life – both personally and professionally.

Deanna Troi inspired my trek into Counselling, as did Doctor Helena Russell, Doctor Leonard McCoy, and Ambassador Delenn.  Only one of those characters was a counsellor, but the rest dabbled in it or offered carefully thought out counsel to those around them.

Spock, Princess Leia Organa, Captain Apollo, G’Kar, Commander John Koenig, Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Captain Benjamin Sisko and Captain Kathryn Janeway encouraged me to act with integrity and courage.  Doctor Beverly Crusher, Doctor Stephen Franklin, Maya, Kes, Commander Adama, and Vir Cotto inspired me to keep compassion and consequence at the centre of my decision making, and the futures of hope displayed in each of these series – hope they’d find a home in Space: 1999, hope they’d find Earth in Battlestar Galactica, hope they’d maintain peace in Babylon 5 and then eventually the hope they’d overcome a corrupt government, the promise of a selfless future in Star Trek, the hope that good would always triumph over evil in Star Wars, shaped everything about me.

These things still shape me today.

Remembering those inspirations, despite the surprise another professional expressed regarding the source material, I was reminded that we still have a long way to go and we’re only going to get there if some of us keep dreaming of a better future, and if most of us allow ourselves to continue to be inspired by visionaries who focus on that future or on our better qualities as human beings.

The future – at least a future that’s worth living in – is created by people who dare to dream and then act on those dreams.  It’s created by people who allow themselves to be inspired, rather than mired down by fear and those who peddle in it.

As we enter a period in our history that is being defined by events and often frightening challenges like Brexit, ISIL, astonishing political change in the United States, disappointing political fracturing in Australia, threats to Democracy and effective, non-totalitarian Socialism throughout Europe, the ever present issues of homophobia, transphobia and racism around the world, and the effects of Global Warming, it’s more incumbent than ever on those of us who prefer hope over fear to keep doing what we’re doing and pushing back by choosing to focus on the positive.

There’s a school of thought that suggests we create our future through the things we focus on – at both the micro (personal) and macro (national or global) level.  There’s not a great deal of evidence to support this, though some scientists have made interesting steps forward in attempting to quantify it.  I’m choosing to believe in that theory and focus on what is extraordinary about humanity, rather than what’s disappointing about us.

I get that people are frightened of terrorism, of Donald Trump, of global warming and of the fact too many of us are literally two pay checks away from poverty or homelessness.  I get these things, and share these thoughts, but hunkering down in fear won’t solve the issues we’re facing.  If anything, they’ll exacerbate them.

2017, at least in my view, is the year we turn the tables and make a commitment to hope again.  These things, historically, are cyclical.  In my life time alone we’ve seen the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the mapping of our DNA, realistic plans to head to Mars, Gay marriage in some countries, and we’ve seen a number of women assume the ultimate positions of power in their respective countries despite the fact most of them only obtained the right to vote last century – and in some countries, shockingly, in the latter half of that century.

In a short space of time we’ve taken great strides forward, and we still can – with a little reorientation.  Some people, born in the first quarter of the last century, saw the austerity and fear of the depression, replaced with the excess of the 30s, the terror of the 40s, the boom of the 50s, the free love movement of the 60s, the Cold War and multiple other wars of the 70s and 80s as well as the crazy “greed is good” excess of the 80s and 90s, the fall of the World Trade Centre towers, the mining boom, and more recently all of those other things I’ve already mentioned that have led our collective psyche to a dark place.  Soon, hopefully, we’ll return to happier times and bounce back from the brink we sometimes feel like we’re at right now.

As we move forward into a new year, hopefully some of us (or most of us) will play our own individual roles in creating a brighter future and heralding in a happier time.

Television often reflects where we’re at as a people, and television fare these last few years has definitely been bleak.

With the upcoming release of Star Trek: Discovery, and their pledge to bring back a focus on hope and humans as positive change makers to television, maybe a change is coming?

As a one-time fan of The Walking Dead who got over it after a time because of how depressing it was, it’s interesting to hear a lot of people are now turning from the show because of how bleak and hopeless it is.  It’s happening to a lesser degree with other big, often depressing television shows, so maybe – as a people – we’re ready for something different and we’re tired of seeing human beings in a bad light, and our future as hopeless.

As we prepare to welcome in a new year, here’s to overcoming and rising above the fears caused by global terrorism, here’s to an end to homophobia, transphobia and all of those other ‘obias’ and ‘isms’, and here’s to embracing a future among the stars where there are moonbases and Mars outposts and a humanity focused on enhancing the species rather than destroying or victimising it.

And, here’s to a TV Network or production company being brave enough to rebirth Space: 1999!  I still believe, as a show, it has a unique ability to show us an incredibly positive and amazing near future.

Happy New Year, everyone.  Let’s do our own small part to build a better, brighter future that’s worth living in.

As you go through your own end of year process, whether it results in resolutions or not, I hope you find wisdom, joy, and the courage we all need to be positive change makers.

Space 2049 Page Break

It’s Time for a New Look at Space: 1999

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It’s obvious I’m a fan of Space: 1999, so I’ll happily declare there is a bias present in this article.  To me, the show had a lot going for it – compelling characters, amazing sets, decent (for the time) special effects, and a tone of mystery and hope set against a subtle backdrop of disillusionment and mistrust (two feelings that permeated the 1970s, and coincidentally the twenty-teens).

The series was cancelled before its time despite its popularity, with the sad reality being it kind of killed itself with a lot of retooling between seasons that didn’t sit well with its fans.  Space: 1999 is probably the best example of how not to “fix” a television show if you want that show to survive.  Though season two gave us Maya and Tony, it took from us compelling storylines and a handful of fan favourite characters like Paul and Victor.

Space: 1999 wouldn’t work today as an exact and completely faithful reboot, because we’re 17 years past the titular date of 1999, and we also know more about our moon, our solar system and the near galaxy than we did then.  Not to mention the fact scientists are pretty certain that the moon being ripped from Earth orbit would destroy it and our own planet!  But that doesn’t mean we should dismiss this show and it’s underlying premise.  The characters, the (then) future forward but still focused in reality design aesthetic, the message of hope and exploration, and the crew of Alpha’s fight to survive against overwhelming odds (like we are today with climate change, global terrorism, changing political sensibilities, growing poverty, rising unemployment etc) are as relevant to today’s world as they were 40 plus years ago – and perhaps resonate with more potency now than they did back in the 70s.

With the renewed focus on exploring our solar system and the recent focus on space tourism, asteroid mining and setting up colonies on both the moon and Mars, Space: 1999 is more relevant today than it was in the 1970s when it was first released.

No other science fiction property can so eloquently show us the near future as authentically – if the series is retooled effectively and respectfully.

To clarify that point, shows like The Expanse and the new Star Trek: Discovery (due for release in May next year) do and will focus on the issues I mentioned above, but neither do (or will do) it from a timeframe close to right now.  Though Space: 1999 got a lot wrong (we don’t have a moonbase, we’re not dumping nuclear waste on the moon, and we haven’t received mysterious signals from nearby exoplanets), it did do its best to predict what the near future would look like 24 years into the future (and a lot of people still think the set design and ship designs stack up today, with the Eagle Transporter still spoken of as one of the most realistic space ships ever designed).

For a show like Space: 1999 that has maintained a strong and loyal fan base for 40 years, there are dangers in rebirthing or rebooting it.  There can also be benefits – a lot of them.  No one can forget the trepidation and then remarkable love many of us felt for the Battlestar Galactica reboot.  Ronald D. Moore kept the premise intact, giving more thought and background to the Cylons than the legendary Glen A. Larson had back in the late ’70s, and he kept many of the characters the same – controversially changing some (Starbuck becomes a woman, as does Boomer, and Athena is no longer Adama’s daughter, but a Cylon) and adding in new characters to flesh out that ‘world’.

Someone seeking to bring Space: 1999 back could go that route, but there are other approaches that would be equally as successful.

One alternate is the one I ascribe to here on this site, with the budding fan script I’ve been writing.

Space 2049‘s premise attempts to remain completely loyal to the original idea of Space: 1999, but instead of destructively blasting our moon out of Earth’s orbit, which, as mentioned above would be pretty apocalyptic for all of us down on the planet as well as the people on Alpha, it blasts a second moon – an asteroid that was captured by Earth’s gravity – out of Earth’s orbit and sends that second moon on a trip through our solar system toward an anomaly transmitting radio signals toward Earth from Jupiter orbit.

Most of the characters are the same, with one or two added in to reflect the role business will play in space colonisation, and with one or two secondary characters having their races and genders changed to better reflect a diverse settlement.  Overall the premise is identical and follows the thematic tone of the first season of Space: 1999.

As a devoted fan, that to me, makes sense.

While there is only the remotest of chances our homeworld will capture an asteroid and make it a second moon, it is entirely possible according to the research I’ve done.  It’s certainly more possible and less catastrophic than our moon getting ejected from orbit.

For the record, I looked at a space station being blasted out of orbit, but after two weeks of exhaustive research discovered there was NO WAY an artificial construct could survive that sort of catastrophe intact.

A few years back, Jace Hall of V (the reboot) fame attempted to bring Space: 1999 back as Space 2099, but that very quietly fell apart about two years ago.

From what I can find online, Space 2099 was going to honour the original in theme, but not necessarily in any other way.

I was a fan of this attempt at a reboot, but admit I would have been disappointed if too much had changed, and would have been really upset if Koenig, Russell and Maya hadn’t featured in it.

The pre-production efforts of the team behind Space 2099 didn’t reveal much to the wider public, though they did actively communicate with us all for a while at the forum on their website, but despite inviting the fans in we don’t know a lot about the show.  What we do know is that the reboot is no more.

Looking at the very few promo images that made it into the public domain, all I – all any of us – can do is guess.  My guess is we would have had a Moonbase Alpha, but there would have been no object blasted out of Earth’s orbit.  I believe they would have used Alpha as a jump point for a ship tasked with exploring beyond our solar system.

Regardless of what anyone might do with a reboot, it really is time for another look at Space: 1999.  Despite the rubbish monster of the week show it turned into in its second season, it was originally an intelligent, philosophical, meaningful show that would be successful right now in the current television landscape.

Even with a controversial new President due to take power in the United States in January, and a very unstable global community with issues like Brexit and ISIL featuring in world headlines on a daily basis, it seems clear that NASA and other interests will continue to push toward the moon and Mars.

As our climate continues to change, as our planet’s population continues to exceed our homeworlds’ ability to support humanity, and as our earthly resources continue to diminish, we’ll be forced more and more to focus on space as a solution to our growing global problems.

Has there ever been a better time for a show like Space: 1999 to shine?

A show that looks ahead a few years and poses realistic solutions to growing world problems could be really important, and that postulation could all still happen against an allegorical background of space adventure and fun.

Hopefully someone in TV production land is thinking the same thing.

It’s time for a new look at this old gem.

I wish I knew what derailed Jace’s vision, but more than that I hope someone sees value in a show of this kind and gives Space: 1999 a new life that the fans can love and a new TV audience can celebrate.

Space 1999 Page Break