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The Latest Reboot: 'Space: 1999'

Can the Seventies cult series be successfully shifted into a new "near future"?

By

Space: 2099

Official poster for the proposed new series.

Jace Hall / Space2099TheSeries.com

In the annals of science-fiction television, where many bizarre ideas have been realized in film and videotape, among those requiring the greatest suspension of disbelief is the idea that our dead satellite, the moon -- freed from Earth's orbit by a massive explosion -- might then wander the vast and empty cosmos, somehow passing an interesting planet every week and serving as a viable home for a colony of unwilling adventurers.

But Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's ITV series Space: 1999, a British project rejected by the U.S. networks despite the hopeful casting of high-profile Americans as the two leads, got made anyway. And it was innovative and picturesque and atmospheric, and now it's remembered as cult TV and loved by new generations for its Seventies kitsch and those impressive Eagle spaceships.

So -- said the people at ITV Studios America and the guy behind the failed reboot of V -- why not make it again? If Eighties kitsch didn't work, Seventies kitsch has got to be the ticket!

What Kind of Reboot?

But is the idea going to be to redo Space: 1999 like Battlestar Galactica and, to a lesser extent, V was redone -- darker and grittier? Not really, say the creators behind Space: 2099. The goal isn't to reenvision the plotlines of 1999, but our somewhat eroded sense of space as the unnervingly unknown.

"Space: 2099's goal is not to attempt to re-tell the specific story of Space: 1999," producer Jace Hall, who describes himself as a fan of the old series, told io9. "However, through our new story and presentation, Space: 2099 hopes to re-kindle and remind fans of those memories of a show from 35 years ago, but more importantly help bring back to all science fiction fans that sense of awe, fear and incredible spectacle that is the unknown, unexplored universe."

Hall went on to say that, as with the original series, the near-future setting invites a recognizable, but extrapolated, future that viewers can easily place themselves in. "Space: 1999 presented a very near future societal depiction where a moonbase had been established, and the show worked to successfully convince us that it was a reasonable vision to have given where the world was in the 70s," he said. "In a similar but much more emphasized vein, one of the key elements in our depiction will be as much plausibility as possible. Since we are dealing with a future timeframe of only around 80 years, there will still be plenty of familiar things around -- however evolved they happen to be. It is this kind of projected iteration and future evolution that can be fun to depict as well as very thought-provoking."

"Heck, I Thought of Space: 2099!"

Almost as soon as the series went off the air in 1977 after two (somewhat different) seasons, and more so as 1999 actually approached and passed, all the show's fans were wondering what an updated, 21st-century version would be like -- a version inevitably titled Space: 2099. Some went further than imagining and actually drew up scripts and videos -- including the Canadian production company Retcon studios, who told Airlock Alpha that their project, designed more to provide an ending for the old series than reboot it, predates the just-announced Hall/ITV reboot.

"I am probably not the first one to have thought of forwarding 1999 to 2099, let's be realistic," said Eric Bernard. "It doesn't take a high IQ to go from 19 to 20. But to actually make something with it is another matter. The amount of work that was involved to [enhance] the original series into Space: 2099 was considerable, and I am very proud of what we have done."

All this sounds like the various Battlestar projects, including Richard Hatch's advanced efforts, that swirled through fandom before the reenvisioned series. But the new version of Space: 1999 is a big deal. For ITV Studios America, currently known for producing high-profile reality series like Hell's Kitchen but looking to further expand their presence in drama (e.g., Eleventh Hour), Space: 2099 represents a strong opportunity to leverage British content in the American market in competition with BBC and BBC America; for Jace Hall, it's a chance to establish himself as firmly in television drama as he's done in the video game industry and new media.

A Sager Rebooter

"I was the person with the deep passion for V -- that's why I wanted to bring it back," Hall told io9. "At the time, my relative newness to television production at that level just couldn't support me being given the authority to see it through from front to back."

But things will be different this time, he said. "For Space: 2099 this is not an issue, because we are super passionate about this project and we are in a command position that allows us to execute on the vision."

Does everything old need to be rebooted again? And can everything old be rebooted successfully? That's a very different question now compared to ten years ago, before the new versions of Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, the Star Trek feature film, and countless others. Still, there continue to be a myriad of stark failures alongside the successes -- remember Flash Gordon? Knight Rider? Bionic Woman? How about Wonder Woman? Or -- dare we say -- V?

It's no longer enough to just roll your eyes and marvel at the waste of remaking something that already exists, as I once did (and occasionally still do). The only remaining question seems to be: Can the new envisioner -- in this case, impresario Jace Hall -- make the old material entertaining enough to be worth watching in newfangled form?

Meanwhile, for those of you who haven't done so, the remastered Blu-Ray and DVD versions editions of the original series -- starring Action!Martin Landau, Inaction!Barbara Bain, Barry Morse, Catherine Schell, Prentis Hancock and more, and featuring writing by such familiar-to-sci-fi-buffs names as Pip and Jane Baker, Johnny Byrne, Terrance Dicks, and Fred Freiberger -- are worth checking out, though the DVD collections a little pricey at full retail (compare prices here).

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