18 September 2008

[sf] Space:2099 – Not Just A Space:1999 Revival, A Full Upgrade


NASA is talking about returning America the the Moon. Another individual is wanting to return us to the Moon as well ... the Moon of Moonbase Alpha, Commander Koenig, and Space: 1999.

Eric Bernard is a video editor and director who lives in Montreal, Quebec. Just like a lot of us who remember the state of SF TV in those interregnum days between the original Star Trek and the full flower of the franchise, he remembers Space: 1999 with all the same fondness that most of of us SF TV geeks do, and that Space, despite its obvious flaws (continuity, goofy aliens, Barbara Bain's restrained acting style, and the entire 2nd Season) was a bright spot in the wasteland that was the years between the Treks.

Space:2099 Title CardOne would think that with all the 70s and 80s ideas being "reimagined" into new, updated, and edgy things it was only a matter of time until someone revisited the Moonscape of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. Space:1999, of course, presents its own set of problems, not the least of which was the glaringly dated title and the equally-dated fashions, as well as the science (such as it was) of the series. Today, even the most tyro SF fan is sophisticated enough to know that any explosion that would propel the Moon from orbit would be enough to shatter it utterly.

Bernard stepped up to these challenges and acknowledged some latter-day television realities. The result: Space: 2099, a reimagining and upgrade of the series that not only freshens it, but makes it current. How?

One of the biggest flaws of updating S:1999 was its format. As many series of the day, each episode was a self-contained story and the only thing really linking the whole series together was the writer's bible. Today's TV series are expected to have multi-episode story arcs and strong plot and sub-plot threads that weave each season into a coherent whole. Also, the concept of "TV Season" has evolved somewhat since the 1970s; back then, networks ordered a run of 24 episodes. Contrast this to today when even American TV programs have shorter seasons or even interrupted ones.

Eric Bernard has created a new chronology for the original series, reorganizing them into three seasons of 11, 12, and 12 episodes. Each episode is reënvisioned with a "Previously" sequence, tying the sequence of stories into a coherent evolving whole.

Space:2099 Episode List

What's even better about it is that Bernard, drawing on his skill as an editor, has devoted loving care to making the visuals more believable. Videophone and commlock screens that showed black and white now show color. The Bergmann forcefield in the "Black Sun" episode now covers the entire base. The Travel Tube has been updated (and the Eagle docking tube scenes have been redone to make them more believable). He's even re-imagined the Moon's breakaway from Earth, having the explosion not break the Moon out of orbit but opening a spatial rift that pulls the Moon away (in the pilot episode, retitled "The Void Ahead", which was the original working titile of Space:1999) ... and depositing it chartless light years across the universe, neatly solving one of the series' biggest criticisms.

While most of us remember Space:1999 and think of what could have been he looked at it and imagined how it can be again.

Now, it must be said that this is not a complete redoing of the entire series. The website contains clips, not entire episodes; many eps are referred to in a text summary. But what is there is fantastic. After leaving a comment on his website, he contacted me by email, and his response is quite enlightening:

Thanks for your appreciation of Space: 2099. I am really glad that you found my work interesting enough to take the time to write to me about it. Yes, like you Space 1999 has a special place in my hearth. I have tried to be as respectful to the show as possible, showing the seriousness of the series and removing some silly aspect. All this to give it the push it needed to live longer....

The next step is now making an approach with the owner of Space 1999 and show them the project (with budget and everything). The website is made as a Focus Group methode to confirm and stimulate the potential of a enhanced version of the original series. Up to now, the respond has been clear that such a project could be a way to revitalize the franchise of Space:1999 if well treated by its maker. The website will be eventually shown to Granada as a High quality visual storyboard with audience support and hopefully it will trigger something ...maybe going as far as having a new series based on this enhanced version of the show....but first thing first, making space 2099 an official reality is my first goal...and receiving supporting emails like your make me want to go foward.

We're spreading the word as best we can ... if  you loved Space:1999, you'll love Space:2099 as well. Go on over to http://space2099.tv and give it a look see ... and encourage Eric by leaving good feedback.

His video editing skills are mad, yo. We're still picking our jaws up off the floor by what he did with the graphics. And he did away with the Season 2 opening titles! Yay! We hated those!

While you're at it, here's some good Space:1999 fan sites that you may not have heard about:

  • Space:1999.net ... a front end for a network of fan sites

  • The Catacombs ... The most complete, encyclopedic, and serious S1999 resource out there. What they haven't compiled about the series probably isn't worth knowing.

  • Space:1999.org ... another fan site, but a more glossy production. Lots of good stuff here too.

  • Powys Media ... A Los Angeles-based publisher with a Welsh name specializing in Chicano and Anhuac literature that also just so happens to publish new, original S1999 stories. Somehow, it all works.

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