Prosthesis: I, for one, anticipate a renewal of their adventure (MTV’s War of the Worlds)

H/T to Nate Cull, who brought this to my attention after I’d mistaken it for something else.

In which I desperately play for time because of shipping delays which threaten to screw up my posting schedule…

You may perhaps recall that back in 2012, when I was in the middle of spending far too many years getting through my analysis of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, I learned that Gary Goddard had gotten it into his head to produce a reboot of the series under the title Phoenix Rising. There’s a teaser trailer now. It… Okay, I don’t really know what people who make teaser trailers for in-development TV shows are shooting for because I haven’t seen one that actually looked good in a long time. I mean, Jesus, the CGI starship model in the Star Trek Discovery teaser looked awful. The Phoenix Rising teaser isn’t terrible, but it’s maybe a little over the top, and the Power Suit mockup has the same creepy “Textured to look like it’s made of sinew” thing that creeped me the fuck out in the Power Rangers trailer that came out last week. But yay! A concrete thing you can look at.

You might also remember that about a year ago, I wrote about Mystery Science Theater 3000, and then a week later Joel Hodgson started a kickstarter to revive the series. The kickstarter made its goal pretty much instantly and the new series is well into production.

Last July, I meandered over and wrote about Alien Nation, and at the time, there’d been various talks over the course of years about doing something with that franchise, but I guess that me blogging about it made things serious because a feature film reboot actually seems to be moving forward now.

Then things got super weird because I randomly decided I wanted to write about Les Liasons Dangereuses and a few months later, NBC was like “Hey, let’s do a Cruel Intentions TV series!”

So you can probably see where this is going: MTV is going to do a TV series based on The War of the Worlds. Because of course they are. I doubt many details have actually been decided at this stage, and fewer still made public, but early reports suggest that it’s based directly on the novel, rather than any particular adaptation. It’s being developed by the same creative team as the 2011 Teen Wolf TV series (Not to be confused with all the other Teen Wolf franchises), and among its executive producers is Jeff Barry, Gene Barry’s grandson.

A lot of the interwebs are alight with people hoping that this adaptation will be entirely faithful to the book, which I presume means that they never read the book, and certainly never saw Timothy Hines’s slavishly book-faithful adaptation. That said, I think that a TV series in particular is a format where you probably could make something out of the structure and style of the original novel without it becoming a straight-up slog. Because for a TV show, you don’t need one single story with a beginning, middle, and end, where the actions of the protagonists build toward a climax. You need a whole bunch of small stories about people getting on with their lives which build up to a larger story. And in this regard, an invasion of alien death machines from Mars can work exactly the same way as a zombie plague does for The Walking Dead or a disease did for The Last Ship, The Survivors, Jeremiah, The Tribe and The Stand, or angels did for Dominion: as primarily a background element that serves as a persistent side-threat for the characters as they go about the day-to-day business of trying to stay alive deprived of the support system of civilization. In that regard, The War of the Worlds is as promising a premise as anything, even if there’s nothing especially distinctive that they’d be bringing. Also, it’s MTV, so probably there’s going to be attractive young people in love triangles.

What’s strange, when I think about it, is that there hasn’t, far as I know, been very many British adaptations of War of the Worlds. The whole “A catastrophe wipes out most of mankind and the survivors limp along trying to sort out keeping a modest civilization still going,” is a fairly quintessential British Sci Fi trope. There’s been a recent fad for it in the US, as some of my examples above suggest, but the British were doing this at least as far back as the ’70s. The Tripods is pretty much the War of the Worlds adaptation I just sketched out with the serial numbers filed off. There’s even a British radio play spin-off of Independence Day. So why not go all-in?

Oh. Duh. Because The War of the Worlds was still under copyright in the UK, and the British television industry can not abide by paying the estates of people for rights to make adaptations of things. I wonder when H. G. Wells died…

Whaddya know. The 70th anniversary of his death was back in August. And since Disney does not control the copyright laws of the UK, British copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the author, rather than the US’s “X+1 years where X is the number of years since Steamboat Willie“. (Though for some reason, every source I can find says that the copyright actually runs out in December. The exact details of British copyright law are beyond me. The original serialized version of the novel finished its first run in December, 1897, so possibly copyright statuses change on the anniversary of publication?)

And this is why I confused the news about MTV’s War of the Worlds with something else. Because back in December, ITV announced that they too were working on a TV adaptation of The War of the Worlds, with production set to begin once the rights expired. Not a lot of details out on this one either, but it seems likely to be a period piece, and at the helm will be Peter Harness, showrunner for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, who also, for what it’s worth, wrote “The Zygon Invasion”/”The Zygon Inversion” for Doctor Who.

In a complete non-coincidence, the passing of the novel into British public domain will also be marked by a new sequel by Stephen Baxter, The Massacre of Mankind, slated to publish in January. I have no idea how copyright didn’t enter into this one, but some decades ago, Baxter published a sequel to The Time Machine called The Time Ships, which I found a pleasant read. Years later, I found out that The Time Ships hadn’t originally been written as a sequel to The Time Machine, though: he’s originally pitched it as a Doctor Who novel. I feel like the universe is imploding.

So, I don’t know whether or not I’m actually looking forward to the MTV series. The prospect of watching a new TV series tends to fill me with existential dread these days as the whole “One more damned thing to do,” burden becomes heavier and the return-on-investment for my time slips. But I’ll give it a shot, for you, dear reader.

Anything else you’d like me to resurrect? I’m seriously considering doing a series about Knight Rider once I wrap up War of the Worlds, but I’m starting to worry, because damn is that a franchise that needs to lay fallow for a few decades.

12 thoughts on “Prosthesis: I, for one, anticipate a renewal of their adventure (MTV’s War of the Worlds)

  1. Stephen Phillips

    Max Headroom. I feel like, while I enjoyed your post on Max, you could do the whole series, since it’s short. Or, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Wizards and Warriors, Manimal, Street Hawk, Nightman, Freddy’s Nightmares, the Phoenix (now, THAT is an obscure show!) or even Misfits of Science…

  2. Ross Post author

    Ooh. Max Headroom. I’m not 100% sure I could actually contrive enough to keep saying, but it’s certainly a thought.

    The rest of your list appears to have come from the youtube video I watched last night of the most ridiculous Sci-Fi TV series title sequences of the ’80s. (Seriously, I think six of them were on there, three of which I had never heard of until then).

    I wonder if Misfits of Science is out on DVD…

  3. Stephen Phillips

    I actually still remember The Phoenix. Basically, someone took the idea of Chariots of the Gods and ran with it. Gold Monkey was an Indiana Jones pastiche. Manimal was, um, basically Manimal. Freddy’s Nightmares is a personal favorite.

    As far as Max Headroom, theres a lot going on, there. The show really tried to immerse you in a future that seems more and more normal every day.

    I also recommend the 1990 Flash TV show!

  4. Ross Post author

    For my money, the best thing about Manimal is that he inexplicably shows up in an episode of Nightman fifteen years later.

  5. Stephen Phillips

    That’s basically why I mentioned Nightman. I never watched Nightman, other than to sort of be in the room when it was on, but I have a friend who loved it. AND Manimal, which I DID watch.

    Whatever you turn your attention to next, I’ve no doubt I will be entertained and informed!

  6. Frank

    Knowing mtv doesn’t really do stuff like 19th century England, and that viacom(paramount) owns them, I’m really hoping that this thing is connected to the 1988 series.

  7. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for October 21th, 2016 | The Slacktiverse

  8. Nate

    ” I’m seriously considering doing a series about Knight Rider once I wrap up War of the Worlds, but I’m starting to worry, because damn is that a franchise that needs to lay fallow for a few decades. ”

    Aww man I SO want a modern Knight Rider. But I want the Mr Robot / Person of Interest / Nowhere Man / La Femme Nikita 1997 version of it. I want a Knight Rider where Knight Industries is Peter Thiel and the Koch Brothers, FLAG is Uber, and KITT is HAL by way of Siri. I want the Knight Rider eight-year-old me glimpsed in the quiet terror of those opening lines: “A dangerous flight into the shadowy world of a man who does not exist”.

    But, sadly, we live in a world of criminals who operate above the law, and therefore:
    In December 2015, a media report indicated that a new movie named Knight Rider Heroes is in the works and will include David Hasselhoff.[30]
    A new series is in the works, expected to launch 2017. It will be a joint production of Machinima and Justin Lin’s media company YouOffendMeYouOffendMyFamily.[31]

    Hey, how about The Starlost? Could any studio conceivably do a worse job than the original?

  9. Ross Post author

    Oh for the love of God. Why won’t they let it die? There’s been persistent rumors of the Hoff plotting to bring back Knight Rider for at least 20 years now, often at the same time as other revivals were already going on.

    I actually took a swing at The Starlost years ago, and fizzled out before I even got to the Walter Koenig episode. I’ve probably got a higher tolerance now, so it’s worth considering I guess.

  10. Nate

    Haha oh man of COURSE you did The Starlost. I must have read it way back and forgot it.

    “On the trashed bridge, Anton La Vey explains the mission of the Pices (and for some reason gives its size in “Jewbic Meters”).”

    Wut. Oww my brain. Wut. They. Wut.

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