Rag Tag Fugitive Fleet Or Ships Of The Line? The SyFy Development Slate Boosts For High Orbit

Alasdair Stuart writes for Bleeding Cool.

The SyFy channel have had a busy few days. As well as confirming the Blake’s 7 remake and renewing Being Human for a fourth season, they announced they were taking High Moon to pilot and would adapting Ringworld and Childhood’s End for mini-series.

Coupled with the announcement of the full season order for the Ron Moore produced show Helix, there’s a very real air of ‘SEE, we DO do things which aren’t reality TV and pro wrestling! HA!’ to this and, honestly, I welcome it. Especially as the slate of things they’re looking at has some potential gems in it. Deadline published the full breakdown, but here it is again, with a little added commentary.

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Legion

A TV version of the 2010 action-horror movie in which Paul Bettany plays the archangel Gabriel, defending the second coming from the end of the world. I was quite fond of the original movie, but even I freely admit it was horribly lumpy with pacing all over the place and about three ideas too many. A TV version would be a much better fit, and, if they pulled the trigger on it being post-apocalyptic, would have a pretty unique feel. It almost certainly won’t go that way, but this still has my attention. Don’t hold your breath for Mr Bettany to return.

Orion 

In this space opera Orion, an adventurous female relic hunter, tracks down valuable artifacts while trying to piece together her past.  Set amidst an intergalactic war pitting humans against a terrifying alien race, Orion must decide whether to use her abilities to save herself or commit to the cause and unearth long hidden artifacts that could free all of humanity from a horrible fate.

So that’d be Tomb Raider in space, then? And you know what? That actually sounds pretty fun. Sci-fi Archaeologists haven’t exactly been over taxed and the fact this is being executive produced and written by Ron Milbauer & Terri Hughes Burton of Alphas means it should have a welcome edge to it.

Sojourn

The first detective ever in space is tasked with investigating a murder on a starship — headed to colonize another planet – and instead becomes embroiled in a vast conspiracy involving a mysterious terrible crime dating back to the original launch of the ship 50 years ago.

I’m actually really up for this. Firstly, I’m a sucker for ‘generation ship’ stories at the best of times and secondly, the juxtaposition of that with a fish out of water cop story is really smart. Done right this could be claustrophobic and nasty, sort of a cross between Murder in Space without the rubbish bits and Outland. Phil Levens, of Smallville, is writing and Jason Blum of Paranormal Activity is directing.

Clandestine 

After a clan of bandits are nearly destroyed and left for dead by Coalition forces, they take refuge in the nearest safe haven, a derelict Coalition starship floating in space.  Once onboard, they masquerade as Coalition officers while continuing their criminal ways – until they stumble upon a shocking realization about the true nature of the Coalition.

At first glance the concept as described seems to be a chop-shop combination of Firefly and Blake’s 7 and, well, that’s not a show of faith from a network that just bought into a Blakes’ 7 do-over. On the other hand, this is one of three straight up ‘spaceship shows’ that they’re developing and that’s been a hole in their line up for years. Secondly, the talent on this one is really, really interesting.

Dennis Calero is a veteran comic and concept artist currently doing great work on Masks and Todd Stashwick is one of my all-time favorite character actors. Seriously, you’ve seen Stashwick, odds are, multiple times as he’s appeared in Justified, Leverage, CSI: Miami and a particularly great turn in Supernatural as Dracula. He’s also the co-creator of the web comic Devil Inside, with Calero. Throw in John Shiban and Gale Anne Hurd on producing duties and there’s real muscle on the bones of this one.

Infinity

When an alien armada is sighted in the region of Pluto, the Earth government turns to a young billionaire industrialist — who has the only ship ready for interstellar travel — to greet the aliens and avoid a catastrophe.  Powered by secret alien technology discovered on Earth in the 1960’s, the ship engages in a firefight that sends them spinning through a wormhole into an uncharted region of space.  Lost in the universe, the team struggles to survive as they encounter new planets and alien species, searching for a way back home.

Between this, Sojourn and Clandestine you can’t accuse SyFy of not wanting to do a spaceship show. This is the most Star Trek-y of all of them, with, I suspect, that light seasoning of the grit that no one but me liked in Stargate:Universe. I’m intrigued by the present-day setting, more intrigued by the fact there’s an air of ‘Tony Stark! In! Spaaaaace!’ to this and even more intrigued by the ticking clock built into the premise. However, the thing that really has my attention is Javier Grillo-Marxuach of The Middleman on writing duties. He has exactly the skewed sensibilities to make this interesting.

Silver Shields

When his father is slain by assassins connected to the government of the large nearby city of Pont Royal, farm boy Caymer journeys there to continue his father’s legacy as a member of the local police force — and to solve the mystery of his father’s death.  He discovers that his simple country view on life is at odds with the big city, filled with orcs and other magical creatures.

I will bet you a shiny piece of generic fantasy currency that whether we ever see this on our screens is dependent on how well the BBC’s Discworld series about The Watch does. The idea is very similar and, whilst I welcome any fantasy TV show that works, this has the potential to go cutesy. If it does, then the teeth that the concept has – think Ripper Street crossed with Game of Thrones – might all be pulled. I’m not too hopeful but I have to say, the presence of another Alphas alum, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, as writer and executive producer does have my attention.

Shelter

A massive meteorite is headed toward Earth, forcing 30,000 hand-picked humans to live underground in a government funded shelter in order to start a new society.  What begins as a Utopia quickly succumbs to the old human faults and jealousies as certain members of society create alliances to gain favor and power.  Meanwhile things on the surface are not what they seem. Humans slowly realize that this event may have been fated and the survivors meant for a greater purpose in rebooting life on Earth.

As one of the last great philosophers of the 20th Century once sung, whilst shirtless no less, “Things that make you go Hmm.”

Done right this could be a lot of fun, but I’m honestly not certain it can be. I’m willing to bet the “So, when can he get out of the phonebooth?” conversation has already been had and, whilst I like the idea, this looks a little like The Walking Dead without the zombies. Bruce Joel Rubin is executive producing and writing, and he did Deep Impact, which is either a point in the show’s favor or an excuse to run to the hills, depending on your point of view.

All in all that’s a ridiculously strong developmental slate. I’m very interested in Sojourn, Clandestine and Infinity and the rest are varied, but all have potential. Here’s hoping SyFy hold their nerve and we see a few of these on screen soon.

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