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10 Ways To Make a Kick Ass Version of ‘Space: 1999’
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By Broadcasting Brain

Space: 1999Space: 1999, the first major science fiction television series to follow Star Trek, deserves a second chance at life. Space: 1999, which ran from 1975-77, chronicles the adventures of an international crew of scientists and specialists on Earth’s Moon. Although it was cancelled after two seasons, fans still fondly remember the series. In light of other pop culture recycling that permeates today’s creative content, why not see what can be reused from this series?

As Space: 1999 begins, Commander John Koenig arrives at Moonbase Alpha, charged with ensuring the successful launch of a manned deep space probe after a series of mysterious crew deaths. His old colleague Professor Victor Bergman is there as chief scientist and advisor, while Chief Medical Officer Dr. Helena Russell tries to determine the cause of the deaths. The cause is determined to be radiation poisoning from unstable nuclear waste disposal sites, which explode, blasting the Moon out of Earth’s orbit, on an unknown trajectory at unknown speed, towards open space.

The series is a story of survival, adventure, and hope as the crew of Moonbase Alpha, the only manned settlement not on the Earth, searches for a new home in space. They encounter aliens, other humanoid civilizations, space phenomena, fearsome machines, and have several failed encounters with planets which could have provided homes for the lost Earthlings. You might see some parallels with later series like Battlestar Galactica (both versions) and Star Trek: Voyager.

Despite a small but loyal fan following, Space: 1999 never achieved mainstream popularity. The British TV series did not receive critical acclaim and the lack of popular success led to its cancellation following the end of its second season. The science, the writing, and the acting ranged from awful to the occasional good episode. The second season, designed to inject some action, sex appeal, and humor into the show, destroyed the moody, scary vibe that helped make the series successful in season one. The execution fell flat most of the time and the show was cancelled after year two.

Space: 1999 Comic BookNevertheless, Space: 1999 made a impression on 1970’s science fiction and it’s still remembered with some fondness today. The series spawned toys, lunchboxes, novels, comic books, and a series of successful fan conventions. A fan-made film, starring one of the original Space: 1999 cast members, served as a coda to the series. The original stars even reunited for a short 19th century parody of the show!

I’ve watched the show at different times over the years and although I’m more aware of its faults, I see lots of potential with the concept. It occurred to me that if someone could (very) successfully remake Battlestar Galactica, why couldn’t someone do the same thing with Space: 1999? Heck, they’re even trying it with Star Trek!

Why couldn’t someone take the best elements of the show and them to re-imagine Space: 1999? The key concept of Earth’s Moon traveling through space would have to be preserved, as would many of the characters and conventions (e.g., Moonbase Alpha, Eagle transport ships, key characters like Koenig, Bergman, and Russell). However, this would be a chance to do it better.

Had I the resources and finances, there are ten things that I would do to make a kick ass remake of Space: 1999.


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Space: 1999-The Moon Blasting out of Earth's OrbitChange how the Moon left Earth’s orbit. Author Harlan Ellison put it well: If the explosions occurred on the Dark Side of the Moon (the side that faces away from the Earth), then why didn’t the Moon slam into the Earth? Or fracture and explode for that matter? And, if the Moon is moving that fast, how do small reconnaissance ships ever catch up to it? My solution: a space warp is created that shifts the Moon to a new position in space. Moreover, I would make this “shifting” a regular event that can’t be prevented.

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Space: 1999?Change the meaning of 1999. Clearly, basing a new SF series in 1999 might be a hard sell. However, there’s still brand recognition that come from the name Space: 1999. Therefore, I would keep 1999 as a recurring value or theme in the reimagined series. The 1999 theme would reveal itself throughout the series in several different ways:

  1. One of the main characters will receive a secret communication on Sept. 13, 1999 (in honor of the date of the Moon blasting out of Earth orbit in the original series) but the new series will be set in 2039.
  2. A mysterious Project 1999 will be an ongoing plot element during part of the series.

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David Kano (Clifton Jones)Give bigger roles and more meaning to the secondary characters, as per the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. Minor characters like David Kano (computer expert), Sandra Benes (data analyst), Dr. Mathias (physician), Alan Carter (Chief Eagle Pilot), and Paul Morrow (second in command of Moonbase Alpha) could be developed to add more color to the show.

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John Koenig (Martin Landau)John Koenig would suffer from some form of mental illness. This could be used to create ongoing tension and suspense in the series, i.e., will he finally crack under the pressure? In the original series, Koenig was a bit uptight and aloof, but he did occasionally explode. The continual possibility of Koeing having a breakdown would make things interesting. Moreover, if people started to doubt his ability to lead, then it would put Paul Morrow into the spotlight and force him to make difficult choices (loyalty to a superior officer vs. the welfare of the entire moonbase crew).

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Dr. Helena Russell (Barbara Bain)Give the chief medical officer a debilitating illness. What if Helena Russell became horribly sick? I originally thought of cancer, but since that’s awfully close to what happened with Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactica, I would have Russell develop the symptoms of multiple sclerosis or the same disease that Stephen Hawking has. Let’s turn up the pressure a few more notches!

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Prof. Victor Bergman (Barry Morse)Compromise Prof. Victor Bergman’s character. Prof. Bergman was the kindly “space uncle” and wise old man of the original series. I’d like to keep that, but at the same time, I think Bergman would have to be compromised in some way. Maybe he’s a double agent of sorts, serving multiple agendas? I think he would be the one who receives the secret signal that I mention in point 2a.

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Moonbase AlphaMoonbase Alpha. When I hear that name, I think “the first moonbase.” What if there was more than one moonbase? If there were, what happened to them? I think the stories of other moonbases could tie in to some bigger mysteries in the new series.

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Thaed, from planet Sunim (Episode: A Matter of Balance)Arch-enemy/nemesis. Space: 1999 should have its equivalent of the Cylon, the Romulans, the Shadows, or the Borg. Maybe a race of shape-shifters like the Skrull from Marvel Comics would add some excitement. And, speaking of shapeshifters…

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Maya (Catherine Schell)Maya 2.0. Maya was a shapeshifting character introduced in the second season of Space: 1999. She replaced Bergman while providing a love interest for one of the other main characters. She could be a sex-changing sexpot or another Odo. Maybe a traitor?

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Planet EarthA purpose for their journey through space. Just as Battlestar Galactica should end when the Colonials reach Earth, the journey of Earth’s Moon through space should lead to some destination. It doesn’t have to be a physical destination, but we do need some answers!

Sometimes a great idea goes awry as a result of loss of direction or poor execution. There were good idea seeds in Space: 1999 that really deserve a chance to flourish again. Hopefully some brilliant creative crew may someday read this article and use it to launch a new, better Space: 1999.

———

Broadcasting Brain (aka Mark Dykeman) was a fanboy geek before it was cool. He fondly remembers $0.50 comic books, seeing the debut of Star Wars Ep. IV and his old Atari 2600. He also writes about social media and stuff at Broadcasting Brain.

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