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There is more science fiction on television now than there has been in many years. Many of these shows are brand new creations, or adaptations from comics, video games, or other source material. But a few are actually remakes or re-imaginings of shows of years past. If you could have your choice of any science-fiction shows from the past to be remade, re-imagined, or reborn, which ones would you choose? I’m sure there are many good choices, and I have a few ideas for some new (old) television I would like to share with you as well. Here is my Top 5 list:
#5 Thundarr the Barbarian
Thundarr the Barbarian was a Saturday morning cartoon created by Steve Gerber for Ruby-Spears Productions. The show ran for two seasons and 21 episodes on ABC (1980-1982) and another season of reruns on NBC the following year. The series focused on the exploits of a roaming barbarian (Thundarr) and his two friends (Ookla the Mok, and Princess Ariel) in a post-apocalyptic Earth of 3994 that was divided into kingdoms and territories ruled by a wide assortment of wizards and warlords. Thundarr and his friends helped the weak fight against the evil and powerful, and many within the world began to fear this powerful hero and his legendary sun-sword.
Thundarr the Barbarian is on my list of science-fiction shows because the series was memorable for its strong storytelling and creative characters, as well as its depiction of many famous landmarks from our modern world in this future world. The idea that a “runaway planet” passing Earth could cause great devastation is not as far-fetched in today’s world as it would have been back in 1980. I would love to see this series depicted in live action in 2016 with modern technology and story-telling techniques.
BraveStarr was a syndicated cartoon created by Lou Scheimer for Filmation Studios and Group W Productions. The series ran for one season and 65 episodes in 1987-1988 and featured the exploits of the legendary Marshall BraveStarr, a 23rd Century Native American lawman on the planet of New Texas – a planetary system orbiting three suns 1,957 light-years from Earth. BraveStarr and his cyborg stallion companion Thirty/Thirty faced all comers in the fight for justice on New Texas, but regularly came into conflict with criminals associated with villainous masterminds Stampede and Tex-Hex. BraveStarr and Thirty/Thirty were formidable as lawmen in their own right, but BraveStarr also had the unique ability to temporarily call upon “spirit animals” when needed to further enhance his abilities. BraveStarr could achieve super-vision and receive an aerial perspective (Eyes of the Hawk) obtain super-human hearing (Ears of the Wolf) super-human strength (Strength of the Bear) and super-human speed (Speed of the Puma) by calling upon those ancient spirit animals.
BraveStarr made my list of science-fiction shows because of the multi-cultural and diverse natures of the title character, his friends, and the many inhabitants of the New Texas. The stories were innovative and imaginative – something I think would be well-received by audiences in today’s world. I would also love to see BraveStarr remade in live action for today’s world instead of returning as an animated series. To see him tangle with some of the other heroes or villains out there in 2016 would also be very interesting. With his extraordinary abilities, he would certainly be a lot to handle.
#3 Ulysses 31
Ulysses 31 was a French-Japanese syndicated cartoon created by Nina Wolmark and Jean Chalopin for DIC. The series ran one season and 26 episodes from 1981-1982. The series updated the mythological adventures of Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses in Latin) to interstellar space and the 31st century. Ulysses 31 had the main character face many of the same familiar monsters, villains, and threats from the original stories, re-imagined in a space setting with added alien beings and futuristic technology. In this version, the Gods of Olympus are angered when Ulysses, commander of the giant spaceship Odyssey, kills the giant Cyclops to save a group of enslaved children, including his own son Telemachus. Zeus sentences Ulysses to travel the universe with his crew frozen in suspended animation until he finds the Kingdom of Hades, at which point his crew will be revived and he will then be able to return safely to Earth.
I chose this science-fiction series for my list because of how well done the original series was, and how timeless the Greek hero stories are. Many viewers will be familiar with the legendary Odysseus and eager to see his adventures in a new setting. This series seems a perfect fit for a streaming networks in live action, or as a new version of the animated series. Live action with today’s technology, direction, and writers would make this classic series even more appealing.
#2 The Tomorrow People
The Tomorrow People was one of my favorite shows growing up – I originally saw it on during its Nickelodeon run a few years after the original broadcasts in the UK. The series was created by Roger Price for Thames Television, and ran for 68 episodes on ITV from 1973-1979. The series enjoyed a UK revival from 1992-1995, and was also recently re-imagined by The CW before being cancelled after one 22-episode run in 2013-2014. The series followed the adventures and challenges of teenage Tomorrow People – humans who form the next stage of human evolution. The change takes place after some teens “break out” during late adolescence to reveal various paranormal abilities, including telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation. Along with helping to defend the Earth as secret members of the Galactic Federation, the teens also had to conceal their identities and protect themselves from “Saps” or Homo Sapiens who wished to exploit them or do them harm. The series was often viewed as a teenage version of Doctor Who, complete with cliffhanger episodes, monsters, intergalactic adventures, and diabolical alien villains.
The Tomorrow People made my list as a science-fiction series because of the popularity of such shows in today’s world, including of course, Doctor Who. The original series was very imaginative and well-written – especially for the time period and the budgetary constraints imposed on it. In the right hands, a revival of this series could potentially become a massive hit. The CW attempted to alter the source material too much and failed miserably with their effort. In the capable hands of a dedicated fan of the original series, The Tomorrow People could become television gold.
#1 Children of the Stones
Children of the Stones was a seven-episode miniseries produced by Peter Graham Scott and Patrick Dromgoole for HTV. The series originally appeared on ITV in 1977, and told the story astrophysicist Adam Brake and his young son, Matthew, after their arrival in the small village of Milbury, which was built in the midst of a megalithic stone circle. The two meet many strange people and experience many fantastic occurrences during their stay in the town, leading them to seek to uncover the mysteries surrounding the town and its inhabitants. The pair eventually discover the village within the stone circle exists in a time rift, where the same actions are played out over and over again, with the end result being that the power of the circle will eventually be released to the outside world. This series is widely considered one of the scariest children’s series ever made, and was massively popular at the time of its original broadcast.
Children of the Stones is number one on my list of science-fiction shows due a return because many have not heard of this series, and I truly believe it would be an awesome one for a remake. Considering the popularity of hits like Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, Wayward Pines, etc., Children of the Stones would fit right in with the current trends in popular TV culture. It would probably be a better fit for a cable network or streaming service than broadcast television because of the dark nature of the source material. With today’s production budgets, technology, and storytelling, Children of the Stones could become a massive science fiction hit once again.
A Bonus Series for the People:
Defenders of the Earth
For those of you who have been reading my work over the past few months, you know I like to throw in a bonus as a thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and analyses. This time will be no exception. Defenders of the Earth was one of my favorite cartoons growing up as a child of the 1980s, and I would love to see it remade in live action or as an animated series in the 21st Century. It was not one of my Top 5, but it would definitely be in my Top 10. The syndicated series was based on King Features Syndicate characters The Phantom, Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, and Lothar. The team continued their ongoing battle against Flash Gordon villain Ming the Merciless and several other lessor villains during the show’s run. Produced by King Features Syndicate Entertainment, the show lasted one season and 65 episodes in 1986-1987. The series was based in the “future” year of 2015 with Flash Gordon and his son Rick escaping from Ming the Merciless, who had exhausted the natural resources of his home planet Mongo and now desired to exploit Earth. With the help of the heroes Mandrake, Phantom, and Lothar, Ming is defeated and the Defenders of the Earth are formed to fight off any future threats to mankind from Mongo or elsewhere in the Universe.
All you have to do is consider the popularity of all the superhero shows on television right now to know Defenders of the Earth is ripe for a revival. The source characters are very well known, at least to older fans, and have many backstories, rogue’s galleries, and adventures that can be retold or expanded upon for a new science-fiction television series. A cartoon series would work, but in today’s world a live-action series could possibly be a sensation if done properly with good writing, dedicated actors, and a quality production budget. If you love the Avengers and Justice League, you’ll definitely like Defenders of the Earth. Check out Dynamite Entertainment’s 2014 graphic novel Kings Watch to see what a modern take on this series could potentially look like.
Science Fiction is Everywhere
If you are a fan of science-fiction television, it is a great time to be alive. There are many more shows and outlets for television programming than ever before. We have an embarrassment of good television riches to view these days. Remember, if any of these classic shows make it back to television, you read it here first. I hope you enjoyed my list this week, and keep looking out for more lists in the near future. Did I miss any of your favorites? Do you have some other ideas, or disagree with any of mine? Please comment and let me know.