Cult Spy: Sci-Fi Reimaginings
Published Nov 23 2008, 08:00 GMT | By Ben Rawson-Jones
Like it or loathe it, the term 'reimagining' can be heard regularly along the corridors of production offices across the globe. Why waste resources on trying to create The Next Best Thing when The Past Best Thing can be updated for contemporary audiences and feel as fresh as ever? The BBC's revival of cult 1970s show Survivors
is the latest example in the trend. Cult Spy
looks at this impressive new show's modern slant and how other past series can be similarly excavated for another outing.
Writer Adrian Hodges, in charge of the new Survivors
, recently summed up his new take on Terry Nation's classic: "Its themes remain as relevant as ever and while we will be staying faithful to many aspects of the original, we will also be bringing the story into the 21st Century and make it accessible to contemporary audiences."
Mission accomplished, as the first gripping episode taps into the psyches of an audience that has been subjected to widespread panic about bird flu, MRSA superbugs, SARS and various other possible epidemics. Nobody knows what's going to happen tomorrow. In Survivors
, survivors of a virus wake up in a world in which 99% of the world is dead - yet there's still time for some blatant lies to the public by the government's PR department beforehand.
As well as a popular film, John Wyndham's classic novel The Day Of The Triffids
pollinated a magnificently bleak 1981 BBC adaptation. The post-apocalyptic story centres around a world ravaged by a rapidly expanding population of mobile killer plants that feast on human flesh. Now just imagine if the plot was transported to 2008, a time when tampering with the natural world is a key concern embodied in protests towards genetically modified plants and stem cell research.
The Day Of The Triffids'
central theme of rebuilding mankind would also strike a contemporary chord, as society has attempted (albeit on a lesser scale) to return to normality after various high-profile terrorist attacks in recent years.
Similarly spawned from literature, The Tripods
hit television screens in 1984 amid a wave of publicity and strong rumours that it was the BBC's most expensive series ever. Sadly, a handful of poor narrative judgements caused many viewers to shun the often brilliant show during the first season, and the show was axed before it could film the final part of John Christopher's trilogy. The premise is crying out for a lavish adaptation to be made.
For it centres on an Earth in the not-too-distant future that has been mostly enslaved through mind-control by three-legged alien invaders that roam the land in massive metallic tripod machines. Crucially, the planet is returned to a rural middle-age way of life, with technology being redundant and the world's cities lying in ruins. The opening episode of the series cleverly established this by initially showing some villagers milling around in archaic clothes, only for the caption 2089 A.D. to pop up on the screen and subvert our expectations.
In 1984, the world was still holding the belief that Pong was quite a cool, advanced game and the Internet meant nothing to anyone back then. But a Tripods
revival in 2008 and beyond is mouthwatering, as we live in age where so many people are dependent on gadgets and mobile communications devices. A world where these are stripped away, with future generations able to discover their remains, could provide much dramatic impetus to such a reimagining.
Technology was also used, albeit in a different way, to help make the revived Doctor Who
thematically relevant for viewers. The episode 'Rise Of The Cybermen' featured the dastardly John Lumic using Bluetooth-style devices to bring the masses under his control. This succeeded in alerting the eyes of many viewers to the fact that we could all be rendered helpless if technology falls into the wrong hands. Similarly, Sat Navs were used to destructive effect in 'The Sontaran Stratagem'.
A modern-day reimagining of The Tomorrow People
, which ran from 1973 to 1979 might not be so succesful however. For one thing, it's a bit too close to the 1990s effort by ITV to revive the show. Secondly, it might well have made it back under another name. Let's see if this brief explanation of the show's premise courtesy of wikipedia (for it never lies) shed any light about the doppelganger's identity:
"All incarnations of the show concerned the emergence of the next stage of human evolution known colloquially as Tomorrow People. Born to human parents, an apparently normal child might at some point between childhood and late adolescence experience a process called "breaking out", when they develop their special abilities. These abilities include psychic powers such as telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation."
Three cheers for the first person to scream out "Heroes!". It just goes to show that great ideas can be timeless and deserve digging up in true Time Team style every now and then.