Every so often, some journalist or producer gets it into their heads that I have something to say about science fiction/space/explosions, shoots rope-traps into me, and pins me down for an interview. I enjoy doing them (although I don’t enjoy the rope traps – guys, I have email) and occasionally, the questions are actually pretty cool. One of them, recently, even threw me for a bit of a loop.
The question was: if a producer walked through the door right now, what would you like to have offer you: to make your book in to a movie, or a TV show?
Five years ago, the answer would be movie. Straightaway, no question. Now? It’s a lot tougher. There’s so much more fantastic TV being made (although I don’t know if we can call it TV any more, given that most of us are watching Netflix on our iPads) that it’s not obvious choice. In the end, I picked movie, but it was not easy. Also, if any producers are reading this, I would like it noted that I am open to any and all deals on any and all mediums, up to and including wax cylinders.
In the spirit of the thing, here are four killer new shows that are set in space. If you’re interested in starships, future settings and really big explosions, you should probably check them out.
Current Seasons: 2
Best For: fans of sprawling space opera
The Expanse is a monster. It’s one of Syfy’s biggest productions yet, based on the book series by writing duo James S.A. Corey (who, full disclosure, I share a publisher with). And really, what’s not to like about this? You have colonies all across the solar system, tensions between Earth and Mars and everyone else, ice freighters, battleships, humongous explosions and some fantastic actors to go along with it. Thomas Jane – better known as The Punisher – stars as an interstellar detective out to track down a missing person, and it’s shaping up to be an absolutely incredible show.
It’s on its second season, and has pulled in huge legions of devoted fans – me included. Here’s hoping it makes it off cable and onto streaming services soon, because I hate having to pirate shit.
Where: Space CA/Syfy (US)
Current Seasons: 2
Best For: Firefly fans
Look, I miss Mal Reynolds too. But we have to accept that he isn’t coming back. But even though that fact has left legions of Firefly fans with blue balls, there’s a series that might do the trick. It’s called Killjoys, and it’s about a trio of bickering bounty hunters trying desperately to remain neutral in the middle of a multi-planetary war.
This is a Canadian-made series (hooray!), although Syfy inevitably picked it up for the States. It’s reasonably brainless fun, but it’s still worth watching – and the guys behind Orphan Black made it, so it’s got some pedigree. By the way, I’m aware that this is a bit of a Marmite series, in that you either love it or hate it. Me? I think it’s awesome, with some great characters and fun setups.
Where: Space / Syfy (UK), Netflix (Various)
Current Seasons: 2
Best for: People who like really, really long space voyages
Another Canadian made show, this time featuring six people who wake up on a starship with no idea of where they are going or what they’re supposed to be doing. Of course, things take a dark turn within about ten seconds of the opening sequence. If you miss the worlds of the Alien movies, with their rusty, derelict starships, but really feel that what they needed was very large samurai swords, then this is the perfect series for you.
I’ve only watched the first season of this – it’s taken a while for it to make it onto Netflix here in the great frozen north – but I bloody loved the first season. I absolutely fell in love with the characters, even the milquetoast One, and the twists consistently hit me hard. The Android is also one the most hysterically brilliant TV robots I’ve ever seen. This is my favorite space-based show right now not named The Expanse. WATCH IT.
Current Seasons: 1
Best for: Mad Men junkies
This is a bit of a weird one. The deal is that in the 1960s, the US government under Kennedy decided to launch a covert space mission, just in case the Russkies really did hit the big red button. This mission, which was designed to preserve the human race, had six hundred people on board, all of which are on a mission to colonise the planet near Proxima Centauri.
Of course, Season 1 ended on a massive cliffhanger, and of course…they cancelled it. I have never sworn so loudly. Critics weren’t wild about it, but honestly, I got a real kick out of it. It’s 1960s styling and fantastic performances mean that it’s definitely worth checking out – if, as I said, you can deal with never finding out what actually happened (sigh). And again: this is a Canadian series. Which brings us to…
What we can learn from these series:
1. All good sci-fi shows are made in Canada.
2. Every trailer for a new show must begin with establishing shot of an implausibly bright star field and a dangerous-looking ship.
3. Samurai swords make everything better.
4. It’s only a matter of time before multi-planetary combat becomes passé and we start seeing solar systems or galaxies squaring off.
5. The appetite for space-based action has never been higher. And on that note…