Weekend Roundtable: Sci-Fi TV to Movies

Now 13 movies in, ‘Star Trek’ has had a pretty good run transitioning from TV to feature films. What other sci-fi TV shows do you wish would make the jump from television to the big screen?

Shannon Nutt

It always bothers me that (in most circles at least) when the question of best sci-fi series ever made comes up for debate, hardly anyone mentions ‘The Prisoner‘. The great Patrick McGoohan series from the late 1960s is about a spy who resigns from the government only to find himself abducted and placed in a conformist society known only as “The Village.” There, he’s labeled “Number Six” while the leader of the community is called “Number Two” and spends most of his (or her, as the identity of Number Two changes from episode to episode) time trying to extract information from Number Six on exactly why he quit his life of espionage. The series tackles issues like government mistrust, paranoia, and what it means to be an individual – themes that would seem perfect for today’s movie audiences and our current state of world affairs.

‘The Prisoner’ did get rebooted as a miniseries for the AMC network in 2009 with stars Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellan, but the creators tried to change the concept too much – keeping the themes of the original but changing the storyline so much that it didn’t show a whole lot of resemblance to what made McGoohan’s show great. Prior to the reboot (before Mel Gibson went crazy and while McGoohan was still alive), there was talk about a movie version where Gibson would play Number Six and McGoohan, in a role reversal, would have taken on Number Two. I often wondered if the twist in that idea was that McGoohan was really the former Number Six who had now conformed, which would have tied it back to the original.

Anyway, the failure of the AMC series probably means that a film version will never happen, although it’s still mentioned occasionally. Christopher Nolan was interested for a while, as was Ridley Scott, but both moved on to other things. Whether we’ll ever see a big screen version of ‘The Prisoner’ remains to be seen, but I think it’s a property that, if done correctly, could make for a great franchise.

Brian Hoss

After suffering through things like the ‘Aeon Flux’ movie and worrying about the current ‘Ghost in the Shell’ production, I’m not sure that any sci-fi show I really like could make the transition with much success. Even with the constant potential of super-power fatigue, I think a ‘Misfits‘ movie might work for me if only so that, good or bad, a movie would draw some new fans to the series.

Luke Hickman

Although not exactly pure science fiction, I’d like to see what a creative team of filmmakers could do with ‘Quantum Leap‘. As a kid, I loved that series. We gathered in front of the TV each week to see if the new chapter would be lighthearted, thrilling, emotional, dramatic, or even dark. (Remember the Evil Leaper?) Duncan Jones’ ‘Source Code’ was the closest thing we’ve seen to a big screen adaptation, and even had a few easter egg ‘Quantum Leap’ connections if you were paying attention closely. Seeing how enjoyable and creative it was, a ‘Quantum Leap’ revival would stand a chance at greatness. Each film could follow Sam tackling a new grand scale issue, with the climax resulting in him leaping and teasing the audience for the next installment. One of the sequels could surprise the audience by having him leap midway through the movie to second time that mysteriously connects to the first. The ideas are endless.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

The Middleman‘ started off as the most brilliant comic book series you never read, graduating from there into the most brilliant TV series you never watched. The next step, clearly, would be towards the most brilliant feature film you’ll never go to see either.

In a nutshell, ‘The Middleman’ is a hyper pop-culture-literate spy comedy about a clean-cut superhero type and his photogenic, twentysomething-year-old visual artist of a protégé. Together, they fend off everything from boy band alien invaders to trout-crazed zombies. It’s fast, it’s frenetic, it’s hysterical, it’s witty, it’s wildly imaginative, and it’s too infectiously fun for words. Starring Matt Keeslar as the titular, barrel-chested Middleman and the always delightful Natalie Morales as Wendy, the short-lived TV series on ABC Family couldn’t have been more perfectly cast. If a movie were possible to get off the ground, I’d hope they’d make it over too. It’s obviously not going to happen, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a Kickstarter one of these days anyway. As for you, do yourself a favor and check out the DVD collection.

Josh Zyber

Listen, Browncoats, I appreciate your passion but we’re not getting another ‘Firefly’ movie. The studio tried that once and it bombed. Be happy that you got that much and it brought a reasonable amount of closure to the story.

I’m still waiting for a decent ‘V’ movie that, unlike the recent TV reboot, has an intelligent script and the involvement of original series creator Kenneth Johnson. Unfortunately, that seems less and less likely to happen with each passing year. I’ve mentioned that miniseries in a couple previous Roundtables anyway.

This time, I’ll toss out a mention to ‘Space: Above and Beyond‘, the Fox network’s short-lived attempt to make a serialized military space adventure. Set in the year 2063, the show follows a batch of fresh-faced recruits in the Marine Corps Space Aviator Cavalry after the Earth government declares war on a race of vicious aliens who have (seemingly unprovoked) attacked human colonies on distant planets. Although it built a small but loyal following, the series was a ratings failure and was canceled after just a single season. I’ll be honest that the show was far from perfect. Many episodes suffered from corny melodrama, stiff acting and bad dialogue, and the whole thing was hampered by its mid-1990s production values and visual effects. However, it was an ambitious and even admirable effort with an interesting storyline. Its best episodes were very suspenseful and even philosophical. I think the concept could translate very well to movie format with an appropriate budget and production values. Imagine a straight version of Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Starship Troopers’ without the irony and satire. It might even be a box office hit that way.

Can you think of any other sci-fi TV shows you wish could be made into movies?


    • ive always wanted a sliders movie that takes place after season 2 completely disregarding the final seasons that ruined the show. i even wrote a mock screen play for it in college.

      i remember watching it when they finally made it home and his goddamn mother had the fence fixed. i scream at the tv every time i see that episode.

  1. Csm101

    Buck Rogers In the 25th Century was a favorite as a kid. I see movie potential there. In this era of technology and being linked in to everything, a new version of Automan would be kind of cool.

  2. EM

    Once upon a time I thought a Babylon 5 cinematic epic would be quintessential awesomeness, but it seems that ship sailed (or flew) long ago. With cast members aging and even dying off, and with some franchise missteps along the way, I’m no longer thrilled by the prospect anyway. But perhaps something worthy could be done with, say, a 13th Century Shadow war…

  3. Bill

    Babylon 5 might make a good movie. What’s interesting about it is how time has treated it. In its heyday its fans claimed that it was better than Star Trek and that might have been true. However, Trek is still around and going strong while Babylon 5 has faded to just a memory. A lesson in judging a show’s merit too quickly.

      • SuperSugarBear

        Except, like all modern tv show transplants- they aren’t actually gonna do the show. They will do a send-up version. i hate that. We didn’t get a Starsky and Hutch, or Land of The Lost, etc…we got parodies of them. Just make the actual idea.

      • Timcharger

        If it was named the “6 million dollar man,”
        then it would be about any normal American with
        a life-threatening malady. And that doesn’t
        include any superhuman bionic abilities. It just
        what the drug companies, for-profit insurers,
        doctor salaries, the entire industry extract from
        U.S. patients. (Yes, $6 Mil is exaggerating, but
        $600,000 is not unheard of for lifetime costs.)

        Hopefully, the movie will make an important
        statement. Only the U.S. release gets titled,
        “6 Billion.”

        40 years of inflation (from original TV series) does
        mean that things may have doubled or tripled in
        price. But going from Mil to Bil is a thousand
        times more. We have a hard time believing that
        the Vengeance can be 20 times larger than the
        Enterprise, but medical expenses going up 1,000
        times?! Sadly, we think that’s believable.

        • Josh Zyber

          No more political talk, please. We are way off topic and, no matter how innocently intentioned, some of the posts I had to delete were begging to lure trolls here to argue.

  4. Tom Tuttle

    Space: 1999.
    As a grown up I only find about 20% of the episodes watchable. I’m still impressed by the production design though, the Eagles are still some of the coolest spaceships to grace the small screen.

  5. William Henley

    I think most of the series that would transition well have already been done (whether well or not is debatable). Battlestar Galactica the original series started as a movie, and the new series ended with a movie. Same is true with Stargate (I think they had two followup movies). Firefly, Lost In Space, Flash Gordon, Doctor Who, and X-Files all got movies.

    I wish more Star Trek series had of had movies, and that TNG got better movies (Insurrection and Nemesis were awful).

    Torchwood would make an excellent movie. The design of the show works well to have some sort of disaster or alien attack hit the EartI h, to have Captain Jack and his team save us all

    I will second the suggestions for Sliders and Quantum Leap and Buck Rodgers and Farscape

    Tera Nova would probably make a better movie than it did a TV show. The 4400 has potential.

    One I have been wanting since I was a little kid is ALF. This could be a multi-film series, with the first one or two focusing on life on Gordon’s planet, with the end of the movie ending in its destruction and his landing on Earth.

    Red Dwarf is tempting – Back To Earth was a miniseries so technically I don’t think a movie has been made of it.

  6. Kraig McGann

    I would love to see Gerry Anderson’s UFO get a movie treatment and enthusiastically second Mr. Zyber’s suggestion for SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND. I really liked that show.

  7. Thulsadoom

    Nice to see Josh suggesting S:AAB. It’s one of my all-time-favourite scifi series (probably would be top, if it had made it past one season). I don’t think it’s dated as badly as Josh. The production quality still holds up extremely well, when it comes to locations, props and sets. The only thing that dates it a bit are the CGI effects, even though they were top-notch at the time. However, they still have a ‘maturity’ to them, that stops them from ever feeling cheesy or cheap, for the most part. As Josh said, though, Starship Troopers feels in many ways like the movie version. 😉

    Babylon 5 is probably my favourite scifi series, though time hasn’t been kind. It just didn’t have the budget for great sets, and sometimes the guest stars provided some very wooden performances, but the stories and main cast along with the creativity of its effects (though dated in the same way as S:AAB) still make it one of the best scifi series you can watch. Given the ongoing plot, though, I’m not sure it would translate well to the big screen. I think the only way to do it any justice would be a reboot film, but that wouldn’t provide enough time for anything other than scratching the surface. On the other hand, if they did a stand-alone story, it suffers the same fate as the made-for-tv movies they made, that don’t have the same scope or level of story. It’s a Catch 22. Much as I love Babylon 5, I think it’s condemned to stay as it is, until someone decides to do a full-on reboot series.

    Battlestar Galactica is another series close to my heart, and I’d love to see a reboot movie of that, roughly following the original. I know a lot of people liked the new series, but apart from the production quality I thought it was downright awful melodrama. A reboot movie would be a great help to wash away the sour taste of the R. D. Moore version. 😉

    • Thulsadoom

      How could I forget one of my other favourite shows?! Dark Skies would make for a fantastic film reboot. That was a brilliant series that, well, how to describe it? Think of the interweaving of historical events that you get in Forest Gump, crossed with the alien-related stories of the X-Files if they were actually written coherently and with an idea of where they were going. The first series was set in 60s, and each series was going to cover a decade of history.

      They could do the same, movie by movie. 😉

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