Let’s face it folks: by 2020, we will officially be in the Pop Culture Mobius strip, wherein no new pop culture is being generated, only reboot after reboot of the same properties over and over. Right at this moment, Hollywood is preparing to unleash a gritty reboot of Santa Claus. The good news? I’ll have a job writing GI Joe, the bad news? Superman movies will continue to suck.
Unlike other internet geeks, however, I do not completely fear the reboot. Sure, Amazing Spider-man was mediocre and unnecessary, but Spectacular Spider-man was fun on a bun and well worth the price of letting the former continue to exist. And yes, Superman movies have somehow gotten shittier even after we all thought Superman IV hit rock bottom. But by that same token, the freaking Scooby Doo franchise rode the same train to the creative homerun that was Mystery Incorporated.
Reboots are a mixed bag of both good and bad. On the one hand, they wipe away all the stuff we love in the reset and might not put it back, or might replace it with robots peeing on people. On the other, it offers the change to tell new stories and go in different directions—sometimes wonderful directions—the original either wouldn’t or couldn’t due to technology or cultural restrictions.
Plus, sometimes the reboot is just so much better. For example, if I ruled the world, I would bring back a lot of older shows and update them to have all the stuff I loved, none of the stuff I hated, and a powerful dose of vitamin ‘modern storytelling’.
Which shows? Well…
I’m going to ease you into this one with the low-hanging fruit choice.
For those of you who haven’t seen Sliders:
Sliders is a show about a geek who invents a method of traveling between alternate dimensions who makes a mistake that causes himself, his love interest, his professor, and a random (awesome) stranger to lose their way home, forcing them to walk the Earths, doing good, righting wrongs, and trying to overcome the problems of their inherent ignorance of each new world.
At least that’s how it started. Late in Season Two, the audience is introduced to the Kromaggs, a species of divergently evolved creatures who wish to conquer the multiverse through Sliding. They are awful both in and out of universe and their plotline eventually grew to consume the entire damn show.
The idea kind of has merit: the show followed a lot of ‘for want of a nail‘ stories where some change in history caused the divergent world. It makes sense that there would be many Earths with a very different dominant species, some sapient, some not. The problem is that the Kromaggs as the only such species and seem to be easily kicking the crap out of everyone ever.
Now, it would be easy for me, in my rebooting frenzy to take the easy way out and say ‘No More Kromaggs’. However, much like the Scarlet Quesada… I mean The Joe Witch—I mean Joe Quesada, just eliminating an entire species of plot-bearing creatures would be a fantastic waste of creativity and effort. And if there is one thing I pray for all my writery life, it’s that I’m slightly less of a hack then Joe Q.
You know what we never seem to get in Alternate Universe stories? Actual, open communication and movement between the worlds. You never have, say Earth 0059 come into contact and remain in contact with Earth 1034. Not on the planetary level and not on the personal level. Even in the Marvel and DC Universes where travel between these worlds happens all the time, no one ever seems to keep a constant portal open between them or keep in touch with their non-evil alt!selves.
The seeds of this are planted in the early Sliders series: multiple versions of Quinn have invented Sliding and some have even gone public with it. In others, the government is seeking to control it, and in still others, we see bits and pieces of plots that seem like they would be revisited, by never are, as the series got retooled, then derailed by the Kromagg thing.
And thus, my reboot idea.
We keep Seasons 1 and 2 largely the same (except with some continuity to Quinn’s relationship with his love interest, Wade) but we also play up the fact that these worlds are still happening even after the Sliders leave. Then we get one of the series stock timer upgrades in the middle of Season 2… where it turns out that the timer can ‘save’ world coordinates and has been doing so since the second episode.
Our Heroes then travel back to some of those worlds (particularly ones with Sliding Quinns) to either ask for help or solve problems their previous visits caused. But as this goes on, it starts to become evident that the genie is out of the bottle and other people (and species!) are starting to Slide for various reasons.
The Quinns pool their resources and decide to take responsibility for this technology; developing a way to detect nefarious Sliders and go after them. Along the way, they meet new friends and foes and continue to expand Sliding technology as problems and threat arise.
In the reboot, the Kromaggs might or might not still be the big bads, but they’re not the only dudes out there and they’re actually a threat instead of the unstoppable Juggernaut (and Gary Stu villains, given their many, many powers in the series) they were in the original series.
The goal is to turn the series into a franchise, exploring the various organizations and characters that spring up as Sliding becomes more widespread and the exchange of culture and tech influences Earth Prime.
Also, Rembrandt is still the Cryin’ Man.
So that’s one. What else would I reboot?
Total honesty here: I haven’t seen Seaquest in almost 20 years. I remember it slightly less well than Sisters. I needed Wikipedia and TV Tropes to remember the characters’ names except Darwin the dolphin. Luckily, it’s so obscure that it’s one of those reboots that works on concept alone.
Did you know that we basically know more about outer space than the ocean’s depths? There’s a good reason for this: it’s pretty easy to make machines that can carry people and withstand vacuum while every foot deeper you go into the ocean means a cubic foot more water is trying to crush you into paste, then crush the paste.
The other fun fact about the ocean: there’s more of it every year. Yeah, you know those melting polar ice caps? That water’s got to go somewhere. And if you live in a coastal region, that somewhere is ‘a few inches closer to your living room every year’.
Eventually—and by that, I mean in most of our lifetimes—we’re going to have to choose fleeing from the ocean or living in it. Considering how humans are so good at living even where roaches can’t that we have a huge tube in space that is continually inhabited, I think you know which choice we’re going to take.
Just like with space though, once we’re there, we’re going to have to learn all-new tricks to avoid the natural order of the universe’s inclination to make us not live anymore.
SeaQuest was basically a space opera set in the ocean with a big, badass sub in place of the starship. If it had a failing, it would be from the production side of things, not really the writers. The cast was drawn and discarded over and over again and the whole formula got retooled with every season. The reason I don’t remember much about the series is that the damn thing changed so often.
A consistent cast and vision are needed for this and considering the realities we’re coming up on, a bit of a situation change is in order.
In the series, the ship is basically a join UN craft patrolling the ocean as both a warship and a research/exploration vehicle. For the reboot, I think we can be a bit more dramatic than that.
Imagine an Earth were many coastal towns and cities are newly flooded and the population is ready to expand out into the ocean. The tech is brand new and in many ways, not well tested in the field. The Seaquest is not a warship, but a construction and salvage rig, designed to seek out lost ground, salvage the useful bits, then build habitats beneath the waves for on-board workers/refugees.
Of course, fresh from the chaos of global flooding, there are people looking to stake their own claims, to steal from the sunken graves of once-great cities, or to sabotage what they see as man continuing his destruction of the Earth in its underwater expansion. The Seaquest crew, short of badass wepaonry, have to resort to guile, jury-rigging and -gasp- diplomacy to win the day, sort of like a floating Deep Space Nine to the original show’s Enterprise.
Oh, and Darwin is not alone. Thanks to modern CG, Darwin is actually leader of a pod of intelligent dolphins tasked with helping the underwater crews. Not only that, but in addition to the original series’ ‘swim tubes’ that let him enter any room, he has a water-filled mech suit he can walk around in. Because I want to see a dolphin punch a guy while wearing powered armor.
I’d also remove a lot of the alien stuff and just have it as people vs. people and nature vs. people.
The reason for all of this isn’t the environment message I’m sure I’ll be accused of, but because most modern sci-fi in the mainstream is military sci-fi. Don’t get me wrong, I love those guys who we’re not allowed to call space marines anymore because Gamer’s Workshop stole that word from the English language, but sometimes you want something different to do with the big, badass ship and I think being a construction carrier is one we really haven’t seen before.
From here, we start getting a bit weirder, so bare with me.
Dragonheart was a fantasy film that starred Sean Connery as a dragon.
A dragon who teamed up with a dragonslayer to scam people by pretending to be slain so they could make money. Also something about a ‘shared pain’-type type link between the dragon and some evil king but MOSTLY it was about a draconic con artist.
Believe it or not, it was even kind of a franchise, spawning a far less awesome sequel. The big downfall of the whole thing is SPOILER they kill off the dragon, Draco, at the end of the first film /SPOILER.
In the movie, we only get to see a handful of scams being pulled and one that goes completely wrong for them, all set in the backdrop of a world turned semi-savage thanks to the king’s awfulness. Toward the end, we also get a fun ‘training the peasants’ sequence as they raise a rebel army to go against the king.
…What if that was a show?
No, seriously, modern effects make it possible to do all the dragon stuff on a TV budget these days, and the core story (Robin Hood) has seen many adaptations before so there’s no reason to think that adding an awesome dragon to the mix will make it less successful with good writing.
Hell, you can’t even argue that there’s no threat to the dragon because the movie has elite dragon hunters in it! Hot diggity damn, this could be amazing.
Some changes from the original are, of course, in order. First, instead of dropping the love interest in the human hero’s lap, I’ll instead make her the leader of a secret band of villagers who raid royal caravans and train to depose the king who ends up being the first to catch on o the whole ‘fake dragonslayer’ scam.
Holding the threat of destroying their income over them, she forces them into doing work for her in secret—hucksters by day, reluctant freedom fighters by night. But all the dragon-related attacks on his interests soon alert the king to the fact that, well, he needs to murder him some dragons. And so he assembles a quirky squad of dragonslayers, who are all the human lead’s former allies—and even tries to hire the lead because he’s so good at dragonslaying!
I figure you could get a couple of seasons out of that easy. More if it then turns out that there was some larger, more sinister force behind the corruption of the king—maybe an evil dragon? I mean, we have one dragon, why not make the series finale a dragon-fight?
So let’s head deeper into the rabbit hole in my brain, shall we? How about rebooting…
I don’t blame you if you either never heard of this or recoiled and horror and disgust upon reading that. It was… a very silly show.
Yes, Small Wonder was a sitcom about a family where the father built his own robot daughter and the hi-larious situations it creates. It was also one of those shows that deeply captured the interests of a young me and my family. To this day, my mother and I use the neighbor’s ‘no n-n-no no no’ catchphrase.
These days, I’m still fascinated with the idea of robots among us trying to be human and/or humans who have been raised and treated like robots reclaiming their humanity. It’s an idea not without its humor—and I’m not about to suggest removing humor from the concept—but I feel like the limited set sitcom format and the young age of the robot and her brother limited the scope quite a bit.
My reboot of Small Wonder would actually be more like a sequel series with the premise being kicked off by the idea that the dad has been upgrading Vicki yearly to make her ‘age’. Moving the timeline up to high school, we’ll now take a page out of the playbook of early seasons of Buffy and play off the complications surrounding such upgrades as allegories to puberty and teenage anxieties.
Now, because I’m me, there would also be a myth arc about a shady organization knowing there’s a robot at the school and trying to capture it to reverse engineer her technology. Eventually, they will…partially, resulting in a dark counterpart running around, trying o become ‘complete’.
Seeing as Vicki’s programming makes her a genius anyway, I see no reason why she shouldn’t be in a magnet school for tech geniuses, which would give us a source of all kinds of technobabble to give rise to plots. Her brother Jamie, o course would be stuck in the school on false pretenses and unhappy about it and her (because surly teenager)
So there you have it: Buffy the robot with her own brother in the rival role, in the know about her secret and living under the same roof. Would you watch it? I would.
I have anticipated your reaction and those were some pretty hurtful names you called me in your head. And if you didn’t call me hurtful names in your head, I’m going to assume you don’t know what Alf is. In that case, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you… Alf:
It was this or Harry and the Hedersons. Seriously.
Great, so now we’re all on the same page with disparaging my heritage.
Alf is a show about a cat-eating alien who crashed on Earth and was taken in by a typical sitcom family. The plots all revolved around how wacky the alien was and how annoyed the family was at him for being wacky. Also, it threw I some genuine touching and maudlin moments that often broke the mood all to hell.
As a kid, I loved me some Alf. Now that I’m grown up, the show really hasn’t stood the test of time. It’s not about maturity or immaturity, it’s just that I didn’t have enough of a reference pool to realize how tired and used most of the gags actually were and how annoying the Tanner family’s uncaring, vaguely accusatory attitude toward the poor dude who lost his entire planet was.
Yeah, Alf is the last of his kind and a stranger in a strange land, but the Tanner treat him like he’s a bum that asked to live on their couch and rarely consider the implications that they have access to a alien with advanced tech living in their house as well as some sort of responsibility to the last of the Melmackian people not to treat him like crap.
For this reboot, I’m going to draw from Invader Zim. Invader Zim is one of those works that I will openly admit I’m not very fair to. I don’t like it mostly because my kind of humor and its kid of humor don’t gel and my dislike for it has been exacerbated by an ex who was totally into it and would not shut up with the Grr quotes.
Anyway, the core concept is solid: aliens are invading Earth, but their agent is bad at it and high command isn’t exactly competent either.
Alf in the reboot would actually be lying about the destruction of Melmack. He’s really an alien agent sent to Earth with a painfully vague (in universe) orders and sup-par equipment. He ends up meeting the Tanners and spinning the ‘last of his kind lie, sure that no Melmackians are going to show up on such a low priority world.
Little does he know, but Earth is such a low priority that the paperwork for the exact same mission got lost and the Tanner’s wacky old man neighbor is a Melmackian agent who’s been abandoned on Earth since the 80’s and is planning on taking over Earth to prove his worth!
…Only his equipment also sucks.
So we have a double masquerade of the the Tanners hiding Alf, Alf hiding the existence of Melmack and its real plans, and an old coot trying to take over the world!
I feel like this kind of thing lends itself to more varied situations for the situational comedy and expanding on the alien-living-with-humans aspect of the original beyond the ‘it’s funny because he doesn’t understand modern life.
So what do you think? Good ideas? Think you could better? I’d like to see that!
No, seriously, I would. Post it on the forum or in the comments below because that would be awesome.
Questions, comments, verbal abuse? Please post them below in the comments, or the forum.
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Sliders: Know of it, haven’t seen it, would give your reboot a chance.
Seaquest: YES! Loved some of the ideas behind that show, but they never settled down enough to really get into their groove, from what I recall. Watched it with family back in the day, and there was some cool stuff there. Besides, who doesn’t want to see a pod of dolphins being awesome?
Dragonheart: Mostly remember thinking it was terrible…but with a reworked premise, sounds like possible fun. Would give it a chance.
Small Wonder: Another one I’m not familiar with, but would be willing to give a chance, though I confess to a little more skepticism than for Sliders. The premise just isn’t as broad/intriguing. But it could work.
Alf: Oh god, Alf. What have you wrought, sir? I try to be open-minded, but this one is tough. I might be able to give it a chance, but the name just evokes such powerful feelings of revulsion in me that it might be impossible.
As for other possibilities…hmm. To my shame, nothing comes to mind. I imagine something could be done with Andromeda, but I can’t figure it out. There’s always a bit of a problem doing a “fish-out-of-water” story where both the character’s original context and their new one are unfamiliar to the audience, which I think was a big flaw in their premise, but I’m not certain how to fix that.
I’ve never seen Andromeda to offer suggestions. I’m glad to have anticipated the reaction to Alf :p