So far, Spike TV has been making its reputation on reruns, sports-related programming, and reality shows, none of which even approaches interesting, but that all ends today. As Variety reports this morning, Spike is heading into the scripted series game and are coming out swinging, ordering a full 10-episode season adaptation of Kim Stanley Robinson‘s beloved sci-fi tome Red Mars. Those familiar with Robinson’s novel will know that it’s only the first book in a trilogy of novels about the colonization of the planet by humans – Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, for the record – so there’s quite a lot of story to be envisioned here, especially if they pull a Game of Thrones and play around with the chronology or aren’t dedicated to showing fidelity to the source material. No matter how they approach the novel in terms of longevity, it’s a major move for a network that has, for some time now, been little more than amiable background noise.
Now, here’s where things get a little worrisome. The series will be headed by longtime sci-fi scripter J. Michael Straczynski, the man best known for being one of the creative forces behind Babylon 5, as well as writing the stories for Thor and World War Z. His best work to date, however, was writing the script for Clint Eastwood‘s Changeling, one of the American auteur’s most undervalued works, top-lined by the last great performance that Angelina Jolie Pitt turned in. These are impressive credits, but Straczynski’s most recent gig was Netflix’s Sense8, which he ran alongside the Wachowski siblings, and there’s simply no other way to describe the sci-fi series than as a fiasco.
Though it’s politics are admirably progressive and its heart is in the right place, which is true of most Wachowski joints, Sense8 is the kind of overtly convoluted and visually bland nonsense that gives science fiction a bad name. There’s always room for growth, of course, and Straczynski’s credits suggest his interest in the project, and who he’s working with, often plays a deciding factor in the quality of his writing, but his involvement admittedly sent up red flags for me. We’ll have to wait for word of a cast signing on and if any notable directors will be involved to measure just how excited we should be for this, but the very fact that Robinson’s work is getting newfound attention in this way is a coup of its own.