Monday, February 20, 2012

War Games In Space:2099

"To everything that might have been"

To my horror, I learned this week that fellow Montrealer Eric Bernard's brilliant attempt to re-imagine and enhance the classic sci-fi series Space1999, as Space 2099, has been poached by some extraterrestrial carpetbagger named Jace Hall. 

Hall and his HDFilms buddies (producers of the recent 'V' series) took Bernard's Space2099 idea and pitched it to ITV, who have now awarded them the rights to re-imagine the classic series.

Let The Games Begin
All this appears to me to be a case of television industry nepotism, forcing Mr.Bernard to either 'sell out' to Mr.Hall, or leave his project with, using a line from the series itself, "nowhere to die", thus undermining Bernard's efforts to infuse critical integrity, a holistic reconciliation and necessary closure back into the original series.

Since at least 2008, Bernard claims to have approached ITV on three occasions about his enhanced version of Space1999. This probably gave trade-insiders enough time to come up with a similar plan of their own. Bernard claims also to have recently been approached by Hall about his project, but any chance of forming a cooperative effort fell through when the two parties failed to share a common vision for Space 2099. Jace Hall, speaking through his publicist (which says it all for me) claims to have only approached Bernard with regards to acquiring his URL domain name: Bernard refused to concede his baby, yet still wishes Mr.Hall's project the best. Bernard, the man/legend has chosen to take the gentlemanly 'high road' in this 21st Century 'sci-fi cold war'. 

Eric Bernard had painstakingly re-edited the original series to give the production better effects, a quicker pace, while integrating enough 'TLC' to satiate the discerning eye of any passionate fan of Space1999. He and his team at Retcon Studios re-wrote certain stories to cleverly provide a smooth transition and proper explanation of the artistic and storyline differences between the first and second seasons. His next plan was to pitch the idea of a new and revived series called 'Legacy' which would have helped to explain what had eventually become of the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, thus offering it's fans a fresh vision of the Alphans' exciting new future.
"The Eagle has Landau" (I couldn't resist!)

Thoughts On The Original Series
As for the original series itself, Space1999 has had a long and loyal cult following, but has generally been viewed with disfavour among many within the acne-scarred ranks of the 'hard-core sci-fi techno-geek' community, who often split atoms trying to negate the value of this fantastic series by dwelling upon the fundamental illogic at the core of the show's fractured scientific premise. Well, that's their business, but I prefer to judge a television show based on it's 'artistic' not 'autistic' qualities.

It would be a personal fantasy to see all those 'sci-fi factoid-obsessed Space1999 haters' piled into a yellow moon-buggy and driven deep into some remote lunar crevasse. Or perhaps to even see Maya transform herself into a hissing alien reptile, forever scaring them into permanent retreat aboard the cozy confines a Borg vessel. Yes, season two (with Maya) was objectively an adolescent farce, but season one was an unparalleled masterpiece of allegorical fiction. Accompanied by Barry Gray's superior score, and an elaborate set design, Space1999 had more than enough style, mood and archetypical mythology to overturn and scatter the 'metaphoric Lego' of any pimply-faced 'Star Wars' or 'Battlestar' loving adolescent.

Many of those 'Science-Geek Pseudo-Critics' failed to see the value in Space1999, usually citing 'bad science' as being a good reason to laugh off and dismiss the series altogether. Perhaps they would have been better off taking the 'Evil Captain Kirk's' advice on SNL twenty some odd years ago, and "move out of their parent's basement". The essence of the human journey is found within the colours of our emotional responses to experiences gained through philosophical enquiry, enriching life's magical palette for those of us who find value in the 'artistic', not 'autistic', expressions of story telling.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch!
Another Time, Another's Vision

The HDFilms project appears to be totally 'sexed-up' with newly designed and streamlined bug-headed Eagles, accompanied of course, by all the latest in CG effects. Let me guess, they're probably also going to once again cater to the same lowest common denominator that has so ruined my enjoyment of revivals of other sci-fi enterprises, -Which is an overemphasis on realism, by forcing everything to 'make sense' (appeasing the Geeks), -by introducing a new 'rival race' as antagonists (appeasing the Geeks' need to vanquish a foe for 'heroism') -promoting and cultivating 'love interests' (appeasing the Geeks' girlfriends or wives), and perfectly capped off by adding even 'a cute little boy and his pet dog' (an appeasement of course to the Geeks' insufferable and bratty little kids)

What made Space1999 so enjoyable, was the sense of destiny and purpose impressed upon the Alphans' on their cosmic journey. Unlike other sci-fi series, Space1999 had the ability to show humans as genuinely fear based and flawed (much like my writing style), often exposing their naivete and ignorance (once again like my writing style) and as being somewhat 'less than all knowing' (and once again, not unlike my writing style). The first season put a minor emphasis on 'alien villains' while instead choosing more to focus on 'alien masters', who served as spiritual midwives ever challenging the Alphans in their evolutionary and transformative odyssey (a theme expanded upon nicely in Star Trek: The Next Generation, with the character "Q").

Reflecting back on Star Trek for a moment, we loved how Kirk's courage allowed him to conquer, against all odds, even the greatest of alien foes… but that was Star Trek, a different concept, this is Space1999, and a new vision!
Never turn ones back on the Fans!

Mythological Voyage
I could argue that Space1999 was a kind of 'meta-sci-fi', in that it's futuristic premise was only the artistic device used, which was to parallel man's mythological descent into the underworld for the purpose of rediscovering a spiritual treasure long ago since lost, which is a return home, back to the soul's centre, and a place to 'belong'.

The moon broke from earth's orbit as the result of a technological disaster (a nuclear waste explosion), paralleling the biblical 'exile of man' from the garden, suffering the consequences of our ignorance of natural forces, by biting from the 'forbidden fruit' of technology. As a result of this folly, each week the Alphans were faced with conundrums concerning these newly unleashed alien forces and mysteries.

Space1999 was beautifully filmed and produced, accompanied by realistic acting rarely seen in Sci-Fi TV at that time, or in any of it's cartoonish predecessors. It was thematically 'dark', often leading each episode to culminate in jaw dropping and eerie 'Twilight Zonesque' endings. Sadly, this magic formulae was then methodically eviscerated by 'serial TV killer' Fred Freiberger, who not only produced and wrecked season two, but also drove the final nail into the original Star Trek series by producing, and effectively ruining, it's third season.

End Game
We now have the 'Empire', HDFilms, in control of the Space2099 project, with the 'Jedi Knights', Retcon Studios, needing to somehow mount a swift and decisive counter-offensive. It's officially: 'War Games 2099', and the good people at Retcon's best hope appears to rest with us, the fans, who admire and appreciate Mr. Bernard's vision, and who take a dim view of HDFilms and their unscrupulous methods. Without a little divine intervention from Arra, the Kaldorians or Professor Bergman's 'Cosmic Intelligence', Bernard's project appears all but doomed in the face of HDFilms' usurped quest to feed us their changeling version of Space2099.

Dirty CT   February 2012

A Sample Of Bernard's SPACE:2099


  1. I think its a bit unfair to say Jace Hall has poached Eric Bernard's idea for Space: 2099 (a name even Bernard has admitted had been used before him by others, including Space:1999 writer Johnny Byrne). The Space:2099 TV series will be new and not a re-editing of the original series (as Bernard's project is)...So I really don't see how Hall is ripping Bernard off. You also make a few assumptions about what the series will be like, with no evidence to make such leaps.

    The work on Bernard's Space:2099 project is admirable, but frankly, I see no need for it. I see the re-editing of episodes and the added fx to be a slap in the face to all the people who worked on the original series. Eirc also did all of this work without the OK of those who own the property, if they decide to shut his project down, then that is their decision. Mr Bernard has no ownership rights to the show, it was never his baby to raise.

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  2. Thank you for your perspective Dana.
    Yes, perhaps I was a bit unfair with the good people at HDFilms, but I don't think Mr.Bernard's passionate re-editing and new effects is in any way a slap in the face to the original series FX people, as their obvious brilliance had simply been fettered by the limitations of the technology at that time.
    The decision to use the name Space:2099 was an unfortunate choice in my opinion, especially considering the Retcon people had breathed life into it first, perhaps another name choice would have been more appropriate.
    I hope the series turns out to be a success actually, but you must understand, my disappointment stems from the great hope I had to have seen the Bernard project realized.

  3. I understand where you're coming from...I really do, but as I said, Eric does not in any way own the rights to the series and he has done all of this work, without the permission of the actual owners of the rights. I stand by my opinion of Eric's 2099 work being a bit of an insult to the original series' creators. The whole project was created to "fix" the "problems" of the original series...Many of those "problems" don't even exist IMHO. Keep in mind, I'm not bothered by some of the updating (like changing Helena's typewriter to a computer...To me, that makes sense), but I do object to adding scenery and objects that don't need to be there, as well as editing the episodes to tell his own version of the story.

    Even in a recent interview (I linked it below), Eric sounds as if he believes ITV owes him something for the work he did. I think he's being far too presumptuous and to continue to try and force his ideas on ITV, etc...May get him into hot water. I frankly, am also not a fan of his comments about what he believes fans want and the implication that the fan community is all supportive of his project, when myself and others have expressed views that are contrary to his.

  4. Only the original creators of the series can determine whether or not they've been insulted by the new FX, I'm sure that was NOT ever Mr.Bernard intention. I read that he never intended his vision as a replacement of the original series, but simply as a new and updated version.
    I own the Original Star Trek on DVD with updated effects and love it, like that one, this project would have been a cool alternative to the original series '1999'.
    I did have some problems with his version though, like the re-working of the 'War Games' episode, since I feel is a very important spiritual allegory, speaking directly to our 'shoot first, ask questions later' approach to our fears.
    However I understand what he's trying to do, which is to create a transition between the first and second seasons. I wouldn't have tried to salvage S2 had I been the creator of '2099', I would have made a few choice edits of the episode 'Another Time, Another Place' to accomplish a proper closure to S1.
    As for the name, I think 'Space:2199' would have been a more appropriate choice.

  5. What I find somewhat baffling is that the poster Mr. Dana has incessantly posted wherever he can for years now that Eric Bernard's Space 2099 should not be done solely because HE thinks so as if he is jury, judge and master of all things 1999.

    However, the number of people who are supportive of the project was nearly 700 in a poll done a few years ago and many continue to post their positive support.

    Yet Mr. Dana continues to misrepresent and try and minimize the views of others even as his makes baseless claims that its insulting to the creators of the show when each and every one who has seen the project up close, including Johnny Byrne, Christopher Penfold, Keith Wilson and many more have been very positive and supportive and Mr. Penfold continues to be so.

    Updating the show will not take away Space 1999 in a way that say Lucas has tried to do with Star Wars. If you prefer 1999 you will always have it as originally broadcast however, this monotonous need to push his opinion on others smacks of elitism and pettiness. The buyers can and will decide if an undated version is what they want and they don't need Mr. Dana trying act as if he should make that choice for them.

    Regarding who owns the rights to the series, it is rather irrelevant as hundred's of thousands, if not millions of people edit and post their compilations, alternate versions of shows on the net in tribute to shows they love. Eric Bernard has done no different and has the same right to show his ideas as anyone else has and has many times approached and still hopes to officially gain the rights from ITV to proceed with the project which of course he will acquire before his Space 2099 can be officially released and sold.

    I for one look very forward to Eric's Space 2099 being allowed to proceed someday and if the original Trek looks good with its new effects then Space can be at least equally spectacular and exciting and have new life breathed into this wonderful, old classic.


  6. You should keep the design styles for the Eagles,the appearance of Moonbase Alpha etc just the same as the Classic TV Series,you can't beat the quality
    of the classics

  7. I wish that Bernard's project is still able (allowed?) to be made. In spite of the SFX enhancements and editing to make a sense of continuity, Bernard's project still has one major thing going for it: we viewers would still get to see and enjoy the ORIGINAL acting, directing and writing. His project isn't replacing the stars of the show, eliminating the basic visuals, killing the stories.

    If anything is a 'slap in the face' to the original show's creators, it's a reboot. (I'll repeat what I said about the Battlestar Galactica remake: why not just make a brand new SF series? One that might be inspired by--but isn't a reboot of--the original!)

    This does not mean I wish Hall's project any ill will; I hope that a decent SF series comes out of it. But I don't see the need to attach it to an old show that has two things about it: (1) very passionate fans and (2) nearly complete obscurity outside of its fandom. I say this as a dedicated Space:1999 fan who, before the internet, thought I was one of the ONLY fans left! I've introduced it (via laser disc and then later DVD) over the years to people who otherwise would never have known of its existence. Maybe, just maybe, Hall's project might renew a little interest in the original material.

    But Bernard's project already was doing that.

    And what of his proposed sequel that would have been a 'next generation' series? Regardless of the title (1999 vs 2099), it sounded like an interesting project... one which was still very firmly rooted in what had come before.


  8. I forgot to mention a couple things in my previous post...
    First, Eric Bernard always stated that his project was not intended to replace the original, but to enhance it as an alternative, showing what might have been. His website, when it was accessible, even said that on its front page. It doesn't seem that he intended to usurp the original series in any way.

    Second, in my experiences with him on a forum or two, he's never struck me as being 'cocky' about his project. Confident, yes, but cocky, no. The same applies to a few private messages & emails we exchanged a year or so ago.

    Bear in mind that while I applaud his abilities & support his project, that doesn't mean I've put him on too high a pedestal. But I just wanted to point out that my personal & public relations with him--small though they may be--were very nice and struck me as being at the level of someone who's passionate about something he likes--like any big fan of anything.

    "To everything that might have been."
    "To everything that was."

    "To everything that may yet be..."

  9. I also hope one day Eric Bernard's remastering of the series will be available some day on blu ray.

  10. And I look forward to the new series from Jace Hall as well

  11. hi. i just wish to know if the remastering of the series is still 'in progress'..

  12. Frankly, much as I enjoyed watching the original series, I also understand Mr. Bernard's stance on things regarding updating the concept in order to create a more fluid transition between the two seasons rather than having it seem like a complete disconnect from each other. Having seen examples of what Mr. Bernard has done, I think its fantastic as it contains updated effects but also maintains the original spirit of the series overall. Regaring the reworking o War Games, I had no problem with it because as fantastic as the original episode was, I'm not a big fan of 'it was all a dream' cop outs. also, even some of what I saw of certain episodes from the second season that Mr. Bernard worked on also showcased maintaining a strong essence of many ideas from the first season. He made Rules of Luton interesting simply by taking away the image of talking trees from the commlock and instead having just a flickering static white noise image, thus making the rulers of the planet more mysterious and ominous.

    personally, I'd love to see all of the episodes as reworked by Mr. Bernard and company, but unfortunately that's impossible because of the bloody rights issues.

    what's missing from Science Fiction is that notion of exploring man's place amongst the stars, but given the fact that our space program is flushed down the crapper, it doesn't seem very likely to happen, is it?

    1. Thanks for your comment Bobby, I appreciate and agree with many of your insights.

      However, I disagree with your 'it was all a dream' criticism of the War Games ending.
      That cop out ending was used ineffectively in Matter of Life and Death, but in War Games,
      the Alien civilization were employing a method of mind control in order to demonstrate to
      the Alphans how incompatible they both were

      Humans are full of fear, and thus have 'no place in space'. Our primal reactive
      nature leads us to filter our experiences through our fears; often with catastrophic results.
      This doesn't mean that humans are inherently bad, or evil, but simply remain too fearful
      a species, at this point of our evolution, to fully integrate with higher evolved life forms.