The week leading up to X-Mas week this year is quite the phenom: Star Wars, the Force Awakens opens on Friday (some places Thursday nite); fans are already sign-up for Star Wars movie marathons, catching all 6 of the prior films to prep for the big reveal.
Not to be outdone, the little screen, helmed by the SyFy channel, is offering up a potential blockbuster evening: Monday nite (tonight), the channel will premiere both the first episode of the Childhood’s End mini-series and the first episode of their new space opera franchise – The Expanse.
I generally don’t keep a calendar (just post its) but I’m already committed to six hours of screen time this week. Well, actually eight. I’ve got a ticket for the late nite Thursday pre-premiere of Star Wars and will then be watching it again on Saturday with the wife. (Hint: the Concord NH Regal Cinema STILL has tickets for the premiere, so if you’ve been shut out at the local cinema…)
I’m very ambiguous about the Star Wars flick. My general impression is that it is essentially going to be a re-do of the very first film (now re-labelled Episode IV), at least in basic story outline: wet-behind-the-ears youngsters go on a hero’s journey to save the galaxy from evil forces; they are assisted by legendary heroes who give them training and advice and then they replace their mentors at the top of the hero pantheon. (See Joseph Campbell: The Hero With A Thousand Faces.)
Of course, we’ve got at least two more movies to go after this one, so not everything will be resolved in Star Wars, Episode VII (if we stay with the Republic Serial formula, we’re not even half-way done) but I really expect nothing more than the same-old, same-old, with perhaps a touch more “appeal for audiences of all ages” from the Disney masters. Maybe Tinkerbell will make an appearance. (On the other hand, Yoda has always reminded me, just a little bit, of Jiminy Cricket.)
I’ll go, I’ll watch, I’ll comment. And then it will be over (except for the second round of merchandising). I can appreciate the fact that this will be THE experience of a lifetime for a whole bunch of soon-to-be Star Wars fans, but I also know that their experience will pale in comparison to my own first exposure to a film originally titled The Star Wars, that was supposed to be a re-do of Flash Gordon (who had his own hero’s journey well before Georgie L was even born.
The premiere that’s causing me the greatest angst right now is SyFy’s Childhood’s End. I read that novel when I was ten (or twelve, this kind of thing is fuzzy) and I distinctly remember that it had a profound effect on my thinking. I think it was the first time that I understood how insignificant and immature the human species was.
I was also fascinated by the idea of giant interstellar ships hovering over the Earth’s great cities; whenever I traveled over the GW Bridge or approached the Lincoln tunnel into NYC, I used to imagine what Karellan’s ship would look like hovering over Manhattan.
I’m actually in a double-quandry over this one. I’ve got the normal concerns any fan familiar with the SyFy channel has (right now, C.E. looks to me to have been turned into an alien invasion action flick – V with Clarke’s name added to it: I promise you who have not read the novel that the theft of water and lizards in human skin do not feature in Clarke’s original at all) and I’ve got a corporate concern.
SyFy, a property of NBC, is the most likely outlet for the currently in development television show AMAZING STORIES. This is the same corporate media giant that I am currently negotiating a licensing deal with to use that name for the show. So, while I have my reservations and a great deal of caution and concern, I am hoping that my jaundiced view is wildly incorrect. I’m hoping that tonight’s premiere does actually represent SyFy’s re-engagement with the genre in a totally positive way.
My logic is thus: a prosperous and successful SyFy channel will engender more willingness to embrace the genre in a fan-friendly manner, which in turn might mean a better budget and more investment in an Amazing Stories show. A bigger audience for SyFy will mean more people watching Amazing Stories; the debut of the show will have an opportunity to coattail an already popular show. People happy with an Amazing Stories tv show will find there way over here, where we can introduce them to even more science fiction, a website that can unabashedly praise the channel’s offerings.
That’s the kind of hero’s journey I can get behind.
So far as James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series? I’m really hoping this series based on a Hugo Award nominee for best novel deserves the praise it is already receiving. I’ll know tonight.