Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
It’s another Saturday night, (or Friday night, or Monday night, or whatever night you chose for this example.) and there is nothing to watch on TV, and nothing playing at the local movie theater worth paying nine dollars for either. It is a common enough scenario. One that usually ends with you wishing you lived in another dimension where the electronic media wasn’t so tired, worn out and clichéd. A place where good ideas made it to the general public, but if you lived in said alternative dimension what would you be watching? Let me give you five examples of things that didn’t make it to your universe, but should have.
5) Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. (2001 Re-boot)
The original Electra woman and Dyna Girl was a live action Saturday morning kids show by Sid and Marty Croft, you know he guys who brought you H.R Pufnstuf and The Incredible Dr. Shirnker. The titular heroines were played by respectively by soap opera maven Deidra Hall, and spokes-voice Judy Strangis. Our two ‘Electra Awsome” action girls were reporters for unnamed magazine, when they weren’t donning capes and kicking criminal keaster. Much like Batman they didn’t have powers per say just a lot of gadgets such as lasers on their wrists and a wedge shaped Electra-car. They fought nefarious evil doers with names like The Spider Lady and Glitter Rock.(1) Now that I’m older and have a little prospective it really is kind of creepy when I realize just how often evil villains mind controlled the two girls, was the main part of the shows plot..
The reason why blast from the past potential revival even makes it in this list is probably because after the skinny blonde student teacher who helped out in my second grade class, Dyna Girl was my first major crush. As a child, I would wish she would swoop down with her skin tight red leotards and her cute as a button pig tales and rid my schoolyard of bullies and deem me to be ‘Electra-rific.’
In 2001 there was a near re-launch of the clichéd kid’s show, staring Markie Post (Night Court) as Electra Woman. In this show after the original Dyna Girl ran off with her ex-husband, Electra-Woman had become a cynical and jaded piece of white trash that smells like “Cigarettes and macaroni and cheese. “ She is teamed up with a new idealistic Dyna Girl, a college student, who as a child was once rescued by Electra Woman, and after E.W’s trailer is repossessed the two become roommates, much to DG’s other roommate’s consternation. (2)
OK, I guess that on the surface it probably wouldn’t have been that good a show if it had gotten any airtime. And to be honest the only reason it is on this list is because of my fore mentioned crush on D.G. Still I think it had potential, yes it is cheesy and corny, but if you know how to cook them just right you can make a great meal with cheese and corn. And the pilot did have some redeeming qualities, such as its snappy dialog that pushed the envelope for what could be said on 2001 primetime TV. And willingness to self mock the now bloated and sacred cow world of superheroes. In our world of Disney produced superhero flicks, it is just refreshing to se a heroine who isn’t perfect, and a show that could wink at the whole superhero mythos. Oh, and I did mention the red spandex leotards right?
4) Time Tunnel (2002 Re-boot)
In 1966 Irwin Allen the man who brought movies like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno and TV shows like Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, gave the American viewing public one glorious camp-arific season of The Time Tunnel. It was about two scientist lost in time trying to get back home, occasionally aided by a mission control center that could usually only look in horror as the scientist had to outwit historical meanies and aliens in heavy makeup wearing jump suits made of tinfoil.(3) Basically it was an American Dr. Who, with Lee Meriwether.
In the 1980, someone took the best of these one hour shows and fused two episodes together to make a series of two hour TV movies. The local Los Angles independent station would occasionally show it on their weekend manatee. My sister, my cousins and my grand father would huddle around the TV and watch the time traveling exploits of Dr. Tony Neumann and Dr. Douglass Phelps.
Eventually in 2002 someone came up with an idea, what if all these time travelers out there weren’t immune to karma and what if they are royally missing things up with their temporal shenanigans? The proposed Time Tunnel re-boot was an answer to this question. We see a world that has become altered slightly from ours, sometimes the effects were trivial and some times it was disastrous. Examples were a world where the red light means go and green means stop. The USSR won the race to the moon, a world where the allies sued the Axis for peace during WW II. Where the United States has 49 not 50 states, and where the Yankee’s play their home games in Boston. And our intrepid chrononauts would have to restore things to the way they were.
Some people would argue that the American public doesn’t know enough about history to get the subtle jokes and realize when something had been changed from the way it really happened. But Sliders made it work (at least for their first season, after that it got a bit tiresome) why couldn’t a new Time Tunnel also pull it off.
I have recently watched the first two episodes of Continuum, and in general I like the show, but I am applaud by how the time traveling terrorist, kill with impunity here in the present never stopping to consider how it will effect their future. I envision entire family lines disappearing due to their actions. Maybe the writers will address it in later episodes, maybe they won’t, or maybe they will just have Doctors Neumann and Phelps come in and fix everything to the way it should be.
3) Guillermo Del Toro’s Version of the Mountains of Madness.
It is no secret that I love the writings H.P. Lovecraft, it is also no secret that movies based on his writings usually suck more than Cygnus X-1. For example The Dunwich Horror, where the short story is remembered as this gem of moody neo-Victorian/Gothic cosmic horror, the movie is widely remembered for how bad it was and that it is only movie in which Sandra Dee went topless.
The only ones who seem to get it right are the fan boy/girls. Such as the retro-styled black and white silent Call of Cthulhu(4) by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society an homage to what a 1928’s CoC would have looked like, or the one step above a bunch of guys with a camcorder making a movie in their back yard, The Last Lovecraft: The Relic of Cthulhu (5) True this movie is campy and the deep ones look like they have papier-mâché masks on, but you have to respect it for the love the makers have for their subject and well there is nothing in the universe of cinema that is more cool than an animated rendition of The Great and Dreadful Cuthlhu ripping of a stegosaurus’ head and ramming it through a shagooth.
So the fan boys do it right. And the ultimate fan Lovecraft fanboy is Guillermo Del Toro, known for movies like Hell Boy and Pan’s Labyrinth, his dream project has always been an adaption of HPL’s Mountains of Madness. But the G-man has insisted that it has to be done right. That meant getting James Cameron and Tom Cruise on board. He also held out for a hundred and twenty million dollar to make the movie, rather than a twenty or thirty million dollars that the studios were originally offered, and insisting that the movie be rated ‘R’ not for blood and gore but because of its level of intensity.(6)
This looked like a no brainer, both an artistic triumph and a money maker. Then the studio pulled the plug. Why? Because they deemed it was to close to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.(7) No firkin’ way! OK, I get that the whole Alien franchise’s origins were inspired by Lovecraft. (8) But come on we can defiantly tell the difference between the two. This is kind of like the studios killing an American version of Night Watch because it was to close to Wanted. OK, well honestly maybe we should leave that one in the hands of the Russians, rather than ruin the franchise with a summer popcorn movie version. But Mountains of Madness could have been truly epic. So here we wait looking in vain for good quality mythos movies, which regrettably are as rare as Yithian-teeth.
2) William Gibson’s rejected script for the third Alien Movie.
There is an unbreakable law in fandom, odd numbered Trek movies suck, and almost no one likes Alien3. On its own it would be an OK movie, but with killing two thirds of the survivors of Aliens in the credits, Ripley forced to sacrifice herself in the end, and the fact that whole movie doesn’t seem to fit in to the Alien cosmos, it doesn’t work as part of the series. It also pretty much invalidated Dark Horses awesome Aliens Expander Universe comic line.
The movie comes off like it was designed by a comity. Which, by the way it was. In 1992 a third Alien movie was pretty much a for gone conclusion The James Cameron directed Aliens, had taken Ridley Scott’s, moderately profitable horror movie set in space and turned it in to a franchise worthy success. But the thing was that the studio execs didn’t know what they wanted the new movie to be like. In anticipation of the new movie they went a head and released a tag line, before settling on a script. “On Earth everyone can hear scream.” It mirrored the famous original “In space no one can hear you scream.” And implied the bug hunt was coming to our home world. Fanboys ran off squealing with delight. The thing is none of the potential scripts take place on the planet Earth.(10)
But early on during the planning phase someone got the brilliant idea to bring in Nueromauncer writer William Gibson. With his first book creating the tsunami that would be the cyberpunk genre, he was still riding the crest of his popularity. The studio exec thought they would get an overview, with some character notes that they could use to build a movie on, and then throw his name on to increase its street cred. What they got was a fully completed script. Apparently no one told Gibson that when a studio hires you to write a script the last thing they want you to do was actually go out and write one.
The studio then shelved Gibson’s script and went for one that took place on a prison planet where the corporation and government were experimenting on supposedly executed prisoners. They then deep sixed that idea and went with one that took place in a monastery in space. Then in a supreme act of micromanaging decided to use the worst parts of both of those scripts to make the dud that was Alien3.
Gibson’s version has aliens being used as possible turning points in a galactic cold war. It combines the horror elements of the first movie with the action adventure themes of the second. It has some real authentic chills but still allows Hicks and a repaired Bishop to do some major xenomorph butt kicking
There were issues with Gibson’s script. Sigourney Weaver wasn’t sure she wanted to do another Alien movie so her charchter Ripley spends most the movie in a coma. Though she could easily been written back in with a bigger part when she eventually committed to the project. And besides that at least she Hicks, and Newt aren’t arbitrarily killed off.
Another potential controversy was that Gibson has the Aliens mutate so that a human breathing the alien spores could be turned in to one of the creatures. This makes for some creepy scenes where humans transmute into the monster, before other characters eyes. It would have had fan boys hollering about how Gibson messed with the xenomorphs well documented reproduction cycle. But I don’t think it is nearly as heretical as what Ridley Scott did with his prequel Prometheus. And if the core fandom is going to complain about it anyway might as well at least been a good story.
1) Global Frequency.
G.F. is often referred to as ‘… the most popular show that never screened…” (11) It started out as a comic book by writer Warren Ellis, who also did Red, Planetary, Jenifer Blood and The Authority, as well as quite a few more mainstream titles. It revolves around Miranda Zero and her team of 1001 experts on…. Well, everything. The best commandos, the best spies, the best scientist, the best body guards the best researchers. “…If you are the best at what you do one day Miranda Zero shows up at your door and give you a phone, that means you are import and you are going to save lives…” And what a phone. These phones are what links the members of Global Frequency, with their own secure satellite network and coverage all over the world, the team’s top specialists are linked together so they can give the field teams the upper hand that allows them to save the day.
Except for number twelve the finial issue in the mini-series (Which is a kind of a best of the best take on the big bad episode) the only recurring characters were G.F’s enigmatic leader Miranda Zero and her top techie Aleph. This might seem to be a hard to transition to TV, but when they got the green light for the small screen it was settled on a core team of a scientist and a cop (As well as Zero and Aleph), with a bevy different specialist backing them up in different episodes.
I loved the Global Frequency Comic book. I stumbled on it with the release of issue 4, on the back wall of Ralph’s comics, in Ventura and I was hooked. New issues were supposed to be every other month, for a two year run, but Ellis’ computer and all his back ups had a melt down that and with comics notorious print delays it took longer than twenty-four months to tell the entire story.
In 2005 when it was announced that the WB was picking up The Frequency as a series and that Miranda Zero would be played by Michelle Forbes (Ensign Ro from TNG) I was ecstatic. But the new season came and went and no Global Frequency. I found out that the network waivered on it, and the pilot was leaked on the internet. Furious, WB execs then canceled the plans for the series. Which is too bad because it had a stellar cast and some really good ideas that could have made it a major cult TV hit. Though eventually GF did get a little time on TV, I am sure I saw one of Miranda Zero’s magnificent phones, used as Lex Luthor’s remote control on Smallville.
For fun here are some links into what could have been.
The unaired Electra Woman and Dyna Girl Pilot
Cyndi Lauper Singing the E.W & D.G. theme.
The 2002 Time Tunnel plot.
The William Gibson’s Alien Script.
Global Frequency pilot