For those hungering for quality, scripted science fiction, Syfy Channel’s annual media upfront presentation has been decidedly the place NOT to be for the last few years. Though the network has announced a small handful of concepts, next to none have made it out of the tenuous development phase — until now.
The cable channel’s 2013 presentation took place yesterday in New York, with several new scripted projects announced or confirmed. There’s still no Stargate on the horizon, unfortunately — but the line-up does bring a much-needed return to outer space, a new show from Battlestar Galactica‘s Ronald D. Moore, and a mini-series adaptation of a couple of sci-fi classics.
Not every series that enters the development process will exit as a fully-grown television show, of course. In fact, Syfy’s record seems to show that most announced shows will not make it to air. See also: the Quantum Leap revival, Farscape webisodes, Damian Kindler and Amanda Tapping’s “Robin Hood in space” idea, Three Inches (its 2-hour pilot was burned off as a move-of-the-week), BSG: Blood & Chrome (same fate), a prematurely announced H.G. Wells spin-off of Warehouse 13 (story), and countless others.
So if it hasn’t been announced as picked up to series, take it as an idea that Syfy is currently kicking around.
We’ve divided up the shows into three categories: New series that have been picked up and are officially headed to the airwaves, mini-series also picked up, and series on the development slate that may or may not end up shooting a pilot or ever see the light of day.
Helix. Produced by Ronald D. Moore, with Steven Maeda (LOST, CSI: Miami) as showrunner, Helix is a 13-episode thriller set at an Arctic research base. A group of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control travel there to investigate the possible outbreak of a deadly disease that could threaten the entire world. There the team members find themselves in a life-and-death struggle “that holds the key to mankind’s salvation or total annihilation.” Moore said the show will be highly serialized, rather than episodic. Production begins soon, with an eye toward a late 2013 debut.
Untitled Jamie Foxx Horror Anthology. If you’re a horror fan, you’ll be interested at a new anthology series in the vein of Tales From the Crypt and The Twilight Zone. Foxx will write, produce, and direct the 5-episode series, which will premiere in October. He may also make an on-screen appearance.
Ringworld. Developed as a 4-hour event, based on the Hugo Award-winning novel by Larry Niven. “A hastily-assembled team of explorers travels to the farthest reaches of space to investigate a mind-blowing alien artifact called Ringworld – an artificial habitat the size of one million Earths. As they crash land on this enormous structure, they discover the remnants of ancient civilizations, technology beyond their wildest dreams, mysteries that shed light on the very origins of man and, most importantly, a possible salvation for a doomed Earth.”
Childhood’s End. “Based on the Arthur C. Clarke novel, the story follows a peaceful alien invasion of Earth by the mysterious Overlords, whose arrival ends all war and turns the planet into a near-utopia.”
High Moon. From producer Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies), High Moon has just been green-lit for a pilot. It tells the story of a future Earth where the nations of the world have established mining colonies on the Moon. After a new form of life is discovered along with the planetoid’s valuable resources, “chaos erupts in a genuinely emotional, humorously thrilling and always unexpected fashion as the people of the Moon race to uncover this life form’s powerful secrets.”
Clandestine. Executive producers Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead) and John Shiban (Hell on Wheels). “After a clan of bandits are nearly destroyed and left for dead by Coalition forces, they take refuge in the nearest safe haven, a derelict Coalition starship floating in space. Once onboard, they masquerade as Coalition officers while continuing their criminal ways – until they stumble upon a shocking realization about the true nature of the Coalition.”
Dominion. Based on the feature film Legion. “Twenty years after evil angels descended from heaven to lay waste to the human souls they felt God had favored over them, a reluctant “savior” must arise to protect Vega, the last remaining stronghold of humanity. The savior has more to fear than just angels, as the elites of this new society conspire to gain power for themselves.” (This is a working title, formerly called Legion.)
Infinity. Written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach (LOST), produced by Berman/Braun Television for Universal Television. “When an alien armada is sighted in the region of Pluto, the Earth government turns to a young billionaire industrialist — who has the only ship ready for interstellar travel — to greet the aliens and avoid a catastrophe. Powered by secret alien technology discovered on Earth in the 1960’s, the ship engages in a firefight that sends them spinning through a wormhole into an uncharted region of space. Lost in the universe, the team struggles to survive as they encounter new planets and alien species, searching for a way back home.”
No Place. From executive producer Robert Zemeckis. “The residents of a high-tech gated community arise one day to find themselves cut off from the rest of reality. Outside the walls of Paradise Hill is … nothing. Now the neighborhood must figure out how to survive as resources dwindle and tensions rise.”
Orion. A space opera from Ron Milbauer and Terri Hughes Burton (Alphas). “An adventurous female relic hunter, tracks down valuable artifacts while trying to piece together her past. Set amidst an intergalactic war pitting humans against a terrifying alien race, Orion must decide whether to use her abilities to save herself or commit to the cause and unearth long hidden artifacts that could free all of humanity from a horrible fate.”
Shelter. Executive produced by Bruce Joel Rubin (Deep Impact). “A massive meteorite is headed toward Earth, forcing 30,000 hand-picked humans to live underground in a government funded shelter in order to start a new society. What begins as a Utopia quickly succumbs to the old human faults and jealousies as certain members of society create alliances to gain favor and power. Meanwhile things on the surface are not what they seem. Humans slowly realize that this event may have been fated and the survivors meant for a greater purpose in rebooting life on Earth.”
Silver Shields. Executive produced by Robert Hewitt Wolfe (Andromeda). “When his father is slain by assassins connected to the government of the large nearby city of Pont Royal, farm boy Caymer journeys there to continue his father’s legacy as a member of the local police force — and to solve the mystery of his father’s death. He discovers that his simple country view on life is at odds with the big city, filled with orcs and other magical creatures.”
Sojourn. From writer Phil Levens (Smallville) and Lionsgate. “The first detective ever in space is tasked with investigating a murder on a starship — headed to colonize another planet — and instead becomes embroiled in a vast conspiracy involving a mysterious terrible crime dating back to the original launch of the ship 50 years ago.”
Untitled Alfonso Moreno Project. Executive produced by Moreno (NCIS) and Ross Fineman (Lights Out). “After a meteorite strikes a plane, the only two survivors find themselves sleepwalking and waking up with no memory of their actions. On the run from the government, they must figure out what happened to them and prove their innocence.”
Other recently announced projects are presumably still in development, though they didn’t figure into this week’s announcements — most notably, a remake of Blake’s 7. Syfy also announced two long-form series (mini-series) in development but not yet green-lit: Eyes of the Dragon (based on the Stephen King fantasy novel, from BSG‘s Michael Taylor), and Darkfall — about an Earth where magic replaces all modern forms of power and technology.
Syfy also announced three new unscripted shows, which are currently the channel’s bread and butter and have taken up the lion’s share of its programming attention since Stargate Universe went off the air. Read more about those at Television Without Pity. Make-up competition show Face Off was also recently renewed for a fifth run, which will likely start this summer.
Conspicuously absent from Syfy’s announcements this week is Rewind, which has filmed a pilot and is awaiting news of its fate. Other shows from last year’s development slate have also gone silent, including Ghost Projekt, Seeing Things, and the untitled Robert Hewitt Wolfe space series (story). Their fates remain unknown.
Among its current scripted dramas: Being Human has been renewed for a fourth season, but Alphas was cancelled after two. Warehouse 13 returns with the second half of Season Four at the end of April. Acquired Canadian series Lost Girl and Continuum are both going strong, and Syfy will air their new seasons this summer. Haven will also be back in the fall.