Friday, 2 December 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #846: Random Drippings From.... OUTER SPACE!

Bit of a science fiction theme with today's news and my rantings, so let's get the ball rolling....


Writer turned semi-professional litigant Harlan Ellison has dropped his lawsuit against the makers of the movie In Time, claiming it was a rip off of his short story Repent Harlequin Said The TickTockMan.

What changed his mind?

He actually saw the movie.

Then he said "Oops."

Jeez Harlan, you're not helping your "combative rebel" street cred by jumping the gun like this.  I thought you at least had read a copy of the script. Go back to suing James Cameron, he's got money, and I'm sure you'll find something in Avatar that has a remote similarity to something you wrote back in the 60s.

Do any of your stories have blue people in them? If they do you can turn those blue people into some serious green.

Sure beats writing fiction, which is something I think you used to do quite a bit of.


Sony Pictures is looking at a reboot of Starship Troopers.

For those with short memories Starship Troopers started out life as a Hugo award winning, but controversial, novel by Robert Heinlein. It's about Juan Rico, an aimless youth from an prosperous family in Buenos Aires who joins the elite Mobile Infantry, battles alien insects, and becomes a war hero and leader.

The controversial part of the book is that the Terran Federation Rico fights for has two classes of citizenship.  There are the partial citizens, who have free speech, assembly, and can pretty much do anything they want, but they cannot vote, or run for office. Full citizens have all those same rights, but can also vote and hold political office, and you can only become a full citizen if you do two years of "Federal Service."  This could be civilian volunteer work, or in Rico's case, serving in the military. The whole society is based on the concept that democracy can only be fully appreciated by those that sacrificed for it.  The whole point of the book is to get people talking about the nature of democracy, and appreciating it better.

In 1997 the book was made into a movie directed by Paul "Basic Instinct" Verhoeven. Verhoeven seemed to be going by a summary of the book given to him by a semi-literate teenager, and thought it was about fascism.

So the 1997 movie version was a monstrosity.  The acting couldn't have been more wooden if they had let Big Bob's Discount Lumber do the casting. The costumes looked like Hugo Boss' wet dream and the story and its themes mangled beyond recognition. Instead of the discussion and debate that the novel sought to provoke, you just got a big steaming pile of obvious special effects and general Verhoeven brand tackiness.

The film didn't do all that great, but that didn't stop Sony from dropping 2 straight to video sequels that were forgotten before they were even released.

Will this proposed reboot be any better?

Probably not.


The BBC, Britain's top public broadcaster, currently has a little cash cow called Doctor Who.  For those who have lived in a cave since 1963, Doctor Who is about a centuries old time & space traveling alien called the Doctor, the last of a once all powerful race called the Time Lords.  He roams the stars, usually with a human companion or two*, and gets into all sorts of mad adventures that requires him to save the Universe with his wits over weaponry.**  Another key to the show's longevity is that when the Doctor comes close to death, he regenerates into a new body, which means that the character isn't wed to a single actor, or style of portrayal.

Now Hollywood's been sniffing around Doctor Who for a long time, even doing a pilot movie for the Fox Network in 1996. That sniffing has become more intense with the show's successful relaunch a few years ago.  Johnny Depp has even expressed interest in playing a big screen version of the Doctor.

This talk recently got more intense when director David Yates was recruited from the Harry Potter franchise to helm the project.  David Yates promptly declared that his Who was going to be a radical re-imagining of the character and the premise, and not be connected to or beholding to the TV series.

That sparked Doctor Who's current showrunner, writer and producer Steven Moffat to tweet:
Now you're probably wondering what could turn what should be a simple business arrangement into the complete pig's breakfast it's turned into.
Well, here are some facts about the BBC and Doctor Who that could explain things...

1. BBC is a public broadcaster. It's supported by money collected by the government through taxes and "license fees." That means that the profitability of the ongoing series doesn't really matter if a movie deal can improve a BBC bureaucrat's personal fiefdom within the broadcaster.

2. While a wildly popular show, there have been periods where it was viewed as an inane kiddie show that is beneath the dignity of such an august institution as the BBC.

3. The BBC upper management is extremely London-centric, always has been. Doctor Who is made in Cardiff, Wales, which though only a few hundred miles away, might as well be on Pluto when it comes to dealing with the byzantine machinations of internal BBC turf wars.

4.  Moffat is the man behind two of the BBC's most successful and critically acclaimed series, Doctor Who, and the modern dress adaptation of Sherlock.  That makes him a powerful man who exists outside the hidebound, fossilized BBC hierarchy.  Those in that hierarchy may feel compelled to crush at least one of his shows, just to illustrate their power and freedom from commercial considerations like popularity.

Now it looks like Moffat has used his considerable power to bring some sense to bear, but bureaucracies aren't really known for their sensibility.


*It's the usual practice of the Doctor to recruit companions like...

Karen Gillian as companion Amy Pond

Freema Agyeman as companion Dr. Martha Jones.

Billie Piper as companion Rose Tyler

The Doctor's an alien, he's not an idiot.

** While pacifistic by nature, The Doctor has committed genocide quite a few times when it was required to save others, even on his own people.


  1. Blast Hardcheese3/12/11 8:45 pm

    Moffat also did a great miniseries "Jekyll", a modern re-imagining of the Jekyll-and-Hyde story. It did get kind of weird towards the end, but James Nesbitt could have given Heath Ledger a run for his money.

    Oh, and for Blast's companions it would be Freema Agyeman followed (very closely) by Billie Piper and whatsername as third. Applications can be submitted through this website.

  2. Dirty McDingus sezs:
    Starship Troopers will never become a true adaptation in the caves of hollyweird. What Robert wrote was an antonym to everything those tree huggin' hippies rubbed up against on a daily basis and believed.
    I'd never bust Harlan on his written works, there were great. But his lack of output for Decades tells me the well is so very Very dry. When he sued caMoron on 'The Terminator', companies always did the "pay 'em off to just go away" even when that movie was no Box Office smash hit~ The advent of VHS saved it from vanishing into fond memories! If you sat down (as I did) and watched both episodes from 'the Outer Limits' he declared that movie stole from, you'll notice the Huge leaps needed to connect anything to each other. He is now just a litigious hack, trolling hollyweird for more money.. finding that that well has been sand blasted years ago too~

  3. I am a massive Dr. Who fan, and the thinking of tiny-brained Yates that the concept would be best-served by a "complete reboot" strikes me as the typical Hollywood idiocy that pisses off the fan base without attracting any new customers.

    While STARSHIP TROOPERS may not be hippy enough for Hollywood, nonetheless it is in fact not about fascism, which I think was D's point. Heinlein's future state didn't even have forced conscription. How can it be fascist? I think Verhoeven thought it was fascist because not everyone got the vote, despite the fact that (a) anyone who was willing to put in a little time could get a vote and (b) every fascist state in history has had universal suffrage.

  4. Okay, I'll admit, the idea of a Hollywood rebooted Doctor Who gives me a certain amount of evil glee. Not because I dislike Doctor Who, but simply because, well, I'll probably never get the chance to punch Alan Moore or Warren Ellis in the face.

    Seriously. For years, Brits have been coming over to America and crapping all over our Collective Wish-Fulfillment Fantasy Characters, and we've been praising them for it. We should totally get the chance to do the same to one of theirs.

  5. Hey no one is a bigger anglophobe than me. I still love the Doctor despite the subtle anti-Americanism, the unsubtle pro-gay theme, and the moderately-pushed atheist agenda that all feature in the new version. I can stand that as long as I still get my creepy aliens and an occasional good one-liner.