Netflix’s reimagining of Lost in Space debuted last week, the latest in a very long line of classic scifi TV shows that have either been rebooted (sometimes more than once) and/or made into feature films. But there are still a few lesser-known properties, untouched since the 1960s and ’70s, floating out there in the cosmos that deserve a relaunch. We had to dig pretty deep to find them, but here are our suggestions.
1) Far Out Space Nuts
The original premise: Spawned from the minds of Sid and Marty Krofft, legendary producers of psychedelic TV programming aimed at kids (but equally beloved by weedians of all ages), mid-1970s oddity Far Out Space Nuts cast comedians Bob Denver (a.k.a. Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island) and Chuck McCann as NASA grunts who accidentally blast off after a slight control-panel misunderstanding (“I said lunch, not launch!”) With their trusty alien friend, Honk, they travel the universe, having strange adventures on strange new worlds.
How to remake it: A wacky scifi comedy about a pair of bumbling space travellers could actually work, especially if whoever made it leaned into the stoner humour with creative enthusiasm. The original show was ultra low-budget – it’s a toss-up as to which cost less, the special effects or the sets and costumes – and obviously a modern re-do would need to be a little less rough around the edges. But a certain amount of cheesiness would be essential, and under no circumstances should the theme song be rewritten. Also, you’d be a damn fool to change the name of anything titled Far Out Space Nuts.
2) Space Academy
The original premise: In the year 3732, a school designed to train the best young minds in the galaxy (some of whom had superpowers, including a pair of telepathic twins) is constructed on an asteroid, the ideal location when your “classroom” is actually a series of jaunts through space. Lost in Space alum Jonathan Harris (the O.G. Dr. Smith) played the Space Academy headmaster – an impeccably coiffed 300-year-old whose many years of deep space exploration helped him slow the ageing process. Space Academy aired in the Year of Our Star Wars, 1977, and boasted a cast of squeaky-clean teens clad in polyester uniforms, a whimsical robot sidekick named Peepo, the occasional stop-motion space dinosaur, and a disco theme song.
How to remake it: Keep the basic concept: Teens with superpowers and super-smarts are invited to study at an elite academy situated on a rock in deep space. They go on interplanetary adventures and through black holes, and learn hard lessons about why it’s important to work as a team. But while a do-over should honour the original show’s surprisingly diverse cast, this time, hire young actors who don’t perpetually look like “Gee whiz!” is the next thing to come out of their mouths. In fact, just make everything edgier. Raise the stakes by, like, a million – add some real conflict that audiences will actually care about week after week. Maybe the teachers are secretly evil aliens and the kids learn their superior brains are being trained not for the goodwill of the galaxy, but for some other, far more malevolent purpose. Maybe someone’s superpowers, combined with the angst of being a young adult far away from home, will transform them into a supervillain. You could do a lot with Space Academy, and still keep it fun – because there’s always plenty of room for space dinosaurs.
Two “six-inch oddities” hide from a mega-sized human in the first episode of Land of the Giants.Photo: 20th Century Fox Television
3) Land of the Giants
The original premise: Producer and stock-footage aficionado Irwin Allen is probably best-known today for his epic string of disaster-themed blockbusters, including 1972’s The Towering Inferno, 1974’s The Poseidon Adventure, and 1978’s The Swarm. However, in the 1960s he was mostly focused on his scifi TV empire, which included the original Lost in Space. The Allen vault also includes – among others – time-travel adventure The Time Tunnel (which itself was almost remade back in 2002) and the cult-beloved Land of the Giants. Giants debuted in 1968, but it was set in the far-flung future year of 1983. Its sorta Lost in Space-ish premise follows a spaceship crew that accidentally warps into a dimension where everything is insanely huge and is ruled by unfriendly giants who live very much like Americans circa 1968. Land of the Giants‘ generous production budget (said to be $US250,000 ($321,749) per episode, a hefty sum back then) was mostly used on its special effects, which were heavy on giant props for the actors to scamper around on, as well the many instances in which the mini-sized actors were added into scenes with actors (and animals) playing oversized versions of themselves.
How to remake it: Obviously special effects have gotten way better and more cost-efficient. And though Honey I Shrunk the Kids kind of wore out the concept 20 years ago, Ant-Man (and that Rick and Morty episode where they climb a bean stalk and end up in Giant Court) proved that there’s still a ton of cool stuff you can do with “shrinky-dinked people in a massive world.” That said, there’s still a goofy thrill in seeing a hissing, hulking kitty cat chase a teeny-tiny human… especially in outer space.
4) Future Cop
The original premise: Forget about Karl Urban’s recent show Almost Human (chances are,you already have), and push to the far reaches of your mind a little movie called RoboCop. Future Cop, which first aired in 1977, starred Ernest Borgnine and John Amos as LAPD officers who’re tasked with working with the new guy on the force – but only Borgnine’s character is in on the secret that the rookie is secretly an android. (Conveniently, the guy’s stilted, formal way of speaking and his ability to run super-fast, among other suspicious and/or enhanced traits, aren’t enough to blow his cover.) And here’s a bit of notable trivia: After the show’s brief time on the air, its producers were sued by acclaimed scifi authors Harlan Ellison and Ben Bova, who were able to prove the show ripped off a concept they’d sold to them a few years prior.
How to remake it: Legal entanglements would probably make this impossible, but wouldn’t it be amazing to see the Ellison-Bova script make it to the airwaves after all these years? Beyond that, the whole “cop with a robot partner” concept has been done a lot, but while Future Cop was essentially a drama, it wasn’t exactly a high-tech action thriller. And despite its title, it was set exactly when it was made. Can the world of 2018 handle a buddy cop series (with moments of gritty seriousness and broad comedy) that pairs a couple of gruff old-timers with a young officer who happens to be a humanoid robot… set in 1977? Keep the wah-wah soundtrack and it just might work.
5) The Invaders
The original premise: An early-career creation from Larry Cohen – whose many credits include the essential cult horror movies It’s Alive, God Told Me To, and Q: The Winged Serpent – The Invaders ran from 1967 to 1968 and was about one man’s frantic quest to prove that an alien invasion is underway. (Shades of The X-Files, but the main character is an architect, not a government agent.) It was remade into a 1995 miniseries starring Scott Bakula, but that version was more of a sequel than a remake.
How to remake it: The original show capitalised on Cold War unease, and we’ve got our own surreal version of that kind of paranoia now — with a hefty dose of “What the fuck is happening now?” with every Twitter feed refresh. “The nightmare has already begun,” the show’s opening credits inform us. It sure has… and wouldn’t it be almost an awful relief to find out that evil E.T.s are to blame for everything that’s happening in the White House? The timing certainly seems just right for a new spin on this strain of scifi terror.