Feb 16 2012
If you’re like me, you’re sitting around doing little else but counting down the days until April when Game of Thrones returns to HBO. The series made a huge impression in its debut season this year, and showed that despite the fact that the glory days of The Wire, The Sopranos and Six Feet Under are past, HBO still has it in them to create the best shows on television.
On a separate, but soon to be related note, I’ve been thinking about which video games are left that could actually make for fantastic feature films if adapted properly. There aren’t many, but above all else, Mass Effect has always come to mind. But combining the two thoughts, it occurred to me that the best place for a space opera would NOT be in a mere two hour feature, particularly not with a universe and cast as expansive as Mass Effect’s. And that’s why I firmly believe that HBO should consider a Mass Effect series as their next ambitious project.
The channel loves to jump from genre to genre, and space is really the only place they haven’t gone yet. In general, TV stays away from space because of the expense, but as long running series like Star Trek and Stargate show, there’s a way to make it work on a budget.
People criticize Game of Thrones for avoiding showing epic Lord of the Rings style battles, but it’s due to obvious money constraints, and the show works even in the absence of such action scenes. Mass Effect has always been an OK shooter, but many of the best moments of the series have been in the dialogue, and the game is far better written than almost any other in the medium. In other words, it would be fantastic to make a Mass Effect show a character driven drama rather than a hugely action oriented series with a space battle and Geth shootout every episode.
Like Game of Thrones, Mass Effect sports a large cast who all have their own interesting storylines that span a whole host of alien races. Assembling the original crew of the Normandy could be the entire first season, and the show would allow the entire cast to interact with each other, and not just Shepard alone, and their storylines could be a lot more intertwined. The grand plot could focus on the looming Reaper threat, but I wouldn’t be opposed to entirely new storylines composed within the universe, as the sheer amount of detail and backstory that exists in the world of Mass Effect almost rivals Star Wars.
It’s true, there isn’t a handy script in the form of a book that would be incredibly easy to adapt, and it would be harder to format plotlines from the game into live-action stories, but I definitely think it’s possible, and with the right writers, Mass Effect could be the high budget, well-scripted sci-fi show we’ve never really had.
Think of the cast, and how many opportunities there’d be for branching storylines, rivalries and love triangles. Kaiden, Ashley, Liara, Wrex, Tali, Garrus, Joker and eventually Miranda, Grunt, Thane, Jacob, Jack, Samara and Mordin. That’s not even mentioning non-crew characters or ones that could be invented from scratch. And much like Game of Thrones, everyone is expendable, and characters could be killed off left and right given the situation, no matter how endearing or beloved they may be. It happens in the game, and it could easily translate effectively to a series.
As for Shepard himself? The great thing is that it could be anyone, anyone at all. It doesn’t have to be someone that looks like the male model the default face is based on. If you wanted, Shepard could be any race, any gender. I actually could almost see a female Shepard being a more interesting protagonist than a male one.
I understand the challenges that would accompany something like this. In addition to scripting from scratch much of the time, and the cost would be significant. Costumes and makeup for aliens like Garrus, Thane and Liara would be expensive and time consuming, though I will argue if cosplayers can do it, HBO can find the cash.
Space would be tricky, but in all honesty, there isn’t much time spent with actual space battles in the game, and if the show only had one or two per season, the cost of the visual effects could be manageable. Rather, much of the show could take place inside the Normandy, which would only require one set, and on various planets they’d just have to use the same kind of “background CGI” to enhance environments that they do with Game of Thrones.
The mere thought of all this sends shivers up my geek spine, and even though this is pure fantasy, I’m actually getting excited looking at the HBO promos I created in photoshop. And if this is what we get from amateur cosplaying FANS, imagine what HBO could do with an actual budget.
I think this is not only doable, but a fantastic idea, I really do. People like myself, and I assume many of you, are DYING for a good sci-fi space show now that most of the old classics are off the air, and because standard networks like Fox won’t give shows like Firefly a chance. HBO’s final frontier is indeed space, and Mass Effect has an entire fantastic universe already created and just sitting there for the taking.
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