3 years ago, I wrote a piece where I openly wondered about and invited someone... anyone... well not ANYone... to consider doing The DragonRiders of Pern. The article got mainlined and it pleased the hell out of me to see that it did well. Whoopie! So...
Still no series, huh?
Since then, the rights have passed over to Warner Brothers, who passed on the Moore TV series in 2002. They optioned ‘all 22 volumes of the series for a feature live action film’ according to the Wikipedia article on The Dragonriders of Pern. They’ve even hired Sarah Cornwell to adapt Dragonflight, or at least ‘The first installment of the series’.
Super! Great! I’d love to hear some news on how that’s going. But there is no news is there? The only news I’m getting out of WB is that they’re swimming right along on trying to get their DC Comics Cinematic Universe off the ground. And making more Wizarding Crack for the legions of Wizarding Folk who’ve run out of Harry Potter books to make movies of. If there were news, there’d be some on the Wiki Article, would there not? Trust me, there would. Pern-ies (is that a fandom word? Pernies? Pernese?) would update that wiki in a heartbeat if there’d been a glimmer of movement on the Pern books going to film in the last 3 years.
So... the assumption is that it has once again fallen into development hell.
I mention in the former article how lucky we were that we didn’t have to deal with the half-assed Wonder Woman CW series that never got picked up. And good for us too. Now we have the Gadot WW movie instead. I also mention how sad we were that HBO passed on the American Gods series. Well, be sad no more. Seeing as we’re getting it from Starz and it’s kind of the darling of genre TV this last two months. As crazy-assed awful as things are right at the moment in the US, it seems to be a time of second chances for franchises that need to find the right person at the right time to make a series your next big moneymaker.
So when do we get DragonRiders? How much longer must we wait? Some thoughts about this that occur... We know the dragons have a telepathic bond with their riders. So now you have the opportunity for some beauty-voice-casting. For F’Lar’s huge Bronze Dragon, Mnementh... Imagine the collective audial orgasm in the audience when the deep rumbling Goliath tones of David Keith plays though the subwoofers of the world? Or how about F’Nor’s big brown, Canth? I nominate Alan ‘I am a leaf on the wind’ Tudyk for Canth. Particularly for his and F’Nor’s attempted flight to the Red Star.
Or how about celebrating the Gillian (check me out as a big-ass wolf in Mononoke) Anderson’s renaissance by casting her as Lessa’s golden queen, Ramoth? Who would you cast as F’Lar, F’Nor or Lessa? If it went that far, who’d you get for Menolly or Masterharper Robinton? (STEPHEN FRY!! OMG STEPHEN FRY!) Imagine Chris Pratt as F’Lar of Benden? (He’s had his on film experience with Raptors already.)
There are more and socially interesting reasons to not let go of this idea. We are, in the United States, slipping back into Carl Sagan’s literal negative outcome where science is being demonized, and as we lose our knowledge, fall helplessly into the grip of theology and superstition. It’s easy right now to despair that the world is entering its own extinction event amidst the general ignorance. Here’s a story that can show humans at their best. Reclaiming their world from the very real brink of human extinction through the discarding of superstition and fear. Showing just what people can do with science and courage. When we all unite in the face of certain armageddon. When better to remind ourselves of what we’re capable of than now?
There are still reservations about adapting this world for TV that I hear from fans. People that didn’t think that the mating flight sex/orgy scenes would (ahem) fly on a television show. That said, anyone who’s seen American Gods or Westworld in the last year might tell you differently now. It’s a little sad and ironic that we are only now achieving the kind of permissiveness to faithfully pursue the adaptation of 45 year old science fiction. And if the Sci-Fi channel can take on projects like Stranger in a Strange Land? Then certainly some channel with both sense and money can do the Pern books.
So who’d do this today?
It’s an odd moment, for genre fiction. Things are ending. Other things are running along famously. Abrams is caught up in literal disneyland doing the Star Wars films. Fuller is working with Gaiman on American Gods. HBO is currently taken up with Westworld and Game of Thrones. Sci-Fi’s still doing The Expanse and starting into Heinlein’s back catalog. There’s Stephen King projects all over the map for people who might otherwise be available. (See Abrams again.) Who are some interesting people to consider?
Joe Michael Straczynski’s an interesting idea. Sadly, we’ve been informed by Netflix that Sense8 is no longer happening. He was scripting the Kim Stanley Robinson ‘Red Mars’ novels last I heard. At least when he and Patricia Tallman’s people aren’t trying to put together a modern reboot of Babylon 5. (I WANNA PLAY LONDO FOR YOU! GET IN TOUCH WITH ME!!) But his appreciation for science and the grand scope of the story would be a lovely combination.
Another idea might be to see what Dave Filoni could do with it as an animated series for grown-ups. We’ve already seen what he can do with Star Wars. How his series is far from meant for just kids and pre-teens. We’ve been shown that he can write for both adults and kids at the same time, and lose none of the punch for either. Imagine Filoni turned loose on an animated series like Pern on a premium network? With all the realism of say... the CGI adaptation of Beowulf that Gaiman did some time ago. No follow-up series to Star Wars: Rebels has been announced. So what’s Filoni’s brief for the future? We’ve got a corker of a property if he’s interested...
For that matter... What’s Peter Jackson doing? He’s not doing the Silmarillion. I’m thinking the Tolkien estate can pretty much guarantee that. So while Pern is laying fallow... gosh... Who to tap for such an immense project that can respect a much beloved fantasy series? Someone who has access to a respected special effects house with a huge inventory of fantasy resources and wardrobe that can rival Industrial Light & Magic at their best? Someone who has all the connections you’d need to film in a country that has all the locations you’d ever want for a series like Pern... like say... where Lord of the Rings got filmed? Who to call... who to call... I just don’t know... Maybe JACKSON??? (does the Church Lady superior dance)
For that matter, though it would seem he’s still convalescing from earlier disappointments, What’s Ronald D. Moore doing nowadays? The original Mr. ‘This is near and dear to my heart’ himself? The showrunner who never caved to the suits and stood up for the vision that he and the author herself put together? It seems like he’s finally gotten Battlestar out of his system. Their Bionic Woman went the way of all things. I guess he’s still stuck in Outlander. And good on him for getting a series that’s been renewed through a 4th season. I have to think he’s still carrying the seed of what he and Anne conceived 17 years ago. All those ideas that he could take SO much further today. And wherever he’s filming Outlander, I gotta think it’s quite a lot like what Anne used to imagine for Pern’s highlands and the Weyrs. He’s let it lay fallow for 17 years, so I’m not holding my breath for him to suddenly go, “OKAY! IT’S BEEN LONG ENOUGH! THE TIME IS NOW! LET’S DO PERN LIKE I ALWAYS WANTED TO!” If he hasn’t done so by now, I’m thinking he’s not ever. Though in my heart, he’s still welcome.
Or here’s an idea... What’s Patty Jenkins doing between Wonder Woman movies? Or Joss Whedon? If the Warners still have the rights, they have easy access to both directors who might be looking to do something different. Both are proven quantities for action stories with strong female protagonists (Lessa, Menolly, Moreta, etc...) Both have been shown to be able to hit all the emotional beats. It would be ironic in the extreme if the very studio that pulled the plug on Moore’s series in 2002 for not being ‘buffy enough’ ended up doing a series or movie franchise with Mr. Buffy Guy himself.
We don’t even have to wait on the premium cable networks to realize they’ve got THE hit of the next 5 to 10 years right in front of them. Or the movie studios. Since 2014 when I wrote the original article about why Pern is such a ready-made epic waiting to happen, we’ve had miracles. Seriously. Warner Brothers against all odds and their own suits’ focus-grouped incompetence has managed an actual awesome Wonder Woman film. Marvel has managed to elevate streaming online services like Netflix into a serious player on the board. Hulu’s developing series around serious dystopian sci-fi fare like The Handmaid’s Tale. Amazon’s pulling stuff off like P.K.Dick’s ‘The Man in the High Castle’. IPTV is still letting things like Sense8 go due to lack of funds. But every day, these online streaming channels are eroding the old network model. Any one of these, as long as they have the bread to fund it, could have a runaway hit on their hands.
We don’t really even need it to be some YA angst-fest. The YA craze seems finally to be tapering off. Who knows when the Hunger prequels will happen. Twilight is done. That Allegiant series seems to have fallen apart. The Maze Runner seems to be on indefinite hold. And at least from my own vantage point, the world has moved on to more serious adult action-fare. Now we’re getting Westworlds and Dark Towers and Star Wars and the like. Let’s make it for grown ups. And if you want to do the YA Spinoff, you can always do The Harperhall of Pern books as a seperate series. Y
Let’s put it on Premium Stream and give it a budget it deserves. Let’s do it as a series instead of tentpole movies that have to make or break right away or never get any sequels made. Let’s give the story time to happen over a season instead of a cramped 2 to 3 hours.
Let’s do Pern.
-Edward WinterRose is 45, seems no closer to seeing Pern done as a proper series, and has been beating this dead horse for 17 years now on any webpage, chat room or message board that will put up with him. He maintains that a steady diet of TV, Comics, Novels, Movies, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, Speculative Fiction, Erotica and Fanfiction are toxic to the personality and the imagination, and offers himself as an example.