Ten years after the revival of Doctor Who first hit screens, it’s pretty safe to say by now that it’s been an unqualified success. Bringing back a show that was seen by many as having passed its best days was a huge gamble on the part of the BBC, but it’s one that’s paid off in spades.
But are there any other shows out there that might stand a similar chance of success if brought back with a new cast and a new approach for a new audience? We’ve taken a look through some classic British sci-fi series from the 1960s through to the 1990s, and set to thinking how their characters and concepts could be successfully translated to the present day–and, of course, which modern-day actors and actresses would be suited to their roles.
1. Blake’s 7
What is it? It was a somewhat dark and gritty 1970s series about a band of outlaws on the run through space, written by Dalek creator Terry Nation. The show carried a particularly pessimistic sense of despair and claustrophobia, and had one of the most downbeat endings in television history when—spoilers!—basically everybody died. It was also notable for its regularly changing cast of characters, to the extent that there were very rarely actually seven of them; and the last two seasons (out of four) didn’t even feature Blake (Gareth Thomas). There was actually talk of a potential remake by SyFy back in 2013, but things seem to have gone quiet on that front.
Why should it be remade? While a fascinating and morally challenging dystopian story, the circumstances under which it was made (cheaply and in the 1970s) meant that Blake’s 7‘s execution was never really able to live up to its premise. A modern-day remake should be able to maintain the themes that were the original’s strength while improving the production values. The Battlestar Galactica remake would be a strong point of comparison.
Who should be in it? The Walking Dead‘s David Morrissey has the sort of powerful charisma to play a rogue leader like Blake, with just enough of a dark undercurrent beneath the surface. Blake’s constantly scheming right-hand man Avon, meanwhile, would be well suited to Burn Gorman (Torchwood). And Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) could have spectacular fun with the role of ice-queen arch-villainess Servalan.
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
What is it? The 1981 television adaptation of Douglas Adams’ classic radio and novel series. If you’ve somehow never heard of it, it’s a devastatingly clever sci-fi comedy about an ordinary man named Arthur Dent who gets rescued from the Earth moments before it’s destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, and we follow his increasingly surreal adventures as he and his alien friend Ford Prefect make their way through a baffling galaxy.
Why should it be remade? Adams wrote five Hitchhiker’s Guide novels, but most adaptations have only tended to focus on the first one. The original TV series, meanwhile, was a pretty straight translation of the first six episodes of the radio show. But there was a second radio season (later mostly adapted into the second novel, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe) filled with fantastic material that’s never been adapted to the screen. It would be great to see that second chapter of the story make its way to a fresh audience; and a new TV show might also help to banish memories of the poorly received 2005 movie.
Who should be in it? Peep Show star David Mitchell has to be a guaranteed lock for the lead role of Arthur whenever anybody next gets around to making a Hitchhiker’s adaptation. Alongside him, we could see the otherworldly charm of Andrew Scott (Sherlock) as alien guidebook researcher Ford and multi-faceted impressionist Peter Serafinowicz (Guardians of the Galaxy) as the two-headed galactic-president-turned-fugitive party animal Zaphod Beeblebrox. And for the voice of the Guide itself? Well, you can’t really go wrong with the movie’s choice of Stephen Fry.
What is it? A 1998 vampire-based drama written by Doctor Who director Joe Ahearne, starring Jack Davenport, Idris Elba and Susannah Harker. In mixing classically supernatural themes with a firmly grounded and scientific reality, it was a natural precursor to shows like Being Human, and focused on a paramilitary team of anti-vampire operatives, while also maintaining a certain amount of moral ambiguity.
Why should it be remade? Because there wasn’t enough of it in the first place, frankly: just one season of six episodes. It was maybe just that little bit ahead of its time — had it come along in the mid-to-late 2000s, it would have fit in much better with the TV landscape, and to this day it’s still hailed as a big influence on a lot of cult and sci-fi-based drama.
Who should be in it? In an ideal world, the original cast could be reunited — although with Davenport and Elba both having moved on to bigger things, it might be tricky to get them back. If recasting for a fresh interpretation of the story, let’s have Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones) as Michael Colefield, the police detective who gets caught up in the world of “Code Fives,” and Samuel Anderson (Doctor Who) as vampire-hunting agent Vaughn Rice. Downton Abbey pair Joanne Froggatt and Iain Glen could step into the other key roles of Dr. Angela Marsh and Father Pearse Harman.
4. The Champions
What is it? An effortlessly stylish late 1960s ITV series that blended espionage and detection with superpowers and the occult. It followed three agents from a UN-based law enforcement group who crash their plane in the Himalayas and uncover a secret advanced civilization that grants them extraordinary super-powers including strength and telepathy. They then use these powers covertly while continuing to work on behalf of the UN to battle international threats.
Why should it be remade? Spies-turned-superheroes? Who can resist that combination? A remake could even retain the original’s 1960s setting, keeping that distinctive sense of style in the process; or simply bring it up to date with a retro-futurist feel.
Who should be in it? The original series had a nice cross-Atlantic mix (it was also broadcast on NBC in the U.S.) with Stuart Damon and William Gaunt as the American and British leads, respectively. We’d retain that, with Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm as the suave American and Richard Armitage (Robin Hood) as the gruff Englishman, with the trio rounded out by Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) filling the shoes of Alexandra Bastedo.
5. Crime Traveller
What is it? Back in the late 1990s, BBC1 had the bright idea of trying to recreate the success of Doctor Who with a new Saturday evening time-travel drama. Unfortunately, rather than bringing back Doctor Who, they instead commissioned Crime Traveller, a show about a cop and an inventor’s daughter who use a time machine to solve crimes. Created by novelist Anthony Horowitz, it garnered reasonably successful viewing figures, though it was never a hit with the critics, and wasn’t renewed after its first season.
Why should it be remade? Because although the show itself was seen as a bit of a joke in the years afterwards, it was still a pretty neat concept. With the right dynamic between its lead pair, there’s definitely potential for a sparky, entertaining high-concept drama series in the vein of Ashes to Ashes.
Who should be in it? The leads in the original series were former Eastenders star Michael French and Red Dwarf‘s Chloe Annett. We could easily see the pairing of Sherlock‘s Rupert Graves and Call the Midwife actress Jessica Raine as a pretty likable present-day equivalent.
Which British shows would you like to see make a comeback?Read More