An Alternate Rise of the Blockbuster

3. Could the forces behind Blake's 7 and Red Dwarf be drawn more to Hollywood to try to get their ideas onto the big screen.
I don't think so. Terry Nation did work Hollywood, but I don't think he's going to have any more success than in OTL. I don't know if a slightly earlier and very different rise of blockbusters might save the British film industry, in which case there are possibilities. The pertinent project, given the years discussed so far, would surely be Hitchiker's Guide.

2. Would the BBC been tempted to let a Dr. Who film be made in this TL? I think Dr Who had been fading in popularity during the early 80's.
The popularity didn't fade til 1985 - it actually increased after Davison replaced Tom Baker. But the timing is good: 1980-81 was the year DW was big in America. The Nth Doctor by Jean-Marc Lofficier covers the Daltenreys film (1986-94): The foreword mentions Hollywood interest in '81, in Doctor Who with Tom Baker. 1980 saw Baker's serials in successful US syndication, US editions of the novelisations with Harlan Ellison's intros, and in December the first US convention (in LA, attracting much attention). Interest dimmed after Baker quit but had been there in some quarters (Lofficier was tapped for advice by "producers who later released an unsuccessful Lone Ranger remake").

All you need to tempt the BBC into letting a DW film be made, is money. Two British producers, financed by various people including Brian Ferry, formed the company Daltenreys and acquired the movie rights in 1986. But the BBC naturally kept the TV rights and that compromised the merchandising rights - a huge barrier when Daltenreys tried to begin production in '88, with a script by Johnny Byrne (who'd written for DW in the early 80s). Unable to sell ancilliary rights to fund an independent production, they needed to sell themselves to a major studio. In '92 they managed to secure a deal with Lumiere, a French studio. Lumiere financed a new script by Denny Martin Flinn (co-writer of Star Trek VI) in '93 and Leonard Nimoy signed to direct. Nimoy's first choice to play the Dr was Pierce Brosnan.

A 1995 Doctor Who film directed by Spock and starring James Bond sounds like ASB, doesn't it? They wanted to feature Tom Baker in a cameo, too. But Nimoy was serious enough about it to do extensive research, and meet with Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts in early 1994 (in the company of Lofficier) to get their views on the script and production. The deal with the BBC stipulated that filming had to begin by April 1994. It didn't - possibly because Lumiere got cold feet after the BBC's negotiations with Amblin (via Phillip Segal) to produce a new TV series, were announced. The BBC refused Daltenrys a further extension, ending the possible confusion of competing Doctors.

There is one possibility pre-1986, but it wouldn't quite be a blockbuster and it would depend on a couple of things I'm not sure of. Like, in the absence of ET, would Universal be desperately looking for a family-friendly film to release in July 1982?
 
I don't think so. Terry Nation did work Hollywood, but I don't think he's going to have any more success than in OTL. I don't know if a slightly earlier and very different rise of blockbusters might save the British film industry, in which case there are possibilities. The pertinent project, given the years discussed so far, would surely be Hitchiker's Guide.



The popularity didn't fade til 1985 - it actually increased after Davison replaced Tom Baker. But the timing is good: 1980-81 was the year DW was big in America. The Nth Doctor by Jean-Marc Lofficier covers the Daltenreys film (1986-94): The foreword mentions Hollywood interest in '81, in Doctor Who with Tom Baker. 1980 saw Baker's serials in successful US syndication, US editions of the novelisations with Harlan Ellison's intros, and in December the first US convention (in LA, attracting much attention). Interest dimmed after Baker quit but had been there in some quarters (Lofficier was tapped for advice by "producers who later released an unsuccessful Lone Ranger remake").

All you need to tempt the BBC into letting a DW film be made, is money. Two British producers, financed by various people including Brian Ferry, formed the company Daltenreys and acquired the movie rights in 1986. But the BBC naturally kept the TV rights and that compromised the merchandising rights - a huge barrier when Daltenreys tried to begin production in '88, with a script by Johnny Byrne (who'd written for DW in the early 80s). Unable to sell ancilliary rights to fund an independent production, they needed to sell themselves to a major studio. In '92 they managed to secure a deal with Lumiere, a French studio. Lumiere financed a new script by Denny Martin Flinn (co-writer of Star Trek VI) in '93 and Leonard Nimoy signed to direct. Nimoy's first choice to play the Dr was Pierce Brosnan.

A 1995 Doctor Who film directed by Spock and starring James Bond sounds like ASB, doesn't it? They wanted to feature Tom Baker in a cameo, too. But Nimoy was serious enough about it to do extensive research, and meet with Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts in early 1994 (in the company of Lofficier) to get their views on the script and production. The deal with the BBC stipulated that filming had to begin by April 1994. It didn't - possibly because Lumiere got cold feet after the BBC's negotiations with Amblin (via Phillip Segal) to produce a new TV series, were announced. The BBC refused Daltenrys a further extension, ending the possible confusion of competing Doctors.

There is one possibility pre-1986, but it wouldn't quite be a blockbuster and it would depend on a couple of things I'm not sure of. Like, in the absence of ET, would Universal be desperately looking for a family-friendly film to release in July 1982?
I'd recommend that you take this to the Pop-Cultural Timelines Go-To Thread.
 
Pyro said:
Perhaps it will butterfly the outcome, knowing how much more of a clusterfuck DC continuity became after Crisis. :p
It could hardly get worse.:eek::p
THE OBSERVER said:
can you please have Sigourney Weaver win the Best Actress Oscar for playing Ripley in Aliens?
No way she beats Marlee in "Children of a Lesser God".
 
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Maybe I missed it, but what happened to Conan the Barbarian? There was some interest in getting Arnold Schwarzenegger into a role like that since they saw him in Pumping Iron.
 
Update #9 -- regarding the works of Arthur C Clarke.

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The Songs of Distant Earth was initially proposed by Arthur C Clarke as a second collaboration with Stanley Kubrick, with whom he had made 2001: A Space Odyssey back in 1968. Kubrick had often speculated, in correspondence with Clarke, on what different kinds of film the two might have made had they made different creative choices in the making of 2001; and with the recent barrage of science fiction films becoming blockbuster hits in the cinema (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Planet of the Titans: A Star Trek Motion Picture, The Star Wars and most recently Alien), it now seemed the opportune time to see if they could repeat their earlier triumph. But additionally, Clarke had noted that none of those blockbuster films had strictly speaking been “science fiction” – given that all of them were in some way guilty of breaking the physical laws of the universe, they would be better classified as “science fantasy”. Thus, in late 1979 Clarke made it his mission to plan out a film that would be science fiction in the proper sense of the term, with none of the unrealistic trappings of the genre like faster-than-light travel or ray-guns or similar, and work as a piece of popular cinematic entertainment.

Just as 2001: A Space Odyssey had been primarily inspired by Clarke’s short story The Sentinel with extra story elements taken from another of his short stories titled Expedition to Earth, the film The Songs of Distant Earth would also be drawn from two of Clarke’s short stories: the main inspiration was a 1957 short story also called The Songs of Distant Earth, but other parts of the story were drawn from the 1962 short story The Shining Ones. The story itself was set almost entirely on a deep-space colony world called Shaana (from “Oceana”) where the largest landmasses were an island chain roughly the size of Hawaii: the colonists idyllic lives are disrupted by the arrival of a starship called the Argo, which five hundred years ago fled the destroyed Earth and holds the remaining human race in induced hibernation, stopping over at Shaana to repair their debris shield before continuing on to their ultimate destination which will take another five hundred years to reach. Meanwhile, disruption of the Shaanans’ power grid is revealed to be the work of the Shining Ones, an indigenous race of intelligent cephalopods who live deep in the abyss of Shaana’s global ocean. Clarke wrote a bare-bones outline for the film’s story and sent it to Kubrick, asking what he thought – as Clarke had half-expected he would, Kubrick merely replied with an unenthusiastic “Interesting…”

So collaboration with Kubrick was out. But not wanting to abandon the idea altogether, Clark sent the outline on to his agent to see if there would be any real interest in Hollywood. And as it happened, there was: from none other than Francis Ford Coppola at Zoetrope Studios.

After finishing work on Apocalypse Now, Coppola had moved on to a drama-free production on a low-budget romantic period film which had sunk at the box office without a trace. And having seen the wildly huge success that his friends Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had had with their own science fiction films, Coppola decided it was time to try his hand at the genre. The Songs of Distant Earth seemed ideal: while it was in a science fiction background setting, the story itself was fundamentally about the relationships between the three main characters: Lt. Cmdr. Falcon, senior officer on the Argo, and the Shaanan couple Marissa and Loren. Aside from a spectacular sequence near the beginning showing the destruction of the Earth, various other shots depicting the Argo in orbit around Shaana and of course the Shining Ones themselves, the film would feature virtually no visual effects. Altogether the film would be budgeted at less than $10 million.

Coppola would direct, with Gray Frederickson and Fred Roos producing. When Clarke flatly refused to write the screenplay (Clarke found writing screenplays endlessly frustrating, comparing the difference between writing novels and writing screenplays with the difference between swimming through water and “thrashing through treacle”) Coppola agreed to write the film as well, with Clarke providing critical input. Almost all the film would be shot on location in Hawaii, with the Shaanan colonists (including Marissa and Loren) to be played by unknown native-Hawaiian actors. The central role of Falcon would ultimately go to actor Christopher Reeve, who was acting in smaller films as well as on stage in the year leading up to principal photography of Superman III. To make Falcon stand out more among the dark-haired Shaanans (as well as to better distinguish Falcon from his more famous role as Superman a.k.a. Clark Kent), Reeve let his hair go back to its natural medium brown colour. Principal photography took place over two months, near the tail end of the 1980 dry season.

There were issues over content when a rough cut of the film was presented to the Motion Picture Association of America in April 1981. In his original outline, Clark had described Falcon as falling in love with both Marissa and Loren, and further specified the setting as one where “sexual jealousy is (almost) extinct” – it is likely that Clark included this as a result of being at peace with his own bisexual tendencies in his older age. In the finished film, as written by Coppola with Clark’s input, this lead to a scene which showed the foreplay in a three-way sexual encounter between the trio (including an open-mouthed kiss between Falcon and Loren) as well as a morning-after scene of Falcon waking up in bed with the other two. The MPAA gave the rough cut an “R” rating, citing “adult themes” and “explicit content” – but what it ultimately amounted to was “You can’t show Superman kissing another dude”. Coppola went back and re-cut the film to merely imply the sexual encounter rather than show it, eliminating the foreplay scene entirely (merely showing the three of them going back to Marissa and Loren’s house that night) and using an alternate take of the morning-after scene which had Marissa lying in the middle of the bed between the two men rather than having Falcon lying in the middle between the Shaanan couple. The new cut was rated PG. Notably, the MPAA had no such objections of “adult themes” for the film’s frank depiction of Marissa’s polyamory, such as in a later scene where she tells both men (as they are preparing to take a submersible deep into the ocean and meet the Shining Ones) that she is pregnant with Falcon’s child.

Released in September 1981, The Songs of Distant Earth did not make a particularly big impression on the movie-going public: its gross box office revenue in the USA only just exceeded $15 million, though it earned another $28 million overseas. Critical reception was mixed, with some praising the film for being thought-provoking and deep while others panned it as being boring and dull. In later years following its release on home video the film developed a cult following, and a “Special Edition” restoring the deleted footage (now rated PG-13) would be first released on VHS thirteen years later. Plans for a remake would circle around Hollywood for several years but encounter many issues and delays.

Still, The Songs of Distant Earth was directly responsible for inspiring two other fictional works to be made afterwards. One of these was a three-part television miniseries adaptation of Clarke’s 1953 novel Childhood’s End; the first instalment starred Max von Sydow as Stormgren, the second and third parts starred LeVar Burton as Jan Rodricks, and all three parts featured James Earl Jones as the voice of Karellen. (Incidentally, Childhood’s End was only the second time that LeVar Burton had ever received top billing, the first being for his role as David in An American Werewolf in London.) Clarke was not directly involved in making the miniseries: it was written entirely by writer-director Nicholas Meyer, who was forced to pull out from directing as well due to an extended post-production period on his television movie The Day After. Instead, Childhood’s End was directed by Leonard Nimoy, who would use the miniseries to prove his talent behind the camera (as his previous directorial experience was at the time limited to two episodes of his friend William Shatner’s television series T.J. Hooker). The experience of making Childhood’s End with Nimoy as director could in retrospect be guessed to have had a profound personal influence on LeVar Burton.

The other fictional work inspired by The Songs of Distant Earth came from Clarke himself: the experience of making the film had made him properly consider if it really was possible to do a direct continuation of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was something he had previously dismissed out of hand. Some months after the film’s release, Clarke contacted Coppola with a proposal to collaborate, in the same style Clarke had done with Kubrick in the 1960s, to create novel and film versions of 2010: Space Odyssey II.

But Coppola declined. He had been inspired by a letter written to him by middle-school students suggesting that he should adapt S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders to film; Coppola was preparing to film not only The Outsiders but another of Hinton’s novels entitled Rumble Fish, shooting the two films back-to-back with largely the same film crew and some of the same cast members. The Outsiders included many young cast members who would go on to become famous stars, including Rob Lowe, Charlie Sheen, Tom Cruise and Patrick Swayze. Both films would be released in 1983: The Outsiders would receive generally positive critical reception but would only earn a little over $25 million, while Rumble Fish would be widely panned and flop badly.

In a way, this would turn out to be a blessing in disguise for 2010: while Clarke was very impressed by Coppola’s filmmaking expertise, the person who would ultimately become Clarke’s creative partner – the very next person he contacted, in fact – would be uniquely suited for the task of making a sequel to 2001. Douglas Trumbull had been responsible for the breathtaking visual effects seen in the original film, and had since gained a reputation as one of the biggest names in visual effects in Hollywood; he had also directed the film Silent Running in 1972.

An obvious problem right from the outset in making a sequel to 2001 had been the issue of the film’s and novel’s diverging stories: most obviously, the film had seen the Discovery go to Jupiter and the novel to Saturn. Clarke had decided to follow film continuity for the most part, as his story idea for 2010 was closely connected to Jupiter’s moon Europa, but this still left the question of how to explain the discrepancy. Clarke had initially decided to simply handwave it by saying the sequel took place in a parallel universe to the first novel, but Trumbull was dubious. Their eventual solution was quite creative and a little bit underhanded: in 1983, Granada Publishing Ltd. published the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey – 15th Anniversary Revised Edition, with the text in multiple chapters revised to bring things closer in line with the film (all references to Saturn changed to Jupiter, Iapetus changed to Io, references to anachronistic political situations like the “US-USSR Bloc” and discredited scientific aspects like indigenous lunar plant life were removed or altered, etc.) And 2010: Space Odyssey II would of course be a direct sequel to the revised text. (The controversy over which version was better would rage throughout science-fiction circles for many years – all subsequent reprintings of the novel would be of the revised text, per Clarke’s wishes, until a new “omnibus edition” featuring both versions of the text together in one volume was finally published in the year 2001.)

Both Keir Dullea and Douglas Rain reprised their roles as David Bowman and the voice of HAL, respectively. However, William Sylvester would not be returning to the role of Dr Heywood Floyd: Sylvester was on the verge of retirement, and both Clarke and Trumbull thought him unsuitable to carry the film in what was now the lead role. Character actor and former Mission: Impossible lead Steven Hill, who conveniently bore something of a resemblance to Sylvester, was cast as the new Heywood Floyd. Other cast members included Ben Kingsley (who had recently won an Academy Award for the title role in the biopic Gandhi) as Dr Chandra and comic actor John Larroquette as Dr Walter Curnow. For the Russian crew of the Leonov, the film featured such actors as Helen Mirren as Captain Tanya Orlova and Elya Baskin as Sasha Kovalev.

Both novel and film of 2010: Space Odyssey II would come out in December 1984. Reactions were mixed, with many critics (and much of the audience) insisting that the sequel “spoiled the mystery of the original”. Still, in and of itself the novel was highly regarded and would be nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel the following year (losing to William Gibson’s Neuromancer). The film received slightly fainter praise, and while it did respectable business at the box office it was largely overshadowed by the blockbuster hit comedy Beverly Hills Cop starring Eddie Murphy.

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Notes: this update isn't about actual blockbusters, but they are a part of the story.

The Songs of Distant Earth was indeed written by Clarke as a movie outline in 1979, rejected by Kubrick, then sent out around Hollywood by Clarke's agent. A major Hollywood producer was interested but insisted Clarke write the screenplay, which was apparently a deal-breaker. But this experience is what led Clarke in OTL to first consider writing 2010: Odyssey Two.

And yes, said movie outline did indeed have bisexuality and polyamory in it. In the novel that eventually resulted (published 1986) there are still some traces of it -- but the subject is actually much more prominent in 2010, where Walter and Max get involved with each other for a while. I guess it was really on Clarke's mind circa the early 1980s.

The whole "reversing the convention of movie sequel title & subtitle order" thing turned out to be really fortuitous when it came to the Space Odyssey series. Now the year has been retroactively made into a subtitle, with "Space Odyssey" becoming the series' main title. It totally wasn't planned by me but once I thought of using it like that I was quite pleased with myself.

Charlie Sheen is in The Outsiders; Emilio Estevez isn't. I found out that Coppola cast Estevez in The Outsiders because he remembered him as a kid playing on the set of Apocalypse Now -- in this TL, with an earlier period of principal photography, this means that Emilio wasn't there so Coppola casts Charlie Sheen instead, as Sheen was more serious about becoming an actor at the time (hence the stage name). Sorry, Emilio, but in this TL your fame is relegated to the level of your brother Ramon, your sister Renee and your uncle Joe.

TTL's version of 2010 comes about differently but the story is mostly the same. I've recast all three American leads with people whom I think would be better. This includes shifting Elya Baskin to a different role: sorry, Elya, but Max in the book was described as a slim youthful former gymnast and you look like a stereotypical bearlike Russian. The book comes out about two years later than in OTL, but the film is out around the same time.

Next update will include info about Batman. I promise.
 
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It could hardly get worse.:eek::p
True enough. I know this is not a comic book based "What it?" but it would be if one of the butterflies produced by Superman's success in cinema would be that DC offers "Justice League of America" to Alan Moore in the early 80s (when their relationship was still cordial) who accepts for some strange reason and George Perez stays on as penciller. "New Titans Titans" flags in popularity, and DC decides to go whole hog on the reboot after the Crisis.

Though that may have additional butterflies since Marv Wolfman would probably not write "Crisis on Infinite Earths." I would probably go with Roy Thomas in that case because of how big a DC historian he was.

Oh yeah, and for the once mentioned "Wonder Woman" and "Flash" movies, any updates on them. Lynda Carter I could see returning to the role, but who would they look at to play the Flash? (Who is still Barry Allen as this point.)
 
Pyro said:
True enough. I know this is not a comic book based "What it?" but it would be if one of the butterflies produced by Superman's success in cinema would be that DC offers "Justice League of America" to Alan Moore in the early 80s (when their relationship was still cordial) who accepts for some strange reason and George Perez stays on as penciller. "New Titans Titans" flags in popularity, and DC decides to go whole hog on the reboot after the Crisis.

Though that may have additional butterflies since Marv Wolfman would probably not write "Crisis on Infinite Earths." I would probably go with Roy Thomas in that case because of how big a DC historian he was.
Alan on JLA would be really interesting.:cool: I have 2 concerns, tho. One, does it butterfly Watchmen?:eek::eek: Two, does it butterfly JLI? (I really liked Giffen's work,:cool: up to his faux CA.:rolleyes:)
Pyro said:
Oh yeah, and for the once mentioned "Wonder Woman" and "Flash" movies, any updates on them. Lynda Carter I could see returning to the role, but who would they look at to play the Flash? (Who is still Barry Allen as this point.)
Since I'm in a tiny minority of those who didn't think Lynda Carter personified Diana, I'm probably not the one to listen to anyhow.;)
 
Luke Skywalker is the son of Deak Skywalker.
Awww. I was hoping he was the son of Valorum.

DC offers "Justice League of America" to Alan Moore
But Alan Moore would turn all the heroes into creeps. I don't approve. I do strongly agree with you on Roy Thomas and George Perez, however.

When it comes to Lynda Carter, I could go either way. Her TV Show was well-written and fun, and she wasn't a bad actor in it, but I think others could do well in the role.
 
I have to praise this wonderful timeline. Interesting to wonder whether one would have enjoyed the alternate Star Wars as much. Probably, as especially III and IV look very promising to me. Hard to imagine the different roles, though.

Great Scott!
Being in the 80s now, I start to wonder if you have butterflies in mind for my favourite movie. That would be heavy...
 
Biting my lip really hard about some of the AH possibilities of the decade-long attempt to make a Batman movie in OTL.
 
Biting my lip really hard about some of the AH possibilities of the decade-long attempt to make a Batman movie in OTL.
Take it to the Pop-Cultural Timelines Go-To Thread. I mean, I like TLs but I'd appreciate if you didn't put a TL in my TL so I can AH while I AH.

By the way, the next update will be a multi-part one including info not only on Batman but also on Captain America, The Terminator, and this TL's equivalent of Blade Runner.
 
Take it to the Pop-Cultural Timelines Go-To Thread. I mean, I like TLs but I'd appreciate if you didn't put a TL in my TL so I can AH while I AH.
I can't really fit it into a timeline. I just want to see whether you're going to go with any of the directors attached to Batman between 1980 and 1986, and the script they were mulling over, or something completely different - because I think they all represent very different directions.
 
I can't really fit it into a timeline. I just want to see whether you're going to go with any of the directors attached to Batman between 1980 and 1986, and the script they were mulling over, or something completely different - because I think they all represent very different directions.
The Pop Culture Timelines Go-To Thread isn't just about planning timelines - it's also about discussions relating to potential pop cultural PODs. I think a discussion of other Batman movies might be a perfect topic over there, so I'll take the liberty of starting it for you, and you're more than welcome to bring your ideas to the table.

I certainly don't want to speak for ColeMercury, but I suspect that he'll want to keep his plans for Batman ITTL very close to his vest, until he's finally ready to make a grand unveiling of them.

Looking forward to the next update, all the same! :)
 
ColeMercury, I like your Star Wars better than the real one, except maybe the Kiber Crystal. I can't decide whether that's a good idea.
 
I can't really fit it into a timeline. I just want to see whether you're going to go with any of the directors attached to Batman between 1980 and 1986, and the script they were mulling over, or something completely different - because I think they all represent very different directions.
Remember that this TL has a POD of 1974...

(Yes, I know I'm cheating by using this as a rationalisation while still including lots of stuff that was conceived of well after the POD date. I don't care.)
 
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