Ever heard of Mass Effect?
Mass Effect is a trilogy of sci-fi/action video games about a 22nd century space commander named Shepard and his quest to save the galaxy from annihilation at the hands of an ancient and mysterious race of aliens known only as “The Reapers”.
To accomplish his mission, Shepard must recruit and gain the loyalty of a team of individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to uncover The Reapers’ plans and defeat them. Throughout his three year quest he must undertake a variety of smaller missions to achieve victory.
Think of it as an interactive version of Game of Thrones meets Battlestar Galactica with just a dash of Firefly thrown in for levity.
Warner Brothers and Legendary Entertainment are currently working with producer Avi Arad to bring the Mass Effect story to theaters. But there’s another, better direction the “the greatest franchise of this generation” should take, that if done correctly and with care, could deliver an even more groundbreaking, rewarding, and profitable (that one’s for you, studio execs) experience than any movie could hope to offer.
Mass Effect should be adapted as an original television series. Here are three reasons why this saga is television’s next great space opera.
And that’s an understatement. The Mass Effect trilogy is a multilayered modern myth that rivals Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. Its intricately connected story begins as a simple space adventure, but deepens as the truth of The Reapers’ is gradually revealed. Along the way, the series deals with issues such as genocide, race relations, the creation of artificial life, and many other themes ripe for great storytelling.
Presenting Mass Effect‘s story would actually be easier on television. The story structure of the games can act as a roadmap for the show, while a 10 episode season would provide the time required to flesh out the story in a way far superior than a two hour film. This also allows any story adjustments to be handled more carefully and attentively than a movie’s production schedule would allow (remember Doom?).
Mass Effect‘s epic story is more suited to television’s golden age than to the flash in the pan 3D cash grab that characterizes so many of Hollywood’s current sci-fi/action films.
Mass Effect‘s epic story is driven by equally epic characters, each with their own motivations, fears, and desires. And whether they have blue skin, horns, or tentacles, they’re all written in a manner reflecting the human condition. Take for example my personal favorite, Doctor Mordin Solus.
Recruited by Commander Shepard, Solus is an alien scientist responsible for a disease that sterilized an entire civilization, dooming them to extinction. Haunted by his genocidal past, Solus attempts to atone for his sins by curing this disease before it is too late. His emotional story arc is just one of many throughout Mass Effect, and a movie’s running time isn’t up to the task of doing them justice.
Great television is filled with goosebump moments. Moments when you connect with the narrative and the emotions of the story permeate your heart and resonate with your soul.
Mass Effect is filled with them.
Mass Effect‘s universe is an original creation so large, so extensive, that its in-game encyclopedia features hundreds of entries. It’s a setting as rich and varied as any sci-fi franchise, with plenty of room for expansion in the form of new characters, stories, or spinoffs. Once Commander Shepard’s story has concluded, Mass Effect could easily become a television franchise.
Stargate Universe’s cancellation in 2011 removed space opera from the television landscape. Nowhere on television do crews of intrepid explorers travel the galaxy every week encountering new civilizations that cause us to more closely examine our own.
A Mass Effect series is an opportunity, not only to return space opera to television, but to improve it as well. For a production company with a vision and a creative team with a passion, Mass Effect is capable of being an Emmy worthy science fiction series. It can do for spaceships and aliens what Game of Thrones did for sword and sorcery.
All the ingredients are there: A strong central hero supported by equally strong supporting characters in an exciting universe with an epic story at its core. There’s a built in fan base and enough mass appeal (pardon the pun) to make a financial success more than likely.
Mass Effect is practically begging to be adapted for television. The question is, do Legendary Entertainment and Warner Brothers (they DO own HBO, you know) really understand the potential of what they hold in their hands?
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(Photo Credit: Masseffect.bioware.com)