Why Mass Effect Is Television’s Next Great Space Opera

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.

An Epic Story Given The Time It Deserves

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.

Compelling Characters

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.

An Original Universe You Can Believe In, And Build Upon

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.

Space Opera: The Next Generation

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?

Follow me on Twitter @TheApexFan

(Photo Credit: Masseffect.bioware.com)

  • Jeweler

    I had the exact same thought since I realized Cinemax’s Strike Back, when viewed as Call of Duty: The Series, is the best video game adaptation I’ve seen. Mass Effect is one of the very best character-driven games out there, and it’s ripe for this kind of adaptation!

    • Not gonna lie, you’re kinda blowing my mind with the Strike Back = Call of Duty theory! I’ve never considered that, but because of you I’m going to give Strike Back a second look through that prism.

  • renamoretti1

    Yeah! Another adaptation that will inevitably be poorly made… I can’t restrain myself…

    • Tomall

      What, like Game of Thrones? You’re an idiot

      • Thing is, an adaptation of A Song of Fire and Ice benefits from the story being static. Aside from that, it also benefits from the series have a fairly well organized plot. A Mass Effect adaptation needs serious revisions before it can be made for the big or small screen, because the reaper story is rife with inconsistencies, not to mention buildup to a plot in ME2 that gets totally discarded in ME3.

      • renamoretti1

        Amazing how people resort to investive in lieu of argument. It’s sad, really. 🙁

        The list of failed adaptations is long and well documented (Doom – Wing Commander – Battleship…). Game of Thrones does have increasing ratings, so i do respect it for that, but its overall ratings are far from hit territory.

        I want original scripts. I am tired of the same bad remake, reboots, reinventions and re-whatevers.

  • Rufio

    No. No. No. No.

    Because it is a game that revolves around player choices, people are going to inherently feel betrayed by any attempt to change the medium from something interactive into something where you are simply just a spectator. Not to mention, part of the reason Mass Effect worked is because you had one team working on a unified vision of how the universe should be. Once you bring in media execs and outside writers, the purity of the formula is lost and you end up corrupting the entire ME universe.

    This line really got to me as well:

    “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.”

    The reason they’re there is because someone (BioWare, ME writers) already did it. They need to listen to themselves and realize that they’re talking about using new, compelling IP to resurrect the genre, when really their plan is to take an existing IP and try to ride off of its past success. If they are really serious about bringing something new and great to the table, then CREATE something new and great. It’s an incredible example of hypocrisy.

    It’s one thing to take something from book form (Game of Thrones) and put it into a visual format, because the way it looks is unique in the mind of each reader. And even then, you still have the endless comparisons of “which is better- the show or the books?” When it’s already been an acclaimed series of games, the visual style, storytelling format, major characters, plot points, etc are already set, and studios won’t want to feel constrained by that. Again, they would be gutting the franchise in the name of “creative freedom”.

    In all of this, I have to say I LOVE Mass Effect. Nothing would make me happier than seeing something that has captured my imagination like ME move forward and have a shot at the big(ger) screen. But I have ZERO faith in TV or movie studios doing it correctly, so I’d rather them leave it alone instead of ruining it for me or millions of other fans by coming up with some half-baked attempt to make money.

  • Anestis

    Only if Shepard was female. There was way too much Male Shepard advertising in the first and second games. With ME 3 sur, Bioware did FemShep Friday, but they shouldn’t have needed to. FemShep and Male Shepard should have been advertised equally.

    Please also adjust your article, as players can play Shepard as either gender, not just “him”.

    A strong female lead is desperately needed on television now.

    • Kirill Paramonov

      FemShep = MaleShep with different appearence, voice and sexual possibilities. It’s not woman in any way other way. And this imaginary freedom of choice is the essence of Mass Effect: your are not choosing anything more than some little details in cut-scenes and dialogues. Central story always stays the same. Life of most characters doesn’t matter at all – if you lost half of the crew on the Collector’s Ship, somebody will took their places in the story in ME3, nothing to worry about.

      Also, female protagonist = low ratings in most cases. Majority of people better symphatizes male protagonists, even women, it’s well known fact and that’s why most popular products are about male characters. Women characters are better on support roles.

  • Ragnar Wolfbane

    YES PLEASE. The more Mass Effect the better IMO.