Spike Gives Straight-to-Series Order to ‘Red Mars’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Spike TV Red Mars

Spike has made a big move into scripted programming, giving “Red Mars” a straight-to-series order with 10-episodes, Variety has learned exclusively. The hourlong drama marks the cabler’s first original scripted series in nine years.

“Sense8” co-creator J. Michael Straczynski will serve as writer, exec producer and showrunner on “Red Mars.” He will exec produce with “Game of Thrones” co-exec producer Vince Gerardis, who first brought the project to Spike, plus David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross of Skydance Television, which is the studio on the series.

Based on Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy of novels — “Red Mars,” “Green Mars” and “Blue Mars” — which chronicle mankind’s colonization and transformation of the red planet, the series will follow the first settlers charged with terraforming a mysterious planet, all of whom have competed to be a part of the mission. “Red Mars” will delve into the lives of these relative strangers, cut off from everything they’ve ever known and living in the harshest environment imaginable. Regarded as the best novels ever written on the subject, Robinson’s trilogy has been adapted in 21 languages.

“The heart and soul of ‘Red Mars’ is about humanity. This group of strangers must find a way to live together and survive under the most daunting conditions mankind has ever faced to become the first living generation of Martians. They will be each other’s greatest source of strength — and if they can’t coexist — the greatest reason for failure,” said Spike’s exec vice president of original series, Sharon Levy, who will oversee the project, along with Spike’s Ted Gold, Justin Lacob and Lauren Ruggiero.

“We are thrilled to join forces with Spike to bring Kim Stanley Robinson’s dynamic world of the Mars trilogy to television audiences for the first time ever, particularly in the brilliant creative voice of science fiction legend J. Michael Straczynski,” added Marcy Ross, president of Skydance Television, which is also behind WGN America’s “Manhattan” and Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie.”

“I look forward to being a part of bringing my long time client’s literary achievement to the screen. Its themes are important to the future we are creating,” Gerardis added of Robinson, who will consult on the series.

The order for “Red Mars” comes after Spike axed plans for Jerry Bruckheimer’s drama “Harvest,” after ordering a 10-episode series, as sources said Spike had difficulty finding a top showrunner and high-profile lead.

Until this summer, it was nearly a decade since the Viacom-owned network had scripted fare, though in July, miniseries “Tut” performed very well for the cabler, averaging 2.2 million viewers over three nights.

Vlad Wolynetz, who worked on “Tut,” will serve as co-exec producer on “Red Mars.” Along with Skydance TV, Straczynski’s Studio JMS company, which is behind “Sense8” at Netflix, will also produce the upcoming Spike series.

“Red Mars” is set to go into production next summer for a January 2017 debut.

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  1. Destin Black says:

    I love the Mars series and I think it would make great television, but… There is always a “but” and in this case, the but is the sheer size of the text he is working with. KSR actually skips over large chunks of events and it is still an incredibly epic story with lots of characters, lots of time, lots of plots and even more subplots. There is enough material for many seasons of television plus spin-offs for the sequel books.

    When you add the philosophical and moral elements of the book, things get even more complicated. Those things are integral to understanding what KSR meant to write. It would be unfortunately easy for a TV show to skip past them. They don’t have to. Star Trek managed to keep philosophy in and still be entertaining, but few television shows do.

    I would also like to see a greater “real science’ aspect than is typical of sci-fi. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about transporters and slip stream drives etc etc etc. These are usually necessary to keep up a plot that is more interesting than “and they waited…” or “and they spent years studying…” but I don’t think that would be as big an issue with KSR. He relies a lot on technology that is conceivable if not fully believable.

    I feel like this book deserves a bigger network, more money and better producers.

    I would like to see a good chunk devoted to the actual flight to Mars and the settlement, followed by the terraforming debate. If you go any further you need a lot more than 10 episodes.

    Who would play Maya, John and Frank? That would be a cool triangle to see visually. Not a single one of them is a likable person but their dynamic is very interesting and without giving away spoilers, each one ends up where they should.

  2. CCV says:

    Spike TV will probably ruin this, unfortunately. This series really needs something like FX or HBO or perhaps Netflix to properly fund the production and to bring together the right kind of cast. The books are so beautiful and do such a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life and making them feel like they’re aging, while at the same time making the planet itself a living, breathing, changing character…I just don’t believe Spike TV is prepared to treat a story like this with the level of nuance it requires.

  3. Galactus99 says:

    AWESOME. Great news, I can’t wait. SYFY is doing Arther C Clarke’s Childhood’s End and now we get RED MARS. YES.

  4. Mike Smith says:

    I’m a fan of both Robinson and Straczynski, so I’m pretty excited out this. That said, while I’m expecting some of the more complicated and weighty aspects of the Mars trilogy to be filed down, I hope they’re not removed completely. As much as I’m sure JMS could writer and produce a “great-for-television” show about colonization, it’s those heavier, not as TV friendly subjects like politics, economics, the environment, and the scientist-as-citizen that make these books really something special.

    • David Mackie says:

      Have you seen Babylon 5?

      • Paul Patton says:

        I’m a big fan of Robinson too, and I hope Robinson’s ideas about economics, politics, and the social responsibility of scientists are preserved in the series. In particular, I hope it isn’t sanitized of Robinson’s progressive politics and his vision of a post-capitalist society emerging on Mars.

      • Mike Smith says:

        Of course. It’s one of my favorite shows of all time, in fact. :-)

        JMS throws a lot of politics in B5, but there is quite a bit of difference between what he does there and what’s in KSR’s Mars Trilogy. B5’s politics are bold, dramatic and kind of broad. That isn’t a bad thing and in fact it was pretty groundbreaking when B5 was on and is still far from the norm. The Mars Trilogy, though, is on a whole more subtle and more concerned with the nuts and bolts of actually trying to make a society function, especially in regards to how that society relates to the environment. There’s a lot of economics in it as well, much of which doesn’t exactly scream “Easy to Adapt to Television.” Still have hopes that JMS can make it all work, though.

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