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

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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