The streaming service has ordered a series based on Walter Tevis’ 1963 novel and the 1976 Nicolas Roeg film that starred David Bowie, both of the same name. The series will follow an alien who arrives on earth at a turning point in human evolution and must confront his own past to determine our future. The announcement was made at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Thursday.
Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet will write, executive produce, and serve as co-showrunners, with Kurtzman also set to direct. Rola Bauer, Tim Halkin, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, and Heather Kadin will also serve as executive producers with Aaron Baiers serving as co-executive producer. The series will be co-produced by CBS Television Studios and Tandem Productions, a StudioCanal Company, in association with Secret Hideout and Timberman/Beverly. StudioCanal owns the rights for both the book as well as the film.
The project had previously been in development at Hulu for the past year, but moved to All Access in the past few weeks as the rights were set to expire and Hulu was not prepared to move forward on production. CBS is said to have aggressively pursued the project when it became available.
According to Kurtzman and Lumet, the series will explore “the next chapter” of the story from the book and the movie. “Some strings will connect to both the novel and the film but if you haven’t seen the film or haven’t read the novel, it’s fine,” Kurtzman told Variety ahead of the announcement. “You’ll get to have an experience that’s entirely singular. If you have, you’ll have the benefit of understanding the history of the world that both of those things set up.”
“We loved the emotional moments in the book and we loved the visual spectacle of the movie,” Lumet added. “We’re taking it forward.”
Lumet also said that the series will not try to “duplicate or even chase” Bowie’s iconic performance from the film, but rather will explore the idea of what the title character would choose to look like in the modern world. When asked who her ideal casting would be for the role, Lumet said there were “too many to name.”
The writers’ room for the series will begin in September, with Kurtzman saying the current plan is to have the series on the air by the end of 2020 or perhaps going into 2021. “It’s a globe-hopping show,” he said. “It’s the story of an alien who travels the world to understand who we are as a species. Just from a pure production point of view, that’s not something we want to rush…This is something that needs to be done right which means it doesn’t need to be done fast.”
With this series order, Kurtzman will now be co-showrunner on both “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 3, in addition executive producing multiple other “Star Trek” projects for All Access and one for Nickelodeon. But Kurtzman says he will be very involved day-to-day on both the new show and “Discovery,” crediting each show’s “self-sustaining support system that really allows [him] to be meaningfully involved in the shows and to be able to move between them.”
Lumet served as a writer and co-executive producer on “Discovery” Season 2, with “Man Who Fell to Earth” being her first crack at showrunning. But Lumet said, “I’m not scared of much stuff…I’m a single mom, so anything besides that is really not so tough.”