Uncharted Territory and Bavaria Fiction are charting a course to the stars with “Orion,” a relaunch of the classic German science fiction series “Raumpatrouille — Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion” (“Space Patrol — The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion”).
The iconic black and white show, which became known simply as “Raumpatrouille Orion,” had a brief seven-episode run on West Germany’s ARD in 1966 but went on to become a beloved cult favorite over the years through reruns.
The original series, which was likewise produced by Bavaria Film, centered on Commander Cliff Allister McLane (Dietmar Schönherr) and the diverse crew of the space cruiser Orion as they protect a united Earth in a war against an alien race known as the Frogs.
The new version, based on a concept by Uncharted Territory’s Volker Engel and Gesa Engel, continues the story established in the original series but with a new generation of characters. It retains many of the iconic features of the 1960s version, including the groovy undersea dance club known as the Starlight Casino, but also addresses current environmental issues.
“Orion” presents a world ravaged by climate change in which the new recruits of the aged space cruiser Orion — among them the female fighter pilot from a refugee family and the grandson of the now legendary former Commander McLane — must band together during training as they suddenly become targets in a ruthless war over resources from distant planets.
“We will take the topic of raised water levels from the original series a step further and show the actual impact of climate change,” said Uncharted Territory’s Volker Engel. “In our stories we plan to promote the fact that in the future environmental protection is not just a question of politics, but the only means to guarantee the survival of mankind. We’d like to think it is called science-fiction for a reason.”
Uncharted Territory has secured the talents of renowned production designer Oliver Scholl for the show’s visual development. Self-proclaimed fans of the original series, Scholl and Engel have collaborated on several high-profile projects, including Roland Emmerich’s 1996 “Independence Day,” for which Engel won the visual effects Oscar. Scholl’s other credits include “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Suicide Squad,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Venom” and the upcoming “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”
Engel and Uncharted Territory’s co-CEOs Gesa Engel and Lucia Scharbatke will produce along with Bavaria Fiction’s Nina Maag.
“It’s the perfect time for a reboot, and for us and Nina it was evident from the get-go that we would steer clear from a persiflage or a comedic approach — because one fact has always been extremely important to us: the creators of the original took it very seriously and embedded it into Europe’s political and social climate of the ’60s,” Engel said. “The mix of suspense, relevance and escapism, told through characters we feel emotionally connected with, is one of the main aspects of how we approach the series — and it is also the key to good science fiction.”
While it may sound like a German version of “Star Trek,” “Orion” actually premiered on German television just a few days after the U.S. series debuted on NBC in September 1966.
Like “Trek,” “Orion” also boasted an inspiring opening narration that included the lines: “There are no more nations. There is only mankind and its colonies in space. People have settled on faraway stars. The ocean floor has been made habitable. At speeds still unimaginable today, space vessels soar through our Milky Way. One of these vessels is the Orion, a minuscule part of a gigantic security system protecting Earth from the threats of outer space.”
“Orion” is one of a number of film and TV projects Uncharted Territory has in development. The Nuremberg-based company is also partnering with Rise Pictures and L.A.-based Robyn Klein and Jeremy Ross on a 3D-animated adaptation of Cornelia Funke’s fantasy-adventure “Igraine the Brave.”