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SciFriday: Making The Old New Again

‘Questor Tapes’ the latest in a long line of remakes and rehashes


Amityville Horror. The Haunting. The Grudge. Planet of the Apes. The Day the Earth Stood Still. Battlestar Galactica. Alien Nation. Escape From New York. Godzilla. War of the Worlds. Doctor Who. The Vanishing. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Flash Gordon. Psycho. Nightmare on Elm Street. King Kong. The Fly. Twelve Monkeys. The Manchurian Candidate. Friday the 13th. The Mummy. The Thirteenth Floor.

Now, Questor Tapes.

And those are just the remakes I can think of from the top of my head.

But that’s what we see in Hollywood. Some original ideas, but a lot of recycled ideas. It’s enough to make Al Gore proud, or at least it would if it somehow stopped global warming.

But as I think through these shows and movies, I have a hard time telling Hollywood that it needs to be more original. Because you have to admit, not all of these remakes are bad.

Look at the latest “Star Trek” movie for instance. While some say it’s not really a remake since canonically it can be tied to the original, for all intents and purposes it is. And while there are definitely some changes made to the Star Trek universe and the way we get our stories, I think it would be hard to find someone who was disappointed in what J.J. Abrams did for the franchise.

Then turn to “Battlestar Galactica.” The original series was great … for its time. While I know there are audiences who still enjoy the 1970s version, and they should, if you were to put that on the small screen now exactly the same, audiences would reject it (even Bryan Singer’s proposed movie will have to modernize some of the storytelling techniques). And while there are many people who didn’t like the new series, I still count it as one of the best genre television series of all time, and definitely among the top shows of all time.

So not all remakes are bad. Then why do we hear such a backlash whenever someone wants to bring an older project back to life?

It might have to do with the fact that when we think of writers and creators, we think of people who are working on original story ideas. Where they are reaching into their imagination, and coming out with something entirely new for us to enjoy.

I don’t think that’s asking for much from our writers, but we can’t forget that despite the rash of remakes in recent years, those originals aren’t happening. There are hundreds of movies, thousands of television episodes created each year. And there is some very original, very creative ideas going into it. To me, the medium is vast enough that there’s room for both original ideas and remakes.

That is, as long as the remakes are good. I mean, seriously, “Flash Gordon”?

And just because someone puts out a remake doesn’t make them unoriginal. I think some of our best creative minds are inside people who know how to take a concept that was a product of its time, and turn it into something that is, at the very least, a product of a new time, or even better, something that can stand the test of time.

Would we even begin to knock around Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman? Tim Minear? Russell T. Davies?

I wouldn’t. And neither should you. Because remember, there are remake artists everywhere, and we may not even know it.

William Shakespeare, anyone?

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