Plok has challenged me, among others, to come up with an idea for a space opera TV show that would be different from the usual nonsense that passes for SF on TV. Some of this may well tie in with some of the stuff I’m talking about in my Big Series Of Posts, so I’ve stuck it under that heading…
My idea is a simple one, which I think would actually make something interesting out of what has, until now, been a disadvantage of the genre.
The year is 2120, and we join a starship crewed by the usual multi-ethnic group, plus a couple of robots. They’re on a voyage to seek out new life and whatnot, and they’ve noticed what seem like transmissions from another planet. This will be the first time that Earth has ever come into contact with an alien species.
Except, when they arrive, they see that transmissions also come from humans.
Jump forward a hundred years. There’s now an interplanetary federation, but it’s based on something *REALLY WEIRD*. As far as anyone knows, there are only five inhabited planets in this galaxy. All of them are inhabited by humans. Humans who evolved on those planets. Every other life-form is different, belonging to totally different families, but on every planet the dominant species are human beings, who all appear to have come from different evolutionary lines, but converged so closely that they don’t even have the nose-wrinkle type differences we see in Star Trek, and can interbreed without problems.
And on every planet, at least some of the humans speak English.
This has, as one would imagine, caused a *huge* amount of speculation in that intervening time, but no-one’s been able to come to any reasonable conclusions. The fossil record on each planet shows a very obvious evolutionary path for humanity in each case, each planet has thousands of years of recorded history, each planet (as far as we can tell) only developed interstellar travel within the last century or so. The histories are all totally different except for the fact that on each the English language developed, on each humanity developed, and on each interstellar travel started around the same time.
This has led to a number of different factions being created, causing a period of immense political instability. Each planet has a faction of Originers, who think humanity started on their planet and was imported to the other planets. There are religious orders who use this convergence as the final proof of the existence of their God. There are von Daniken types who think humanity was planted on every planet by aliens, and others who use this as ‘proof’ that we’re living in a computer simulation. There are Chomskyite linguists who use the simultaneous development of English as proof of their hypotheses about inbuilt structures in the brain supporting a universal grammar, and other linguists who say “Oh, yeah, smartarse, so why do the people from the other Earth use the word ‘Sandwich’ when they don’t even have a place named Sandwich to name it after? That’s inbuilt too, is it?” The arguments over which planet gets to call itself Earth nearly cause three wars. There are David Icke types who believe that people from one of the other planets have been in control all along, and revisionist historians who point to discrepancies in the various historical records as ‘proof’ that one or other planet isn’t telling the whole truth about its space-flight history.
The debate over the different Earths and their relation to each other is the defining debate of the 22nd century in the way that Catholicism vs Protestantism dominated the 16th and 17th centuries or Communism vs Capitalism the 20th. For the next three or four episodes, we see how this plays out, jumping in in media res and following the diplomatic talks as for the third time in a hundred years a civilisation-destroying war over this is avoided.
And then we pick up signals. Obviously created by intelligent life. And they’re coming from within the same area that all the other planets are in. But when, expecting it to be yet more humans, a Federation ship arrives, it turns out that the lifeform sending the signals bears no resemblance to any life-form from any of the Earths, and nor does it speak English. In fact, it’s obviously an intelligent species – possibly far more intelligent than humans, but we have no idea how to communicate with it, or it with us.
What does its existence mean to us? What’s it going to do now it knows *we* exist? And what does this – this evidence that humans *aren’t* the only intelligent species – do to all those different factions and the increasingly fragile peace between them?