The Sci Fi Web: There’s a lot of great sci fi/fantasy web series out there that too many genre fans don’t know about. This column is dedicated to filling you in on what you are missing.
Web Series (One Season Completed Totaling 9 Episodes)
Credits: Robbie Thompson (Creator/Writer), Trey Stokes (Director), Renée O’Connor (Connie), Adam Cardon (Daryl)
Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars
Synopsis: Single mother and third grade teacher Connie (Renée O’Connor ) wakes up to find herself on a large spaceship traveling far away from Earth. There, she meets up with one other person who claims to be an astronaut from the 1950’s (Connie is from the present day). They begin to explore the ship when they meet another woman who appears to be an injured crewmember, but they do not know for certain because she speaks a foreign language that neither understands. She wants them to help her with an urgent task, but they do not understand what she wants because of the language barrier. And things only get stranger from there as Connie and her new companions face more mysteries about their unexplained situation and the seemingly abandoned ship they have found themselves imprisoned upon.
Review/Commentary: Ark is a web series created and written by Robbie Thompson (who has writing credits on genre shows such as Supernatural, The Cape, Human Target, and Jericho) and directed by Trey Stokes (who has professional visual effects experience and who is also known for his Star Wars parody Pink Five). And it also stars former Xena: Warrior Princess co-lead Renee O’ Connor. The series was produced by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah in conjunction with 60Frames Studio (a company that his since gone under) for a budget of around $50k (actually quite a hefty amount for a web series) with the hopes that it would continue as an online serial or that it might make the jump to television like Amanda Tapping’s Sanctuary.
All of this amounts to a rather enjoyable and at times impressive sci fi web series that might best be described as Lost meets The Starlost (a short-lived 70’s Canadian TV series created by Harlan Ellison). Its special effects and sets give it an authentic feel (some of the scenes on the Ark are filmed on a set previously used on the Firefly series). It uses some green screen effects like those found in the Sanctuary web series and television show, and while these look a bit cheesy at times, they do not detract too much from overall the production. The acting is quite good, though I had some difficulty believing that the astronaut character was really from the 50’s. His mannerisms and colloquialisms seemed a bit too modern day, but then that may also be part of the mystery they are developing. In addition, Connie is way too bad-ass for a third grade teacher, but then as the series progresses we get the suggestion she may be more than she appears. All of the nit-picking aside, though, the series has a professional look and feel to it and it gets off to a very promising start.
The first season runs nine episodes of varying lengths from three minutes to nine. It sets up the premise, but provides little resolution as it ends on a major cliffhanger. Unfortunately, nothing more has followed since completing the initial episodes in 2009. As mentioned above, 60Frames has bowed out, but Sachs/Judah Productions still owns the property and as of an interview given back in 2010 they were hoping to continue the series either on the web or on television. I’m sure they would like to see this one follow the same path as Sanctuary which jumped from web series to a TV show that as now run for four years on Syfy. And it appears that Ark has an interesting enough story that could carry it through multiple seasons. It would theoretically be a good fit for Syfy except for the fact that they now seem to prefer their “sci fi lite” shows such as Warehouse 13, Haven, and Being Human. It would also be a good one for Netflix to pick up, seeing as they want to expand on their original programming. And while $50k may be a lot for a web series that runs around 45 minutes total, that’s nothing for a television episode of the same length. Whether they could stay in that budget is questionable, but this one could still probably be produced on an economical basis. And it’s definitely a production that sci fi fans should check out and lend their support to in hopes that it could at least get a second season as a web series.
Links: The entire first season of Ark is available for viewing on Hulu.com at this link. It appears that the series is exclusive to Hulu at this point and it also apparently does not have any sort of official website that I can find. The producers should probably think about putting together something along those lines and perhaps trying to engage sci fi fandom through the various online forums and social sites. That has proved quite fruitful for webs series like Pioneer One and L5 and can help develop some support for Ark and possibly lead to a continuation of the series. Because I for one would like to see this story carry on.