21 November 2013

FWS Topics: What Ever Happened to The Osiris Chronicles?

Okay, let us set the way-back machine to 1995, when there was science fiction on mainstream TV, music videos on MTV, John Steward has his first TV show, and Riot-Grrrl was much cooler than Grunge. I was a high school, senior, driving a red 1994 Pontiac Grand-Am GT, and wearing Doc Martins, and dreaming of college and college girls. With the success of TV shows like The X-Files,  more sci-fi was being developed by the major studios to cash in on the trend. Major networked aired such sci-fi titles as the X-Files, Space: Above and Beyond, SeaQuest DSV, Earth: 2, Hercules, Babylon 5, ST: Voyager and Deep Space 9, and CBS wanted to get their hat into the arena of sci-fi TV, like they did with their ER copy Chicago Hope. The vehicle for the CBS network sci-fi show was penned by Caleb Carr and starring Northern Exposure's John Corbett, and was titled "the Osiris Chronicles". There was press that the time of this incoming space sci-fi adventure show in 1995 and 1996, but then it all up disappeared. It would have completely disappeared from my memory if it had not been for my Forgotten Classics Enemy Mine blogpost. While research Carolyn McCormick, I found in her IMDB profile, starred in something The Warlord: the Battle for the Galaxy...I starred digging, and then memories came back of this long lost aborted military sci-fi series and I asked myself...what did happen to the Osiris Chronicles?

The Basic Plot of The Osiris Chronicles
2391 is not a good year to be alive in the Milky Way. For over three hundred years, mankind has spread out beyond their dying homeworld to colonize the stars and form the Galactic Republic. For centuries this republic ruled the worlds of man fairly, until boredom...yes, boredom and other petty issues cause a galactic civil war, and the end of the Galactic Republic, along with the high living standard enjoyed. When the pilot opens, the Galactic Republic has been gone for nearly a lifetime, and a new generation grows up in a era of lawlessness and technological breakdown. John Corbett played Jason Thorpe, a sort-of-Han-Solo character who has a brilliant ten-year old sister named Nova, and they live on Caliban 5.
Both were orphaned and forced to fend for themselves. Word spreads of Nova's superior intelligence, and one day, she is abducted in a cloaked spaceship. Spaceships in the 24th century are a rare thing, and only one is fully functional on Caliban 5. That old Republic warship, the Daedalus, and is under the control of a local warlord named Heenoc Xian, and he refused to help Thorpe search for his sister. Now we have a quest, ladies and gentlemen. To get off-world, Nova best friend, Maggie Sorenson is not only a ace space pilot, but her father is an old General of the Grand Army of the Republic, and happens to have an old Republic warship, called the Osiris. The only issue is that Osiris's Tachyon engines are off-line, and only one race, the Engineers (who could be human...like the Navigators from DUNE), can fix it...for a price. To find the repairs, Thorpe steals jewelry fro Xian's crib, and hits up the Engineers. Once the Osiris is working again, a nice crew forms, and they are off to rescue Nova.
But wait! The warlord Xian mounts up his motley crew and fires up the Daedalus to chase down the Osiris. After a firefight, the Osiris escaped and the old general makes his real motives clear, he wants to get the band...I mean Republic back together, and the happy band of merry space travelers on the Osiris are just the ticket to that happening. Also, the old general tells Thorpe that the Engineers are the ones how abducted Nova. He just forgot to tell Thorpe that when the Engineers were patching up the ship. Over the course of an hour, it is learned that Xian is actually the man to reunite the galaxy, and that the Engineers were behind the collapse of the old Republic. With this knowledge, Xian and the old general unite after Nova is rescued. With the two old warships, the Daedalus and the Osiris, it is hoped that the Republic can be reunited and the show picked up.

The Buzz Behind The Osiris Chronicles...in 1995/1996
Paramount developed this military space adventure series with aim at being CBS' sci-fi series of note, and generated some buzz, for 1995-1996, that is. Featured articles in entertainment magazine like Starlog and TV Guide and Paramount studios released press statements about The Osiris Chronicles being the return of John Corbett's return to TV after Northern Exposure. I, myself, learned about this series via articles in Starlog and TV Guide. Part of the buzz behind the series, besides that it was being produced by a major studio for a major network, the story was crafted by Caleb Carr, author of The Alienist and military historians, along with the pilot was directed by Joe Dante. Much was made of this at time, especially in the TV Guide article. All seemed on track for The Osiris Chronicles to arrive on a small screen near you around January of 1996...then nothing was heard, and it passed into memory.

What Happened to The Osiris Chronicles?
Due to Paramount being the producing company, hopes were high for another mainstream TV sci-fi series, however, nothing of the TV pilot was seen after a big spread and article in the January 20-26th, 1996 issue of TV Guide. It would take two years until The Osiris Chronicles would be seen in the form of a TV-movie-of-the-week on the old UPN network, retitled: The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. It would air only once on January 27th, 1998, and then be issued in limited release on VHS, mainly on rental shelves. It has seen disappeared, and some site have it for download. Much like Earth Star Voyager and Virtuality, The Osiris Chronicles would only been seen as a pilot-transformed-into-TV-movie, leaving some to wonder what could have been.

Why Was The Osiris Chronicles Shelved?
With all of the buzz around this series and sci-fi in general in the mid-1190's, why was The Osiris Chronicles abandoned by Paramount and CBS in 1996 and never given its fair shot? From what I've been able to gather with the limited resources online, it seems that despite $10 millions being spend on the two-hour pilot, it was rejected by the network, much like Ronald D. Moore's 17th Precinct, and never picked up by CBS or any other network for full development. However, when the pilot was being filmed, CBS/Paramount had such high confidence (or low confidence?) in The Osirius Chronicles that when filming was underway in late November of 1995, the studio ordered six back-up scripts to see where the series was headed. From this, it is likely that between the lackluster (and expensive) pilot and what they read in the scripts, that CBS saw an early death for The Osiris Chronicles and deiced to put it out of its misery. The rights and ownership fell back onto Paramount solely, who would decided to fill some random Saturday night in January of 1998 on their own UPN network. The Osiris Chronicles would be re-titled the Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. This would be a similar tactic used for the failed Virtuality pilot for FOX. Throwing it away on a Saturday afternoon movie-of-the-week airing.

The Andromeda/Osiris Chronicles Connection
From various sources, I've read that Gene Rhoddenbury's Andromeda syndicated space series has links to The Osiris Chronicles. It seems that several key plot points were recycled for Andromeda along with the bridge set of the Andromeda Ascent warships being reused bridge sets from the Osiris warship from the failed pilot. Some believe that there was even more put into the basic DNA of Andromeda was filtered down from The Osiris Chronicles. However, the claims of some website have been refuted by loyal Andromeda fans.

Has Time Been Kind to The Osiris Chronicles? Or Was It a Good Death?
In a word...no. Most reviewers today who've seen in the old VHS release have dismissed it for it's recycled plot-points from The Foundation books along with poor production values, and an overall weak formula for a weekly TV series that couldn't attract fans of The X-Files and Star Trek. One of the best reviews I found online was of the British VHS rental release, and he said that given the uneven nature of the pilot, the one-dimensional characters, an attempt to setup the series, out-of-place action sequences, and "trite and clicheed" plot elements doomed The Osiris Chronicles to being nothing new or exciting...he even calls it dull. I guess it was a good death. RIP. This is the reason why The Osiris Chronicles was given a Topics blogpost and not an Forgotten Classics blogpost.
Read the full review here:

The STARLOG #225 Article Scans (Finally!)
At one time, Starlog Magazine was the finest printed word in sci-fi, and in issue #225, Starlog profiled The Osiris Chronicles. Finally, after months of waiting, here we are!


  1. I loved the idea, concept, and execution of Maggie Sorenson, and I once used her as the basis for a character in a novel that I was writing.

    Mind you, after I saw the pilot movie, that was all that I liked about it.

  2. I think you are the only person I've known that as actually seen the tv-movie!

  3. Does anyone know what happened to the model of the Osiris itself? I can't even find any pics online of it. I want to build a version of it myself but I need reference material.

  4. I wish I knew. Sometimes the studios or prop maker keep these to either reuse or as a memento. It was common for TV sci-fi shows to recycle prop ships prior to the age of CGI SFX. After doing some digging, Yourprops.com seems to have either a copy or maybe the real thing. My company's firewall is blocking the site. Check there. If and when you finish your project, please share the pictures with FWS!

  5. I remember this. I was watching the first State of the Union speech by President Clinton, and couldn't stand the slick used car salesman routine anymore, so I flipped channels and found this movie. With a title like "Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy" my expectations were very low, which might be part of why it impressed me.

    Oh it had flaws, but I think it was much better than the early episodes for Star Trek Next Generation (before Riker grew the beard). It had a lot of potential. I was actually excited for what I assumed was going to be a series based on this movie, and then nothing ever happened.

    Maggie was certainly the best character and had the greatest potential. Not only was she cool, but the conflict between her (typical Gen X) and her mother (stereotypical Baby Boomer) and her grandfather (Greatest Generation type) was perfect for exploring a lot of the inter generational issues going on in American society. I do remember being shocked at the Engineers (the villains) being openly explicit about their intentions to eliminate societal conflict by eliminating families and gender. I mean, Sci-Fi presenting social conflicts is nothing new, but usually they are in favor of radical change, not advocating for traditional family values.

    I was in college then and considering the articles floating around that time arguing that the existence of families violated Rawlsian theories of Social Justice this was actually not as extreme a strawman as people think.

    I've always suspected that the movie's social values position (which in 1998 was not controversial at all for the general public, but probably was for Hollywood) was the main reason it was rejected.

    It's on Youtube if anyone wants to watch it.

  6. I have seen the movie/ plot and i love sci-fi old series are great, babylon 5, space 1999,farscape and many others long gone but great ones. I miss the space sci-fi series old and most recent. not very much right now on air. Regards

    Juan Carlos Morales: jumorale@live.com . JCmoralesherrera@gmail.com

  7. I saw the original broadcast when it aired. I had read about the show in Starlog and was eagerly waiting for it's airing. Two years later UPN decided to run it and I was not disappointed. Granted, it wasn't an instant masterpiece, but it was in the middle of what I call the "Sci Fi years", where Genre shows were plentiful. I had it on VHS and I wonder if I can find it on DVD.

  8. Wonder if this will ever get a proper re-release, if only for the fact that it was directed by a cult genre darling (Joe Dante) - costume-design wise, it is very muted and sort of bland - the most exciting they get is the villains in sub-Goergian gear, and the big brain aliens in silvery robes, but still, would be nice to see this get out of VHS purgatory

  9. After about 22 years and with the new cinema tech, I for one would like to see the series produced.

    I know the younger generations need a lot to keep them interested in a series, but maybe just maybe ... if done right, it might fly.

    But the old saying "live in hope die in despair", I can only hope.