Will Emissary be one of the great sci-fi series of next year, or one of the greatest failures? After attending the NYCC panel, we're still unsure, but hopeful.
Smallville's Phil Morris compared his new web series Emissary to the upcoming movie Black Dynamite (in which he costars), which Michael Jai White sold to studios on the basis of nothing more than a trailer. The problem with this is that while Black Dynamite has a straightforward concept that easily translates to the trailer format, the ludicrously high-concept premise of Emissary doesn't really sell itself well in a mere promo. It took Morris twice as long to explain the concept as it did to air the promo, which might suggest a trailer is not the best showcase for it.
The series - which plans to shoot in the fall, and premiere in spring next year - was created by Morris and Dekker Dreyer (and has artistic direction and idea contribution from comics legend Neal Adams) because Morris was sick of being typecast as "another badass African American detective." In Morris' words, the show is "about inclusion, about appealing to our better nature and being the best we can be," although in this case, that happens to mean being destined to be the latest "emissary," a line of "peak humans" who are hunted by those who want to steal their power.
What really sold Emissary at the panel is its cast, which is full of primarily sci-fi actors (including Battlestar Galactica's Chief, Aaron Douglas) who show a genuine love and reverence for the genre. With a concept as gleefully convoluted as Emissary, there really isn't much middle ground between success and failure; either these guys nail it, or it will live on as one of the most spectacularly absurd failures in science fiction history. Considering the creative team, I'm hopeful it's the former and not the latter... If nothing else, it's hard to imagine something that is so clearly and unashamedly a labor of love could ever be simply mediocre.