A new web TV show could pick up where Firefly left off, telling gritty stories of class warfare on human colonies. Venus Rises is filming now in New Jersey. Four episodes will be available next year on national video-on-demand cable channel Illusion TV as well the show's own site. One glance at the first episode's synopsis shows how deeply Firefly is in Venus Rising's DNA.
Venus Rises takes place 50 years in the future, after a cataclysm has wiped out Earth. Humans have settled on Venus and Mars, using mostly crappy technology from abandoned government space projects. The Venusians become the working class, toiling endlessly for the "social elite" of Mars. When Venus Rises begins, a conflict is brewing between the two planets, and a group of friends on a refueling station orbiting Earth get caught in the middle.
Writer/director J.G. Birdsall mostly has experience working on Star Trek fan films, which could be a bad sign. But Smallville/The O.C. scribe C.S. Arnold is also involved, as a writer as well as actor. In any case, Birdsall is probably right when he says shows like Venus Rises are the future of televised science fiction. Reality shows are driving out scripted shows on broadcast TV, and science fiction that takes place in space, or the future, is too expensive and lacks a guaranteed audience. So direct-to-web productions like Venus Rises (or Lady Apocalypse) may pick up some of the slack. The only question is whether they can shed the stigma (and attitude) of "fan films."