The quest for classic scifi texts to bring to the big screen may finally have gone too far. Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures are negotiating for the rights to film E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensmen novels, which are so dated that any adaptation will be either unrecognizable or unwatchable. And yet the series helped launch the whole genre of space opera, so it's easy to understand the temptation. Click through for the awful details.

Lensmen begins two billion years in the past, when a race of noble philosophers, the Arisians, have developed awesome mental powers. Invaders from another universe, the Eddorians, come to our universe because they detect that our galaxy is passing through another one. This galactic do-si-do will lead to the creation of countless new inhabited worlds for the Eddorians to conquer.


So the Arisians breed a new super-race of humans to defend the galaxy. And they give the Lens, which focuses thought the way a lens focuses light, to our heroes. (It's sort of like the Guardians giving a super ring to Green Lantern.) Only the Lens' proper owner can wear it without dying. The Arisians only give Lenses to worthy individuals, and if you try to get a Lens but aren't worthy, you just disappear.

In the end, the heroic Kimball Kinnison marries the ultimate product of the Arisians' billion-year breeding program, Clarissa MacDougall. She's the first female to receive the coveted Lens. Their genetically perfect offspring have amazing powers and become the Children of the Lens.

Not only is Lensmen the sort of sprawling saga that does badly in the movies (not unlike Dune), but its themes of eugenics and oddball sexism are obviously a product of the 1930s, when the series began. Can Howard and Universal make a non-sucky version? Probably only by changing it beyond recognition. Luckily, there's some precedent: fans complain that the anime version of Lensmen has nothing in common with the novels except the title and a few character names. Image from cover of Second Stage Lensmen. [SciFi Wire]