Syfy has picked up the pilot for Alphas, a show about a team of superpowered people whose enhanced neurological abilities come at a crippling price. But can a great show come from the man who wrote X-Men: The Last Stand?
Alphas comes from X3 screenwriter Zak Penn and Michael Karnow. The series began life as Section 8, which sparked a network bidding war in the summer of 2007 and eventually found a home at ABC. But, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the Writers Guild strike and ABC's increasing discomfort with the show's scifi elements landed it in the dustbin. Now Syfy has dusted it off and redubbed the show Alphas.
Back when the show was at ABC, Futon Critic posted a synopsis and review of the Section 8 script, which had some intriguing ideas for its superpowered protagonists:
When a witness is inexplicably murdered in a locked room at a federal courthouse, Section 8 (under the auspices of the National Security Agency) is put on the case. Lead by Dr. Leigh Rosen (all roles have yet to be cast), the team has but one mandate - locate and assess the threats posed by "alphas," human beings "with enhanced abilities due to differences in their brain structure." Joining Rosen in his quest are four such alphas - Gary Bell, a highly functioning autistic with an ability to process information that rivals most computers; Bill Harken, a former FBI agent who can amp up his "fight or flight" reflex, giving him extraordinary strength for a brief period of time; Nina Theroux, a beautiful woman who can reprogram other people's minds to do as she bids; and Rachel Myers, an orthodox Jew who can shatter glass with but a whisper. However with said powers comes a price - for Gary, autism which makes him a child for all intents and purposes; for Harken, severe anger issues that cost him his job and family; for Rachel, living life as a near mute and being forced to wear an electronic device against her larynx; and Nina, never really knowing how those close to her actually feel. In any case, they've all come together for the common good with Rosen as their mentor, teaching them to further control their abilities with each passing day. As for the courthouse murder, it's not long before the team uncovers that one of their own kind was responsible - Christian Hicks, a former Marine sharpshooter with supernatural balance and aim (he guided the bullet through a ventilation duct). After bringing him in though, they realize someone even more powerful was pulling the strings... someone with a new technology that can be used to mimic one of the team's gifts.
Unfortunately, Futon Critic claims the script's execution doesn't live up to its shiny ideas, constantly trying to assure the reader of the show's awesomeness.
I'm on the fence with this one. Penn's got a bit of checkered past; he worked on the story for X2, but didn't write the screenplay, and penned Elektra and the better recent adaptation of The Incredible Hulk. Plus, he's writing the screenplay for the upcoming Avengers movie, so someone at Marvel must have faith in him. And the optimist in me hopes the original Section 8 script has had time to marinate. But maybe I'm just so excited at the prospect of Syfy picking up another scripted, science fiction-themed show that I'm willing to give anything a chance.