Sunday, October 4, 2020

A Television Series Inspired By Dean Koontz's Novel WATCHERS

This morning I saw fellow Atlanta Horror Writers Association member Andy Davidson posting on Twitter about his lifelong love of Dean Koontz's novel Watchers. Apparently he'd first read it when he was ten and re-read it every year since. I read the book somewhat later--I first got into Koontz in middle school with Cold Fire (the Dickerson Middle School library had it) and read Watchers and Phantoms soon afterward--and so I replied that I would love to see a quality movie adaptation. Unfortunately, most of the films based on it were direct-to-video garbage.

(Seriously, in the first one Travis and Nora, who are married in the book, are a mother and a son. A later version made Travis a military deserter rather than a decorated Delta Force retiree. One looks like a rip-off of Predator. And so on and so forth.)

Andy suggested a television series would be better than a film, something that reminded me of S.M. Stirling's comment at DragonCon many years ago that books made good miniseries. Although my first thought was something like one of those British TV series that lasts for around ten episodes and then done (what I think would be an appropriate adaptation of The Thing in the Woods), then I remembered the original 1960s TV series The Fugitive. Although in the 1990s film the events look like they take place over about a week or two (at most maybe a month), the original TV series ran for four seasons. The Fugitive presumably takes place in the 1960s and the novel Watchers takes place in the 1980s, both before truly large-scale government and private surveillance and tracking. It would be much easier for Dr. Richard Kimble to evade the U.S. Marshals or Travis, Nora, and the super-intelligent dog Einstein to evade the NSA, the KGB, and the predatory monster The Outsider for a prolonged period of time than today.

(It's been years since I read Watchers, but the NSA guys hunting Travis comment on how between his experience as a Delta Force operative and how he and Nora sold Nora's house for cash, tracking them would be very, very difficult. And we see that thanks to Travis's military experience, he knows just how to get false papers.)

The first season could be "everybody meets everybody" and the early hunt for the Outsider, with the climax being the Outsider's killing of Travis's landlady that causes Travis and Nora to become fugitives. The second season and perhaps a third could cover how Travis and Nora are fugitives, their getting stalked by the KGB's assassin, Einstein's distemper scare, and the final confrontation with the Outsider.

Between all the different factions hunting them, how some of them are working at cross purposes (the NSA and the KGB's hired hit-man), and one of them is chaotic force of destruction (the Outsider), a Watchers TV series could last a respectable amount of time. And given fiction's increased interest in exploring social issues these days, one could touch on other topics besides "how will Travis, Nora, and the dog escape the baddies this week" or "how will the NSA keep the Outsider from blowing the cover-up going on a rampage this time."

(In the book Nora, raised as a recluse by her emotionally-abusive aunt, initially has little ability to function in the real world and is stalked and nearly raped by the handyman she hires to work on her house. Given how fearful and lacking in self-esteem Nora is and how inept she is at "adulting" when we begin the story, I could easily imagine her blaming herself and not reporting it to the police if Travis and Einstein hadn't stopped the bastard. And if I remember right, the perpetrator only pled guilty to a lesser charge and got jailed because Travis--a man and a decorated soldier--wouldn't tolerate the police not taking it seriously. Travis's first wife died of cancer they didn't know she had until it was too late, so you could touch on health care, the importance of catching cancer early, etc. And lead NSA agent Lemuel Johnson is so hard-driving and neurotic because his father, a self-made wealthy black man who managed it during Jim Crow no less, raised him without any tolerance for failure whatsoever. One could use flashbacks Lemuel has to meeting Einstein and the Outsider before they escaped the lab to show how just pitiable and messed up the Outsider is despite how to all outward appearances it's a merciless monster. There's a lot of room for thoughtful stuff here.)

And if you make it a 1980s period piece, there's no cell phones or cameras, doing everything in cash isn't really suspicious, stuff like the Patriot Act doesn't exist, etc. That would allow for a much longer show simply because the NSA wouldn't be able to locate Travis and Nora easily, nor immediately locate and squash the KGB. And the success of It and Stranger Things shows that now is a good time for 1980s nostalgia pieces. Barnes and Noble went so far as to even point out that those who loved Stranger Things would really like Watchers.

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