While there may be no shortage of quality sci-fi out there, ripe for the binging, one thing seems to be missing from every single one of them: a sense of hopefulness about the future.
The majority of Netflix’s sci-fi series fall somewhere between grounded and full-on hard dystopian melodramas. It’s a sign of the times, one might think. Even Star Trek itself, once a bastion of hope for philosophical science fiction, has taken its darkest turn yet (no spoilers here), and many fans of the franchise have jumped ship, opting for lighter sci-fi episodics like The Orville instead. After all, there’s so much to stress over about where we are right now, we need an escape from the darkness and find that light again.
Enter Project Abaddon: Rise of the Destroyer, the brainchild of creator Pete Borreggine and Gary Hauger, set 600 years in the future that explores a how a group of people from vastly different walks of life are forced to work together to find an ancient artifact, then learn how to use it, and unite billions before an unknown force determined to destroy everything annihilates the entire species.
In the year 2385, A.I. engineer and notorious recluse Ken Chiang discovers clues about the mysterious last mission of his late explorer father. He must join a crew of misfits and set off into unexplored regions of space to desperately search for an ancient alien artifact and destroy it, before it annihilates all life on Earth.
Trekkies are sure to recognize Garrett Wang’s name in the starring role of Ken Chiang, the reclusive AI engineer and main protagonist. Wang, who played the much-beloved, long-suffering Ensign Harry Kim on Star Trek: Voyager for seven years, teams up with Anthony Montgomery of Star Trek: Enterprise fame alongside Dawn Noel (Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, My Normal) for the LGBTQ+ adventure of a lifetime.
Executive Producer Katharyn R. King recently announced that Rachel Paulson (Netflix’s Good Kisser and half-sister of Sarah Paulson) and Kari Alison Hodge (Dating in Place, Good Kisser) have joined the cast as well. Phil Young, who appeared in the sizzle reel, died in a tragic car accident last year on his way to receive an award for his role in Dale Fabrigar’s Indie Horror flick, D-Railed.
It goes without saying that he will need to be recast, which is one of the primary reasons for the delay of the project as the role was written expressly with him in mind. The biggest barrier for any indie filmmaker, particularly sci-fi filmmakers, is, of course, securing the necessary financing to produce a quality series with production values that can rival major studio-backed competitor series. Abaddon’s team believes it can do just that.
King also shared that, as of late October 2020, they are in talks with Dave Bautista (yes, Drax the Destroyer himself) to replace Young, but that has not been confirmed by the team as of the writing of this article. With Bautista landing a major role in the highly-anticipated Universe’s Most Wanted, there may be scheduling conflicts. The team is particularly excited to have Paulson and Hodge both aboard as they are two phenomenally talented out actresses known for their queer romance on Netflix, Good Kisser, and seeking to make an even bigger splash with this project.
Centered around the philosophical idea of the Simulacrum as discussed by French philosopher Baudrillard, Abaddon presents an interesting take on existence and reality itself. Here’s the crux of the plot: we’re living in a simulation created by an ancient alien species and now we must be eradicated. How the main players learn of the truth of human reality and what they do with this knowledge sets the stage for a series of extraordinary events culminating in the annihilation of humanity. It’s where they go from there that fuels the story from here. Originally planned as a feature trilogy with hopes for a 5-year long series, the script has undergone several dozen rewrites under the guidance of sci-fi franchise veterans, including 7x Emmy-award winning Visual FX master Dan Curry (creator of the iconic Klingon Bat’Leth from Star Trek), as well as Michael DeMerritt, who also worked on Star Trek many moons ago. Borreggine met with an executive at Warner Bros in late January to discuss bringing Abaddon to the WB feature slate, or possibly a full-blown flagship streaming series for HBOMax.
Then, just a week ago, the team was informed that Warner Bros had just let several high-ranking executives go with plans to lay off another 28,000 more employees in November. Up until that point, Abaddon’s team had been courting Matt Reeves (“The Batman”).
What’s particularly unique to the story is the central romance between Roz Chavez and Amelia Corden, whose story becomes the glue that binds the band of ragtag mercenaries and scientists together in their effort to understand humanity’s fate.
While the pandemic seems to have put quite a dampener on most major studio projects, indie filmmakers are finding their footing rather easily. After all, they’ve been flying by the seat of their budgets all along and are accustomed to fighting for every dollar they can get their whole careers. But that hasn’t stopped Borreggine and his valiant producing team from continuing to lobby investors all over the world, as well as from continuing to polish and hone the script to perfection, as well as make the transition away from a standalone feature script into a whole season long arch that will ultimately connect back to another pre-planned series called AZTEC.
Abaddon seemingly reads like a story about the end of the world, so how can it stand out and possibly add something new to the pantheon of dystopian science fiction that’s sweeping the industry? Well, the fact that the story really begins with the end in mind. It’s inevitable, like Deep Impact, and will happen, but no one can say what becomes of humanity next, and that is where the intrigue for this series truly lies. It’s in the relationship between Ken and his father, as well as the bond that is forged through tribulation. Abaddon is here to say there is an “after”, there is another beginning, and the end is just the start of it all. How long have we been yearning for a series to really delve into the Simulacrum with such ease and finesse? Aside from The Matrix, there hasn’t really been a franchise that puts the Simulation Theory at the forefront of the narrative in an easy-to-grasp way. There has not been anything that takes something so high concept and yet manages to skillfully weave that warm, fuzzy, old-timey Star Trek tone throughout to make it feel hopeful. From the logline and plot summary on the official Project Abaddon website, it reads a lot like “Indiana Jones in space”, with a big Matrix kick to it.
It’s ambitious, to say the least. King estimates a budget of anywhere between $15 and $30 million, which may seem absolutely bonkers, but for military veterans like her and Borreggine, whose lifelong dream it is to tell these exciting stories, it’s simply what’s needed and it’s not impossible to get. In fact, in 2014, he dropped $100,000 to shoot the sizzle reel at Laurel Canyon back in 2014 to prove just how serious he is about getting Abaddon off the ground. It worked. As of the writing of this article, Abaddon’s official website lists BondIt Media and Glass House Distribution as part of its packaging deal. So where do they go from here? According to King, they are in talks with a final key investor to secure financing before they can officially begin pre-production. They appear confident the project will see a greenlight by sometime next year. While it’s too soon to speculate on whether Abaddon will fly as a standalone feature or a seasons-long flagship series or when, one thing is certain: more news and announcements are on the horizon, so stay tuned!