HBO developing TV sci-fi drama series based on the 1998 movie 'Sphere'

sphere space movie hbo
A new series could shed some light on the origins of the mysterious alien sphere. (Image credit: Warner Brothers)

HBO is reportedly developing a TV series based on the 1998 movie "Sphere," based on a novel by the late writer, director Michael Crichton, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Crichton has given us both blockbusters and box office bombs, from "Jurassic Park" and "Rising Sun" to "Congo" and "Timeline." One of his underappreciated works was a 1998 movie called "Sphere," starring Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, Liev Schreiber and Peter Coyote. Directed by Barry Levinson, who was at the helm for "Wag The Dog " and "Good Morning Vietnam."

In the movie (spoilers ahead, but you've had 22 years to see it) the U.S. Navy stumbles across an underwater obstruction in the Pacific Ocean that cuts a deep-sea fiber-optic cable clean in two. A sonar scan reveals it's the wingtip of a giant spacecraft that appears to have crashed into the ocean 300 years ago, judging by the amount of coral that has grown over it.

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The Navy handpicks a first contact team as recommended by a report written by Norman Goodman (Hoffman's character) and they dive down to a 1,000-foot-deep temporary habitat set up by the Navy next to the ship. However, upon entering and exploring the spacecraft, they discover it's actually from Earth. 

They find the ship's log and learn that it flew into a black hole and flew back to Earth, thus proving along the way a whole host of theories about quantum physics, wormholes and time travel. They also find a very strange alien orb in the ship's hold that begins to slowly captivate each member of the crew. 

The spacecraft appears to have returned to Earth, through a black hole, from – at the very least – 300 years in the future. (Image credit: Warner Brothers)

Despite showing absolutely no means of entry whatsoever, one by one, they are transported inside the sphere, reappearing some time later with the added power of being able to unconsciously make their thoughts real. As dark thoughts slowly take over, their situation becomes steadily worse, having to deal with eccentric alien entities, oceanic leviathans, swarms of jellyfish and a giant killer squid (in the book at least). One by one, each member of the crew meets an untimely end until only Hoffman, Stone and Jackson are left.

During a tense climax, while fighting their own inner demons as well as the ticking clock of an autodestruct, they deduce what's happened and barely make it to the escape sub in time, before the habitat, the spacecraft and all its secrets are blown to pieces. While in decompression, the three agree to "forget" the power they've mysteriously come to possess, effectively rendering it useless. 

And here's one direction that the new show could take — at the very end of the original novel, Beth (Sharon Stone's character) doesn't forget ... and therefore retains the power and the only one who knows about it. Though there's no evidence of this happening in the movie.

Where did the crew of the original mission find the sphere and what's its purpose? Lots of interesting questions remain that may, or may not be answered by the new show. (Image credit: Warner Brothers)

Another nice idea would be to show flashbacks, or in this case flashforwards, to what actually happened on that spacecraft, from the launch, to the journey through deep space, to the discovery of this sphere and then their own gradual demise as they too, suffer one by one from their own dark thoughts becoming reality, before finally disappearing into a black hole. 

What was the spacecraft's original mission? Where did they find the sphere and what's its purpose? Why did the ship fly into a black hole?

Denise Thé ("Person of Interest," "Gotham" and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles") will serve as showrunner and the show will be co-executive produced by Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, who seem to have a penchant for Crichton's work having already turned his 1973 movie "Westworld" into TV series for HBO. Hopefully however, this attempt will prove to be better than that adaptation, which was — and let's not mince words – dreadful. 

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Scott Snowden

When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally any 6-year-old boy would be. He chose instead to write as much as he possibly could about science, technology and space exploration. He graduated from The University of Coventry and received his training on Fleet Street in London. He still hopes to be the first journalist in space.