Fans of Ellen Ripley, rejoice: Starz's new drama "Incursion" will revolve around another formidable sci-fi heroine.
"Spartacus" creator Steven DeKnight, who is developing "Incursion" for Starz, cites James Cameron's "Aliens" as a major influence on the project. Though there are other influences as well, the look, feel and star of that saga were among the key jumping-off points for the new show, DeKnight said.
"Nobody does future military better than James Cameron: His designs are just brilliant, and we definitely wanted to push that even to the next level," DeKnight said of "Incursion." Though sci-fi TV shows and movies have often featured kick-ass female characters over the years, DeKnight agreed with the assessment that it's more typical to find sci-fi tales, especially military-tinged ones, that feature male leads.
"I definitely wanted to avoid that," DeKnight said. "I wanted to go down a different path." Given the memorable female characters on "Spartacus" and the fact that DeKnight is an alumni of the Joss Whedon shows "Buffy," "Dollhouse" and "Angel," there's reason to be optimistic about the depiction of the lead character of his new show (whose name he didn't want to reveal just yet).
"Incursion" will resemble "Aliens" in another way: Front-line troops in the new show will be both male and female. Not such a futuristic concept now that the Pentagon has cleared the way for women to serve in combat positions, but important to see on screen nonetheless.
"Men and women serve in the same platoon," DeKnight said. "It's an R-rated, military show set in the future [and they're] fighting aliens on different planets." As it stands now, each season of the show will take place on a different world.
"Aliens" isn't the only inspiration for the show, of course. "If you love things like 'Halo,' 'Band of Brothers,' 'Black Hawk Down,' that kind of thing, then I think you'll really enjoy this show," DeKnight said.
But fans of "Spartacus," which airs it series finale Friday, shouldn't expect to see a version of the gladiator drama in space. "It is a war show, so I wouldn't say it's as salacious or sensual as 'Spartacus,'" DeKnight said. But he did add that it will carry forward the gladiator show's tradition of depicting fully realized same-sex couples.
"I'm taking the same approach to what I did with 'Spartacus,' in that same-sex relationships are completely accepted," DeKnight said. "It doesn't matter if you're gay or straight or bi or anything -- in the future, that makes no difference whatsoever." In fact, DeKnight said he hasn't figured out a way to do so yet, but he's hoping to depict polyamorous relationships, "where you can have a husband, a wife and a husband, or any combination thereof ... I find [that] deeply fascinating."
"Spartacus," of course, has pitted Romans against gladiators since it debuted in 2010, but DeKnight said the focus of "Incursion" would be on the human side of every battle, in part because showing lots of computer-generated aliens is expensive. But the show's aliens, when we do see them, will not look human at all.
"This is no offense to anyone that does this -- I know exactly why you do -- but [our aliens] are not a human with a prosthetic on their head. No bumpy foreheads," DeKnight said. He explained that aesthetic goal of the show is to give viewers a gritty, boots-on-the-ground perspective on war.
"Incursion" will be a "hardcore military show that's [something] I feel like I haven't seen on TV," DeKnight said. "My approach to this show has always been, 'Let's tell a war story that just happens to be against aliens on other planets.'"
The one catch? Though DeKnight has been working on the show since last year and scripts have been written, it hasn't been officially greenlit yet. But he said he is "hopeful" and "confident" that the show will get the go-ahead from Starz, and if it goes forward, it could be on the air next year. But the process is taking a while because DeKnight and his team want to make sure the visuals are up to snuff.
"It is a massive, massive undertaking with many moving parts, because we are really trying to build a feature-level epic," DeKnight said. All the design work is "just incredibly time-consuming, so getting that green light is taking a little longer than it normally would."
For more from DeKnight on "Spartacus" and "Incursion," check out my HuffPost TV "Spartacus" finale post, which will go live at 10 p.m. ET on Friday. I talked to DeKnight about "Spartacus" and the finale for over an hour, and the entire conversation will be included on the post as a podcast.