HBO has picked up the female-led Victorian sci-fi epic from the ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Firefly’ creator.
As the creator of the shows Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon had a significant impact on the way TV is created and consumed. And now, after lengthy break from the small screen, he’s set to return with a new HBO series that will hopefully have a similar effect.
As reported by Variety, Whedon’s The Nevers has received a rare series order by HBO (as opposed to the standard pilot order). And while no air date is set as of yet, a brief synopsis has been released:
“The series is described as a sci-fi epic about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.”
So what can we take from this? Well, female-led genre television is certainly familiar territory for Whedon. After seven seasons of Buffy, he’s no stranger to pitting female protagonists against all manner of enemies. Plus, his work on Firefly has given him experience in the sci-fi genre. And with the added wrinkle of the Victorian time period, he still has plenty of new challenges to face.
Whedon went on to describe his new series, calling it “maybe the most ambitious narrative I’ve created.” He also praised HBO for embracing what he describes as his “odd, intimate epic,” stating that he “can’t imagine a better home” for The Nevers. In addition to this, Whedon also said that “It’s been too long since I created an entirely new fictional world.”
It’s been six years since The Cabin In the Woods, his last original project. And he hasn’t worked on an original series since the cancellation of Dollhouse in 2010. After years of working on big budget superhero blockbusters, Whedon is ready to return to TV, announcing that “I have work to do.”
In a statement, HBO shared the following about their relationship with the showrunner:
“We have long been fans of the incredibly talented and prolific Joss Whedon and we can’t think of a better project than ‘The Nevers’ with which to welcome him to the HBO family,”
HBO went on to say that they “look forward to meeting the strange, multifaceted characters of The Nevers.” And that they are honored that “Joss chose HBO as the place to build his ambitious new world,” likely referencing how sought after the project was, with Netflix also competing for the rights. That appears to be why the network pushed for a straight-to-series order of the show.
As noted by IndieWire, the series order is something that not even the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel received. This clearly demonstrates how much faith HBO has in The Nevers. Between that and his own comments, this is set to be a huge return to form for Whedon. Although one particular issue does complicate things.
Whedon’s penchant for female-led stories came under scrutiny last year, after Kai Cole’s blog post, in which his ex-wife spoke out on the many complications surrounding their marriage. Most notable was the alleged misuse of power on the set of Buffy, and the subsequent affairs which followed. This led many to reevaluate Whedon’s career, especially his many efforts with female protagonists. And it has raised a number of questions about his continued attempts to tell women’s stories.
In addition to the issue of whether Whedon should still be telling female-driven stories, the question of how they will now be received also comes to mind. Some felt that his exit from DC’s Batgirl at least partly came down to not wanting to have to confront these questions in promoting the movie. But with The Nevers, Whedon still isn’t shying away from telling women’s stories.
Even before Cole’s post, his treatment of female characters had come under fire. In a scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Widow described herself as a “monster.” This coming immediately after her confession that she was unable to have children rubbed some viewers the wrong way. While Whedon did later clarify that this wasn’t the intended implication, it’s not hard to see how the execution of the scene may have led viewers to think otherwise.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to be relevant. And as such, it’s worth questioning whether Whedon’s is a voice we need to have telling female-led stories. While some could argue that his work speaks for itself, these discussions need to be had. How The Nevers will be received in spite of all this remains to be seen. But whether we choose to ignore these issues or not will surely be a reflection of how the industry is set to continue in the wake of these movements.