Straczynski Unearths Vlad Dracula

And Steven S DeKnight plans Incursion

US cable network Starz has done well from its blood, boobs, todgers ‘n’ togas take on Spartacus, but with that show ending, the channel will need to find something new. Thankfully, then, two members of the Spartacus creative / producing team have spawned fresh projects, with creator Steven S DeKnight working up sci-fi action series Incursion and producer Rob Tapert unleashing Vlad Dracula with Changeling scriptwriter J Michael Straczynski.

Vlad Dracula is being touted as a new spin on a story that you might think had been explored to great depth already. Straczynski, who is also working alongside veteran horror producer Roy Lee, will blend the historical facts of the 15th century Prince of Wallachia with the fiction of Bram Stoker’s iconic creation. Assuming the show succeeds, we’ll follow one man’s path from revered ruler to feared vampire as he tries to cling to his humanity.

It’ll be intriguing to see Straczynski let loose on TV again, especially since he’s the creator of both Jeremiah and Babylon 5, which is not, as some like to claim, “a big pile of shit.” He’s also worked in comics (check out, if you haven't already, Rising Stars) and most recently contributed the script to Underworld: Awakening. We’re trying not to hold that against him.

That’s not all the supremely prolific Straczynski has been developing. Deadline reports that he’s also launched his own mini studio, focusing on getting projects he creates made into movies, TV series and comics.

As well as Vlad Dracula, he’s working on Epidemic with Will Smith’s Overbrook production company, and has already written a movie he wants to make his directorial debut, called The Flickering Light. It focuses on Nazi propaganda director Leni Reifenstahl and the “actors” – read "mistreated prisoners" – who appeared in her work.

“She didn’t care about them at all, only about her movie, and it was the crew that looked after them,” Straczynski tells the site. “This was a surreal existence, moving from escapism on a movie set back to a nightmare imprisonment. The script is written, we’re out to actors and we will have partial funding from the German government.” There’s no word on when he’ll get started making it, and given the plans he has for Studio JMS, we wonder when he’s going to fit in sleeping and eating…

DeKnight, meanwhile will be switching from swords to space troopers for Incursion, which follows the battle on a new, exotic planet. There appear to be shades of Robert Heinlein and even Avatar in the tale of human soldiers plunging deep into enemy territory to battle an alien species the likes of which we’ve never seen.

Both series are in development right now, so don’t expect either to appear much before next year or even later.