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Writer/director Dean Devlin has been creating television shows since 1997's The Visitor, including major hits like The Librarians and Leverage. And now he's returning to serialized science fiction storytelling with SYFY's The Ark which debuts Feb 1 and streams next-day on Peacock.
Having first dabbled in that world with co-creator Jonathan Glassner (Stargate: SG-1) on The CW's The Outpost, Devlin told reporters (including SYFY WIRE) at today's Television Critics Association panel for The Ark, how this series ticks all his boxes when it comes to the things he loves: space, disasters, and character-based stories.
Devlin said that every show he's made all have the same initial challenges including budget, finding the right cast and building up a production. But he admitted from the first moment he walked onto the space ship set of the Ark-1 in Serbia, he was particularly giddy. He declared with glee, 'I'm on a space ship!'"
Set 100-years in humanity's near future, The Ark is about a spaceship full of intentionally curated specialists on a six-year journey to recreate civilization on a new planet to save our species. All the humans are in cryo-sleep until an emergency wakes everyone up and then a massive tragedy culls the survivors down to 150 people; mostly mentees and just a handful of experts.
The ship going "kaboom!" definitely fulfills Devlin's long-history of disaster storytelling, often with former frequent collaborator, Roland Emmerich. Asked why so many sci-fi stories, including this one, center on ships that break easily, Devlin laughed and said in the case of Ark-1, it was designed to be modular. "It was never meant for comfort," he explained. "It was always meant to eventually come apart for the new civilization on the planet, and a smaller version of the ship would be left just to orbit. That's why there's only two cabins."
Devlin started as an actor in 1994 then transitioned to writing, penning Universal Soldier (1992). With now more than four decades in the industry, Devlin was asked what's changed in his career as a storyteller. He joked, "They don’t call me the kid anymore, I miss that. But there was a period where I was the 'kid.' Then I was the 'dad' on the show. This was the first time, I’m the grandpa."
"But the daily work hasn’t changed that much," Devlin continued. He said he's learned a lot more with every project. And self assessed there was a period where he became "overly enamored" with visual effects. "I had to remind myself it’s always about story and character, and that’s what we lean into with The Ark."
The Ark premieres Feb. 1 on SYFY, and will be available to stream next-day on Peacock.