George R.R. Martin's Doorways

The success of HBO's adaptation of Game of Thrones must be extremely statisfying (both financially and creatively) for author George R.R. Martin.  This isn't the first time he has brought his words to the television screen.  He was a writer on the beloved but short-lived Twilight Zone revival of the 1980s and the cult favorite Beauty and the Beast.  One project that generated a lot of buzz at the time but never came to fruition was Doorways, an alternate-universe-hopping adventure tale.  I recall eagerly anticipating its debut, but never seeing it happen.  Now, the comic book publishing company IDW has released a graphic novel adaptation of the storyline, and it whets the imagination, making me wonder what might have been if a TV series based on Martin's idea ever became a full series.

In a fascinating foreward to the comic, Martin describes the multi-year saga of the show that came so close to happening, from his original pitch through the lengthy development process.  They actually hired a cast and production crew, filmed a pilot episode, and commissioned almost half a dozen scripts, but alas, after much work and effort, it never went further.  Martin lays out all the factors that killed the show before it was fully born.  I only wish he had revealed more about his reaction to the similarly themed science fiction program Sliders that made it to air and managed to become a relatively successful series.  Martin just gives it a perfunctory mention, but I wonder if one of the primary reasons Doorways never got the greenlight was because Sliders beat it to the punch.

Whatever the case may be for Doorways' misfortune, seeing the tale in comic book form is a great treat.  Martin's awesome writing and knack for characterization shine through on every page.  He has a great sense of humor and good grasp of dramatic timing and action plotting.  The artwork by Stefano Martino is another plus.  I'm sure the comic form does more justice to Martin's words than the live action pilot which was hamstrung by the limitations of television production economics.

 The story does have some weaknesses, at least as it is presented on the comics page.  The dialogue of Cat, the "feral slave girl fleeing her alien masters," is distracting and never really works for me, and there were moments when Dr. Thomas Mason's quick acceptance of the farfetched situations seemed too jarring and unbelievable.  Nevertheless, overall, the premise worked and I could absolutely visualize a television series based on the material.

The concept of heroes travelling from one alternate universe to another seems ripe for limitless stories full of excitement and wow-moments.  It's a shame Doorways never made it.  Yet, with Game of Thrones turning out to be such a hit, maybe HBO or other networks might take a second look at Martin's failed project and give it a second chance someday.