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Beacon 23 - What We Know So Far

In early October of 2018, Deadline announced that a project that had been in the works for two years was finally on the verge of being greenlit. That project was none other than the now highly-anticipated Spectrum Original and AMC Networks series, "Beacon 23," which was officially ordered to series in November of last year.  

Longtime "X-Men" franchise writer Zak Penn will be adapting author Hugh Howey's five-part novel for the streaming screen, with the help of a litany of involved and enthusiastic co-executive producers (some of which comprise the cast itself), and a collaboration of five production companies: Boat Rocker Studios, Peephole Productions (aka, star Lena Headey's production company), Platform One Media, Spectrum Originals, and Studio 8 Television (via IMDb). While there's quite a bit we don't yet know about Penn's upcoming adaptation of the 23rd century narrative, there are a few key things we do, including the fact that Penn is thrilled about the people both behind and in front of the camera. "I'm thankful to all the people making this show possible," Penn revealed in a statement, "they just keep delivering beyond my expectations" (via TV Line).

Here's everything you need to know about "Beacon 23."

When will Beacon 23 be released?

TV Line reports that "'Beacon 23' will air exclusively on Spectrum for nine months, followed by a second window across AMC Networks platforms," but that "there's currently no timetable for a premiere." 

Essentially, here's what that means for you, the viewer: if you don't have Spectrum TV, you'll be able to watch the show nine months after its initial debut, via the AMC Networks platforms. As for when, exactly, that inaugural nine-month window will begin and end, no official date has been announced. Of course, since the show was only ordered to series in the fall of last year, fans can at least rule out a 2021 or early 2022 air date, particularly given the fact that it's a science fiction thriller (as opposed to a sitcom) and the past two years have been a nightmare for filming such complex projects due to, well, you know

At present, only nine Spectrum Originals are available to watch, including the Richard Jewell biopic series, "Manhunt: Deadly Games," and the recently cancelled "L.A.'s Finest," which had its post-Spectrum network debut on Fox before releasing its first season to Netflix. With all the fanfare and buzz surrounding "Beacon 23," Spectrum's release of the series could well do for the network what their deal with Warner Bros. (initially) did to reinvigorate HBO Max. One thing is for certain — the series owes a huge amount of its pre-release buzz to its two mega-watt stars.

Who will star in Beacon 23?

For some time following the announcement of Zak Penn's adaptation of "Beacon 23," one of the show's two lead roles had yet to be cast. While fans of HBO's "Game of Thrones" and Josh Friedman's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" were thrilled to hear that the inimitable Lena Headey would star in the series, those following the progress of "Beacon 23" received some equally exciting news in September 2021. As Deadline reports, "Selma," "Homecoming," and "If Beale Street Could Talk" star Stephan James will be starring opposite the fantasy and sci-fi queen in the upcoming psychological thriller. According to the outlet, James will play the role of lighthouse keeper Halan, "a man living in complete solitude at the edge of the universe, a condition that is eating away at his sanity." For her part, Headey will tackle the role of Aster, a woman who mysteriously shows up and joins Halan at said edge of the known universe. 

As it turns out, Spectrum had their eye on Headey for "Beacon 23" from the start: "We had exactly one person in mind when thinking about who could play Aster," said the head of Spectrum Originals, Katherine Pope, adding "who could bring the strength, the vulnerability and the brilliance to Zak's complex character? No one but Lena Headey" (via Collider). Now that James has joined the cast, it appears the series has officially found a formidable counterpart to Headey's ambiguous Aster. In addition to starring as leads, both Headey and James will co-executive produce.

What is the plot of Beacon 23?

"Beacon 23" will mark the second time in just a handful of years that writer Zak Penn has adapted a futuristic sci-fi novel for the screen. Previously, he co-wrote the screenplay for "Ready Player One" alongside the book's original author, Ernest Cline, which takes place in the year 2045. Although both the film and its source material received their share of criticism for a depiction of the gaming world that (by 2018) felt dated and ignorant in the wake of "Gamergate" (as detailed by Vox), the film's long-awaited release was nonetheless welcomed and applauded by many. With "Beacon 23," Penn will return to the future — this time to the twenty-third century — with his adaptation of Hugh Howey's novel. 

The complete, five-part novel — which Luna Station Quarterly's KC Macquire intriguingly describes as "a cross between Andy Weir's The Martian and David Bowie's Space Oddity" — tracks the characters of Aster (Lena Headey) and "Halan" in their roles as beacon keepers who are trapped and isolated at the furthest reaches of the universe. The two aren't exactly friends — Halan, who has been completely by himself for quite some time, is particularly suspicious of Aster's motives. This leads to a dynamic, as Collider's Kristen Santer further explains, wherein "a tense battle of wills unfolds at the edge of space."

It's too soon to say if Penn's incarnation will remain true to the source material, but since the transformation of literature into a television series inevitably comes with its own built-in set of logistical, "fanboy," and narrative obstacles — see, for example, how "The Witcher" showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich played with the timeline — it's safe to say that an exact replica of Howey's work is highly unlikely. Then again, anything is possible in the future, so who knows?