'What if Steve Jobs was an alien?' Alex Kurtzman is re-imagining the David Bowie classic

By James Hibberd
August 01, 2019 at 06:33 PM EDT
British Lion Films

The sci-fi cult classic The Man Who Fell to Earth is becoming a TV series from a Star Trek showrunner.

The new series for CBS All Access is based on Walter Tevis’ 1962 novel and the 1976 film starring David Bowie. The story followed a humanoid alien who arrives on Earth searching for a way to get water to his drought-struck planet and uses his advanced technology to create many inventions and become a tech mogul.

Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard) will write the series along with Jenny Lumet and serve as co-showrunners. Kurtzman will also direct.

“Walter Tevis’ visionary novel gave us a tech god Willy Wonka from another planet, brought to life by David Bowie’s legendary performance, that foretold Steve Jobs’ and Elon Musk’s impact on our world,” said Kurtzman and Lumet in a statement. “The series will imagine the next step in our evolution, seen through the eyes of an alien who must learn what it means to become human, even as he fights for the survival of his species.”

The series was kicked off during a conversation with Lumet and Kurtzman about the late Apple co-founder and CEO. “We were thinking about the day 12 years ago when Steve Jobs took the stage and introduced the iPhone and it fundamentally changed how we live and communicate and Alex says, ‘What if he’s an alien?’” Lumet recalls. “Here we are where we’ve never been more connected but never been further apart.”

Kurtzman tells EW the story is designed as a minimum three-season story, with season 1 focusing on the alien’s ascension to the head of a tech company. “If you watch the film, Bowie’s character becomes the head of this massive corporation in 15 minutes. If you just isolate that, then that’s a season.”

One of the challenges of the project will be casting the lead actor, as the entire story hinges on his (or her) performance. “What we don’t want to do is chase the amazing unicorn of David Bowie,” Kurtzman said. “We don’t want to make the mistake of trying to replicate that. The character is a creature who evolves of the course of the story. We need somebody who arrives on this planet without even the ability of human speech and evolves into Steve Jobs; it’s a tremendous challenge.”

Added CBS president David Stapf: “I’ve been a fan of this extraordinary film starring David Bowie for years. While no one can ever hope to surpass Bowie, bringing the film to series will allow for an ongoing detailed and nuanced exploration of the concepts established in the novel.”

The title was previously made into a TV movie in 1987. The Man Who Fell to Earth will join the burgeoning CBS All Access lineup, which has increasingly taken on a genre focus with shows like The Twilight Zone, Strange Angel, Tell Me a Story, and the Star Trek shows.

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