Wednesday, 27 August 2014

French Space Opera - Time Jam: Valérian and Laureline

I've mentioned several times on this blog that Luc Besson is one of of my favourite directors/producers/writers and I always keep up to date with what projects he is involved with.  Back in 2012 he announced he was working on a Valérian movie, which for those who don't know, Valérian is a French graphic novel first published in Pilote magazine (Nov 1967) and written by Pierre Christin with art by Jean-Claude Mézières.

A few of the many aliens in the Time Jam universe
Just a few of the many aliens from the Time Jam universe (centre: Valerian and Laureline)
Besson has always been a fan of the original comicbook and so he hired Mézières and Jean Giraud Moebius to do the concept art for a little sci-fi project he was putting together which ended up being "The Fifth Element".  Besson's production company, Europacorp, also colaborated on a 40 episode anime series loosely based on the comic book, first aired in 2007.  Besson is not the only fan to be inspired by and some of the original comicbook has bled through to Star Wars.  Jeffrey Willis has a good write up of some of these on his blog The Geek Flag

The series follows the adventures of junior Space Time Agent Valérian, voiced by Nigel Greaves, who travels back to medieval France to undertake cultural observations for the Oxford Intergalactic University.  Needless to say his first mission goes spectacularly wrong and he ends up escaping feudal justice with a headstrong peasant girl called Laureline, voiced by Alison Dowling.  When they time jump back to 2417 they discover that the Earth has disappeared and they spend the rest of the series as the only humans in the galaxy trying to find out what has happened to it.  

The universe features a plethora of alien species, cultures, planets and technology, most notably the insectoid Vlargos who are intent on dominating the Galaxy.  Valérian and Laureline have to constantly thwart their devious plans as they ply their trade as space adventures.  One of their patrons are a trio of weird small winged entrepreneurs with trunks know as Shingouz.  Much like Star Trek's Ferenghi they are always in search of profit and end up sending Valérian and Laureline on quite a few dangerous missions to retrieve various objects. 

Their encounters often occur on weird planets that try to kill them or have been rendered dangerous by some legendary artefact they must recover and they are assisted by ship's computer "Rondha" which fills in some of the blanks for them and the viewer.  There's plenty of variety in setting and plot for each episode as the pair embark on various missions for their different patrons and they end up making just as many friends as enemies.

With the exception of the bizarre "Space Dandy", it's been a while since I've seen anything that I would class as "Space Opera".  By this I mean in the spirit of of E.E. "Doc" Smith's classic Lensman, a light hearted, galaxy hopping tour of the universe with only a laser blaster and a well timed one liner for defence.  It's pitched at an early teens audience, the tone is firmly in the "mild peril" zone, but it's good inspiration fodder for any Space Opera RPG and could be easily "hardened" up for more engaging adult sessions.  I would recommend using it as an alternative setting when you want to drop your players in at the deep end and watch them gradually learn about the universe as they play.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, I'd never heard of it before. I see there are some episodes of the anime series waiting for me on Hulu right now.