Robocop Returns

Robocop returns in Prime Directives

Prime Directives is a new mini-series aiming to recapture the quality of the original RoboCop. Starburst talks to writers Brad Abrahams and Joseph O'Brien about their quartet of stories.

by David Bassom

Selected from Starburst #265

When cyborg police officer Alex Murphy made his arresting début as the star of the classic 1987 SF action movie, RoboCop, the future looked extremely bright for the titanium lawman. But by 1995, RoboCop’s proud polish had been sorely eroded by two lacklustre big-screen sequels and a short-lived kiddie-orientated weekly series. In the wake of these RoboFlops, the character was consigned to the scrap heap, where he looked destined to rust in peace.

Fortunately, this sorry state of affairs looks set to be reversed this October, with the début of RoboCop: Prime Directives. Not only does Fireworks Entertainment’s eight-hour mini-series revive the once-rusty RoboFranchise, but it has also been crafted by writers Brad Abraham and Joseph O’Brien as the first true sequel to RoboCop’s groundbreaking début outing.

“Everything in Prime Directives is rooted in the first RoboCop,” explains Abraham. “Prime Directives is set 10 years after the original RoboCop, but it essentially picks up from the final scene in the film, when RoboCop is asked his name and he turns to the camera and says, ‘Murphy’.

Back to the original

“Joe and I are both huge fans of the first RoboCop, and we wanted to get back to the things that made the film so special. In particular, we wanted to focus on RoboCop as an actual character rather than a special effect. RoboCop is an extremely compelling character: he’s a human being trapped in a mechanical body, who’s struggling to keep what’s left of his humanity. And that’s one of the driving forces of RoboCop: Prime Directives.”

“I think a lot of people who liked the first RoboCop feel that the character’s potential wasn’t really explored in any of the different spin-offs,” adds O’Brien. “I don’t want to slag anyone’s work, but he had not always been treated well by other people. So it was a great concern to us to get this right and make something that was in keeping with the original film.

Doing justice

“It wasn’t just a job for us,” he says emphatically. “Pardon the pun, but we really wanted to make sure that justice was done for RoboCop.”

Abraham and O’Brien were hired to resurrect the RoboCop saga by Prime Directives' producer/director, Julian Grant, in November 1998. The Toronto-based writing team’s first task was to find a workable plotline for the eight-hour mini-series that was in keeping with Grant’s own ideas for the production.

One of Abraham and O’Brien’s earliest decisions was to set Prime Directives a decade after events in the original RoboCop. They also carefully avoided making any references to events in the sequels or TV series. “We set Prime Directives 10 years after the first film to give us some breathing room to develop our storyline,” elaborates O’Brien. “We wanted to make Prime Directives very much its own thing and have its own energy, and didn’t want to get caught in any continuity traps. But if you’re a fan of the series or RoboCop 3, you can still say this is part of the canon.”

After over seven months of solid work, Abraham and O’Brien finally completed Prime Directives’ 450-page script in June 1999. At Fireworks behest, the mini-series was structured as four telemovies: Dark Justice; Meltdown; Resurrection and Crash and Burn. (See panel right)

“Each segment tells an individual story,” explains O’Brien. “But if you watch them together, a larger narrative emerges. “It was fun to be able to tell a larger, more complex story over eight hours, as we could spend a lot of time developing the characters and building things up so they would have an enormous pay-off. We also got to do these kinds of cliff-hangers – rather like the British show Doctor Who – which was a lot of fun too...”

Series Guide

Paying the price for justice: Robocop's bloody return

RoboCop: Prime Directives
 Produced and directed by Julian Grant
 Written by Brad Abraham and Joseph O’Brien

Alex Murphy/RoboCop (Page Fletcher), John Cable/RoboCable (Maurice Dean Wint), Ann R Key (Leslie Hope), Kaydick (Geraint Wyn Davies), Sara Cable (Maria Del Mar).

 Dark Justice
Murphy is assigned to capture a mysterious vigilante known as the ‘Bone Machine’ and encounters his former partner, Security Commander John T Cable

A secret group of OCP executives known as The Trust supervises the creation of a new cyborg police officer, RoboCable. RoboCable’s first task is to discredit his predecessor, RoboCop.

RoboCable is unwittingly recruited to help the villainous Kaydick unleash a powerful BioTech virus in Delta City. The only thing that stands in Kaydick’s way is a barely-functional RoboCop

 Crash and Burn
RoboCop and RoboCable prepare for a final confrontation that will seal their fates and the future of Delta City.

Images © Fireworks Entertainment / Space: the Imagination Station

Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction

Starburst #265
This is just a fraction of the full feature. Read on in Starburst #265