What Could Have Been: Charlie Jade Season 2
Last month, I decided to introduce the new “Obscure SF Primer” instead of doing a “What Could Have Been“; I had one planned, but ran into a snag with the research and had to delay it. So this month, we’ll be getting back to the regular pattern by picking up where both left off–a look at what Charlie Jade season 2, the focus of that first Obscure SF Primer, might have contained.
Spoilers for Charlie Jade‘s first season, obviously.
Charlie Jade, if you recall, was a show about a detective from the cyberpunk Alphaverse’s counterpart of South Africa. He winds up in the Betaverse, which is our universe literally 20 minutes into the future, and also has dealings with the ecotopian Gammaverse which isn’t quite as idyllic as it sounds–and definitely won’t be if the Alphaverse gets its way. In the finale, Charlie and his nemesis, 01 Boxer, get trapped in the space between universes (referred to in the show writers’ guides as “Link Space”) and seemingly must be sacrificed to prevent the Gammaverse and Betaverse from being destroyed. The last shot of the season shows Charlie and 01 being kept in hospital beds in some kind of grayish world, possibly a new region of Link Space but just as likely yet another universe. Not to mention that back in episode 16 we learn of a fourth universe, which has a purplish color palette and seems to be very technologically backward. With that kind of explosion of new worlds appearing, it seems like they’d have to play into a second season. The writers plans are extremely specific; they have a 13 episode season plotted out, dealing with the fallout and revelations made in this final episode.
According to the plans I’ve found, Charlie Jade Season 2 would have opened with a permanent portal between universes opened and running for years. The outline compares their level of cooperation to that of the real-life European Union–economic cooperation while still maintaining the significant cultural differences, including some level of discrimination between people of different universes. The first episode of season 2 would begin exactly as season 1 did: a man driving through the streets of Cape City in the Alphaverse, a cool car in the rain and a voiceover referring to the speaker as Charlie Jade. Except the man behind the wheel isn’t old Charlie from last season; it’s 01 Boxer, apparently under the idea that he’s Charlie. Things have gone really, really wrong somehow: the creation of an alternate reality/timeline when Charlie and 01 did whatever they did, a world where all 3 verses have always been linked (which was part of the plan, in the finale).
I gotta say I have never, ever seen both parallel universes and alternate timelines at work simultaneously in the same storyline before (Charlie Jade seems like it’d have eventually become a cooler version of Fringe, had it stayed on the air), probably because it has the potential to be confusing as fuck.
Had Vexcor’s plan gone off without a hitch in the finale, the Betaverse would’ve been erased from existence, but since it was saved and Vexcor’s plan went ahead anyway, it instead led to this bizarre interconnected universe situation. So while no one (except the “Men in Grey Suits,” whom we saw in Link Space and that gray world in the finale) realizes that the timelines have been altered, our main characters all have a subconscious indication that things are just wrong. Everyone is in the world they belong in, except Charlie and 01 have swapped places/bodies for some reason. It turns out 01 knew they’d switched; he’d done it to save himself from the damage accrued by jumping from universe to universe, but Charlie doesn’t and reclaiming his identity would be a big part of the season arc.
Another major arc would be Essa Rompkin’s trial for murdering Brion Boxer, Vexcor’s founder and 01’s father. She’d eventually have been acquitted before taking over a Vexcor competitor. We’d also get some insight into the lives of the characters from before the series started, both through a universe where Vexcorp has no need to perform the experiments that kicked off the plot and through Charlie’s new ability to transition between the old timeline and the new one (presumably real Charlie, and not 01 pretending to be Charlie, but this shit is complicated to read).
Men in Grey Suits
The Men in Grey Suits bear some similarities to other such extradimensional characters like the Observers in Fringe or the Silence in Doctor Who, in that they’ve been interfering in our universes for a long time to their own ends. As described in the season 2 plans, the Men in Grey Suits (I guess they didn’t hear that Black is the go-to color for behind-the-scenes vague evilness) would have had a much larger role; they’d been manipulating all 3 universes since the beginning of time to create a “perfect” life form, and having gathered sufficient data, were ready to wipe the slate clean and start over, killing everyone in all 3 verses as a side effect. They also were aware that the Betaverse was going to be destroyed in season 1 and would’ve allowed it to happen.
Where it gets weird is the idea that they created Time as a means of control, and exist outside of it. As such, being in Link Space meant that Charlie and 01 were also “outside” of time, and that’s how they both would develop the time travel abilities mentioned above (and explain the temporal weirdness from the finale).
We barely saw the Gammaverse in season 1, with the majority of the action focused in Beta with many important moments set in Alpha. Gammaverse would’ve played a much larger role in the second season, with Reena’s return home as the perfect vehicle for it. She ends up investigating a mysterious plague that would turn out to be man-made, while the former CEO of Vexcor-Gamma ends up in competition for the job of running the merged parallel company with Essa. They both end up fighting for an immortality drug discovered by Vexcor and eventually we’d discover the latter’s involvement with the Men in Grey Suits.
As all these different plot threads converge, and the reality of this alternate timeline proves to be even worse for everyone involved, the possibility emerges that perhaps, in spite of what a massive sacrifice it would be, the destruction of the Betaverse might actually be preferable to what they’ve created.
All in all it’s a huge season, and those would have been some very densely packed episodes to fit this into 13 as opposed to 20. My primary source is here, a document released after a podcast with one of the show’s creators where they discussed a second season over at charliejade.net. As I said, the plans are quite dense, so I’ve clipped a lot out. If you’re interested, I’d strongly recommend checking out the document itself. Do you think you’d have enjoyed Charlie Jade Season 2, as based on these plans? Are there any other shows with undeveloped seasons you want to hear about? Let me know in the comments, or on twitter @RetroPhaseShift. See you in the new year!