FTL Newsfeed

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FTL Newsfeeds
Format Science Fiction
Created by F. Paul Wilson
Matthew J. Costello
Starring Joseph McKenna
Jon Avner
Country of origin USA
No. of seasons 4
Production
Running time 30 seconds (season 1-4)
Production company(s) The SciFi Channel
Broadcast
Original channel SciFi Channel USA Networks (US)
Original run September 24, 1992 (1992-09-24) – March 21, 1996 (1996-03-21)
Chronology
Followed by FTL Newsfeed Special Behind the Scenes
External links
Defunct Website

FTL Newsfeeds, shown on the Sci-Fi Channel, is the channel's first original program and is the first show seen on the channel before the movie, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, was aired. The micro-series format gave viewers 30 second snippets of fictitious news info that were supposed to have come from the year 2142. This future timeline was fraught with stories of genetic engineering issues, technology trends, space exploration, future entertainment, right to privacy issues and geopolitical intrigue. The series was created by F. Paul Wilson and Matthew J. Costello and was filmed in New York. The series ended in a cliffhanger in late 1996.

The World of 2142[edit]

The World of 2142 is markedly different from our own. Europe has combined into the EC or European Community, which has given it enormous economic and political sway. The United States has combined with Canada to form the NAU or North American Union, still very bold and ambitious though not as economically powerful. Japan, the Pacific Rim and all other East Asian nations excluding Australia combined into the NACPS or New Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, a new isolationist Combine centered on improving itself from within. The Holy Islamic Federation controls the Middle East and African regions. Mexico, Central America and South America have become the HC, or Hispanic Commonwealth. All five government leaders met regularly in the World Congress.

The economy is controlled by a global banking entity called CenBank, short for Central Bank and was based in Geneva, Switzerland, and all transfers were electronic and highly monitored by the bank's AI and President Barton Poole. The "FTL Newsfeed" came from this future world's "Commlink" system which acted as an interactive global information network that merges the Internet, television programming of all sorts and virtual reality entertainment into one entertainment center. There was even a special voting message shown during the 1992 Presidential Elections that has all "Commlink" functions suspended until the following day as if to coincide with the elections of 2142.

Life on Earth is often interesting with virtual reality simulations so real that worldwide addiction is very common. Holography allows users to modify the appearance of their dwellings or selves into more appealing facades. Violent "future-sports" enable fast paced thrills with life and death consequences that keep the crowds coming back for more. Cloning has brought the extinct back to life and enabled mankind to create a subclass of humans that not only fill the need for cheap labor and exotic entertainment, but have now become a social cause for clone rights groups. In addition to earthbound life there are The O'Neills—a network of space stations and microwave generators that orbit the Earth and Moon bases, representing the major economic combines. Lastly, there is the great, if economically devastating, experiment of terraforming Mars.

CommLink[edit]

CommLink is the information hub for Earth, The Moon bases, Mars and the O'Neills. Based in a solar powered space platform bound to Earth's orbit, Commlink operates 24 hours a day with all the information, entertainment, and communication needs required by citizens in the 22nd century. The newscast is also known as "FTL Newsfeed" and is delivered by a "virtual news anchor", a disembodied photorealistic human male head (played onscreen by actor Joseph McKenna) that has been processed with visual effects to accentuate the mood of the messages it conveys. Whether this news anchor is a tre virtual construct that is controlled by an Artificial Intelligence or if this is a real human that is visually augmented is not revealed. However, due to the fact that virtual reality and holograms play a big part of everyday life in 2142 the news anchor could indeed be a computer controlled construct.

World combines[edit]

The 22nd century globe has undergone a geopolitical change. Various major nations have all undergone economic changes and united, allowing them greater financial stability and an increase in political cachet. They are as follows: (Taken from FTL Guide to the 22nd Century)

North American Union (NAU)[edit]

Leader: President Madeleine Clarke

Capital: Chicago

Flag: the red & white stripes of USA with a white maple leaf of Canada alone on the blue corner field.

The United States and Canada fused to form the gigantic North American Union (NAU). This Union has failed to compete successfully with either the European Community (EC) or the Hispanic Commonwealth (HC) economically, but can cause massive devastation in terms of military power. In a bold effort, the NAU committed itself to the terraforming of Mars, the Red Planet, an on-going project that drained, and continues to drain, billions of credits and resources from the Union.

If "Habitat Mars" succeeds, then the result will provide the NAU with a new world to populate, mine, construct and exploit. But hidden from the citizens of the Union are the many setbacks, delays, disasters and the true cost.

The North American Union uses the democratic system of election to fill the post of President. The only change is the removal of the archaic Electoral College. There are still senators, congressmen and, in functioning cities, mayors.

European Community (EC)[edit]

Leader: Georges Favreau

Capital: Brussels

Flag: crossed gold swords in a circle of white stars centered on a field of Swiss blue.

The politically and economically unified European Community (EC) now stretches from Ireland to Russia.

Winner of the 21st century's economic wars, the powerful EC glories in a revived medievalism, reflected in the culture, the sports, the architecture, and in some cases, their attitude toward the other Combines. However, they are susceptible to full-scale military attacks - the reason why the EC is heavily fortified to defend itself against NAU attacks.

The politically and economically unified EC uses a parliamentary system similar to that of the old United Kingdom. The former independent countries of the EC have elected ministers and various parties which reflect concern over local trade issues, the size and power of the Hispanic Combine, and the need for a greater presence in space.

New Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere[edit]

Leader: Prince Sato Uchida

Capital: Singapore

Flag: the five gold stars of the present People's Republic of China flag centered on the red circle of the Japanese flag, on a white field surrounded by the I-Ching symbols from the present South Korean flag

Japan, in an effort to remain competitive with the EC, established the New Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (which includes all the nations of the Pacific Rim and East Asia, save Australia). This resurrection of a Japanese hegemony in the Pacific quickly prompted other blocs to form combines.

Despite the size of the New Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (NACPS), it has failed to compete against the EC. In reaction, the NACPS has turned inward, resorting to a new Closed Door policy like that faced by U.S. Commodore Matthew C. Perry in the 19th century.

The NACPS is led by Japan, which has fully revived the old State Shinto religion compete with ancestor worship and the rule of the royal family. Prince Uchida, therefore, functions as sole head of the vast empire, advised by representatives from the various countries.

Holy Islamic Federation (HIF)[edit]

Leader: Mullah Mohammed Zaganada

Capital: Cairo (HQ'd in a huge golden pyramid).

Flag: a crescent and three stars (borrowed from the flag of the Kingdom of Egypt of 1922–1953) centered on the stripes of the current Ghana flag.

The Mid-eastern Islamic nations formed The Holy Islamic Federation (HIF) and, using oil as leverage, tried to become a major power. But the passing of the internal combustion engine undercut their attempt.

The geographic region of the HIF includes all of Africa under HIF's very loose control. An increase in rain to the arid regions due to climatic changes and regional weather modification has led to a greening of the Sahara and a burgeoning agriculture in this region. HIF now supplies common and exotic fruits—including genetically altered fruit—to the world's wealthy.

The Holy Islamic Federation is a strict, fundamentalist theocracy. The HIF trades freely with the other Combines, but regards them as infidels. Zaganada lets his Combine vacillate between cautious acceptance and a nearly war-like paranoia. The other combines give the HIF a wide berth.

Hispanic Commonwealth (HC)[edit]

Leader: General Antonio Rodriguez, Jorge Diaz

Capital: Bogotá (in buildings modeled on the Mayan pyramids)

Flag: a sun face (borrowed from the current flags of either Uruguay or Argentina) centered on a field of green from the Brazil flag.

The Hispanic Commonwealth (HC) was built on the strength, money, and power of the Medellín Cartel which unified the Central and South American republics into a potent economic unit. But as drug use became decriminalized around the globe, the center of power shifted from Medellín. In what many consider an over-reaction, the HC is now the only combine with penalties for drug abuse.

One of the major tasks the HC has set for itself is the reforestation of the Amazon basin.

The Hispanic Commonwealth is a dictatorship - in other words, the Commonwealth does as their Leader says, headed by General Rodriguez. Despite this fact, Rodriguez is loved and admired by the many members of the HC for the prosperity they currently enjoy. Such loyalty and financial success will embolden him to attempt to place a surcharge on all HC goods and services—even a 'tax' for the air produced by the great jungles. Rodriguez's attempt at global extortion will fail.

Fortress Israel (FI)[edit]

Leader: Prime Minister Yakov Kanter (played by actor Ethan Herschenfeld)

Capital: Jerusalem

Israel was not invited into the HIF and it became increasingly isolated from the rest of the economic combines. After a number of skirmishes with its neighbors, Israel was referred to as 'Fortress Israel' (FI) -- small, yet determined, armed to the teeth with the latest laser-based Missile Defense and armed Floater Stations guarding its borders. It is an extremely dangerous place to live - unless someone has been fighting here for a long time for the Israelis.

Israel's government remains as it is today, with the parliamentary structure altered by the tremendous power reserved by the head of the military. There is a possibility that a dramatic gesture by the Israeli premier towards the HIF could lead to peace.

India[edit]

The crowded, starving sub-continent of India also remains unaligned. No combine wants India to be part of it, and so it is isolated, helped sporadically by the Combines and idealists touched by the magnitude of its human misery.

CenBank[edit]

Director: Barton Poole

Home office: Geneva (CenBank's HQ floats over Lake Geneva)

Each of the five major economic World Combines of the 22nd century has its own currency. Years ago they got together and set up CenBank - Central Bank - to act as a clearing-house for all economic transactions between the powers and as arbiter of economic disputes. CenBank sets all currency exchange rates.

Over the years, CenBank, also known as CB, has spread its tentacles and tried to insinuate them into the internal finances of each of the combines, bidding to take responsibility for the money supply, interest rates, credit records, etc. Through this gradual, insidious process, CenBank has accrued varying degrees of influence within each combine. CenBank aspires to be the sixth economic combine—and the most powerful. The tail yearns to wag the dog.

Although no one says so openly, all the world leaders are wary of CenBank and are keeping a close watch on it. Only the Privacy Party has declared itself anti-CenBank.

One of the ongoing projects of the CB is to completely centralize individual credit within each of the combines. It's been moderately successful in the NACPS and the HC, but has met with stiff resistance in the EC and NAU.

To attain this goal, CenBank introduced the "Credit Chip". The Credit Chip is a micro-processor implanted in the flesh of the left fifth digit. This is electronically linked to the individual's CenBank credit account. The individual's employer makes deposits directly to the account at CenBank. One purchases by inserting the pinky into a slot and the price of the purchase is withdrawn immediately from the linked account and transferred to the seller's account.

The Credit Chip has caught on, but it has serious consequences in regard to privacy since CenBank then has a record of every purchase an individual has made: every book purchased, every virtual reality program rented, every place traveled, every meal eaten out. This is analogous to having a corporation video-recording every move that is made. It is feared that the CenBank sells information from its individual data cache back to participating governments and their intelligence agencies. Naturally, wherever this system is in place, a thriving black market based on barter and hard currency results.

In 2142, at CenBank's instigation, Identity Chips, considered to be the Credit Chip taken to its extreme, have become mandatory in the NAU.

CenBank's programs do not go unopposed. Aboveground there is the Privacy Party, but there is also an underground movement. The radical privatists want CenBank dismantled and do not hesitate to resort to violent means -- sabotage and even terrorism—to make their point and draw attention to the potential abuses of CenBank's growing data cache.

But there is something else going on at CenBank. Its board of directors does not seem to be completely in control of the company. Decisions are made, plans are executed without their authorization. Some think there may be an artificial intelligence (AI) program nestled in the heart of the CB's huge mother boards. The actions of the CenBank bear close scrutiny.

Population control[edit]

The population of 2142 is about 15 billion people. Technologically advanced combines have instituted rigid population control measures. Reproduction is limited to self-replacement, for example, one child per person. This has been named "The One Life/One Birth Law". Theoretically this will stabilize the population, but actually it reduces it through early death of the child or premature death of an adult before he or she has reproduced. This will guarantee a gradual decline in the population. But it also requires mandatory sterilization immediately after the permitted off-spring is born. A citizen who goes beyond the One Life/One Birth limit will be forcibly sterilized and risks having all assets seized in order to support the extra child.

There is, of course, opposition to this. Some dissenters are the Papist wing of the Catholic Church, various surviving Hasidic sects, and secular members of the Birthright movement.

The One Life/One Birth Law is likely the most controversial - and population-costing - in history.

Food[edit]

In the world of 2142 the global population totals fifteen billion, arable land is scarce and there have been many shortages and a couple of severe famines. The HC and HIF have become the breadbaskets of the world, but they cannot supply nearly enough.

One of the most practical solutions has been TFP—textured fungal protein—grown in huge underground vats (no light is needed) by the Yamagata method. TFP is a nutritionally balanced source of protein and complex carbohydrates, enriched with essential amino acids, and can be shaped, textured, colored, and flavored into reasonable facsimiles of tomatoes, steaks, potatoes, linguine, broccoli, etc. (The meats are more real than the vegetables.) But most people agree it's just not the same thing.

People get by on TFP but never pass up an opportunity to grow their own veggies. That's why every rooftop is a garden, and outside every window with a sunny exposure hangs a window-box sprouting vegetables. During the growing seasons the southern flanks of most dwellings are festooned with window gardens, like the hanging gardens of Babylon. What isn't eaten can be bartered in the credit-free black market.

Drugs[edit]

Since most anti-drug laws were abolished a century ago (except in the HC which still restricts their use), recreational drug use is now fairly common. Opiate use surged briefly after legalization, then dropped off precipitously. As the price dropped, so did production. No one was pushing it due to the low profit margin. Besides, new designer drugs with a much higher mark-up were evolving all the time. No one injects intravenously, as most drugs are administered nasally via vapors or sprays, or intradermally through patches.

Some bestsellers:

  • Osovirtuoso - One of the most popular perceptual enhancement drugs used during virtual reality trips.
  • Ecstaphoria - the most popular endorphomimetic.
  • HHELL - The infamous horror hallucinogenic. A dose of this is the 22nd century equivalent of bridge chuting, thus the name HHELL.

Genetic engineering[edit]

DNA manipulation in 2142 is pretty much ubiquitous. Medical DNA purification techniques have allowed humanity to rid themselves of the once pesky and sometimes fatal hereditary illnesses like Marfan's Syndrome, Down syndrome and Muscular Dystrophy creating areas of the world where these diseases are entirely extinct. DNA alteration of simple racial and physical features is also very common, allowing you to manipulate your skin tone, eye color, breast size and more all without surgery. Cloning is an accepted practice for creating extinct animals and humans for a variety of desires from the subtle to the lavish. The newest alteration fad is NANO-BIOMORPHING (NBR) which can turn an individual into an entirely different looking lifeform or object if desired. NBR uses nano-biochip circuits to alter the body's organ systems at the cellular level, taking the existing flesh and sculpting it into new shapes like it was made out of clay. The only real concern is maintaining a blood supply to these newly shaped tissues, other than that the user is only limited by their imagination.

Costello's daughter Nora Costello appeared in one episode as Keva Handley, a child delinquent, who is arrested for genetically mutating her little brother into a puff-rock lizard.

See also[edit]