Ridley Scott to produce miniseries on rocket scientist, occultist Jack Parsons

Jack Parsons.

Jack Parsons.

Strange Angel cover

The colorful life of Jack Parsons as revealed in the biography Strange Angel by George Pendle will appear on AMC in miniseries form, according to a Deadline report.

Ridley Scott and David Zucker will executive produce the series, which will be written by Mark Heyman (Skeleton Twins, Black Swan).

Jack Parsons, born into Pasadena wealth in 1914, began experimenting with explosives at a young age. Although he never graduated college, his self-taught proficiency with incendiary devices led to both his working at an explosives factory and appearing as an expert witness. The conviction of a Los Angeles police captain for the 1937 car bombing of a private investigator relied largely on Parsons's forensics testimony.

Parsons championed the then derided idea of rocketry. After establishing an off-hours collaboration at Caltech, Parsons worked to create liquid fueled rockets which he launched from Pasadena's Arroyo Seco. The group won a wartime government contract to invent jet assisted take off (JATO), which would enable airplanes to launch from aircraft carriers using shorter runways. Parsons's creation of a solid fueled engine with uniform burn properties was key to the project's success. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory was established in the Arroyo shortly thereafter.

While Parsons as the passionate outsider driving technological advancement is in itself a compelling story, the plot twists of his personal life make it truly fascinating. As was the case for many intellectuals in the 1930's Parsons frequented communist gatherings, though he never joined the Party. His quest for alternative viewpoints led him to attend a Gnostic Mass at Hollywood's Agape Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis, run by followers of Aleister Crowley.

Parsons came to join and eventually lead the Lodge. He moved it to Pasadena, in a residence whose rooms he rented to other lodge members, including L. Ron Hubbard. The Lodge was the scene not only of many occult rituals, but also hedonistic parties involving alcohol and orgies. Hubbard would soon seduce Parson's girlfriend, convince him to invest in the new couple's sham yacht transporting business, and use those funds to found the Church of Scientology.

While a feature film would be far too short to convey the many complex and engaging details of Parsons's life, a miniseries makes a lot of sense. In the hands of Ridley Scott, I expect that this production will reach a very high bar.