If someone knows the name Gene Roddenberry it is almost certainly due to the 60’s television series Star Trek and it’s sequel series Star Trek: The Next Generation. During the 1970s Roddenberry attempted to launch a few other series before Paramount green-lit a Star Trek film and the whole cascade that followed in the wake of the titanic success of Star Wars. At my suggestion Loscon43 this year has a panel discussion, which I will be participating in, on these failed pilots.
In order the prep for the convention panel I have tried to hunt down the pilots and re-watch all of them. I succeeded in all of them except The Questor Tapes. If you are in Los Angeles do consider coming to the convention this weekend, but if you can’t make it here are some of my brief thoughts about these pilots.
Genesis II: NASA scientist Dylan Hunt is undergoing an experimental suspended animation technique when an unexpected rock-fall collapses the cavern where the experiment takes place and Dylan isn’t revived until well into the 22 century. The Earth is fragmented with some locales in post-apocalyptic barbarism while other areas have retained advanced technologies. Dylan ends up recruited by a group called Pax who are dedicated to rebuilding humanity but this time without its warlike nature. The pilot is dreadfully dull with most of the scenes tiresome exposition as everyone explains things to the poor Dylan and the audience. The most action packed parts of the pilot, Dylan rigging a nuclear device to foil evil-minded mutants, takes place off screen.
Planet Earth: Same set up as Genesis II, again our main hero is Dylan Hunt, a scientist from the 20th century who due to a suspended animation accident is transport to a post-apocalyptic Earth and works with a group called Pax rebuilding society. This pilot skips the origin story and drops us into an adventure as Dylan and a science team are forced to infiltrate a society where women enslave men in hope of finding a missing doctor needed to save the life of a leader of Pax. This pilot worked better, a lot less exposition but the dialog is stilted and the moralizing is heavy-handed.
The Questor Tapes: An eccentric scientist that few have ever met tricks the government into building an android. When the officials try to decipher the robot’s programming they damage the files. The android, Questor, awakens and escapes. The damaged programming has left him without emotions or knowing his purpose. With the help of a human friend, he tracks down his mysterious creator and learns that humanity has been guided through the centuries by androids keeping mankind for destroying itself. His creator is an android but is damaged and was unable to create his replacement, Questor. Questor is supposed to be the last in the line and if humanity survives Questor’s lifespan it will have matured.
I have memories of this pilot but I have not seen in it decades. Of course the moment Data was introduced in 1988 during the pilot for Star Trek: The Next Generation I felt very strongly he was Questor 2.0.
Spectre: The only non-SF pilot Roddenberry produced after Star Trek. Will Sebastian and his physician friend Dr ‘Ham’ Hailton are the occult’s answer to Holmes and Watson. Sebastian and Ham travel to London investigating an English Lord who is either a hedonist or a Satanist. Of Roddenberry’s post Star Trek pilots I liked this one the best, but when the credits flashed I noticed that on the screenplay he shared credit with Samuel A Peeples so it is clear he worked better with a partner than writing alone.
It should be fun discussing these project on the panel at the convention.