Anyone and everyone who has stumbled upon THE RETROIST BLOG knows who Gene Roddenberry is. I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by telling you he created Star Trek. What I will tell you is that even though he created one of the most enduring and well-loved franchises in TV and Movie history, everything he touched DID NOT turn to gold. One such idea was the triune of GENESIS II, PLANET EARTH, and STRANGE NEW WORLD. These were the result of an idea for a post-apocalyptic serial where devastation hits the Earth and we follow the exploits of survivor(s) who made it through from the “old world” to the “new world.” Gene’s idea followed a similar formula as Star Trek with an ensemble of regulars finding new and exciting adventures from week to week.
I remember watching GENESIS II (starring Alex Cord as Dylan Hunt) with my Dad, back when it was first shown in prime time. I can’t remember when it was, but thanks to the internet, I can find out. March 23, 1973 – I would have been in 3rd grade. That’s 40 years ago. Wikipedia has a full de-construction of Genesis II, well worth reading. At any rate, it was a while ago. I thought it was fascinating, but the memory of it got burrowed deep within the caverns of my mind.
The show didn’t get picked up, but being that Gene was Gene (and remember – let’s put this in perspective – Star Trek had not yet hit as a huge sci-fi hit by 1973 – it had a cult following – not legions of dedicated fans – but that was about it), Mr. Roddenberry got a chance to re-work the story for another attempt at a new series. The result was PLANET EARTH – which first aired in April of 1974 (ah, the internet).
(note the haircut in this clip was stolen by George Lucas a few years later for Princess Leia). The show still didn’t get picked up, despite the addition of John Saxon in the role of Dylan Hunt. This show is the only one that I have access to directly, having taped it off TBS some years ago. It stands up pretty well, has a decidedly 1970‘s vibe to it, and as one can assume (since it’s a Roddenberry vehicle), Diana Muldaur and Majel Barrett make an appearance. Janet Margolin plays Harper-Smythe, and she has that “Pennsylvania Pretty” look that was dominant in the early to mid 1970’s. Ted Cassidy plays Isiah, and he’s just awesome – so much better than Lurch; they still didn’t fully unleash him, but his character actually gets lines. The story is fairly intricate for a TV pilot, and not bad either, so I wonder why it was rejected a second time. My favorite line (and there are some good ones) is “Let the savage pray, it’ll help as much as anything.”
A year later, Roddenberry had his final cut at the ball and re-worked the idea once again for a shot at a TV series – STRANGE NEW WORLD – still with John Saxon in the lead role. But “the Great Bird of the Galaxy” had had enough and backed away from the project. Enough of the story was changed to prevent potential infringement from occurring, but it didn’t matter, the idea still didn’t get picked up in this or any form. Too bad; I think it could have been great.
I’ve never seen this movie, but as you can hear from the above clip, The foley artists dug DEEP into the Star Trek sound effects vault and the official “EDWARD D. WOOD, JR.” stock footage collection. The series was still not picked up.
All three films are available on DVD (for under $20.00 each at Amazon) and I’m sorely tempted to pull the trigger on them.
So, if you’ve had an idea shot down by Hollywood three times, you just might be the next Gene Roddenberry.