Three Strikes and you might be Gene Roddenberry


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.


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9 thoughts on “Three Strikes and you might be Gene Roddenberry

  1. I know I saw one of these as an afternoon movie on TBS. Does one of them recycle footage from Logan’s Run?

  2. Oh, and none of the films recycled any footage from Logan’s Run; not only were these produced by Warner Brothers rather than rival studio MGM, they actually pre-date both the Logan’s feature & subsequent television series.

    That said – there are a number of striking similarities between the third telefilm, Strange New World, and the later Logan’s Run TV series, as they shared some of the same producers.

  3. If anybody knows what recycles the domed city model shot from Logan’s Run, let me know. I’m sure I saw it recycled in something, and I thought that something had John Saxon in it.

  4. Badwolf says:

    I couldn’t tell you what that would be, Doug. IIRC, the domes and exterior of the city fountain (which was – for some strange reason – the access point to the interior of the domes) were shot in Dallas, TX.

  5. There are two other movies Roddenberry produced/initiated in the 1970s, one reasonably popular (and very influential upon his later Star Trek spinoffs) and one hopelessly obscure: The Questor Tapes is effectively the birthplace of Data, except that in that movie’s case the android is Questor, played by Robert Foxworth; his human “straight man” sidekick was played by Mike Farrell of M*A*S*H fame. It’s actually a really good pilot that never led to a series. It was also the last thing Roddenberry co-wrote with Gene Coon, who had been such a huge part of the original Star Trek.

    More obscure is 1977’s Spectre, which is Roddenberry’s sole attempt to dip his toes into the occult/supernatural/vague-allusions-to-Satanism genre that was gaining momentum at the time; Roddenberry was attempting to do a mashup of the occult and Sherlock Holmes, and the result is kind of off-kilter – well-done in places, and in other places it’s “What on Earth were you thinking??!?”

    Neither of these is on DVD, but do occasionally show up in dead-of-the-night movie slot reruns once in a blue moon.

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