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The Remaking of STAR TREK, Part 2: Life After Trek
Ideas for Gene Roddenberry's proposed TV shows forshadow a TREK film.
By Edward Gross
December 08, 1999
When the original STAR TREK was canceled in 1969, it's unlikely that the cast could have known that their lives would continue to be drawn together over the next decade, fueling a phenomenon that would culminate in the release of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE ten years later.For the fans of the little science fiction show that refused to die, it probably seemed as though series creator Gene Roddenberry had done nothing from the show's cancellation until the release of the film. But nobody can say the guy didn't try.
Roddenberry, who prior to STAR TREK had worked on westerns and police shows, did his best to equal the success of TREK. His feature film PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW was a disappointment, and his efforts to create a realistic version of TARZAN never got beyond the scripting stages. His supernatural television pilot SPECTRE went nowhere, and a proposed film project with Paul McCartney fell to the wayside when the revival of STAR TREK seemed to be becoming a reality. He did, however, manage to create a pair of television pilots that came this close to becoming weekly series.
'Our civilization as we know it had been destroyed,' said Gene Roddenberry of GENESIS II. 'It had fallen part. It had not been, however, due to nuclear warfare. Really, nuclear warfare is not necessary to cause a breakdown of society. You take large cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago--their water supply comes from hundreds of miles away and any interruption of that, or food, or power, for any period of time and you're going to have riots in the streets.
'Our society,' he added, 'is so fragile, so dependent on the interworking of things to provide us with goods and services, that you don't need nuclear warfare to fragment us anymore than the Romans needed it to cause their eventual downfall. It's important to know that I wasn't saying that STAR TREK's future, which would occur several hundred years after GENESIS II, never happened; I'm saying that humanity has always progressed by three steps forward and two steps back. The entire history of our civilization has been one society crumbling and a slightly better one, usually, being built on top of it. And on mankind's bumpy way to the STAR TREK era, we passed through this time, too.'
The premise for Gene Roddenberry's GENESIS II is that the earth is in ruins, with different pockets of society living around the globe, some highly advanced and others more barbaric. Dylan Hunt is a 20th century NASA scientist who is revived from suspended animation by a team of scientists who call themselves PAX, and who have given themselves the task of helping mankind slowly rebuild society and mature as a species. Hunt, with PAX, embarks on this mission via an underground subshuttle system which can move them from one area of the planet to another in a matter of minutes.
'The idea of PAX,' detailed Roddenberry, 'must have come from LOST HORIZON. It was a society of people who said, 'Let us preserve the books and knowledge until man is ready to come back.' When Rome fell, there was no one to preserve their society and culture and within a short while, villages a hundred miles apart spoke different languages. Our stories were about how different parts of our country evolved into their own societies.... The idea of a subshuttle is based o the fact that if the world does go through another war, surface, air and sea transportation will become impossible. With the massive destruction that would occur, those kinds of transportation certainly would not function the way they do now. The only effective long distance transportation that would be left would be an underground shuttle system. And today, for environmental and economic reasons, this type of system is being studied. The shuttle travels in a near vacuum in these tunnels and uses electrical power that could come from solar, nuclear or hydroelectric plants. We were talking about things that might become realities just as we were on STAR TREK.'
GENESIS II scored highly in the ratings and was very close to becoming a weekly series, a point which inspired Roddenberry to do a number of treatments for potential episodes. Unfortunately, at the last minute all plans were cancelled. It seemed that Fred Silverman, then head of CBS, had been amazed by the constantly high ratings that the PLANET OF THE APES films continued to draw on the network, and had purchased the rights to adapt the popular films into a weekly series starring Roddy McDowall.
'He thought the monkeys were so cute that he cancelled doing GENESIS II,' Roddenberry laughed derisively. 'Several of us tried to warn him that it was a one-time joke. He didn't listen and it was a disaster that cost them many millions of dollars. It's a pity, too, because GENESIS II had the makings of a very exciting show. It had one thing in common with STAR TREK and that was that you could bring in a good writer and say to him, 'What bothers you about the world?', then go and invent a place in this new world and have it happening there. It's a tragedy that opportunities like this to do exciting things and to talk about exciting things are pulled out by the roots by business executives who have no desire to give writers, directors and actors a chance to explore and elevate the art of film and television. And it could have been more exciting than the monkeys which captured his attention, but he seemed to be incapable of looking beyond and seeing the potential of something new and different.'
Ironically, like STAR TREK, GENESIS II was given a second chance, this time under the name PLANET EARTH. John Saxon replaced Alex Cord as Dylan Hunt and PAX was moved to the surface, although the subshuttle idea was kept. PAX continued to be a secret organization designed to aid the rebuilding of earth. Unfortunately, the second pilot didn't go over nearly as well as its predecessor. A third version, entitled STRANGE NEW WORLD, was a spin off of sorts starring John Saxon but without Roddenberry. It faded even quicker than the first two films. Thus marked the end of the GENESIS II premise.
Interestingly, two of the potential story ideas dreamed up by Roddenberry played a role in the future of STAR TREK. The first, entitled 'The Apartment,' had Dylan Hunt somehow transported back in time to the 20th Century, but as an apparition that eventually becomes solid and falls in love with a woman before being 'yanked' back to the future. Larry Alexander, who supplied the story for another episode called 'The Dream Machine, took this story and adapted it for the proposed STAR TREK II series of 1977. His teleplay was called 'Tomorrow and the Stars,' and had a transporter malfunction project Captain Kirk back to Pearl Harbor in 1941, the day before the Japanese attack. He meets up with a soldier's wife and the two of them fall in love, before destiny pulls them apart.
The other story was 'Robot's Return,' in which a NASA space probe, having acquired consciousness from a machine planet, returns to earth seeking its creator, and believes that Dylan Hunt plays a role in the puzzle. Admittedly the plot has similarities to STAR TREK's 'The Changeling,' but it metamorphosized even further into the storyline for STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, in which V'ger was willing to destroy all life on earth if it was not united with its creator.
'I think GENESIS II should come back,' Roddenberry said before his death. 'Somewhere in there is a marvelous premise for a series. Lots of excitement. You'll never know what we'll encounter from one story to the next. There were as many exciting story ideas at the start of GENESIS II as there were for STAR TREK.'In Part Three, Gene Roddenberry explores humanoid androids in THE QUESTOR TAPES.