Saturday, October 03, 2015

Planet Earth

STAR TREK creator Gene Roddenberry spent the 1970s producing one pilot after another, trying to get another series off the ground that would capture the science fiction audience’s imagination the way TREK did. He never did, at least until STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION premiered in syndication in 1987.

1973's GENESIS II was one of the pilots that didn’t sell, but believing the germ of a saleable idea was there, Roddenberry and STAR TREK producer Robert Justman made a sequel, 1974's PLANET EARTH, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett (THE ROCKFORD FILES) and directed by frequent TREK director Marc Daniels.

The biggest change in PLANET EARTH was the recasting of the lead: recognizable TV (THE BOLD ONES: THE NEW DOCTORS) and film (ENTER THE DRAGON) leading man John Saxon in for Alex Cord. Dylan Hunt (Saxon), a 20th century scientist placed in suspended animation and awakened in 2133 to a society ravaged by nuclear war, is now a functioning member of Pax, the only modern society left on Earth, and a leader of a science team concentrating on rebuilding civilization. Roddenberry, a former policeman and World War II pilot, was remarkably progressive in many ways, but notably not his view of women, which is reflected in PLANET EARTH’s plot.

To save the life of a Pax colleague, Hunt and his team—Harper Smythe (Janet Margolin), Isiah (Ted Cassidy), and psychic Baylock (Christopher Cary)—must find a physician who disappeared a year earlier. It’s rumored he was taken by a society of women that capture men to use as slaves and breeding stock. Hunt goes undercover as Harper-Smythe’s “dink” and is chosen to perform stud service on the community’s queen, Marg (Diana Muldaur). When the village is besieged by a savage band of “Kreegs,” the women stand by while the men fight and save them. Oh, Gene.

A step up from the darker, more dour GENESIS II, mainly due to Saxon’s virile, commanding performance as a Kirk-like leader and a lighter tone, PLANET EARTH is too similar to STAR TREK to stand on its own. Daniels handles the action scenes that bookend the film well. Again, the pilot didn’t sell, and the concept was drastically reworked for a third pilot, STRANGE NEW WORLD, also with Saxon.

1 comment:

Felicity Walker said...

There was a “Dylan Hunt” in another Gene Roddenberry show IIRC. He must like that name.