Thursday, March 30, 2017

Beyond Star Trek, Part 2: Gene Roddenberry’s Posthumous TV Shows

               At the time of Roddenberry’s death in 1991, Star Trek: the Next Generation was in full swing and the sixth original series Star Trek movie was nearing completion.  While Roddenberry had other series ideas he was writing/creating, he had no time to pursue them before his death.  Majel Barret-Roddenberry, his widow, began pursuing the ideas and scripts he developed before his death.  In that way, Roddenberry’s legacy lives on beyond Star Trek.  Here are the two major posthumous TV series, which both lasted five seasons.
                Earth: Final Conflict actually started back when Roddenberry was developing TV series in the early 1970s.  The series idea, which at the time was called Battleground: Earth, was about a race of aliens who land on Earth professing peace.  While Twentieth Century Fox expressed interest in a pilot, but Roddenberry was too busy at the time.  Majel started developing the TV series again in the mid-1990s, and Tribune Entertainment agreed to produce the series.  Like Star Trek: the Next Generation, it was released in the first-run syndication as opposed a singular network.  Earth: Final Conflict was about a race of aliens called the Taelons (nicknamed the “Companions” on the show), who share advanced technologies with Earth, which nearly eliminate disease, pollution, and war.  But there are some who think the Taelons have ulterior motives and form a resistance against these “companions.”  In the first season, Kevin Kilner played William Boone, the main character, an open “Companion Protector” but a private resistance agent.  However, due to a contract dispute, Kilner’s character was killed at the end of season one.  In his place, Liam Kincade (Robert Leeshock) became one of the main protagonists, a man who is half human and half an alien race called Kimera, a race that has been in conflict with the Taelons, and one of the major conflicts for the next three seasons was introduced, a war between the Taelons and another alien race call the Jaridians.  In season three, one of the other major protagonists, Renee Palmer (Jayne Heitmeyer) was introduced, as a Companion business liaison in public and a resistance leader in secret.  In the fourth season, Taelons were written out as antagonists and a new alien race, of “energy vampires” called the Atavus were the main antagonists of the final season, season five.  The show had a high cast turnover but nevertheless was able to last five seasons and 110 episodes.  The show lasted from October 6, 1997, to May 20, 2002.
                Andromeda, or Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, was also developed by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry based on Roddenberry’s old ideas.  Unlike the previous series, the production and cast were more stable throughout the run of the show.  In Andromeda, Kevin Sorbo plays Dylan Hunt (yes, the same name as the protagonist from the 1970s pilots), the captain of a ship called the Andromeda Ascendant, with an artificial intelligence called Andromeda, “Ronnie.”  At the beginning of the series, the Andromeda Ascendant was part of the High Guard, the space army of the Commonwealth, which is a conglomeration of several planets living in harmony with each other.  That harmony is disrupted when and a genetically engineered race called the Nietzscheans attack the High Guard without warning as a result of losing their home world.  The Andromeda Ascendant is thrown into a black hole and the crew is frozen in time for 303 years.  Hunt is unfrozen in time by the salvage ship Eureka Maru.  In the end, the Eureka Maru and Hunt join forces to be the new crew of the Andromeda Ascendant.  Hunt’s idea of a Commonwealth gained some supporters, but he also gained many enemies, including the Magog, who were also Hunt’s enemy 300 years in the past and descendants of the Nietzscheans who call themselves Drago-Kazov.  For the first season and half of season two, Robert Hewett Wolfe was head writer and executive producer and initially sought a more serialized storyline about the reforming of the Commonwealth.  However, the producers wanted more of an episodic format and the second half of season two and the seasons onward were much more episodic in nature.  By season three, the Systems Commonwealth is restored but there are still many conflicts for Hunt and his crew to encounter.  The show ended after five seasons and 110 episodes and was broadcast between October 2, 2000, and May 13, 2005. 

                Majel Barret-Roddenberry’s legacy of pursuing her late husband’s non-Star Trek ideas will be remembered, as will Roddenberry’s ideas for those TV shows.  Check out these five season wonders created by Roddenberry and brought to life by Majel Barret-Roddenberry, with the help of some very talent writers, cast, and crew.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Beyond Star Trek, Part 1: Other Gene Roddenberry Productions

                Gene Roddenberry will always be remembered as the creator of Star Trek.  However, during his lifetime Roddenberry did create another television series, which lasted one season, and a total of four TV movies in the 1970s.  Here are some of the lesser known works of Gene Roddenberry.
                Gene Roddenberry’s first series was actually The Lieutenant, which lasted one season from September 14, 1963, to April 18, 1964.  The series starred Gary Lockwood as Second Lieutenant William Tiberius Rice who after graduating the Naval Academy was assigned to Camp Pendleton.  Robert Vaughn played Captain Raymond Rambridge, Rice’s superior officer.  Being a modern day military drama, Roddenberry didn’t shy away from tough subjects at the time, including the Vietnam War, Communism, and Racism (the episode that dealt with racism never aired during the show’s original run).  The show is notable for having many of the Star Trek actors in guest roles before the Science Fiction series premiered in 1966, including Leonard Nimoy (as a Hollywood Producer), Majel Barrett (as the Hollywood producer’s assistant), Nichelle Nicolas (as a black army officer’s fiancĂ©e, in the unaired episode), Walter Koenig (as Sgt. John Delwyn, whose mother is a Communist).  Lockwood later guest starred in the first aired episode of Star Trek as Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell.  Twenty-nine episodes were filmed, and are available on two-volume set on DVD. 
                After Star Trek was canceled in 1969, Roddenberry struggled to find work.  In the early 1970s, before Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Roddenberry created four television movies, each meant as pilots for a Television Series, each of which was not picked up.  In 1973, Roddenberry’s first effort was called Genesis II (which aired on March 23 1973), and starred Alex Cord as Dylan Hunt, a man who is put into suspended animation and wakes up in a post-apocalyptic future (in the year 2133) following “The Great Conflict” (a third world war).  Hunt is revived by a peaceful organization called “PAX” who are trying to escape the clutches of a totalitarian regime called Tyranians.  
             Roddenberry’s next TV project was called The Questor Tapes, which aired on January 23, 1974.  In this movie, Robert Foxworth played Questor, an android robot on a search for his creator and his purpose, and he joins up with Jerry Robinson, who was one of the teams who created Questor.  Roddenberry and the network disagreed so strongly about the content of the series that Roddenberry abandoned the project that TV movie was all that came of the concept.  
              On April 23, 1974, Roddenberry’s third TV movie premiered, called Planet Earth, which starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt.  In this follow-up to Genesis II, Hunt and a team of people from PAX go on the hunt for a missing doctor and wind up in the Confederacy of Ruth, where women rule society and men are used as slaves.  Hunt learns that women have been drugging the men to make them compliant.  (John Saxon would later be Captain Anthony Vico in Strange New World, which aired in 1975, about a PAX team put in suspended animation because of nuclear war, but that TV movie did not have Roddenberry’s involvement.)  
               Spectre, the final TV movie with Roddenberry’s direct involvement, was about William Sebastian, a criminologist with a belief in the occult, and his partner Dr. Amos “Ham” Hamilton, who refuses to believe in supernatural elements.   They investigate a family who has been plagued by a demon named Asmodeus.  The TV movie aired on May 21, 1977.

                Gene Roddenberry’s lesser known works have not been forgotten.  The Lieutenant has been released on DVD and each of the TV movies as well.  Check out Roddenberry’s television contributions beyond Star Trek.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Examples of TV Show Web Series, Part 3

                Welcome to the third installment of TV Show Web Series.  These short webisodes, released online, were designed to give fans of TV shows a little extra bonus in addition to the regular episode.  Check out these examples of TV Show Web series.
                Doctor Who is about a mysterious alien man named simply “The Doctor” and his adventures in space and time with human Earth companions.  Doctor Who had two eras of webisodes, but both had the basic idea: a short scene which was a “prequel” which tied into the episode that was about to air.  The first era was the era of the Tarisodes, one-minute prequel scenes for each of the Series 2 episodes.  The tardisodes were less popular than expected, so BBC stopped production.  Then in 2011, with no individual title, the prequel series was revived again, this time not for every episode but just selected ones.  There were five prequels for series 6 (in 2011), seven prequels and one actual sequel for series 7 (2011-2013), two for series 9 (2015) and one (so far) for series 10 (2016).  The new prequels vary in length from one to seven minutes. 
                The Walking Dead, based on the comic strip with the same name, is about a group of survivors of a zombie attack.  The Walking Dead had three web series.  The first Web Series, which was called Torn Apart, premiered on October 11, 2011, before the second season premiered.  Torn Apart was about Hannah, a mother with two kids and the owner of a bicycle.  Much of the series is about Hannah trying to find her two children. The series lasted six webisodes, each two to five minutes in length.  In the first episode of the first season, main character Rick Grimes mercy kills Hannah, so the first Web Series was a prequel to the main series.  The second Web Series was called Cold Storage and was released on October 1, 2012, before the season three premiere.  Cold Storage was about Chase, who hides in a storage facility with former employee B.J., who is hiding a dark secret.  The series lasted four webisodes, each four to nine minutes long.  The third and last Web Series was called The Oath and was released on October 1, 2013, before the season 3 premiere.  The Oath is another prequel to the first episode and is about Laura and Karina as they search a zombie-filled camp for a medical station, and is the origin of the “Don’t Open, Dead Inside” painted warning on the cafeteria doors in the hospital in the first episode of the first season.  There were three webisodes, seven to ten minutes each.
        Community was a comedy show about a group of community college students who go on many crazy adventures together, many of them parodies of famous movies.  Community had nine total Web Series, from the first season in 2009 up until the final online season in 2015.  The first Web Series was called The 5 A’s of Greendale, released in 2009: the first six webisodes were done in the form of informational videos telling you how to apply to Greendale, and the last two being fake outtakes with the Dean.  The second webisode series was The Community College Chronicles (2009), which are two webisodes done as Abed’s student films.  The third Web Series, called Spanish Videos (2010), had two regular webisodes about Chang assigning a video project and Star-Burns and Abed working on a space epic, with the third webisode being a fake trailer for the space movie.  Web Series number four was called Study Break (2010), and there were three webisodes about ninety-second study break sessions in between Spanish class.  Web Series number five was called Road to the Emmy’s (2010) and was a three-webisode story about the gang on their way to an Emmy party.  Web Series number six was called Dean Pelton’s Office Hours (2010), which had three webisodes which showed Dean Pelton dealing with student problems.  Web Series seven was called Abed’s Master Key (2012) and was an animated three-webisode series, about Abed becoming Pelton’s assistant and given a master key.  The final three Web Series were technically individual shorts but could be considered a Web Series with one episode.  The first was a teaser for season four of Community, called Community Season Four Premieres…Someday (2012), and was done in the form of Troy and Abed in the Morning.  The second was an animated special called Miracle on Jeff’s Street (2013), is about the gang reuniting to save Jeff’s Christmas.  The third is called Abed and the Dean Share a Moment in a Honda (2015), in which Abed acts as if he is the narrator for a car commercial, which makes Dean uncomfortable. 

                Each of these series utilized the Web Series format to bring additional content to fans of these show.  Much of the web content can still be found online.  Check out these TV Show Web Series. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Examples of TV Show Web Series, Part 2

                Welcome to the second installment of examples of TV shows with Web Series tie-ins.  Some shows, like Scrubs or Monk, only utilized the format once.  However, other shows, like The Office, decided to use the format more than once.  Here are some more examples of TV Show which used Web Series  multiple times throughout their run:
                Smallville was a WB (later CW) show detailing (in the first four seasons) the Clark Kent growing up in Smallville.  The first series was called the Chloe Chronicles, focusing on Chloe’s investigations into the people affected by the meteor shower that hit the town in 1989.  All four webisodes were released in April and May of 2003.  The next series called Chloe Chronicles: Volume 2 (released during the third season, 2003-2004), featured over 7 webisodes, Chloe, investigating Sarah Strossberg, which leads her to Donovan Jameson, who was experimenting on metahumans.  The third Web Series was called Vengeance Chronicles and was released during the 5th season (specifically, in early 2006).  In this storyline, Chloe teams up with the Angel of Vengeance to stop Lex Luthor, who had been conducting his own unethical experiments.  The show had seven webisodes.  During the sixth season (2006-2007), the format changed to a computer animated Web Series called the Oliver Queen Chronicles.  This storyline detailed the early life of Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow before the events where he appears in Smallville, in six webisodes.  The final Web Series was a six-webisode traditionally animated series called Kara and the Chronicles of Krypton released over the seventh season (2007-2008).  The story dealt with Kara’s (or Supergirl’s) life in Krypton before she was sent to Earth. 
                Battlestar Galactica was a 2004 miniseries and 2004-2009 Sci-Fi Network remake of the 1978-1979 original series, which was about the people on board the Battlestar Galactica, one of the few ships to survive the destruction of their entire star colony.  Battlestar Galactica had four total Web Series.  The first Web Series was subtitled The Resistance, a 10-webisode series lasting two to five minutes each.  In The Resistance, the Cylons have occupied New Caprica, where the remnants of Galactica tried to settle.  Led by Saul Tigh, Chief Tyrol and Specialist Cally and others plan to resist the Cylon occupation. The webisodes were filmed together as one episode and broken into 10 parts, giving a continuous storyline. The second Web Series, subtitled Razor Flashbacks, garnered some controversy, in that all of the “webisodes” were actually deleted scenes from the TV movie Razor.  Nevertheless, all seven webisodes were released in October and November of 2007. The third Web Series was subtitled Face of the Enemy and was released in December 2008 and January 2009 in between in the break between the first half and second half of season four.  In this ten-webisode series (lasting 3-6 minutes), Lt. Gaeta is onboard a Raptor when it gets separated from the rest of the fleet during a Cylon attack, and the danger intensifies when the each member of the Raptor crew starts dying one by one.  The last Web Series was actually supposed to be a TV movie pilot following the failure of the prequel spinoff Caprica, but as production continued, the TV movie was broken into 10 webisodes lasting 12 minutes each.  The Web Series was subtitled, Blood and Chome, and was set in between the events of Caprica and Battlestar Galactica.  In this story, William Adama is a young pilot assigned to the Battlestar Galactica for the first time and fills in some of the detail between the two major series.  The webisodes premiered online between November and December 2012 and were released as a TV movie on SyFy on February 13, 2013. 

                Each show used the web video format to tell new stories beyond the storyline in the official TV series, expanding the world of the show.  Check out these Web Series produced for the Smallville and Battlestar Galactica TV shows. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Examples of TV Show Web Series, Part 1

                Before Netflix in 2013 premiered House of Cards (as well as continuing Arrested Development, which made a big splash at the time) and suddenly the future of Internet TV was a huge thing.  Now, full series were being made exclusively for the Internet.  However, before Netflix’s original experiment, the major broadcast and cable networks released mostly web series tie-ins to their TV shows.  Now, mostly forgotten, but for a time, many popular shows had a short online Web series to tie into to the show.  Here are some examples:
                Monk was a 2002-2009 USA Network series about an obsessive-compulsive man who was a consultant for the San Francisco police department, a former police officer who cracked after his wife was killed.  In 2009, during the final season, on their network website, USA Network premiered ten webisodes about Little Monk, who as a boy was called upon as a little detective to find missing items.  The web videos average about 3 minutes in length.
                Scrubs was a medical comedy show starring Zack Braff as J.D., who starts out in season one as an Intern and works his way up in the medical world, along with his friends.  In 2009, in the show’s eighth season, ABC premiered a Web series, called Scrubs: Interns, which followed four new medical interns.  The main character from this series was Sonja or “Sunny,” who recorded the “webisodes” in the form of a video diary, along with the other interns Katie, Denise “Jo” and Howie.  Many of the main characters in the ABC series would appear in one webisode each.  The web videos lasted 3-5 minutes in length.
                Lost was a supernatural show about a group of people who crash landed on a mysterious island where unusual things start happening.  In 2007 and 2008, between the third and fourth season, Lost: Missing Pieces premiered.  Originally, the short webisodes were available to Verizon Wireless users, and then a week later they would be posted on ABC.com.  The videos, which were all original (except for one which was a deleted scene), did not have a single plotline but instead were short scenes provided new character insight.  The web videos lasted one to two minutes in length. 
                The Office, about the Dunder Mifflin office workers, premiered in 2005.  The show had a total of nine different Web series that tied into the show.  The first was a ten-webisode series (premiered in the summer of 2006) called Office: The Accountants, which followed the supporting characters the accountants who must find out how $3000 went missing.  The second, in 2008, was a 4-webisode series called Kevin’s Loan and focuses on Kevin, who needs to pay back gambling debts.  Number 3, lasting 4 webisodes, premiered in winter 2008, was called The Outburst, and follows Oscar’s outburst and the investigation following the incident.  Number 4, a four-episode series in May 2009, was called Blackmail and focused on Oscar blackmailing four different people.  Web series five, 3 webisodes which premiered in October 2009, was called Subtle Sexuality and focused on Kelly and Erin forming the band Subtle Sexuality and making a music video.  Web series six was the Mentor (March 2010), a 4-webisode series about Erin mentoring Angela.  Web series seven gave us 3-webisode series The 3rd Floor (October 2010), about Ryan’s attempt to make a horror film.  Web series eight was a 3-webisode series called The Podcast (January 2011), about Gabe trying to make a podcast.  The 9th and final web series is called the Girl Next Door (May 2011) and focused on Subtle Sexuality making a new music video.  The webisodes were typically 2-3 minutes in length. 
                When web video was first gaining traction, Networks responded by doing short web-exclusive videos online.  TV Show Web series, which became a popular aspect in the mid-2000s and early 2010s, has fallen to the side for most television series today.  Come back next week for more examples of TV show Web series.