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.  

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