Television reboots are all the rage mostly because the entertainment industry prefers name recognition over original ideas. But there are some properties that truly deserve a re-look because they didn’t quite achieve their goal the first time around or they were cut short.
What Was It? This pilot for a TV series that never happened focused on scientist Dylan Hunt who is experimenting with suspended animation when an accident causes him to fall into suspended animation for 150 years. He awakes in a post-apocalyptic world where a group calling themselves PAX controls an underground system of “subshuttles” and they are trying to rebuild the world through peaceful means. A second pilot titled Planet Earth followed the first which tweaked the idea a bit but followed basically the same storyline.
When Did It Air? The first pilot aired in 1973 on CBS and the second pilot aired in 1974 on ABC
Where Did the Original Fall Short? Apart from the expected 70’s cheesiness, the first pilot delivered a decent science fiction tale and set up a viable premise for an ongoing series. It fell short by not getting picked up to the series it deserved to be (CBS opted for the Planet of the Apes TV show instead). The second pilot added a larger helping of cheese, but still showed promise.
Why Reboot It? Networks and studios love name recognition and Gene Roddenberry is practically a god among the sci fi community. But his name is not the only reason to revive this failed pilot, because it was quite a good concept that could have been the next major sci fi franchise (if it could have successfully maneuvered past the precarious path of anti-genre sentiment that dominated the networks in the 70’s). Essentially this kicked off the mini-trend of what I call “Land Trek” shows that had a group of Earth-bound people encountering a different society each week, typically in a post-apocalyptic setting (other shows that followed this format including Ark II, Fantastic Journey, and Logan’s Run). The subshuttles would have provided the means to encounter the different societies in this new world, similar to the USS Enterprise traveling to different planets each week in Trek. And PAX would be the equivalent of the Federation, though much less organized (in the first pilot at least). Dylan Hunt (played by Alex Kord originally) offered an interesting lead as he was presented as a flawed character in Genesis II who brings far too much of his violent 20th century nature into this new world (Planet Earth subbed in John Saxon as much more of a Captain Kirk stand-in). Keeping the original version of the Dylan Hunt character would allow for more dramatic potential and moral dilemmas with a storyline following his attempts to overcome his violent nature. The show could also work in plenty of stand-alone stories similar to the original Trek while also interweaving the story arc driven tales that the sci fi audience has come to expect these days. The premise definitely presents a wide range of possibilities and looks just as capable of sustaining an ongoing series today as it did when the pilot first bowed back in the 1973. And adding Roddenberry’s name in the title just increases the appeal for both the network and the fans.
Did You Know? There was a third attempt to launch this concept into a series in 1975 with the TV movie Strange New World on ABC. John Saxon remained onboard from the second pilot and the idea was further tweaked with an asteroid storm causing the fall of civilization and Saxon leading a ragtag band of PAX survivors. Gene Roddenberry had bowed out by that time (he may have been involved in the early stages, though) and Strange New World was the last attempt to launch a series based on his ideas (though the other “Land Trek” shows would offer their own twists over the next few years).
Where Can I Watch the Original? Genesis II, Planet Earth, and Strange New World are all available on DVD through Warner Archives. None of the three are available at the streaming services that I am aware of, though I’m guessing they pop up on YouTube from time to time.
Buy Genesis II, Planet Earth, and Strange New World on DVD from Amazon.com: