Gene Roddenberry is best known for creating Star Trek, but he tried his best to bring another television hit to the screen. Warner Bros. has released Genesis II, one of Roddenberry’s attempts at a new science fiction show. The pilot originally aired on CBS in 1973 and never spawned a full series. Star Trek also originally had a failed pilot, but Roddenberry’s attempts to make the story of Genesis II work in subsequent incarnations generated a couple of additional TV movies but no series. It would have been interesting to have those other failed pilots (Planet Earth and Strange New World) on the DVD for comparison’s sake, but nevertheless this old curiosity from the Warner Archives is a nice treat for Roddenberry fans.
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey and written by Gene Roddenberry, Genesis II is a quaint morality tale typical of the era. Dylan Hunt (a competent if not necessarily earth-shattering performance by Alex Cord) is a scientist conducting an experiment in suspended animation when an earthquake causes a deadly malfunction that keeps him asleep a la Rip Van Winkle until he is brought back to consciousness 154 years later. He finds himself caught up in a “cold war” between two societies, the seemingly utopian PAX and the more aggressive Tyrania.
The supporting cast is quite good. Mariette Hartley plays the beautiful but awkwardly named Lyra-a, a Tyranian spy who tries to convince Hunt to use his twentieth century scientific knowledge to fix their nuclear power plant. Percy Rodrigues, Harvey Jason, and even Star Trek icon (and Roddenberry’s wife) Majel Barrett solidly execute their roles. My favorite actor in Genesis II is Ted Cassidy – as always, a towering and powerful presence as Isiah, a Comanche Native American.
As he did with Trek, Roddenberry makes a noble effort to present some diversity in his characters, but the show suffers from some common stereotypes (like Isiah’s “injun” speech patterns) and some sexist portrayals of women. Still, Genesis II is an intriguing showcase of Roddenberry’s idealistic vision and sci-fi imagination. Lyra-a is a mutant like all Tyranians with two bellybuttons and is exceptionally strong due to also having two hearts. The Tyranians use slave labor and control them with Stims, rods that inflict extreme pain but can also provide immense pleasure. The major plot point of the pilot episode is the philosophical conflict between pacifism and the use of force, leading to the climactic choice that Hunt has to make.