A Precursor to Star Trek: The Motion Picture
by Gene Roddenberry
OUTLINE, dated August 29, 1973
report & analysis by David Eversole
Gene Roddenberry’s telefilm “Genesis II” aired on CBS on March 23, 1973. A Warner Brothers Television production, it acted as a pilot for the proposed series. CBS passed on the series, and Roddenberry reworked the concept (and story outlines) for the ABC network. The second attempt, entitled “Planet Earth,” aired on April 23, 1974. It too failed to make the fall schedule. The material was reworked once again (without Roddenberry’s involvement) as “Strange New World,” which aired on ABC on July 13, 1975. Again, no series.
Despite many online sources stating this outline was written for the original “Genesis II” series proposal, it was actually written well after the original telefilm had aired and was passed on. “Robot’s Return” has a character (Baylok) who only appeared in what was eventually renamed “Planet Earth.”
Proposed Series Overview
Dylan Hunt, a NASA scientist (portrayed by Alex Cord in “Genesis II,” and by John Saxon in “Planet Earth”), while testing a suspended animation chamber, is trapped under the Carlsbad Caverns by an earthquake. Revived in 2133 by an organization named PAX, he soon joins them in attempting to restore the Earth after the devastation of “The Great Conflict.”
Dylan leads a team consisting of Isiah (a “White Comanche,” portrayed by Ted Cassidy in both “Genesis II” and “Planet Earth”), Harper-Smythe (portrayed by Lynne Marta in “Genesis II” and by Janet Margolin in “Planet Earth”), and Dr. Baylok (an esper, portrayed by Christopher Cary).
Dylan, Doctor Baylok, Isiah and Harper-Smythe respond to a distress call sent from a farm commune by a fellow PAX member. His message was cut short, but the words “fantastic machines” and “invasion” were clear.
Arriving on horseback, they find the farm commune totally deserted. Not just the people—even animal and insect life are gone within a quarter mile radius of the village.
And in the center of the radius they find a metal marker (about the size of a tombstone) with a NASA emblem on it. Despite its small size, the marker weighs hundreds of tons. It broadcasts a signal which Dylan recognizes as a speeded-up version of a basic NASA CW code from his time. He tunes his multiciever to slow down and decode the signal. It says: “Wherefore art thou, our God? We obey thy command to seek thee and worship thee. Suffer not thy children to seek in vain. Over.”
Despite the worry of his comrades, Dylan responds to the message. Suddenly, a beam of light lances down as if from something hovering high over the Earth. A small machine, known as “The Finder” appears in the beam, hovers near them and demands to know why they have broadcast on the sacred frequency. Dylan tries to explain and uses the word NASA. The Finder grows agitated and asks what lower life forms know of God. The Finder and its kind are here to seek out the god NASA. If Dylan and his friends can’t help them, they will also be collected as “life specimens” and placed in storage for laboratory study.
Dylan and Isiah attempt to hold the small machine while Baylok and Harper-Smythe escape. It easily shakes them off and all but Dylan are enveloped by the light piercing down from above and disappear.
Dylan attempts to reason with The Finder but it continually demands that he take it to NASA. Finally, he tells it he can take it to “sacred scriptures” which explain the nature of NASA. But he will only do so if his friends are returned. The Finder’s beam brings Dylan to his knees in agony again. Dylan tells it the scriptures are kept by a community of humans. The Finder points out how fragile and unintelligent humans are. But the god NASA loved humans very much, Dylan counters. He pulls back his sleeve, exposing his old NASA wrist bracelet. Something given to him when he was part of NASA.
Upon hearing this the Finder grows agitated. The beam of light from above pierces down and Doctor Baylok is returned to warn Dylan that he must cooperate. He has learned that the ship (over 20 miles in diameter) orbiting Earth is from a moon of Neptune and is responsible for kidnapping the members of the farm commune, plus humans and animal life from all over Earth. It wants to learn more about the home of holy NASA. For some reason, Harper-Smythe, being female, is being particularly scanned and studied.
Dylan demands that The Finder return his other two friends. It ignores him and disappears in the flash of light from above.
Dylan and Dr. Baylok ponder how such an advanced alien race as the one responsible for what is happening to them could possibly hold superstitious beliefs about an emblem carried by a relatively primitive Earth vessel. The strange metal marker has ceased broadcasting, and Dylan is able to contact PAX on his multiciever. They tell him that just before The Great Conflict, NASA’s last mission to one of the moons of Neptune sent back a garbled message. Seems a long dead city had been found. No inhabitants but the machinery there was still functioning. No doubt the human colony succumbed as The Great Conflict began and no help could be sent to them.
The next morning Harper-Smythe is returned to them. Dr. Baylok’s esper sense tells him something is wrong. It is not the real Harper-Smythe but an exact machine duplicate. It tells them it is to accompany them to the source of knowledge about NASA. The real Harper-Smythe will be returned if they follow the machine double’s exact instructions. The Harper-Smythe machine explains that it is there to verify Dylan’s story, and the inhabitants of the village and other humans will also be returned if the story is true.
Enroute back to PAX headquarters via subshuttle, the robot Harper-Smythe grows more proficient in imitating the real Harper-Smythe. It explains that it must not become separated from Dylan, and therefore they will pretend to have fallen in love and gotten married while on their mission to the farm commune. Dylan is doubtful, but Dr. Baylok assures him the ruse might work to their advantage.
Back at the Carlsbad Caverns headquarters, the leaders of PAX, among them Kimbridge and Yuloff, are surprised at the marriage news but accept it.
Dylan and Dr. Baylok begin to realize that the robot’s “personality imprint” from Harper-Smythe is leading to “her” experiencing actual emotions. This is brought home when Dylan shows it an old NASA film, explaining the history of the organization. The robot becomes incensed at this “blasphemy” and destroys the heavy projector. It turns on Dylan, but calms down as he explains how stupid its actions were. What if this act of incredible strength had been witnessed?
The robot agrees to continue learning about NASA. But it becomes convinced the god NASA created these false records to fool humans as to its true nature.
They are interrupted by several women of PAX who insist on preparing Harper-Smythe for her first night with her husband. They lovingly bathe her in oils and pamper her.
Roddenberry tells us:
Humanity, whether in PAX’s time or ours, must ultimately face the fact that intelligent machines will be created and relationships between living intelligence and machine intelligence must be anticipated and its advantages and dangers analyzed.
Later, alone with Dylan, the robot tells him to go to sleep, then stands in the middle of the room and “turns off.” Dylan sighs, goes to sleep.
Later that night, as Dylan sleeps soundly, the robot turns on, walks over to Dylan’s bed, stands and stares down at him.
The following morning, the robot joins Dylan and Baylok at a PAX council meeting where they discuss the machine race holding Isiah and other humans hostage. The council agrees that they will do nothing until Dylan finishes gathering information to take back to them. Baylok takes this opportunity to bring up a discussion of the history of man and machines, starting with man’s invention of the wheel. The robot seems ready to interrupt and disagree several times but remains silent.
Dylan, in an attempt to capitalize on the machine’s growing love for him, shows it his personnel file, tells it of his marriage before he was trapped in suspended animation. Its feelings toward him grow stronger. During a walk through the caverns, Dylan saves the robot when a rock ledge gives way beneath its feet.
Back in their quarters, the machine tells him its race made a grave error by imprinting a “personality” onto its circuits. She has begun to feel, to love. She brushes a hand lightly across Dylan’s face. Life is life, she says. Her race now accepts that humans build machines, that NASA is not a god. The machine race will return all humans to the Earth. All except the real Harper-Smythe. She is Harper-Smythe now. She wants to stay with him. Dylan refuses, and she finally agrees that Harper-Smythe will also be returned.
At the deserted farm commune, Dylan fears the robot will betray him, but she steps into the beam of light from above and disappears. Isiah and Harper-Smythe then appear. Harper-Smythe is overjoyed to see Dylan and asks what happened between him and her duplicate. Dylan assures her it was nothing. Harper-Smythe is outraged at this statement, angrily corrects him, and Dylan realizes that this is not the real Harper-Smythe at all. The robot has cleverly come back with Isiah.
Dylan adjusts his multiciever to the old NASA frequency and contacts the machine race. They too have realized the deception and trade the real Harper-Smythe for the robot double.
Harper-Smythe informs Dylan that she has monitored everything that took place between her double and him. She assures him that none of the “personality imprints,” the feelings of love and attraction, taken from her and given to the robot, were real. They were just a clever deception on her part, she insists.
The 9-year-old me who saw “Genesis II” in 1973 and the 10-year-old me who saw “Planet Earth” the following year would have loved this episode. It has everything! Action, robots, danger, robots, suspense, beautiful female robots, and computers in caves! The 56-year-old me, writing in 2020, has since then read the many books, seen the many films that Roddenberry was lifting from. Isaac Asimov and Eando Binder and Philip K. Dick and “Metropolis” were all there before him.
But I’d still like to see it. It has such a wonderful early-mid 70s vibe to it. Close my eyes and I can see the bell-bottoms, shaggy haircuts and porn ‘staches.
And the links to Star Trek: The Motion Picture are evident: NASA (N’sa in early treatments for the film) for Voyager/Ve’jur. Dylan/Harper-Smythe and Decker/Ilia.
GENE RODDENBERRY (Eugene Wesley Roddenberry)
(1921-1991): Prolific television writer of the 1950s, who created and produced The
Lieutenant, Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Pilots he
produced and had a hand in writing which did not get picked up for a series run include Police
Story, Genesis II, Planet Earth, The Questor Tapes and Spectre.
Since his death, many series based on his "notes" have been produced. He wrote a
Writers Guild Award winning script--"Helen of Abajinian"--for the series Have
For Star Trek, he wrote: "The Cage," "Mudd's Women" (Story), "Charlie X" (Story), "The Menagerie," "The Return of The Archons" (Story), "Bread and Circuses" (Story), "A Private Little War" (Story by Jud Crucis (Don Ingalls)), "The Omega Glory," "Assignment: Earth" (Co-Story), and "The Savage Curtain" (w/Arthur Heinemann). For Star Trek: The Next Generation, he wrote "Encounter At Farpoint" (with D.C. Fontana), "Hide and Q" and "Datalore." More on the life and work of Gene Roddenberry can be found at this website.
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