Monday, October 29, 2012


For the first time, Gene Roddenberry's 1974 TV pilot THE QUESTOR TAPES is available on DVD. It's part of the manufactured-on-demand series from the Universal Vault.

QUESTOR has been a favorite of mine since I was allowed to watch it way back when it was first aired. Since I was a wee tot, I had to go to bed in the middle of the movie and it wasn't until a rerun years later that I got to see the whole thing.

Slated to go into production for the following season, QUESTOR was bumped for another sci-fi series THE PLANET OF THE APES.

[Mild spoiler alert]

THE QUESTOR TAPES pilot echoed a lot of Gene Roddenberry's favorite ideas: an android trying in a Pinocchio-like way to understand what it is to be human, searching for its creator, and we even touch on a superior benevolent alien race that's attempting "to prevent Earth from destroying itself before it can mature into a peaceful society." (A theme of the pilot-within-a-series STAR TREK episode "Assignment: Earth.")

Plus the QUESTOR has Dean Wormer (John Vernon), acting as bad guy, so it's got that going for it. Not to mention the ever-so-likable Mike Farrell and the commanding presence of Robert Foxworth as Questor.

The series, if it had been made, would have been a buddy series with Mike Farrell helping the android become a bit less of a fish out of water.

The best of the post-TREK pilots, QUESTOR's themes were woven into the next 2 Roddenberry produced projects; principally the characters of V'ger from STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE and, I know you all ready know it: Data, from NEXT GENERATION.

Richard Colla, the director, is quoted in Retrovision Magazine's fond and thorough overview of the pilot titled Gene Roddenberry's The Questor Tapes: The Unfulfilled Promise:

"It was a wonderful experience for me," he says. "We were kind of reinterpreting Spock and Kirk, because that's really what it was -- the emotional side of man and the intellectual side of man and they come into conversation with each other. So what you really have is a character talking to himself, and that's delightful."

Above: the cover to the novelization by D.C. Fontana.

A note on the Gil Melle music that's heard at a minute plus in: yes, that theme is the same music that Melle used for the later 1970s NIGHT STALKER series. Melle was so fond of that cut, that rather than see it forgotten in this unsold pilot, he played it for STALKER's producer Dan Curtis, who agreed and used it in the main title for the short-lived series. This is all from my memory of reading TV’s Biggest Hits (Schirmer Books, 1996) by Jon Burlingame.

-- Above edited from a March 13, 2008 blog entry.

An excellent overview of the production by John Kenneth Muir here

My thanks to Christopher Mills.

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