Warner Bros. // 1973 // 73 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // November 25th, 2009
Wow, that really sucked.
In the Seventies, Gene Roddenberry worked hard to prove that he was not just a one Trek pony, writing several pilots, such as the supernatural Spectre and the science fiction The Questor Tapes, neither of which were picked up as series. In 1973, Genesis II hit the NBC airwaves. It wasn't picked up either, but Rodenberry retooled the idea and pitched it to ABC as Planet Earth; ABC made the pilot in 1974, but, again, didn't pick up the series. In 1975, Warner Brothers, reworked the idea yet again, this time without Roddenberry's involvement, resulting in Strange New World. That burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp. Finally, in 2000, Robert Hewitt Wolfe drastically reworked the premise, resulting in Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda. Through the good graces of the Warner Archives, we get to see Genesis II, where it all started -- though technically it all started with a bunch of leftover plots from Star Trek: The Original Series.
In 1979, Dylan Hunt (Alex Cord) has just been placed in suspended animation when an earthquake buries the facility. One hundred fifty years later he is revived to discover a strange new world (tm). World War III has leveled civilization, and humanity is just getting back on its feet. His rescuers belong to PAX, an organization devoted to restoring civilization and maintaining peace. They're delighted to find Hunt, hoping that he can give them the secrets to technologies lost during that aftermath of the war. However, Lyra-a (Mariette Hartley), who has been caring for Hunt during his recovery, tells Hunt that he is being used. She belongs to a race of mutants called Tyranians, who emerged in the wake of the nuclear war. The Tyranians have two hearts, which grant them exceptional strength and speed. They also have two navels, both of which Lyra-a is only too happy to show Hunt. She claims to have infiltrated PAX, and has discovered that their true purpose is to wipe out the Tyranians and establish dominion over the Earth. Hunt escapes with her to her home city of Tyrania, where they ask Hunt to repair their failing nuclear reactor. It seems a reasonable request, but as Hunt observes Tyranian society, he begins to suspect that Lyra-a and the Tyranians aren't what they seem...
It doesn't take long to figure out why Genesis II didn't get picked up (CBS decided to go with a Planet of the Apes series instead). It is, simply, bad. The meandering plot takes entirely too long to get to the meat of the story, and, once there, there's no real sense of pacing, structure, or, for that matter, purpose. Hunt blindly accepts Lyra-a's accusations against PAX without even trying to verify them, there's a lot of running around, Hunt escapes and is recaptured three or four times, there's a lot of pointless pontificating, Hunt tricks Lyra-a into admitting that she has feelings for him, there doesn't appear to be much of a shortage of technology, and, on top of all of that, the resolution occurs off screen. There's also Roddenberry's characteristic lack of subtlety (Tyranians = Tyrants!), as well as his characteristic obsession with sex -- it's implied that Lyra-a used sex to nurse Hunt back to health (don't even get me started on the Tyranian's staff of pleasure and pain). Add to that the clunky dialogue and weak acting...frankly, I'm at a loss for how the pilot ever got green-lighted, much less actually broadcast. You get the impression they shot the first draft of the screenplay; some good ideas are in evidence, but they're all half-baked. The pilot was rejected not for sucking (as it should have been), but for not having enough action, suggesting that Roddenberry completely forgot the lessons learned from the first Star Trek pilot "The Cage," which was also rejected for not having enough action. About the only idea that really works is the magnetic levitation subway system; connecting the globe, it's a handy substitute for the teleporter. Just don't ask how it survived the war, OK?
So what's with the two navels? The story is that Roddenberry carried a grudge against the NBC censors who insisted that all female navels be covered on Star Trek, so he came up with the double navel idea so that the censors would have to let him show navels. If that sounds a little silly, it's only because it is. Still, let the record show that Mariette Hartley looks damn fine in a bikini, regardless of how many navels she has.
The video and quality aren't all that bad. The image is a touch soft, and colors are inconsistent, but never enough to be a real distraction. There are no extras. The cover art is an odd choice, as it shows none of the major characters; it does, however, use the Star Trek font, the better to draw in unsuspecting Trekkies.
Genesis II has some curiosity value due to the history of the premise, but that's about it. In addition, since Planet Earth was also a Warner Brothers production, the Warner Archives might have been better served releasing both films on a single disc -- even though Planet Earth wasn't picked up either, I vaguely recall that it was a much better pilot. Still I'm hard-pressed to think of a reason someone would want this disc.
That would be guilty.
Review content copyright © 2009 Jim Thomas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 73 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Wikipedia: Genesis II