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Gene Roddenberry’s “The Questor Tapes” Being Developed As New TV Series

Roddenberry Productions has entered into a deal with Ron Howard’s Imagine Television to develop Gene Roddenberry’s 1970s pilot "The Questor Tapes" into a new TV series. The announcement was made by Rod Roddenberry on Wednesday night at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences TV Hall of Fame Ceremony where Gene Roddenberry was being inducted posthumously.

 

The Return of Questor
In the 1970s, between the end of the original Star Trek on NBC and the beginnings of Star Trek Phase II, Gene Roddenberry developed a number of sci-fi TV shows which were turned into pilot TV movies, but never picked up as series (like "Genesis II" and "Planet Earth" which were recently put out on DVD – see TrekMovie review). One of these projects was called "The Questor Tapes" which was originally conceived as a television series pilot about an android (played by Robert Foxworth) with incomplete memory tapes who searches for his creator and his purpose. The pilot aired as a TV movie in January of 1974. Star Trek producer Gene Coon also worked on the pilot, and Majel Barrett Roddenberry had role as well. NBC had committed to a 13 episode order, but after failing to agree on changes with Roddenberry, the project was scrapped.

In a statement about the new "Questor" Rod Roddenberry notes:

My father always felt that Questor was the one that got away. He believed that the show had the potential to be bigger than Star Trek.


Gene and Majel Roddenberry on the set of "The Questor Tapes"

Now 36 years later "Questor" is back. Gene’s son Rod Roddenberry will develop the project along with Roddenberry Productions COO Trevor Roth and Imagine Television’s President David Nevins and EVP of Development Robin Gurney. The team is currently in negotiations with writer, producer and show runner Tim Minear (Lois & Clark, The X-Files, Angel, Dollhouse) to produce. Of course there still is no guarantee that the new "Questor" will get picked up as a series either, but Imagine Entertainment, which was founded by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, has a good track record on TV. Imagine developed shows like 24, Friday Night Lights, Lie To Me; Arrested Development, and many more (including JJ Abrams Felicity).

If the new Questor turns into a TV series, it actually wont be the first Gene Roddenberry show to get on the air since he passed away in 1991. Roddenberry’s ideas were developed into Earth Final Conflict (1997) and Andromeda (2000). Both shows ran for five seasons in syndication.

Questor the proto-Data
Gene Roddenberry may never have got "Questor" as a series, but he didn’t forget the idea of that android on a quest. "Questor" influenced the creation of the character Data in Star Trek The Next Generation. Gene Roddenberry’s character description of Questor (available at roddenberry.com) includes much that has a familiar ring to TNG fans, such as this passage:

The android design includes some abilities beyond normal human capacity, i.e., an exceedingly delicate sensor hookup between fingertips and computer brain capable of delicate measurements of size, temperature, and texture of objects; photo-cell “eyes” which can adjust to provide both microscopic and telescopic vision; a cerium nuclear furnace “stomach” energy yield which should somewhat surpass normal human male strength.

In fact, there is a scene in the TV movie "Questor" which worked its way into the second season TNG episode "The Royale", check out the two scenes below.

"Questor" casino scene

"The Royale" casino scene

 

Roddenberry inducted into TV Hall of Fame
Wednesday night Gene Roddenberry was one of seven inductees into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Television Hall of Fame (see previous article). Rod Roddenberry was on hand to accept the posthumous honor for his father. The award was presented by Trek fan (and Family Guy creator) Seth MacFarlane. Also on hand were Walter Koenig and Star Trek’s new writing team of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

TrekMovie will provide photos when they are made available.

 

Questor on YouTube
The entire TV movie of "The Questor Tapes" is on YouTube, here is the opening nine minutes.

[The rest on YouTube]

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Anthony Thompson
January 21, 2010 2:29 am

1st? I’ve never seen Questor.

Lousy_Canadian
January 21, 2010 2:30 am

That’s very interesting. :D How Gene Roddenberry lives on!

January 21, 2010 2:54 am

Well, if we are to believe that there’s no originality left, then by all means let’s resurrect an over 35 year old pilot that wasn’t picked up the first time. Keep this one as far away from NBC as you can, and you should be fine…

January 21, 2010 2:55 am

Wow! Wouldn’t it be quite awesome if they asked Brent Spiner to play the role of the android?
Thát would be a sure hit and pays tribute to Gene Roddenberry.
I’m gonna watch it, but i hope that the studios really would ask Brent to playthe role.

January 21, 2010 2:55 am

Oh, forgot. Next we’ll get Genesis II….

Nuallain
January 21, 2010 3:26 am

I think the great distinguishing thing about Questor, as opposed to Data or any other android, is that he has that *purpose* — his mission will either save the human race or destroy it BUT HE’S FORGOTTEN WHAT IT IS.

That’s pretty big stuff.

Then there’s also the balance in the humanity/unemotionality angle; while Data was built simply to be the most human he could possibly be and strove to become so; Questor is *supposed* to have emotions from the start, but is *broken*, essentially. It’s been years since I saw it but IIRC he accepts it much more than Data does and fills the gap with a human companion to act through whose eyes he can see the Human Factor and who can act as his conscience.

Pat D.
January 21, 2010 4:43 am

Finally.

Shame that Herbert Wright didn’t get anywhere with this when he optioned the rights in 2003 and subsequently passed in 2005.

Brent is only about 8-1/2 years younger than Robert Foxworth, and it is 37 years later right now. I’d imagine the studio will want to go significantly younger.

I’d love to see this include Mike Farrell or Foxworth in some form. Unfortunately, it would probably be too confusing to a new audience have Farrell cameo as the original Jerry Robinson.

I loved The Questor Tapes.

Jim Smith
January 21, 2010 4:44 am

What’s interesting about those two clips is they demonstrate that GR was still doing uncredited writing/re-writing well into TNG Season 2. Or interesting to me, anyway.

Jerky
January 21, 2010 4:59 am

Rod’s gotta eat.

January 21, 2010 5:09 am

And now that’s all his properties. Almost. Is Gary Seven far off?

Pat D.
January 21, 2010 5:22 am

Ummm, Gary Seven is kinda the same thing?

RobertZ
January 21, 2010 5:24 am

This is GREAT News! Hope they make it thoughtful and deeply emotional and unforgetable etertainment.

"Check the Circuit!"
January 21, 2010 5:42 am

Oh my. Back to the well.

Yawn.

DJ Neelix
January 21, 2010 6:05 am

@4. assimilator47
“Wow! Wouldn’t it be quite awesome if they asked Brent Spiner to play the role of the android?
Thát would be a sure hit and pays tribute to Gene Roddenberry.
I’m gonna watch it, but i hope that the studios really would ask Brent to playthe role.”

Do you seriously think that Brent Spiner, after having played one of the most famous android characters on and off for 15 years, is going to have any interest in playing yet another one on TV? I doubt he would do it even for all the money in the world…

CmdrR
January 21, 2010 6:19 am

Could be great. Roddenberry had a knack for formulating situations that allow us to look at ourselves as if we’d never done that before. Spock, Data, etc.. Given the update in technology and Ron Howard’s skills, this could be a great project. Just need to make sure the writing is there!

CmdrR
January 21, 2010 6:25 am

mea culpa — forgot to acknowledge Rod’s undoubtable contribution to making sure this works well. Now, all you have to do is cast Ricky Gervais as Questor and it’ll be a hit!

crazydaystrom
January 21, 2010 6:26 am

I saw the oringinal broadcast of The Questor Tapes those many years ago and was greatly disappointed it wasn’t picked up as a series then. Hope it’s good and successful this time around.

beerwriter
January 21, 2010 6:31 am

@4, I agree with @14; there’s this thing called “typecasting”. And if you’re an actor it’s a very bad thing.

January 21, 2010 6:44 am

I thought Questor was great, when I was a kid.

Of course, I also thought “The Starlost” was amazing. (Which it should have been)

After seeing the series recently, “The Starlost” was appalling, but still, cheesy fun to watch (Barry Morse AND John Calicos in an episode together? Brilliant!)

Now there’s a series that could do with a re-visit…

Mike
January 21, 2010 7:00 am

Tim Minear!! Of course that means it’ll make it to series for about 10 episodes I’d guess.

Adam Bomb 1701
January 21, 2010 7:10 am

I saw this twice back in 1974. Once on TV, and a second time at a “Trek” convention a month later. It was quite good. According to an article in “Starlog” in 1979, by the time the pilot movie aired, the series was already a dead issue, as NBC, dumb asses that they were (and still are) wanted to make ridiculous changes. Also, IIRC, Leonard Nimoy was actually set to play Questor. He was replaced with Robert Foxworth – and no one, even Roddenberry, told Mr. Nimoy.

SerenityActual
January 21, 2010 7:21 am

This was an enjoyable movie, and I hope the remake does it justice. But as someone posted earlier, it seems to be just another sign that Hollywood has lost it’s creativity. Why reboot/remake past shows, how about something new. Look at Avatar, not a remake, not a reboot, and made a heck of alot of money.

Enterprisingguy
January 21, 2010 7:25 am

I also saw the original broadcast of Questor back then. It was so much more intelligent than what was on TV then. It was a shame that it wasn’t picked up. It was probably too smart for it’s own good. Considering the dreck that passes for TV now a show like that is certainly welcome if it is as brilliant as the original.

January 21, 2010 7:26 am

“Gene Roddenberry developed a number of sci-fi TV shoes [huh???] which were turned into pilot TV movies …”

TV shoes? Would those be related to ruby red slippers?

Seriously, all kidding aside, this is, to me, the most exciting of news! ‘The Questor Tapes,’ to this day, remains my favorite of Gene Roddenberry’s concepts (next to ‘Star Trek,’ of course)!

The fact that it is being considered for a new project illustrates just how viable this show was–and can be!

Good luck to Rod Roddenberry and Ron Howard’s production house!

Daoud
January 21, 2010 7:28 am

Questor’s question must be the emphasis. “Am I sent to save, or to destroy humanity?” (Or, am I just here for a good time?). A Messiah who isn’t sure if he was sent by God, or by Satan. That’s the twist that has promise. Duck-out-of-water has been done already with Spock, Data and the EMH.

So, Data-redux is dullsville, but focusing on the “who am I, but… WHY am I” question might make this work. But Questor “Tapes”? I think that has to be revisited with title. Questor, the word, was originally a financial oversight official who worked for consuls in the Roman Empire. Is this Questor a global oversight official? Perhaps. But is he doing an audit, or an adjudication?

Just as long as they don’t throw dinosaurs and Mayans in there.

And remind Rod to be careful not to have anything at all similar to anything ever written by Harlan Ellison.

Will
January 21, 2010 7:35 am

Genesis II was remade as Andromeda
The hero had the same name Dylan Hunt and same concept of trying to revive a civilization

rogue_alice
January 21, 2010 7:38 am

Awesome! I loved Questor when it ran (as a pilot). I think it could be a great series.

Horatio
January 21, 2010 7:42 am

Glad to hear this. Actually, there are lots of shows from the 70’s that would be great if remade today. Anybody else remember Probe?

Mel
January 21, 2010 7:49 am

“One of these projects was called “The Questor Tapes” which was originally conceived as a television series pilot about an android (played by Robert Foxworth) with incomplete memory tapes who searches for his creator and his purpose.”

A whole series of this premise sounds lame. And in the last years there were already many movies and series with robots or androids. The whole theme is getting old.

By the way The Questor Tapes, TNG, a few episodes of TOS and of course Andromeda, all include androids. Gene Roddenberry must have really loved them or he wasn’t as creative and innovative as a lot of fans believe.

January 21, 2010 7:52 am

#3: “Well, if we are to believe that there’s no originality left, then by all means let’s resurrect an over 35 year old pilot that wasn’t picked up the first time. Keep this one as far away from NBC as you can, and you should be fine…”

Wasn’t picked up by NBC? Oh, but you are wrong.

NBC DID pick up the pilot for a proposed series. BUT network executives ordered changes, changes that contradicted the pilot movie, contradicted elements in such a fashion that Roddenberry refused to implement them and he withdrew the series from consideration.

Rather than make changes he felt would cripple the concept, Roddenberry let ‘Questor’ die.

Mr. Roddenberry has said many a-time that censorship and network interference was the bain of his productive existence. That was but one reason why ST-TNG was not produced for network TV.

Again, best of luck in seeing this one through.. Maybe this time it won’t ‘be the one that got away.’

Sybok's Secret Brother
January 21, 2010 7:56 am

I look forward to this.

Rocket Scientist
January 21, 2010 7:58 am

I saw a TV movie called “Spectre” when I was in 8th grade. That was a Roddenberry production too, wasn’t it? I think Gig Young was the star.

All I remember was people chanting “Asmodeus…Asmodeus…” as some lizard creature in a robe presided over some kind of ritual.

Adam Bomb 1701
January 21, 2010 8:08 am

#31 – Yes, “Spectre” was a Roddenberry produced TV movie/pilot. It starred Gig Young and Robert Culp as (IIRC) paranormal researchers. It was aired by NBC in May 1977, and released theatrically in Europe. Also, the flick used to turn up on the Fox Movie Channel. I do remember it wasn’t very good. Young killed his young bride of less than a month, and then himself, in a bizarre murder-suicide in October, 1978.

Daoud
January 21, 2010 8:15 am

@27 Yes, I loved it too in 74, but the problem is, the pilot already tells you the Question that shouldn’t have been answered for a few seasons. Why Questor exists. The pilot essentially resolves all the mystery when Vaslovik gives his explanation of what he really is.

What was a series supposed to take off from then? It would have been “The Fugitive(s)” with an android with military types pursuing because of Darro’s trick ending. Or something?

I think a remake should not answer the Question until long into the series. A bit of DaVinci Code like mystery. Sure Questor’s some sort of missing link, but a missing link of what? Is he what man will become, or is he a discarded robot?

D-Mar
January 21, 2010 8:25 am

WHen Lincoln Enterprises was still around, I had purchased some of the scripts that had been written for Questor. At the time they were very entertaining and seemed like there some very fun moments as well as quite a bit of adventure. I hope this show does get a decent shot this time around.

Capt Mike of the Terran Empire
January 21, 2010 8:33 am

Gene was a brilliant man and I for one am glad his work is getting done. What I would love to see is a series based on Gary Seven from the Star Trek Tos series and pilot Assingnment Earth. I think Bob Orci and the court should deveop a seris based on that Episode.

Paul
January 21, 2010 8:52 am

22: I assume you’ve never seen Pocahonatas, Fern Gully or Dances with Wolves eh?

HotStove
January 21, 2010 9:37 am

“…starring BJ Hunicutt! And Dean Wormer! And Admiral Leyton! With special guest star Lwaxana Troi!”

Capt Krunch
January 21, 2010 9:46 am

Isn’t that the same music from Kojak..the night stalker?….cool
I love that cheesy 70’s intro…I expected to hear an announcer say: Questor…a Quinn Martin production…starring Robert Foxworthy as Questor…also starring Lee Merriweather…special guest star John Saxon..
tonight;s episode………..

Michael Hall
January 21, 2010 9:47 am

“Questor” was the best of Roddenberry’s post-Trek efforts. I welcome the possibility that the series might finally get made; with good writers and modern visuals it could easily outclass anything that might have been produced in the ’70s.

#36–Comparisons of Avatar to Pocahontas, Fern Gully, and Dances with Wolves only go to show that stories aren’t the only things that can be endlessly recycled. :-)

January 21, 2010 9:48 am

Hmm…just watched the clip up there after having never seen this before.

Very interesting….1:14-1:46 in, guess Jerry Fielding ( at least he’s the one credited) recycled this little theme for “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”. I always thought Kolchak was too interesting a theme to be let go on just TV. Guess he did too. Anyone else notice that? Mark Wynkoop where are you now? You’ll hear it the second the rhythmic cello figure starts up, right after the opening credits. Note for note. That’s the kind of trivia stuff I love.

It’s at times like this I feel like Parmon in “Plato’s Stepchildren” when I’m identifying themes…”Not twice mine”.

35 – regarding Gary Seven show
Yes and use my themes and I’ll use the money for a college fund.

SerenityActual
January 21, 2010 10:12 am

I know that the main character’s name from Andromeda came from Genesis II, but I thought that the storyline from Andromeda came from an unused Star Trek idea that Gene had, where a future Enterprise got caught in a black hole and was retrieved later to find the Federation in pieces. Would have been cool.

BringBackSuluPrime
January 21, 2010 10:16 am

This story sounds a lot like The classic story of Harlan Ellison’s Demon with a Glass Hand from the Outer Limits. That android was seeking his purpose. The “tapes” were the memory storage of the androids fingers. Just saying, watch out for a lawsuit from good ole Harlan :o)

Capt Mike of the Terran Empire
January 21, 2010 10:19 am

Hey Bob Orci. Would you or the court ever consider making a show based on the Tos Ep Assingment Earth with Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln. Now that would be something i and many others would love to see.

Horatio
January 21, 2010 10:24 am

LOL @ #38.

The theme from Cannon was going through my head though.

January 21, 2010 10:29 am

wow, great feedback everyone. we’ve got a page and a half of the original script from ‘Questor’ up at http://www.roddenberry.com/corporate-questor.

Red Skirt
January 21, 2010 11:03 am

#22, “Look at Avatar, not a remake, not a reboot, and made a heck of alot of money.”

While I loved Avatar, I’m not immune to the fact it is an amalgam of several previous films stories (but no more so than the latest Star Trek film).

Questor strikes me in its general synopsis as an AI story, but about an adult. It also has hints of The Day The Earth Stood Still. Whatever Ron Howard has in mind, it is certainly to be very different than the Questor Roddenberry produced. Unlike Cameron, Howard seems to have opted to trade on Roddenberry’s name and the added value over his own to launch a series with a built-in sci-fi fanbase, rather than recycle similar ideas in an original creation. But I would expect a much more emotional and realistic portrayal than Robert Foxworth’s. And a much more global and epic story with much greater consequences.

January 21, 2010 11:03 am

This news junkie presumes that if we’re to see a new ‘The Questor Tapes,’ a new pilot will be need to be filmed. I wonder if they’ll use the original script, updated naturally, as the springboard?

I am really excited about this! Too bad Herb Wright didn’t live to see this accomplishment. Way to go, Rod!

P Technobabble
January 21, 2010 11:25 am

I saw “Questor” when it first aired, and I thought it was pretty good, and could have made a decent series… something like a mixture of “The Fugitive” meets “The Six Million Dollar Man” meets “The Incredible Hulk”… that sort of storytelling.

I don’t quite see this entirely as a remake, since the series never actually made it to the air. I’d be interested to see how a new, modern take on it would go down, but I agree, there would have to be something about it to set it apart from the stereotype of another Data-type android.

January 21, 2010 11:30 am

RE #41 Andy Patterson / Jerry Fielding

Nice catch there! Questor has been something of a holy grail for me, as I’ve never caught it, but did see Spector and the attempts at Genesis II.

RE The Fielding cello part particularly, it is a great bit of 70’s TV scoring, as it kicks a ton of bass into the tiny TV speakers of the era at just the right time to grab your attention.

For non-broadcast shows, a pilot can typically be tracked with just about anything, but that gets meticulously replaced if the show is slated to be broadcast even once. Talk to Jeff Bond or take a look at the insane broadcast clearance forms we used to submit for examples of how tightly regulated that is.

But if a composer chooses to recycle themes (to 1 degree or another) no one says anything as long as it is freshly re-recorded. If the producer has qualms, it’s between him and the composer. In fact, very often they WANT you to copy something!

RE the Gary Seven theme, yes, by all means use Andy’s theme (all 3 of them), but don’t use that original script for the 30 minute show.
–Mark

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