Forgotten Roddenberry: Spectre

Welcome back to our bi-weekly series on Gene Roddenberry’s work between Star Trek incarnations. Last time we looked at the most optimistic post-apocalypse ever filmed, Genesis II. This time we check out Gene’s take on devil worship, Spectre.

I hadn’t seen Spectre yet when I decided to write this series of reviews. From what I had read the film was a straight horror/mystery focusing on the occult. Considering much of this series is going to examine Gene’s attitude toward sexuality and gender roles I was a bit worried about how Spectre would fit into that narrative. So, when the kinky schoolgirl and the dominatrix showed up halfway through the movie I literally let out a fist-pumping “YES!”
By 1977, when Spectre aired, people in the United States were well aware of both personality-based cults and alternative religions. The nation’s youth were exploring everything from Eastern mysticism to pre-Christian European paganism. Such “witchcraft cults” were the subject of horror movies like 1969’s Curse of the Crimson Altar. But it wasn’t until 1981, with the rise of the so-called “Moral Majority” and the publishing of fabricated memoir/case study “Michelle Remembers”, that Satanic Cults in particular and their penchant for rape and human sacrifice became a national obsession. Not even Twisted Sister was safe. So it comes as an interesting little surprise that Gene Roddenberry produced a film on Satanic ritual abuse four years before Christians lost their collective minds over it.
With the help of Samuel A. Peeples, the creative force behind the pilot episodes of both the original Star Trek and it’s animated series, Roddenberry not only headed off the Christian Right, but Chris Carter as well. Spectre, at it’s core, is an X-Files episode with an orgy tacked on to the end. It features the unlikely pairing of Robert Culp as William Sebastian, the always prepared criminologist and occult expert, and Gig Young as Dr. Amos “Ham” Hamilton, the medical doctor man of science. While this is certainly not the first depiction of paranormal investigation put on film – Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which had a very similar premise had just finished airing two years earlier – it was the first time I can find that a believer and a scientist were paired as a foil for one another. Together William and Ham work to solve the mystery of Cyon House while dodging hell demons, death traps, lizard men, and hordes of sex nymphs.
And sex nymphs there are aplenty. I could almost make the case that Spectre is more of a low-grade sexploitation film with the trappings of a horror/mystery than a horror/mystery with sexual undertones. Gene had already written and produced the sexplotation flick Pretty Maids All in a Row in 1971, so this would have been a genre he was quite familiar with. The film even begins with William being cornered by a sultry succubus pretending to be his latest client, Anitra Cyon. The creature visits while William is trying to convince Ham to come with him to London to investigate her case. In a previous encounter with a demon, William was near fatally wounded by a voodoo doll. There is a wound in his heart, yet no object ever pierced him. Ham is to keep watch over his condition and make sure he doesn’t overexert himself “physically or sexually” lest he succumb to his wound.
The succubus uses all its feminine wiles to convince William that there is no need for him to go to London. All the talk of her brother Geoffrey being possessed was a mistake, and every supernatural goings-on was easily explainable. The interaction brings to mind Jim Kirk and every single woman he’s ever encountered in space. William is having none of it and keeps attempting to get the succubus to touch something religious in nature until he finally thrusts the Book of Tobin into her chest and she begins to painfully vaporize. Ham attempts to enter the room during her death throes, but William pushes him out and locks the door until the succubus is fully extinguished.
Ham, partially out of loyalty but mostly to find out what happened to the hot chick, finally agrees to go to London. They take the Cyon’s private plane which is piloted by the youngest and meekest Cyon sibling, Mitri, played by elephant man and alien incubator John Hurt. William spends the entire plane ride trying to convince Ham that the occult is real, something he could have easily done if he’d just let Ham see the succubus exploding on his library floor. But nay! That would be far too easy for an internationally renowned, fancy-pants criminologist.
There are quite a few opinions about the genesis of the relationship between William and Ham. Like most Roddenberry pairings the duo have good chemistry and their friendship is believable and, at times, down right touching despite their stark differences. Some find parallels in the Spock/McCoy relationship, but I don’t see it. Spock is a blank faced rationalist. William is an overly bright madman with strange ideas about the unseen world. McCoy is a humanitarian and optimist with an righteous moral center. Ham is a drunk with a cynical take on everything. Spock and McCoy also couldn’t exist without Kirk binding them together. Even in his absence he’s all they can talk about. Holmes and Watson are a closer match, but while Holmes was mad, he was also grounded in the material world, and Watson was always more impressed with Holmes than skeptical. William and Ham really are something unique: a pairing not seen again until The X-Files twenty years later, but unfortunately lacking Mulder and Scully’s secret desire to dry-hump one another.
I couldn’t help also feeling that Ham is a stand in for Roddenberry. Gene has inserted himself into his work on a few occasions, including as the boy-genius Wesley Crusher, whose first name is Gene’s middle one. But where Wesley is the Gene of his innocent youth, Ham is adult Gene with all his adult foibles and eccentricities. He’s an addict, a lech with a penchant for high cheekbones, and a skeptic with very little patience for superstition or the supernatural. He’s also insanely lovable in a hapless, middle-aged white guy sort of way. Young even resembles Roddenberry, to a certain extent, in build, stature, and lopsided smile.
On landing in London, William and Ham head for the home of a Dr. Qualus at #3 Merlin’s Muse. Qualus has been working with the Cyon family and observing their bizarre behavioral changes. When they arrive, the place is on fire and Qualus is found dead on the edge of a pentagram drawn on the floor. William collects Qualus’s journal and escapes what appears to be a hell beast scraping at the door when the police arrive.
Merlin’s Muse, voodoo dolls, succubi, lost biblical chapters, pentagrams. It’s only twenty minutes in and you already get the sense that Roddenberry and Peeples are going to try to cram every single esoteric/magical reference they can into this thing. Just wait until we get to the Neolithic stone ring in the backyard. But first, the sex nymphs.
Our heroes finally arrive at the Cyon home meeting both the real Anitra Cyon and her allegedly possessed brother, Geoffrey. Fluttering about the giant, creepy old manor is one scantily clad barely-legal after another, waiting on their every need and providing the occasional peck on the lips. Geoffrey’s other guests include business men from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, constituting the only diversity in the entire film. Together they suggest a kind of Illuminati set to control the world’s markets.
William is immediately smitten with the Cyon art collection and especially with a Boucher painting. Boucher, of course, is the porniest painter of France’s porniest classical art period so it makes total sense in a Satanic den of iniquity.
The real Anitra is not as sultry as her succubus doppelgänger. She refers to herself as matronly. Mitri says she’s boney and old-maidish. The only real difference is some makeup and a blow dry, but that was about all the Venus Drug did to Mudd’s Women and Gene wanted us to think that was a big deal too. Ham, however, thinks she’s hot as she is and repeatedly says so. This is, indeed, the woman he crossed an ocean for.
Geoffrey claims he is nothing more than a rich hedonist and the devil has nothing to do with his orgiastic proclivities. He is merely living out the lifestyle all men want but women like his sister rein in through their puritanical sensibilities. This, in a nutshell, shows the downside of the sexual revolution that characters like Hugh Hefner represent: the normalization of the entitled male banging his fists on the table yelling “it’s me who’s repressed!” as he surrounds himself with women who bend to his every wish. It also lines up with Genesis II’s thesis that sex would never happen unless men initiated it. And if a woman does initiate (as in Lyra-a and the succubus) she must be evil or at least after something. Geoffrey is obsessed with his own satisfaction, but could he even name one part of the female anatomy and tell us its function? Doubtful. Sure he’s the antagonist and this lifestyle will lead to his family’s eventual downfall, but you can’t demonize female objectification with a film brimming with it. At some point the audience is going to suspect it’s really a celebration.
After several mysterious yet milquetoast attempts on William and Ham’s lives including bits of glass in their drinks and an unstable hand rail, the duo settle in to study Dr. Qualus’s journal in their waterbed equipped rooms. Waterbeds, of course, are the ultimate symbol of hedonism and proof that dear Geoffrey Cyon has made a pact with the devil. Qualus’s journal is written in Coptic, which William is fluent in. It tells the tale of Geoffrey’s decent into an archeological dig and the accidental release of Satan’s mightiest demon, Asmodeus, who’s symbol is a big, red “A”. Fortunately for us, Asmodeus corrupts his victims through lust, hence the sex nymphs and waterbeds. It’s all coming together people!
That night Ham awakens next to a topless nymph who buzzes in the aforementioned school girl and dominatrix. They both refer to him as “daddy” and offer him booze and riding crops. William walks in on the scene and the expected stammering awkwardness ensues.
Much of Spectre is very by-the-numbers plot wise. Comedic scenes are juvenile, dangers seem to be placed there because they need to be and not because they actually ratchet up the tension, and the third act twist is visible from the moment the heroes walk into the spooky mansion. Geoffrey is pegged as the villain so early on that there is no possible way he could be the real big bad unless the writers are completely incompetent. The only real scare in the whole film is when William and Ham discover the mini Stonehenge in the Cyon backyard and are suddenly attacked by two large dogs that, because of some shockingly expert cinematography and editing, appear to jump out of the ground. It’s a frustrating moment of competency that makes you wonder why the whole film couldn’t be this good.
After twenty more minutes of mostly inconsequential running about, William and Ham find the entrance to Asmodeus’s tomb. It’s got everything: a sacrificial altar, creepy kid drawings, invisible walls of evil, and a terrified, spread eagle nymph. What a Judæan monster with a Roman letter for its symbol was doing locked up in a pagan tomb 3,000 miles from the Holy Land only Gene and Sam know for sure, rest their souls. But, by Merlin’s Illuminati succubus, I want to believe!
William has a sudden pain in his voodoo wound and Ham rushes him out, grabbing a golden seal on the way and leaving the nymph to her fate. William later melts down part of the seal to cast a golden bullet for an 18th century dueling pistol he’s brought with him. Customs was definitely lax in the 70’s.
With gun and bullet in hand, but inexplicably not yet loaded, William and Ham return to the underground liar. As William loads the gun he drops the bullet behind a distinctly un-Neolithic looking hinged door. When they push the door away to look for the bullet they discover… dum dum dum… Mitri’s mummified body! Apparently Mitri has been dead the whole time and Asmodeus has been using his form and not Geoffrey’s despite Qualus’s journal directly saying otherwise.
Suddenly, a Satanic orgy/sacrifice parades itself in with Anitra as the guest of honor. All the Illuminati business men are there cavorting with the sex nymphs whose bosoms are now shaking free from their loose bindings (at least in the extended Euro cut). It’s like Manos, The Hands of Fate meets Eyes Wide Shut but with little people because why not? Mitri, showing his true form, demands that Geoffrey rape and murder their sister, but Geoffrey, out of love, breaks the demonic spell and refuses. The job then falls to William, who’s voodoo doll is in Mitri’s possession. William, seemingly under the command of Mitri, moves to kill Anitra with Geoffrey begging him to snap out of it. And out of it he does snap because that’s what heroes do. He clasps the golden seal together and hurls it into the fire at Mitri’s feet turning him into the Gorn. No, not the actual Wah Chang Gorn. That would have been cool. This is some other toothy lizard man with big, blank, white eyes.
William fires his golden bullet at the Lizardman/Mitri/Asmodeus causing the ancient crypt to start caving in and the heads of an entire UNESCO subcommittee to spontaneously explode. The heroes escape with Anitra in tow. Asmodeus never quite falls down dead, but rather disappears into the depths of the crypt as the fire grows around him, leaving room for another appearance down the road. After all, this was supposed to be the pilot episode for a series. You can’t expect to defeat Satan’s right-hand man on you first day at work.
This is basically confirmed when Anitra hand delivers William’s payment at his state-side office: the Boucher painting he admired so much on first arriving at the Cyon house. And right on the painting, below the reclining nude is the mark of Asmodeus. Ham and Anitra leave William to admire his new acquisition and to finally consummate the tension that had been growing between them throughout the film. But they don’t leave for a walk on the town or a nice dinner. They head straight for William’s library to bone because that’s the kind of comfort a woman who just lost her entire family wants. William even tells Ham which book to hit her with in case she’s another succubus.
I think it’s pretty apparent by now that this is not one of my favorite post-Star Trek Roddenberry projects. Except for the great chemistry of the protagonists and the Benny Hill style eroticism, there’s nothing much here to tell us this is a Roddenberry production. There’s no multiculturalism, no optimism, and no humanism. In fact, you get quite the opposite. The cast is all white, the world is full of hidden evils you can never fully defeat, and, worst of all, the supernatural exists.
That last quality was the one Gene apparently wanted most for the burgeoning series: the magic would be real. Ghosts would be ghosts, monsters would be from hell, and nothing would turn out to be a Scooby Doo style rubber mask. This flies in the face of Roddenberry’s most fundamental conviction that ours is not a demon haunted world. Again and again, Roddenberry the skeptic produced stories that tore apart religion and revealed idols like Apollo and the gods of the Edo and V’ger to be false. Spectre seems to turn that philosophy on its ear.
Not to say that an atheist can’t write a ghost story, but when atheism is one of your core personal and professional tenets it just seems odd to create a show that not just perpetuates magical thinking but reenforces the dogma of religious fundamentalists. By ignorantly mishmashing several disparate cultures into the modern idea of Satanism, Spectre plays out like a Chick Tract
And while I enjoyed The X-Files a lot, I also realize how much it reenforced our culture’s supermarket tabloid science denial. After all, the X-File era gave birth to mainstream interest in fringe ideas like alien abductions, Area 51, and the moon landing hoax. It also played into our still growing fears of the kind of government and medical conspiracies that leave millions of kids unvaccinated and many cities’ water supplies unfluoridated. Remember when Jonathan Frakes tried to sell you a dissected alien body? That was pedaled on FOX as a documentary. Sometimes The X-Files would take the stuff it spawned in the real world and incorporate it back into itself like two snakes eating each other’s tails. It was hard to know who was feeding who. I’m not saying The X-Files made us gullible or that Spectre caused the very real and damaging Satanic cult witch-hunt of the 80’s and 90’s, but certainly neither of them helped.
In the end, Chris Carter is a guy who’s looking for the right evidence so he can believe. Gene Roddenberry was a militant humanist who was patted on the back for twenty-six pages in a magazine of the same name for making the world safe for evidence-based reason through film and television. To me, Spectre is a bit of a black spot on that record.
Random thoughts and observations:
          • Majel Barrett has her best non-Star Trek cameo in this film. She plays William’s enigmatic assistant who dabbles in magical potions. Her few commanding minutes on screen kind of make me wish she’d gone to London instead of Ham.
         • Speaking of Majel and Ham, her character cures Ham of his alcoholism on his arrival to William’s home with a hair trimming and some hoodoo. Ham immediately gets sick with even the smallest sip of booze. It’s one of the few legitimately funny moments in the film, but I can’t help thinking it robbed Ham of an interesting flaw that could have added some level of chaos to the very formulaic plot.
         • Ham carries a Star of David and his first name is Jewish, but his last name is not, suggesting he’s the product of an interfaith marriage.
         • William carries a very ornate and ancient crucifix with him on their first visit to the crypt. He hides it in a crack in the sacrificial alter before leaving but it never shows up again. If it had any effect on the climax I didn’t notice.
         • A year after Spectre was rejected, Sam Peeples became story editor for the live-action Filmation show, Jason of Star Command. It co-starred James Doohan and reused much of the canned music and sound effects from Star Trek: The Animated Series.
         • I can’t help wondering why Gene didn’t call up horror writer Robert Bloch (“What Are Little Girls Made Of”, “Wolf in the Fold”) to help with this instead of Peeples. As a Lovecraft fanatic, a murder cult story would have been right up his alley.
         • Spectre’s opening title font is Libra Regular written in all lowercase. Don’t you feel better knowing that?
          Next up: The Questor Tapes
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Wow. Good job on committing yourself to digging through the archives, though this series of articles is showing us how we really lucked out with Star Trek.

Interesting stuff. Ever see the Roddenberry produced movie Pretty Maids All in a Row? It’s… uh… different from Star Trek, that’s for sure.

I have seen it. It’ll be the last production I write about because I’m really loathe to watch it again.

Oh man, I don’t blame you. That movie is a stinker. And very odd.

I actually just bought the book it’s based on so I can see if there’s much difference. Pray for me.

GR totally plagiarizes Arthur C. Clarke’s intro to the 2001 novel with some pre-BIGBADMAMA/POLICE WOMAN Angie Dickinson dialog in PRETTY MAIDS, if I remember it right. Really ticked me off at the time, though there were enough breasts to distract me away from shutting it off.

It has a pre-ISIS (saturday morning tv show ISIS, not contemporary going concern ISIS) Joanna Cameron in it, and pre-A BOY AND HIS DOG Suzanne Cramer too, along with a post- ICE STATION ZEBRA Rock Hudson.

I don’t think Roddenbery was atheist at this point in his life but a writer trying to make some coin with entertaining stories with some sex appeal. This is a couple years before he realizes some people think he is a utopian messiah and he converts to Roddenberyism.

I disagree. Genesis II, Questor, and Planet Earth show Roddenberry was very much into Roddenberryism by the time Spectre was made. And before Spectre would even air he would write the proto-TMP script “The God Thing” which was about aliens from another dimension creating all of Earth’s religions. The crew would have literally gone up against Jesus.

We this after Genesis II, Questor and Planet Earth? You see two major transitions – one where Roddenberry goes atheist (I just can’t see him allowing Bread and Circuses so after TOS but PRE – The God Thing) and then another transition where Roddenberry goes socialist (the Ferengi, not Klingons are the bad guys; post Star Trek I but pre-TNG). Of course I base the latter time frame on the TMP novelization that devotes some paragraphs on how “new man” is too hippy to handle long missions like “old man” which he didn’t write but I assume he wouldn’t have allowed under Roddenberryism.

Sorry, phone. Should be “WAS” this after Genesis II, Questor and Planet Earth? You see two major transitions – one where Roddenberry goes atheist (I just can’t see him allowing Bread and Circuses so after TOS but PRE – The God Thing) and then another transition where Roddenberry goes socialist (the Ferengi, not Klingons are the bad guys; post Star Trek I but pre-TNG). Of course I base the latter time frame on the TMP novelization that devotes some paragraphs on how “new man” is too hippy to handle long missions like “old man” which he didn’t write but I assume he wouldn’t have allowed under Roddenberryism.

Genesis II aired in 1973. Planet Earth and Questor in 1974. The God Thing was written in 1976. Spectre aired in 1977. All this is pretty easy to look up. Even before that Gene claims he was arguing with various people about not wanting a chaplain on the original Enterprise. How monotheistic claptrap got into Who Mourns for Adonais and Bread and Circuses I have no clue.

GOD THING was 75 wasn’t it, by 76 the studio was taking pitches from lotsa writers and then commissioning the PLANET OF TITANS project. He had the religion derisive angle in place from the INSIDE STAR TREK album, which I think was also from 75 or maybe 74.


Re: How monotheistic claptrap got into Who Mourns for Adonais and Bread and Circuses

From this very site where you are now contributing:

“Bob Justman [producer from the show was on the set the most running things]. Rod Roddenberry just asked me if I got to know his father, but no he never came to the set…which is why he is not on the film [personally shot 8mm and Super 8 home movies on set]. D.C. Fontana did come down.” — Billy Blackburn, background player and Kelley stand-in on Star Trek including playing Lt. Hadley along with a number of other characters in 61 episodes.

Nailed it, as usual.

Wow… I remember seeing this on television AGES ago. I had no idea it was a Roddenberry production. I also never knew the name, but I remember the *shocking* reveal of the Asmodeus “A” in the painting. While I’m sure it plays as cheap schtick now, it was a bit creepy for a kid (I watched this on broadcast TV, so all the overt sexuality was edited out, or went over my head at the time.) I’m going to have to find a way to re-watch this all these years later.

I think the biggest impact I remember from the original viewing was why the guy from “Greatest American Hero” was running around killing monsters.

Wow, Gene really was a free thinker…

“My interest in doing this kind of story was partially brought about because my wife, Majel, is a passionate fan of horror films and she had always wanted to play a witch. She did such a marvelous job that I’m sorry I didn’t take her all the way through the film. Her performance was right on and certainly one of the more interesting characters. I wanted a change of pace and this story offered it. And even in SPECTRE I had a sort of science-fiction connection to explain what witchcraft and black magic was all about. I had one of the characters suggest that Earth had been visited long ago by beings who lived by other physical laws than ours and some of them had been trapped here when the others left. This accounts for the supernatural forces, which I don’t believe but it makes an interesting explanation. It was a fun film to do and did not require’ the 14-hour-a-day commitment of doing a series or preparing a series as I have done in the past. As a bonus, we got to visit England.” – Gene Roddenberry, ‘Gene Roddenberry: The Years Between, The Years Ahead’, ByJEFFSZALAY, STARLOG No. 51, October 1981, p42

If there was an extra-dimensional or alien explanation for the happenings in Spectre I didn’t hear it in two watch throughs. And why aliens would be susceptible to religious tomes and bits of metal chanted over by priests is beyond any rationalization.


A much earlier draft attempt to post this got blackholed by the moderator bot’s filter I’ll try and see if I can figure out the word that triggered it:

What little that could be extracted from the crude OCR:

”Roddenberry said, “I originally wanted to do the untold stories of Sherlock Holmes — the occult. But the rights were tied up in estate so I decided to bring it up to date. But as I wrote I got further and further away from that. Sebastian doesn’t shoot (ocaine or play the violin.”

He said he turned to the occult as a change of pace from science-fiction and because his wife, Majel Barrett, nurse Christine Chapel in “Star Trek,” is a “supernatural nut.” She plays Lilith, a witch, in “Spectre,” which was filmed in England. “He said I think the reason the occult has failed is that until recently the networks always chickened out,” he said. “They wanted the unexplained to be explained. If you had a ghost it always turned out to be someone trying to frighten the aunt out of the estate.”

“But pretend with me it’s real. To help you suspend belief I will give you enough supportive evidence that you will accept it as real. Rarely has this been done. It’s no more ridiculous to believe in demons than to believe in half the leading characters on TV today.”

IN “SPECTRE,” Sebastian and Hamilton were summoned to England to unravel baffling circumstances surrounding the life of Sir Geoffrey Cyon, whose wealth is increasing so rapidly he seems destined to dominate the world money markets. Roddenberry said he has purchased the movie rights to “Mind Reach,” by Dr Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ, about their laboratory experiments in ESP, telepathy and clairvoyance at the Stanford Research Institute.” – AP, Friday, May 20, 1977, ‘Santa Cruz Sentinel’ from Santa Cruz, California · Page 49


Re: explanation for the happenings in Spectre

Beyond his option for MIND REACH, I wouldn’t begin to know where Roddenberry might have gone with it.

Perhaps we could gain some insight from the telepathy, telekinesis and transference of psychic essences that he allowed to go on in the first STAR TREK series?

FWIW, and this has no connection to Roddenberry that I am aware, I recall some attempt at rationalizing magic (It may well be that DR. STRANGE movie from 1978) that postulated that the objects and incantations served no purpose other than that of a lens within the mind with which to focus its own innate energies – building on the “power” of belief that supposedly activates the placebo effect. So the Star of David in the hands of a believer would have the same apparent ability to repel a vampire as would a crucifix, for example.

I’m hoping “Forgotten Roddenberry” soon does a piece on “Pretty Maids All in a Row”…that may make for some interesting discussion.

Nice review, although I hold it in somewhat higher regard. Of all the non-Trek Roddenberry projects, this was always my second favorite, next to The Questor Tapes, just because it was so off the wall. It would have made an interesting series I think, although poor Gig didn’t last too much longer.

I asked Bob Culp about “Spectre.” He turned ice cold and said, “The blood doesn’t show on the screen.” I guess he did not enjoy it…

If that’s true it’s hilarious. And also a shame considering I think Culp is a joy to watch in Spectre. He really chews things up in a way that makes this unbelievable mess believable. He looks like he’s having a lot of fun. But, that could just be really good acting.

My friend and I asked Culp about SPECTRE, too, when we saw him at a convention in Detroit. He hated working on it and insisted that if it had gone to series, he would not have starred in it. My friend and I really pressed him on it and he did say he thought SPECTRE turned out to be pretty good. Rumor has it that Gig Young showed up drunk and maybe that’s why Culp didn’t enjoy doing it, I don’t know. I’ve always assumed Culp’s relationship with both Young and Roddenberry may not have been a great one.

Young was an alcoholic. Spectre was the last thing he did before murdering his wife and then committing suicide.

Spectre was broadcast in Mexico on New Year’s Eve 1979, at about 11:00 PM, dubbed in Spanish (with an excellent voice talent, by the way), uncut. As a young, impressionable 9 y.o. kid, it mesmerized me, and I still totally love it, despite its obvious flaws. In 1989 it was released in Mexico by a company called Zafra Video on VHS, and of course I got the tape as soon as I knew of it. I made a transfer to DVD a few years ago, and I still enjoy it.

I haven’t ever read Fontana’s novelization of QUESTOR. Does anybody know if it is anything special, like did she work from an earlier draft?

There’s no way to be certain from Scott James Dutton’s site:

of how legitimately he vets his sources for this material. So, this should be approached with caution:

but it is an interesting read.

Thanks for giving me benefit of the doubt there, Disinvited. But if you wanted to do anything other than cast aspersions on my methods, you would have contacted me through my site.

Everything I do is researched. All the pieces I have up on my site are from xeroxes of scripts and treatments from studios, Lincoln Enterprises or other reputable sources. I do OCR or re-type them up for a clean PDF presentation, making the files smaller and much easier to read. is everything on the back-door pilot that was the last episode of the second season of the original Trek. As I’m also a fan of Roddenberry’s 70s pilots, I’ve included scripts and documents for The Questor Tapes, Genesis II/Planet Earth and Spectre. You’ll find them at the bottom of the Media section.

Scott Dutton,

Re: benefit of the doubt

I’m not sure what you were expecting? Stumbled across your site on Google. I found pleas for people to send you stuff but it was as I said, I found no indication of your vetting process for the SPECTRE Treatment pdf and certainly its source wasn’t cited. Seemed clear it wasn’t the original.

Your reassurance that everything you do is researched is more than what I could find but it is far cry from an open attached document trail citing the pdf’s origins that would warrant its use in properly vetted scholarly research by others.

Caution seemed prudent. Much as I appreciate your hard work especially in hand re-typing such things up which I certainly respect, and I most certainly do, it still seems prudent.

Very interesting, the QUESTOR script here (which looks pretty close to the final, at least the end scenes with all the really good stuff) is credited to Coon alone, but the aired version has GR taking first position on the writing credits, doesn’t it? Since Coon died the same week he turned in the draft, he clearly wasn’t around to protect his interests via the WGA.

More to prove that Coon was the guy who made TOS worthwhile, since the trekkiest part of QUESTOR – it’s conclusion — seems to be 100% Coon.


Re: he clearly wasn’t around to protect his interests

As I recall the WGA of the 1970s, he wouldn’t have to be.

It’s offtopic, but For The Love Of Spock is now available on Netflix!

Major bonus points to the author for knowing what a Chick Tract is :-)

They used to give them out on every street corner surrounding my university. I used to have a large collection of them until the ironic humor factor wore off and I realized they were just horrendous.


Horrendous indeed! Not to mention insanely wrong.

Supposedly there are two edits of this – one for Television and one a little more “Mature” for overseas sales.

Herb Flynn,

Re: there are two edits of this

There’s the NBC pilot cut which was the attempt to sell them on a series and which apparently the later aired in the US as a TV movie.

It was quite common at the time for TV movies to have a different Euro cut more aware that their standards were different. I’m not quite sure why there was a Euro cut for a pilot which is usually never expected to air? Perhaps, Roddenberry was anticipating a non-domestic series sell?

I’ve never seen the Euro cut version so it seems bizarre hearing a description of it apparently being far more salacious than the one I saw.

I recall something about the concept of Asmodeus (not the Lizardman costume) as explained in the movie creeped me out at the time of my first viewing.

I seemed to file this in my memory as “Roddenberry gives Dr. Strange (1978 TV movie) a whirl”.

I have a copy of the European cut. The additional footage is during the dark mass at the climax of the film. A fair bit of breast exposure among the female disciples, but that’s really about it.

As this is the only one of Roddenberry’s 70s pilots not on commercial DVD, I hope it gets one at some point.

According to a source reviewed by the LA TIMES here:

Billy Ingram:

says that Joel Eisner (noted contributer to STARLOG and author) observed:

“I always liked Spectre, it had sort of a feel like a Hammer film and a Kolchak episode mixed together. I thought Gig Young was miscast, in fact I think Darren McGavin would have been a better choice, and, in lieu of the fact that Young killed himself shortly after the film aired, they would have had to recast if the show sold.

I recently found something interesting about this film which I and several other film historians I know never knew. There was a European version of this film with extra footage and, in particular, nudity. It has always been known that many films added nude and violence for the European market. It was also known that many us [ sic ] TV movies were aired theatrically in England and Europe, but the addition of nudity to a TV movie is rare. In the case of this film, unknown, until recently when the Fox Movie Channel aired the film several times – mostly overnight – I hadn’t seen the film for years and was surprised when I found that the print they were airing must have been the overseas version because of the several nude women that appeared in the black mass scene at the end of the film. Not just in the background but in full topless and bottomless (from the back) closeup. Not that it hurt the film, in fact, it made the scene less choppy as it originally appeared. I guess to cut out the nudity, they had to splice the scenes closer together. I hope they get around to releasing this version to disc.” — Joel Eisner as quoted by Billy Ingram in ‘Gene Roddenberry’s Questor & Spectre’, (Google’s search engine results date this to March of 2006)

A well-written article on a too-often overlooked pilot.

We did get this eventually, but instead of a Sherlock Holmes version, it was Supernatural.

Does anyone know if this is out on DVD?

Scott Duncan’s information that it is not available on DVD is correct.

This source:

Documents in this pdf copy of a “Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press” Jan 95 #1 newsletter:

“If your cable system has the Sci-Fi Channel, watch for “Spectre” on June 3
and June 4 on “Pilot Playhouse”. “Spectre” was a two-hour television film
made from a story by Gene Roddenberry, produced by Norway Productions for
Twentieth Century-Fox Television, and broadcast by NBC-TV on May 21, 1977,
starring Robert Culp as William Sebastian and Gig Young as Dr. Hamilton.
According to reasonably informed sources, Roddenberry wrote the screenplay

several years after the original “Star Trek” series went off the air, and
involved Holmes and Watson in a story that was dated after Holmes’ retire-
ment, and planned as a pilot for a series starring Leonard Nimoy as Holmes.
But Nimoy didn’t want to do the series, and Roddenberry wasn’t able to get
permission to use Holmes and Watson as characters, so he just changed the
names to Sebastian and Hamilton and turned the project into a non-Sherlock-
ian film.” — “Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press”, by Peter E. Blau, #1, Jan 95

That it is the property of Twentieth Century-Fox Television. If it would pop up anywhere one would expect to find it here first:

but the only thing they currently have listed is the recent Bond flick.


Re: Judæan monster with a Roman letter for its symbol

Gee, it seems a bit more stylized than that. I was hoping your font fondness might cause you to speculate a bit more as to what influences the art department may have been attempting to draw upon.

Roman letter as in not a hieroglyph or a logogram. If you really want my expert font opinion they probably wanted something ragged and simple like it was made by a claw. All the demons are animalistic in form as well as behavior.


Re: If you really want my expert font opinion

I did, do and I am darn grateful for it. I didn’t see the claw angle until you declared its possibility and now it stands out for me like a sore thumb. Thank you.

You can catch it online currently:

Is this movie Spectre on dvd or blu ray?

Nope. Not even on VHS in the states as far as I can tell. There is a guy selling a DVD made from a VHS capture that is probably itself a recording off the air. The screenshots don’t look that much better than the Youtube clip so you might as well just watch that.

The bootleg DVD I have was recorded off of a Fox satellite channel and appears to be a first gen VHS to disc. Very clean and watchable. Picked it up off eBay some time back. Will do until we can get a legit release.

Off on a tangent…kind of amused to see Majel wearing what looks like a Navajo/Diné squash blossom necklace. Doesn’t seem like the usual sort of jewelry for a ‘witch’ in a western European tradition.. :)


Re: Doesn’t seem like the usual sort of jewelry for a ‘witch’ in a western European tradition

Don’t see what your point is one way or the other. John Adair in:

his book “The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths” from the University of Oklahoma Press, indicates it holds no religious or other spiritual significance for the Navajo being a copy of Spanish pomegranate beads and their other emblematic symbols. Now the Navajo did like to make such things out of materials which they regarded has having power in and of itself so I suppose a witch might be interested in that?