Fox has not had a lot of ratings luck when it comes to science-fiction. Just look at “Firefly” or “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” or most recently “Dollhouse.” Look back further and you’ll find “Alien Nation,” “The Lone Gunmen,” and a show many people won’t remember “Harsh Realm.”
But Fox won’t give up on the genre. It already has ordered a pilot for an Americanized version of the “Doctor Who” spinoff “Torchwood.” And now there’s a chance it could have a Gene Roddenberry project under its banner: the revival of “The Questor Tapes.”
It’s not clear whether the network has actually expressed an interest in the concept, based on a failed 1973 series pilot from the Star Trek creator. But with Imagine Entertainment — the production shingle of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer — now in control of “Questor Tapes,” its first-look deal with Fox might come in handy.
“The way it’s happening right now is that they’re working on a pilot story to take to Fox to see if they’re interested in it,” Eugene W. Roddenberry Jr., son of the late “Star Trek” creator, told Airlock Alpha earlier this week. Roddenberry licensed the rights to Imagine earlier this month, which opened the door for “Angel” producer Tim Minear to help develop a concept surrounding an android trying to find his place in society.
Although the elder Roddenberry has been quoted in the past as calling “Questor” the series that could’ve been bigger than “Star Trek,” the younger Roddenberry knows that doing a word-for-word remake in 2010 just wouldn’t work.
“A part of me wanted it to be exactly the same as it was,” Roddenberry said. “But at the same time, there’s been 40 years of television programming, and you have to ask if the same thing would work today. How do you make something fresh and new without fucking it up?”
Roddenberry and his business partner Trevor Roth would have executive producer credits for anything that might come up as part of the “Questor” concept, but their actual input will be very limited. To have any more creative control would mean a far more significant investment, and while Roddenberry is happy to at least have a seat at the table offered by Imagine, he’s fine letting the tried and true veterans make “Questor” work, as long as it stays with the Roddenberry philosophy.
“These are people who want to make a good show,” Roddenberry said. “They know what Roddenberry is about and want to appeal to that. But it is extremely gut-wrenching. This has to work out well, because I don’t want to be known as ‘Roddenberry’s son, the guy who destroyed ‘Questor.””
Whether such a project would see the light of day is still a long ways off. Minear continues to develop a concept for the series, and Imagine is working to line up possible suitors. While Fox would have to be the first stop for a pitch, it seems all parties are interested in exploring other platforms as well, including cable.
No matter what happens to “Questor,” it might not be the last thing Roddenberry pulls out of his father’s vault. There are still other projects — some realized, some fans may have never heard of — that could be brought to 21st century standards. But choosing which ones to pursue and which ones aren’t is hard, because Roddenberry wants to find projects from the mind of his father that fans would find fascinating.
“Writers have tons of things they’ve written that never saw the light of day, and the same was true with my father,” Roddenberry said. “We might have one or two things out there right now that are separate from ‘Questor,’ but the last thing I want to do is oversaturate the market with Roddenberry. We tried to do that in the past, and it didn’t work out very well. We can’t go in that same direction again.”
It’s been more than a year since Roddenberry’s mother, actress and producer Majel Barrett, passed away, and he is now packing up the Beverly Hills house that has been his home since 1987 following a sale to an undisclosed buyer at the end of last year. With both of his parents gone, the house was just too big for him, and it was time to move forward.
However, clearing things out of the house has been a monumental task.
“I have my parents in my memory and in my heart, but you have to move on with your life,” Roddenberry said. “It’s still very emotionally hard, and there is 70 years of stuff to go through. But I have found a lot of treasures that I am going to keep for myself.”
And the things he doesn’t keep are being prepped for a memorabilia auction planned for June in Las Vegas. Some of the lots include things that were personally connected to Gene Roddenberry, and other items fans might recognize instantly. From the desk he spent so much time at in the house, to the movie projector he tugged around from convention to convention to show film reels of “Star Trek” bloopers and other fun moments.
“I’m not going to get rid of everything, but not everything can fit into my new place,” Roddenberry said. “There’s enough stuff here to fill up 20 homes. The only other option would be to just throw it away, and I can’t bring myself to do it.”
If you can’t wait for details to emerge from the Las Vegas auction, fans can take part in a sort of mini-auction of items found around the Roddenberry home, including some old publicity photos, golf clubs, a Paramount photo ID for Roddenberry, and even one of his clip-on ties. The auction, taking place at Roddenberry’s Facebook page, can be found by clicking here.
Proceeds from the Facebook auction will go to Haitian Hero, the fundraising group put together by “Heroes” star Jimmy Jean-Louis to help earthquake victims in Haiti.
Better hurry … we’ve made some bids, including one for a dress worn by Majel Barrett in an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” so get bidding before the auction ends on Friday.