The Questor Tapes

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The Questor Tapes
Questortapes.jpg
Title card
Genre Sci-fi
Created by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Richard Colla
Produced by Howie Horwitz
Jeffrey M. Hayes (executive)
Gene Roddenberry
(executive)
Written by Gene Roddenberry
Gene L. Coon
Starring Robert Foxworth
Mike Farrell
John Vernon
Lew Ayres
James Shigeta
Robert Douglas
Music by Gil Mellé
Editing by J. Terry Williams
Country United States
Language English
Original channel NBC
Release date January 23, 1974
Running time 92 minutes

The Questor Tapes is a 1974 television movie about an android (portrayed by Robert Foxworth) with incomplete memory tapes who is searching for his creator and his purpose. Conceived by and executive produced by Gene Roddenberry, the script is credited to Roddenberry and fellow Star Trek alumnus Gene L. Coon.

A novelization, written by D. C. Fontana[1] (another Star Trek alumna), was dedicated to Coon, who died before the program was broadcast.

Cast[edit]

Plot[edit]

Project Questor is the brainchild of the genius Dr. Emil Vaslovik, a Nobel laureate. Vaslovik had developed plans to build a super-human android. A team of the world's foremost experts is able to build the android, even though they do not understand the components with which they are working — they are only able to follow the instructions, and install the parts, left by Vaslovik, who has disappeared. Attempts to decode the programming tape were worse than merely unsuccessful—they also erased approximately half of the tape's contents. They decide to substitute their own programming, over the objections of Jerome "Jerry" Robinson (Mike Farrell), the only team member who had actually worked with Dr. Vaslovik. He is overruled by the head of the project, Geoffrey Darrow (John Vernon). When the android's body has been finished, the new tape is loaded, but with no apparent results. In desperation, Robinson persuades Darrow to allow Vaslovik's tape — what remains of it — to be loaded. Again, the team is disappointed, as there appears to be no response.

However, once left alone, the android comes to life. It adds the various cosmetic touches to a previously featureless outer skin, transforming itself from an "it" to a "him," and he then leaves the laboratory to visit Vaslovik's office and archives; it is there that he first identifies himself as Questor. The android forces Robinson to accompany him in a search for Vaslovik, with Darrow in pursuit of both, following a minuscule datum in his original programming. Questor (who becomes more "human" as the story progresses) only knows that it has something to do with an "aquatic vehicle" — a boat — and that if he does not find Vaslovik before the end of a countdown, the nuclear generator in his abdomen will overload and explode. Vaslovik had programmed this into him to prevent his creation from being misused, and time is running out. Just as Questor deciphers the clues and tells Robinson that he knows where Vaslovik is, he is shot by British soldiers, and returned to the laboratory. Robinson repairs Questor, and Darrow gives him two options: If Robinson puts a homing transmitter inside the android, they will be given a plane to go find Vaslovik, but if Robinson refuses, the android will simply be flown to a safe location where the explosion will not endanger anyone. Robinson implants the beacon, and they jet off to Mount Ararat — the "boat" imperative had referred to Noah's Ark.

Robinson and Questor reach a cave concealed inside Mount Ararat with seconds to spare. Questor's timer is made safe, and he has found Emil Vaslovik (Lew Ayres), who tells Questor and Robinson that he, too, is an android. Questor is the last of a series, going back to "the dawn of this world," left there by "Masters" to serve and protect Mankind. They functioned by a law which Vaslovik quotes to Questor:

"We protect, but we do not interfere. Man must make his own way. We guide him — but always without his knowledge."[2]

Each of the Masters' previous androids had a lifespan of several hundred years, at the end of which each assembled its replacement. The unexpected, rapid advent of nuclear physics and the radioactive fallout from above-ground nuclear testing had damaged Vaslovik. Questor's design corrected these failures, and finally Vaslovik is able to die in peace, after asking Robinson to help Questor learn about humanity. Darrow, having followed the pair, has heard enough to know how important it is that Questor be allowed to fulfill his mission. Unfortunately, he has brought the military with him to destroy the android. The cynical Darrow believes that this is proof that humanity does not deserve Questor's help. However, Questor convinces him otherwise. Deciding to sacrifice his own life for Questor's sake, Darrow takes the transmitter and leaves, telling the military commander that not only Vaslovik had gone insane, but also that the android has escaped, and to send in jet fighters when the beacon signal is picked up. He then takes off in the jet that Questor and Robinson had used, turning on the transmitter as he goes so that they will think that the android is aboard. The plane is destroyed, killing Darrow, and Questor and Robinson begin their mission together.

Production[edit]

The Questor Tapes was a pilot for a television series. In fact, a 13-episode go-ahead was given for the series before the television movie was aired, with both Foxworth and Farrell having signed to reprise their roles. Joining the actors behind the scenes were producers Michael Rhodes and Earl Booth and story editor Larry Alexander. The green-lighted series was slated for Friday nights at 10 p.m. on NBC — the "death slot" where the final season of the original Star Trek had withered.

Conflict between Roddenberry and both Universal and NBC over the content of the proposed series doomed it, most notably ignoring the revelation at the end of the TV movie and eliminating the key character of Jerry Robinson. These changes were too much for Roddenberry, who abandoned the project. No episodes were produced.

The Questor Tapes was one of a series of television movies in which Roddenberry was involved, which also included Genesis II, Planet Earth, and Spectre. All were intended as pilots; none led to a series.

Nominations[edit]

In 1975 The Questor Tapes was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Thematic origins[edit]

The Questor Tapes was Roddenberry's second treatment of the idea of an outside force benevolently aiding human development. In 1968, he co-wrote, with Art Wallace, an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series which also served as a potential spin-off series pilot, "Assignment: Earth." In this story, "Gary Seven" was a human whose ancestors were abducted from Earth around 4000 BC. Returned to Earth in the late Twentieth Century, his mission was to make sure mankind did not destroy itself with nuclear weapons. In the would-be series, he would have carried out other missions to protect mankind.

In The Questor Tapes, Questor's origin is also beyond Earth, and his mission to serve and protect mankind remains the same as Gary Seven's.

Legacy[edit]

Gene Roddenberry's son, Rod, has confirmed that the Questor android was an inspiration for the character of Data, from Roddenberry's later Star Trek: The Next Generation.[3] In a casino scene situated in a London nightclub, Questor successfully detects weighted ("loaded") dice, and their subsequent realignment in his precise, powerful hand was later duplicated by Data in the second season Star Trek: The Next Generation installment "The Royale".[4]

Another Questor/Data inside joke came from a scene in which Questor discussed the human trait of "negotiating" through sexual activity, informing Robinson, "I am fully functional." While there is no such activity in The Questor Tapes, in "The Naked Now," an episode of ST:TNG, Data also comments, to Tasha Yar, "I am fully functional."

Music[edit]

The music for The Questor Tapes was scored by Gil Mellé, who was a jazz musician as well as a saxophonist, composer, and also noted as a painter. (Some of his music for The Questor Tapes later made its way into Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Both properties were developed at, and produced out of, Universal Studios.) Mellé also was known for scoring My Sweet Charlie, That Certain Summer, and Frankenstein: The True Story. His most well-known film score was The Andromeda Strain, whose director, Robert Wise, later directed Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Proposed remake[edit]

Herbert J. Wright, who had a long friendship with Roddenberry, had strong ties to the series that was never made. The two had met when Wright became aware of the movie, fell in love with the story, and wanted to be a part of the series. After some sample submissions, Wright was allowed to join, but he never had the chance, as the series was scrapped after Roddenberry's creative differences with the studio. Wright kept the idea alive, with hope of the series coming to fruition throughout the years.

When the rights finally came back to the Roddenberry family in the early 2000s, Wright secured the rights with the blessing of Roddenberry's family to produce the series. Wright made several promotions for the series in 2003 at conventions. Wright even reserved production locations while working on a first script. The show suffered what was at first a simple setback when Wright fell ill within a year, which delayed the show's development. Wright died in 2005 before he could finally bring the show to life.

In January 2010, Roddenberry Productions announced that it was working with Imagine Television on a pilot for a new version of The Questor Tapes. Rod Roddenberry announced oversight of the production.[5] No further announcement has been made, however.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.fictiondb.com/author/dc-fontana~the-questor-tapes~255494~b.htm
  2. ^ This "law" is analogous to the Prime Directive of Non-Interference in Star Trek, for which Roddenberry, Coon, and Fontana had all written installments.
  3. ^ Jenna Busch (29 January 2010). "Roddenberry's Son Revives the QUESTOR". Newsarama. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  4. ^ Anthony Pascale (21 January 2010). "Gene Roddenberry’s "The Questor Tapes" Being Developed As New TV Series". Trekmovie.com. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  5. ^ http://www.airlockalpha.com/node/7065

External links[edit]