An Alternate Rise of the Blockbuster

I guess I can take a hint, so long as it doesn't involve dating. Is it a superhero project? A lot of the TNG people had superpowers anyway.
 
Maybe it's an earlier Power Rangers? XD

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also, i have an idea: How about using an earlier transformers film to popularize CGI instead of JP? of course, such a film would be like JP and thus involve some Stop Motion, suitmation and Animatronics as well as the CGI
 
Well, I remember that American companies were trying to import Japanese Super Sentai shows since at least the 1980s.
 
Shit, I still need to update this. I've written out the next update on paper but I haven't typed it yet.

Sorry, it's been a long week.
 
Update #17 -- Gene Roddenberry's final television show.

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Following the aborted production of a third Star Trek film, Gene Roddenberry entered a period of semi-retirement in which he worked on no film or television for years. He did still keep busy in the world of Star Trek, making appearances at conventions and writing novels for the Pocket Books series (which altogether released 56 titles, of which Roddenberry wrote three). Roddenberry’s novels were looked forward to by fans as the closest thing Star Trek had to an “official” post-movie continuation, and included a great deal of detail on Earth in the Star Trek universe and its utopian civilisation. The first book (released 1983) was a slightly altered adaptation of the would-be Star Trek III script. The second (1984) was an original story involving the Enterprise crew going back in time to save President Kennedy’s life. The third (1985) was a novel adaptation of Roddenberry’s first ever idea for a Star Trek movie, The God Thing.

Nobody is sure why Roddenberry then chose to resurrect his old television career at age 65 – restlessness, feeling slighted by Eddie Murphy’s production of Space Quest, or something else. But in 1986, Gene Roddenberry first began to consider reviving his other great sci-fi television idea – one that had been adapted into three different television-movie pilots in the 1970s, each of which had failed to get picked up. The first of these, made 1973, was titled Genesis II; the second, made 1974, was called Planet Earth; the third, made in 1975 without Roddenberry’s involvement, was named Strange New World.

In each case, the basic premise was similar: Dylan Hunt, an astronaut from the not-too-distant future, awakens from 150 years of cryonic suspension to find that a nuclear war has occurred while he was asleep and that civilization has collapsed. Humanity now exists as a patchwork of wildly-varying nations and tribes across the globe: some advanced and some primitive, some friendly and some hostile, some genetically normal and some composed of mutants. Dylan falls in with a group called “PAX”, who seek to preserve any artifacts and records of pre-war civilization and foster understanding among the nations and tribes: their ultimate goal is to rebuild civilisation, using the best of the past as their foundation. While PAX’s work is difficult and dangerous, at its core it is a very idealistic organisation as its agents truly believe they are building a better world.

This time, the show would simply be titled PAX. Roddenberry wrote the pilot script himself – a single episode titled “Resurrection”, 45 minutes without advertisements – as well as the first draft of a series bible. “Resurrection” was a little different to the three previous pilots in story and structure. Rather than being revived by PAX, Dylan is first brought out of cryonic suspension by a brutal and hostile kritarchic nation-state called the Zornians who put him on trial as a representative of the past civilisation that destroyed everything. Dylan is found guilty and set to be executed before a team of PAX agents – who recognise what a valuable resource he would be on the past – rescue him. The introduction to PAX’s headquarters (located in the small, peaceful but well-fortified nation of Arcadia), and Dylan officially joining the team which rescued him, only happens in the last five minutes.

The series bible, as well as proposing several possible storylines for future episodes, went into more detail on the histories of the main characters. Dylan’s team would be led by Luisa Hernandez, whose personality was clearly modelled on Vasquez from James Cameron’s new film Aliens – 33 years old and tough but attractive, Luisa was rescued by PAX from the anarchic hellhole of Central America as a pregnant traumatised 17-year-old and has since become a true believer in PAX’s mission. Also serving under Luisa’s direct command would be the stoic security officer Frank Torres, and the eccentric scientist George Lagrange (named for the late quadriplegic Star Trek fan George La Forge). Luisa in turn would answer to the director and commander of PAX, Julien Rousseau, envisioned by Roddenberry as a “handsome charismatic Frenchman”. Finally, rounding out the cast was Luisa’s 16-year-old daughter Leslie Hernandez, a young genius and aspiring PAX agent. (Roddenberry considered making Leslie a boy named Wesley – his own middle name – but decided that the “boy teen genius” trope had been over-used, particularly as Adama’s Ark, cancelled only three years previously, had featured it with recurring character Doctor Zee.)

PAX was rejected by ABC, NBC and CBS when Roddenberry pitched the show to each of them in late 1986; either because they’d made the previous pilots and had no wish to pick it up again, or because they didn’t see any kind of future for science fiction on television. But then, Roddenberry got a break: PAX got a very favourable reception from Barry Diller, president of the newly-formed Fox network. As the underdogs against the Big Three networks and thus far underperforming in ratings, Fox needed something bold and risky to get them noticed by the public. PAX could be that something.

Diller had worked with Roddenberry before, having been at Paramount at the time the Star Trek movies were being made, and so had an idea of what might be expected from the man. Fox offered to produce the pilot “Resurrection” only and decide whether to pursue a full series from there; Roddenberry agreed. Additionally, Diller assigned another man to work with Roddenberry as another executive producer, with the idea that any full series would have him as co-showrunner. The man’s name was Harve Bennett.

Bennett had also worked at Paramount before moving with Diller to Fox; he had gained a reputation for making quality, cost-effective science fiction with his work on The Six Million Dollar Man. He was also a real creative talent and a gifted writer, but his sensibilities and style clashed with Roddenberry’s on many occasions.

Most roles were cast through an open audition process. Many actors were seen for the central role of Dylan Hunt, including Jonathan Frakes and Jeffrey Combs, but the final choice was actor Billy Campbell. Casting for Luisa and Leslie did not call specifically for Hispanic actress; the role of Luisa went to Suzie Plakson, while Leslie would be played by Tasia Valenza (interestingly, the two actresses were actually only nine years apart in age). Tony Todd was cast as Frank Torres. The role of George Lagrange would, after tough competition from John de Lancie, ultimately go to Brent Spiner. (De Lancie was given a featured guest role in the pilot as the Zornian judge.)

The part of Julien Rousseau was not auditioned at first: Roddenberry and Bennett initially approached French star Christophe Lambert, who had come to America seeking international fame. Lambert had taken the part at first; however, after one day of shooting he changed his mind and pulled out. When questioned afterwards, Lambert would cite being unused to the rigours of television production as a film actor and not being fluent in English at the time as his reasons for quitting.

The shooting schedule was readjusted to push Rousseau’s two scenes to the end, and auditions for the part began fast. Soon, Bennett had an unexpected favourite: Rene Auberjonois, formerly of the sitcom Benson. Roddenberry did not agree, arguing that regardless of how good Auberjonois’ accent was he was definitely not “handsome”; Bennett argued back that this was preferable, so that Rousseau did not overshadow lead character Dylan. The suits at Fox saw things Bennett’s way, Roddenberry capitulated, and Auberjonois was cast.

The pilot was completed in early March 1987; Fox loved it, and ordered another 12 episodes to be made for a 13-episode run beginning that September (with the possibility of a second half to the season to air in early 1988). A new recurring guest character was introduced as well: William Lester, the Keeper of Records at PAX HQ. Lester was played by Tim Russ, who had initially auditioned for the role of George Lagrange; Lester turned out to be a very different character to Lagrange, being less excitable and more of a shy academic type.

PAX premiered in September with much fanfare within science-fiction fandom, but also with quite a bit of interest from the general public: Fox’s publicity for the show had emphasised “from the creator of Star Trek”, which had been climbing in popularity since Space Quest was released the previous year. After an initially elevated ratings count, viewing figures steadily fell over the first five episodes and levelled off at an average of 4.9 million – while this trailed far behind its competitors, it was nevertheless the highest-rated show on Fox. (Ratings were also hampered by Fox’s broadcasting footprint covering less of the country than the other three.) Critical reception was fairly positive, but with several common complaints: the storytelling was too tame and didn’t fulfill the potential of a post-apocalyptic setting, the main characters were too flat and flawless, and Leslie Hernandez saved the day with her youthful genius far too often (though the character remained popular, especially among teenage male viewers). Fox ordered another nine episodes to be produced for early 1988, making a 22-episode season altogether. The newer episodes featured the first appearance of recurring guest character Primus Morgan, one of the triumvirate who governed Arcadia, played by Roddenberry’s wife (and former Star Trek cast member) Majel Barrett-Roddenberry.

Fox renewed PAX for a second season; however, the Writers’ Strike of 1988 ended up putting any production of a new season on hiatus. Fox filled the time gap in fall 1988 by repeating the first season, with two episodes weekly for 11 weeks. In the end, only two new episodes of PAX aired in late 1988: the two-part season premiere, broadcast early December.

The premiere introduced a new main character, Drak. Harve Bennett was inspired to create Drak after running into Jonathan Frakes again during the course of the strike and being charmed by him, as well as impressed by his new beard. Drak was a warrior super-human who saw his tribe decimated and scattered, and so fell in with PAX and became a recurring guest character. Like Dylan, Drak was an outsider learning to assimilate into the new society – but while Dylan provided a link to the past, Drak was a link to the present: he could act as a guide for areas where PAX’s existing intelligence was thin or non-existent. He was also able to create conflict through challenging the PAX consensus of opinion, even if he would mostly be shown to be wrong.

Repeating the first season with Fox’s new enlarged network footprint made the second season premiere quite an anticipated and ultimately popular viewing event. The rest of the season began production; as the front half had been severely shortened, the back half was lengthened to fifteen new episodes altogether. Over the course of the second season, viewing figures slowly but steadily began to climb. PAX was renewed for a full third season, and Jonathan Frakes was upgraded to main cast member status.

However, Gene Roddenberry’s failing health meant he could no longer continue his showrunning duties. In mid-1989, Roddenberry stepped down and left Bennett as sole executive producer (though he remained a consulting producer on the show until his death in 1991). Bennett and Roddenberry had a great deal of mutual respect, and Roddenberry was sure PAX would be safe in Bennett’s hands.

Of course, he was right.



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Notes: Of course Star Trek: The Next Generation was never going to happen in TTL, but PAX as a series covers much of the same ground. It's never going to be a phenomenon on the same level as TNG, though, as it doesn't have the history of a 20-year-old franchise behind it.

Roddenberry's Star Trek books would have more of the sort of backstory he came up with for Star Trek: The Motion Picture's novelisation in OTL, about how most humans in Starfleet are throwbacks to Earth's bygone ages in contrast to the "New Humans" who live in the Terran utopia. The "let's save President Kennedy" story was one that Roddenberry repeatedly pitched for a Star Trek movie in place of Star Treks II, III, IV and V. And the thing about The God Thing is that, as far as I can tell, it ends with a couple of main characters being killed by the Jesus-probe.

The Genesis II / Planet Earth / Strange New World story is one that's fascinated me since I read about it, though I haven't seen the pilots themselves. If it sounds familiar to you, it's because this story actually forms the basis of the TV show Andromeda (which pretty much took the premise of the series and put it IN SPACE). You may also note that PAX is a concept that's probably much cheaper than Star Trek: there's no space shots, for one thing, and you can get away with having the hostile natives look human because they actually are human.

If you want to know what the Zornian civilisation looks like, check out the post-apocalyptic courtroom in "Encounter at Farpoint". Hey, Roddenberry wrote both, so I feel perfectly justified. By the way, a kritarchy is a society ruled by judges.

In OTL, TNG character Tasha Yar (originally named Macha Hernandez) was originally a blatant rip-off of Vasquez as well, Geordi La Forge was also named after George La Forge, and Jean-Luc Picard was originally conceived as a "dashing Frenchman" named Julien Picard. Wesley Crusher was also almost Leslie Crusher -- in TTL, because of Doctor Zee on Adama's Ark (which, if you remember, is an alternate Battlestar Galactica), they go the other way.

Gene Roddenberry and Harve Bennett have a much better relationship in TTL, mostly because they're working together on an equal footing. In OTL, Bennett basically supplanted Roddenberry in production of the Star Trek movies and Roddenberry resented him for it.

Billy Campbell (whom you may recognise, among other things, as Jordan Collier in The 4400) auditioned for Riker in OTL and eventually guest-starred in the fucking awful episode "The Outrageous Okona". Suzie Plakson (who really doesn't look Hispanic, but less obviously so when she had brown hair) guest starred a few times on TNG as Doctor Selar and Worf's girlfriend K'Ehlyr. Tasia Valenza was a guest star in the season 1 episode "Coming of Age" as a Vulcan teen.

The story of Christopher Lambert quitting after one day was inspired by Genevieve Bujold's similarly brief career as Captain Janeway. However, Lambert has a better excuse as he didn't speak much English at the time, and he'd have to learn most of his lines phonetically. You can do it on a movie (like he did on Highlander); you can't really do it on a TV show. Aside from Rene Auberjonois being awesome, he's also a voice actor and I presume he can do a good French accent (he doesn't have to actually speak French, of course).

PAX's ratings are about 800,000 less than the OTL figures for Fox's top-rated show at the time, 21 Jump Street. In TTL, there is no 21 Jump Street. For all that implies...

Drak is in much the same mould as Worf, Teal'c, Tyr Anasazi, Ronon Dex, etc. Honestly, Jonathan Frakes is a giant bearded man -- it's a little surprising he never really played anyone like this.

The next update will be on The Star Wars again.
 
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Also who directed Batman 2 you never stated.
Yeah, when I deliberately skate over a detail like that it's usually because I have no fucking idea what to put in its place but don't intend to delay the update any further simply because of that one fairly-unimportant detail.

Can you suggest anybody? Based on the description I give of Batman 2, I mean? (I know who's directing Batman 3, though.)
 
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Yeah, when I deliberately skate over a detail like that it's usually because I have no fucking idea what to out in its place but don't intend to delay the update any further simply because of that one fairly-unimportant detail.

Can you suggest anybody? Based on the description I give of Batman 2, I mean? (I know who's directing Batman 3, though.)
can i get your opinion on my idea of replacing JP with TF?
 
can i get your opinion on my idea of replacing JP with TF?
Hmm, I don't know... I don't really think a big-budget CGI extravaganza Transformers is really possible until the 2000s, when the nostalgia effect kicks in for all the '80s kids. While Jurassic Park was a really popular novel.
 
Hmm, I don't know... I don't really think a big-budget CGI extravaganza Transformers is really possible until the 2000s, when the nostalgia effect kicks in for all the '80s kids. While Jurassic Park was a really popular novel.
true. on the other hand, the origins of the JP movie are, IIRC, very easy to be butterflied away. IMO, CGI should be popularised by a different movie in this TL. maybe Green Lantern or Ironman?
 
Yeah, when I deliberately skate over a detail like that it's usually because I have no fucking idea what to put in its place but don't intend to delay the update any further simply because of that one fairly-unimportant detail.

Can you suggest anybody? Based on the description I give of Batman 2, I mean? (I know who's directing Batman 3, though.)
Maybe Ridley's younger brother Tony? It's kind of got that action movie and romantic comedy style he is known for. Also I think that would be cool considering the recent development of his death. An earlier more high profile career that continues for a long time. I know you mentioned him getting to make Interview With A Vampire earlier.
 
Nice update!

An idea I had - why not create a version of the Expendables in TTL? You mentioned that the action genre had been somewhat sidelined by the superhero films - a movie that featured Arnie, Willis, Stallone, Norris, and the like in thier prime could well be the attempt to break into the mainstream.

Thoughts?
 
Nice update!

An idea I had - why not create a version of the Expendables in TTL? You mentioned that the action genre had been somewhat sidelined by the superhero films - a movie that featured Arnie, Willis, Stallone, Norris, and the like in thier prime could well be the attempt to break into the mainstream.

Thoughts?
I do like that idea. Include some of the later action stars we know IOTL as supporting cast as well you could use some pro-wrestlers and other athletes much the same as OTL Expendables.
 
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