Strange New World (1975)

Hardcore Trekkies will want to seek out this third failed pilot based on Gene Roddenberry’s PAX series, but casual viewers should probably just skip it.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Sci-Fi

Director: Robert Butler

Actors: John Saxon, Kathleen Miller, Keene Curtis

Year: 1975

MPAA Rating: NR

Country: USA

In the early 70s, Gene Roddenberry attempted to launch his first post-Star Trek series with the TV film Genesis II, then again reworked (and recast) the with Planet Earth. Both failed to catch on, and 1975’s Strange New World was the last pilot attempt based on Roddenberry’s idea, but by this time Roddenberry was no longer involved. Third time was not the charm, however, and again it was not picked up as a series.

Hunky John Saxon (Enter the Dragon) stars as Captain Anthony Vico, one of three astronauts who have been in a deep cryogenic freeze in space for 180 years while a devastating meteor shower destroyed most of humanity on Earth as we know it. When he and the other two thaw, they are given instruction to return to Earth to find the surviving humanity.

Strange New World most definitely feels like the pilot episode to a series, as the two-hour “movie” is split right down the middle into two completely separate plots. The first half of the film has our heroes (who also include Keene Curtis as Dr. William Scott, and Kathleen Miller as Dr. Allison Crowley) visiting an idyllic place called Eterna. With people frolicking in their one-piece jumpsuits, doing gymnastics on the groomed lawn, it all seems too perfect. Of course it is. There are no children, and no one looks old… because they harvest from their own clones to stay alive! I could totally see this as an episode of Star Trek, with the questions of morality provoked, and with the skimpily dressed beautiful co-stars (including a saucy Martine Beswick as one of Eterna’s leader who gets to make out with Saxon). Plus, you get to see John Saxon in a barely-there toga the whole time, which hurts no one since he has the early 70s manly man look of Deliverance-era Burt Reynolds. Hot.

The second story completely drops any pretense of being related to the first as, after months and months of driving across the wasteland, the team stumbles across two tribes of hairy and hippie-ish folks who are warring over… animals? Yes! One group wears old and worn U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife khakis, and they are constantly protecting the wild animals (left over long ago from a zoo) from the bad guys, who are poachers. Allison gets captured by the Fish and Wildlife hippies when she is mistaken for a poacher (heck, all she did was release a little goat from a trap!), and Tony and Dr. Scott must rescue her.

Overall, both stories fail to catch fire, and are watchable simply only for the curiosity factor. Blink, and you might miss The Dukes of Hazzard‘s Catherine Bach as one of the lovely Eterna ladies, and Burgess Meredith as a furry Fish and Wildlife hippie. It’s too bad, because the trio of main actors look game enough to make a go of it, especially Kathleen Miller as Allison, who manages to make her character (in the second story at least) more interesting than it is written. But if the decision to pick up a series was based on these two hours alone, I’m not surprised that the idea was axed.


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