Designing TekWorld, Part 3

Designing TekWorld, Part 3

Designing TekWorld, Part 3

Thanks to the Marvel Comics version of TekWar, William Shatner was able to shift the premise's setting from Star Trek's era to about 50 years from now, thus making it more likely that the concept would be palatable for a television budget.

Tek_war2    From there, Shatner and his company, Lemli, was approached by a variety of studios interested in producing a TV version, but he finally optoed for Atlantis Films and together they struck a deal with Universal. "We went together to three or four people who were bidding on it," he says. "We ended up in a strange position of having more than one person who wanted to do the project, which was wonderful. It was the first time that's ever happened to me in a lifetime of striving."

   The downside, he points out, is that his name was inextricably attached to the project. "'How would it be received?" he asks rhetorically. "If it's a fialure, it's awful because my name is right there. In fact, they advertised it as William Shatner's TekWar. My God, the responsibility! But we chose Universal to do it and I'm proud of the final product. And I present it to you with no qualifications whatsoever. Here is TekWar. Greg Evigan and Universal and myself and that wonderful crew in Canada present to you a two-hour, wonderful romp."

   That romp began with Atlantis co-owner Seaton McClean walked thorugh a bookstore and saw a copy of Shatner's TekWar novel. Coincidentally enough, the author/actor was filming an episode of Atlantis' Rad Bradbury Theater. A deal was struck and one of the first people hired was Stephen Roloff, a veteran of Canadian television who had an extensive relationship with Atlantis. Upon being hired, Roloff was told to "dream."

   "I was just supposed to sit around and think about how we would actually try to create the future for tlevision on a television budget with thoese resrictions, knowing that we wouldn't be financed like Star Trek, and to put together a pitch book," Roloff relates with a smile. "So, I did that over a period of a few months and put together a pitch document which included a series of images and a kind of written description of our world. That went out and, after a little bit of wheeling and dealing, they struck a deal with Universal."

TNG    Universal, for its part, had been eyeing Paramount's success with the syndicated Star Trek: The Next Generation and desperately wanted a piece of the marketplace. To this end, the studio elected to produce the Universal Action Pack, a series of two-hour movies which would essentially serve as potential series' pilots. and a highlight, naturally, would be TekWar.

   "I was at NBC when Paramount originally talked to the network about doing another Star Trek and no one would step up to the plate with a significant offer," explains Dan Filie, who was the Universal executive overseeing the Action Pack. "They offered six episodes or 13, but they wouldn't offer the full year commitment. Paramount decided to go it alone. If you have a success in first run, as they certainly proved, and you control the commercial inventory, you can afford to put a very well produced, very expensive show on the air and still make money. Whereas the same show on a network would be limited to a network license fee and you could lose money. We lost a lot of sleep about it, trying to figure out what we could do."

Action Pack    Using Star Trek: The Next Generation as a model, Universal gave the green light to TekWar prior to the debut of Paramount's second Star Trek spin-off, Deep Space Nine.

   "It was just our feeling that in the marketplace, the stations would have a confidence level of putting something on in the scence fiction arena," Filie notes. "William Shatner is certainly one of the major figures in science fiction culture. We knew we could get people to watch and we felt we could make a good show. You can't ask for more than that. The frustration is when you make something you really believe in and nobody shows up. But we felt we would be talking to the same viewers who loved Star Trek."

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