In the 1974 made-for-TV movie and series pilot “The Questor Tapes“, freshly minted android Questor has three days to locate his creator, Dr. Vaslovik. Failure is not an option. Short on time and information, Questor basically kidnaps Dr. Vaslovik’s mentee, engineer Dr. Jerry Robinson. The two bond, and Jerry helps Questor find his creator and his humanity.
The TV series never materialized. A shame, really. It would have provided a framework set in modern times to tackle multiple topics and issues. Questor actor Robert Foxworth and Mike Farrell as Jerry Robinson played off of each other well. Both actors wanted the roles, and Farrell was a particularly good fit for Robinson.
Corporal Owens: I don’t want to go back to the fighting.
BJ: Sounds serious. You may be coming down with mental health.”
— B. J. Hunnicutt, M*A*S*H
The basic premise wasn’t new. TV Tropes catalogues a carousel of characters with what it calls Pinocchio Syndrome. Science fiction writers love Pinocchio, especially when they write about artificial beings. Osamu Tezuka’s Mighty Atom aka Astro Boy was one of the first. Others followed in writing, TV, and in gaming.
In Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode 507, “I Accuse My Parents” Tom Servo wants to be real. His first step? Paint himself pink.
“Tom: I wanna experience a world of emotions and feelings.
Crow: You’ll get beat up cuz you’re a freak”
From the Halo gaming trilogy, artificial intelligence Cortana expresses her frustration in Halo 3 “A collection of lies; that’s all I am! Stolen thoughts and memories!” In Bethesda’s Fallout 4, Curie, a Miss Nanny robot turned medical lab assistant turned synthetic human, is the gaming poster child for the trope.
They are joined by Isaac Asimov’s Andrew in “The Bicentennial Man”, Minerva in Robert A. Heinlein’s “Time Enough for Love”, David in Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence”, and Sonny in “I, Robot.”
Star Trek’s synthetic life form Commander Data is the epitome, and viewers of The Questor Tapes will experience Data deja vu. The casino scene appears in Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Royale.” Data also channels his inner Questor with Tasha Yar in “The Naked Now.”
Other Star Trek ties? Walter Koenig has a tiny cameo, and Majel Barrett is a scientist in opening sequences.
Other Tids and Bits: The music for The Questor Tapes was scored by musician and composer Gil Mellé. His work in “The Andromeda Strain” garnered a Golden Globe nomination. He also did the theme for Kolchak: The Night Stalker. The Questor Tapes was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. It lost to Young Frankenstein.
Nah, nope. Just watch the movie. It is very Roddenberry. No reboot, no remake. Let it Rest In Peace. Then go stream all three seasons of HUM∀NS and, for good measure, watch Harlan Ellison’s The Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand.” Lastly, remember the words of Questor/The Great Bird of the Galaxy:
It has never been what man is, but what he has the potential of becoming.