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Back-burner project blasts off

It all reads like a time travel scenario straight out of Gene Roddenberry’s universe. Six month’s after a visionary’s sci-fi writer’s ashes are sprinkled in space by a commercial rocket, a series based on an unproduced pilot he wrote in 1976 surfaces on TV airwaves on Earth.

Fans of Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” series will certainly enjoy this central irony associated with the new syndicated series “Earth: Final Conflict.” As the story goes, some time after Roddenberry’s death in 1981, his widow, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, was organizing hundreds of boxes of notes and scripts, when she came across the long-forgotten manuscript.

“The whole thing was put on a back burner when the people at Paramount told Gene it was time to do a ‘Star Trek’ movie,” recalls Majel Roddenberry. “Then, when I came across the original script, I thought, God, it was good then, and it’s still good now. So many of the topics he covered are relevant today. I should try and do something with this.”

Roddenberry, who says she enjoys working outside the restrictive parameters of network television, teamed up with Atlantis Films, which has a solid track record with sci-fi series such as “The Outer Limits” and “TekWar,” distributor Tribune Entertainment and executive producer David Kirschner (“An American Tail,” “The Flintstones”) to launch the project. “Earth: Final Conflict” currently has a 22-episode commitment, and is set to premier the week of October 6.

Roddenberry notes that she especially loves the show because it brings space back down to Earth. “Basically, it focuses on many of the themes that ‘Star Trek’ did. It’s less about science and technology than their effects on humanity.”

“Earth: Final Conflict” is set in year 2008, a time when superior aliens known as Companions are offering cures for hunger and diseases to humans. However, the series’ central character, an ex-cop named William Boone — portrayed by Kevin Kilner (“Almost Perfect”) — has reason to believe that there’s something rotten in this brave, new world. Majel Roddenberry, herself, stars in the series as a doctor who joins the resistance force against the aliens.

David Kirschner likens the project to bigscreen journeys such as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Contact,” but with one big twist. “In our show, the gooey aliens will climb in your head and mess with your brain!” he says, “sort of like an intergalactic version of the Trojan horse story.”

Both Roddenberry and Kirschner point out that very little of the original script had to be changed to give it a ’90s polish.

“Gene was always ahead of his time,” says Kirschner. “We’ve been very careful to keep his vision intact. My biggest fear is that he’ll be beamed down to the foot of my bed one night and will ask, ‘You schmuck, what did you do with my work?’ ”

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