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Big deal for Roddenberry

Boldly going where no one has gone before, Mitchell Rubenstein, president and founder of Big Entertainment, has purchased the rights to an as-yet unseen universe and fictitious character created by Gene Roddenberry, the late creator of “Star Trek.”

The acquisition was announced this weekend at the annual Star Trek convention in Pasadena by Majel Barrett, Roddenberry’s widow and an actress in both the current and former incarnations of the “Trek” series.

Barrett, Lwuxana Troi on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Nurse Chapel in the old series, and D.C. Fontana, story editor and scriptwriter for the original “Star Trek” and associate producer on the new series, have inked with Big to develop additional story ideas and characters to supplement the Roddenberry acquisition.

Rubenstein, founder and former CEO of the Sci-Fi cable network, has purchased a number of storylines involving Roddenberry’s unpublished Alexander Grange character for use in Big’s Tekno-Comix comic-book line, in CD-ROM titles being co-developed with IBM, and in paperback novels and potential television and film spinoffs.

Big currently has agreements with Disney/MGM Studios for videos based on comics, as well as a deal to test an electronic comic strip on Bell Atlantic’s digital network in New Jersey.

Big also has deals with Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Spock in the “Trek” series, and with authors Mickey Spillane (“Mike Hammer”), John Jakes (“North and South”), and others, to create characters and story ideas for use in this new line.

Roddenberry and Rubenstein first met when the two worked together on the fledgling Sci-Fi network, which Rubenstein eventually sold to the USA Network. According to Rubenstein, “characters will be able to move from one story to the other” in the comic books, novels and planned screen productions.

The comic books will be published this fall, with the CD-ROM titles to be rolled out in the first quarter of 1995.

The move is reminiscent of the “James Bond” flap two decades ago, when Columbia discovered a pre-existing option on an Ian Fleming story and produced the Peter Sellers/Woody Allen comedy “Casino Royale.” The rights to the “Bond” series were and are owned by MGM/UA. Similarly, in 1983, Warner Bros. produced another Fleming story that slipped through MGM’s net, the 1983 Sean Connery vehicle “Never Say Never Again.”

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