The Questor Tapes (1974) (DVD review).

October 22, 2014 | By | Reply More

‘The Questor Tapes’ was one of four pilots that Gene Roddenberry instigated after the original ‘Star Trek’, failing to get a series from any of them. If anything, I’m surprised that it took so long for this particular TV movie to get on DVD in general release. It has been available as a limited release expensive edition in the USA for some while now.


Although people have cited Questor as being the template for the Star Trek: The Next Generation’ character Data, I doubt if the latter was even a gleam in Roddenberry’s eye at the time and just wanted to make a TV pilot set in modern day. As antagonist Darrow points out towards the end of the movie, the presence of androids like Questor explains why Man hasn’t killed himself yet. Hardly something you could attribute to Commander Data who just wanted to be human. Questor might have lacked the emotional aspect of his original tapes but he certainly didn’t want to become human, just understand them better.

‘Project Questor’ is the android creation project of Dr. Emil Vaslovik (actor Lew Ayres) but has gone missing for three years and so the team decide to complete his work. The project leader, Geoff Darrow (actor John Vernon), against the objections of its chief engineer, Dr. Jerry Robinson (actor Mike Farrell), decides to program the android with their own program rather than the one Vaslovik left but it doesn’t work. They have no choice but to use the damaged Vaslovik program that they couldn’t decipher but that doesn’t turn on the android neither. Back in 1974, no one had thought how easy it would have been to duplicate a program and not tamper with the original.


Late at night, in the deserted lab, the android Questor awakens and using the materials there constructs his human likeness and resembles the actor Robert Foxworth and seeks to find out what has been going on. A visit to the Vaslovik Archive and a chat with a librarian has Questor draw the conclusion that he will need someone to help him achieve his aim of finding Vaslovik and elects Robinson to help him get to London. I have to confess to the naivety back then that anyone would believe or let anyone travel on an aircraft saying their passports were in their luggage and sort it out at the destination. Mind you, our customs people detains them, not for lack of passports but because of a message from America The escape is easy if you can open a metal door from its hinges and Questor gets them to the house of Lady Helena Trimble (actress Dana Wynter) where they discover an advanced technological device that snoops across the world. Robinson fearing that this would be dangerous in the wrong hands calls Darrow. Questor, meanwhile, has gone to a local park and when Robinson catches up, explains that without Vaslovik and purpose, the fusion reactor that powers him will detonate in three days and needs to get away from people to save lives. Robinson realising his mistake in calling Darrow knows that they have to escape but runs into the British army and Questor is shot. Returned to America, Robinson convinces Darrow that he will only repair Questor under certain conditions although will put a location detector in the android’s body. From here, you’ll have to buy the DVD.

The reasons for Questor’s creation by humans is neatly explained because of certain changes to the atmosphere but is contradictory to his reminder to Jerry Robinson that people know that androids can now be constructed seems a bit superfluous considering he was put together by humans even if they don’t understand the parts construction. It’s not like they’re going to turn around and make another one because there were no spare parts.

Robert Foxworth does a credible performance as he adjusts to copying humans, especially as a lot of the time he doesn’t blink. Mike Farrell comes across as the dependable sort, even if he has mixed loyalties from time to time and you can see much of this a few years later down the line in a certain ‘M*A*S*H’ sit-com. Oh, some of the incidental music was later used that year in ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’.

Watching this TV movie again after the last TV release back in the early 80s, ‘The Questor Tapes’ still holds up pretty well and considering the number of original Roddenberry properties that have sprung up since his death, I’m still amazed no one has thought to try this one again. After all, the formula of two people keeping mankind from self-harm would still work, especially combined with modern technology. Questor could even change his appearance from time to time in case he is recognised.

GF Willmetts

October 2014

(region 2 DVD: pub: OEG Classic Movies OONF453. 100 minute film with one extra. Price: about £ 8.50 (UK) if you know where to look)

cast: Robert Foxworth, Mike Farrell, John Vernon and Lew Ayres

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Category: Films, Scifi


About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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