In 1972, Gene Roddenberry, already famous for creating Star Trek, set out to make his next big science fiction TV show. Roddenberry’s Genesis II follows NASA scientist Dylan Hunt, who goes to sleep in an experiment and awakes in the year 2133 in a post-apocalyptic world fractured into various competing civilizations.
One of these civilizations, the Tyranians, live in the futuristic city of Tyrania. And Tyrania might look a little familiar to some of you:
That’s right, Roddenberry filmed part of the Genesis II pilot episode at the University of California, Riverside, in 1972.
The series didn’t get picked up by CBS, so the pilot episode is all we have. But it still offers a fun look back in time at UCR nearly 50 years ago. To share this time capsule with the UCR community, I collected some of the best UCR scenes from 1972 (and revisited the filming locations in 2019).
Some of the scenes show how much has changed at UC Riverside during the past 50 years. For example, here’s an early scene of Dylan Hunt (played by Alex Cord) and the Tyranian Lyra-a (Mariette Hartley) riding horses into Tyrania:
The building at the end of the clip is Pierce Hall, and the outside of Pierce hasn’t changed much in 50 years (though the inside is currently undergoing a massive renovation). Here’s a comparison of Pierce in 1972 and 2019:
But that grassy and tree-studded lawn at the beginning of the clip is long gone, now replaced by the Bourns College of Engineering. Here’s my version of the same panning shot (minus the horses) in 2019:
Still lots of trees, but now Bourns Hall and the rest of the engineering complex fills what was once a grassy lawn.
Tomás Rivera Library appears in many scenes in Roddenberry’s show. In a neat twist of fate, Rivera Library now houses the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy, one of the world’s largest collections of science fiction (including many works by Roddenberry himself!).
Here are Hunt and Lyra-a walking along the arch-lined covered walkway outside the library:
And here’s the same view in 2019, virtually unchanged (though now a popular selfie spot for graduation photos):
Rivera’s arches and thin windows are unmistakable:
Here’s a comparison of the end of the scene in 1972 and 2019:
Another shot from later in the film, showing pandemonium on the grass outside the Library:
Some of the most beautiful scenes in Genesis II take advantage of the picturesque forest of arches beneath Olmsted Hall. Here are Hunt and Lyra-a passing beneath Olmsted on horseback in 1972:
And here’s the beginning of the scene in 1972 and 2019:
The tree is older but still instantly recognizable. However, most of the waffle-like vaults in the ceiling are now covered up, and the arches look thicker at their bases, changes courtesy of retrofitting for earthquake safety.
Up one floor in Olmsted, the camera takes in a beautiful panning shot of the Rivera arches and the Bell Tower in 1972:
Here’s a comparison of the shot in 1972 and 2019:
Speaking of the Bell Tower, here’s Hunt walking around its base:
And another comparison with a 2019 shot:
Notice the thicker walls on today’s Bell Tower? More seismic retrofitting.
Here, our hero pulls out an electronic gadget that must have looked pretty cutting edge in 1972…
…and narrowly misses detection by a sharply dressed Tyranian:
Later on, outside of Pierce Hall, he’s not so lucky:
Here’s a clip that makes great use of the circular cutouts in the arches outside of the University Theater:
Fun fact, the tall fellow is Ted Cassidy, best known for playing Lurch on The Addams Family. I just had to take a photo of the wall at the University Theater where Lurch once crouched:
Back at the bell tower, here’s a comparison between the clip at the top of this post, and the same view in 2019:
It’s stunning how verdant the UCR campus has become over the last 50 years.
I’ll conclude with four clips from the end of Genesis II showing freed Tyranian slaves running from Pierce across the green area now occupied by Bourns College of Engineering:
Just think—my research lab occupies land once trodden by freed Tyranian slaves!
If you’d like to watch Genesis II, it’s available for purchase on DVD and all the usual video streaming services. I can’t honestly recommend it for the plot. But it’s worth a watch for the futuristic city of Tyrania, which is still a beautiful place to live and work, nearly 50 years later.