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A 1967 ‘Star Trek’ episode inspired Dean Devlin’s ‘The Ark’


There’s a strong personal thread connecting Dean Devlin both to the original “Star Trek” and to his new Syfy series, “The Ark” — his late mother, actress Pilar Seurat, who guest-starred in a 1967 episode of “Star Trek” on NBC.

“She was in the ‘Wolf in the Fold’ episode and she plays a psychic princess [Sybo] on this planet who gets killed by Scotty [James Doohan] when he’s possessed by the soul of Jack the Ripper,” Devlin, 60, told The Post. “She actually came home with the stunt man’s phaser — it was rubber and kind of beat up, it was the phaser they threw all the time — and that’s what started my whole [sci-fi] addiction.”

Devlin (“Independence Day,” “Stargate,” “Leverage”) and co-showrunner Jonathan Glassner also used the “Star Trek” template for “The Ark,” premiering Feb. 1 at 10 p.m. The 12-episode series, set 100 years in the future, revolves around the crew of Ark 1, a ginormous state-of-the-art spaceship dispatched on a five-year mission, with its crew in cryogenic sleeper pods, to colonize a planet and save the people of a ravaged Earth from extinction.

Photo of Pilar Seurat in the 1967 "Star Trek" episode "Wolf in the Fold."
Pilar Seurat in the 1967 “Star Trek” episode, “Wolf in the Fold.”
Paramount Pictures

“On ‘Star Trek,’ they were able to talk about the Vietnam War, about race relations … but they did it in the context of sci-fi, so people who couldn’t have that discussion in real life could suddenly have that discussion [about the series],” Devlin said. “What I love about the concept is that it’s our whole world in a microcosm: we just went through a giant pandemic and life-threatening situation and saw various ways that people reacted to it … and by having these people in this contained space, where every decision is life and death, we can really talk about a lot of things out of context that are difficult to talk about in-context.”

Ryan Adams as Angus Medford in a scene from "The Ark." He's kneeling in front of a pile of topsoil and is putting some of that into a glass jar. He's wearing a green jumpsuit.
Angus Medford (Ryan Adams) on Ark 1.
Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings

In the series premiere, a catastrophic accident four years into Ark 1’s mission kills all of the ship’s senior officers and threatens the lives of everyone on board — thrusting junior officers Garnet (Christie Burke), Bice (Richard Fleeshman) and Lane (Reece Ritchie) into unexpected leadership roles as the damaged ship hurtles toward its destination amidst onboard strife, second-guessing … and murder.

Co-stars include Stacey Reade as brainy super-nerd Alicia Nevins and Ryan Adams as nebbishy recruit Angus Medford (with bad hair and glasses), both of whom figure heavily into the Season 1 plotline.

Image of Lt. Lane (Reece Ritchie) on board the spaceship. He's wearing a white spacesuit and a white space helmet.
Reece Ritchie as Lt. Spencer Lane on board the Ark 1 spaceship.
Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings

“This is really about the triumph of the human spirit … which ultimately overcomes enormous adversity,” Devlin said. “And that’s really the theme of this show: to watch these people who aren’t ready to be leaders, and weren’t supposed to be leaders for a long time, having to rise to the occasion without the mentorship they were promised.”

“The Ark” was shot in Serbia, which was not unfamiliar terrain for Devlin and Glassner.

“We did another show there called ‘The Outpost,’ and like that series, this show was where we had very big ambitions and very little money — so normally what you do it curtail your vision,” Devlin said. “Jonathan and I were loathe to do that, so by going [to Serbia] we were really able to get a lot more on the screen.

“And a couple of other side benefits happened,” he said. “By being there, we could cast [the show] all throughout Europe, people from Germany, Spain, England … it’s much more difficult to do that in the US. The other thing that helped us is that all the actors that we brought in all stayed together in this strange place, so their offscreen life was very similar to their onscreen life and they bonded a lot.”

Photo of "The Ark" creator Dean Devlin. He's smiling broadly and is wearing glasses and a black suit jacket and shirt.
Series creator Dean Devlin.
Getty Images for ABA

And there were other advantages to shooting in Serbia, Devlin said.

“The interesting fact is that, before it was Serbia, when it was part of Yugoslavia, the dictator there, Tito, was a gigantic movie fanatic,” he said. “In fact, he financed several movies in the ’50s and ’60s … and started the premiere film school of Eastern Europe, so the craft level of our crew was unlike any place I’ve ever gone before.”

Stellar production facilities also helped establish the intergalactic ambiance of the Ark 1, Devlin said.

“The ship itself is a character in the show,” he said. “It’s very difficult, because, on the one hand, you want to feel that these people are trapped together on this very dangerous ship, but at the same time … we didn’t want it to become ‘Das Boot,’ to feel claustrophobic.

“So we tried to design some spaces that were very large and some spaces with nature in them to give it another energy … and, as the actors pointed out, this was one of the few times where the sets were built with ceilings so a lot of them really felt like they were on the spaceship.”


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