TekWar is a North American television series, based on the TekWar novels ghost-written by Ron Goulart from outlines by William Shatner and developed for television by Stephen Roloff. The series follows Jake Cardigan, a former police officer turned private investigator working for Cosmos, a private security firm owned and operated by Walter Bascom.
The series was broadcast in Canada on CTV and in the United States on USA Network and the Sci Fi Channel. The series, which was a co-production between Atlantis Films and Universal Television premiered on January 17, 1994 and ended on February 9, 1996.
Set in the year 2045, the series follows Jake Cardigan, a former police officer who lost his badge after being framed for dealing in tek (an illicit narcotic-like substance) and murdering his fellow officers on a bust. Although he was sentenced to fifteen years in cryo-detainment, Jake is released after four years, three months, and twenty-seven days. Shortly after his release Jake is contacted by Sid Gomez, his former partner.
Sid is now in the private sector, working as an investigator for the large security firm Cosmos. After Sid reveals that it was Cosmos's CEO, Walter Bascom, who arranged to have him released early, Jake agrees to meet him. At the meeting Jake agrees to work for Bascom as a private investigator going after Tek Lords, in return for Bascom's help in clearing his name.
Tekwar began as a series of four television films, largely considered to be the show's first season, which originally aired from January 17, 1994 to May 9, 1994. The show's second season, consisting of 18 hour-long episodes, aired between December 22, 1994 and February 9, 1996.
Development & Production:
TekWar was based on the series of Tek novels written by William Shatner. The initial idea for the novels occurred to Shatner in the 1980s. He said, "In the beginning I planned TekWar as a screenplay for myself to star in. I had this idea of putting T.J. Hooker into a futuristic milieu." But it was not until the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike stalled production on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier that he found time to write. Shatner said "I'd doodle with a paragraph and it would grow into two pages. Then I'd fiddle with the two pages and that would become 20 pages. Eventually the book sort of evolved by itself."
While the novels and the later television series follow the same general storyline, setting the story 200 years in the future almost derailed any film or television adaptation. When Shatner approached networks and studios to pitch the idea of a TekWar project, he was told that it would be too expensive to produce. Marvel Comics eventually approached Shatner with the idea of launching a series of TekWar comic books. William Shatner sold the rights to Marvel for a comic book series under the condition that it be set only 50 years in the future.
Following the first TekWar comic book, Shatner was approached by studios interested in a film. Shatner's own production company, Lemli Productions, took a deal with Atlantis Films. Shortly thereafter, Steven Roloff was hired to develop the series for television. Roloff explained his role by saying "I was just supposed to sit around and think about how we would actually try to create the future for television on a television budget with those restrictions, knowing that we wouldn't be financed like Star Trek, and to put together a pitch book. So, I did that over a period of a few months and put together a pitch document which included a series of images and a kind of written description of our world. That went out and, after a little bit of wheeling and dealing, Atlantis Films struck a deal with Universal."
Shatner began to have second thoughts about the project when both studios insisted that his name be attached for marketing reasons. He thought "How would it be received? If it's a failure, it's awful because my name is right there. In fact, they advertised it as William Shatner's TekWar. My God, the responsibility!" Universal and Atlantis green-lit production on four two-hour TV movies for the show's first season. If they proved successful, an hour-long series would be commissioned to air in both Canada and the United States. Filming took place at Cinevillage Studios in Toronto, Canada and on locations in Toronto including Eaton Centre to Ontario Place.
The four movies were first broadcast in 1994 on CTV in Canada and in syndication in the United States as part of Universal Television's Action Pack. The US broadcasts came 7 – 10 days ahead of those in Canada, on January 17, 1994 and January 25, 1994, respectively. TekWar was a ratings success, with some US stations reporting an increase of 44% compared to the same timeslot in November. This success prompted CTV and Universal to commission eighteen hour-long episodes. While the series continued on CTV in Canada, Universal moved the series to USA Network.
The show's second season premiered on CTV on December 22, 1994 and on USA on January 7, 1995. The season premiered strongly, scoring a 3.4 rating, which at the time was the highest rated premiere in the history of basic cable. As time went viewership declined in both Canada and the United States with the season's fourth episode ("Promises To Keep") only attracting 600-700,000 viewers on CTV. Ratings continued to slide during the season. USA Network canceled the series on June 13, 1995. Due to a simulcast agreement, both CTV and USA Network pulled the series from their respective schedules shortly after airing the season's fourteenth episode ("Forget Me Not") on July 1, 1995, leaving four episodes unaired.
The Sci Fi Channel, a corporate sibling of USA Network, subsequently purchased the rights to rebroadcast the series and began airing the series in late 1995. In early 1996, as the Sci Fi Channel was about to begin broadcasting the four unaired episodes in the United States, CTV announced they would air the remaining episodes of TekWar. The four unaired episodes began airing on CTV and Sci Fi Channel on January 20, 1996 and concluded on CTV on February 9, 1996 and on the Sci Fi Channel on February 10, 1996.
TekWar received mixed average reviews. The Los Angeles Times said of the series: "No one will confuse William Shatner's TekWar with serious science-fiction. With Greg Evigan as a disgraced ex-cop teaming with another ex-cop, who's black, and a female android, it's a lot like 'The Mod Squad Visits Wild Palms'." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gave a negative review: "Keep the action flowing and the gizmos glowing and maybe no one will notice that your plot lacks the credibility of a politician's promise. It almost works for William Shatner, who has produced and directed the first of four telemovies based on his TekWar science-fiction novels."
Entertainment Weekly gave TekWar a grade of "D" saying: "This is basically your average cop show in a post-20th-century setting: Dullbladerunner. In this vision of the future, your house can be invested with enough artificial intelligence to tell you when your wife left to run errands, but society still hasn't found a cure for crime: there are a lot of rotten, poorly-shaven thugs out on those mean streets. Intended to be hard-boiled, the dialogue in TekWar is instead just pitiful. When a policeman tells Jake, 'I play by the rules,' our hero snaps back, 'Then start a band.' Huh?" Matt Roush of USA Today also gave a mixed review:
"TekWar, the first of several futuristic B-thrillers based on William Shatner's genre novels, suggests a cross of Wild Palms with Starsky and Hutch. The gizmos and visual shimmer rarely disguise the fact this is just a gussied-up cop show. TekWar, directed by Shatner, gets the project off to a slick and zippy start, from the moment framed cop Jake Cardigan is revived after four years in cryo-submersion. Since Jake is played by plastic hunk Greg Evigan, awake is merely a relative term."
Koch International released a DVD set titled TekWar - The Complete First Season (Volumes 1 - 5) in Canada on April 20, 2004. Despite its title, the set only contained the 18 hour-long episodes. Several years later, on June 10, 2008, Image Entertainment released a DVD set titled TekWar in the United States, also containing the 18 episodes.
After repeated delays, Alliance Home Entertainment released a DVD set in Canada titled TekWar - The Complete Series on May 24, 2011. The DVD set utilised cover art licensed from Image Entertainment. It was later reported that Alliance's DVD release did, in fact, include the four TV movies, billed on the set as being "the original 4 part pilot".
The series has yet to be released on DVD in Europe (Region 2).
The TV Movies
Season 1 Episodes