2076 marked the year of the American Tricentennial. Back in 1976, Saul David took moviegoers on a journey some 300 years into the future, to the year 2274. Based on the 1967 book by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, the MGM production of 'Logan's Run' explored the city of the future as governed by a computer called The Thinker, which substituted for the constitution, congress and courts of law.
Following a students' revolution, understood to take place "toward the beginning of the 21st century", a new world was created by the students. The new world (known as City of Domes) would be powered by a hydro-galvanic system using the energy of ocean waves and operated automatically by The Thinker. The new world would be free from political upheaval, where there was no religion and was pollution-free.
In the new world, The Thinker would take care of all aspects of society including reproduction. Babies were said born by seedmothers, but the embryo would then be incubated and raised in nurseries. The babies would be handled by robots called autogovernesses and were given a sense of humanity in love rooms. To avoid a population explosion which would result in starvation, the lifespans of the citizens of the world would be restricted to 21 years of age in the book and 30 in the movie, using the colors of the Flower Crystals (white from infancy to age 8; yellow from age 8 to 15; green from age 15 to 22; and red from 22 to 30).
The character Logan, a sandman because of the "life-clock", rejected the state's right to take his life decided to run. Hence 'Logan's Run'. Peter Ustinov played the Old Man who eventually caused the City of Domes downfall. Bill Irvin made the comment at the time, "The complex society depicted in MGM's new 'Logan's Run' is often visually breathtaking. But the situations sometimes are only partially represented. One is left hungry for more data and more meaning. Sometimes the information is there – but is glossed over so parenthetically that it fails to register."
In the 1977-78 season, 'Logan's Run' was made into a TV series set in the year 2319. Some 14 episodes (including the pilot) were made but only 11 episodes originally went on air due to low ratings because of scheduling changes and preemptions. 'Logan's Run' was initially shown in September on Fridays at 9:00pm after 'Wonder Woman' and before 'Switch' (Morgan Fairchild guest starred in one episode).
In its first week, 'Logan's Run' was up against the $7.5 million production of 'Washington: Behind Closed Doors'. 'Logan's Run' did well attracting a 21.2% rating (roughly 15.4 million homes in the U.S. were counted watching). However 'Logan's Run' fared poorly against 'The Rockford Files' starring James Garner in the next couple of episodes. To improve 'Logan's Run' ratings, CBS moved the program in October to Mondays at 8:00pm replacing 'Young Dan'l Boone'.
Ben Roberts and Ivan Goff created, wrote and produced the 'Charlie's Angels' pilot in 1976. In 1977, Ben and Ivan were asked to oversee the TV project, 'Logan's Run'. Ben Roberts told David Houston, "'Logan's Run' was dropped in our laps because there was a big problem about how to make this into a TV series. When you're faced with 'Star Wars', or even 'Logan's Run' as a movie, you're talking about $9 to $10 million projects. Here we're dealing only with hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"We felt we could make it work with our own knowledge of how films are put together and what an audience expects to see. We felt that the cop shows had sated the audience and it was time for something new and more imaginative – which science fiction and fantasy certainly give them. I think that's the reason for the upsurge of things a little larger than life – 'Six Million Dollar Man', 'Wonder Woman', 'Man From Atlantis'.
"It was in first-draft screenplay form. We disagreed with a lot of it in terms of series development. We did a revision, working with the director and our plot director, Preston Ames, who has the most important job on any show. We needed to stress the human drives of the 2 people, Logan and Jessica, and to work out more completely the characterization of Rem, the android they meet along the way.
"The audience should really care for the 2 innocents lost in a destroyed world and their robot companion. Once you've established their characters and learn the causes that drove them outside, a revolution against tyranny, you'll care for them. We're trying to do stories that are about people and just happen to be in the 24th century. Our favorite analogy is that if you were doing a story with today's (1977) technology and setting it at the time of Jesus, they would see airplanes, television – and that would be science fiction to them, as it was to Jules Verne and the readers of Jules Verne, but it would still be a story about people."
In the TV series, Ben Roberts added, "We will explain that the City of Domes is run by a Council of Elders – which no one knows about except those they choose as their successors. Carousel (rituals when turning 30) was clearly a fraud that someone was manipulating. We felt forced into something we had wanted to do anyway, to introduce this elite society of people who have gone through the Last Day (age 30) barrier and are ruling, keeping the population in balance.
"Theirs is a tyranny based not on imperialism but on containing itself. They recruit Francis, who is stunned to see that there are people who are old. They explain to him that people are chosen from the society to succeed even them. The Elder convinces him to help by reminding him that in their society, up to the age of 30, everyone is given his every wish, and that any alternative to Carousel would be unthinkable.
"We quite deliberately eliminated the crystals (Flower Crystals). It would be a terrible interference in a TV series. You’d have to constantly be explaining it. On television, Sanctuary (the mythical space colony near Mars, similar to Atlantis) might very well exist in some physical form. Although we do say, in the pilot, that Sanctuary may be within the human being. Their search on television is not so much for Sanctuary – which they do continue to seek – but for other Runners with whom they can go back to the City of the Domes and free those who are doomed at 30.
"Ours is set all over this country, in the enclaves of civilization left here after the holocaust. We're not discounting the magic and marvels of the future. For one thing, they help us tell the stories. You impose on your future what you believe it will bring technologically, but you can't impose the future on people. In one story, they come upon a society that has perfected a machine that can leach the evil out of you by dividing the person in 2 – a good one and a bad one. The bad one is then cast out – as the angels did with Satan.
"The people of that society are forced to realize that the 2 aspects of human nature belong together and that it is the function of a human being to know his evil and learn to control it … And there's a story in which an intergalactic society is out to imperialize the galaxy – starting with Earth. They have developed a method of finding and externalizing the fantasies, desires, wishes of people so they can learn the contents of the subconscious, in order to isolate a weakness in the human mind.
"Human ingenuity is such a marvelous thing. Just think – only 50 years ago (in 1927) Lindberg first flew the Atlantic. Imagine what might happen in the next 400 years! Much of our money for the pilot went for matte paintings. We got some really spectacular effects. Our matte painter is Matt Hurich who did the paintings for the 'Logan's Run' movie as well. I never knew how they did that scene with Logan at the Lincoln Memorial. It was a matte. Beautifully done."
Saul David told the press in 1976, "Let's face it. This is a business (the show business) notorious for not knowing what's going to be happening tomorrow! (Hence 'the Dream Factory'.) Though it is fascinating to consider that entertainment has always been pretty much the same since prehistoric days when a guy would stand under a tree telling a story – until radio became a commercial force some 50 years ago (in 1920).
"For thousands of years, people were entertained in groups. There were always others to share the experience with, to laugh with, to cry with. But now (in 1976) we've got TV laugh tracks for companionship. People don't frequent the downtown movie houses as they used to … they sit home and watch the tube – and separate themselves from the community. Who knows, 100 years from now (in the year 2076), entertainment might even be a totally solo experience – involving drug-induced sensory stimulation."