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By 2192 the Earth has become so polluted that the majority of humanity has taken to living in vast space stations. Although this addressed the initial problem, as time went on it was discovered that new born children were succumbing to the ‘syndrome’, a condition of unknown origins which killed them before the age of nine. Fearing for the fate of her own son, and believing that the syndrome was somehow caused by a lack of connection to a planet, Devon Adair uses her vast wealth to fund a colony ship to the Earth like planet, G889. Her endeavours do not go well. On launch, a bomb is found and disposed of and after twenty-two years in flight, the advance ship crashes spreading the colony builders across the face of their new home...
Earth 2 (1994-1995) was a science fiction, television show which ran for twenty-two episodes before it was finally cancelled at the end of its first season. Created by Michael Duggan, Carol Flint, Mark Levin and Billy Ray it was one of the staple of live action shows involving Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. Although the show started with strong numbers, by the end of the season few, apart from hardcore fans, were watching it.
I remember the show well and watched the whole run, when it was first transmitted, my memories of my first reaction haven’t really changed all that much. I have to admit that in the end I found the show boring.
It is interesting to compare it to Amblin’s most recent cancelled show, Terra Nova (2011). Both deal with an Earth consumed by pollution, both give their main cast a seemingly safe way out of the situation, before that ephemeral safety is quickly removed in the pilot and both have, at their core, families. It would be fair to say that both crashed and burned with audiences abandoning both shows through their respective initial runs. Now, every man and his dog will have an explanation for this, mine is that people really don’t like to watch preachy shows which have to deal with whiny kids.
The demographic for such shows used to be young males, although the overall success of fantasy and science fiction in the last thirty years has changed much of that. I remember thinking that the least successful parts of both the original and the remake of Survivors was Abby’s endlessly going on about her son, Peter. By the end of season one, most of the audience would have cheerfully run him over just to stop her going on about the lad. Is it so strange then that your main demographic couldn’t give a monkeys fig for the tribulations of a mother looking after a nine year old son, even if they are 22 light years away.
The show did attempt to do something different, like having the leading character being a woman. Unfortunately, unlike Star Trek: Voyager's Janeway, who bereft of children could channel her inner testosterone, Devon (Debrah Farentino) spends far too much time fuffing over her son, Uly (Joey Zimmerman). She isn’t the only survivor to touch down on Earth 2 and the show made sure that there were enough different characters, so you were bound to like one of them, probably. My personal favourite was Bess Martin (Rebecca Gayheart), though at the time it had less to do with her dramatic potential, than my own personal carnal desires.
Clancy Brown turns up as, John Danziger, one of the main characters, Great in Highlander (1986), here he plays an indentured engineer who ends up on the planet with his young daughter, True (J. Madison Wright). See what they did there? They cleverly gave the mom a boy child and the dad a girl, allowing the writers to explore all aspects of family life, just what you want in what was advertised as an adventure show. I don’t remember the A Team bring their kids to work.
The last of the main characters were represented by Sullivan Walker who played Yale a supposedly reformed violent criminal, who has been conditioned to teach young children, because, apparently that seems like a good idea - and people complain about today’s school reforms. Jessica Steen plays Dr. Julia Heller, really a stooge for Earth's governing body, who want to take control of Uly, due to his unique connection to the new planet. Even when her duplicity is discovered, the colonists only abandon her for one episode before everything is comfortably safe again and they are all back as one happy family.
Last and certainly not least, because he was one of the more interesting characters, is John Gegenhuber who plays Bess’s husband, Morgan. Morgan is a weasely company man who gets stranded by accident and who would cheerfully sell all the others down the river to survive one more day. With more than a tinge of humour, John Gegenhuber, spends most of his time channelling his own inner Dr. Zachary Smith.
Over the course of the twenty-two episodes the group make their incredibly slow way towards the original landing site of new Pacifica. Along the way Uly get an instant cure from the Terrians, an intelligent race who can only communicate enigmatically through symbolic imagery in dreams - I bet that makes ordering a burger a chore - who like nothing more than popping in and out of the ground for no discernible reason. They also meet the Grendlers, a trading species with a penchant for stealing and slobbering. They even meet other humans, only to discover that the planet had been used as a penal colony, which if you think about it is massively reasonable behaviour by the government, given that any murderers could be shoved out a station airlock for minimum cost rather than flying them 22 light years to a whole new planet.
And here lays the show's main problem, the mechanised wagon train moved at a painfully slow pace over terrain which changed little, much like the overall plot.
Still I have to admit I’m a sucker for old science fiction shows, so it's great to see that finally fans can get their hands on the whole season, spread across a five disc DVD set. The show is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, with a nice clean print. There are a small number of extras, including the deleted and extended scenes (7 min, 30 sec) and the blooper reel (6 min, 14 sec).
If it seems like I have been harsh with the show, you would be right. However, I would rather watch a show which tries to do something different, than the p*ss poor formulaic trash that passes for most television entertainment. Did it have flaws? Hell yes! Not least of which was it failure to find something which could hook an audience in the first season. Did it have anything good? Once again, yes, even it was buried a little too deep in the message.