One of the unique things about NBC’s 1994-1995 series “Earth 2” is that, on a weekly basis, you barely saw any special effects or the gadgets that litter most SciFi series. Instead, you had a group of people traveling around on another planet like pioneers. They had a robot and a Hummer plus virtual reality headsets and Dr. Heller had a diagnostic glove, but other than that they looked like any other band of dusty, weary travelers traveling around New Mexico (where much of the show was filmed). Of course, every once in awhile they’d run into an alien—and there seemed to be quite a lot of humans around, for a planet that was supposed to be unexplored.
For some viewers, this seemed like a boring premise for a television show. But the strength of “Earth 2,” like any good SciFi TV series, was its characterizations and its ensemble cast—which included two children. Like Wesley Crusher on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” these kids could get a bit annoying, but also added some vulnerability that would be unrealistic in adults. There was an odd mix of science fiction, mysticism and conspiracy in “Earth 2” that was fascinating; for example, in the final episodes it was hinted that the planet G889 was in some way sentient and would “reject” the colonists.
The producers of “ER” were behind this series, which lasted just one season on NBC. Though a second season was in the works despite low ratings, the changes proposed to the series to get new viewers were so appalling that NBC cancelled it immediately (Devon’s role limited, a new teenage cyborg, superhero powers for Alonzo) . Rumor has it that UPN considered picking it up but when they saw the season two changes they too dumped “Earth 2.” Now, however, the complete series is available on DVD for new fans to discover. NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Story Arc: Planet G889
The premise: Wealthy Devon Adair’s (Debrah Farentino) 8-year-old son Ulysses is sick; he is one of the Syndrome children, being affected with a mysterious disease that seems to be linked with humans’ migration onto space stations. Since Earth is no longer livable for most of the population, she organizes a group of over 200 Syndrome families to colonize a planet 22 light years away called G889. It’s clear to her, if not to everyone else, that humans may all suffer from the Syndrome in a few years if they stay on the stations. After years of wrangling, she has finally gotten permission to take her group to the stars. She and the advance ship will go to the planet two years early to set up a colony for the families.
On the eve of departure, however, Devon realizes there’s a bomb aboard and they make a premature launch—without their doctor, as it turns out. As planned, they all go into suspended animation. As they get ready to land on the planet 22 years later, an equipment failure causes a crash landing. Although Devon and others take escape pods to G889, they’ve lost many of their supplies. And now they’ve landed on a strange planet with crew members who were never supposed to disembark from the ship, encountering new aliens—and, to their surprise, other humans. It turns out that G889 was already a dumping ground for human criminals such as Gaal (Tim Curry).
And the human government hasn’t stopped trying to sabotage the mission, as it turns out. Though the first bomb failed, it soon becomes clear that Eden Advance’s mission is threatened by forces both without and within. The group tries to survive the aliens, other humans and each other while traveling to the site where the new colony is to be set up. They hope to get there in time to get everything ready for the Syndrome families arriving in a couple of years.
Grendlers: Short, bipedal creatures that have faces like rhinoceroses and are friendly to penal colonist Gaal. They seem to like human blood, acquiring objects (scavenging and stealing) and the nomadic lifestyle. Their drool has medical properties, and they smell pretty bad.
Kobas: Small, rodent-like creatures first encountered by True Danziger (J. Madison Wright) and adopted by her as a pet. Unfortunately, kobas turned out to be a bit dangerous, despite their seemingly friendly natures and a sound they make that’s rather like purring. When threatened, they can hurl a claw tipped with poison at their attackers. The poison puts humans into a death-like coma for several days.
Terrians: These enigmatic underground-dwelling aliens turn out to have an empathic unity with the planet G889, and may be extremely highly evolved. They cure Uly in the first few episodes and are wary of more humans coming onto their territory. This doesn’t stop them from asking humans for help when they need it, or assisting the Eden group. These tall, bipedal creatures carry lightning staffs and communicate through Alonzo’s dreams.
The humans that make up the Eden Advance team are a motley crew—thrown together by fate and trying to survive a new and unknown environment. Some of the major characters are:
Devon Adair (Debrah Farentino): Mother of Uly, determined to see him live. She is the leader of the group, making many of the decisions and shouldering responsibility for the expedition to New Pacifica.
John Danziger (Clancy Brown): He’s a mechanic on the Eden advance ship. He and his daughter were never meant to land, but his MacGyver-like skills make him a valuable addition to the group. He’s a good foil to Devon and father to True.
Ulysses Adair (Joey Zimmerman): Devon’s sick but precocious son has always had to deal with frailty, breathing difficulties and constant medical care, thanks to the Failure to Thrive Syndrome. But soon after they arrive on G889, he is cured by the Terrians. He becomes a profound link between the humans and the mysterious aliens.
True Danziger (J. Madison Wright): She’s a normal, tomboyish girl who’s spent her life surrounded by space sailors. She has trouble adjusting to life on G889, especially since she and her dad were never supposed to land there. Her adventurous spirit and unwillingness to be restrained cause some troubles for the explorers, though.
Alonzo Solace (Antonio Sabato, Jr.): He’s a skilled pilot—a fly boy with no commitments anywhere. Alonzo has flown so many interstellar missions that he’s over 70 years old, though he looks to be in the prime of life. Like Danziger, he wasn’t supposed to set foot on G889. When he breaks a leg in the crash, he finds himself unable to walk—a frustrating matter for someone who’s used to taking care of himself. Also frustrating: his relationship with Dr. Heller, and his new-found ability to dream-talk with the Terrians.
Dr. Julia Heller (Jessica Steen): Her parents had her mind genetically skewed toward the medical arts, but she’s just an intern until circumstances force her to become the sole medical professional on the Eden advance ship. Devon is skeptical of her at first, and though Julia initially proves herself by helping Uly and Alonzo, she’ll find her loyalties split between the council and her new friends on G889.
Yale (Sullivan Walker): Uly’s tutor, he was Devon’s tutor before that and continues to be her trusted confidant and counselor. But he’s also part of the Teacher class—a group of criminals who had their memories blanked and replaced with encyclopedic knowledge. The Teacher class was recalled when some of their number went haywire.
Bess Martin (Rebecca Gayheart): This vibrant young woman is the wife of Morgan, the Eden Project’s government liaison. She grew up on the wrong side of the tracks—Earth—but is a sweet, compassionate person whose belief in old-time religion helps see her through her difficulties.
Morgan Martin (John Gegenhuber): He’s not bad, just weak, but likeable despite his faults. As the government liaison to the Eden Project, he’s shocked and betrayed when he discovers the plot to destroy the advance ship before it had even launched. He’s not really suited to rugged life on a planet, and he whines a lot, but even inept Morgan has his good moments. And he’s good comic relief.
Other characters included Gaal (Tim Curry), who was a penal colonist that initially hooked up with the team before they realized he did not have their best interests at heart; and Reilly (Terry O’Quinn), Julia’s council contact on Earth, seen usyally through the VR headsets..
NBC aired a total of 22 hours of “Earth 2” over 20 episodes, including a two-hour pilot and one two-part episode. “First Contact” aired on November 6, 1994 and “All About Eve,” the season (and series) finale,” aired May 21, 1995. Each episode was narrated by a different main character. We’ll post an episode guide in a few weeks, so watch for it!