In 1994, I lived with a group of other college guys. They all had a lot in common with each other, but not so much with my geeky hobbies. Our shared TV was usually tuned to whichever sport was in season at the time. I gave up arguing for a chance to watch some of the programs I liked, because I was easily overruled by the majority. The exception was a two-hour block of time for a new pair of science fiction shows: Earth 2 and Space: Above and Beyond. Since I added Earth 2 to my Netflix queue of streaming programming, I had avoided watching it. I loved it when it aired, and I was afraid it wouldn’t hold up. It became the inspiration for a new recurring feature of my blog, where I’ll watch something I enjoyed as a young adult to see if I still get that manic geek glee I experienced long ago.
Earth 2 originally intrigued me because it promised to deliver the adventure of colonizing a new planet. Certainly that wouldn’t be enough to cement my loyalty to the show, but it also boasted Clancy Brown among the cast. Antonio Sabato, Jr. and Rebecca Gayheart (you know, the Noxzema Girl!) are probably the weakest actors, but they’re buoyed by Richard Bradford and Debrah Farentino. The characters appeared to be a diverse bunch, from military to tradesmen to government officials. From the show’s previews, I knew there would be unanticipated challenges from the unfamiliar, though apparently benign, planet. I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in the trials the characters would face.
I had only a sketchy memory of the events in the show when I delved into the program again. This time, I didn’t even have to watch commercials. Straight from the beginning, I realized I was watching the show with a very different pair of eyes. The kids on the space station are plagued by immune system issues, and the new planet is seen as a medical experiment with the potential to heal them, or at least offer them a chance for survival. Watching as a father, this connected with me in a way the show couldn’t have 20 years ago. I wondered what else might be new to me when watching the show for a second time.
The tensions in the story line and among the characters all carried over very well from my previous viewing, starting with the political red tape that threatens the mission. There are obvious personality conflicts among the passengers, made even worse when the ship launches under emergency circumstances and traps unintended voyagers. Some make peace with their new roles, and some only hope to survive long enough to return home. All of them need to travel a vast distance across the continent, where their hopes hang on a larger group due to arrive in a few months.
Malfunctioning equipment forces a crash landing, and cargo pods are jettisoned in the hope of stabilizing the craft. Soon it’s apparent that the new settlers are not the only beings to inhabit the planet. Someone, or something, even steals equipment and supplies from a cargo pod by the time the heroes find it. The planet is full of hidden dangers, all the worse because it appears to be so much like what the characters know of Earth. Help seems to come from the most threatening of their alien encounters, but perhaps the real villain is someone they almost immediately trust and welcome to their group.
Without revealing too much, the story’s protagonists seem to face one obstacle after another. Tempers flare, priorities are hotly debated, and secrets and prejudices are uncovered. Only the catastrophes remind them how much they need each other to survive. It’s a journey that I’ve enjoyed traveling for a second time. I’ve only watched three episodes, and I eagerly anticipate watching the rest. Unfortunately I know that the show only lasted one season, falling in popularity even after nominations for several awards. I’ll have to post an update once I finish all the episodes, to convey my final impressions.
The show’s creature effects didn’t age well. No surprise there. The creature make-up for the Terrians, one of the alien life forms, is still passable. It’s basically prosthetic make-up and costuming for people, and I found it to be rather impressive at the time the show first aired. Other creatures look like they move with the benefit of clunky remote controls akin to those in B-rate horror movies of the time. Still others remind me of a cut-rate attempt to duplicate Jim Henson’s better monsters and aliens. Other effects were much better, such as the space ships and gadgets.
Overall, the show holds up well after 20 plus years. Even with the occasionally laughable effects, there is enough admirable material to make it worthwhile. The plot and characters provide plenty of drama and excitement to make me grateful the show arrived on Netflix. I urge you to watch it, or watch it again, if you’re a fan of science fiction. Leave a comment to let me know if you think Earth 2 holds up.