DVD Review: Earth 2 - The Complete Series / Cert: PG / Director: Joe Napolitano, Jim Charleston, John Harrison, Felix Enriquez Alcala / Screenplay: Michael Duggan, Carol Flint, Mark Levin, Billy Ray / Starring: Debrah Farentino, Clancy Brown, Sullivan Walker, Jessica Steen, Rebecca Gayheart / Release Date: Out Now
A precursor to Star Trek: Voyager and LOST, this relatively short-lived science fiction television programme dumps a crew of disparate humans on a faraway planet and leaves them there to fend for themselves.
The year is 2192, and much of Earth's population has fled following the destruction of our fragile environment. When the young son of a billionaire contracts a fatal virus known as “the syndrome” (caused, apparently by the lack of an Earthly environment, because that makes sense) a small group of humans set course for a planet 22 light years away with a similar ecosystem to our own – Earth 2 (not to be confused with the DC alternate universe of the same name). There they find dodgy looking aliens and a very sinister Tim Curry.
Star Trek: Voyager was much vaunted for its female captain, but few realise that Earth 2 got there first. Devon Adair may have different motivations to the famous Captain Janeway, but she's no less a strong or decisive leader. The show does tend to frame her as a mother first rather than Janeway's single-minded career woman, but she does a fine job, nevertheless. The Chakotay to her Janeway is John Danziger, played by the underrated Clancy Brown. It's distracting seeing the usually gruff, authoritarian actor play what is essentially a space hippy, but he's as reliable as ever. There are a few too many children amongst the group – chiefly Devon's son, Ulysses and Danziger's daughter – but enough aliens, robots and Tim Curry elsewhere for it to not matter all that much.
All twenty two episodes of Earth 2 make up this box set. Cancelled before it could make it to a second season, it feels vaguely incomplete but not enough so to spoil one's enjoyment of the series. Twenty two episodes is a lot, so it should take even the staunchest sci-fi fan awhile to watch them all – it's not the sort of programme one can watch episode after episode of. The biggest issue is in how dull its beginnings are. The pilot episode is a dull three hour slog through a universe that at first doesn't feel terribly interesting. Power through, however, and there's much to enjoy on Earth 2.
Curry is especially great, looking like the evil twin of Desmond from LOST and giving a typical nineties' Tim Curry performance (The Wild Thornberrys – my personal favourite – not withstanding). His wild hair and slimy demeanour make every episode in which he appears a joy. His habit of whispering sweet nothings into the ear of Danziger's daughter is particularly creepy. At one point he delivers a villainous soliloquy whilst spying on the group from an outcropping cliff. He is to Earth 2 what Gary Oldman was to Lost in Space – the best thing in it. That the episode in which he makes his debut is titled The Man Who Fell to Earth (Two) is a lovely touch.
Alas, Curry appears in a scant three episodes, so in his absence, other familiar faces take up some of the slack. Terry O' Quinn plays a small but important role as do the likes of Rebecca Gayheart and Virginia Madsen. The setting gives a large enough scale for the group to have plenty to do during their 22-episode stay on Earth 2. There are aliens too, robots and plenty of dangerous flora and fauna for the unfortunate humans to either befriend or be attacked by (complete with visible seams in their rubber outfits).
Earth 2 doesn't quite reach the heights scaled by its great sci-fi television forebears. Visually it's quite ugly (most of Earth 2 appears to be made up of nondescript wasteland) and the aliens fairly derivative. Crippled by a slow beginning and lack of clear direction, it joins the likes of Terra Nova and Jericho; competent but cancelled due to a lack of viewers. Given time, Earth 2 could have been something special. Sci-fi television can take a while to heat up, so it's unfortunate that a lot of shows aren't given the time to rise from their humble beginnings. It's easily forgotten how pants the first series of The Next Generation was – Earth 2 is better than that. But without the brand name and pre-installed rabid fans, it never had the same room for manoeuvre.
As it is, this is a diverting box set that should keep fans of mid-nineties sci-fi busy in-between re-watches of old Star Trek episodes. Earth 2 is boldly going nowhere, but who knows, maybe in a different time and place, on another Earth...
Special Features: Deleted/Extended Scenes, Blooper Reel, Outtakes