As TV programmes go, Earth 2 is a hard one to describe. But if I had to sum it up in as few words as possible, I’d say “Little House On The Prairie in space”. Produced by Steven Spielberg’s company Amblin Entertainment, Earth 2 follows the adventures of a group of interstellar travellers led by billionaire Devon Adair (Debrah Farentino) in the year 2214 as they attempt to colonise an Earth-like planet named G899, after years of neglect has left much of the Earth uninhabitable, the majority of its population living in orbiting space stations, and led to the development of a disease called “The Syndrome” caused by the lack of an Earth-like environment which will kill sufferers by the time they reach the age of nine.
As a whole, the series is greater than the sum of its parts. At times, it’s a well constructed human drama. But, it also has moments where it becomes far too complex and up itself a little, and basically turns into a Lost prototype. Most notably when the planet’s native Terians are involved and the psychic dream sequences start. A plot point that makes things much too trippy and hard to understand. The series works fine without the introduction of varying planes of reality.
An interesting feature is a different character narrating the start and end of the episode from their perspective. It’s an indicator of which character the episode focuses on and is an inventive way of getting into the mindset of each character and understanding them without a load of clunky expository dialogue. Also, a nice touch is the characters’ unfamiliarity with the most mundane things such as burial of the dead, money, and rain. The latter of which leads to a curiously heartwarming scene as the colonists frolic in the rain, it having previously been something almost mythological to them.
The characters are both engaging and relatable other than child characters Ulysses Adair (Joey Zimmerman) and True Danziger (J. Madison Wright) who are just grating and obnoxious. Most notably True during the three episode story arc about mysterious interloper Gaal (Tim Curry). For my money, the most interesting character is Yale (Sullivan Walker), a convicted criminal who has had his memory erased and become a cyborg in order to serve as Ulysses’ tutor, as part of a rehabilitation programme. He’s the wise man of the group, kind of serving as the Obi-Wan figure, but his background makes it clear that there is an edge to him, making him likeable and intriguing at the same time.
It appears that the two-part pilot had more money allocated to it than the other episodes as it boasts some incredible visual effects sequences that have aged incredibly well. This is in stark contrast to the (by today’s standards) rather ropey creature effects used for the alien inhabitants of G899 which have a distinctly nineties feel to them. However, where the series fails on visual effects, it excels on its filming locations that make up the bulk of the series’ setting. New Mexico is wholly believable as the alien world and the camerawork really does the area justice.
The best part is Tim Curry’s four episode guest spot as Gaal, a human who joins the colonists on their travels but is working to his own agenda. The part is oddly reminiscent of Curry’s portrayal of Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island as Gaal attempts to sow seeds of discord amongst the group and befriends True, much like Silver did with Jim Hawkins. The character stirs things up considerably and creates some great character-based conflict. It’s not all positive though. As mentioned, when the Terians are involved, things get needlessly complicated and the two-part pilot is excruciatingly slow. Also, the episode recaps and next time trailers are irritatingly amateurish. They’re really just a few brief snippets of important scenes put in a certain order, with no linking music, effective transitions between clips, or any kind of atmosphere whatsoever.
It’s slow to build up but there are some great moments in it if you persevere enough. Though some of the pro-environmental messages are quite heavy-handed, and, as I’ve mentioned, it occasionally tries to be too clever for its own good. It’s definitely worth a watch though.
The menus are relatively simplistic but the synopses of each episode on the episode select menu are a welcome feature, even though they sometimes contain mild spoilers. The absence of subtitles is something of annoyance. One major positive is that the episodes are in the order which they were originally intended before NBC made a complete hash out of the broadcast order from episode seven onwards, to the extent that the boxset has a brief screen card explaining that as the episodes are now in the correct order, the trailers at the end may not correspond to the following episode.
As far as special features go, the boxset has some outtakes and deleted scenes but nothing else. Despite this, the set’s runtime is seventeen hours with all twenty-one episodes (one of which is double length) included which is definitely worth the retail price of £29.99 if the series interests you.