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April 20, 2014

Gone Too Soon: Earth 2

by Jason Hughes, posted Sep 21st 2009 3:00PM
Earth 2In 1994, I was excited about My So-Called Life and Friends, but not much else on the TV schedule caught my eye. A friend of mine loved ABC's Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, so I would go over there to hang out and watch it.

Being sci-fi buffs, we decided we should check out Earth 2, a new show that aired an hour before L&C on NBC. I have this tendency to at least try out all the new science-fiction shows, knowing that even if I like them, the odds of them surviving beyond one season are slim. I quickly gave up on M.A.N.T.I.S. over on Fox, but found myself more intrigued by Earth 2.

What a fascinating and sophisticated look at a science fiction world. It was so much more realistic and grounded than the Star Trek series could ever be. The characters were horribly flawed and they felt much more human. As expected, the show failed, but not before I got 22 great episodes that still resonate in my memory.

What was it?
[Spoilers Ahead!] After the Earth becomes mostly uninhabitable by the end of the 22nd century, humans relocate to floating space stations. Then, a strange sickness begins to sweep through humanity as a result of the sterile environs of their new home. Devon Adair leads an expedition 22 light years away, hoping to find a new home on planet G889, or "Earth 2." The primary motivation for this successful billionaire to undertake such a dangerous mission is that her son is afflicted by the disease.

In what they first think is an accident, the expedition crash lands on the wrong side of the intended planet. Now they're forced to work together with what tools they can salvage to circumnavigate this new globe and find their way to the original landing site. Along the way, they discover new threats, including several indigenous life-forms, as well as people who've been here already.

In fact, it turns out that this planet was long used as a penal colony for the worst of Earth's offenders. But that's only the first of many surprises about the world and government structure they left behind. It turns out that the greatest threat to the success of their mission may just come from the very people they're hoping to save.

Earth 2 CastAt it's core, though, it's the story of these would-be colonists. Their struggles with one another involving trust and relationships, and their efforts to keep a positive spirit in the face of the unknown and the dangers that are ever present. The series worked for me because of these characters and their personalities. Even the seemingly villainous ones had more layers than we first realized, rendering them all human.

Why did it have to go?
This one really is as simple as the ratings. While Earth 2 started strong in the fall of 1994, its numbers went into an almost immediate freefall. By the time it ended, it had shed more than half of those viewers and was thus cut short. NBC did stick with it for an entire season, which was more common back in the mid-'90s than now, so there's really no one to blame.

For myself, while I am genetically programmed to support things that are sci-fi and different, this one may have moved too slowly for many viewers. It was also hard to pinpoint what kind of show it was. It looked like a Western wagon-trail show with sci-fi elements and alien creatures. I suspect it was difficult for people to join in late and keep up.

How do I find out what happens next?
Nothing definitive has been said that I can find. We do know that another thousand or so colonists were scheduled to arrive on G889 approximately a year after our crew did. Presumably, they would have arrived at the original destination site, and the whole tone of the show would have changed to deal with this dramatic sweep of humanity onto the planet.

Tim CurryWhere did the cast wind up?
  • Debrah Farentino (Devon Adair) has remained a fixture on television over the years, including notable roles on Wildfire and Eureka. Most recently, she had a recurring role on Eli Stone as Ellen Wethersby.
  • Clancy Brown (John Danziger) continued doing a ton of voiceover work and has had prominent roles both in film (The Shawshank Redemption, Starship Troopers) and on television (Carnivale and Lost).
  • Joey Zimmerman (Ulysses Adair) continues acting. He's played a young Hyde on That '70s Show, and has also been featured in Disney Channel's Halloweentown movies.
  • Sullivan Walker (Yale) continued work in television, films and on Broadway, though his most recent work was 2005's Get Rich or Die Tryin'. His energies now are focused on founding a school for Caribbean actors in New York
  • Antonio Sabato, Jr. (Alonzo Solace) went on to Melrose Place and found his way back in the world of soaps, including a year on The Bold and the Beautiful before reprising his General Hospital role of Jagger Cates on the Night Shift. Lately, he's been doing celebreality crap, including a dating show for VH1 with his mother called My Antonio.
  • Jessica Steen (Dr. Julia Heller) has been involves in lots of major movies and TV series, most recently NCIS and Flashpoint. She can currently be seen in a recurring role on Heartland.
  • Rebecca Gayheart (Bess Martin) has had roles in such shows as Wasteland, Dead Like Me and Vanished, as well as guest starring on many shows, which she continues doing to this day.
  • J. Madison Wright (True Danziger) continued acting for awhile, but her life changed dramatically at fifteen when she needed and received a transplanted heart. She then became an advocate for organ donation, went to college for a teaching degree and got married. Tragically, only thirteen days after her wedding, Wright died of a heart attack at 21 years old.
  • Rockmond Dunbar (Baines) kept busy in television and films, notably appearing as Kenny Chadway in the Soul Food series, as well as C-Note throughout Prison Break.
  • Terry O'Quinn (Reilly) went on to starring roles on Millennium and Alias, as well as recurring spots on Harsh Realm and JAG, before landing his biggest role to date: John Locke on ABC's Lost.
  • Tim Curry (Gaal) does tons of voiceover work, but keeps busy with live appearances, as well, including stints on Martial Law and the Family Affair remake. He's also a regular player on the big screen and the stage.
  • The rest of the cast can be seen in various guest roles and voice-over work ... or nowhere.

Who cares?
Earth 2 - Terrian
There was a huge campaign to save the show, even utilizing the burgeoning Internet to push their cause. Remnants of these early fan sites and movements are still online, though many have not been updated in more than ten years. Since then, it's simply become a fondly remembered show that left us with a great deal of potential. We never found out the fates of the castaways or if they even made it to their destination, but what we did get has kept our imaginations alive with the possibilities.

When can I see it?
It looks like the show, which used to air on Sci Fi, as well as a few other places, is gone from television, as well as any streaming websites. So I guess you can see it as soon as you buy the Earth 2: The Complete Series DVD set.

[via Earth 2: A Gaian Hypothesis, IMDb, Wikipedia, TV.com, Earth 2: Eden Advance and more!]

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Joe B

Sy-fy trying to re-boot E2. they are talking to Michael Duggan about it. Check IMDB message boards andget word to Sy-fy execs it would be cool!!!

November 06 2009 at 2:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Elisabeth

I adored this show and was sooo disappointed when it was cancelled. Thanks for the great write-up!

September 23 2009 at 10:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TimWarp

Uh, Tim Curry's "appearance" on "Martial Law" was also a voiceover.

September 22 2009 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RcCarol

I loved this show and was devastated when it was cancelled. Thanks for such a thoughtful write-up!

September 21 2009 at 7:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Christi

I loved (and still love) this show, and it was the first fan convention I ever attended.

Honestly, I think most of the problem the show had was a lousy time slot (right after Sunday football), which led to pretty constant delays and pre-emptions. The show times were all over the place, and it didn't help the ratings.

There was talk of reported changes for the second season, if E2 had been renewed. I don't know of anyone who actually thought the changes were a good idea, but if they'd happened, the show probably wouldn't have had a third season. (Think along the lines of the SeaQuest changes - dumping everyone over 35 off-screen, skipping a decade, etc.)

September 21 2009 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Will

I loved this show when it came on. Wasn't quite as good when I re-watched it recently, but it's still pretty good.

September 21 2009 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dukrous

It's also available on Netflix Watch Instantly for streaming via PC, Roku, Xbox 360, etc. Looks great, too.

September 21 2009 at 4:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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