Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Earth 2 & Anti-Sci-Fi

When I was in middle school, we had a prompt on a standardized test to write a science fiction story. I chose the "anti-science fiction" route: when "I" arrived at a new planet in the story, I had to set about pioneer-style tasks as part of the colonization effort. So it was technically sci-fi because it took place away from earth, but the content was a little different. Similar is Stephenie Meyer's The Host, which is categorized as sci-fi because it involves life from other planets, but also includes a great deal of people living in caves in the middle of the desert, where they perform such wonderful actions as growing food.

The mid-90's TV show Earth 2 also follows this type of progression. The premise is that a group of colonists are traveling to a new planet (now that Earth isn't much of a livable environment anymore); there are complications with the landing, though, and they must now travel across the planet to their intended destination over a series of months. It's definitely sci-fi terrain, but the episodes show some of the things Star Trek, etc. don't spend much time on. There are colonists in Star Trek, but the show only visits them in passing, whereas Earth 2 is about their daily trials. There is a bit of mystery, a smattering of cultural and psychological questions, and a nice combination of futuristic technology and pioneering methods (I love VR by the way: it might actually be better than the Holodeck.)

Some of the episodes are good; overall, it is a show worth watching, and one that I don't think has aged terribly in nearly two decades. (It's more than obvious it wasn't made today, but it isn't very "dated.") Some episodes are of less interest than others, but it isn't as if even the giant Star Trek can say otherwise.

It wasn't until a third/halfway through the show that I started to connect with the characters, first Julia and then Morgan (which meant that I also started to like Bess and Alonzo, naturally). Ironically, I had little interest in Devon, who is the most like the main character--Episode 17 "The Boy Who Would Be Terrian King" helped show me why I hadn't quite taken to her character. But what's nice about this show is that the focus is spread throughout the group: each character has a moment, and they all have some kind of importance to what's going on.

Admittedly, some aspects of the "living planet" premise start to drag or feel too far-fetched--this premise is interesting the first time or two you come across it (it's also in Avatar), but can quickly feel forced. So you can't over-think the show. And I don't find myself expecting to watch it again any time soon: I enjoyed it and would have liked a second season, but I never reached the addiction level on this one.

One last note: if you start watching this show on Netflix, you will want to know that the last two episodes are out of order (though that was apparently the order they aired in). What is listed as the third to last episode is actually the finale (can't you tell by the cliffhanger it ends on?). For more info on this, read this Wikipedia page.

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