Earth 2 at 20: A Personal Appreciation

Twenty years ago tonight, NBC premiered a new sci-fi drama called Earth 2 that changed my life. I doubt many people can say that. What better way to kick off my new Musings On Obscurity column than with a look back at a one season wonder from the 1994-1995 season and how its cancellation laid the foundation for Television Obscurities.

Blastoff!

Earth 2 debuted with a two-hour pilot movie that ran from 7-9PM on Sunday, November 6th, 1994. I was in elementary school at the time and it was probably the first adult show I watched (rather than shows aimed at kids or older shows like Star Trek or Batman that I watched in repeats). I remember being so excited about it. It was appointment viewing for most of the family. This was back when we only had one TV set so unfortunately if you didn’t want to watch Earth 2 you weren’t watching anything at 7PM on Sundays.

Advertisement for Earth 2, Circa October 1994
Advertisement for Earth 2, Circa October 1994

For those not familiar with the show, Earth 2 was set in 2192 and starred Debrah Farentino as Devon Adair, the leader of a group attempting to colonize a planet 22 light years from Earth called G889. Most of humanity lived in space stations, the Earth’s surface having become nearly inhospitable. Her son, like many children, was sick with a mysterious illness called the Syndrome that was caused by living in space. Devon was convinced that life on G889 would cure him. The government thought otherwise and tried to sabotage the Eden Project, forcing it to launch ahead of schedule.

Upon reaching G889, Devon and a small advance group of colonists crash land on the planet, far from the proposed site of New Pacifica. The show chronicled their adventures as they attempted to reach the colony site. As a kid, I doubt I cared much about the political intrigue, social themes, or romantic subplots. I was more interested in the various creatures and critters native to G889, the robot named Zero, the virtual reality sequences, the cool flashlights, weapons, and all the other sci-fi gadgetry. A few years ago, I contemplated bidding on one of the futuristic rifle props from the series when it popped up on eBay. It’s probably best I didn’t because I would have nowhere to display it.

The Fickle Business of Television

Although it premiered to high ratings, the series had a rough time slot and the late premiere didn’t help. NBC did the series no favors by pre-empting it an astounding nine times between January and May 1995 and occasionally moving its time slot. The season finale aired on May 21st followed by two episodes aired out of order. And that was that.

I loved Earth 2 and its cancellation after just a single season left a lasting impression on me. It introduced me to the cruel reality of television at a very young age, which I’m sure contributed to my interest in short-lived and obscure television. It seemed so unfair that a show I loved so much could just end because not enough other people watched it.

I recorded the theme song to Earth 2 on cassette tape. It was all I had left of the series after it went off the air. I remember being so excited a few years later when I was on vacation with my family and found a copy of the novelization of the pilot in a used bookstore. When I learned that there were also two original novels based on the series, I bought them on eBay. They were like having new episodes to watch, only in novel form.

[April 12th, 2016 Update: My recollection was off. I found a copy of one of the original novels in the bookstore while on vacation, not the novelization of the pilot. I later bought all three Earth 2 novels on eBay.]

In January 1998, Sci Fi Channel began airing Earth 2. My family didn’t get Sci Fi Channel at that time but a relative did and taped two episodes for me at some point around 2000. I must have watched them over and over again. The complete series was released on DVD in July 2005, less than a decade after it was cancelled. All things considered, ten years wasn’t too long to wait to be able to enjoy Earth 2 again.

Fans Never Forget

I wasn’t aware back in 1994 and 1995 that there was a very active fanbase for Earth 2, one that used the nascent World Wide Web to interact and organize. A Usenet group was launched in January 1995 where fans could discuss episodes, share news, and even distribute a newsletter. A fan club was organized. A group of Earth 2 fans paid to run an advertisement in Daily Variety in support of the series and even flew a banner over the building where the 1995 Emmy Awards were being held to draw attention to their campaign to get it renewed. Fans also organized their own Earth 2 conventions, the first of which (New PacifiCon ’96) drew more than a dozen members of the cast and crew to New Mexico in April 1996. You can read about some of the conventions here.

There used to be a lot of websites dedicated to the series but many have disappeared over the years or stopped updating. One defunct Earth 2 website even had the horrendous presentation video put together by Universal Television to try to sell a second season of the series to UPN. I believe it was first shown at New PacifiCon ’96. Had this proposed second season been made, it would have been a very different show, one most fans wouldn’t have recognized. I think I still have a copy of that video somewhere. Additional information about the abortive second season can be found here.

It’s too bad Earth 2 was cancelled after its first season. But that cancellation taught me a tough lesson about television. Even if I didn’t know it then, that lesson would shape my life both personally and professionally. Earth 2 is one of the reasons Television Obscurities exists. Not everyone watched Earth 2 and not everyone who did loved it as much as I did (and there were plenty of people who loved it even more than me). But everyone has a show like Earth 2 that they were passionate about, that they really missed when it went off the air. I’ll always remember Earth 2 and the memories of watching it with my parents. Luckily it’s on DVD and Netflix, so I can watch it anytime I want.


12 Comments

  • “As a kid, I doubt I cared much about the political intrigue, social themes, or romantic subplots. I was more interested in the various creatures and critters native to G889, the robot named Zero, the virtual reality sequences, the cool flashlights, weapons, and all the other sci-fi gadgetry.”

    This probably describes the kind of “layering” that needs to exist in any program, movie, video, or even book in order to appeal to a wide age group.

  • Troy Lee Turner says:

    Ahhhh-the chronic “What to put on after NFL games” problem that NBC always ran into. I won’t explain the problem, as any TV watcher on Sunday nights in the fall knows it by rote, but I will point out that any success that NBC achieved on Sunday nights post-Disney happened with lighter fare (family comedies, specials, etc)

    As to whether Earth 2 could have survived on Sunday, it was highly doubtful to begin with. You had your 60 Minutes/Murder…She Wrote loyalists on CBS (The Pat Summerall pause was just too easy, sorry), then you had the novelty of the FOX Sunday lineup, newly anchored with NFL coverage/The Simpsons/Married With Children

    It makes you wonder why network execs think some stuff will work, doesn’t it?

    • Troy Lee Turner says:

      As I’m finding out that some members of this site aren’t sports fans/watchers, I will go back and explain NFL/sporting event runover (if this is old hat to you, I apologize)

      As a result of the 1968 “Heidi Game” between the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders-where NBC viewers in the Eastern and Central time zones missed a 14 point comeback by the Raiders in the final 2 minutes; in order to get to the movie special “Heidi” on time-leagues and networks have worked together in order to ensure that sporting events are seen to their conclusion, regardless of how it affects weekend prime-time programming.

      NBC always seemed to be the most affected by this in the fall, as they were the network of the more wide-open AFL/AFC, as very often, games would end after 7:00 Eastern time, thus delaying the start of prime time on Sundays. While this could be overcome when they had the Disney franchise by showing cartoons, etc to make up time, once Disney left, and NBC had to rely on other programming, it was nearly impossible for shows like Earth 2 to find traction, because it could be impossible to determine when they would actually begin, if at all that week

      • daniel anderson says:

        I was thinking the same thing, since NBC’s AFC games seemed to run longer, that meant that shows like Earth 2, Our House, Punky Brewster, Disney, Voyagers, Here Boomer and many other shows were affected, a lot more than 60 Minutes was on CBS.

        My NBC station used to have that issue with Notre Dame games, since they ran into whatever syndicated show was on at 7:00. However, those shows could be rerun later on, when the football season was over anyway.

  • Patrick McNamara says:

    The one I had fond memories of was Fantastic Journey. I was lucky enough to find the series online somewhere and re-watch it. Although I barely remembered it. It was one of those failed SF shows that people tend to remember because there wasn’t a lot of SF on TV in those days. In this case the show failed because of too many cast changes which effectively chanced the whole character of the show.

    Other failed SF shows that people tend to fondly recall are Logan’s Run the TV series and Otherworld. Terra Nova could become one of those shows, although most SF shows from the 80s and later tend to be new enough to have DVD releases, TV re-airings so as to be remembered.

  • Emma says:

    I can very much relate to your childhood experience with Earth 2 and your devastation when it was cancelled. It was likewise one of my first “grown up” TV shows, and I was a truly obsessed fan, and I could not understand the injustice of it being canned after one season. To tell the truth, I still can’t understand it. And I sure as heck will never be able to forgive them for the nonsensical cliffhanger ending that was just a slap in the face to every loyal follower out there.

    Like you, after it was cancelled I tracked down copies of the novels, fanzines from the various New Pacificons, and paid for bootleg VHS tapes with poor quality recordings to fuel my E2 need. Before the series was released officially on DVD, I got into a bidding war on eBay with other fans for a copy of the complete series on home burned DVD, and I happily paid over $100 USD for it at the time. In typical fashion, the official DVDs were released a couple of months later >.< Ahh, the lengths we fans go to!

    Years ago I also downloaded the season 2 promo from a great Earth 2 fan website, and now that original source is long since gone. I uploaded it to YouTube for posterity, along with an 8 minute blooper reel that was promised but never delivered on the DVDs. For anyone wanting to see them, I'll include the links here. I hope that's okay, please forgive me if you'd prefer I not share links here.

    Earth 2 Season 2 Promo Video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VGW8P06dKc

    Earth 2 Bloopers/Gag Reel Video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPXoVZ1Z3iI

    I hope these do give you a powerful nostalgia hit! :)

    • Gungoose86 says:

      Thanks bro, you made my morning =)
      e2 would have don’t better if they had more of a budget, and ppl who could actually act… Not including Danzigger or Yale lol

  • TesubCalle says:

    Thanks for this trip down memory lane.

    I was in high school when Earth 2 premiered, so I as a somewhat older viewer, I could appreciate the “political intrigue, social themes, or romantic subplots” you mentioned.

    I really wish I’d been wired for the Internet back in those days. There was such a world filled with fans for the show out there on the Web, and I had no idea it existed.

    Like so many others, I was pretty saddened by the cancellation of the show after that horrendous cliffhanger and pathetic attempt by the writers to ute up loose ends. All they did was create more untenable discrepancies that will forever frustrate me.

    After 20 years, I have zero hope this show will ever get the treatment it deserves. But at least I can be consoled by the fact that there are still so many passionate fans out there who wish the journey could have continued — just not in the direction of that proposed 2nd Season. By the way: Thank you, “Emma”, for archiving that footage of the proposed “retooled” Earth 2. I’d only read of the changes anecdotally; it was great to finally see it for myself, in spite of the barf-worthiness of it.

  • Lori L. Sweet says:

    I loved Earth 2 and was so mad at how it got tossed around and cancelled. i still talk about it. I was in my late 20s when it came out. I have always felt heartbroken about it. thanks for writing this.

  • David Ryan says:

    For me E2 was a great show that I watched religiously during it’s original run in 1994-95. I also was in my late 20’s at the time and loved so many things about it. Too many to get into here now. Nothing is perfect and E2 was no exception but I never felt the negatives were big or numerous enough to bring up. I still don’t.
    I remember watching Entertainement Tonight during the spring of 95 and they had announced that either E2 or Seaquest was going to be dropped by NBC and within a few days the announced came that E2 was cancelled. Before the E. T. Segment was over the phone rang, it was my best buddy at the time who called to gloat because he was a fan of Seaquest and never watched E2 and I was a fan of E2 that never watched Seaquest.
    This would be the 2nd time in my life that a TV network would crush me by prematurely ending an amazing show that massively contributed to my Joie de vivre. The first was when ABC cancelled “Battlestar Galactica” in 1979 when I was still in my formative years at age of 12.
    What I’ve since had to accept is that these networks and entertainment companies are all about making money. They have “zero” interest or concerns about the public’s emotional involvement or attachment.
    As a now 50 year old man, I understand but as a 12 year old boy and even as a young 28 year old man, it was a blow to my overall happiness that didn’t make sense.
    Thankfully we find other things and people to make us happy during the course of our lives and thankfully due to the invent of Dvd I can revisit these shows and to a large degree relive the feelings and feel the same excitement and joy that I did during their first run.

  • Kina Roemer says:

    Very quickly this web site will be famous amid all blog users, due to it’s pleasant content

  • John hall says:

    Was hopperman filmed before Earth two ? And win did farentino get praygnant ?

    Maybe space shows should premiere in February or March 2 have less problems ?

    Firefly had the blue sun Corp , and X-files had shape changing bounty hunters ,

    Strange world and veritas has skairy vosloo , John Doe , hoo was the main bad gie ?

    Kyle Xy was grate but weard ! How cum abc had all the hottest girls ? Did anyone else think that Jennifer Runyon was Elizabeth shue,s imperfect clone ?

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