Bookshelf: Earth 2 (Novelization)

Bookshelf is a monthly column examining printed matter relating to television. While I love watching TV, I also love reading about it, from tie-in novels to TV Guides, from vintage television magazines to old newspaper articles. Bookshelf is published on the second Thursday of each month.

Earth 2
By Melissa Crandall
Based on the teleplay written by Michael Duggan, Carol Flint, Mark Levin
First December 1994
Published by Ace Books
264 pages

There are two things that make this an atypical Bookshelf column. First, Melissa Crandall’s Earth 2 was published in December 1994 so it’s by far the most recent TV tie-in novel I’ve reviewed. Second, it’s a novelization of the two-hour Earth 2 pilot telefilm (titled “First Contact”) originally broadcast on NBC on Sunday, November 6th, 1994. With few exceptions I’ve shied away from novelizations because I don’t feel qualified to review a novelization if I haven’t seen the episode(s) being novelized.

However, I have seen the Earth 2 pilot. In fact, I’ve seen it at least three times. First when it originally aired and most recently last November to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the series. So I’m able to compare and contrast the novelization to the episode as broadcast. 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 because the Earth’s surface had become nearly inhospitable.

Devon’s son, like many children, was sick with a mysterious illness called the Syndrome that was caused by living in space. She 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.

Front Cover to Earth 2
Front Cover to Earth 2 – Copyright MCA Publishing Rights, a Division of MCA, Inc.

By and large the novelization is very accurate to what was seen on television. Much of the dialogue was copied verbatim from the script, although there are significant differences at times. It’s possible Melissa Crandall added extra dialogue to flesh out scenes. There may have been lines that were cut for time. Or perhaps she was working with an early version of the script that included dialogue that was never filmed. Each episode of the TV series included voiceover narration from a different character (Devon provided the narration in the pilot). Some of it has been retained in the novelization, in at least one case being used as dialogue for a different character.

The novelization features a prologue that takes place eight years prior to the rest of story that isn’t featured in the TV episode at all. Again, it’s possible that this scene was scripted but never filmed or it may have been edited out of the episode prior to broadcast. The complete series DVD set released in 2005 contains deleted and extended scenes from five episodes but not from the pilot. The prologue helps explain Devon’s motivation for wanting to travel to G889.

As with all novelizations, the translation from script to prose required a lot of added description to replace the visuals of television. It was also necessary to include interior monologues to allow characters to think and react on the page rather than the screen. In both regards, Crandall did a fine job. The characters match pretty well with their television versions. There is one character that is noticeable different in the novelization: the bipedal robot Zero, whose dialogue and attitude is very different. Perhaps either the character was originally intended to have more humor and personality but was toned down for television.

Back Cover to Earth 2
Back Cover to Earth 2 – Copyright MCA Publishing Rights, a Division of MCA, Inc.

The end of the novelization is somewhat different than the TV episode but not drastically so. It includes a scene similar to one present in the second episode.

Two additional Earth 2 novels were published in February and May 1995. Both featured original stories. I’m sure I’ll be reviewing them here eventually.

See Also:

Back in September 2009, I reviewed Planet of the Apes #1: Man the Fugitive, George Alec Effinger’s novelization of two episodes of the 1974 Planet of the Apes TV series.

In October 2009, I reviewed Richard Woodley’s novelization of the first Man from Atlantis telefilm from 1977.

In May 2010, I reviewed William Johnston’s novelization of Senior Year, the pilot telefilm for the 1974 CBS drama series Sons and Daughters.

In January 2014, I reviewed The Questor Tapes, D.C. Fontana’s novelization of Gene Roddenberry’s unsold NBC pilot from 1974.

In February 2015, I reviewed Henry Clement’s novelization of the first episode of the 1975 CBS series Beacon Hill.

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