The characters in “Earth 2” have it pretty rough. They’ve crash-landed on a barren alien world, with most of their equipment destroyed or stolen and mistrustful natives lurking about. But if they think that’s a hostile environment, wait till they get a load of their Sunday7-8 p.m. timeslot, where many NBC shows have crashed and few have survived.
Still, “Earth 2” has a fighting chance: It’s an imagination-stretching journey into a future of hyper-tech space travel and intriguing alien creatures, of compelling frontier conflict and a human struggle to achieve the kind of community and ecological niche we take for granted today.
In some ways “Earth 2” is admirably ambitious and in others disappointingly average — the pilot is more about ideas than action, but then some of the ideas don’t fly too well.
The two-hour premiere sketches a complicated and misanthropic backdrop, in which the heroes must bolt from their space-station home to escape futuristic big government that’s inept, dishonest and sinister.
Then it’s into deep-freeze hibernation for 22 years and on to the target planet, where, for reasons hard to glean from the pilot, the whole shebang crash-lands and most of the equipment is lost.
A dilemma-of-the-week, the kidnapping of one of the kids, is entertainingly resolved, but too many of the answers as to what this world is all about are put off to future episodes.
Most of the characters don’t initially click, despite earnest efforts from a talented cast. The most memorable character, on the negative side, is Morgan Martin (John Gegenhuber), a bureaucratic incompetent, cad and coward who could give sniveling lessons to Dr. Zachary Smith.
Also scavenged from the “Lost In Space” crew is Zero, a robot that’s portrayed with about as much believability and sophistication as its “Danger, Will Robinson” forebear.
Debrah Farentino is good as the commander, but she spends most of this pilot fretting over her physically impaired son — not exactly the kind of conflict that made Captain Kirk a household name.
Clancy Brown is endearing as the mechanic Danzinger; Sullivan Walker exudes wisdom and strength as a cyborg tutor; and Antonio Sabato Jr. almost manages to be likable as the stock cocky-pilot character.
Visual effects (from DreamQuest Images and supervised by Michael Shea) and special effects (supervised by Kevin Pike) are among the high points of the show. Makeup effects by Greg Cannom and creature effects supervised by John Logan help produce believable, intriguing aliens.
If the series stays on course with strongly etched space-Western storylines, if it allows the characters and ideas to drive the series while mixing in doses of crowd-pleasing action, there’s certainly a chance “Earth 2” might boldly survive where few NBC series have survived before.