Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.
Not to be confused with the short-lived 1994 NBC series Earth 2, this 1971 pilot for a TV series that never materialized starred Gary Lockwood (who had infamously appeared as Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey only a few years prior) as well as perennial genre guest star Mariette Hartley (Star Trek, Logan’s Run TV series, The Incredible Hulk, etc.). It takes place in the near future and focuses on a space station named Earth II that has received recognition as an independent nation and that is dedicated to the peaceful exploration of space (its pacifist manifesto does not even allow the presence of toy guns on the station). However, these ideals are quickly challenged when the station personnel discover that Red China (this was made in 1971, remember) has put a nuclear warhead in an orbital path above Moscow that can be employed for a first strike on the Russians. Earth II is a rare gem from a simpler television era and it has flown completely under the radar but is worth a look as a decent example of hard science fiction on TV. It definitely has that 70’s cheesiness about it and the special effects are less than overwhelming, but they’re still not too bad for television at that time, considering what they tried to accomplish. The story itself is quite interesting, though it can be ploddingly slow even for an intelligent science fiction piece. But it raises some interesting questions about when a people have an obligation to take action, and it does not just provide simple television series answers. And while the high interest in the space race at that time probably helped get Earth II on the air, this overly-intellectual pilot probably did not draw huge ratings and the series would have been expensive to produce on a weekly basis. It’s a shame, though, because this one could have given Star Trek the true successor it never had until Star Trek: TNG bowed in 1987 (sorry Space: 1999, BSG, and Buck Rogers). That’s of course assuming that it followed the intelligent sci fi approach of the pilot and did not derail into clichés like Hartley’s son on the show (all too cute for a series of this type) stowing away on the next Moon mission or something like that. It has been released on DVD, so I recommend checking it out.
Starring: Gary Lockwood, Anthony Franciosa, Lew Ayres, Mariette Hartley
Created By: William Read Woodfield, Allan Balter
Buy Earth II and Other Failed Pilots on DVD from Amazon.com: