Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.
In 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation proved a huge hit in syndication and seemed to point to a hunger among audiences for space opera on television. In 1988, Disney apparently sought to jump on that bandwagon with their pilot Earth Star Voyager which aired in two parts on ABC on The Wonderful World of Disney. It took place in the year 2088 when Earth is on the verge of ecological collapse and preparations are being made to evacuate the human race to other planets in the galaxy. The ship Earth*Star Voyager–manned by a young crew due to the length of the voyage–is sent to survey the planet Demeter to see if it is ripe for colonization. But as things begin to go wrong during the journey, it becomes apparent that they are part of a conspiracy with very different plans for the ship and its crew. This younger-skewing mini-series came long before the entertainment industry had discovered the cash cow of young adult franchises and how to make those appeal to the broader audience. I remembered catching this when it first aired and finding it somewhat cheesy and hampered by exceptionally wooden acting along with poor dialogue. But I also recall thinking that the special effects were decent for a television series (at that time) and that it had some potential if could rise above the juvenile audience it catered to. It never got that chance, though, as it apparently didn’t pull decent enough ratings to get the greenlight to series. However, since it first aired it has developed somewhat of a cult following that has lobbied Disney multiple times to release it on DVD. But the mouse-house apparently has no interest in making money on that venture as nothing has made it to the shelves yet, nor does anything appear to be in the works. You can track down bootleg copies on the internet and you can also catch it on YouTube from time to time (currently at this link) if you are interested. I recently re-watched part of it and it lived down to expectations, though I still see where there was some potential with the story. A revival could actually fit in well on The CW as that network has figured out the formula for success with genre entries populated by pretty young faces. It’s unlikely it would ever appear there, though, seeing as Disney owns ABC and has no stake in the fifth place network. And I don’t see the alphabet net mulling the possibility of adding Earth Star Voyager to their schedule anytime soon. Still, you may find it worth checking out as a blast from the past when television was still trying to find its way with epic sci fi (we would see much better examples within a few years from Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space 9).
Aired: ABC, 1988, 2 Part Mini-Series
Starring: Duncan Regehr, Brian McNamara, Julia Montgomery, Jason Michas
Created By: Ed Spielman