Friday, November 18, 2005

Humans Make Decent Aliens

I’m kind of a big sci-fi fan. I’ll watch any sci-fi that’s on tv… most of the time and any big budget sci-fi movie that comes out, I’ll give it a watch. That being said, I bought the Earth 2 DVD set because I remembered the show being interesting back when it was originally aired in the 90’s during my early teen years. After watching it again, I realize that it was more the concept that interested me than it was the actual show because after about the first half of the series run, the show went downhill somewhat quickly.

The concept of a group of humans being the aliens on a foreign planet is something that really interested me, which is also what prompted me to throw down the $40 to buy the set to re-watch the episodes. How many sci-fi shows come along that have concepts that actually sound interesting? Not too often. Heck, I’d usually kill just to get more sci-fi on television period, so when a concept tickles my fancy I’m all over it.

What sucks about sci-fi shows, though, are all of the concepts that get used and re-used and re-re-used, sometimes within the same series. This happened to Earth 2 in the second half of its run. For example, I recently watched an episode where nightmares that are being had by numerous crew members are used as a MacGuffin to further the plot onward. This isn’t exactly something new, but I was willing to let it go… then they used the exact same concept in a subsequent episode. There was not even a 5 episode gap between the two. It’s like the writers weren’t even trying.

The alien species to be found on the planet were initially very interesting, but the further into the series you get the more the writers try to explain them and their nature, and the explanations given for many things are often quite eye-rollingly bad. For instance, the planet they’re living on is said to be a living being which has teleportation holes in the ground that act as a “circulation” system. These teleportation ducts are powered by spiders that possess two different energy charges, one for each end of the circulation tunnel… yeah, I’m not making this up, which is not good if you’re trying to write a good, serious sci-fi show.

Another thing is that whenever a hard to explain topic is broached, they don’t actually attempt to explain it… they just chalk it up to the planet or the Terrians (the aliens) operating on a strong metaphysical plane. A strong metaphysical plane? Seriously? That’s not an explanation, that’s an appeal to a gigantic, generalized conceptual notion that actually creates more ambiguity.

One other annoyance is that for supposedly being the first group of settlers sent to this new planet, they sure run across a lot of other humans—penal colonists, space hippie radicals, and other people that had been secretly sent there for some reason or another. It kind of takes away from the whole feeling that this group is all alone on a new planet, cut off from all other human contact.

It’s really unfortunate that this series had to go downhill so quickly after the initial 10 or so episodes. There were so many things that could be done with the conceptual framework they had to work within, but the writers were too lazy or coached to heavily by tv execs or just didn’t know how to do sci-fi. I suppose it might have worked better in today’s environment where meta-arcs are not frowned upon, whereas in the 90’s the networks wanted every episode to be as close to stand alone as possible, but if they had the same writers I think the same problems would persist.

Anyways, if you’re hard up for some sci-fi, this is not a bad DVD set to buy, but it’s nothing groundbreaking or too deep. Basically I’d recommend it to sci-fi fans that don’t take their sci-fi too seriously.

No comments: