Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From the Dust Bin: Planet Earth (TV)

Planet Earth was the second 1970's-era effort by Gene Roddenberry to create a weekly television series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth. The previous pilot Genesis II, featured many of the same concepts, characters, sets and props that were utilized in Planet Earth. [Thanks again to Jim Shelley for providing this film on AVI disk.]

Planet Earth, created and written by Gene Roddenberry, first aired on April 23, 1974 (this time on the ABC network), with John Saxon taking over the role of Dylan Hunt from Alex Cord. This second pilot adapted a previously proposed series episode which focused on gender relations within a post-apocalyptic matriarchal society, the Confederacy of Ruth; latter-day Amazons who dominate and enslave men.

The science-based society PAX (which is dedicated to restoring civilization and peace throughout the world) has a field team returning to headquarters, when the team is suddenly attacked by a group of militaristic, mutated humans known as the Kreeg. After an intense struggle, the PAX team escapes into a sub-shuttle station, that allows travel between settlements via underground tubes which were built during the early 1990's, but before the final conflict of the 20th century. Pater Kimbridge is critically wounded during the escape and to save his life PAX Team 21, led by Dylan Hunt, heads out to locate a missing doctor, Jonathan Connor, who is the only surgeon who can perform the delicate heart surgery in time to save Kimbridge.

As a ruse, the lone woman in the PAX group, Harper-Smythe, binds Hunt and enters the city with him posing as her captive. Once there, they encounter Marg, the leader of the women who forcibly claims Dylan as her own property. While captive, Dylan Hunt learns that the men are subjugated and kept under control by a drug that is put into their food.

After Harper-Smythe locates Dr. Connor, an exchange is bartered for the two "dinks" (the society's term for inferior males). Marg has become intrigued by Dylan's resistance to training, as the regular Confederacy males are losing the ability to procreate, due to the effects of the drug. Harper-Smythe and Connor leave for Pax headquarters, while Dylan "entertains" Marg (she is unaware that a counter agent, created by Connor, has been given to Hunt).

Soon the Kreeg attack enmasse to acquire the secret of the society's domination of men. Revealing that they have captured Harper and Connor, the Kreeg demand the drug from Marg, but in the heat of the moment, all of the now fully recovered men in the community respond in force and derail the Kreeg attack. This prompts the Confederacy of Ruth to eliminate the elixir from use in taming males, and a more unilateral approach to gender relations ensues.

This 2nd pilot is much more in line with Roddenberry's earlier Star Trek series, in that uniform costume designs are worn by all Pax personnel. The humorous sequence where Dylan Hunt seduces Marg, is definitely reminiscent of Capt. Kirk's various soirees with alien women. Saxon & Muldaur really make the most of this scene.

Just as the NBC network had previously requested Roddenberry to play down a more cerebral original pilot (Star Trek's 'The Cage'; which had Capt. Pike played by Jeffrey Hunter) in favor of a more action-oriented effort ('Where No Man Has gone Before', with William Shatner as Capt. Kirk) and which was more in line with an audiences perceived tastes; this second try proved even more to my liking. It is unfortunate that after having really delivered the goods with Planet Earth, Roddenberry was again told "No"!

Returning cast members included Ted Cassidy as Isiah and Majel Barret in a cameo as Yuloff. Two additional roles were also featured from Genesis II, but the actors were recast. Janet Margolin takes on the role of Harper-Smythe from Lynne Marta and Rai Tasco appears briefly as Pater Kimbridge. Other performers present are Jim Antonio as Jonathan Connor, Christopher Cary as Baylok and John Quade as the Kreeg Commander (with a brow ridge reminiscent of later Trek Klingons). This concept tried to get out of the gate one final time, but even though John Saxon is present for the third attempt, any viewers who remembered either of the earlier efforts get thrown for a loop when he adopts a brand new PAX identity.
We'll take a look at Strange New World soon.


Booksteve said...

While I definitely like Saxon better than Cord, in this case I don't think he worked as well.

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