Characters, Themes and Conflicts

Ulysses Adair

One of the key figures, whose acting role is smaller than his importance in the mythic scheme of the series, is Ulysses, the Syndrome-affected child of Devon Adair. Uly, as he is called, is drawn into the earth by the Terrians, and when he is released he has been cured of the Syndrome and can run and breathe normally for the first time. But he has not just been cured, he has been changed. His DNA now resembles that of the Terrians. Over time Uly begins to understand the Terrian trilling language and eventually is taught to summon the power of the earth through a lightning staff. It is clear that Uly, through his transformation, has the potential to save both the planet and the Earthlings that have invaded it. "He's a link [to] humanity's survival. He's the first in a long line of evolutionary changes, and without these changes [humans] will perish."[1]

The Council and Julia Heller, M.D.

Enter the villain. "The Council" is represented by a man called Reilly who appears only through virtual reality communication with Dr. Julia Heller. It is clear that the Council rules, but whether that is an official government or de facto one is not made explicit. Julia is, in a way, a product of the Council. Her mother was on the board of regents. It was through the auspices of the council that Julia's genetically engineered "attributes: beauty, intelligence, strength[2]" and her enhanced talent and predisposition for medicine were attained. She is an agent for the Council and has regular clandestine contact through VR with Reilly. While the motives and goals of the Council are never fully revealed, it is clear they intend to control the planet. This scene between Julia and Reilly from the eighth episode "The Church of Morgan" is central:

Julia: [Julia enters VR.] "Heller In."

Reilly: "Citizen Heller!" [Reilly greets her in a mocking tone], "We'll dispense with formalities."

Julia: [Julia, not taking the bait, gets directly to the point] "The boy is exhibiting traits -- attributable to his interactions with the Terrians."

Reilly: "Is he aware of this? "

Julia: "Somewhat."

Reilly: "They know not what they have. Do you know what they have Heller?"

Julia: "I'm not sure."

Reilly: "They have the key to this planet!"

Julia: "What do you mean?"

Reilly: "We've known for years we can't take this place, we cannot sublimate the Terrian population. They have a symbiosis with the land -- an interdependency -- the very planet would die without them. Which is counter to a healthy expansionist movement isn't it?"

Julia: "And you think the boy provides the ability to take the planet?"

Reilly: " The boy is touched. Suppose we could take the essence of how he has changed, duplicate it, control it. -- and then give a home to all those desolate people floating in space."

Julia: "How do you propose to acquire the essence of how the boy has changed?"

Reilly: "There is a place at the base of all of our brains which for hundreds of years science has speculated is the location of the human soul."

Julia: "That's never been fully proven that the pineal gland is that."

Reilly: "This is where the change begins."

Julia: "How do you know?"

Reilly: "Twelve years ago I found that to be the case on ... a convict child ... I tried to remove it myself."

Julia: "Are you out of your mind?"

Reilly: "Oh no, no, most certainly not. However I have but a fraction of the medical expertise of someone like yourself. And that is why you will harvest it from the boy. And do not plead medical ethics with me Doctor. You are a prodigy of the system. The system owns your ethical choices."[3]

Julia will become more and more conflicted over her loyalties to the Council and her growing respect for the planet and the members of the Eden Project. It is through Julia and her struggles with the Council that one of the primary tensions of the series -- exploitative technocrats versus nature-loving integrationists -- is played out. Julia is a highly competent doctor, but it is clear she is not at home in her human nature. She has difficulties opening up emotionally and although she is not a cyborg, her intellectual and emotional life has been programmed until now and has not had a chance to develop. Earth2 will become a healing place for Julia and will provide her with the opportunity to finally become fully human.

While the Council is the evil embodiment of post-colonial guilt, other characters represent a less malignant form of the rapacious side of human nature. Many of the colonists will, from time to time, assert their unquestioned right to the resources of the planet. Others are quick to shoot at the indigenes first and ask questions later, but are usually held in check by other colonists. The opposing traits of peaceful settler and aggressive invader are only one of the differences between two central characters.

John Danziger vs. Devon Adair

John Danziger is the ship's mechanic. A single father who has raised his pre-teen daughter on a variety of space ships, he is a third-generation indentured worker still trying to pay off his grandparent's passage to the space stations. Devon Adair is his boss. Danziger is the working-class hero engaged in a power struggle with the elite boss of the Eden Project -- the aggressive tough guy held in check by the liberal utopian, Devon -- the rough, virile male posed against the beautiful, patrician female. Many fans of the program who participate in a variety of Internet forums, and writers of fan fiction feel these two should, and perhaps will eventually, get together. Although a romantic affair between a working class man or woman with a member of the elite is a common enough plot, usually the class conflict is only a source of misunderstanding and often amusement. Here, the power relationships are more central, and for my money, more real. Danziger frequently challenges Devon's leadership, and openly expresses his resentment of her privilege and position. They are people with opposing styles that some would ascribe to gender differences: dominance versus accommodation, and proaction versus negotiation.

Devon and Yale

Devon's closest bond, next to the one with her child, is with her old tutor, Yale, who is now Ulysses' tutor and Devon's confidant. Politically, the relationship between Devon and Yale most closely resembles one between a Roman aristocrat and a loyal, educated Greek slave tutor, a strange role to have chosen for a black man. Yale is an old man now, but in his 20s he committed a crime for which he was submitted to a radical form of rehabilitation. The "Yale Program" turned former criminals into a "Teacher Class" by "blanking" their memories and implanting encyclopedic memory chips into their brains. As an indicator of his status, Yale is "branded" with a metal I.D. tag embossed with the word "YALE" and a number implanted in his left temple.

Yale has several cybernetic replacements for various failing human parts -- he has a robotic arm and his eyes can function as lenses for an implanted recorder, so that he can search and replay events he has witnessed. Physically and intellectually a cyborg, Yale has a rich emotional dimension that not only enhances his nurturing qualities but leads to a period of anguished self-doubt. The Yale program was known to have had many failures in which the reprogramming broke down and the former criminals went berserk. When Yale begins to act irritably, the group grows suspicious of him, and make plans to kill him if he goes over the edge. This suspicion and fear of inherent violence is another chilling reflection of black and white reality. It is especially dispiriting when Yale suspects himself. He discovers that he did not have a criminal past, but was punished for a political crime in which he prevented the slaughter of innocent people. That knowledge sets Yale free. It is possible for him to now take his place as an elder of the group.

Alonzo Solace

Another old man, who is "a hundred and ten or a hundred and nine" but looks twenty-something, has spent much of the past seventy or eighty years in cold sleep as a pilot of several interstellar missions. Alonzo Solace, who in all those years of cold sleep has not dreamed, is the one the Terrians choose to bring into their dream plane. Alonzo is a pure-hearted figure, a sort of Galahad or a messenger angel come to earth who can see what others cannot. He becomes the psychic bridge between the two species, the conduit for a telepathic kind of communication from the Terrians. At first Alonzo is tormented by the appearance of the Terrians in his dreams, and by his confinement to an earthly existence, but in a dream he works through his crisis and with the help of the Terrians is "healed" and accepts both his role as messenger and his new life on the ground.

Martin and Bess Morgan

There is only one married couple, Martin and Bess Morgan, who each represent different but complementary aspects of the old Earth. Martin, or Morgan as he is more often called, is a mid-level bureaucrat who has been assigned to the Eden Advance Project by the space station government. Morgan is, in his vile pettiness, one of the most interesting characters -- someone we relish our contempt for. He is whiny, craven, and avaricious and thoroughly dependent on Bess. Morgan is the quintessential exploiter who would strip the planet of anything of value and destroy anything that inconvenienced him. Fortunately, he is too powerless to indulge in this tendency most of the time. The one time he gets loose he triggers a crisis that threatens the entire planet.

The archetypal earth mother, Bess, is the only member of the Eden Advance party who actually comes from Earth. She's the daughter of a miner who feels most at home on Earth2. Her most dramatic moment comes when she functions as a sort of pollen carrier that makes the onset of spring possible. While smelling a flower that has broken through the winter snow, she is invaded by a yellow vapor that triggers pregnancy hormones. She becomes obsessed with traveling north, not knowing where or why, but tells Morgan that she feels like she is carrying life inside her. Driven with the tenacity and single-mindedness of a spawning salmon, she hurries toward a goal she cannot describe, but recognizes when she arrives. She literally gives a rebirth to Earth2 by depositing the organism that invaded her into a volcano-like hole. The volcano erupts, not with fire, but a live explosion of colors and warmth. Julia tells her she has made spring and they all witness the rapid onset of a season that needed the pollen Bess was carrying to occur.

True Danziger

Finally, there is True Danziger, John's pre-teen daughter. She is featured in episodes two, three and four in which Gaal, an exiled prisoner, seduces her with fatherly attention at a time when True feels neglected by Danziger, and she is especially jealous of Uly. Eventually she recognizes his evil intent and takes an active role in his destruction. Her role doesn't advance the series narrative much, but she does hold a place as one of several unusually strong female leads. She has an active curiosity and penchant for getting into trouble that is usually only afforded to boys on television. She is very bright, comfortable around tools and used to spending most of her time at her father's side as he works. Many fans found her irritating, but I suspect they would have had more tolerance for her willfulness had the character been written as a boy. Of course it doesn't help that the script calls for her issue several piercing screams in some of the early episodes.

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To read the "official" character descriptions
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