"Our people from the first moment are taking off against people's advice, under duress, and if they didn't have children who were dying, and if they weren't forced into this situation, I don't think they'd do it," said co-executive producer Carol Flint of "Earth 2."
"In some ways they are very similar to the Pilgrims taking off from England. I mean, everybody wasn't sitting there going, 'Oh, you're going to love America - it's a great place.' They were sitting there going, 'What's wrong with these people?'"
Unlike our ancestors these settlers crash-land a half planet off target, forcing them into a perilous journey into the unknown. "Earth 2," co-produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television, features a team led by a woman (Debrah Farentino from "NYPD Blue"). She seeks a new life for her physically impaired son (Joey Zimmerman) who cannot survive in the sterile environment of orbiting space stations, where all humans reside in the 22nd century owing to planet pollution, wars and population growth.
Her diverse civilian team includes an imposing mechanic (Clancy Brown), his inquisitive preteen daughter, a cocky pilot (hunky Antonio Sabato Jr. of "General Hospital"), and a novice female doctor.
"Breaking down all the militaristic tonality that has kind of qualified the genre before, what if real people really had to contend with these experiences?" asked co-executive producer Mark Levin. "What would that be like? . . . Though we do have special effects, and we do have creatures, and we do have adventure stories, what we really have are a bunch of very real people dealing with very real problems."
Continuing the pioneers analogy, Levin likened the intrepid "Earth 2" crew to other famous explorers. "It's very much a wagon train story," he said. "Traveling across the great West, Lewis and Clark, parables to Columbus and his journeys - great explorers are part of the source material for the show."
Set 200 years into the future, "Earth 2" will deal with universal problems that have faced people since the beginning of time.
"We deal with . . . starvation, exposure to the elements, basic survival issues that are pretty well ignored by most of television, not just the science fiction shows," said actor Brown ("The Shawshank Redemption"). "And that reduces it to a real visceral level."
And in the first three one-hour episodes following the two-hour premiere, they will also battle a mysterious stranger played by Tim Curry ("Rocky Horror Picture Show") bent on their destruction.
The "otherworldly" terrain that doubles for the new world is actually New Mexico, which the producers chose after extensive scouting missions to Australia, Hawaii, Vancouver, Utah and several other states.
"Earth 2" premieres with a two-hour movie Sunday at 7 p.m. on Channel 4.