"Earth 2," which begins with a two-hour premiere tonight, is NBC's futuristic new adventure from Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, which also turns out "seaQuest DSV" for NBC.
"Earth 2" focuses on a handful of people among the many residents forced to live on a huge space station 200 years from now, after the depletion of Earth's resources makes the planet uninhabitable.
Led by a woman (Debrah Farentino), whose physically challenged son (Joey Zimmerman) can't survive in the station's sterility, the small group secretly sets out for a distant planet that could serve as a new home for mankind.
Among the others on the journey are a hot-shot pilot (Antonio Sabato Jr.), a master mechanic (Clancy Brown) and his daughter (J. Madison Wright), a scientist(Jessica Steen), a wise cyborg (Sullivan Walker) and a duplicitous government representative (John Gegenhuber), reminiscent of the Dr. Smith character on "Lost in Space."
Once the travelers reach their destination, they find a variety of unexpected perils that may prevent them from fulfilling their mission.
Among the dangers are those posed by alien creatures, which have been designed by Oscar-winning effects master Greg Cannom ("Bram Stoker's Dracula"). "One of the elements of this that we think is kind of fun," says co-executive producer and co-creator Carol Flint ("China Beach"), "is that even though they think they're stuck with very little, what to them is old-fashioned looks pretty cool to us.
"When they are bemoaning the fact that they have these crummy old solar-powered vehicles, we've never seen anything like them before. Things that our audience knows about today will all be very new to the characters, and what to them is very standard will be the unknown to our audience."
An implication of the premise of "Earth 2" is that today's environmental warnings weren't heeded.
However, fellow creator and executive producer Mark Levin ("The Wonder Years") maintains, "We're more interested in entertaining than sending messages. We really want the stories to come from the conflict between our characters and their emotional lives, but the message will be there.
"It's in the subtext that Earth was soiled, but we're not going to reiterate that from week to week."
That notion will be conveyed in part by the relatively barren setting of the show (actually New Mexico), which, Levin says, "was suited to our vision of the show."