NBC's "Earth 2," premiering at 5 p.m. Sunday, mixes alien adventure with human drama as a small group of earthlings attempt to colonize a new planet after Earth has become too polluted to sustain life.
Sunday's two-hour opener gets off to a bad start, with too much pretentious space-age jargon and high-tech gear. But once the colonists crash-land prematurely on their new home and lose most their equipment, "Earth 2" becomes a show of humans against the elements.
New Mexico's desert and Santa Fe pine country stand in for Planet 22, so named because it is 22 light-years from Earth. The year is 2300, and surviving earthlings live in orbiting space stations, studying potential landing sites. Planet 22 is believed to be 83 percent habitable.
This team, called "pioneers," is the first to land on new soil. Their commander, played by Debrah Farentino, has a son who suffers from a lack of fresh air and water. The affliction soon will eradicate the human race unless it can be stopped.
Planet 22 improves the boy's health, but other dangers lurk, from cute little rodents that look like a cross between E.T. and frogs, to warrior-like creatures that live under the planet's surface. The pioneers confront these mysteries Sunday, but as we leave them we see a new mystery, to be introduced next week as a marooned astronaut played by Tim Curry.
As the team wanders in search of its lost spacecraft and safer campgrounds, the show takes its tales from the various environments and inhabitants they encounter.
Special effects, while mild by theatrical standards, are well done by two-time Oscar winner Greg Cannom ("Bram Stoker's Dracula," "Mrs. Doubtfire").
"Earth 2" was reportedly plagued by creative differences among its producers, Amblin Television, Universal Studios, Michael Duggan ("Law & Order"), Carol Flint ("China Beach") and Mark Levin ("The Wonder Years"). One hopes that the on-site producers won the fight, because "Earth 2" could be one heckuva show.