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The Palm Beach Post
November 5, 1994, Saturday, Final Edition: Accent, Pg. 1d

Spielberg's Earth 2:
NBC Drama Soars To Stellar Heights

by Paul Lomartire; Palm Beach Post Television Writer

Watch out, Star Trek. There's a new sci-fi show on the air and it's more accessible and more exciting.

NBC's Earth 2 is don't-miss-it TV. The season's last new series to premiere could be the best. Sunday's two-hour movie about a group of space colonists seeking a new world in the year 2194 is a terrific hybrid of Wagon Train and Mad Max.

Created and produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television (and Universal TV), this is what seaQuest DSV was supposed to be when it was launched last fall. Earth 2 has hooks for women and men and there isn't violence to keep the kids away. At its heart, this is a no-frills, solid, old-fashioned, Saturday matinee adventure.

Starring Debrah Farentino (NYPD Blue, ABC), Antonio Sabato Jr. (General Hospital, ABC) and Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption), this is for viewers who appreciate a well-written drama and don't mind if it comes in the form of science fiction.

When the depleted planet earth can no longer support human life, people are forced to live permanently aboard huge orbiting space stations. This is not only a boring way to exist, it leads to a medical problem. There are children who can't adapt to the space station's sterile environment. Their life span is nine years.

Devon Adair's (Farentino) son, Ulysses (Joey Zimmerman) is eight and she plots a way out. Like her parents, she was born and raised on a space station. She and her son have only heard stories about life on planet earth. Virtual reality is all they know about mountains or deserts or rain storms or sunshine. But Big Brother government delays and delays and delays permission for Devon to lead a group of 250 families with similarly sick children on an expedition into the G-8 system on the other side of the solar system to find a new planet to call home.

Just to make the trip, the colonists have to risk, and survive, a 22-year hibernation ''cold sleep'' because their destination is 22 light years away.

The planet she picks, G8-89, is a version of earth before the human race destroyed its resources. Pristine mountains, lakes, forests and clean air is the upside. The downside is that no human has explored G8-89 and nothing is known of possible inhabitants or life forms beyond plants. (This series is filmed in New Mexico.)

Farentino is excellent as the mother/leader of the expedition. Sabato, who plays the space pilot Alonzo Solace, and Brown, as crack mechanic Danziger, who is supposed to be able to return to the space station with his daughter (J. Madison Wright) after delivering the colonists, are fine in their well-defined roles.

This series is created by an A-list of producers Michael Duggan (Law & Order,NBC), Carol Flint (China Beach, ABC) and Mark Levin (The Wonder Years, ABC).

What they have done is create a story about people first and gee-whiz sci-fi second. Although the special effects are excellent and wisely rationed, the writing is rock-solid, believable and compelling.

In a surprising year rich with one-hour dramas - The X-Files, My So-Called Life, NYPD Blue, Homicide, ER - Earth 2 offers one more hour of appointment

TV. After Sunday's premiere, how anyone could keep from tuning in each week to Earth 2 is the only mystery bigger than: Will these people survive on their journey to build Pacifica, their dream colony?