US tv miniseries (1997). Davis Entertainment/NBC Studios for NBC-TV. Produced by Donna Ebbs, Phil Margo, and Christopher Morgan. Directed by Bradford May. Written by Robbyn Burger, and Scott Sturgeon. Cast includes Michael Biehn, Zachary Charles, John Lindsey, Annabella Sciorra and Anthony Zerbe. 120 minutes. Colour.
Astronomer Dr Lily McKee (Sciorra) discovers a huge Asteroid on a collision course with Earth, with the impact due in the very Near Future; she meets FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Director Jack Wallach (Biehn), who at first discounts her, then realizes she has made a dangerous discovery. The President (Lindsey) is convinced of the danger and a plan is formulated to destroy the asteroid with an anti-missile defence system. This consists of powerful lasers mounted aboard three fighter jets, rather than orbital weaponry; a hurricane disables one plane when the attempt is made, but the remaining two seemingly destroy the approaching threat. In reality they have caused it to explode into many fragments which continue on their way for Fourth of July collisions with Earth, many in the western USA. A City-killer splinter impacts directly on Dallas, Texas, carving out a crater roughly two miles wide and at least as deep, while smaller pieces strike elsewhere causing considerable damage. Dr McKee's father Dr Charles Napier (Zerbe), a medical doctor in Dallas, and her son Elliott McKee (Charles) survive the impact, although Dr Napier suffers broken legs when a building's floor collapses underneath him as the two try to reach help. He is rescued by Dr McKee and nearby firemen, while Eliott is rescued at the last moment when Wallach arrives by helicopter.
Owing to budget and time restraints, the resulting damage and loss of life are considerably less (and not as widespread) as would be likely in the event of actual multiple impacts of asteroid fragments. Asteroid is an average example of the impact Disaster story which was a popular sub-genre of sf film in the later 1990s, as in Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact (1998). Dr Napier's name may be an in-joke alluding to the prolific character actor Charles Napier, who often appeared in sf and horror films and television series dating back to the 1960s. [GSt]
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