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Earth II

Entry updated 18 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

American made-for-tv film (1971). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Directed by Tom Gries. Written by Allan Balter and William Read Woodfield. Cast includes Lew Ayres, Edward Bell, Anthony Franciosa, Mariette Hartley, Scott Hylands, Gary Lockwood, Hari Rhodes and Inga Swenson. 100 minutes. Colour.

After the United States places a large Space Station or Space Habitat in orbit, the President of the United States (Ayres) announces that it will become an independent nation, to be called Earth II and inhabited by people from all nations devoted to peace. Yet the station later faces a challenge when the Communist Chinese government places a nuclear missile in orbit near the station; by a narrow vote, Earth II's citizens agree that action must be taken to neutralize the threat. Astronauts then seize the missile and bring it to Earth II, but a misguided pacifist accidentally launches the missile toward Earth. Fortunately, the station residents are able to retrieve and disarm the missile, so Earth is no longer in danger.

This rejected pilot for a tv series reflects some serious thought about the sort of superior government that one might devise for a space colony: any citizen can challenge a government action and demand a vote on the issue, and as a sign of the residents' dedication to peace, even toy guns are banned on the station. Yet it clearly would have been difficult to generate drama within this generally harmonious society that faced few outside threats. The later, successful series set on space stations – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 – solved these problems by moving farther into the future, introducing Aliens, and setting up discordant factions within the station to inspire regular conflicts. [GW]


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