Entry updated 23 May 2022. Tagged: Film.
US made-for-tv film (1988). Marstar Productions, Walt Disney Television (see Disney on Television) . Created and written by Ed Spielman. Directed by James Goldstone. Cast includes Peter Donat, Brian McNamara, Lynette Mettey, Jason Michas, Julia Montgomery and Duncan Regehr. Two 96-minute parts. Colour.
Earth is becoming uninhabitable due to Pollution (see Disaster), but a probe from a vanished Spaceship, the Vanguard Explorer, had identified a possibly habitable planet, Demeter, 18.7 light years away. The Earth Star Voyager is built and, in 2088, departs to discover whether Demeter could house an evacuated humanity (see Colonization of Other Worlds). The journey will take 26 years: so, save for the Captain, the crew will be teenagers; Cryogenics will also reduce their ageing by a third. They are high-achieving cadets, including Dr. Sally Arthur (Montgomery), Jessie Bienstock (Michas) and Jonathan Hays (McNamara). They are sent on their way by war hero Admiral Beasley (Donat).
The voyage out is eventful: the Captain is murdered early on, so Hays is promoted; they discover they are being shadowed by another spaceship; Captain Jacob Brown (Regehr) of the Vanguard Explorer, who had fled a mutiny, is found and becomes the inexperienced Hays's adviser – then they are lured to an outpost of the Outlaw Technologies Zone (OTZ). The OTZ once controlled half the Earth, with ambitions to conquer the rest, but had eventually been defeated (see War): their outpost was supposed to have been destroyed by Admiral Beasley. A search party is captured, but fortunately the OTZ choose their leader through trial by combat: Brown throws down a challenge and wins, so they escape.
They find and board the wreck of the Vanguard Explorer, discovering an OTZ "Shell" (a Cyborg) aboard. Though he initially attacks them – at one point temporarily damaging Priscilla (Mettey), Earth Star Voyager's AI – Dr Arthur's compassion compels him to defy his programming, though it kills him. Before it does, he explains there are 2,780 other Shells, who have been "moved to Assembly". Assembly is a collection of OTZ ships located around twin suns, using their solar power to join into a giant ship – with Earth Star Voyager intended as the centrepiece. Beasley now contacts the Earth Star Voyager: he is responsible for most of what has happened to them. He intends to leave the Earth to its fate, arguing only the fittest deserve to go to Demeter: that is why Earth Star Voyager is crewed by the best of the best – they will colonize the planet (see Eugenics), the OTZ being tools to be discarded. Hays is having none of this, focusing the twin suns' energy through a solar laser (see Rays) to destroy the Assembly ships and using a railgun (see Weapons) built by Brown to damage Beasley's ship. Earth Star Voyager continues on its mission. Beasley, not without admiration, says they will meet again (in an alternate ending this is apparently omitted, but has Beasley revealed as a cyborg).
The OTZ have similarities to, but predate, Star Trek: The Next Generation's Borg. The films were originally planned as a two-part pilot for a never-commissioned television series. Flat performances, lifeless action scenes and sheer length hinder ingredients that might have made – with a tighter, shorter script and more vigour – a reasonably exciting work. [SP]
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