Sunday, April 10, 2011

DVD Review: Planet Earth

It’s been a while since I did a DVD review, mostly because I’m lazy but also because I usually only get motivated to talk about obscure things people might miss. Planet Earth is one of those things. I saw this film on CFTO one Saturday afternoon in the 70s and it never quite left me. In fact, I went outside and pretended to be Dylan Hunt for several years after that.

How does the Warner Archive release hold up, check it out after the jump...

For those not in the know, PE is the second attempt by Gene Roddenberry to get a series going in the 1970s. The first being “Genesis 2” of which Planet Earth is a more stream lined sequel, like Star Trek, the second pilot has recast the lead, namely a fresh from "Enter the Dragon" John Saxon taking over for the original star Alex Cord.

The film is set on earth in the 23rd century, there has been a great many disasters fragmenting the country into cities, the American landscape is now frought with different tribes of men and mutants with adventure waiting around every corner. Trying to unit the Planet again are the people of PAX, who live in a secret city (which looks a lot like Studio City) and travel across the country in a high tech subway.

As TV Pilots go, Planet Earth is definitely the most accessible and “Series worthy” of what would eventually be three goes at the concept (The third “Strange New World” would be made without Roddenberry’s involvement), the origin of Dylan Hunt (he’s a Buck Rogers type) is not needed so the story falls quickly into the formula of the series.

That formula is Star Trek meets Planet of the Apes, instead of new worlds, the Pax team visits a new city each week, there is a parable to be told and everything gets solved in under an hour. The PAX team have an enemy in the warlike Mutant Kreeg (whose spiny heads predate the Klingons by five years) and if you look long enough at this you’ll wonder why it didn’t get picked up given Star Trek’s popularity at the time.

You’ll also notice that Roddenberry never threw anything out concept wise, a lot of what went into PE made it into Star Trek TNG (the Pax outfit design with the communicator on their chest being most obvious) and the concept was also recycled into space opera years after Roddenberry’s demise entitled “Andromeda” with Kevin Sorbo playing Dylan Hunt.

The Plot:  Dylan’s mentor Pater Kimbridge has been fatally wounded by a Kreeg attack, the Pax crew must seek out a missing surgeon. The search leads them to a society where woman rule over the man (referred to as “Dinks’ tee-hee) thanks to a drug they put into the food.

Dylan, Isiah (Ted “Lurch” Cassidy) and ESPer Baylok are caught and made domestic thanks to the drug. Bad news is the mutant Kreegs plan to take over the city the next day, time is running out.

Planet Earth
Tags: Planet Earth

The Quality: It's not been restored but Warner Archive has presented an incredibly clean copy of this film, the sound is exceptional and far better than the TV print I taped back in ’86. It’s also nice to see scenes like Isiah praying to his Gods in here, they’re missing from some TV prints. I was blown away by some of the details I could finally see.

Value: I paid $20 for my copy, not bad considering how many crap bootleg VHS tapes I own. Despite the completely bare bones treatment, I am glad I bought this. I am a little miffed that this disk doesn't play on my computer or my DVDR machine, I understand it's to prevent piracy but some of us don't own strictly play machines.

Bottom Line: I’m a big dork for this movie, it had me as a child so I really am biased. Sure it's a bit cheese and tame now but for the time, this was TV made with care.

If you’re a fan of the bell bottom era of Science Fiction like me, then this is something you need to grab along with Genesis 2. However, if you don’t dig on the whole “ARK 2 “ scene then it’s just not going to be for you.

Trek fans will notice two familiar faces in Majel Barret and Diana Muldar.

Where to get: Amazon has it of course but if you live in the US you can get it straight from the source at Warner Archive where you can just download it and watch it right now!

As an added bonus, I thought I’d share just HOW BIG a dork I am for this movie. This is my custom Dylan Hunt Mego action figure.    Yup.


Trav28 said...

That is so awesome, I wish Warner Archives would ship to the UK though :(

Retro Hound said...

This is great! Thanks for letting us know about it. I love John Saxon, but had never heard of this show.

Richard Bensam said...

Wow! I thought I was the only person fascinated by this pilot -- but that Dylan Hunt custom Mego just blew my mind. But now I'm envisioning the whole Pax team in action figure form…

(In some parallel universe where The Questor Tapes was a hit series, the action figures would have been awesome too -- "Jerry Robinson uses his toolkit to open Questor's chest and insert the tracking device!" I'll stop now.)

Anyway, I'm very glad for this review; I held off on getting the DVD because I was concerned about the transfer quality, but you've persuaded me that it's worthwhile. It's also worth mentioning that the script for this was written by Juanita Bartlett of The Rockford Files fame, so people who appreciate good television in general have one more reason to check it out.

Iok said...

I seem to recall seeing it one Saturday afternoon. The thing was, nobody else ever had any recollection of it...

Christopher Mills said...

Great review. I'll be posting my own thoughts about Planet Earth over on Space: 1970 before the end of April!

Patron Zero said...

Don't forget the third attempt to jump-start Gene Roddenberry's 'dark future Earth' series, Strange New World.


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