When the networks pulled the plug on "Firefly" and "Farscape" a few years back, sci-fi fans were up in arms. After all, with the airwaves clogged with tawdry reality fare, wasn't there room for one or two shows featuring character development and serial plot progression?
Had fans taken a look at TV history, they may have realized the futility of their reasoning. Forward-thinking science fiction always has had a hard time on network television. NBC's 1994 series "Earth 2," which finally comes to DVD on Tuesday, is an excellent example.
Starring Debrah Farentino, Clancy Brown, Antonio Sabato Jr., Rebecca Gayheart and Tim Curry, "Earth 2" tells of a time when human excess has finally taken its toll on Earth.
A group of men and women, tired of life in stations orbiting the dead planet, sets out for a new world 22 light-years away that seems to support life. Something goes wrong as they arrive, and they crash on the planet thousands of miles off-course. To make matters worse, they find they are not alone -- and the planet's residents don't seem entirely happy with their new neighbors.
While not groundbreaking, "Earth 2's" ideas were fresh considering the scope of sci-fi presented on network TV at the time. Its competition in the genre included the unfortunate "Star Trek" clone "SeaQuest DSV" and the cookie-cutter superhero program "M.A.N.T.I.S."
While some of the show's special effects are adequate, others -- especially creature effects depicting some of the planet's native life -- have not aged gracefully.
Unfortunately, "Earth 2" aired long before making-of featurettes were filmed in anticipation of the inevitable DVD release. However, the set does include extended and deleted scenes and outtakes.
The DVD might be too expensive for the casual sci-fi fan. But those who still mourn the loss of "Firefly" and "Farscape" may find it illuminating to see another decent show lost to impatient network expectations.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment;
DVD $49.98; not rated; available Tuesday
New on DVD:
Constantine (Warner Home Video: two-disc DVD $30.99; rated R; available Tuesday) Keanu Reeves stars in this big-screen adaptation of the popular "Hellblazer" comic. In addition to the feature, the first DVD includes commentary by director Francis Lawrence, producer Akiva Goldsman, screenwriters Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello; and a music video of A Perfect Circle's "Passive." The second disc includes 18 minutes of deleted scenes, including an alternate ending; featurettes "Conjuring Constantine" and "Foresight: the Power of Previsualization"; and two production photo galleries.
Dead Like Me -- The Complete Second Season (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: four-disc DVD $49.96; not rated; available Tuesday) The second (and perhaps final) season of Showtime's quirky dark comedy stars Ellen Muth as a young "reaper." The set includes deleted scenes, featurettes "Dead Like Me . . . Again" and "Putting Life Into Death," and a photo gallery.
Laguna Beach -- The Complete First Season (Paramount Home Video: three-disc DVD $38.99; not rated; available Tuesday) Eight rich, beautiful teenagers are the focus of this voyeuristic reality TV program from MTV. The set features more than 45 minutes of deleted scenes, cast interviews, a tour of L.C.'s house, casting tapes, Lo's guide to Laguna Beach, a behind-the-season look with Kristin and Trey, Laguna Beach highlights, pmusic videos by artists featured on the DVD, and a sneak preview of the upcoming season.
Ice Princess (Buena Vista Home Video: DVD $29.99; VHS $29.99; rated G; available Tuesday) Kim Cattrall and Michelle Trachtenberg star in this formulaic feature about ice skating and empowerment aimed at teenage girls. Deleted scenes, an alternate opening and audio commentary are available on the DVD.