Down the Ballot

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

GSY Review: Earth Final Conflict Season 1

I know. It has been a while. School has been keeping me busy. So, to ease back into to some daily writing I thought I might start off with a Go Screen Yourself Review of Earth Final Conflict. This is yet another great show from the television buffet table that was 90s science fiction. It was a little slow to build, but once you got about four or five episodes in it started to click. The series deals with the ramifications of first contact by a race called the Taelons. They appear genderless, have advanced technology and want to be humanity's friend. Gee. What could possibly go wrong?

Running from 1997-2002, the show holds up great for sixteen years out of production. This was one of two shows that Gene Roddenberry had written down ideas for before he had passed away in 1991. His wife, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, shopped around and was able to get both Earth Final Conflict and Andromeda into production. She served as executive producer of both shows. Her partner on Earth Final Conflict was David Kirschner.  MBR was also able to secure a recurring role in the first season as Dr. Julianne Belman.

The show is a Canadian production and was run in syndication and CTV. One of the first things I noticed about the show was the soundtrack. It didn't sound like a traditional science fiction show. The music composed by Mickey Erbe and Marybeth Solomon was some of the finest I have heard on television. Creating a better aesthetic experience is one of the many positive outcomes of having a creative and original soundtrack to accompany your film. Erbe and Solomon do just that with the Earth Final Conflict theme.

One of the difficult things with any first season is gaining your audience. This was not a show that reset every week. I still don't know the best way to inform new viewers about what has happened in previous shows. You can go overboard with your recaps like I feel the West Wing did often.  Sometimes, the whole first minute of the show was devoted to what may have happened one episode ago or even one season to set up the latest episode. At the same time, you can't just say "previously on (insert show here)".  What EFC writers did was pretty fair in my view. They gave viewers the basic plot of the show during the intro,
"Three years ago they came, forever altering the future of humanity. William Boone's life has been destroyed. A man caught between two worlds. Assigned protector to the Companions; undercover agent for the Liberation. An alien implanted cyber-virus expands his mind. Controlling a bio-engineered weapon of unprecedented power. William Boone searches for the truth."
All of this happens to season one hero William Boone, played by everyman Kevin Kilner. You might know Kilner by face, if you don't know him by name. He is in the Netflix show House of Cards as Michael Kern. Since he has aged (well) since Earth Final Conflict, he now looks like he could be Patrick Warburton's little brother. Kilner does a good job at playing the torn protagonist. His interactions between Taelon envoy Da'an (Leni Parker) and resistance leader Jonathan Doors (David Hemblen) bring out one of the central themes the show explores about motivations of those who claim to be support our best interests. The main cast is rounded out by Von Flores as Agent Sandoval and Lisa Howard as Lili Marquette. Sandoval is the right hand man of the Taelon in the United States and Lili Marquette plays a similar role to Boone, only she has more of an allegiance to Doors in season one than Da'an. She is confident of where her loyalties are, while Boone has a hard time committing fully to either side for reasons that are clear if you get the chance to watch season one.

The last character of note for season one is Augur, played by Richard Chevolleau. He is one of Boone's few hold overs from his previous life as a police officer. Augur is the go to character when the plot of your story needs something remarkable done without involvement from either of the two factions in the series. He is mostly interested in money and can be trusted to be discreet. As the series progresses he becomes closer entwined with the interests of Boone and the resistance.  He even begins to develop a fondness for Lili and by season two an actual friendship. The cast and writers are good at fleshing out multiple layers of conflict for a 41 minute production. 

Of the season one episodes, I am partial to Float Like a Butterfly, where children from an Amish community discover a 'metal scarecrow' and bring it back to a barn. The scarecrow is actually an alien probe that is from a second alien species yet to be introduced. It turns out that the probe is studying how the human body deals with extremes. Anyone who has come into contact with the probe has ended up committing suicide. All in all, a very neat concept and plot development. Amish folk trying to figure out what an alien probe is, and what to do with it. The only thing that irked me was the idea of a Harvard schooled Amish doctor. It seemed a little bit of a strech, but according to some websites, not out of the realm of possibility. The probe will make a second appearance later on, towards the end of the first season. 

The biggest qualm I have with the show is the lack of proper trap doors for characters.(SPOILER ALERT) Kilner, for whatever reasons exits the series at the end of the first season only to come back towards the end of the fifth season. Why? I don't really know. Writers should have plans for characters. I know it can be difficult with some shows, especially if you are not in full control. It is hard to imagine even a group of writers and producers sitting around a table before filming and not ever broaching the subject  of "Well what should we do with Boone, if say, Kilner ever decided he wanted to do something else with his time? How could we allow him to exit, and leave open the door for the possibility for a return?" The way it was handled seem more of a "well, let's toss this at the wall and see if it sticks". It is even more difficult when the character that leaves is the main protagonist! Now you have to hope your audience, you spent a whole season building is intrigued enough to come back with the hero. The last thing we, as the audience want is to be lead down the same path again and have the hero depart after season two.   

Right now, Earth Final Conflict season one is out on dvd (as are other seasons). You can also find many episodes on youtube. I have not seen it on Hulu. You can request dvds through Netflix, but it is currently not streaming. Go find it on youtube and watch two or three episodes to give it a fair look. I think as far as the show is concerned, the first season is the strongest of the five. 


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