Not to be confused with NBC's Earth 2 (1994 - 1995), Earth II (1971) was the failed pilot for a TV series that first aired on American television in late November of 1971. At that time, Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was still a dramatic influence on genre productions, and Earth II looks and feels a bit like 2001 as a TV series, with much attention paid to space hardware and other technical details. Additionally, Earth II is very much a political story; one about the need for humanity to grow up and truly consider the pervasive belief that "might makes right; thus we should be mighty," to quote one character.
Some years later, Earth II is established, and has become the independent nation the former President dreamed of, one overseen by administrator David Seville (Gary Lockwood), one of the astronauts who was aboard the first launch.
As the story proper begins, David welcomes to the station the Karger family, which includes conservative Fred Karger (Tony Franciosa), his wife/photographer Lisa (Mariette Hartley) and their son, Matt. Fred is far less idealistic about political problems than Seville, and upon arrival demands "debate and decision" conferences for the entire Earth II population of 1,982 citizens regarding a new and pressing problem.
Delightfully, when Karger and Seville debate the issues on Earth II's station-wide television broadcast, their words and arguments are instantly measured by a dispassionate computer.
This means that as the progressive and conservative each speak, the machine puts up sub-titles that help to better inform voters about what is being said.
One argument is spoken alongside with the chyron descriptor, "emotional appeal." Another with the legend: "no evidence of this conclusion." There's even one that reports the "argument [is] presented in unbiased terms."
How I would love to see this idea played out in Presidential debates, with the media dispassionately, objectively and accurately noting the emotional and logical fallacies of the candidates as they grandstand, demagogue, and distort facts. Somehow, I don't think it will happen. But anyway, it's an excellent idea, and if our mainstream media were doing a good job, something like this computerized "translation" of a politician's words would already be in place.
The character of Lisa (Hartley), is also portrayed in an interesting fashion. She notes trenchantly that we "cannot carry a stick and live for peace," bringing up the inherent contradiction of "fighting for peace."
Yet this idealist and pacifist is the first to take matters into her own hands -- overruling the democracy of Earth II -- when it has chosen a path she doesn't approve of; her own' husband's. Lisa launches the missile towards the Sun because she is not willing to trust in the people -- in democracy -- to decide the way she wants them too. It's a very interesting depiction of democracy, and the role that hawks and doves each play.
Alas, I fear that even today this is not possible, since so many people in Washington D.C. and the heartland view political opponents as mortal enemies to America, not as fellow Americans who just happen to think differently. I mean, I can't imagine what many modern Americas would think, even, of a sovereign space station in orbit. Look at how the U.N. has been demonized over the last forty years, for example. A sovereign space station, one truly independent of American control, would likely be viewed as a threat by many of our countrymen. And yet, truly, we must make a crucial decision about space: is it to be the frontier of our best angels, or our worst demons?
If you're a fan of such productions as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969), and Space: 1999 (1975 - 1977) you'll find much to enjoy and appreciate in Earth II. Like those other programs, it's about the space program in the near future, not the distant age of the 23rd or 24th century. Accordingly, mankind is as much a threat to his continued survival here as are the hazards of space travel.