To glance at Earth: Final Conflict, you would likely be overcome with the sensation of “been there, done that” either through earlier shows Alien Nation or V, all of which sound remarkably similar in their synopsis. However, the trademarked title card precursor “Gene Roddenberry’s” is a hint of the supremacy fans of science fiction staples such as Star Trek can expect in E: FC. And I can report with confidence that the entire first season delivers on that potential with one caveat: The remaining 4 seasons never manage to capture the magic of the first (reviewed here) and, as you will discover below, thanks to some legal snags in securing the DVD rights to the property, maybe this isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict, developed on notes and story ideas the late Star Trek creator left behind, turns a common premise into a complex, character-driven tale of tensions between a race of highly evolved aliens who have arrived to Earth with intentions of serving mankind with knowledge and technology.
Co-developed and co-produced by Roddenberry's widow, actress Majel Barrett, Earth: Final Conflict aired for 5 seasons between October 6 1997, and May 20 2002. The story, unlike the rest of Roddenberry’s properties, is set on Early in the 21st century when a race of alien beings (the Taelons) arrives on Earth after existing in orbit for several years. In exchange for refuge on our planet, the Taelons offer humanity access to their advanced technology and knowledge base. As a result, concepts such as disease, war, and global pollution are all but eliminated. Despite such seemingly good intent, there are some individuals highly suspect of the Taelons true intentions and hence an underground resistance movement is organized to “watch the watchers” as it were.
Perhaps the true brilliance of the show, at least as far as the first-season is concerned, lies in the simple realization that the conflict isn’t a black & white/ good versus evil affair but rather an account of two groups of beings each doing what they feel is right in the name of survival. Developed as a serial, the ongoing story does a spectacular job of keeping the viewer guessing as to which side they should be supporting in the struggle. Often times I found myself convinced I had things figured out only for a later plot twist to force me into questioning my earlier conclusions.
The first season starts off a little shaky, with episodes that often resemble the formula found in series like X-Files, where a slightly peculiar mystery demands the expertise of double agents (and main characters) William Boone and Lili Marquette to close. By the last two discs of the first-season, however, the show settles into a very impressive rhythm, arguable the finest of the entire 5-year run, with emphasis on grander schemes and solid scientifically intriguing concepts.
I mentioned before that the first-season is typically regarded as the finest (and some fans go as far as to say the only worth even watching) and the reason for this is actually quite clear: E: FC works on the idea of character-driven drama and behind-the-scenes drama resulted in an unusually high turnover rate among the regular cast, due in part to contractual disagreements between the cast and the producers.
As a result, nearly all the show's major characters were killed off or otherwise removed within a season or two of being introduced. In fact, the only character to appear as a series regular during all five seasons was FBI Agent & Taelon liaison Ron Sandoval (Von Flores). Additionally directorial duties were often shuffled in subsequent seasons, with each new director brining a distinctive style to the show’s look & feel.
So unstable was the formula that the fifth and final season of the show became radical departure from the storyline setup in the previous four seasons; with the Taelons being replaced by a new and more openly hostile alien race! In this case a group of interstellar energy vampires called the Atavus; a move that outraged dedicated fans of the mythos and crushed what desire to stay tuned remained in viewers whose interest was already waning due to the constantly rotating cast.
Now here’s where things really get interesting. Back in 2003 ADV Films released the third, fourth and fifth seasons of Earth: Final Conflict on DVD as these were the only seasons they managed to secure the distribution rights for.
Six years later (May 5, 2009), Universal Studios Home Entertainment finally released Season 1 on DVD for the first time ever. The box set spans 5 discs and comes in at a runtime of 855 minutes. Extras are abundant and include cast and crew commentary tracks over several key episodes and a handful of featurettes and retrospectives involving many of the original actors and production members. Universal Studios also owns the rights to the complete second season of the program but at present, have announced no plans to release a DVD box set domestically.
In conclusion, recommending the complete first season box set of Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict is very easy thanks to solid storytelling, believable drama, interesting concepts, and a very thorough Universal Studios DVD box set treatment (the icing on the cake is the extremely welcoming MRSP of the set: Under $15 brand new at many retailers). However, the mindset required going in is to literarily convince one’s self that this is the only season of the program that ever existed due to the fact that the second season never came to DVD and the out of production (ADV Films’ released) third, fourth, and fifth are now nearly-impossible to find. As a small consolation, fans of the show are adamant about the notion that this was the best season anyway and after completing the box set last night, I must concur with their admiration.
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