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Genesis II / Planet Earth (Blu-ray Review)

I’m a sucker for 1970s science fiction in either television or film. Its likely a bit of a love for the style and aesthetic that comes across, but there are some great ideas explored through the writing. In the television medium, these weren’t always about action and blasting all the time, they had to provide good drama and character explorations. Gene Roddenberry, famous for creating Star Trek, tried his hand at the genre on television again a few years after the crew of the Starship Enterprise had gone off the air. His new attempt was an Earthbound story of a man out of time.  The first attempt, Genesis II wasn’t picked up for series, leaving its pilot as a standalone TV movie. Just a year later, it would be rebooted as another pilot called Planet Earth. That one would also not make it to series. A third try, without Roddenberry’s involvement (But with Planet Earth star John Saxon returning) also failed. Regardless of success, these curious television oddities, Genesis II and Planet Earth are now coming to Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection on September 29th. Pre-order using the paid Amazon Associates link below.

Genesis II

A NASA scientist (Alex Cord) wakes up in a strange new world after spending World War III in suspended animation. “My name is Dylan Hunt. My story begins the day on which I died”, is how the story of a 20th-century man thrown forward in time, to a post-apocalyptic future, by an accident in suspended animation begins.

A strong first act and overall set up, Genesis II slowly begins to start fading as it continues unable to shake off the feeling of being the pilot it was really intended to be.  As a whole, its nothing more than a grand introduction with no intention of providing a grand finish or sense of completion. Granted, with the world that’s been set up, how could there be so quickly. A series may have provided some interesting science fiction tales here and there, but overall it seems to have a sort of generic template that many a science fiction show of that decade followed. We sort of can tell how the show was going to go. Look no further than the later Logan’s Run television adaptation and you can sort of see how Genesis II (And the follow up) would have played out.

One of the struggles with Genesis II is its leading man. I’m not too familiar with the work of Alex Cord, but he’s a sort of weird presence to have here. Perhaps he’s miscast. He’s supposed to be a dark and brooding man, but his vocal inflection and body language come across as quite goofy. The star of this thing is Mariette Hartley, who likely wouldn’t have been much past the pilot episode. She comes across perfectly as otherwordly or of a different species, even with the ability to draw you into a false sense of trust.

For television of this era, Genesis II is pretty much par for the course in terms of sets and effects. There are some impressive ones and some softer ones (The costuming is pretty easy). Overall, its not a lengthy endeavor (Clocking in at just about 74 minutes), but after things move past the first act it starts to really slow down and become far less interesting and leaves too much open or prologue feeling to give a satisfactory sense of just having watched a movie.

Planet Earth

Another adventure of Dylan Hunt (Now played by John Saxon), the man awakened from suspended animation to finds himself in the 23rd century. This time its a place where women rule the world and men are slaves called Dinks. He is captured and sold as a slave, but escapes and joins a male rebel movement.

Planet Earth is a bit more like it, troubling politics and all. This second pilot improves almost all of the weak spots in the previous Genesis II. However, its still nothing too special that different to make its failure to hit series much of a disappointment. Simply, this is just a better rendition of the original. While still having some of the ideals explored with the science fiction of the era, it ramps up and becomes a much more action based show. This one bounces quite a bit more than its predecessor with a quicker pace and characters that walk with a bit more pep in their step.

John Saxon’s presence as Dylan Hunt makes this infinitely more watchable. Saxon brings a bit more of a Captain Kirk quality to the character and showcases a lot of his martial arts prowess like we would see in Enter The Dragon. He surrounded by a much better cast that are an interesting and character actor base than what we had prior. This whole show, while retaining some sets, has been revamped with a majority recast and the costuming a lot better and more confident. It still struggles in the way of not having THAT much money to do, but doing the best they can with it.

Despite it being more enjoyable, it still suffers from being a pilot and not a complete thought as a movie. It also has some sketchy politics with its analysis of dominant feminism. As a little piece of sci-fi trash from the 1970s, its fine enough and I’m always eager to take in more John Saxon material I’ve never seen before, too.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Both Genesis II and Planet Earth were made a year apart from one another and have the very same production values, leading to a pretty comparable look. They have a really nice restoration, showing a good clean image better than any presentation ever seen before. Details, textures and patterns all come through quite impressively in this sharp image. Special effects and more elaborate sets still hold on despite the potential to show the strings.

Depth: Both films feature a pretty good display of depth of field. Actors move freely around some pretty three dimensional looking sets and exteriors. Movements are smooth, natural and contain no motion distortions.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep, but not too consuming. Shadow, shading and being visible no matter how dark for certain details come across quite good. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors have a natural look and are quite bold in their appearance. More flashy color garments glow more and some of the more natural greens are strong. There’s a lot of regular here, but its all well rounded and full with good saturation.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of both features. Facial features and textures are quite clear and present in most reasonable distances.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Format(s): English 2.o Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Both features contain an original lossless mono track. Given they are more dialogue heavy, vocals are plenty audible and natural in their environments with this mix. Effects and music sweep in and blend quite well to provide some solid balance. Overall, this is a solid presentation considering this was 1970s television and the best its likely to ever be.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

Genesis II / Planet Earth features both films sharing a disc. There are no bonus features.

Summary

Genesis II and Planet Earth are interesting in terms of being forgotten curiosities from the past. Whether its seeking more Roddenberry material, John Saxon roles or just sci-fi television from the 1970s, that’s about where the interest draws the line. If you’re not sparked by one of those factors, I’m not sure its going to interest you. And even if you are, they are kind of a one-time exploration and then set aside. Regardless, Warner Archive Collector has put together a beautiful presentation of each. Definitely check these both out before deciding to make a purchase.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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