Planet Earth (1974)

Planet Earth is a TV movie pilot from Gene Roddenberry of a dystopian future a few hundred years after a nuclear World War III. This was the second effort to get a series going with the title character, Dylan Hunt, played by a new actor, John Saxon.

The focus is an organization of scientists, called PAX, who are trying to restore order and civilization without the mistakes of the past. This is a central theme of prior and future efforts of Roddenberry. Dylan Hunt is a scientist who was experimenting with suspended animation and awoke in his far future. The introduction of this concept was in the prior movie, Genesis II. Both movies featured an underground high speed shuttle. Genesis II is the one with the people with two navels, that Roddenberry used to poke fun at the anti-navel brigade of earlier television censors.

The scientists sent out scouts to identify settlements and other concentrations of people to make contact and initiate their efforts to re-build. One of their scouts doesn’t come back, and Dylan Hunt and his team are sent to find him. They encounter a village ruled by women who use a drug to enslave the men. It is a version of the Amazons, and also commentary on the era’s women’s lib movement.

Many of the gadgets in this movie, such as the high speed underground shuttle, are common themes in books, comics, and other movies of the period. We also used them in playing Gamma World, Metamorphosis Alpha, or other post apocalyptic and futuristic games.

One of the characters that was a delight to a young boy, is Isaiah, a tribesman working with PAX. He was played by Ted Cassidy, most famous as Lurch in the Addams Family TV show.

Like many other pilots and series Gene Roddenberry produced, there was the hope of peace and “better living through science”, but in the end violence is used to settle things with those who only understand violence.

While researching this, I found that there was a third attempt to use the PAX idea for a series, with Strange New World. John Saxon is again the main character who has been renamed, and given a different origin story. I don’t know that I ever saw that one. Many of the ideas from these three pilots were used in the series Andromeda, featuring the main character, Dylan Hunt.

If you are of a generation that doesn’t know these movies, I encourage you to watch them. I know that I, and others of my generation are ready to see them again.

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