Its 7:00 am
A few weeks ago I was having a discussion with my deep cover asset “MP” over at Warner Brothers Archives about various films and actors. The discussion brought us to John Saxon and his career. We each were talking about his various films when I mentioned I once saw him in a old 1970s film about a destroyed Earth but that it so long ago I couldn’t recall anything else.
Well for “MP”,that tidbit was enough and he said “I got you covered”.
Two days later John Saxon passed away at 83 years old. And three days after that,I had a copy of “Planet Earth”in my hands. I have to admit,this review is a bit bittersweet because I really admired and respected John’s body of work and he has been in several of my favorite films. I am really thankful to “MP” for sliding “Planet Earth” to me.
“Planet Earth” was a made for TV film that was also a pilot for a possible TV series. It was created by Gene Roddenberry of “Star Trek” fame and it aired on ABC in 1974. But just like the original Star Trek,there had been a earlier TV film called “Genesis II” and it starred Alex Cord. Just has Jeffrey Hunter had appeared as Captain Pike in the first pilot,Cord did the same for “Planet Earth” except he played the same character of “Dylan Hunt” (I know some of you will know that name instantly but let me catch up first for the new folks).
“Genesis II” which aired in 1973, was written in six weeks by Roddenberry, was well received by the audience but ABC approached Roddenberry with changes they wanted made,”Genesis II” was sluggish on the action and Cord was a little too “brooding”. They wanted Roddenberry to remake the pilot and recast the role of Dylan Hunt with a man of action ( i.e. James Kirk).
John Saxon,who has established himself as a action star in the Bruce Lee movie “Enter the Dragon” stepped into Alex Cord’s shoes in the reworked pilot.
And just as with “Star Trek”,many of the characters stayed either in their original roles or played another character. The remade pilot now had Saxon as Dylan Hunt,Christopher Cary as Baylok,an esper of unknown ability,Ted Cassidy as the giant Native-American Isiah and Janet Margolin as Harper-Smythe or (H.S.).
The plot had Dylan Hunt being accidently frozen back in 1970s being woken up in the year 2132 and discovering that Earth has been almost completely destroyed with various pockets of humanity left. Hunt lives in PAX,perhaps the most advanced group of humans left. They believe in peace and science,they want to help rebuild the planet but also make it better.
Hunt leads PAX Team 21,a sort take of an “Away Party” in later Star Trek series. He,Baylok,Hunter-Smythe and Isiah comprised Team 21.
The film opens with Team 21 being chased by the mutant-warrior like race called the Kreeg. The Kreeg know that the society of PAX is far tech savvy and want to capture the team alive. They somehow have managed to old beat up cars running and they also have rifles and pistols,while Hunt’s team only has knock out dart guns.
In trying to escape the Kreeg,Dylan’s mentor,Pator Kimbridge,who had joined the team for this mission is critically wounded by a gunshot.
His condition is so grave that unless he is operated on within 3 days,he’ll die. Of the two PAX doctors who can do the surgery,one is in Europe and is weeks away and the other,Dr. James Conner,went missing on a PAX mission a year before and still hasn’t been found.
Dylan,being determined to save Pator,leads Team 21 on a search mission for Conners which will take them into a society where women rule and men are slaves.
After sending Baylok and Isiah off in a another direction in hopes that two teams will cover more gound,Dylan comes up with a plan to get into the women’s compound,Hunter-Smythe will bring in Hunt as a captive in hopes of being able to join the group.
The plan gets off to a rough start when Marg (Diana Muldaur) takes Dylan away from Hunter-Smythe when HS won’t fight for him.
Dylan is sold as a slave and discovers that Baylok and Isiah have been captured and are deathly afron Dylan,somehow the women are able to subdue the men with incredible ease and when Dylan figures out how they are doing it,he knows he has to overcome Marg and find Dr. Connor but when he is re-captured after attempting to escape,its up to Hunter-Smythe to save the day or Team 21 will be lost and Pator will die……
What did the cheetah and I think of “Planet Earth”? While we liked it well enough,even at a mere 74 minutes,this dragged in too many places.
I don’t understand how ABC could request more action and we maybe get 7-8 minutes of action in the whole movie. But the film was still entertaining to us.
John Saxon is solid as Dyan Hunt,he uses both his brawn and his brains but the person who stole this movie was Janet Margolin as Hunter-Smythe,she is smart,quick on her feet and proves very capable in hand to hand combat as Marg painfully learns when Hunter-Smythe wins Dylan back. In fact the whole mission is on her shoulders and she manages to save all three of her teammates and find Dr. Connors!!
Now that’s the kind of girl that will be a squad leader!!*There is one thing I like to note that Roddenberry was sensitive about,he didn’t show any black males as slaves.
The other main characters,Baylok and Isiah,really don’t get a chance to establish themselves at all and think that can be explained due to the short run time.
The story was written by Roddenberry and long time friend Juanita Bartlett and the film was directed by Marc Daniels.
Now while ABC declined to pick up “Planet Earth” as a series,Roddenberry didn’t forget Dylan Hunt and while he died in 1991,his widow Majel Barrett helped developed the concept that brought him back in a whole new series and setting in “Andromeda”.
The basic premise was the same,Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo) is caught in a time freeze and isn’t awoken until well over 300 years have passed.
Instead of a scientist,this Dylan Hunt is a warship captain and his “Earth” has been destroyed. While the main cast is all different,you can see the ties to “Planet Earth”. But what the new show is missing is Roddenberry,you know he would have never approved of a violent based series that “Andromeda”was. But that is a story and review for another day.
“Planet Earth” has a runtime of 74 minutes and has no special features.
You can buy a copy of “Planet Earth” by going to the website of Warner Brothers Archives.
The cheetah and I gave “Planet Earth” two thumbs up.