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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138
-at-popapostle-dot-com
"First Contact" Part 1
TV episode (0:00-45:33 of "First Contact" on the DVD)

Story by: Billy Ray and Michael Duggan & Carol Flint & Mark Levin
Teleplay by: Michael Duggan, Carol Flint and Mark Levin
Directed by: Scott Winant

 

Billionaire Devon Adair defies government warnings and puts together a group of families willing to travel 22 light-years away from the space stations orbiting the polluted Earth to a new home on the first fully-habitable frontier world of G889.

 

Read the full summary of "First Contact" Parts 1 and 2 at TV.com

 

Didja Know?

 

The term "first contact" which provides the title of the two-part pilot episode, is one used frequently in science-fiction to denote the first meeting of humans and extraterrestrials. The term was first used in the 1945 short story "First Contact" by Murray Leinster.

 

The characters take turns being the "narrator" of individual episodes. Devon's voiceover is heard through "First Contact" parts 1 and 2.

 

The episode opens in the year 2192.

 

It's a nice touch, given the limited supplies the Eden Advance group has after the crash-landing on G889, to see throughout the episodes of the series that the characters' clothing becomes ragged and worn as time passes, with first holes seen and then patches covering the holes in subsequent episodes.

 

A less realistic touch is that none of the tents used by the colonists on their cross-continent trek have floors in them. They are all open-ground on the bottom. Most modern day survival tents have a fabric or plastic flooring, which helps to keep heat from leaching into the ground and keep small animals from burrowing in.

 

Didja Notice?

 

Devon's fantasy image of her young son running toward her across a plain is a foreshadowing of what she will see on G889 after the Terrians have healed Uly in "First Contact" Part 2.

 

In her opening monologue, Devon reveals to the viewer the condition known as the Syndrome is not officially recognized by the medical community. The Syndrome effects only children and some people speculate that it is caused by living in the non-natural environment of the space stations, with a lack of fresh air, fresh water...a lack of Earth. (The novel suggests that the theory is largely Dr. Vasquez's.)

 

The space stations and spaceships of Earth must have some kind of artificial gravity device since we do not see them rotating to generate a centrifugal force type of artificial gravity.

 

At 3:09 on the DVD, the display on Devon's headset communications gear not only identifies the caller (Commander Broderick O'Neill), but where he's calling from (the flight deck). 

 

Notice that at 3:31 on the DVD, the console behind Devon shows a global graphic of Earth and the logo of the Eden Project is in the bottom left corner. At 4:34 we get a more close-up instance of the Eden Project logo on the pre-recorded news report intercepted by the expedition in orbit; notice the font design of the word "EDEN" in the logo is the same as the one used in the Earth 2 logo of the TV series itself.

 

The news network seen above seems to be called GNN, probably short for Global News Network. 

 

   Planet G889 is in the G8 system. The system is said to be 22 light years from Earth. There is no star with the name G8 to my knowledge, though the term G8 is used to describe some types of stars (a G-type star is similar to our own sun; the 8 is an indication of surface temperature).

   At the time the series was made there were no known planets at 22 light years distance, but in February 2012, an Earth-like world was found at just that distance! It orbits the M-class star GJ 667C.

 

At 5:30 on the DVD, notice there is a pair of dice hanging above the flight console of the ship (above Alonzo's hand). We get a better shot of the dice later on at 13:50. The hanging of fuzzy dice from the rear-view mirror of an automobile was popular in the U.S. from the 1950s-80s. The appearance of dice on the spaceship is probably a nod to that fad and may also be an homage to the pair of dice hanging in the cockpit window of the Millennium Falcon in the Star Wars films.

 

When she sees that government liaison Morgan Martin is still on board the Eden Colony ship, Devon remarks, "...I assume you have no idea what your friends on level 6 have planned for us tomorrow." Presumably "level 6" is where the government high mucky-mucks are located on the station.

 

While arguing with Blalock, Devon remarks that no Syndrome child has ever lived beyond the age of 9 and Uly is 8.

 

After the ship has escaped the space station and the bomb, Yale informs Devon that the head doctor, Dr. Vasquez, was not on board. The novelization reveals that Vasquez was the lead researcher into the Syndrome and Devon's partner in getting the Eden Project started.

 

The workers aboard the ship all have code numbers on the backs of their clothing. At 15:23 on the DVD, we get our first clear look at Danziger's number, VA-1587, which seems to be on the jackets and backpacks of all the ship's crewmembers. This is a reference to the real world English colony in the Americas, Roanoke, the so-called Lost Colony, which is referenced in numerous ways in aspects of the series:

 

 
  • Roanoke was a colony founded in what would later become the Virginia Colony in 1587, hence the code number, VA-1587.
 
  • One of the founders of Roanoke was Ananias Dare, who arrived on a boat from Plymouth, England, Devon County (hence, our heroine's name, Devon Adair).
 
  • The script of "First Contact" refers to one of the two Eden Project ships as the Roanoke, but this does not appear in any obvious manner in the episodes or the novelization. At 38:19 on the DVD, the jacket that True has draped over her shoulders is seen to have a patch that reads "Roanoke". (Mary is given this same jacket, or a similar one, to wear in "Moon Cross".)
 
  • The series overall can be seen as a futuristic retelling of the arrival of Europeans to the New World and the American colonists' journey and expansion across the frontier of the continent, learning about their new home, meeting native inhabitants and having misunderstandings, altercations, and occasional friendly exchanges with them. In "A Memory Play", Devon even compares the group's journey across G889 to that of the American pioneers.

 

Devon tells Danziger that the hazard pay clause has been invoked for all ship's personnel.

 

We're told that the main colony ship will take about 24 years to reach G889 and the Eden Advance ship reaches it in 22. Since the planet is said to be 22 light years away from Earth, this indicates that the two ships are capable of travelling at roughly the speed of light, though we never hear any of the characters speak of light-speed propulsion technology. If it took the Eden Advance ship 22 years to reach G889, then the year on the Gregorian calendar when they arrive is 2214 (assuming they have some form of hyperspace propulsion that does not compress time for the passengers as genuine light speed travel would according to Einstein's theory of relativity).

 

At 18:15 on the DVD, we see a red, metallic water bottle floating in the weightlessness of the advance ship's bridge. The bottle was seen sitting next to Alonzo at his pilot's chair during the prep and escape from the station.

 

The weightlessness in the scene above suggests that the crew shut off the artificial gravity while in stasis, possibly to conserve power. The computer screen and voice that activates at 18:31 on the DVD indicates that artificial gravity is being restored as the crew is reawakened at the end of the 22-year journey through space.

 

The scenes of the ship's computer reactivating the consoles on the bridge, powering up the lighting, and reawakening the passengers from stasis is reminiscent of the opening scene of the 1979 film Alien.

 

As Dr. Heller takes Danziger's readings with her diagnostic gauntlet after he stumbles out of stasis at 21:11 on the DVD, notice that he playfully pushes one of the buttons on the gauntlet and she walks away with a look of irritation on her face. This is an early indication of Danziger's stubbornness about people fussing over each other.

 

It's amusing that the first thing Uly says to his mother after waking up from stasis is, "Are we there yet?" just like most kids on a long trip.

 

Notice that at 22:41 on the DVD, Danziger tells his daughter she has to "buzz her teeth" and the device he hands her looks like an electric toothbrush without the brush tip. I guess buzzing your teeth is an improved way of cleaning them in 2192. 

 

At 26:42 on the DVD, we get our first look at G889 from space. The most prominent land mass seen through the clouds appears to be that of New Pacifica, judging from the map on the back cover of the novel. Most of the oceans and landmasses seem to have Romanesque names. We get a closer look at New Pacifica as the advance communication dish is launched seconds later.

 

It's hard to hear what people are saying as the ship suddenly starts to shudder and shake and alarms start blaring. Commander O'Neill asks what is going on and Alonzo tells him the cargo pods that were to be ejected down to New Pacifica won't release and they're dragging the ship down.

 

The numbers on the interior airlock door at 28:31 on the DVD seem to tell us that the evacuation pod taken by Morgan and Bess is Pod 1. But after they've disengaged from the ship and Danziger turns angrily away from the airlock door, it now shows 2! It seems it really was Pod 1 because we see (and hear the computer voice confirm) that the second pod to disengage was Pod 2 (the one that is too full to take Danziger and True). We won't see Pod 2 again until "A Memory Play". Pod 3 is the one taken by most of the characters we will become familiar with through the series.

 

From the angle of descent into the planet's atmosphere, it appears that Pod 3 will impact in the area called Sacatosa Mesa on the map above. (The last letter of the mesa's name is actually off the edge of the border, reading "Sacatos_", but is likely "Sacatosa" since there is a mountain called Mesa Sacatosa in the Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico, where most of Earth 2 was shot.)

 

When Pod 3 lands, Commander O'Neill is concerned when Baines finds the exterior sensors have failed and won't deliver a reading of the atmosphere outside. But why should they be worried? Shouldn't they already have known that the air is breathable from the past probes that identified G889 as Earth-like in the first place? Don't tell me Devon and O'Neill rounded up 200+ people for a 22-year trip to a planet they have no idea is livable?!

 

At 35:10 on the DVD, Julia's diagnostic glove does not have the usual wires and contacts on it. In fact, it looks like a simple linen glove with drawings from a black Magic Marker on it!

 

Julia indicates that the colonists had all taken a "bone healer vaccine" that would allow them to heal fractured bones within 24 hours. After the pod's crash landing, Alonzo has to heal the old-fashioned way, having not taken the vaccine because he wasn't supposed to be coming down to the planet's surface at all.

 

Commander O'Neill gives Uly a Buffalo nickel to bring him good luck on their new world. Maybe it worked, because the boy gets cured of the Syndrome by the Terrians in "First Contact" Part 2. The U.S. buffalo nickel was a five-cent coin struck by the U.S. Mint from 1913-1938.

 

True notes that Uly doesn't seem to enjoy the semolina he's given to eat. Semolina is a type of wheat flour. In this episode, the food appears to be in the form of some kind of nutrient bar, perhaps a kind of hardtack.

 

Notice that the small creature befriended by True (later called a koba) purrs like the cat the girl wishes she could have. 

 

Notes from the novelization of "First Contact", Earth 2, by Melissa Crandall

(The page numbers come from the 1st printing, paperback edition, published December 1994)
Pages 1-140 cover the events of "First Contact" Part 1.

 

The cover of the book shows the main characters standing in front of the looted cargo pod found at the end of the episode.

 

The book opens with a prologue not seen in the episode, taking place in 2184, eight years before the colony ship leaves Earth. The prologue describes the day Devon learned that her infant son had the Syndrome.

 

Page 1 reveals that Devon was the foremost designer and developer of the space stations in the solar system from Venus to Neptune. This is how she became one of the wealthiest women in history. Presumably she was not the designer of most of the Earth-orbiting stations since page 27 tells us that Earth's population moved to the space stations six generations ago. (In "Church of Morgan", Bess remarks on Devon's father having designed the stations that are in Earth orbit.)

 

Page 3 reveals that Devon was 25 years old when she had Uly. No mention is made of the father.

 

Page 4 reveals that the suit Uly must wear to prolong his life is called an immuno-suit.

 

Pages 6-7 reveal that Devon's parents took her on a trip to Earth when she was 7 years old. She remembers seeing the Statue of Liberty, only the feet and the hem of the gown remaining due to disintegration from acid rain.

 

Page 14 reveals that Devon's parents tended to ignore her and she was closer to their hired Teacher, Yale.

 

Page 17 reveals that the stations have zoos of virtual reality extinct animals of Earth's past, everything from dinosaurs to beagles.

 

Page 18 suggests that even real grass is gone from Earth.

 

Also on page 18, Devon murmurs, "Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'" This is a line from the 1845 Edgar Allen Poe poem "The Raven".

 

On page 19, thanks to her wealth and notoriety, Devon is able to enjoy real alcohol (whiskey).

 

Page 24 reveals that Devon and Dr. Vasquez decided to work together to find another Earth for the children afflicted with the Syndrome.

 

Page 25 suggests that Earth's seas now look like grayish sludge.

 

On page 26, Yale tells Uly that the proposed colony of New Pacifica on G889 is bordered on the west by the Sea of Antius. However if the map above is accurate and north is at the top, then the Sea of Antius is to the east of the proposed colony location. Notice also on the map that the Sea of Antius is an inland sea.

 

Page 30 reveals that Commander O'Neill was ex-military.

 

The newscast on page 33 reveals that the Eden Project has been in planning for the past six years by the time of the departure of the colony ship.

 

Page 38 reveals that True is 10 years old.

 

Page 41 reveals that the colony ship's pilot (as opposed to the Eden Advance ship's pilot, Alonzo) is named Shelia Willis.

 

Page 50 hints that pigs are extinct.

 

On page 53, Blalock warns Devon that he doesn't think she's going to like what she finds on G889. This may be an indication that he knows that G889 was used as a penal colony by the Council, as revealed in "Life Lessons". Also, in "Water", Reilly claims that Blalock alone was responsible for orchestrating the sabotage of the Eden Advance ship that caused the malfunction and subsequent crash onto G889.

 

Page 70 refers to New Pacifica as a continent rather then just a location for a colony.

 

Alonzo is the first to be automatically reawakened from cryosleep when the Eden Advance ship reaches the G889 system and on page 71, he decides to set both Julia and Danziger to wake up next. But in "A Memory Play", he tells Yale that Julia, as medical officer, was the first to be automatically reawakened from cryosleep.

 

On page 72, Alonzo sings reveille as Danziger awakens from stasis. "Reveille" (French for "wake up") is a wake-up call usually associated with the militaries of many countries around the world, usually just an instrumental version on bugle or trumpet. Most have a lyrical version that can be sung if needed. The one sung by Alonzo here is one version of the U.S. military's reveille.

 

Page 79 indicates that True loves to eat.

 

As Morgan is lamenting to Bess his agreement to travel to G889 as government liaison on page 80, he remarks that they'll stake themselves a mining claim on the planet and then catch a ride home on the Colony ship and sell the rights. This is a foreshadowing of Morgan's attempt to landlock a stretch of ground full of the so-called Morganite in "Better Living Through Morganite" Part 1.

 

Page 82 suggests that Morgan was the government's top negotiator, though that may just be from his own perspective.

 

Page 86 reveals that all of the Yale series of Teacher Class cyborgs had been recalled except for the one employed by the Adair family.

 

After the advance communications dish successfully makes touchdown on New Pacifica, Commander O'Neill uses it on page 96 to send a message back to the Earth stations that they made it and they can kiss his "star-spangled butt".

 

Also on page 96, O'Neill references a station or place called Pluto Six.

 

In the televised episode, O'Neill appears to use a standard lighter to light his celebratory cigar. In the novel, it is said he uses the flame from his Swiss army knife.

 

Pages 97-98 reveal the cigar O'Neill attempts to smoke is a genuine Earth cigar bought on the black market.

 

Page 114 reveals that, after Yale is unable to accept the proffered handgun from O'Neill due to his weapons aversion programming, the Commander gave it to Baines instead.

 

Page 120 reveals that Bess was born on Earth, from one of the few families left "on the wrong side of the tracks" in the view of the inhabitants of the space stations. This fact about Bess isn't revealed in a televised episode until "Natural Born Grendlers".

 

On page 122, True sees a flash of lightning in the distance, but hears no thunder. She muses on how her father had once taught her how to gage a storm's distance by counting the seconds between lightning and thunder. It seems unlikely he would have taught her something he had no reason to think she'd use, having never been on the surface of a planet!

 

Page 134 reveals that the hike from the escape pod's impact site to the impact site of the cargo pod was 27.8 kilometers distance.

 

On page 136, Danziger has noticed True's brief absence when she stops to check on the koba she has smuggled along in her knapsack. To explain her absence away, she claims she dropped to the back of the march to stop and remove a stone that got into her shoe. Since she has no experience on a planet before this, it seems unlikely she would think of such an excuse. Maybe she saw someone else do it earlier or experienced it earlier in the trip herself and found it a convenient excuse now. 

 

Memorable Dialog

 

there were no survivors.wav

in two generations we may all be extinct.wav

I will not watch him die.wav

the key to healing humanity.wav

are we there yet?.wav

a real cat.wav

stop the world, my son is sick.wav 

we're not alone.wav

 

 

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