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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Leather Wings
Written by John Vornholt

(The page numbers come from the 1st printing, paperback edition, published May 1995)


Eden Advance's trek across the continent is brought to a halt by an immense canyon hundreds of miles long. How can they possibly cross it to reach New Pacifica before the colony ship arrives?


Read the full summary of Leather Wings at the Making of Timelines Yahoo Group


Notes from the Earth 2 chronology


It is stated within the novel several times that the Eden Advance group has been on G889 for weeks. But there do seem to be some discrepancies: True's pet Koba is still around; there is no mention of having met Gaal; Alonzo's leg is still on the mend and he can't walk on it, yet he is not depressed about it as he was up until the events of "Natural Born Grendlers". The closest I can manage from the events of the novel is that this story takes place shortly after "A Memory Play" and assume that True formed a new friendship with another Koba before this story and parted with it after, and that the group is aware that Gaal and other convicts were sent to the planet in the past, despite indications here that they are unaware of any other human involvement with G889.


Didja Notice?


On the cover, Uly is holding the same walking stick he uses in "The Man Who Fell to Earth (Two)".


On page 4, Alonzo muses that he blames Morgan for his crippling accident. Morgan could be considered indirectly responsible for Alonzo's broken leg in the crash landing of the escape pod due to the fact that he cowardishly launched pod 1 with just he and Bess in it in "First Contact" Part 1, resulting in pod 3 being overcrowded with evacuees, forcing Alonzo to lay on the floor instead of being strapped in a seat. The group learned of Morgan's actions in "A Memory Play".


Page 5 reaffirms that the caravan is trying to make 12 miles a day in their trek across the continent, as stated in "First Contact" Part 2.


Page 5 reveals that one of Alonzo's favorite space ports for R&R was Aurelia, in a double sun system.


Page 5 also reveals that, at least at this point, True is Alonzo's favorite member of the group, possibly because of her attitude. Later, I would imagine that Julia is his favorite since they become lovers in "Water".


Alonzo has spirolina stew for breakfast on page 5. The eating of Spirulina was first mentioned in "A Memory Play".


On page 6 Alonzo is reminded of a line from an old blues song, "If it wasn't for bad luck, we wouldn't have no luck at all." This would seem to be a paraphrasing of "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all," from the 1967 song "Born Under a Bad Sign", written by Booker T. Jones and William Bell, first recorded by Albert King.


Page 7 reveals that Zero's head can be attached to the front of the DuneRail to pilot the vehicle. Page 12 reveals that his body can continue to walk along with the group minus the head. Yale also somehow attaches Zero's head to the ATV for controlling it on page 203.


Also on page 7, Zero is singing lyrics from an unidentified song. From the lyrics, the song is "Michael Row the Boat Ashore", an African-American spiritual song that seems to have originated during the U.S. Civil War. Zero then suggests singing "Kumbaya", another African-American spiritual, this time from the 1930s. This depiction of Zero seems to coincide with that in the novelization of the Earth 2 pilot "First Contact"; Zero does not sing, nor seem to have such an "outgoing" personality, in the actual episodes as he does in novels.


On page 8, Yale compares the colonization of G889 to the conquest of the New World by the conquistadors of Spain. This is a reference to the Spanish (and Portuguese) soldier/explorers who made inroads into the Americas during the 15th-17th Centuries.


Page 8 reveals that other worlds besides G889 have been colonized in the name of profit and greed. Presumably, he is referring to colonies with protected internal environments since "First Contact" Part 1 states that G889 is the first Earth-like world to be discovered.


On page 11, Yale muses that the river that carved the immense canyon into which the group has run must have been one of such magnitude as to make the Mississippi River look like a mud puddle. The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America.


On page 13, Devon remarks on the "loss of the hovercraft". The group has never had a hovercraft, so she is presumably remarking upon the VTO (Vertical Take-off) aircraft which Yale says should have been in the cargo pod discovered in "First Contact" Part 2 that was partially ransacked by Grendlers before they got there.


Page 13 reveals that True is still keeping her pet Koba in her backpack. This despite the fact that this story must take place after the events of "The Man Who Fell to Earth (Two)", wherein Morgan is stung by the Koba and Gaal reveals that he has merely fallen into a death-like coma from which he will awaken in a day or two, since this same page remarks upon the seeming death and burial/resurrection of Commander O'Neill. In the aforementioned episode, True claims to Morgan's wife, Bess, that she has learned her lesson about the unknown, dangerous life forms on this world and gives up the Koba. In the "Notes from the Earth 2 chronology" above, I have speculated, for continuity's sake, that True has found another Koba to adopt and the group has accepted its presence as a pet that is not dangerous if treated with kindness.


Page 14 suggests that, at least from Uly's point of view, the Terrians fear the Grendlers. In the TV series, the Terrians don't seem to be quite so concerned with the Grendlers as to fear them. Neither do the Grendlers seem so dangerous in the TV episodes as they are presented within this novel.


On page 17, Bess remarks that two or three Grand Canyons could fit inside the one which the group has run up against.


On page 19, Yale remarks that the group is in approximately the center of the continent.


On page 23, Morgan names the spectacular area they've found Martin Canyon and Martin River, with plans to set up Martin Mining as soon as possible to make a fortune off it. This naming scheme also continues (with his first name) with a mineral he will later name after himself in "Better Living Through Morganite" Part 1. The future timeline glimpsed in "The Boy Who Would Be Terrian King" reveals a river claimed by the human population as the Morgan River.


On page 23, Danziger remarks that Devon chose G889 because it is too far away from Earth to make industrialization practical. Uh, not really. "First Contact" Part 1 makes it clear she chose it as the only Earth-like planet thus far discovered, making it the most likely place that Uly could be healed of the Syndrome.


On page 32, Zero reveals to us that part of his security program is to check on the supplies and personnel every two hours while on security duty.


This novel is much less subtle about a potential attraction between Devon and Danziger than the TV episodes, including Julia wryly commenting to Yale, after yet another argument between the two, "They're made for each other."


On page 42, Devon reflects on a favorite African saying of hers, "no struggle, no progress." I've been unable to confirm that this is an African saying per se, but the African-American escaped-slave-turned-orator Frederick Douglass wrote, in 1857, "The whole history of progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle, there is no progress."


On page 60, having to huddle with the group for warmth in the night and finding Danziger's arms around her, Devon reflects that it has been a long time since a man held her.


On page 62, Yale seems to imply that the Grand Canyon of Earth was leveled by mining companies by the year 2040.


The history of the Grand Canyon given by Yale on pages 62-63 is accurate.


On page 63, Yale quotes a wise saying, "Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it." This is a paraphrasing of a quote by philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952), "the one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again."


Page 64 describes the Grendlers as being toad-like and reptilian. I guess that sort of describes the creatures.


Using the holographic projector on his mechanical arm, Yale, on page 60, shows images from the 20th Century of military vehicles being parachuted down from airplanes to the ground. These types of air drops have actually occurred in training and wartime. In this story, Yale devises a plan to drive the group's three vehicles over the canyon rim with parachutes to land safely on the ground. Rigging some of the tents into parachutes for the ATV and DuneRail seems like a somewhat viable way of getting them to the bottom of the canyon. But the TransRover is said to have its own braking parachute, which they use as the chute to drop it, with all of the group's supplies plus Yale, Alonzo, True, and Uly strapped inside, as the sole chute to carry it down. It does not seem terribly believable that a simple braking chute could slow the loaded TransRover's plunge through air enough to land safely. Not to mention, why would the TransRover need to have a braking chute preinstalled in the first place?!


Page 77 reveals that Morgan is 30 years old.


In his dream on page 77, Morgan is reading a first edition copy of Swimming With the Sharks from the 20th Century. As far as I can tell, this is a not real world book at the time this novel was written. Possibly the author intended the title to suggest a corporate shark mentality, which might appeal to Morgan.


Also in Morgan's dream, he and Bess are enjoying Mumm champagne and Beluga caviar. Mumm is a reference to the G. H. Mumm & Cie company, producers of French champagne. Beluga caviar consists of the eggs of the Huso huso species of sturgeon found in the Caspian, Black, and Adriatic Seas and is the most expensive type of caviar.


On their hike down the Koba trail of the canyon, the group eats pemmican. Pemmican is a high fat and protein food made from dried meat and fruit. Traditionally it has been made by Native Americans for thousands of years.


On page 87, Julia remarks to Devon that they have to cross 3,000 miles of wilderness. This seems to contradict the novelization of the "First Contact" 2-parter, in which Yale states New Pacifica is about 5,409 miles away from the site of the salvaged cargo pod; later in that novel (and part two of the episode), the 3,000 mile figure seems to be confirmed by Devon's statement that they can reach New Pacifica in 9 months if they can average 12 miles a day.


Julia mentions Dr. Vasquez, still on the slowly approaching colony ship, on page 87. Vasquez was Uly's original doctor, as stated in the early chapters of the "First Contact" novelization. On page 172, Devon remarks she wants to be in New Pacifica when he arrives so she can show him that he was right (about the Syndrome children needing a world of nature to make them well; though, more than just nature, the Terrians made Uly well in "First Contact" Part 2).


On page 89, Yale states that the fish spotted in the river by Alonzo looks similar to a Coelacanth latimeria. Coelacanth is a biological order and latimeria a biological family of fish which were once thought to have become extinct 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period, but were rediscovered as living specimens in 1938.


Also on page 89, Yale seems to suggest that the group has been on their cross-country journey for weeks. Page 109 reinforces the "weeks" amount of time.


On page 99, the sight of the TransRover sinking helplessly into the mud reminds Danziger of paintings he had seen of mastodons trying to extricate themselves from the La Brea tar pit. The La Brea Tar Pits is a real world educational site in Los Angeles, CA, where a cluster of tar pits formed in prehistoric times and still exists today. The bones of many prehistoric animals have been removed from the muck and are on display at the Page Museum on site.


On page 101, Alonzo remarks that his mother taught him never to throw anything away.


On page 102, Danziger states that there are no fish left on Earth.


On page 104, the group names the Coelacanth-like fish an alonzo, in honor of Alonzo being the first to spot one.


On page 106, True thinks of her life on G889 as being like those of the kids depicted in some of the stories by Mark Twain. Twain, of course, was a famed American author in the 19th Century.


Page 110 reveals that the California Condor is extinct on Earth. Currently, the California Condor is an endangered species, but does still exist in the wild thanks to conservation efforts since the 1980s.


The Terrians in this novel live in the bottom of the huge canyon and the rock of the canyon makes it difficult for them to travel through the ground as do the Terrian tribes previously encountered. Instead, these Terrians have adopted artificial wings made from the dried skin of fish and have learned how to glide along the air currents of the canyon. They call themselves Leather Wings.


When Devon first points out the Leather Wings flying towards the group from the distance, Danziger says they look like harpies. As he explains to Devon, harpies are creatures of Greek mythology. He goes on to say they were known to tear apart people and eat them. This is true of some versions of the harpy myth, but others describe them as merely stealers of food. Harpies were described as having bird feet and wings but human bodies and heads, often female, sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly. Morgan thinks they look like pterodactyls, a pterosaur that existed from the late Triassic through Cretaceous Periods of Earth 210-65 million years ago.


As the Leather Wings approach for the first time, Danziger shouts to the group that they have visitors from the air and asks somebody to grab some jumpers. This book introduces the term "jumpers" for the electro-binoculars used often by members of Eden Advance.


Page 115 suggests that the Terrians are divided into numerous different tribes on the planet.


On page 115, True, and the rest of the group, knows that water makes the Terrians bloat. How do they know this? Maybe there's an untold story before this one that reveals the deadly bloating effect that occurs when Terrians are drenched in water.


On page 116, Yale reveals that Terrians are much lighter than humans, but how he knows this is not stated.


As the Leather Wings watch the group while soaring overhead, Devon muses that they are watching the group in the way a human might watch a stream of ants march across the patio. This seems like somewhat of an odd metaphor to use in an Earth 2 story considering most humans have never lived on a planet, so wouldn't really know what it's like to have a patio, let alone to have insects intruding upon it.


Page 118 describes the lodges of the Leather Wings' village as looking similar to (gigantic) ant hills.


On page 119, Devon reminisces on a fountain she once had an architect design in a park-like settings in front of one of her corporate buildings. Again, since most human life exists on the space stations, it seems unlikely there would be any true buildings, let alone have room for a park and fountain in front of it.


Apparently Terrians have a heartbeat similar to humans, because Julia takes the pulse of the young Terrian who has been rescued from the river by the human group.


On page 127, Danziger pushes a button to start the TransRover. But in episodes of the TV series, the TransRover is depicted as being voice activated.


On page 129, Danziger reflects that he has seen numerous Terrians before, but never one who was wide-eyed in terror. This indicates the story takes place after several previous encounters with Terrians.


Page 139 states that Terrians don't express time in any way that Alonzo has been able to interpret it.


In the second half of the book, Morgan also experiences some of the Terrian dreamtime, thanks to his "friendship" with the young Terrian who rides with the humans across the river in the TransRover.


After the sacred healing grotto of the Leather Wings is seen by Morgan in the dream, he begins to think of it as the Fountain of Youth. The Fountain of Youth is a myth that has been popular in numerous cultures for thousands of years. Currently, it is most popularly known in the West as the folly of Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon, as later told by Yale to the group; however, the story of de Leon's obsession with finding the Fountain of Youth is now considered to be largely apocryphal by historians.


On page 157, Yale uses the old phrase, "United we stand, divided we fall." The origin of the phrase is associated with the Greek fabulist writer Aesop (c. 620-564 BC) in his fable The Four Oxen and the Lion.


Page 168 reveals that the group has traveled hundreds of miles from the spot where Uly was healed by the Terrians in "First Contact" Part 2.


On page 174, Yale implies that humans have plundered resources all over the galaxy. This is probably just an exaggeration on his part, as, if humans had traveled very far from Earth's solar system, they would have discovered G889 long before.


Page 176 describes the Terrians has having scaly, fanged faces. To call them "scaly" is arguable, but they didn't really seem to have fangs in the televised episodes. Possibly the writer had to go by early concept art of the Terrians when he was writing the novel.


When the two Terrian tribes start battling each other in the air, True exclaims, "They're hurting each other!" to which her father responds, "Sometimes people do hurt each other." She asks, "Even humans?" and he replies, "Especially humans." This might suggest that the group has not encountered Gaal at this point. But the references to having spent weeks on the planet would seem to belie this.


When Danziger sees that the Leather Wings tribes do not finish off grounded enemies after they've been forced down to the ground, he is reminded of the pilots of WWI, who often refused to fire upon a downed enemy. This is true of the pilots of that war and equally true that the pilots of WWII were held to a deadlier standard.


On page 190, Morgan remarks upon "giving up a bird in the hand for who knows what in the bushes." This is a reference to the proverb, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." The proverb dates back to medieval times and refers to the hunting sport of falconry; the bird in your hand (the falcon) is worth more than two (the prey) in the bush.


On page 208, Morgan fears he is about to die in the river and his hoped-for fortune will be lost to Devon who, he thinks, will open the Fountain of Youth Health Spa with his discovery.


From the patch of scaly skin that has appeared on Morgan's elbow after it's exposure to the boiling waters of the sacred grotto, Devon, Danziger, Morgan, and Bess speculate that the pool might heal Terrians, but turn another type of life form into a Terrian.


Page 231 implies that Yale spent some time on Mars in the past.


On page 233, the Terrians tell Alonzo that something the humans did during their visit helped the two warring Terrian tribes to settle their differences. What did they do? It's not revealed. Was it Yale scaring off four of the enemy tribe with a flare gun during the attack against Morgan and Bess?


On the last page of the book, Alonzo assures the Leather Wings that the human group will return someday. Did they? Of course, we don't know if the group even survived its trek to New Pacifica since the show was canceled after just one season. 


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