Television Reviews : 'Earth*Star Voyager'

"Earth*Star Voyager" is both the name of "The Disney Sunday Movie" this weekend and the Enterprise-like vessel it features. A better name: "The Good Spaceship Lollipop."

We've seen young casts dominate previous TV space epics like "Battleship Gallactica," but at least there was Lorne Greene or whoever around to balance things a bit.

When the Earth*Star Voyager, asterisk and all, takes off on a journey to explore an alternative habitat for the denizens of an increasingly unlivable Earth (circa 2087), it carries one--count him-- one crew member over the age of 24: the ship's commander. And guess what happens to him before you can say "beam me up, teen-age audience"? Right out the airlock with the old codger.

Eventually on this long trip--this long, long trip (the movie's four hours are stretched over two Sunday nights, starting this Sunday at 7 p.m. on Channels 7, 3, 10,42)--other over-24s pop up. Most notably, there's Duncan Regehr as the Han Solo-like Jake Brown.

But with few exceptions this is strictly Kids in Space. People who consider "SpaceCamp" and "The Goonies" masterpieces may love it. Others will find themselves jettisoning almost as fast as the commander.

For its first hour or so, "Voyager" is watchable, as we watch teen-ager and soon-to-be-captain Jonathan Hays (Brian McNamara), his 14-year-old "super-genius" pal Beanie (Jason Michas) and various other youngsters prepare for and start out on their mission.

After that the script goes ga-ga, alternating between every cliche in the space manual, rip-offs (a terrible "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" segment), the sappy (lots of blooming puppy love) and the simple-minded (why are these kids always lifting weights?!).

"Earth*Star Voyager" is particularly disappointing when you see how much trouble went into it. It's purportedly the most ambitious production ever debuted on "The Disney Sunday Movie" and there are some important names behind the scenes, including veteran director James Goldstone (who, among other things, helmed the original "Star Trek" pilot), cinematographer Robert Stevens (who lit the original "Max Headroom" pilot) and special-effects supervisor Richard Edlund, who worked on "Star Wars" and "2010."

As a result, the film has a smooth flow and a good look to it--though the effects are going to be pretty ho-hum for space-cinema fans. It just goes to show that without a good script ("Kung Fu" writer Ed Spielman is responsible for this one) you're lost in space, no matter how many good intentions, technical wizards and horny teen-agers you pack along.

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