|Running time||30 minutes|
|Home station||BBC Radio 4 Extra|
|Air dates||January 1982 to March 1982 (Last repeated January 2012)|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||10 per series|
Earthsearch 2: A New Adventure Serial in Time and Space is a BBC Radio 4 science fiction series written by James Follett, comprising ten half-hour episodes broadcast between January and March 1982. There is also a novelisation by Follett under the title Earthsearch 2: Deathship. The series has been released on cassette and audio CD, and has been rerun several times on BBC Radio 4 Extra beginning in 2003. It is a sequel to Earthsearch I.
- Commander Telson - Sean Arnold
- Sharna - Amanda Murray
- Darv - Haydn Wood
- Astra - Kathryn Hurlbutt
- Elka - Jill Lidstone
- Bran - Michael Maloney
- Angel One - Sonia Fraser
- Angel Two - Gordon Reid
- Tidy - David Gooderson
- George - Stephen Garlick
- Solaria - Pauline Letts
- Elkeran - Nicholas Courtney
- Halston - David McAllister
- Theros - John Warner
- SA7 - Spencer Banks
- Kraken - Crawford Logan
- Peeron - George Parsons
- Earthvoice - Michael Tudor Barnes
The casting for Earthsearch II featured the return of several supporting actors from the original Earthsearch, playing different roles. The part of George the agricultural android (originally played by John McAndrew) was recast for Stephen Garlick (who had played Spegal in Earthsearch). Pauline Letts (Solaria) had previously played the role of Tandor in Earthsearch.
The story of Earthsearch 2 continues the adventures of the crew of the starship Challenger (Telson, Sharna, Darv and Astra) begun in the previous serial, Earthsearch, which told the story of theirquest for their lost ancestral homeplanet of Earth (which had moved to orbit a new and unknown star when its citizens realised their original sun was going to go nova). At the end of the serial, the four crewmembers had chosen to settle on the sufficiently Earth-like planet Paradise and escape the ruthless, manipulative control of the Challenger's megalomaniacal control computers, Angel One and Angel Two. While the Angels departed Paradise orbit to continue the Earthsearch mission (and to achieve their aim of dominating an entire civilisation), the humans began their new life on their new homeworld.
Earthsearch 2 begins four years later, when Telson, Sharna, Darv and Astra have settled into their life on Paradise (assisted by two androids, the agricultural machine George and the argumentative general-purpose service unit Tidy). Both couples now have young children - Darv and Astra have the twins Elka and Savin, and Telson and Sharna have their son Bran. Despite the colonists' embrace of Paradise as home, the lifestyle is proving to be difficult and full of hardships. Sharna's loss of what would have been her second child raises questions about the sustainability of the small colony as well as bringing up differences of opinion on how (and whether) to use the remaining technology and resources (including their surviving planetary shuttle). When Savin is unexpectedly killed by a 'monster' that appears from the sea, the colonists are placed under further strain. Noticing the appearance of an unidentified artefact in planetary orbit, Telson and Darv fly up towards it in the shuttle, to discover that it is an eight-mile long spaceship called Voyager 30 and apparently part of an Earth-originated survey mission.
Appearances are deceptive. The spaceship is in fact the returning Challenger: repaired, shortened, refitted and still operated by the Angels (as well by a team of control room androids overseen by Android Surgeon-General Kraken). The Angels are now being attacked by mysterious transmissions apparently aimed at damaging or destroying organic computers such as themselves and the Challenger's higher intelligence androids. As humans are totally unaffected by the attacks, the Angels require human assistance in order to seek out and destroy the transmissions at source, and have therefore returned to Paradise to recruit the only humans they can obtain. However, the Angels do not reveal this information, and instead feign an interest in the welfare of the colony in an attempt to gain the trust of the humans. At the same time they have secretly sent an android to kidnap the children (the same "sea monster" which accidentally killed Savin in a bungled abduction attempt).
When rejected by the suspicious humans, the Angels resort to sabotage on a planetary scale, using terraforming equipment from the Challenger to melt Paradise's polar ice caps and thus raise the sea level in an attempt to get their former crew to rejoin them on the ship. The resulting flooding begins to submerge all of the land, forcing the settlers to abandon their colony and use their shuttle as a floating ark, even down to loading breeding pairs of animals into the shuttle cargo bay. The crew survive and hold out against the Angels' plans until a series of accidents loses them their drinking water, forcing a surrender. They make the best of things by demanding a concession in the shape of a reversal of the flood (so that the animals can be released and survive), following which they fly their shuttle up to the Challenger.
On board the Challenger, the colonists make attempts to regain control over both the Angels and the ships control room, but are thwarted when the Angels kidnap the children from the shuttle. The adults are gassed by a surgical android and fall unconscious. When they come round, they discover that the ship has long left the Paradise system and that they have been in suspended animation for sixteen years. However, the children have been awake the whole time, and have aged normally, now being between eighteen and nineteen years old and firmly under the influence of the Angels. Elka appears friendly and enthusiastic, but Bran is now both hostile and the commander of the Challenger. He demonstrates harsh suspicion and aggression towards his parents and the other two adults, even threatening to kill them should they challenge his authority.
En route to the source system of the attacks, the Challenger encounters a free-floating fifty-mile wide parabolic dish which the Angels decide to use as raw material for shielding. Telson, Sharna, Darv and Astra are sent to investigate the dish. They discover that it is an abandoned artificial sun called Solaria D, used by the Earth during its transit to its new sun, and presided over by an Angel-like control computer called Solaria. Despite her apparent benevolence, Solaria is revealed to have been abandoned by Earth once she developed murderous megalomaniacal tendencies. Darv succeeds in destroying her. During their stay on Solaria D, the crew discover the name (though not the location) of Earth's new home star, Novita Six.
Returning to the Challenger, the crew notice that Solaria D is now moving in an anomalous way. They discover that the artificial sun is now in the grip of the gravity well of a black hole, and that the Challenger is following it. Attempts to escape from the black hole are hampered by the fact that the human crew have no access to the Challenger's control room, where Android Surgeon-General Kraken has had his reasoning capacity damaged by the continuing attacks and is no longer responding to or obeying instructions. With the Angels drastically weakened by the attacks and unable to assist, the humans attempt to storm the control room, which is defended by android warriors. The assault fails when the crew run out of time and the Challenger is pulled into the black hole.
The crew regain consciousness to find themselves on a gigantic plain surrounded by many different kinds of abandoned starships, including the Challenger. They discover that they have in fact landed unharmed on an enormous artificial construct - a "gravity platform" which merely resembles a black hole and forms part of Earth's long-range defences, acting as a trap for potentially hostile vessels. The chief engineer of Spaceguard Six, Theros, refuses to release either the Challenger or its crew as he deems the Angels too much of a threat. Not only have they integrated themselves into the entire structure of the ship (making their removal from it effectively impossible), Theros suspects that they may have interposed themselves into the brains of the Challenger's crew. When Darv locates the Spaceguard's gravitational control room and reverses the field, he frees the Challenger but at the cost of destroying Spaceguard Six.
The ship continues its journey, but immediately runs into further problems when debris from the Spaceguard seriously damages the ship's life support systems and farm galleries, threatening the lives of all humans and organic computers on the ship. With the inexperienced and insecure Bran unable to cope (and undermined by Elka, who secretly dominates him and dictates his actions at the prompting of the Angels), Telson regains command of the Challenger and succeeds in organising the crew to deal with the problems. A second assault on the control room is more successful, but attracts the wrath of the near-invincible Android Surgeon-General Kraken, who kidnaps Darv and Astra to replace his destroyed control room androids. Now suffering catastrophic delusions about seizing the power of stars, Kraken is placing the ship at drastic risk. With the assistance of their android Tidy, the crew manage to destroy Kraken and regain control of the ship. Telson discovers that Kraken has coincidentally selected Novita Six as the ship's next target star.
Arriving in the Novita Six system, the Challenger finally reaches its original home, Earth. However, the planet does not look like the Earth that the crew have seen in recordings. It is almost totally dead, with very little water and no rain. The only sign of life is a huge ten-mile-high tower on the equator, with a tiny village nearby. The crew fly down to the village, and meet Peeron, the leader. They discover that the Earth's civilisation has collapsed a long time ago, and the human race is reduced to eking out a meagre living from a tiny spring that grows weaker every year. It appears that the humans will be extinct in a short period of time. The Challenger crew use the terraforming systems on the Challenger to bring rain to Earth and create a stable weather pattern which will allow the people to flourish.
The crew examine the tower, finding that there is a door set into one side which cannot be opened. Peeron says that many of his predecessors have made attempts over the centuries - for example, by hitting the door with battering rams - but it will not budge. It is said that it is held shut by a "lock of knowledge". Darv eventually works out how to open the ingeniously simple lock, which requires a low grade of technology which would only be available to people who have already worked out basic principles of science and engineering. The door is a very close/accurate fit in the aperture, and contains mild heating elements that cause it to expand and lock in place. These heaters do not heat it to the point that it is warm to the touch. Simply attaching a refrigeration system to the door and cooling it a few degrees causes the door to shrink and move freely.
When the crew open the door, they enter the tower, leaving Peeron and his people outside. They discover that the tower contains a colossal library, presided over by the artificial intelligence "Earthvoice" which serves as both the voice of the library and as a "guardian". Earthvoice explains to the crew that the tower was constructed by the people of Earth as a repository of all human knowledge when their last great civilisation was collapsing. The lock was designed so that the people could not enter until they had already worked out how to make some technology for themselves. Unfortunately, Earthvoice's abilities do not included weather control, so although he has successfully defended Earth's legacy of knowledge he has been helpless to deal with the deterioration of the planet's environmental conditions.
Earthvoice has already communicated with the Angels, presenting himself as friendly and subservient. Prompted by Elka to work with the Angels, Earthvoice re-establishes contact with them and is welcomed eagerly. He admits to having been the source of the attacks which have damaged the angels but states that they were a programming directive which he has now overridden. To the humans' horror, Earthvoice and the Angels agree to share both the library's knowledge and power over the Earth, with the Angels also urging that Earthvoice exterminates the crew for safety. Earthvoice begins to transfer the knowledge - however, the Angels have fallen into a final trap. Earthvoice has always intended to destroy them, and he now launches one last brutal and specialised attack on the Angels from close range, erasing their consciousness and memory facilities.
Rather than interfere further with the primitive human culture on Earth, the crew seal the door to the tower and return to the Challenger. With the Angels now reduced to subservient and "quite brainless" computer systems, they head back to their chosen home, Paradise, to rebuild their colony.
It would initially seem that using two computers to run a star-ship lacks Redundancy. The ship originally had 3 angels in charge, seemingly giving sufficient redundancy should one computer malfunction. However the design of the Angels was itself flawed, with the general mode of failure the development of megalomaniac tendencies. When one and two fail they destroy the third computer. Later on Earth this flaw in the Angels design was recognised and rectified, leading to the computer that is Earthvoice, and also explaining why Earthvoice is designed/programmed to destroy computers of "Angel" design, as they pose a threat to other lifeforms.
Elements of episodes 6 and 7 ('Supermass' and 'Deathship'), featuring the appearance of the artificial black hole Spaceguard Six which draws in the Challenger, have plot similarities to the Blake's Seven episode 'Dawn of the Gods'. This episode (also penned by Follett and first broadcast on BBC Television on 28 January 1980) features an artificial black hole which draws in the Liberator and in which the crew wake up surrounded by multiple captured ships.
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