Cult-TV Theme Watch: Adam and Eve

In terms of Christian mythology Adam and Eve are the first human couple on Earth, created by God to dwell in paradise in the Garden of Eden, but eventually expelled from their utopia after sampling fruit from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. 

In the Bible, Genesis enumerates and describes the children and descendants of Adam and Eve, our ancestors and generations past.  In terms of modern science, however we understand that the idea of the diverse human race springing from just a single couple is, let’s say, genetically improbable.

Despite such modern knowledge and information, Adam and Eve remain potent symbols, and important figures in cult television history.  This may be because, subconsciously, humans look to parental figures for comfort and succor.  Adam and Eve – the first of our kind – are the parents of the entire human race. 

Or perhaps the focus on Adam and Eve in cult-television may be one related to scorn and upset.  The duo beheld and experienced paradise, but disobeyed the edicts of God, and started this whole crazy world in motion.  All our strife, in a way, is their fault, a product of their fallible human nature, which we share.

Also, I suspect Adam and Eve carry so much resonance in our modern culture because, in a way, humans are self-destructive.  We universally contemplate the end of what exists now, and the beginning of something else, something new (and hopefully better).  If our world ends, will two new “parents” – a new Adam and new Eve – emerge to lead us to greener pastures?

An Adam and Eve story, showing the population of a virgin Earth by aliens, for instance, is widely termed a “Shaggy God” story in science fiction circles, and considered a cliché by many greats of the form.

The Adam and Eve paradigm appeared memorably on two episodes of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964). 

In the first, entitled “Two,” a terrible, apocalyptic war has destroyed most of the civilized world, leaving only, two survivors.  One is an American soldier, played by Charles Bronson. The other is a Russian soldier, played by Elizabeth Montgomery.  In a ruined metropolis, they eye each other suspiciously for a time, unable at first to give up the hatred that fueled their global conflict.  But over time, the duo comes to accept their situation, and accept each other.  In the end, the female soldier – wearing a wedding dress she has found in an abandoned store — and the male soldier – adorned in something like a tuxedo – march off together.  The implication is that they will re-start the human race together, and merge in peace the forces of two destructive foes.

Twilight Zone’s “Probe 7 Over and Out” followed a similar Adam and Eve-styled outline.  A male soldier, Cook (Richard Basehart) lands his spaceship on a habitable world, only to learn that his home world has succumbed to a terrible nuclear war.  

As he sets out to familiarize himself with this new planet, he meets another alien, a beautiful woman refugee from another world named “Norda.”  He introduces himself as Adam Cook.  She is Eve Norda.  They call the planet “Irth,” and share a seppla (apple?) in a garden-like setting.  The story, by creator Rod Serling is clearly an origin tale, a tale of our beginnings on Earth as the progeny of ancient astronauts.

In 1965, Star Trek’s first pilot, “The Cage” offered a variation on this oft-seen trope. Here, Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) is captured by an alien race living on Talos IV in the hopes that he will mate with another captured human, Vina (Susan Oliver).  Together, they would be the father and mother of a new race of humans, ones destined to dwell on the desolate planet surface and do the hard physical labor that the mentally-superior but physically fragile Talosians cannot.  Although the Talosians tempt Captain Pike with visions of Vina in different settings — and indeed as different women — he refuses to participate in the plan to create a race of humans as slaves.  One such fantasy involves Captain Pike and Vina in a picnic setting like a garden, clearly evoking the Adam and Eve story.

Interestingly, the second Star Trek pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” also features overtones of the famous Adam and Eve tale.  Only here, a race of dangerous ESP-ers — consisting of parents Gary Mitchell and Dr. Dehner as Adam and Eve — could be born on Delta Vega, if Captain Kirk (William Shatner) doesn’t prevent it.  The implication is that if the new race is born, the human race will die, rendered obsolete and inferior.

The final episode of Space: 1999’s Year One, “The Testament of Arkadia” by the late, great Johnny Byrne, featured both an ancient astronaut and Adam and Eve angle. 

In this profound tale, Earth’s errant moon is stopped dead in space near a planet, Arkadia.  While exploring the planet, Commander Koenig (Martin Landau) and his reconnaissance team discover a cave filled with human skeletons and writings that resemble Sanskrit.  The writings tell of how the ancient Arkadians brought the seeds of life to a distant planet, Earth, some 40,000 years earlier.  Two members of Koenig’s team, Luke (Orso Maria Guerrini) and Anna (Lisa Harrow) become obsessed and possessed by the idea of returning that favor, and restoring life to Arkadia, a world which has been rendered lifeless in a nuclear war.  Over Koenig’s objections, Luke and Anna set out on this endeavor, and in the process, become Arkadia’s new Adam and new Eve.

A second season episode of Space: 1999, titled “New Adam, New Eve” made the idea even more literal.  A God-like alien called Magus (Guy Rolfe) captures Commander Koenig, Helena Russell (Barbara Bain), Maya (Catherine Schell) and Tony Verdeschi (Tony Anholt) and brings them to a garden spot on “New Earth,” where they can mate and begin a new human race. The wrinkle in the plan, however, is that Magus boasts very explicit match-making plans.  He wants Koenig and Maya together, and Tony and Helena as a couple, which goes against the humans’ romantic inclinations.

Logan’s Run: The Series (1977) also offered an Adam and Eve-like premise, with Logan (Gregory Harrison) and Jessica (Heather Menzies) “cast-out” from the Domed City and wandering the wasteland in search of Sanctuary, a place of safety where they can live as “normal” human beings and even start families.  In one episode, “The Collectors,” a fake Sanctuary is explicitly visualized as a kind of garden location, harking back to the Biblical Eden.  Uniquely, the series’ android (REM) might be interpreted as the very embodiment of “knowledge,” but is seen as an heroic figure rather than an evil Serpent.

The second season Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979 – 1981) episode “The Crystals” involved a landing party from Searcher, led by Buck (Gil Gerard), encountering a beautiful, innocent girl, Laura (Amanda Wyss).  She awoke on the planet alone, confused about her origins and history.  She soon discovered that the shambling mummy monster threatening the landing party would actually transform into her equally innocent male mate, and that they would start life anew on the planet.  They were the Adam and Eve of a distant world, but in this re-telling, Eve came first.

Some years later, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s second season presented “Some Assembly Required” a kind of Bride of Frankenstein/Adam and Eve tale, wherein Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) was captured by an amateur surgeon and prepared to become the wife of a football jock — the surgeon’s brother — brought back to life through replacement surgeries. 

A notorious – and utterly intriguingMillennium first season episode, “Loin like a Hunting Flame,” involved a serial killer who was hoping to gain a kind of sexual innocence after his honeymoon night went horribly wrong.  After killing his first victims, the killer positioned their corpses – in a botanical garden spot—as the Biblical Adam and Eve.   

The premise of both Battlestar Galactica incarnations has nipped around the edges of the famous Adam and Eve story.  The Commander of the Galactica is named Adama (a variation of Adam), and in both tales he delivers his fleet to a would-be paradise called Earth.  In the Ron Moore remake, the series ends (in “Daybreak”) as the humans forsake knowledge – their technology– and live in a simple paradise to breed with the native inhabitants.  In short, the members of the Rag-Tag fleet are all Adams and Eves, our ancestors here on Earth. 

5 responses to “Cult-TV Theme Watch: Adam and Eve

  1. John interesting Adam & Eve analysis. For me the most haunting was BSG "Daybreak" finale, very Chariots Of The Gods. The Space:1999 "Testament Of Arkadia" season one finale was intense when I saw it as a boy in the 1975-76 season. As for Logan's Run, Logan and Jessica were perfect to symbolize Adam & Eve leaving the Garden Of Eden that was the Domed-City/City-Of-Domes. I was always surprised that the Domed-City was not called Eden or Eden City.SGB

  2. I have to say that I was disappointed by the way Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica ended. The last season came across as an attempt to overturn all expectations of how the series should end, and in the process, made the conclusion rather nonsensical.It seemed clear to me, in this version of the tale, that Earth was the origin of mankind, and that Kobol (and subsequently the 12 Colonies) were descended from Earth. (Why would Earth constellations be displayed in the Tomb of Athena, the names of which were the origins of the names of the Colonies, if Earth wasn't the source of those names? And so on.)The show could have been on-course to follow in the steps of "The Testament of Arkadia" when the fleet found "Earth" (what turned out to be a lost, Cylon colony.) The human survivors could have returned life to their ancient planet of origin, while trying to end the war with the Cylons once and for all. Sadly, Moore introduced more and more plot convolutions instead, leaving the otherwise excellent series with a knot of loose ends tied hastily together.

  3. Hi SGB:Great thoughts on the Adam and Eve trope in sci-fi television. My favorite is Space:1999's "Testament of Arkadia," which featured this kind of symmetry or "cycle." The Arkadians brought life to Earth, and in turn the Earth's moon would bring life back to the point of origin, to Arkadia.BSG's "Daybreak" never quite worked for me simply because Earth was already inhabited by primitives when the fleet found it. The idea of mating with primitive cavemen-type folks always seemed like a way-out idea to me, and one that would not have been appealing to a race that had, until recently, been extremely advanced in terms of technologies and viewpoints.I agree with you that it would have been great if on Logan's Run the City of Domes had been called Eden City. Excellent point.Warmest regards,John

  4. Hi Brian,I like your alternative solution for the end of the Ron Moore BSG. I agree that in this case, the Testament of Arkadia ending might have worked out nicely here, adding a sense of symmetry and elegance to the story.My biggest problems with the finale were:1.) I didn't believe advanced, hygienic humans would mate with primitive man on Earth. I mean…yuck.2.) I didn't believe that advanced technological man would forsake such things as air conditioning and indoor plumbing, plus advanced health care. Perhaps phones and spaceships. I might buy that. But definitely not indoor plumbing….I think the ending of BSG really fractured the fan base for the new show. The series has kind of disappeared from prominence these days, in part, I believe, because people are so upset about how the series ended, and how there wasn't ever really a Cylon plan to speak of. Lost and Battlestar Galactica (remake) built up huge anticipation and expectations in terms of telling a "whole" story that would make sense, and both failed to deliver on those expectations. Many fans weren't just disappointed with this, but downright angry!Excellent commentary…best,John

  5. Hi John,Regarding your points:1) I find that as I get older I am less likely to buy into any "ancient astronauts who were/bred with our ancestors" stories, simply because we have now more than enough knowledge of genetics to know that humans came from this world and are related to every other living thing here. Modern sci-fi that doesn't deal with that is as backwards as stories about Venus and Mars being just like Earth, only with swamps or canals. And the likelihood of two species evolving independently on different worlds being capable of interbreeding are –without some very elaborate explanation– so close to nil as to be impossible. (Sorry, Spock!)2) Moore was essentially forced into having the colonists ditch all their high-tech in order for there to be no trace of it surviving 150,000 years into the present era. No relics, no fossils, nothing. Also, there was a chance that possible Cylon survivors might detect such technology should they eventually come around our neighborhood again. So from this perspective, his decision actually made sense continuity-wise, but it created the conflict with human we-love-and-need-our-tools-and-toys nature that you described.

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