Science Fiction Weekly

The Taelons of Earth: Final Conflict have got the whole world in their hands.

Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict has come a long way over the past four years. Nowhere have the changes to this saga of alien invasion been more deeply felt than by two of the series' lead actresses, Leni Parker, who plays Da'an, the less-than-benevolent Taelon ambassador to North America, and Anita LaSelva, who portrays Zo'or, the duplicitous leader of the Taelon synod. Both characters are out to save their dying race, which has evolved beyond the capacity to live, strive and procreate, even under the threat of diminishing life energy and an invasion by another alien race, the Juridians.

For Leni Parker, her character has seen its clear-cut purpose--to save the Taelon race while maintaining the integrity and survival of the human race--become clouded in a numbers game of acceptable loss in the face of tyrannical leader and biological child, Zo'or.

In Zo'or, Anita LaSelva has found a challenge, moving from an obscure supporting character to the leader of a dying race. It is uncertain whether the survival of the human race is even a consideration in its pursuit for Taelon and personal survival.

One thing is certain: the mission to explore the compatibility of the human race to the Taelon commonality--and its ability to add life-preserving natural tendencies to a supposedly emotionless alien race--has become less of an errand of mercy and more of a lesson in survival, both for humanity, the Taelon race and even perhaps the still obscure Juridian factor. Perhaps the one element the Taelons have sought to add to their species, that is, human emotion and drive, will spell their downfall.

Leni Parker and Anita LaSelva joined Science Fiction Weekly to further explore these ideas.

There's been a great deal of activity this season for both Da'an and Zo'or.

LaSelva: It's amazing how it's evolved so much. Every year has been totally different. This year has proven to be different and equally exciting in its own way, which is extraordinary.

Parker: It feels like things are happening quickly this year. It's all speeding up. It's an interesting year for Da'an and Zo'or. There's a lot more plot development and character movement in a way I think is fun for the fans.

Zo'or's malicious activities lately make it seem as though he has no rudder this season.

LaSelva: There's a whole other aspect of Zo'or coming out, which is a kind of madness that's creeping in. We've never seen this madness. I mean, we've seen the power, ambition, greed--and now it's taken a twist. All of a sudden we're seeing a Mad Emperor character coming out.

Parker: Zo'or is the great dictator without any compassion for humanity, a renegade Taelon.

But Da'an no longer comes across as man's best hope anymore either.

LaSelva: Da'an is by no means a saint. Da'an has that Taelon mission--what do I need to do for survival and yes, this is not the best thing for humanity, but I need to do it to save my species;--whereas Zo'or has all that PLUS;I want to dominate; PLUS; I want power and I have no respect for these lowly humans.

Parker: It's part of their alien makeup in that there's one little component missing. Even though you see Da'an sacrifice himself, the rational takes over and becomes an odds game, completely mathematical. You know, I say, OK, 100 humans will die, but we'll save the rest and all Taelons will live, I guess we should do that. Da'an's always got an out; there's always a really good reason. But Zo'or does things purposely with a lot of malice and plans them out, whereas with Da'an it kind of happens-- Whoops, I'm sorry.

Speaking of excuses, it seems that one of Da'an's rationalizations is a newly acquired substance addiction?

Parker: I have this kryss habit on the side, which is a substance that is produced, I think, in human stomachs. I had a deal going with Federoff, who would supply it for me, and I would supply him with Zo'or's gold. How convenient. It's a very personal thing; I'm addicted to this substance and can't be held responsible for what I do.

LaSelva: She goes through some not good things in order to get it. With me stealing the core energy from other people, the buck stops there for her. She'll have her little addiction, but when it comes to stealing energy from other Taelons, she won't do it--but I will.

I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in some respects, considering the revelation that Zo'or is Da'an's child. That's a strange relationship, isn't it?

LaSelva: The whole revelation of Da'an being my parent and me being the very ungrateful child was amazing, and I think that relationship is really extraordinary, because there are all sorts of things happening this year where I don't trust Da'an and I try to bring him down, and now he's trying to bring me down. It's an interesting parent-child bond.

Parker: There is an episode where we find out all the Taelons are in stasis, and I find out Ta'thon is dead, and Zo'or has taken his energy for himself and has limited time. Later we find out Da'an tries to do a joining with a Juridian and it's unsuccessful, but I regain a thousand years of energy. So you have this one Taelon with a few weeks or years left, and another now with a thousand more years. I go to Zo'or and say, 'How can a parent deny a child their right?' and turn my back; it's a powerful, very beautiful scene, and so I give Zo'or my energy in that exchange.

But just as on Earth, blood isn't always thicker than water in practice, is it?

Parker: It's hard for an actor to play, because in one episode I'm saving my child and a few later, [it's] 'Sorry, Zo'or, I'm putting you up on trial.' A few episodes down the line, I think it's got to be a personal agenda for the reason that Da'an is fighting for a position as leader of the synod. I call Zo'or to task for taking Ta'thon's energy, and when we do an energy sweep, we're going to find out Zo'or has energy that is not his own.

LaSelva: Da'an has never been able or willing to go against me in the past, and we just shot an episode where we will see Da'an actually trying to bring Zo'or down, which is a first. I think Da'an is just realizing that perhaps I have become out-of-hand and that perhaps there is something not quite together about me, and she has gotten to a point where she feels as a parent it's her duty to try and stop me. So we may be seeing more of that in the future. I'm not sure, but it would be kind of interesting.

Is Da'an simply smartening up to Zo'or's true dementia?

Parker: There's more stuff with us coming up because we're jockeying for the head of the Synod. We're at every moment trying to take each other down. It's a bit heated up. There's one scene that I have with Liam and I say, 'How can I ever repay you?' and he says, 'Lead the Taelons.' I think it's because Zo'or has become so hardlined that I say, 'No, that's it, I'm not standing for this anymore, he's completely out of control.' It's a bit of tough love.

Adding to the texture of the show is its ever-evolving makeup. How's that going?

LaSelva: I really love it. Third and fourth season, the makeup, I thought, really improved a lot, because I found that it's more textured now. We call it mottling. It gives us more depth and more to look at. In the first season, we were almost alabaster, very flat, and sometimes looked like we wore masks. Also, they have been sculpted more meticulously with our own bone structure, so the actual heads fit ours. It's better because our own faces can come out much more now and be more expressive, as opposed to going, 'Oh, there are two actors with two big bald helmets.

We're used to it. Makeup is now down to three hours from three-and-a-half (laughing). Oh, wow. Leni and I had some makeup glitches this year as we both lost our makeup artist that we had for many years, but now we've got them back. And three hours, believe it or not, does make a difference. You take what you can get.

LaSelva: The chair's not really bad anymore. It's still really hard when we're in super-early; when we're in at 3:30-4:00 a.m., that's always taxing. On good days like 7:00 a.m. we have so much fun, it's like a little party in our room because we all get along. That way we're out by 8:00 or 9:00 at night, and it's a good full working day, which is nice.

And your eyes finally have a reprieve from the larger, up-close contacts?

LaSelva: In first and second season we had these huge contacts that were really uncomfortable, so on the long shots we would wear smaller contacts, which were not quite as vibrant. In first and second seasons, we'd have to take them out because our eyes couldn't take it.

Now in third and fourth season our contact technician got new ones from the U.S., and now they are amazing, incredibly thin and vibrant colored lenses and we wear them all the time. They are sculpted to our eye.

Parker: They are more comfortable and can stay in for four hours. It's a whole other level of comfort. These ones, the peripherals are limited. It's all cloudy now. If I come in from outside I can't see at all, I literally grab someone. And on set it's difficult to see a lot of detail.

With it seeming most characters have a duplicitous nature, is there an element we can still admire about them?

Parker: We established in second or third season that, 'Look, I'm a Taelon, and I'm going to chose my species first.' But on the other hand, I'm the lesser of two evils, right? Da'an, when he's pushed, can be upfront and will tell the truth; when Liam and he have their heart-to-hearts, there is a semblance of the truth. The kryss problem is throwing things out of whack, but if there wasn't a drug question, I think there always is a good reason I'm hiding these things.

I think Da'an has always had it in him to do the best thing for the greater number of people, for the common good, whereas Zo'or is always doing something for himself. Even though he wanted to save his species, it was all about saving himself. When I join with the Juridian, I'm prepared to sacrifice myself so that my species will survive.

LaSelva: What we do find likeable is his desire and his incredible passion for life. There is a bit of a martyr quality to Da'an, but the one thing about Zo'or is there is such a drive to live, and I think that anyone has to admire that. You take all the greed, etc., down and you see a creature that is desperate to live and desperate for his species to live. The drive for survival is so strong nothing can come between it. That's what I try to infuse the character with; the drive for my species to live is my strongest element.

So the big question I think would be, who is best suited for the job of Head Taelon?

LaSelva: I don't feel my character is trying to be evil inherently. I think I really believe I have to take the tactics I do, as do all these other world leaders [who think] that they are in the right. That's why I think they've brought in this insanity, because it's hard to conceive of somebody being so power-hungry and so selfish and narrow-minded without having a touch of insanity.

Parker: I should be controlling the synod because there are decisions being made that are not sound any more, [and] because Zo'or's not thinking clearly any more--his lack of energy is definitely scary. I can go in stasis, but Zo'or is out of control. I would hope Da'an doesn't have anything too evil up his sleeve, that we'll have more of an alliance if I became leader. But there would be a rogue group of Taelons not in agreement. It would be interesting to see.

So, what's next?

LaSelva: I don't know what's going to happen; for all I know I'm going to blow up in some huge cosmic explosion (laughing).

Parker: I can't wait for a big death scene. I've died so many times now, but it would be different. I can't wait, it would be really fun. I've been keyed up for it since day one, and they've killed me 25 ways. Maybe I'll get to smooch somebody, [and] just not this hand thing anymore.

Outside Earth: FC, both actresses have been active with other projects, right?

Parker: I did a couple films. I went to the Ukraine and then did Hound of the Baskervilles in the summer--both with English accents, which I butchered. It's funny, I can do it with my pals, but when you're on the set with all these Brits in the Ukraine, it's different.

I'm doing a sci-fi cruise in February [as is LaSelva]. And I'm coming down to St. John (New Brunswick) for KingCon in May in my hometown--do some events, show blooper reels and donate any money to the local humane society.

I've also started a line of jewelry--necklaces of crystal to take to conventions--and there'll be a link on my website in the new year. And we're making a screensaver of me which I'll take to conventions. It's great fun. There's also going to be artwork by a local artist I approved. It's just nice for people to have an option of other things to look at; it's better than just carting your pictures around. Also, the necklaces are designed and made by me and I put a signed card with each.

LaSelva: I had a great opportunity this year. I have a program on the Discovery Channel that I host. It's a 13-episode documentary series on science and technology called Future Tense. It's on Thursday nights at 10 p.m. Each episode has a theme, so one week it will be global warming, the next week fertility, crime, aging [and] transportation, and show different segments from different projects around the world. I come in, introduce the show, comment, narrate a lot of it and wrap it all up. It was great, and they were willing to work with my Earth schedule.

And [for] the episode 'Through Your Eyes,' I was nominated for a Gemini Award, best supporting actress in a dramatic series. I was happy it was that episode. It's been a great year.