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Monday, 3 March 2008

Gordon May Be Alive But My Brain Is Dead...

The new Flash Gordon TV series limped onto the Sci-Fi Channel this evening, and despite the critical drubbing it has taken from all quarters I felt almost obliged to give it a "fighting chance".

The pilot was preceded by an hour-long documentary on the history of Flash Gordon, from his origins as a 1930s newspaper stript (created as a foil to the popularity of Buck Rogers), then his transformation into the sublime Buster Crabbe film serials and so on, through cartoons and a a pretty mediocre 1950's serial, up to classic movie from 1980.

Clearly no-one responsible for this new TV show watched this documentary, or even spoke to anyone who knows anything about Flash. One of the key points the documentary made was that Flash Gordon was about an everyday American jock going off to exotic planets and meeting exotic aliens.

Where were these exotic planets and aliens this evening? Our brief glimpses of Mongo just looked like Canadian fields we see in every US drama series - just shot through a colour filter - and all the interiors seemed to be shot in a dark warehouse, while the only creature that looked vaguely alien was some sort of robot that had stepped off the set of The Power Rangers and decided to attack Flash's mum.

I could ramble on and on about how poor this show was - how ridiculously miscast John Ralston is as Ming The Merciless (he has a full head of hair, for Pete's sake!); how drippy Eric Johnson is as Steven 'Flash' Gordon (his acting range runs the gamut from mild bewilderment to constipated); how shoddy a lot of the effects are; how poor the script is; and so on and so on. But you probably know all this anyway.

It was everything I feared it would be from the brief trailer I saw back in August.

The creators should be taken out and shot for wasting such a brilliant opportunity. The "true" Flash Gordon story, which could survive and thrive easily with a decent 21st Century makeover, has been totally neutered. Anything that was original has been thrown out for cheap rehashes of old sci-fi cliches.

Gone are the glorious space ships, instead we have "portals" between dimensions (that we can see every day in reruns of Primeval or Sliders and probably countless other, better, sci-fi shows).

Gone are the fancy alien costumes of Ming and his court; instead they all dress in Matrix cast-off trench coats... and while, on paper, someone might have thought it was "cool" for Ming's scientist Rankol (Jonathan Walker) to "glide" everywhere in his long coat, in practice it just looks silly.

I don't want to rant on, but I can't stop myself. The whole episode revolved around the hunt for an artifact known as the "Imex" (and, not as Rachel and I thought for the longest time, the "Imax"... which is, of course a cinema chain).

Hopefully I'm not spoiling things by saying this turns out to the Timex watch Flash's father gave him over a decade earlier and he has seemingly worn ever since. The thing is, it clearly didn't work - but if you moved the hands to a certain position the back pops off, glows blue and shoots out weird alien holography things.

Do they really expect us to believe in all those years Flash never fiddled with the watch, tried to wind it or even take it to be repaired? I think he might have noticed if all that stuff kicked off!

The one, possible, redeeming feature of the show was - as might have been expected by anyone with a knowledge of Flash Gordon lore - Ming's daughter, Aura, played by Anna Van Hooft, who scrubbed up quite nicely. But it was way too little, too late.

3 comments:

  1. Sadly it was only Flash Gordon in name, what a waste.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The character names appear to be the only aspect of Flash Gordon this show has kept!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Meh. There's so much potential in the Flash Gordon storyline and concept. And now it will be years again before anyone does much with it, citing the failure of this show. A waste.

    ReplyDelete

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