Review: Flash Gordon – Series Premiere on Sci Fi Channel

Flash Gordon on Sci Fi ChannelShow: Flash Gordon (Sci Fi Channel)
Episode: “Pilot” – Series Premiere (Season 1)
Premiere Date: Friday, August 10th, 2007
Rating: 2 out of 4 Stars, but with potential (See Update Below)

Quick Synopsis: The all new adventures of Flash Gordon, played by Eric Johnson (Smallville), and his old girlfriend Dale Arden, played by Gina Holden (Blood Ties), and his father’s former assistant Dr. Hans Zarkov, played by Jody Racicot, get sucked in to an extraordinary battle for Earth with the leader from another world, Ming, played by John Ralston (Life with Derek).

Long Synopsis: Flash thinks that his life is going well, his mother is better now and traveling again and his business of restoring classic cars with his friend is on track. Little does he know, he is about to be dragged into a life and death struggle to save the planet from the merciless dictator Ming from the planet Mongo.

His father’s old research partner, Zarkov, has been following him around and when they finally meet, Flash learns that his father may not actually be dead. Flash wanting to know the truth, just can’t leave things well enough alone and enlists his old girlfriend Dale, now engaged to a local police detective and a TV reporter for their hometown station, to help him investigate. She is working on a story about strange occurrences around town. They end up joining together and find that her story and his search for answers may be linked. They find Zarkov’s lab and learn that his father was actually lost in a rift and not burned in a fire while they worked on a secret government project.

Later they defeat a being sent to find the “Imex” that Ming so desperately wants to find. They find a device on him and use it to track what looks to be another rift like Flash’s father was lost in. Flash is ready to go through it when Dale tries to stop him and they both get sucked through and end up on Mongo where they are jailed. After they escape, Flash finally figures out where the “Imex” is and with a little switcheroo makes it look as though he has destroyed it. But, this won’t be the last we see of aliens and Mongo as the adventures are only beginning.

Review: The first Flash Gordon comic strip was published in January of 1934 and since then has taken many different forms. They have included film and radio serials, comic books, 1 - The Lion Men of Mongo">novels, animated and live action TV shows, and movies. Now, Sci Fi Channel is updating it with a present day adaptation of what many consider to be a sci-fi classic.

Oddly enough, this TVaholic has never seen any of them. So, one couldn’t go into watching this new interpretation of Flash Gordon with a much cleaner perspective of what to expect than when I watched the preview screener that arrived at the end of last week.

Yet, I can’t fully decide whether it is the unfinished version of the show I watched or the show itself, but there is something a bit off in the first episode, as the preview screener was missing scenes, special f/x and lacked music. The cast chemistry isn’t quite there yet. But, I think it will come. Back in June at a Q&A session with the cast, they seemed to have pretty good chemistry with each other. At that time, they were in the middle of shooting episodes six and seven, so hopefully that shows up in later episodes.

Also, the acting and dialogue weren’t quite crisp enough. You are not sure which direction the producers and writers want to go with the series, as it hovers somewhere between screwball comedy and serious drama. My hope, as with the chemistry, is that this will tighten up, as well, and they will find their way in future episodes. Although, maybe it will seem less so with full special f/x and music when it airs.

That being said, they do, do a good job of setting up much of the framework for the series. They have the love triangle between Flash and Dale and her fiancé. They have Flash wanting to find out what really happened to his father. And, of course, you have an alien world to be explored and an arch-villain in Ming to battle with.

Also, I like much of the cast from previous shows. Gina Holden was the best thing about the dreadful Blood Ties. And, Karen Cliche (Mutant X, Adventure Inc.), who plays alien bounty hunter Baylin, is always solid when a role calls for some action. Eric Johnson totally looks the part of a comic book TV hero. Although, seeing Jason Tanner’s mom from Falcon Beach now doting over her son Steven Gordon was a bit weird.

Overall, the TVaholic is looking forward to this Friday, so we can see how the finished product turned out. This review will probably need a bit of an update after that. So, come back and also, let us know what you thought of Sci Fi’s new take on Flash Gordon in the comments.

Update 8-12-2007: After having now watched the Flash Gordon “Pilot” in finished form, it looks as though it might be a fun addition to Sci Fi Fridays. Without the special f/x and music you feel like you need a big bag of crackers to go with all the cheesiness, but with them the show comes off much better. Having the addition of special f/x making a difference is pretty self-explanatory, as watching people react to stuff that isn’t there, just makes the scene look silly. But, it is amazing how much having the proper music adds to the story being told. Whether it is be used to transition from one to scene to another, to set the mood of a scene, or punctuate the action, it really does enhance what you are watching. As mentioned above, the “Pilot” does a good job of setting up the show’s framework, so it gets a two star with potential rating. The potential comes from having seen the next two episodes, granted sans special f/x, etc., but it looks as though the writing and character interactions have tightened up a bit. So, if after watching the premiere, you are unsure or a tad down on Sci Fi’s Flash Gordon, give it a couple of more episodes, you might just like what you see.

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Jason the TVaholic
6 comments… add one
  • shuster Aug 12, 2007, 8:46 am

    FLASH GORDON is great so far, way better than the AQUA-MAN pilot. Which i loved!!!!!

  • Jason the TVaholic Aug 12, 2007, 5:35 pm

    shuster, since you enjoyed the first episode of Flash Gordon so much, you should definitely enjoy the next couple of episodes. Especially next week, as Baylin gets a more thorough introduction.

  • Brad Aug 15, 2007, 8:36 am

    How can you say that this show was anything more than a waste of an hour. For any SCI-FI fan out there, you must (or should be) a fan of Flash Gordon. This pitiful attempt to bring the story back to life was an ultimate failure.

    In the comics, serials and the great movie, the world of Mongo was over the top, full of color and shine. Dramatic costumes and dramatic characters. This show had none of that.

    Ming was by far the greatest disapointment. Sci-Fi must be very concerned with offending Asian history, because the classic Ming character has been replaced with a guy who looks like my neighbor.

    Hans Zarkov was a bumbling retard, Daile was an idiot, and the other characters lacked a proper introduction.

    Not only has this show stollen concepts from “Sliders”, but it attempts to pay tribute to the classic film. There is a scene where Daile pulls the o’l switcheroo with one of Ming’s slave girls. But unlike the movie, where this scene had some sexapeel, Daile tricks the slave girl with a futuristic ear plug (are you kidding me)!!!!!

    I shutter to think how Sci-Fi will butcher the remaining characters.

    I shut this show off well before the end. It is a travisty!

  • Ken Aug 24, 2007, 1:49 pm

    Got to agree with Brad on this. The show wasn’t good and with such a weak start there is no way to save it. The sci-fi channel keeps dropping the ball. I guess you really don’t have to try that hard when your the only game in town.

  • Jason the TVaholic Aug 26, 2007, 7:55 pm

    Brad, I said the “Pilot” was average. For some that might be a waste, I guess. Though, it is nice to finally meet the gatekeeper to Sci-Fi fandom, at least virtually. I always wondered to whom that job belonged. Keeping track of who “must” or “should be” a fan of what to gain entry as a true Sci-Fi fan must be rough.

    I loved Sliders, but it is not like it was wholly original either. Many shows borrow concepts from previous shows, they just use them slightly differently and in new combinations. Flash Gordon is not the first, nor will it be the last, to use a portal of some sort to travel between planets, times, dimensions or whatever and neither was Sliders.

    As for Ming, the creators of the show decided to try and make him a dictator in the mold of a Saddam Hussein or a Fidel Castro and not some totally crazy, over-the-top, bizarre looking crackpot. They wanted it to be somewhat believable that he could be the leader of Mongo and that people would actually follow him. So far though, as the main bad guy, he does lack a little something.

    Ken, lots of shows have a weak start and go on to get better. “No way to save it,” well that is a pretty quick hook you’ve got there. It is funny when a show gets put out and someone doesn’t like it and they think it should just be gone. But, when a network pulls a show because not enough people are watching it, but that same person likes it, they get pissed off. Neither the network nor the viewer should be so quick to send a show packing. In my opinion, the second and third episodes have already shown improvement.

    You say, “Sci Fi Channel keeps dropping the ball.” If you are referring to Painkiller Jane, then I might agree, but if you are referring to The Dresden Files or Eureka, then I would have to disagree.

    As for being “the only game in town,” there are a whole lot of other channels out there to compete with. It isn’t like Sci Fi Channel is the only place to find TV shows in the science fiction genre. There is no less than 10 sci-fi type shows on the five networks for the fall season. When you include shows like The 4400 and others on the cable outlets, it seems like a lot of competition in the sci-fi field to me.

  • Retro Aug 28, 2007, 10:17 am

    Who doesn’t love classic cars? Seems everybody does and hollywood has jumped on the bandwagon too. You see them in just about every movie and TV show now.

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