Show: 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.