'Flash' Gordon -
Dale Arden -
Hans Zarkov -
Anna Van Hooft
OTHER SCI FI CHANNEL SHOWS
The Lost Room
The Dresden Files
Knight Rider (2009)
Flash Gordon is a hero for the ages, an icon who can be reborn to entertain any new generation. Or so we might have thought before this new revamped version was produced for the Sci Fi Channel. This FLASH GORDON is very different from what has gone before. Gone are the spaceships, the evil Ming has hair and Flash is a young underachiever who still lives with his mother.
The show is beset with a lack of adequate funding and so the trip to Mongo is made via rifts in space rather than spaceships, the action takes place in a limited number of settings (the same forest, corridor, balcony, square and dungeon show up interminably) and all of the big set pieces are reported to the cast rather than seen by the audience.
Most of the time this doesn't matter because the show has bigger problems - the plots and the scripts. The former are repetitive (invade Ming's palace, get captured, escape) and the latter contain some truly cringemaking dialogue.
Whilst the cast are all very likeable, none of them are great actors and struggle to make anything out of what they are given.
Throughout his history, Flash Gordon has been many things, but rarely has been so forgettable.Top
Flash Gordon is a distance runner and runs an auto shop out of his mother's house. His father died in a fire in a loboratory - or appeared to because an alien probe and an alien being have come through a rift in space looking for something called an Imex that Flash's father is supposed to have had. It's something that is important enough to put Flash and Dale's lives in danger, take then on a trip across the universe to Mongo, ruled by the all-powerful Ming, and get tricked by Ming's daughter.
'Flash, Aaaaaaa, he saved every one of us' - OK we've got that out of our system now, but it gives an idea of how the 1980 fim is now considered as the iconic version of the Flash Gordon story. It was, at the time derided as camp nonsense, but is now considered to be brilliantly realised camp nonsense. All of this is important when you consider the wave of derision with which this show has come to the UK. If the film can be reassessed upwards over time then might not the critics be wrong about the show?
The answer really depends on how old the critic is. The show is clearly aimed at older children and younger teens, right down to Ming's daughter betraying Flash in order to get the Imex just because she wants to prove to her father that she can be more than a trophy daughter. Now if that isn't teenage angst then I don't know what is. There's Flash living at home, but wanting to branch out on his own and there's the relationship issues with Dale. All of this is clearly aimed at the less demanding audience.
As for the rest, well the plot is simple enough -everyone wants the Imex (the reveal of what it is would be a neat one had we not spent the entire time wondering why they couldn't find and IMAX cinema because of the pronunciation). The only real action is a fight between Flash, Dale and an armoured alien in his kitchen (laser beams beaten by frying pan!) and a face off in a field with a female bounty hunter, neither of which amount to very much.
The characters are pretty much flat as written and aren't given any depth by the cast, although there is a spark between Eric Johnson's Flash and Dale Arden. We are really pleased to see Gina Holden in a major role as her support in BLOOD TIES was one of the best things about that show.
If you have any love for the character of Flash Gordon or are over the age of fourteen then you need to know when this show is on so that you can avoid it. Otherwise, this opening episode is an OK time passer for the less demanding.Top
A rift opens up in a graveyard of dead ships and a savage hunter with a laser whip comes through. He's not after Flash or Dale, though, this time. He's after Baylin, the bounty hunter stranded on Earth and who has decided to set up home in Flash's house. On Mongo, Aura learns the extent of her father's tyranny.
As a reviewer for the SCI FI FREAK SITE there are good days, such as the one where you are told you are going to be reviewing the new Flash Gordon update series, and there are bad days, such as the day when you actually have to watch it.
The plot, such as it is, is thin to the point of putting paper to shame. This wouldn't be so bad if the incidental pleasures were there, but the script is lumpy and leaden and Flash actually says 'How cool is that?' at one point. The actors, likeable as they are, can do nothing with their roles to make them any better than they are written and they are written very poorly. There is no action to speak of and the climactic battle between Flash and the caveman hunter is just embarrassingly cringeworthy awful.
And what is it with Ming the Merciless, or as he must now be known - Ming the half-merciful?Top
Flash's best friend is to be the best man at his brother's wedding. It is unfortunate, therefore, that he is bitten by a joybug from Mongo on the way. The bugs instil great joy right up to the point of death, which is only hours away. There is a cure, but to get it Flash is going to have to go to Mongo, face a tribe of women known for castrating their men, invade Ming's city, get Aura's help and steal an ancient artefact. Dale has the relatively simple task of making the best man's day miserable.
The simplest way for Dale to accomplish her task would be to make the man watch FLASH GORDON. That would make him so miserable that the joybug would die from depression. There is actually a huge amount of plot here (well not plot perhaps but incident) all of which is designed to make you forget that it makes little sense. There are only a few hours before Flash's friend dies and yet he can travel all the way to the warrior women's camp, get knocked out, recover, travel to Ming's city, travel back from Ming's city and so on and so on. Baylin is discovered by Ming to be a traitor to his cause and so she is escorted away with only two guards when she has proven to be an incredible fighter. We could go on, but our joybug is dying.
Dale's attempts to bring the best an down mercilessly could have been the saving grace, but she is reduced to calling him a loser. It's pathetic.
Even the least demanding of audiences will find this hard to take.Top
A rift opens up and what appears to be Flash's father walks through it. Since he chooses to steal a car and go to Washington DC where he uses an alien device to extract the information from an old colleague's brain, it would appear that he is a changed man. Flash has to hunt him down before more people die.
It is fair to say that this is the best of the episodes to date. That doesn't mean that it's good, but it grates less than those that have gone before and we are actually starting to quite like Jody Racicot's twitchy Hans Zarkov. It would have been nice had the initial doubts about whether or not it really was Flash's dad hadn't been blown out of the water by an earlier scene between Ming and his chief scientist, but there is a moment of surprise plotting involving an exploding office. Unfortunately, the rest of the plot is lightweight, predictable and does involve its usual quota of clunky dialogue.
It also doesn't help that the climactic moment involves Dale having to choose between two identical Flashes, her decision hingeing on his declaration of love. It's a plot contrivance as old as science fiction (and possibly even older). At least they have the decency not to explain her decision, it already being painfully obvious.
At least Ming shows a hint of real meanness for once.Top
The dactyl tribe learn of Ming's machine for creating rifts to Earth and their leader comes through in order to kidnap a child. Flash, Dale and Baylin go through to Mongo in order to get him back, something that will bring Flash into contact with Ming's daughter once again.
The tribe is called the Dactyls and they live their lives in the spririt of the Hawk, which makes them Hawk - men. Do you see what they did there? That is about the only spark or invention in this whole episode. The Hawkmen (and yes, the leader is called Vultan) are positively embarrassing creations. That they glide with their cloaks rather than fly with wingsis a good move, but it also means that they move around in a very camp fashion that totally undermines their reputation as fiercesome warriors. Their bare-chested outfits don't do anything to diminish that either. Worst of all is their tribal ceremony which consists of a bunch of men shuffling embarrassedly around like they're at a disco with no music.
The plot is as poor as the Dactyls, involving a long set up and then a quick walk into Mongo City (which seems very easy to do) and then a daring escape. Once again, prisoners are guarded by two escorts who are overpowered and then within seconds dozens of armed men give chase. If the dozens had been assigned to the guarding in the first place nobody would have gotten away.
And finally, what kind of a hero is afraid of his mother? What were they thinking?Top
Another rift brings another creature, this time a woman who can secrete pheremones that make men follow her blindly and allow her to steal their life energies. Flash, Dale, Baylin and Zarkov are on her tail, but can they get there in time to save Dale's boyfriend?
Welcome to WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S. Yes, there's a whole sequence of people being fooled by a dead body being wheeled around by Baylin and Zarkov to the point where the corpse even manages to get a date. It's desperate and embarrassing.
The main plot of the life-sucking alien is fine - not exactly original, but then we're not really expecting that from this show and it gets better when Dale's cop boyfriend gets a dose, but then falls apart when he remembers nothing later.
Flash and Dale's inability to say how much they like each other to each other is not so much frustrating as 'want to rip their stupid heads off and stamp on their stupid brains' annoying.Top
Flash decides that it's time to go in search of his father and decides to start with Baylin's tribe of forest dwellers. Zarkov goes with him and the Mongan bounty hunter. They find a tribe that was prospering thanks to a water-making machine fashioned by Flash's father. The machine has failed and a lottery is taking place to see who lives and who dies. Flash and Zarkov struggle to fix the machine in time, whilst Baylin must overcome a childhood terror.
Ming controls all of Mongo with the force of his will and the huge number of troops at his command, plus his control of the water supply. He wants something a bit more permanent - he wants to be loved. To that end, he has fashioned a flag that all the tribes of Mongo shall fly in admitting his supremacy and Prince Barin of the forest tribe shall be the first. This is Ming we're talking about? 'The Merciless' has never seemed a less apt title than right now. Ming, the man who would be a king, is even getting lessons on ruling from his daughter!
It's a shock that this is a plot that can't be contained in a single episode (it's a shock that it can't be contained on the back of a postage stamp), but then again it has been tried out before in other shows. The cause of the lottery might be a lack of water here, but the lottery to see who lives and who dies is an all too familiar story. So too is the story of a warrior's greatest fear being overcome. Despite all of this, it still manages to be the best episode to date and certainly no worse than the lesser episodes of, say, STARGATE ATLANTIS.
Dale, meanwhile, has a cosy chat with Flash's mother and learns a few things about Flash and herself that might put her relationship issues and context. But then again...Top
Trapped on Mongo, Flash, Baylin and Zarkov attempt to infiltrate Ming's city and locate the rift generator in order to get home. Zarkov, however, is captured for messing about with Ming's holoprojector and finds him in a cell opposite an inmate who seems to know all about Flash's dad.
Once again everyone blithely walks into Ming's City as if security was on a national holiday and even manage to waltz into the detention area and the rift generator room with the minimum of actual problems like anyone asking them what they are doing there. Once again the clunky dialogue and lumpen characterisation is as poor as the plotting.
Sam J Jones (the Flash Gordon of the 80s movie) pops up as the prison inmate and it is really saying things about the show when he is the best thing in it by a long way and none of those things are good.
There is a slight flicker of interest in the emergence of a prophecy against Ming and a secret cult who seem happy to help Flash out of a bad spot, but it is only a flicker.Top
Locked into a marriage with Prince Barin that she does not want, Aura is advised that she ought to damage his honour by taking another man to her bed and is given a love potion that will make any man fall madly in love with her. She chooses Flash as that man, but her machinations lead to a duel to the death.
Oh dear, not the old love potion thing. This idea has been done to death in so many other, better shows that we can barely bear to sit through it again. AT least it gives Eric Johnson a chance to prove his comic timing, which he does to some small degree, all doe eyes and dopy smiles, but the framing device does nobody any favours.
It would seem that Ming's palace is an open area as this week it's Baylin and Dale who get to wander about it freely. The duel to death barely rates the title of an action sequence, but they do fight with a very nifty weapon. The sudden death of Ming is a surprise, but one that the show soon backtracks on.
There just isn't any sign of the show improving.Top
An assassin working for Ming's right hand man kidnaps Zarkov and takes him back to Mongo. Baylin goes on her trail, hoping that she can teach the girl a thing or two about the kind of man she is now working for. Zarkov, however, learns that his abduction was staged to potentially save the universe.
Baylin faces her alter ego, the woman she used to be before she met Flash and Dale, and learns a thing or two about who she is now. Zarkov learns that the universe is in danger. Apart from that, nothing much really happens and the whole episode is on the exceedingly dull side of tedious.
There has to be more to life than this.Top
Mini rifts are opening and closing all over the place without rhyme or reason as the fabric of space/time decays. Dale and Flash are caught investigating a seedy motel by her fiance, but when the two men are dropped through a random rift Flash has to tell him everything. Dale and Baylin, meanwhile, have to deal with a pregnant mutant.
One of science fiction shows' favourite ways of saving money is coming up with the episode that uses a clumsy framing device as an excuse to play a whole load of clips from episodes that have already taken place, thus saving the cost of actually filming anything new. There is usually nothing to excuse these episodes and that is very much the case here. The excuse is that Flash has to explain to Dale's boyfriend what's going on. You might have thought something along the lines of 'You went through a rift to an alien planet, something that Dale and I have been trying to keep secret' would have covered that, but then you would have had to film a story to cover the rest of the episode.
The two boys end up in a mine, digging up a dust that is going to kill them and ...oh stop me if you've heard it before. The whole Dale and Baylin deliver the baby of a really disgusting-looking mutant is, well really disgusting.
Ming's masterplan to steal Earth's water through a dimensional rift is now revealed for our astonishment. After all that hasn't been done since...ooooh...CHARLIE JADE only a few months ago.
Hard to believe, but the show has hit a new low.Top
Secrets and Lies
Flash and Zarkov accidentally end up on Mongo and in the middle of the run up to a war between two tribes. Ming brokers a peace conference and Flash looks for the evidence that is going to make it work. In the meantime, Dale's boyfriend goes to his boss with what he knows about the rifts.
Secrets are not good for a relationship and lies are even worse, so you just know that Dale and Joe's engagement is in waters as rocky as a shingle beach. Baylin's interest in Flash's friend allows for some crude innuendo.
On Mongo, Flash once again finds a way to walk into the fortified palace of Ming and then out again without a single problem from those security types. At least Ming's acting like he ought to; ruthless, scheming and totally self-centered. My God, he's almost a Thatcherite.Top
It is a time of mourning on Mongo when everyone remembers the millions who died in the great disaster that brought their world to its knees. Baylin wishes to visit the tomb of her ancestors in order to pay homage, so Flash and Dale go with her. What they find are grave robbers at work. In Mongo central city, Aura finds herself an admirer, but her father is less than pleased.
We've not been kind to FLASH GORDON in recent times, but in all fairness we haven't really had a lot to be kind about. This episode, though, gives us something to compliment. Not the part of the story involving Flash and Dale, but the story that plays out in the city between Aura, her entertainer paramour and her father. Ming shows some real flashes of what he ought to be in this episode (cutting off fingers, attacking the Virdon on their holy day, murdering Aura's lover in cold blood) and looks like the danger that he ought to have been from the start.
We also get to learn what happened to the planet that put the source water in the hands of Ming and placed the rest of the inhabitants in his power. It's an ecological fable, but the manner in which the ceremony is played out, cutting between Ming, Aura and Baylin speaking the words of the ritual is surprisingly powerful and that's not something that we get to say about his show too often.
One episode does not a good series make, but perhaps this could mark the start of an improvement. And not before time.Top
Stand and Deliver
With Ming's wrath raining down on the Virdon, Flash, Dale and Baylin set off for the city to see if they can do something to save Baylin's people. Prince Barin has the same general plan, but when he is taken by Ming it is the leader's reliance on ancient prophecies spoken in mysterious ceremonies that might prove to be the only source of salvation.
The show is back to sneaking around the corridors of Ming's palace with apparent impunity and penetrating the most sacred ceremonies with such ease that you wonder why Ming bothers to have guards at all.
The prophecies and Flash's place within them is the only interesting thing that is being developed by the show and it's really not enough to keep any sort of interest going.Top
Dale's boyfriend Joe steals a rift blaster and goes to Mongo in order to get proof of its existence in order to get his job back. He, of course, is immediately arrested and subjected to a new brainwashing technique dreamed up by Ming's new pet scientist babe. Dale, meanwhile, gets her body hijacked by a powerful sorceress set on destroying her sister so that she can rule. How can Flash get Dale's spirit back into her own body without damaging either?
The team go back to Mongo and find that they have to sneak into Ming's palace, which they do with the greatest of ease twice, once to steal an artefact and once to get Joe back. In the meantime, there are arrests and women wearing red dresses to denote their Mongo-ness (Mongosity?) and, oh you've seen it all before in any of the other episodes and please can't we just make it stopy now?
Gina Holden gets to play sexy instead of wholesome and really doesn't manage to pull it off. The same can be said about the whole show. The swamp monsters are less embarrassing than they might have been.Top
Thicker Than Water
The great disaster of Mongo's past has a legacy of deformed people. Most of these are killed as soon as their abnormalities are revealed, but some escape to an underground movement that looks after them. This is run by a man who wants to meet with the next leader of Mongo - not Ming, but his daughter Aura. Flash gets caught up in this, but events move quickly when the leader of the mutants proves to have plans for more than talking with Ming.
FLASH GORDON has only surprised us so far with how consistently poor it is. This episode is not great improvement, but it did surprise us by having a plot twist in the middle that we didn't see coming. That's a rare thing and actually raised our interest levels for several minutes before the general lack of quality of the rest just drove us back to being depressed again.Top
Ebb and Flow
Ming steals a lake, so Flash and the gang have to go to Mongo to destroy his rift generator before he starts siphoning off the oceans. Aura has plans of her own, involving her mutant brother and a prophecy is doubted, but faith is renewed and a sacrifice is made.
It is a measure of the failure of FLASH GORDON to engage us that a major character can give up their life in a noble and heroic act and we can barely summon up the energy to care. The stealing of the water thing is straight out of CHARLIE JADE and once again characters are running around Ming's citadel like it's open house. At least Flash gets captured and his escape has some sort of semblance of effort to it, but Baylin and Zarkov waltz into the rift generator room with ease to make a discovery that could be disturbing were we even the least bit interested.
The mystical aspect has a flickering of interest, but not enough to excite.Top
Ming turns defeat on its head by poisoning the water that Joe died releasing to the people in Ebb and Flow and blaming it on the mutants. The lion folk decide that Aura's brother needs to die for what he did, but Flash manages to get a few hours to find an antidote. The antidote can only be made by the woman who made the poison and she sets a price that will take Flash into deadly danger.
The set up for the stories has been getting better of late, and that's the case with this episode, but the stories themselves continue to be poor. Here, Ming's poisoning the water to blame on the mutants is brilliant, but the quest to get the antidote is mind-numbingly dull. All he has to do is to get past a few sentient vines by using oil on his body so that they can't get a grip. How come nobody else has thought of that in all this time? There's no real threat, no tension and no excitement.
The revelations of more of Aura's family history don't improve things either.Top
Cold Day In Hell
The prophecy that has been predicting that Flash is the man to bring down Ming and his empire takes him to Frigia where he must save the queen from the ice worm in order to save his life. Meanwhile, Dale prepares to tell the world the truth about Mongo.
The change of location from the everpresent forest is welcome, but it doesn't herald anything new in the way of plot. If you haven't guessed what's going on at least twenty minutes before Flash does then you're just not paying attention. Better still, you're just not watching.
On top of that, Ming's coming apart and the ice worm appears or barely thirty seconds (CGI is expensive), but at least manages not to be truly embarrassing, which is more than you can say for most of the cast.Top
Revolution Part 1
The cantons of Mongo are massing around the leadership of Ming's deformed son thanks to the support of Flash, who they have come to trust. Aura has brought them weapons and even Ming's chief scientist has abandoned his master. It seems to be unravelling for the Merciless Ming, but you can never count him out. Back on Earth, Dale's attempt to warn the Earth of its danger brings her to attention of some very bad men.
We've never made a fuss about the lack of resources that the show has had because it never mattered with the poor plots and disastrous dialogue, but just as the plot comes together and gets more interesting the lack of money becomes abundantly clear. Everywhere there is talk of battles and death (mainly in the Frigian icefields) and yet we get to see no hint of it.
War is on the horizon and the eve of war is always an interesting time, as it proves to be here, but it is surely too little too late for the show to come good now. The plot twist at the end is inevitable.Top
Revolution Part 2
War has come to Mongo and Ming is on the losing side of it. He has not, however given up. Flash, meanwhile, has found his father and brought him back together with his mother. Can they all survive the cataclysmic events rocking the citadel?
It's the season finale and the show tries to go out in style, but hasn't got the financial resources to do it. The war takes place off screen, which is disappointing to say the least, and the ends are tied up in what could only be described as predictable fashion.
Only the scene where Ming goes to the gas chamber has any real strength to it, but this can't be the end of the evil Ming. Only it is, for the show was not renewed.Top
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