Flash Gordon TV series: our reaction

The US press didn't take to the new Flash Gordon - but what did our own Stateside correspondent make of it? Er, even less, it seems...

Flash Gordon: the pilot episode that killed any hope of a series?

Rumours of how bad this new TV series is have been circulating for a while. And the rumours were right.

Remember the Queen anthem, brash colour, OTT performances and general grandeur of the 1980 Mike Hodges directed movie? Wonder if any of that made it to the new TV show?

It didn’t, not an ounce of it. This has to be one of the most disappointing pilot episodes for a TV show ever, and based on what we’re presented with here this could be an amazingly short lived production.

It starts with Flash wining a ‘triple marathon’, which is why he’s called ‘Flash’. This is so contrived it’s painful. Eric Johnson, who plays the character, doesn’t have the physique of a long distance runner. He seems pleasant enough, as is Gina Holden playing Dale, but there is no chemistry to speak of, even though we’re told they previously dated. Obviously, the characters’ 2-D comic origins were considered to have one dimension too many.

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But there are two performances in here that are truly horrendous: Jody Racicot as Zarkov and John Ralston as Ming.

Instead of being a scientific genius Zarkov comes over as a complete idiot and geek that couldn’t fix his own toaster. But Ming makes the Zarkov character look positively deep in comparison. When he first appears I assumed he was some underling to Ming, who’d get a build up to a reveal.

Instead we get this short guy who wanders around in an outfit that looks like it was borrowed from one of a hundred other productions where the script said ‘military person from unnamed 18th century European principality’. What John Ralston was told to do with Ming I’ve no idea, but the Teletubbies are substantially more threatening.

Actually the costume department limitations hint at a bigger issue here, which are the production values that the show presents. The whole exercise looks very cheap. Ming’s palace is a series of dark corridors with no open spaces, there aren’t any ‘wow’ effects in the entire thing, and most of the outdoor action takes place in the same field, somewhere.

We get to see virtually nothing of Mongo, and although we see the other worlds in the sky above it, they’re not talked about, and aliens from those worlds are never seen.

Considering the textural richness that shows like Farscape, Galactica and Babylon 5 have managed, this seems really piss poor and not remotely interesting.

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The script is equally duff. Given that with the pilot you’re supposed to try hard, some of the dialogue in this show is diabolical. Dale says at one point, “If she’s an abbot then I’m Costello”. I’m not sure which of the five writers credited for this show wrote that, but his contract needs ending right now.

The only real humour comes from some unintentionally hilarious sequences with Anna Van Hooft who plays Ming’s daughter Aura. While Miss Hooft is very nice to look at, making the Dale actress seem even less interesting, she hasn’t mastered the art of moving gracefully over rough ground in heels.

But I’m making Flash Gordon seem more involving than it actually is, which is not at all. For all its faults, the killer aspect of Flash Gordon is that it’s boring. Maybe Dale and Flash will find some spark, and the design department might suddenly kick into action, but if the scripts are as turgid as the pilot one then this won’t last long.