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PEIA: Harsh Realm Articles
from aint-it-cool-news:

Friday, July 9, 1999
Raving Lunatic wrote:
Hi Glen,

I've just seen Chris Carter's new pilot and thought you'd probably like a review.

HARSH REALM deals with a soldier (Scott Bairstow) who is sent on one last mission: to win a virtual reality game by setting a new high score - or so he's told, because when he gets there, he starts to realize that this virtual world is controlled by an evil dictator called Santiago (Terry O'Quinn). He has taken over the game and the military are trying to get this world back by sending a soldier to kill him.

Bairstow is not the first though, as he finds out when he meets a disillusioned veteran (D.B. Sweeney) who after some discussion agrees to help him kill Santiago. But, as you might have guessed, this is not so easy...

So much about the plot. And now on to the part where I tell you wether I liked it or not:

I loved it.

It's dark, it's gritty, but it's not as hopelessly depressing as MILLENNIUM (a flawed show that I still enjoyed very much). For a pilot it has surprisngly few effects shots, but I would actually count that fact on the plus side as it doesn't distract you from the story (Carter's telling and which in itself is quite fascinating).

This virtual world, we are told (by the voice of Gillian Anderson in an uncredited cameo), is just like ours with every human being recreated, though they might not have the same personality as in ours. That makes for some interesting confrontations, especially with Bairstow's fiancee who's married to somebody else in this world and even though Bairstow's character knows this, he's still unable to cope with the situation.

Talking about Bairstow, he's the one aspect of the show I'm not happy with. His character fails to grip you and I thought several times how much better this would be if Carter had stayed with Nic Lea who originally was supposed to play the part. Bairstow's simply not able to relate that feeling of loneliness and frustration that should govern his character. Instead he is often reduced to pointing his gun at someone whenever he doesn't seem to know what to do next.

Although this is obviuosly the writer's fault, I couldn't stop thinking that maybe if Bairstow's acting had been less wooden, you wouldn't have noticed this fact so much. On the other hand D.B. Sweeny is excellent as the ex-soldier trying to survive in this strange world. I never pictured him as the tough guy, but he's surprisingly convincing. The same goes for Terry O'Quinn as menacing dictator Santiago, who's not one of your run of the mill, acting over the top evil geniuses but a threatening, power hungry killer with a hardly noticable streak of insanity.

A nice touch is just another uncredited cameo, this time by Lance Henriksen as the general who sends Bairstow on his mission. Guess that means we can expect to see him in later episodes.

All in all HARSH REALM is a very good show with a lot of potential that could still easily go wrong, if it concentrates too much on Bairstow's hunt for Santiago. Instead I hope it will spend some time to show us more about the virtual world and to explore the different characters.

Well, we'll see...

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