Pith Helmet

(P)review: Flash Gordon
August 6, 2007, 3:42 am
Filed under: television

Like most sci-fi fans of my generation, I grew up with Flash Gordon comic strips and cartoons, and whenever I even hear or see the word “flash,” I immediately hear Freddie Mercury and Brian May. So when I first saw the ads for the new Flash Gordon on the Sci-Fi Channel, I was delighted. After all, in spite of years of disappointment, my faith in the Sci-Fi Channel’s ability to come up with decent programming of their own had been renewed by the first season or so of Battlestar Galactica.

At last, I would be able to see Flash, Dr. Hans Zharkov, Dale Arden, Prince Barin, Vultan, Queen Fria, Thun, and last, but certainly not least, Aura on the small screen again.

Then, last week, I listened to Michael R. Mennenga’s Slice of Sci-Fi interview with T. J. Scott, the director of the new series, and my balloon burst faster than you can say, “Frank Luke.”

To start with, Scott’s credits include sitting in the director’s chair on three of my least favorite sci-fi/fantasy projects: Hercules, Xena, and Andromeda. So one can imagine my horror when he compared the new guy playing Flash, to Kevin Sorbo.

I was filled with further dread as I heard that the good people of Mongo no longer find space travel fashionable. Out are smooth Fritz Langian curves. What’s “in” are portals (gates) that allow one to travel between celestial bodies (stars). However, when confronted with the similarity between Stargate stargates and Flash Gordon‘s stargates, Scott brushed it off with “they’re similar, but they’re different … and better.”

And then there’s Ming. Gone is the malevolent Manchu moustache. What’s left is John Ralston. I’m certain he is a fine actor. But could they have cast a more generic, middle-aged white guy. The photo of the new Ming at the Sci-Fi Channel’s web site looks more like Ralston is playing a walk-on Alliance officer in an episode of Firefly. Not “Ming the Merciless, deposed ruler of the planet Mongo.” They may as well have cast Barry Bostwick.

In spite of all that, I will probably give the new series a shot. But, I’m already placing the Filmation New Adventures of Flash Gordon in my Amazon.com shopping cart, just in case I can’t stomach the new one.


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