selected from TV Zone #121

Featured reviews below are the 1999 US season premières of Buffy and Earth: Final Conflict. For reviews of the Simpsons' Greatest Hits on video and a deviating Star Trek: Voyager book, go to our other reviews sampler page from this issue

Also reviewed in this issue: 12 - yes, a full dozen - cult tv season premières from the US, featuring Angel • Buffy • Charmed • Earth: Final Conflict • Futurama • GvsE • Harsh Realm • Hercules • Relic Hunter • Roswell • Voyager and Xena

Plus the latest books, videos or games for:
Doctor Who • Scooby Doo • Animaniacs • E:FC and Joanna Lumley!


If anyone can, Kincaid can...

Robert Leeshock as EFC's Kincaid

It’s in the third year that most recent Sci-Fi shows have really kicked in, or indeed peaked. Now, after a well-received first season and a second year that completely split Earth: Final Conflict’s fanbase, comes its third year. And judging by the season opener, attempts to combine the best of what has gone before are working a treat.

After a presidential edict allowing the Taelons to take whatever steps they see fit to bring down the Resistance, Zo’or is making the most of his power, Doors has been captured and is forced to take drastic measures, and after an abortive attempt to destroy the Taelon mothership, Lili is reported killed to the horror of Liam and especially Augur. The only thing that can stop the Resistance’s destruction is to find proof that President Thompson’s would-be assassin wasn’t a Liberation member.

Crackdown has a lot to accomplish in one episode and although the Lili storyline continues into episode two, it does a superb job of shifting all of the regular characters around once again, introducing new addition Jayne Heitmeyer as Renee Palmer and tying up some loose ends from last season. Best served by all this reshuffling are Doors, who is placed in a position which should give David Hemblen more to do, and Sandoval, whose duplicitous nature returns with a vengeance.

Von Flores is given more meaty material than he had for most of the second half of Season Two, and he’s clearly making the most of it as Sandoval covers up the fact that Lili is still alive. The more recent additions are also served well. Anita La Selva is superb as Zo’or, who even in defeat gives the impression that he holds all the cards, and Robert Leeshock looks much more comfortable as Liam Kincaid, demonstrating that he’s more than just his good looks, particularly in a fine scene when he confronts Da’an about recent events. President Thompson’s aide is an interesting new character as well, and hopefully we’ll be seeing more of him.

Episode C1
First aired (US): 4 October 1999
Reviewed by Paul Spragg
selected from TV Zone #121

Taut, fast-paced plotting, strong characterization; if the rest of Season Three continues from this template, E:FC fans should have nothing to worry about.


Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Sarah Michelle Gellar: she's fresh, exciting...

Almost three academic years back, a young demon destroyer named Buffy Summers enrolled at a Sunnydale educational facility. We watched her adjust awkwardly, make tentative friends and (naturally) battle the local vampires.

Cleverly, Season Four’s opener, The Freshman, recycles this set-up very adroitly as Buffy, Willow and Oz join Sunnydale’s University college. Of the three, Buffy’s clearly the most unsettled by the new surroundings. But the gang as freshmen are much increased in confidence, maturity and sexual awareness – ditto Xander, when he reappears.

Surprisingly, after the public displays and recognition that rounded off Buffy’s school years, the former Class Protector’s initial obstacles at ‘UC Sunny D’ are purely social and educational: a dearth of friends, some harsh, humiliating teaching staff – and, off-campus, Giles’s flourishing personal life.

Giles, Willow, Joyce Summers: they all have such confidence in this more adult Buffy that when danger rears its sharp-toothed head, they’re out of reach. For, yes, there are vampires on this campus too, and this cell’s leader, the grungily regal Sunday, is no pushover. Quite the reverse, actually. It takes an inspiring and hilarious pep talk from Xander, in the sanctuary of the Bronze, to perk Buffy up. Which is when this slightly low-key première revs into life.

This opener’s first half has some unpromising moments: granted, the College environment, with its intimidating scale, needed establishing. But there’s are unfamiliar sensations: some Buffy comedy moments that Don’t Work, and a storyline packed with wry observations but short on momentum.

Consequently, when the disdainful, savvy Sunday emerges, there’s not much time for her and some slacker acolytes to make an impression – yet they do, by targeting the Slayer as their next unwilling drop-out. Thankfully, this transforms the episode. All told, this college gang deserved a more substantial appearance, but are a memorable aperitif for the more advanced perils of college.

Episode D1
First aired (US): 5 October 1999
Reviewed by Mark Wyman
selected from TV Zone #121

While lacking a first-class start, a stormingly confident battle finale here – plus a genuinely surprising coda – certainly left me with a happy. Welcome to college, Buffy.

© Visual Imagination Ltd 1999. Not for reproduction
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