Strange Transmissions
Warning! Major spoiler alert for readers outside the USA or Canada.
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selected from Xposé #35
STAR WARS: EPISODE ONE –
THE PHANTOM MENACE
US: May 19 1999 • UK: July 21 1999
Directed by George Lucas • Rated: PG
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Jake Lloyd, Natalie Portman, Ahmed Best
3-star rating

Everyone who grew up with the Star Wars trilogy feels proprietary about it. They craved more of the beloved saga. With Episode I - The Phantom Menace, godhead George Lucas delivers more, but within a kids’ flick. The mindset of adults must be “I’m going with my kid” and not “My kid is going with me.” There’s an immense distinction between those statements and it’s the difference between enjoying and hating Phantom Menace.

Jedi Knights McGregor and NeesonThe complex plot involves greed, politics, war and characters familiar and new. There are secrets, some quite nifty, this review won’t reveal. Let’s just say they set the stage for Episodes II and III.

As Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn, Liam Neeson lends the production class and warmth, and the former boxer fares well in the lightsaber battles. Much-maligned Jake Lloyd is a kid playing a kid, and he’s fine as young Anakin. Natalie Portman plays Queen Amidala as regal and stoic, heroic and playful, as circumstances dictate, while Ian McDiarmid grins conspiratorially in a sly performance as Senator Palpatine, who emerges as Jedi’s Emperor Palpatine. Among the other pluses: often mind-boggling special effects, a spectacular pod race sequence and the truly awesome soundscape.

Now to the negatives: Ewan McGregor, touted by advance press as the film’s star, does little as Obi-Wan Kenobi. He’s Qui-Gon’s apprentice and mostly says “Yes, master.” The babbling, ultra-flexible Jar-Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), the Gungan who helps our heroes, makes mercilessly lame jokes and distracts from the action. Kids will love the amphibian-esque Jar-Jar, but adults may want to take a lightsaber to him. All in all, The Phantom Menace rates as good, but far from otherworldly.

Ian Spelling


SLIDERS – Season Five
1: The Unstuck Man
Written by Bill Dial and Chris Black
Directed by Guy Magar • Syndicated June 11 1999

3-star rating

Tembi Locke and Robert Floyd's Sliders debutJerry and Charlie O’Connell have left. Sliders is back, with two new leads joining Cleavant Derricks and Kari Wuhrer. But was it worth it?

On the basis of The Unstuck Man, it’s hard to tell. Executive producer Bill Dial has used the loss of Quinn and Colin to generate a new story arc, in which Dr Oberon Geiger (Babylon 5’s Peter Jurasik) is ‘unstuck’ between dimensions. His only escape is to find a method of ‘combining’ with a duplicate, and as an experiment he merges Quinn with his own duplicate (played by newcomer Robert Floyd) while Colin is lost in the vortex.

If that sounds complicated, it is. The writers attempt to sew it all up, but the episode becomes lost in technobabble and exposition. The script loses focus, lacks tension and Geiger’s schemes are never clear.

Yet The Unstuck Man remains watchable thanks to an outstanding performance by Floyd, who captures the essence of Jerry O’Connell while creating his own, likeable character. Tembi Locke has a harder job with the more formal scientist Diana Davis, but she certainly shows promise.

The cast made me want to return for more. It’s just the stories they have to work on now…

Brian Barratt


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