Thursday, August 9, 2012
TEKWAR / TEKLORDS / TEKLAB / TEKJUSTICE (all 1994)
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *sociological*
Completism alone made me slog through these four telemovies, adapting the books written (maybe) by William Shatner, depicting a futureverse in which hardboiled cops fight against druglords peddling a harmful drug that really really really isn't supposed to make you think of the word "Trek."
The futuristic elements of the "Tek-world" were small change in the inventiveness department compared to the revolutions going on in print SF. It's possible that Shatner (or his writers) may have loosely modeled their world on the SF-subgenre of cyberpunk, which had been around for about 10 years by 1994. But whatever SF-tropes the creators of this series of four tv-movies (and a subsequent teleseries for about two seasons) may have borrowed, this is just basic cops-and-robbers stuff.
The series-concept is not helped by the casting of its regulars. The central hero of all the narratives is tough-as-nails future cop Jake Cardigan, played by Greg Evigan, an actor whose best work was always of a lighter nature (B.J AND THE BEAR, anyone?) Cardigan, on top of being a badass, is supposed to be a man living on the edge due to a false conviction, leading to his imprisonment in "cryo-sleep" for four years in the first telefilm TEKWAR, and to the disruption of his relationship with his wife (soon his ex-wife) and his traumatized son. Evigan gives his role the old college try, but any time he attempts to tell someone that his soul is dead or the like, he looks about as intense as when he missed his pet orangutan.
Shatner makes minimal appearances in all four telemovies, playing Bascomb, the head of a security agency. He's supposed to be a chess-master type, bringing about Cardigan's release from prison so that he can clear his name and find the real villain, one Sonny Hokori (Von Flores), who plays the main villain in two other outings. However, Shatner chooses to play Bascomb with so much restraint that the character seems phlegmatic rather than calculating.
After TEKWAR clears Cardigan's name, he goes to work (with the usual toughguy reluctance) for Bascomb's agency. TEKLORDS is at least minimally more interesting than the first outing, as it concerns a series of murders committed by a computer virus. In the series' most cyberpunkish turn, the virus turns out to be a computer simulation of Sonny Hokori's deceased sister, who gains the power to kill with some sort of real virus. She infects Cardigan's ex-wife, forcing the hero to move heaven and earth to find his old foe once again. He also manages to expose his wife's current boyfriend as one of Hokori's pawns, which shows that the scripters weren't afraid of being too contrived. The struggles of the sister-virus to regain some form of life-- enlisting Cardigan's scientist-girlfriend to play a Frankenstein-like role-- are at least minimally affecting.
TEKLAB, the only telemovie without Hokori as the villain, concerns Cardigan and his unmemorable partner Sid running around England in pursuit of the sword Excalibur. The sword has been ripped off by a group called "the Roundheads" in the hope of preventing the coronation of the English king. It's a lot of running around and not much sense.
The final film, TEKJUSTICE, is a little more diverting in that Cardigan is accused of murder and placed on trial. Plotwise it's just another murder-mystery, but it's distinguished by some rare (for this series) humor, in that Cardigan's lawyer is the product of an "accelerated" program, meaning that he's a brilliant legal mind in the body of a high-school boy. The film also gets two points for casting Sandahl Bergman as Hokori's hitwoman-accomplice, but loses a point for not giving her a good kickass action-scene.
Short as all these reviews are, I'm still tallying them as four in my monthly count.