Flash Gordon, Sci-Fi

by | Feb 29, 2008 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

You will see more impassioned drama played out by the showroom dummies in the window of your local Debenhams.

What was good about it?

• It revived memories of the best bits of the 1980 film – Brian Blessed as Vultan, Timothy Dalton saying “bloody bastards”, Ornella Muti confirming our heterosexuality, Flash playing American football with Mongo guards, Peter Duncan’s acting, the bloke from the Crystal Maze, Topol speaking as if he had a permanently blocked nose – and the excitement of the 1936s Saturday morning series with Buster Crabbe as Flash appearing to die at the end of each episode before the next episode’s recap revealed that he’d left the crashed spaceship about half-an-hour beforehand.

• And nothing else.

What was bad about it?

• This is going to be a very, very long list.

• Firstly, Flash is in this incarnation a champion marathon runner. This isn’t a problem in the eyes of viewers who have never seen a marathon being run, for everybody else it’s a ludicrous fallacy.

• All successful marathon runners – with the possible exception of Douglas Wakiihuri – are lean, frail-looking wisps of men who look as capable of repelling the malevolent forces of Mongo as King Canute would be in repelling an angry tsunami. Flash is built like a sprinter with broad shoulders and a jawline that deserves its own tectonic plate making it as credible as Charles Hawtrey in the role of Rocky Marciano.

• Awful dialogue: “Your mom needed you and you stepped up. That’s what a good son does”, “That project cost me a husband it won’t cost me a son, too”, “Flash? He wouldn’t touch you if you were the last woman in the universe!”

• The acting is appalling. Flash (Eric Johnson) stands over the headstone of his supposedly-dead father with all the empathy of a drunken tramp desecrating the grave with his toxic urine. The dialogue is thrown back and forth with all the perfunctory empathy of people jolting into one another on an overcrowded train.

• Flash’s mother looks about 40 at most while her son is 26. This meant they had to keep reaffirming their relationship to one another for the benefit of their credibility.

• The insipid rivalry between Dale’s cop fiancé Joe Wylee and her ex-sweetheart Flash.

• Dr Hans Zarkov resembles a mole more than he does a person, and he shuffles around ineffectually at the rear of each scene tossing the boring lines they didn’t want to give to any of the other characters into the conversation as blithely as dropping coke cans into litter bins.

• Turning Dale into a facsimile of Lois Lane, except for stripping her of all her charisma and lamely plastering her with the default settings of any drab US drama successful, empowered, independent female stereotype through her graduation from Harvard, or one of those same such other American universities that make Oxbridge a bastion of egalitarian celebration.

• The special effects are not just inferior to the 1980 film version, but more remarkably even the 1930s series. At one point we thought a garish mural in the city of Mongo was a rubbish painting when it was in fact a representation of looking through a window. The city itself, so luridly realised in the film, looked like an abandoned plague-ridden hovel, while Ming’s throne area looked like cloakroom.

• The action, what little of it there was, served merely as respite from the dreadful dialogue as it contained no tension at all. The fight between the Mongo robot – which resembled a mutant turtle – and Flash and Dale was reduced to high farce as they led their assault with a rolling pin and a saucepan, during which the robot missed Flash with its gun from about two metres away. The escape from Mongo was simply Princess Aura disabling the risible Rankol, before slowly jogging out through some deserted sewers and diving through the rift back to Earth. It was only when they emerged from the sewers that the Mongo security robots gave chase, and then it was with all the apathy of a bird lover scaring a cat out of their garden.

• The most dramatic moment of the whole episode was when Dr Zarkov accidentally smashed his goldfish bowl.

• Rankol, Ming’s chief torturer, glides around the scenes in an effort to exude menace yet every time he glided about the screen it was impossible not to imagine beneath his flowing robes his little legs peddling furiously like a child on a tricycle.

• The root of Ming’s conquest of the Earth is to retrieve the ‘Imex’. Initially we believed it was the latest bit of overhyped kit from Apple, but it later turned out to be product placement for (T)imex watches. And to make matters worse, the reason Ming wanted the Imex back was because it contained, rather unimaginatively, “all the knowledge in the universe”.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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