Rewatch – Highlander: The Series

The story of the Highlander franchise is probably familiar to most people. In short, Immortals exist, they can only be killed by losing their heads, which triggers the Quickening, a sort of vampiric transfer of power and knowledge. The goal is to be the last Immortal alive, who will receive some unknown fabled prize. The first three films are fairly straightforward, Immortal Connor MacLeod (played by Christopher Lambert) encounters one or more Immortals who have turned evil, and he cuts their heads off. It’s a bit of a repetitive formula, and if you think that’s all there is to this story, it’s because you’ve never watched Highlander: The Series.

Highlander: The Series premiered in 1992 and ran for 6 seasons. It follows the story of Connor MacLeod’s clansman and student, Duncan MacLeod (played by Adrian Paul). In comparison to the movies as simply as possible, the series offers a solid look at the life of an Immortal. Born in 1592 in the highlands of Scotland, Duncan lived a very complicated life, from warrior to rebel to medic to spy to antique salesman to teacher to spiritual mentor, you will have seen his entire life unfold by the end of the series. There are your typical “cut off the evil Immortal’s head” plots for sure, but there are years of character development and lore too. The show follows a simple formula of present day situation alongside flashbacks to a period in Duncan’s life that informed the decisions or methods. I know it sounds like that might get dull, but it somehow never does. Duncan is charming, supportive, and stern when he needs to be. Simply put, you’ll wish he was your friend too, and that’s a great draw to keep watching. Plus, the sword fights are excellent.

Duncan MacLeod is not alone on his journey. Alongside frequent guest stars, he’s joined by his student Richie Ryan (played by Stan Kirsch), his confidant Amanda (played by Elizabeth Gracen), his Watcher Joe Dawson (played by Jim Byrnes), 5,000 year old Methos (played by Peter Wingfield), and it would be a crime not to mention the frequent guest appearances of friend Hugh Fitzcairn (played by Roger Daltrey). Watching Duncan grow is great of course, but it’s even better when any of these 5 show up to spice things up even more. Speaking of growth, Adrian Paul didn’t have much of a resumé when he was cast, and you can watch him grow in his acting, martial arts, and eventually directing talents throughout the series. I can’t think of a way to describe it simply other than it’s great to observe.

The series really hits its stride in season 4, it’s just about when they stop experimenting with their formula and settle on something both that’s both enjoyable and impressive in quality. In fact, all of the 5 supporting characters mentioned above were either intended to only last a season or only appear for a pivotal multi-part episode, and yet they were such great characters that they became staples of the show. Another factor that might make season 4 so great is that they’re all either main or recurring characters by that time. That is not to say the other seasons are bad, like I said before, watching this show grow is just as much fun as watching Duncan MacLeod grow.

The series itself has a solid happy ending, but you can continue Duncan MacLeod’s story with the excellent 2000 film, Highlander: Endgame. It’s the first Highlander film appearance for Duncan MacLeod and the last for Connor MacLeod, a solid end for the franchise. You may have heard of a 2007 film called Highlander: The Source, but it’s truly awful, don’t watch it. It was intended to be a final end to the franchise, but everyone involved in the film now refers to it as “a bad dream” so maybe just leave it at that. Like the Immortals all say, “There can be only one (film with Duncan MacLeod in it),” and that’s Highlander: Endgame.

Highlander: The Series is a great long-running series packed full of great characters, great action, great lore, and great growth. You can stream Highlander: The Series for free on IMDB TV or buy it on Apple TV for $39.99. It’s engaging from start to finish, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

And now a quick little side-note. Writing these Rewatch reviews has been fun, but just like with the Splash Panel reviews, it’s much easier to do when you already have a collection of things ready to talk about. Rewatching these great old shows has taken time away from watching great new shows, so I’m going to take a bit of a break on these. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop, it just means these will be a lot less frequent, after all there’s still tons of great old shows out there.

Rewatch – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in 1993 during the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was a stark tone-shift for the Star Trek franchise, focussing on character development and story arcs that spanned its entire 7 seasons, while also primarily taking place on a diverse space station with little space exploration. The fanbase has always been polarized as to how that went. I loved it.

The series initially focussed on whatever random situation the crew of Deep Space 9 encountered, and eventually spent much of the first 4 seasons brokering peace between the Cardassians and the Bajorans. For its last 3 seasons, the space station became the front line of the epic Dominion War between the Federation Alliance and Breen-Dominion Alliance. These last seasons had some of the most emotional and character-focused war stories I have ever seen on television, not to mention some of the best ship battle sequences on Star Trek television.

The main cast was extensive, featuring Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko, Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys, René Auberjonois as security chief Odo, Armin Shimerman as bartender Quark, Alexander Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir, Terry Farrell as science officer Jadzia Dax, Nicole de Boer as science officer Ezri Dax (taking on the Dax symbiotic in later seasons), Michael Dorn as Lt. Commander Worf, Colm Meany as chief engineer Miles O’Brien, and Cirroc Lofton as Sisko’s son Jake Sisko. Villains appeared often, but Marc Alaimo as Dukat was the primary antagonist throughout the series. Finally, a personal favorite of mine from the recurring cast, Andrew Robinson as spy-turned-tailor Elim Garak.

Following Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard was no easy task, but Brooks as Sisko pulled it off from day one. He brought a gravity and humanity to the role that is difficult to describe. Sisko felt always in charge, yet often vulnerable. There was no occasion he didn’t rise to, no matter how unsure of himself he was at the time. He did his job, and carried the weight of that job, because it was his job. There are many great characters with their own great actors throughout the series, but Brooks as Sisko is uniquely captivating. And, since Brooks himself is so incredibly cool too, here’s a clip of both:

The series is packed full of stories that explore the personal impact of war, politics, and religion, far too much to cover here. There never has been a better time to re-watch it, or watch it for the first time. You can stream Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for free on Amazon Video if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, or buy the complete series on Apple TV for $204.93 (so maybe just watch it on Amazon). Also, you can stream What We Left Behind for free on Shout! Factory TV, it’s a 2019 documentary about the series.

Rewatch: Terra Nova

When folks speak of unjustly canceled shows, they often speak of Firefly, but I’ll always speak of Terra Nova. Premiering in 2011, the show takes place in the year 2149, when the Earth is so ravaged by pollution that mankind has no choice but to roll the dice on time paradoxes and begin evacuations to the Cretaceous period. That’s right, future humans and dinosaurs! What’s not to love?

The series is packed full of folks you may recognize from their later work. The Terra Nova colony is lead by benevolent military dictator Commander Nathaniel Taylor, played by Stephen Lang. While Lang may not be a household name, he’s practically a household face. Lang is a great actor, and by this point in his career, you’ve seen him in something. Our lead protagonist is Jim Shannon, a police detective who stows away with his family to Terra Nova. It would seem that the colony would have no need for a detective, but circumstances quickly launch him into a leadership role. Shannon is played by Jason O’Mara, whose voice you may recognize as the voice of Batman from DC’s latest animated films. You may also recognize Shannon’s son (played by Landon Liboiron) as Peter from Hemlock Grove, and Shannon’s daughter (played by Naomi Scott) as Jasmine from the Aladdin remake.

The series follows our characters as they learn to survive in a past rich with new adventures and dangers, ranging from dinosaurs to a corrupt future corporation that wants to “control the past to control the future” and their agents in the past (lead by Mira, who’s played by Christine Adams, whom you may recognize as Dr. Lynn Pierce from Black Lightning). This is basically Jurassic Park, but humans are the ones in the wildlife preserve, and they’re from the future. With Steven Spielberg serving as executive producer, and bringing over some unused sets from the Jurassic Park franchise, the show will feel incredibly familiar to any fan. The cinematography is gorgeous, the overall story is great, and the actors and characters are outstanding. My only complaint is that some of the side-plots can be a bit cliché, but what do you expect from the first season of a network show? Oh yeah, and there was only one season.

Terra Nova didn’t end on a standard cliffhanger, it ended on the worst cliffhanger of all, the world-building cliffhanger. Not only was the new enemy still out there, the world and situation were far grander than we ever knew. And we won’t know any more than that, because the series was too expensive for pre-Disney Fox to continue. It’s a shame, really, the show had a lot going for it. While I have seen many canceled shows in my life that I’ll never recommend because of that, this is one of the few that I do recommend regardless of the cancelation.

Despite the cancelation, Terra Nova was a great show and it deserves to be seen. Maybe one day we could even crowdfund a continuation of some kind, or at least share our own ideas of how it would have continued. Terra Nova is not available on any streaming platform, but you can purchase the entire series from Apple TV or from Amazon for just $9.99.

Rewatch – Tron: Uprising

Tron: Uprising was an animated series which attempted to bridge the gap between the films Tron and Tron: Legacy. Premiering in 2012 on Disney XD, the series ran for 18 episodes (and a prequel web series, which you can watch on Youtube) before it was canceled. As you know from my review of Stargate Universe, I’m usually not a fan of canceled series, but like Stargate SG-1, this series re-shaped my appreciation of the Tron films.

The series stars Elijah Wood (yes, Frodo Baggins) as Beck, a mechanic being trained by the original Tron (voiced by original actor Bruce Boxleitner) as his replacement. They face off against the occupying forces, lead by Lance Henriksen (yes, that guy from everything) as General Tesler and Paul Reubens (yes, Pee-wee Herman) as Pavel. There’s also a tenuous love interest between Beck and Emmanuelle Chriqui as Paige, one of Tesler’s occupation commanders, who doesn’t know that Beck is the new Tron. Other familiar voices show up throughout too, including Reginald VelJohnson (yes, Carl Winslow), Tricia Helfer (yes, Number Six), Aaron Paul (yes, Jesse Pinkman), Lance Reddick (yes, Phillip Broyles), and Olivia Wilde reprises her role as Quorra from Tron: Legacy.

Besides the impressive visuals that you get with any entry in the Tron franchise, the overall story is very well thought-out with only one cliché episode (protagonist amnesia, my least favorite cliché), but that episode gives the original Tron a chance to shine, so I didn’t complain (much). The series also has some impressive animation, particularly the fight choreography. And, the music is outstanding, composed by Tron: Legacy soundtrack composer Joseph Trapanese (available on Apple Music and Spotify).

It’s hard to pick a stand-out star here, everyone in both the main and recurring casts is brilliant. Disney did a great job here. With that said, this is the first time I’ve heard Paul Reubens as anything other than Pee-wee Herman, as a villain nonetheless, and I was constantly impressed. He has some serious range as Pavel, and it’s practically a case study in why you should avoid typecasting.

I’m conflicted on the ending. It’s not a gentle cliffhanger, like Stargate Universe, it’s quite harsh. Furthermore, despite being developed to bridge the gap between Tron and Tron: Legacy, the ending left me bewildered as to how that could even happen. How does Tron become evil before Tron: Legacy? Where’s Beck and his resistance movement in Tron: Legacy? These seem like important questions that this series is responsible for answering. There’s a pivotal moment in the final episode, events could only go one of two ways. If they went one way, it would have more than answered those questions and the series would have flowed effortlessly into the film, but they didn’t, which is very confusing. Maybe it’s just better to think of that moment as one which spawned an alternate universe. Despite the cliffhanger ending though, the series is well worth watching.

If you’re a fan of Tron, or just a fan of great animated action in general, you’ll love Tron: Uprising! You can stream it on Disney+ or buy the complete series on Apple TV for $39.98.

Rewatch: Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger

You may have heard me mention it before, but I grew up loving the Power Rangers, and while I tried to get back into it for this Rewatch series, I couldn’t get through anything but the 1995 movie. I think I’ve just aged out of it. Fortunately, I was introduced to Super Sentai and its stark differences. It turns out that removing all but the action sequences from the original series results in a choppy uneven experience. Earlier, I watched Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger (read the Rewatch review), the Super Sentai counterpart to Power Rangers Wild Force. It was the last Power Rangers series I saw (and gave up on), so it made sense to start there. Now I’ve seen Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, the Super Sentai counterpart to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the series I remember the most.

Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger translates as “Dinosaur Squadron Beast Ranger” and follows our heroes as they awaken from a 170-million year hibernation to defeat the recently awoken witch Bandora, played by Machiko Soga.

Fighting Bandora with various weapons and mecha, our heroes are from five ancient tribes that lived alongside the dinosaurs, not “teenagers with attitude” thank goodness. Yamato Tribe Prince Geki (Red), played by Yūta Mochizuki and suit actor Hiroshi Maeda, leads the team. Sharma Tribe Knight Goushi (Black), played by Seiju Umon and suit actors Naoki Ofuji and Yasuhiko Imai, is the conscience of the team. Etoffe Tribe Knight Dan (Blue), played by Hideki Fujiwara and suit actor Shoji Hachisuka, is the reckless member of the team. Dime Tribe Knight Boi (Yellow), played by Takumi Hashimoto and suit actor Hirofumi Ishigaki, is the youngest of the team. Lithia Tribe Princess Mei (Pink), played by Reiko Chiba and suit actor Kiyohito Nakagawa, is the heart of the team. And later, Yamato Tribe Knight Burai (Green), played by Shiro Izumi and suit actors Seiji Takaiwa, Yasuhiro Takeuchi, and Hideaki Kusaka, joins as the team’s last-minute savior for a while after being a misguided villain. They follow the guidance of the mysterious sage Barza, played by Jun Tatara, in their quest to stop Bandora.

In comparison to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, everything is better. The story flows far better, because we aren’t dealing with just disconnected action footage. The music is by far better, because we aren’t dealing with an electric guitar that seems incapable of stopping. The fights are better, because they seamlessly move from fights with the main actors to fights with the transformed suit actors. The cast is excellent too, but if I had to pick one standout, it would be Shiro Izumi as Burai. His story is intense and dramatic. Is this a great show? No. Is it entertaining? Absolutely!

Whereas Gaoranger felt like a live action anime, Zyuranger feels much more like classic martial arts films. There’s a warmth to it that’s not as bright as Gaoranger, but the story is just as intense. There are some very goofy moments, it doesn’t strike as good of a balance between humor and drama as Gaoranger did, but this is a show for children, and it’s nowhere near as goofy as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Oh yes, and Bandora likes to sing about herself … a lot. It’s odd, but I’ll allow it.

I recommend starting at the beginning, but if you want a smaller set of episodes to try out, I recommend Burai’s arc, which starts on episode 17. It’s a particularly goofy episode, but gets quite intense in the last few minutes, and you should be hooked for the remaining arc.

You can stream all of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger for free on Shout! Factory TV. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and while you’re there, check out the other Super Sentai counterparts to the Power Rangers shows that you grew up with!