Trapped in a virtual world, Lt. Thomas Hobbes (Bairstow) fights
to stay alive and complete his mission, to bring down General Omar Santiago
After seeing the horrors of war in Sarajevo, Lt. Thomas F. Hobbes is ready
to settle down with his fiancée, Sophie. However the military has on last
assignment for him, to test out a Harsh Realm, a virtual reality construct
created by the military for combat training.
However once inside Harsh Realm, Hobbes soon finds himself
fighting for his life, struggling to understand what is real and what is
not. He forms an alliance with another soldier, Mike Pinocchio, who is uninterested
in helping this new recruit. But a mysterious woman named Florence believes
that Hobbes to be Harsh Realm's saviour and will deliver the virtual characters
from the oppressive reins of Omar Santiago, the military dictator who rules
over Harsh Realm.
Hobbes realises that the only way to escape Harsh Realm is
to beat the highest scoring player, Santiago, who is unwilling to give up
his kingdom. Hobbes mission now is only to escape Harsh Realm by any means
necessary to return home to his fiancée.
As Hobbes comes to grips with the reality of his situation, Mike Pinocchio
is lured into a trap by a mercenary bounty hunter. Aided by the mute Florence,
Hobbes goes in search of Pinocchio however gets himself captured in the
process. The bounty hunter, behind the back of his female partner, cuts
a deal with Santiago. In exchange for money, the bounty hunter wants access
to the mythical portal that allows individual's access to both Harsh Realm
and the real world. The Female bounty hunter senses something is going on
behind her back and therefore helps Hobbes and Pinocchio escape.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Hobbes's fiancée doubts the
circumstances surrounding his death. A woman named Inga Fossa hints to the
fact that he is still alive and knows where he is and tells her that men
like Hobbes have been reported to of been killed on missions but are still
Sophie continues to look into Hobbes' death by following Inga Fossa into
a run down military installation where Inga Fossa uses a portal to move
back to Harsh Realm. Inga Fossa enters however Sophie is locked out. Fossa
materialises in Santiago City where she informs Santiago of her plans of
In Harsh Realm, Hobbes, Pinocchio and Florence attempt to
gain forged ID chips so they can enter Santiago city and gain access to
the portal. They find the man they need for the job, just as Walters and
a team of commandoes raid the building and capture Florence. The rest manage
to escape through a glitch that leads them directly Santiago's barracks.
Whilst driving through the countryside in search of a soldier who may hold
the key to defeating Santiago, Hobbes and Pinocchio unexpectedly travel
through a tear in Harsh Realm and enter what seems to be an alternate dimension.
They immediately come under fire from World War II soldiers and eventually
learn they are trapped in an earlier, and thought deleted, version of the
Harsh Realm simulation.
One of the American soldiers asks for help from Hobbes and
Pinocchio as he has been trapped in this version of the game and has been
playing it over and over again for years. As the Nazis capture Hobbes and
Pinocchio fights for the allies, they soon come to realize that if they
do not find a way out of this game they could be doomed to repeat it over
and over like the American soldier.
Captured and pressed into a work camp in Harsh Realm, Hobbs and Pinocchio
meet a VC of Hobbs' dying mother and try to rescue her and escape without
getting rendered by the sadistic warden and his zombie trackers. In the
real world, Sophie comforts Hobbs' real mom in her last days.
On a mission to recover supplies from a lost squad of Santiago's soldiers
- and with Waters and the Republican Guard hot on their heels - Hobbes encounters
the three percenters, characters of Harsh Realm that were not meant to be
created. The game designers of Harsh Realm had a three percent error rate
which created dysfunctional, angry characters. Hobbes, Pinocchio and Florence
soon find themselves captives of the three percenters posing as a group
Florence takes off to warn her people - The Sisters, a religious order of
healers - that Santiago's Republican Guard is approaching. Hobbs and Pinocchio
follow, fall victim to a minefield and meet The Sisters. Surviving their
ordeal requires faith, even in Harsh Realm.
An insurgent American Indian Movement seeks to defeat and capture Santiago
in Cincinnati. Santiago hunts their leader in retaliation, while Inga continues
to manipulate Waters and Santiago. Hobbs, Pinocchio and Florence are also
hunting Santiago and get caught in the middle of the two factions.
In Harsh Realm's version of a post-apocalyptic New York City, warring families
hire Hobbs and Pinocchio as mercenaries. Their destinies appear to be controlled
by a mad priest, a vault of gold, star-crossed lovers, acid rain and access
to the Harsh Realm data stream.
With the exception of The X-Files, writer/producer/director
Chris Carter hasn't had much luck when it comes to producing another successful
TV series. Harsh Realm didn't buck that tread.
Very loosely based on a comic book by James D. Hudnall and
Andrew Paquette, Carter's new Sci-Fi series takes place in two parallel
worlds, one real the other virtual. The US army has designed a complete
facsimile of Earth within a software programme, from every building and
landscape to every human and animal, and are using it for military training
exercises for extreme hostile situations. Everything was going fine until
a retired General called Omar Santiago took over game and formed his own
dictatorship. Ever since then the Army has been sending in troops to take
out General but each one has failed. Thomas Hobbs is the latest recruit
but he is different, he could be the one, the one who is predicted to and
save the people of Harsh Realm.
Replace the Army with Machines and you have the same basic
premise as The Matrix movies. This was the series major problem and its
reason for cancellation by the Fox Network. The show debuted in 1999 as
the world was still gripped by Matrix fever and Harsh Realm could have been
so easily seen as a way of cashing in on that movie's monstrous success.
So after only broadcasting three episodes, Fox pulled the plug but if they
would have been a little more patient they could have had a brilliant series
on their hands.
Harsh Realm, as with all of Chris Carter's shows, had very
high production values and a good sense for storytelling. While the similarities
between the series and The Matrix are very apparent, the programme was starting
to make its own identity away from the blockbuster. If you watch episodes
like Kein Ausgang, Manus Domini and Cincinnati (all of which where never
aired during the series original run) you will find that the show was just
starting to create its own niche. By the end of the nine-episode run, you
start to realise the infinite possibilities for the programme and how the
cast had already got to grips with their roles, a fact that is very rare
for an emerging series.
Scott Bairstow and D.B. Sweeney made an excellent on screen
partnership. Bairstow's clean cut, optimistic Thomas Hobbes was the complete
opposite of Sweeney's pessimistic rebel, who had had the good beaten out
of him. The two conflicting soldiers produced a good chemistry that drove
the show along and made you care about the characters from a very early
stage. They also had good support from reoccurring characters played by
Rachel Hayward, Samantha Mathis, Max Martini and Sarah Jane Redmond, whose
characters where defined, even at this very early stage. When you throw
an egotistical, megalomaniac as the pair's nemesis, in the shape of General
Omar Santiago, played brilliantly as ever by Carter stalwart Terry O'Quinn,
and you have the making of a series that had many places to go.
Harsh Realm was a show with a lot of potential. Chris Carter
and his creative team should have been given at least a season to explore
this fascinating world they had created but the power-that-be unfortunately
never gave them that chance. The Matrix comparisons are there for all to
see but you could see that the series was moving away from these trapping
as starting to makes its own way before the axe fell.
In the harsh reality of TV scheduling, you have to be on top
of your game, regrettably Harsh Realm saw the Game Over sign far too early.
Presented in full frame 4:3 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
soundtrack, the transfer is very good. The picture quality is of a high
standard throughout, as the contrasting worlds of Harsh Realm and our own
reality show both light and dark. The sound is good for a stereo track,
with a strong emphasis on dialogue and decent effects during the action
Pilot Commentary by Chris Carter
The series creator and executive producer provides an informative
review about bring Harsh Realm to the small screen. He talks about filming
the series in Vancouver and the extensive amount of work that went into
producing the sets for the pilot. He reveals how he totally changed series
from the comic book it was based upon and how Thomas Hobbs was named after
the famous philosopher. He also discusses casting, the influences behind
the show and the reasons why he thinks it was cancelled by the network.
Pilot Commentary by Dan Sackheim
The director/executive producer of the pilot talks about the look and feel
of the first episode of Harsh Realm. He reveals the major differences between
the comic and Chris Carter's adaptation with the original having nothing
to do with the military. He also discusses the conscious decision to create
a real difference between Harsh Realm and the real world that would emphasise
the point that they are parallel universes. He then talks about casting
and the similarities between the series and The Matrix.
Inside Harsh Realm (25.50 mins)
Series creator Chris Carter, executive producer Daniel Sackheim, writer/producer
Frank Spotniz, composer Mark Snow, designer Mark Freeborn and stars Scott
Bairstow, Terry O'Quinn, Sarah Jane Redmond, Samantha Mathis, Max Martini,
Rachel Hayward and D.B. Sweeney talk about bringing Harsh Realm to the small
screen. They discuss the difference between the comic book and the series,
emphasising the point that this was a show with a very open canvas and no
rules. They also reveal why they think the show was cancelled.
Creating the Logo and Title Sequence (8.46 mins)
Designer Justin Carrol and art designer Ramsey McDaniel talk about their
work on previous Chris Carter shows (The X-Files and Millennium) and how
they went about designing the logo and title sequence for his new show.
They both take you through the different design concepts they came up with
before finally showcasing the finished product.
FBC 'Pilot' TV Spots (1.30 mins)
Entitled "World", "Moment" and "Headtrip", these are the three TV spots
used to promote the programme on the Fox Network
FX TV Spots (0.42 mins)
Entitled "FX Premiere" and "Review Spot" these two TV spots promoted the
complete run of all nine episodes on the FX Channel.
Even though this was a cancelled series with only nine episodes,
Fox have done a great good with the DVD package. The two featurettes are
very informative and the commentary tracks only add to the value. While
the series does end very prematurely, just as you start getting into the
series and the characters, there is still a lot here to enjoy for any fan
of Chris Carter's work.
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