Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

There used to be this cable TV station a few years back called Trio and it was kind of a cool station because they had some really odd programs, for instance they had a series when they played old porn flicks without the sex scenes. That was interesting to watch if for no other reason to see how truly horrible porn flicks used to be. Another series they had was showing pilots for TV shows that never got picked up, which was also cool to watch because a lot of those pilots were pretty good and caused you to wonder why whatever network opted to go with some other show, you know like Manimal, but then pass on one of these apparently much better shows. This brings us to Ronald D. Moore’s and Peter Berg’s pilot of a proposed FOX show ‘Virtuality’ which has been released as a stand alone movie since FOX opted not to pick it up. Just so you know as a stand alone movie ‘Virtuality’ is almost completely worthless and hopefully anybody who picks this up knows it’s a Television pilot and not some Straight to DVD movie because they’re gonna be really upset that nothing gets resolved in this ‘movie’ but as a TV pilot it would’ve been good enough for me to at least tune in for one more week.

It is the future though I forget what year. Welcome to the good ship Phaeton where the good Commander Frank Pike (Nickolaj-Coster Waldau) guides his vessel on a ten year mission to a distant star. At first this mission was simply exploratory but things on the planet earth have turned dire as our melting polar caps threaten to engulf our world and in one hundred years time it will be unfit to sustain human life. Now the mission is critical as Phaeton and its crew needs to find someplace to relocate 6 billion or so people.

Since this was a proposed TV show and not really a movie there’s an awful lot of stuff going on with an awful lot of characters but highlighting the bullet points, everybody’s actions on this ship are being filmed via cameras, which are everywhere, as this is some kind of super duper reality show being broadcast back home, a show which

is being produced by the ships psychiatrist Roger Fallon (James D’Arcy). Another key element of the show are these fancy visors that transport our crew to the virtual reality of their choosing, basically allowing them to get away from it all for a few minutes to break the monotony of the whole thing. There is an apparent ‘glitch’ in the program in the form of actor Jimmi Simpson who does stuff like shoot people, push folks off cliffs and rape people while they are in their virtual worlds, but this is one of those things that would probably develop over the course of the season and not in an 82 minute ‘movie’ so don’t worry too much about that, as important to the story as it may be.

Another issue is that the commander is having a cyber affair with Dr. Fallon’s wife Rika (Sienna Guillory) which will kind of play itself out but most importantly we need to know if the commander is going to allow this mission to ‘go or no go’. You see there are lots of issues with the ship and the crew and there’s a point where the commander has to either decide to cut the six months they’ve been out already or continue on with the ten year journey. If we haven’t made it clear, this was gonna be a TV show and not a movie so the decision was pretty obvious, and while our ship will continue on, sadly they will have to do it without us because this is where we get off. Good luck on that journey guys.

As we pointed out earlier, as a movie ‘Virtuality’ almost has no value. There are far too many characters, far too many plot points an absolutely nothing gets resolved. Not a damn thing. Plus it was designed to be a serial. So where you watch an episode of ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Matlock’ or something you are watching an isolated show with familiar characters with a beginning middle and end. Like a mini-movie. By the end of that hour everything will be wrapped up. This is just a beginning. Like watching the first episode of ‘One Life to Live’ and then nothing. So unless there are more ‘Virtuality’ movies down the pike I believe it ends here.

But we did know this going in so all we can do is speculate on what could’ve been. Obviously Ronald D. Moore has a certain amount of credibility built up because of the insane excellence that was ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and ‘Virtuality’ has adopted the serial nature of Battlestar but this is much lighter in tone and presentation. Peter Berg directs this first episode, and he is a quality director who handles the different science fiction elements and wild array of characters well, though most everything in this pilot is sketchy at best. The story as it stands is just interesting enough that if there were a follow up I would certainly check it out but it’s not so well presented that I’m crushed that it ends here. But who knows what could’ve been? For instance I thought the Battlestar Galactica pilot, though a much more complete and self contained work than this, was decent but not extraordinary. However when the actual series launched then it became, arguably, the best TV show ever created.

Maybe the same would’ve happened with ‘Virtuality’ but of course we will never know. Plus they planned a ten year mission so we got one episode of roughly 260 episodes. By the time they reached that star, if things had gone the way they planned, my fourteen year old son would’ve graduated from college, gotten married and had two kids. You would’ve guessed FOX would’ve wanted a chance at their own slice of Battlestar but I guess it was too expensive so instead we have this incomplete ‘movie’. As a movie ‘Virtuality’ is worthless. As TV show it would’ve been interesting to see what it might have become.

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