A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the show's villain, Ming the Merciless, rules through terror and often uses violence and torture to deal with his enemies. Though no explicit torture sequences are shown, some scenes show the build-up and the bloody aftermath, which could be hard for young viewers to stomach. Women are depicted as subservient, sexual playthings, and the show hints that Ming relishes sexually assaulting drugged captives. Ming is, in every way, a cruel and malicious dictator who rules over a domain where the powerful take advantage of the weak and where treachery, sadism, and selfishness aren't just virtues, but necessary self-preservation skills.
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What's the story?
FLASH GORDON, one of the most enduring -- and endearing -- names in science fiction, is back. In the Sci Fi Channel's take on the franchise, Steven "Flash" Gordon (Eric Johnson) is dragged into conflict with Ming the Merciless after a strange creature invades his home looking for something called the Imex. Dr. Hans Zarkov (Jody Racicot) has been tracking the mysterious space "rifts" that the creatures use to teleport on and off the planet; he explains that Flash's father, long-presumed dead in a lab fire, actually disappeared through one of these rifts and was never seen again. When an alien machine opens a rift, Flash realizes that his dad may be on the other side and impetuously jumps through, with ex-girlfriend Dale Arden (Gina Holden) along for the ride.
Is it any good?
It's been more than seven decades since daring adventurer Flash Gordon first blasted out of the comic strip pages to battle the evil Emperor Ming on the mysterious planet Mongo; since then, the character has starred in dozens of film serials, TV series, radio dramas, novels, comic books, animated shows, and one big-budget blockbuster movie. This version is sleek and polished and certainly entertaining, but it's also a bit bland.
With Flash and his enemy now using the rifts to travel between Mongo and Earth, the fancy spaceships that our hero once used to zip across space are gone, as are the oh-so-basic special effects that made the original 1930s serials such classic kitsch. Also (and more regrettably) missing are the cliffhanger endings for which the original Flash Gordon stories were famous -- and which gave some of the old films their magic. With such a legacy to live up to, the bar is high for any Flash Gordon remake, and though the new show's plot details and characters are obviously based on the original stories, it doesn't really stand out when compared to so many other adventure shows.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the concept of evil. Is it possible for a person to be completely bad, with no hope of redemption? Does Ming fit that mold? Are villains with some good in them more interesting than those who are corrupt through and through? Why? Which type do you see more of in sci-fi movies and TV shows? Families can also discuss how science fiction reflects the popular imagination. In the original 1930s Flash Gordon serials, the adventurers traveled by spaceship; here, they whiz back and forth by jumping through "rifts" in space that can appear anywhere. Have modern viewers become so familiar with the practical limitations of space travel that using a rocket to reach a distant planet no longer seems plausible? Or are the producers trying to update the series by featuring a transportation method that seems as fantastic and amazing today as rocket travel did in the '30s?