DVD
Poltergeist The Legacy
Season 1

Starring: Derek de Lint, Martin Cummins, Robbi Chong and Helen Shaver
MGM
RRP: 34.99
MDRP2893
Certificate: 15
Available 27 March 2006


Since the beginning of time mankind has existed between the world of light and the world of darkness. The Legacy, a secret society that has been in existence for many centuries, was established to accumulate knowledge and artefacts to help combat evil and protect the innocent from those creatures that inhabit the shadows and the night. The Legacy has houses all over the world, but this series shows the events of the
San Francisco chapter. Dr. Derek Rayne heads up the team comprised of psychiatrist, Rachel Corrigan; ex-Navy SEAL Nick Boyle; researcher/psychic Alex Moreau; and priest, Philip Callaghan...

Now, I'm going to be a little anal here and ask a very simple question. Why is this series called Poltergeist the Legacy? The Legacy would have been a more apt name as hardly ever do we witness any poltergeists. Okay, the obvious answer is that it's a cheap and easy way to cash in on the popularity of the Poltergeist movies, but none of the characters from the movies are used and it's not even as though The Legacy were involved in the movies (please e-mail me and let me know if I'm wrong on that point - but in the first movie I remember ghost hunters turning up to the house to investigate and practically wetting themselves when they actually saw an apparition).

In fact the first few episodes of this series all involve demons and ghosts - not really poltergeists. And it's only in the fourth episode after the pilot (Man in the Mist) that they bother to throw in a ghost story, but it's a far cry from a poltergeist tale. The first real poltergeist story is the b-plot to The Twelfth Cave (the fifth episode after the pilot) where Alex investigates a haunted house - as though someone on the writing team suddenly remembered what the title was and hurriedly added this rather dull addition to the main storyline.

It's not until Sins of the Father (episode six, after the pilot) that we get a proper poltergeist based episode. Even the opening voice over talks about the Legacy's battle with creatures that inhabit the shadows and the night. Poltergeists are not really going to do much but cause your lights to blow (unless you buy a house built on a graveyard, or ancient Indian burial ground). The fact is that The Legacy was established to protect mankind from the forces of evil. The Reckoning stars Zelda Rubinstein (who played the clairvoyant Tangina Barrons in the Poltergeist series of films). And that's about the only connection I can see between this series and the Poltergeist franchise. Oh, and is it me? or is Rubinstein's character in this episode like a rhyming, human Yoda?

The episodes in this collection are all over the place. This is nowhere near the running order that they were broadcast in and I doubt that this was the production order either. This probably helps to explain why the character of Philip keep vanishing and reappearing throughout the series. He keeps saying he's going to leave, only to come back and then go again.

Now I've got all that off my chest, I can confess that I actually enjoyed this series. Sure, there are plenty of problems with it (more of that later) but on the whole this is enjoyable, if you ignore the cod philosophy and the painfully annoying dialogue that Derek comes out with on a frequent basis.

The pilot is pretty entertaining and opens with a young Derek and his father in search of a mysterious ancient chest. Inside is one of five evil spirits - the other four being trapped in similar chests that were hidden around the world centuries earlier. If all five are brought together and opened, then all five demons will bring around the end of the world as we know it... or something - you know how it goes. Skip forward 30+ years and Derek is now the head of the San Francisco house of The Legacy. This episode sees William Sadler (Star Trek DS9's Sloan; Grim Reaper in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey; Sheriff Jim Valenti in Roswell) give a pretty passable Irish impersonation in the role of Shamus Bloom.

The pilot episode, like Stargate: SG-1's pilot, has some pointless nude scenes which don't really add anything to the actual show, and made all the more odd by the fact it's a wrinkly that gets her assets out for the camera. I'm sorry, but Helen Shaver was in her mid-40s when this series was shown and as well as her nude scene she has a habit of wearing short skirts that should only be worn by someone half her age.

Notable episodes include:

Substitute, in which a small group of school boys use black magic to bring back to life a mysterious dead man. The man was once the head of a magic club at the school, but was banished from practising what the parents believed was evil magic. And now he wants his revenge.

The Crystal Scarab, which co-stars Nicole de Boer (Dax in the seventh season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as Samantha, a terminally ill girl whose father has employed the black arts to give her a longer life. This episode is quite touching, as originally her father only wanted to offer his own life to save his daughter, but as he didn't have enough life in him he accidentally, at first, manages to find other victims. This episode also features Brian George who Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fans may remember as Richard Bashir, Julian's father from Season Five.

In The Bell of Giradius, we discover the folly of resurrecting the dead. It may seem like a good idea while you are wallowing in grief, but should your loved one come back smelling of decay with a slimy green face, then you know you won't be attending those dinner parties again in the near future.

The Bones of St Anthony, has a clever twist in the tale. This episode revolves around DNA cloning and is concerned with a labs attempts at "regrowing" a saint. Fragments of the bones of St Anthony, a brave and noble demon slayer in his day, have been held for centuries by his followers. Now one of those fragments has been cloned and the resulting creation is running amok. In good old fashioned sci-fi tradition the creation is not revealed until the final moments of this episode. But when it is shown it looks rather rubber - which is a bit of a disappointment. This episode's conclusion sees Derek enter a room in The Legacy house that seems to contain past artefacts from previous adventures (a bit like Mr Ben's mantelpiece in the '70s kids animated show Mr Ben - where he'd always keep a memento... "just to remind him").

The Thirteenth Generation opens with a flashback to 1696 with the trail of a woman who is accused of witchcraft. Before she is drowned, she puts a curse on her accuser which will be passed down his bloodline for 13 generations. Skip forward to the present day and a woman, who looks very similar to the accused witch (mainly because it's the same actress) has a few experiences that she can't explain. When she develops photographs that she's taken with her camera the photos show the crime scenes of murders that have recently been committed. All of the victims are decedents of the witch's killer, but who is killing them and why does this woman have photos of the murders? Again, this episode is cleverly written to keep you guessing throughout. Although, I did have one issue. Why did the girl confide in Derek so quickly and so openly? She didn't know that Derek was anything other than a guest lecturer.

The final episode, A Traitor Among Us, is surprisingly a clips show. I say surprisingly, because it's not very common to have a clips show in a series' first season. But thankfully the clips are kept to a minimum. This episode sees one of the Legacy members having serious concerns with the way Derek handles the running of his house. These concern have been brought to head office, who have to sit in judgement over Derek's track record. If guilty he will be out of the organisation. All the members of his team have had issues with him, but who has reported him?

Extras are, as far as I could make out, none existent. I say "as far as I can tell" because MGM have employed their annoying hieroglyphs on the menus instead of actual words. Can someone please explain this to me? I can't work out what they are supposed to mean (as only MGM seem to insist on using them) until I click on them. Are they worried that we might not understand the words "audio set-up" or "subtitles"? Ah, I hear you cry "They are there so that people of all languages can read them". Wrong, I'm afraid, as the first screen we get asks us our language, so that the menus can be displayed for us in whatever tongue we speak. Although, it seems an awful lot of trouble to go to just for the episode titles.

The picture quality is also pretty poor - being incredibly grainy. But I was impressed that the DVD producers didn't attempt to rip fans off by stretching the episodes over more discs and charging a higher retail price. Each disc (apart from the first, which just houses the double length pilot) contains five episodes.

One other point I wanted to make was that it seemed a little odd that so many of the episodes revolve around friends and relatives of the main characters. Not only that, but we also discover that a lot of the character have connections that they were not previously aware of. I couldn't really see the point in most of these connections. There is a particularly surprising one at the end of The Inheritance. But I can see that it will be swept under the carpet and never mentioned again - it was probably only introduced to give one of the characters a possible motive for reported Derek in A Traitor Among Us.

Poltergeist: The Legacy's first season is not without its merits. The episode are mostly enjoyable, if you switch off your nit-picking radar for the duration. But there's very little here to make you sit back and applaud the writing. There's very little in the way of humour either, which is a shame. One for those wishing pure escapist fantasy that won't tax the old grey matter too much.

Ray Thompson

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£26.24 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
£27.99 (Blahdvd.com)
   
£29.89 (Thehut.com)

All prices correct at time of going to press.