Poltergeist: the lethargy

Dear Johnny Fanboy,

While preparing my review of the Season 1 box set of Poltergeist: The Legacy for this very website, I began to wonder: why is this series called Poltergeist? Just The Legacy would have been a more apt title, as we hardly ever witness any poltergeists.

Okay, so the obvious answer is that it's a cheap and lazy way to cash in on the popularity of the Poltergeist movies, but as far as I can tell none of the characters in the TV series appeared in any of the movies, and neither did the organisation known as the Legacy.

Ray Thompson

Johnny Fanboy replies:

You're right. The title might have been valid if: (a) the team battle with poltergeists every episode; (b) the group had been set up as a result of an event in any of the Poltergeist movies; or even (c) the group had been founded by a poltergeist and is thus the legacy of a poltergeist! However, none of the above applies.

The real significance of the title is, as you say, a cynical marketing ploy to cash in on the success of the Poltergeist movies. In other words, its title - and nothing else - is the legacy of the movie series.

However, this kind of thing is not entirely without precedent. Consider the title of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Which "next generation" are we talking about here? It's not the next generation of the Enterprise crew. A generation is usually about 20-30 years, but the gap between the end of The Original Series and the start of The Next Generation is three or four times that duration. No, the generation in question here exists on the other side of the screen: it is the viewing public, the next generation of Star Trek fans.

A series title that is often singled out for criticism is that of Blake's 7, because the character of Blake is not present for most of the final two series. However, I think this show gets away with it, because the team, the seven, was founded by Blake, therefore it's still "Blake's 7", even when Blake is no longer around. It would have been a different matter if the show had been called Blake and his Seven or Blake and the Other Half Dozen.

Red Dwarf has no such excuse. The titular Jupiter Mining Corporation vessel is conspicuous by its absence during the sixth series and most of the seventh. Instead, the crew fly about in the green scout vessel Starbug, which must have been confusing for new viewers at the time.

But that's nothing compared to the veritable violation of the Trade Descriptions Act that is Taggart. This crime drama has inexplicably retained the name of a character that has been absent since the actor, Mark McManus, died in 1994. (At least the new Morse spin-off has the decency to call itself Lewis.) The title could have been valid if the dearly departed officer's department had been named after him - but no. Personally, I think ITV should have re-launched the show as Taggart: The Legacy.

Which brings us back to Poltergeist.

You suggest that the title would be more relevant if the team fought poltergeists more often. This sort of begs the question: is Buffy the Vampire Slayer still Buffy the Vampire Slayer even when she doesn't slay any vampires that particular week? She often fights other kinds of demons and monsters. Now there's something to think about...

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