Dark Angel
Season One Collection

Starring: Jessica Alba
Twentieth Century Fox
RRP 59.99
Certificate: 15
Available now

The year 2020: the USA has become a Third World country following an electromagnetic pulse unleashed by terrorists in 2009. This is the world of Max Guevera, a genetically enhanced super-soldier who gained her freedom thanks to the Pulse. On the run from her creators and constantly searching for her super-siblings, Max joins forces with an idealistic cyber-journalist...

James Cameron and Charles Eglee's Dark Angel contributes to the developing television trend for kick-ass fantasy females, a sub-genre which also includes Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Alias. As with Alias (another series that is overdue for a DVD and VHS release) the star of the show, in this case Jessica Alba, is clearly involved in the thick of much of the stunt work, which includes motorcycling, jumping, gymnastics and martial arts. And she's a fine actress to boot.

Her co-star, Michael Weatherly (who is now engaged to Alba, the lucky dog) is very much a Michael Beihn type. I can easily imagine the Cameron-movie stalwart Beihn in the role of Logan Cale, though this is not a criticism of Weatherly's splendid performance.

The world that Max and Logan inhabit has been cleverly conceived by Cameron and Eglee. By setting the series in a future America affected by the Pulse, which destroyed most of the country's electronic data and wealth, they are able to comfortably combine a retro look with a few hi-tech embellishments - not least of which is the presence of genetically modified humans.

Another pleasing aspect of this show is the way in which it develops. What appears to be the status quo for a number of episodes may not necessarily remain so. For example, halfway through the season, in the episode Rising, Max is forced to confide in her friend and co-worker Original Cindy (Valarie Rae Miller) about her genetic secret, which significantly alters the dynamic between the two characters. Then there's the introduction of Max's sibling Zack (William Gregory Lee), Logan's ongoing struggle to regain his mobility following a crippling injury, and Max's ever-changing relationship with her creator and arch nemesis, Lydecker (John Savage).

If this all sounds a bit grim, then don't worry - Dark Angel also has a rich vein of humour running through it. Max herself is a wise-cracker, a la Buffy, and further humour is generated by her colleagues at the delivery company Jam Pony, including the sassy Original Cindy, the nerdy Sketchy (Richard Gunn), hippy Herbal (Alimi Ballard) and their stick-in-the-mud boss, "Normal" (J.C. MacKenzie). Max is frequently thrown into comical situations, such as when she struggles to keep a borrowed dress in perfect condition while on a mission in Art Attack or when her feline DNA increases her sex drive during Heat and MEOW. In the latter, she even takes a shine to "Normal" before she comes to her senses!

The extras on the final disc comprise "Q&A" sessions with producers/creators Cameron and Eglee, and actors Alba, Weatherly and Savage. In fact, they're more like "A" sessions, since we only get to hear the answers, not the questions. John Savage's segments are so brief that I had to play them twice before I could even get the gist of what he was muttering about. And that's it for extras, apart from a trailer for the console game.

However, the price tag is still extremely reasonable for this collection of 21 consistently high-quality episodes.

Richard McGinlay


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