Saturday, December 27, 2008

Review - Flash Gordon

Originally published in the December, 2008, Old Radio Times.

Flash Gordon: A Review
by Hank Harwell

This series had such great promise. I am deeply aware that it was a series aimed at a much younger audience, and was intended to supplement the comic strip that ran in the Hearst-published newspapers at the time. It began well, with the hero, Flash, and his love interest, Dale Arden, and their eccentric-but-brilliant scientist friend, Dr. Hans Zarkov crash-landing on Mongo, the planet ruled by Ming the Merciless. Ming, using his alien technology, had brought Mongo close to earth for conquest. Flash, Dale and Zarkov traveled there to find a way to stop Mongo (and unbeknownst to them at the time, Ming).

There, the trio meet all of the colorful alien characters that has made Flash Gordon such a perennial favorite among sci-fi buffs. The adventures zip along for nearly half of the series (which can be found at the Internet Archive site). Perhaps the best was arc involved Flash's encounter with the Hawkmen, and how he forged his friendship with Vultan, king of the Hawkmen.

But then, as Flash is systematically working his way to take possession of the territories that Ming challenges him to conquer, it all starts to bog down. The pace begins to really drag during the trio's struggles against Queen Azura and the Blue Magic People. The interminably slow pace made me wonder why any youngster would keep up with the series. In addition, I found myself becoming more and more annoyed with the Dale Arden character. She must have had some major insecurity issues! She would vacillate from proclaiming her undying faith in and love for Flash, and then when another female character makes advances to him, Dale decides he must be more interested in the rival and begins to pout. Its first. Then it begins to become wearisome.

Its interesting that the last handful of episodes feature a 'miraculous' return to earth and encounter with Jungle Jim, another Hearst comic character, and a transition as The Adventures of Flash Gordon morphs into The Adventures of Jungle Jim. I was so ready for the conclusion of this series.


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