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Harsh Realm: Season 1
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Harsh Realm: Season 1 (2004)

"This action-packed sci-fi drama tells the story of Lieutenant Thomas Hobbes, a soldier whose last mission is to enter the virtual reality military training programme known as Harsh Realm – to escape from this nightmarish alternate reality he has to beat the top player in the game, Omar Santiago, the man who holds the secret of the way back into the real world. Will Hobbes succeed in his mission? How many people does he need to kill? Who can he trust? Is Harsh Realm really only a game?"

Review by
Steven Davies
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Review Date: 28 July 2004 My Rating: out of 5


Disc Details
Disc Type: DVD, Region 2
Release: 26 July 2004
Country: United Kingdom
No. of Discs: 3
Certificate: 15

Special Features
Audio commentary on 'Pilot' episode from creator Chris Carter Audio commentary on 'Pilot' episode from director Dan Sackheim 'Inside The Harsh Realm' featurette (28 mins) 'Creating The Logo And Title Sequence' featurette TV ads created to support the show's US launch

Harsh Realm was a little bit of an unknown to me. I was asked to review a copy of the latest DVD release of the first and only season of this unusual and original Chris Carter production. I was not even able to recall this series showing here in the UK, at least not on decent channels or shown at decent times. But surely it must have been somewhere.

Knowing the involvement of Chris Carter beforehand led me to begin anticipating cleverly scripted plotlines and some truly unusual happenings. But initially it couldn't quite grab me and get me excited. True, the X-Files at it's most mind-boggling confused and disorientated its viewers with onslaughts of science and psycho-babble and a similar theme and style was present in another of Carter's later creations, Millennium. But Harsh Realm for all intents and purposes should bear no resemblance to its predecessors but unfortunately, and in many minor instances and on more subconscious levels, it does.

Harsh Realm is pure technology influenced science fiction. Albeit a warped science fiction which doesn't really bear any resemblance to having a horror related theme running but does comes close, and could ultimately be interpreted as unworldly and scary. Lt. Hobbes volunteers to test a new virtual reality-training machine for the US Army, Harsh Realm. His simple instruction, to win, but how? Hobbes must beat renegade soldier Omar Santiago who has taken over the virtual reality world within.

There is such an abundant Carter-esque feel throughout the show. A lot of that style, especially the music, owes itself to composer Mark Snow whose music, much like popular fellow composer Danny Elfman, is almost instantly recognisable. There are a few cameos also from X-files and Millennium cast members such as Gillian Anderson (who provides a brief voice-over in the pilot) and Millennium regulars Lance Henriksen and Terry O'Quinn.

The DVD itself is generally pleasing. Obviously I was thrown straight in the viewing pond here without enough time to allow the premise, characters and overall atmosphere of the show soak over me. And so the fairly minor special features and commentaries are hardly a reason for me to dip into my pockets for. Fans on-the-other hand who probably feel a little bit cheated after the cancellation of the show will lap it up. Chris Carter himself provides a commentary on the opening Pilot episode of this DVD but unfortunately doesn't sound like he even wants to be there, and the pauses between each nit bit of background information are overlong and plentiful.

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