White Dwarf (TV Movie 1995) Poster

(1995 TV Movie)

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truly brilliant concept, hurt a bit by shaky acting and stilted dialogue
NeoLeo14 March 2004
This "movie" (actually a pilot for a never-produced series, I believe) is one of the more original science fiction concepts to see production in years. The story is of a young medical student in the distant future, fulfilling his internship on a planet that is so far removed from everything that its inhabitants live a largely technology-free lifestyle. The planet is divided into two halves that are often at war, and as we join the story it is just entering into a tenuous peace.

White Dwarf is part futuristic science fiction, part Victorian/medieval fantasy, and part television drama (having many of the best qualities of each). With many such stories, we get no sense of history or depth to the characters, but with this one we are not let down. We are given fleeting glimpses of deeper things (only glimpses at times because, one might presume, it was written to continue as a series, to establish relationships to be developed further as time went on). There are hints of vast histories for the characters, the places, and the ideas the underlie so much of the story. A fine example of this would be the apparently long-standing and deep relationship between Osh, alien warden of "the Keep" (the planet's prison), and the prisoner listed only as "Lady X" in the credits (played by Katy Boyer).

My only complaints about White Dwarf would be with the sometimes stiff acting and the occasional stilted dialogue (when combined, as they normally are, the two can be difficult to take). Still, special accolades should go to Paul Winfield for his portrayal of Akada, the doctor under whom Driscoll Rampart serves his internship, and CCH Pounder, who plays a nurse in Akada's clinic. Both portray their characters with generous portions of substance and apparent ease. The rest of the cast do reasonably well, only occasionally stumbling over the stilted dialogue. This is most noticeable with Ele Keats' performance as Princess Ariel, whose dialogue is always very formal, resulting in a performance that comes across very wooden. For the few of her lines that are more relaxed, her performance improves, serving mostly to emphasize the stiffness that we see the rest of the time. Perhaps this just isn't her genre.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that this unique piece of work is no longer available on video (unless you're willing to pay $50 or more for a used VHS copy). This is rare and inspired fiction, a must for anyone who's growing tired of the recycled ideas we see so often, and who wishes to see something distinctly different, if somewhat imperfect. As a life-long sci-fi and fantasy afficionado, I consider myself very lucky to have acquired a copy, and enjoy every viewing as much as the last. We can only hope that it will be released on DVD someday, and that it will not be doomed to disappear forever into obscurity. Something this unique deserves far better than that.
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7/10
Kurosawa meets Babylon 5
Falkeep10 October 2000
As many have already commented, this film comes across as a pilot. I have it on good authority that the reason for this is that it WAS a pilot that was never picked up. That is why so much is not really explained or delved into... its job was to establish things to be explored in the series that never was. What many people miss is that White Dwarf, for all of its fascinating sci-fi ideas and set-ups, is actually a re-make of Akira Kurosawa's classic film "Red Beard". Many people I know who love Kurosawa's movies don't even know that one but it is worth seeking out. Unlike many of the other samurai films, it is not about warriors but about doctors at a remote hospital in medieval Japan. The always outstanding Tishiro Mifune plays Red Beard, an iconoclastic doctor who refuses to play political games that would elevate him to the serving at the Royal Court preferring, instead, to remain at his "out in the sticks" hospital caring for the people of his village who need him. Into his world enters a young doctor who wants to do his time so he can then take a prestigious position as one of the Emperor's physicians. The plots of Red Beard and White Dwarf are identical... it is only the settings that are different. Watch them both back to back and you will gain a new appreciation of White Dwarf.
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7/10
A bright sci-fi fairy tale
gazineo-126 June 2001
Intelligent, sensible and original sci-fi movie set in the distant year of 3040 A.D. which tells the story of a young and proud doctor who is sent to a distant planet called Rustia to make his residence there. In this planet, divided between two sides, The Clear Side and The Dark Side, the doctor learns with his mentor Dr. Akada (Winfield in a great performance) about love, compassion and tenderness. Good scenario and impressive performances makes this one a winner.
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Awesome Mind Twisting Story-line and Movie!!
poetessx16 May 2001
I felt that this movie was an awesome, mind twisting idea of a new human/alien inhabiting world. This movie in so many ways is comparative in world creation and plot to that of Frank Herbert's Dune!! It appealled to me in the same way it did the doctor. It definitely wasn't Kansas anymore! I feel Bruce did a fabulous job of keeping his viewers hungry for more and curious for answers.

I have become a fan of character development in the past few years and I believe all of these characters carried a great deal of merit. I loved Paul Winfield, CCH Pounder and Neal McDonough's work in this movie. Oh, yes! I must agree the story lines for this and Akira runs exactly alike as well.

The one thing more viewers should understand is that a new world doesn't have to have the same logics or natural inter workings of Earth. If it did what would be the fun in that!

This script may not have been a fantastical array of ideas or dialogue but it definitely held it's own. The bits and pieces that were open or mishmashed could definitely have been given closure had the series been made. Also to note with the great participation of viewers in the past w/ Fox and other networks who's to say this movie won't graduate to series level. New things happen every year with tv/cable/big screen that defy the standards of the year prior. Hey, if it could happen to Baywatch, Party of Five or West Wing who's say it couldn't happen here! It only takes one person determined to sell the dream to carry an idea to great heights!
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8/10
Not to shabby...
sakerson115 January 2001
I still have this movie on tape somewhere, and every now and then I pull it out and watch it. As has so often been stated, it seemed like a pilot to a TV series, which obviously never panned out. Too bad. I love the mixture of SF and Fantasy: a world of dark and light, with bizarre creatures, ancient super-technology, people (and creatures) with fantastic abilities, and just enough science to make it all believable. It's probably not award winning, but it has a surreal feel to it that makes it so very attractive. It would be nice to think that a thousand years in the future a world like this might exist.

If you can find it, it's definitely worth your time.
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Wagnerian space opera
matt-20125 June 1999
To see why Bruce Wagner is, with Lem Dobbs, the most under-utilized writing talent in movies, see this humble Fox movie of his vaultingly ambitious sci-fi script--a mix of Jacobean fright, fairy tale and fifties, Fantastic Planet hokum that has more brains and bursting imagination in any given five minutes than the life work of George Lucas. The direction is flattish and the budget isn't up to Wagner's sumptuous vision, but the seeds of magnificence are everywhere visible.
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10/10
I enjoyed it.
steed-518 May 2002
Non S.F. person might have a little trouble following the story. IT is a well thought out story line. As an earlier posting said, it has the look of a pilot film. But all of the best TV shows started as pilot films.

I only wish that they would put it out on VHS or DVD. My made from TV tape is starting to wear out.
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10/10
Great stuff, highly recommended!
LWarz13 July 1999
Ok, so it's not perfect. Ok, at some points it feels like a series pilot. Don't be fooled by other comments.

This is truly a great work in both conception and development. It's a mix of Science Fiction and fairy-tale fantasy, very well put together, truly imaginative and with a fresh, new and unseen feeling.

Recommended. Somebody should release it on video.
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8/10
A Sci-Fi FairyTale that took a different road
Rabh174 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I had to dig into my dusty tape box to find the old VHS tape I had made of this Made-For-TV movie back in '95. Ironic-- that over 10 years later, I have a PC that gave me the ability to seamlessly edit out a half-hour of idiot commercial's and burn it to DVD.

Watching it again, I am amazed that this little gem of a tale is technologically timeless. It's a Parallel universe where science is like a super Victorian view of the far future. The Doctor arrives at a rustic planet by 'Rocket' not starship. Strange, ancient machines hover in the air, clicking and whirring over a world divided into Light and Dark.

Science Fact nerds-- don't start harping about Terminator lines and Burning Dayside and frozen nightside differentials. This isn't a story about Science Fact. It's a Fairy Tale for adults.

The acting wasn't 'stellar', but the characters were well placed. Be a little forgiving of the production values and just flow with the story.

Arrogant Doctor from Earth arrives at the arse-end of the Known Universe to practice and learn his craft with the goal of returning to Money and Renown at the Center of the Universe in New York City. Instead-- he is forced to learn compassion, humility, care and empathy. And in turn, he is shown wonders unknown and unexplained.

The story plot is not new-- true. It's been told in oh so many ways over the years in print as well as in video. But this movie does it with a charming change of venue. And Good Stories ALWAYS bear re-telling.

Give this one a nice Saturday afternoon viewing if you are lucky enough to have it on tape.
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10/10
Fantasy Fun!!!
zerogirl421 June 2007
I caught this by accident on the sci-fi channel several years ago. It's a wonderful fantasy mixed with an original storyline.

The lead character (Neal McDonough as Dr. Driscoll Rampart) is an aspiring doctor who takes his internship on an out-of-the way planet. His intention is to bring back quaint anecdotes that he can tell patients when he opens his money-making practice on Park Avenue (there's a great joke about the name, but I won't spoil it here).

Rampart doesn't take his assignment seriously. Afterall, how much can a doctor learn on a back-woods planet? As time goes on, Rampart finds out much more than he expected as he runs into shape-shifters, immortal creatures and unorthodox medical procedures. Rampart must confront his own fears as he struggles to understand his new environment.

White Dwarf does a nice job of blending science with faith, understanding and kindness; not an easy job, but necessary for the culture of Rusta (like all good sci-fi themes, its suppose to be a fictional mirror of our own culture).

I can see some sci-fi fans not enjoying White Dwarf. There aren't space battles, but White Dwarf isn't suppose to be an action film. It's more of an interesting drama with some humorous elements. It just happens to take place on another planet.

This will always be a favorite movie for me. It has good, life-lessons (it doesn't beat you over the head with them) along with being entertaining. The characters are compelling and different from anything I've seen in other films.

It's worth giving the movie a chance. I liked the mix of technologies, it's what made White Dwarf unique and creative. Keep in mind, these technologies (or lack of technologies) were only props to show a deeper story.
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10/10
I loved this show
bast71322 February 2006
This remains one of my favorite made for TV movies (I believe it aired on Fox.) Beautifully done, with a fantasy feel I can only describe as "old fashioned with a science fiction twist" vibe. Not "high technology" science fiction at all (at one point, they're riding in an old stagecoach.) We enter Rusta along with Dr. Driscoll Rampart, as he does his internship at the clinic. Odd characters abound, including Osh, the jailer; even the doctor he is interning under, Akada, is unique. No one and nothing in this story is irrelevant. Every layer only makes me want to visit Rusta again. Over 10 years later, I still enjoy this program. If you own the rights to this, please make it available on DVD or VHS!!!! Please!
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A lot of potential that eventually went unrealized!
cordwainer5 May 2000
Bruce Wagner seems to be crunching out some great stuff. Wild Palms showed that the man had ideas, but White Dwarf really shines. It's a pitty all those ideas didn't go anywhere, much!

As others before me have mentioned, it feels like a pilot for some TV series that never got made. It's hard to find any real plot, that you can follow so the White Dwarf feels a bit...all over the place. The mix of fantasy and SF could have made some interesting viewing if it had been made into a series.

Quite a few interesting issues were raised in this "pilot" and I would have loved to have seen some of them more thoroughly explored. I truly think a White Dwarf series could have brought something new to TV.

The plot aside, the ideas however are quite original to TV and the sometimes surreal victorian and 50s feel with a dash of future thrown in will not let you forget White Dwarf.

If it had been a series it would definitely have formed a cult following and a strong one, but it was never to be!
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5/10
Good for TV.
sharkinthesalsa12 April 2000
I really liked this movie. I think because it was on TV I didn't expect it to be as good as if it had been a larger production. I would like to see it again because the weak plot lost me in several places. Still, it was good entertainment and heck it was free.
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10/10
Marching to a different drummer!!!
keithsfwb17 March 2002
I love the movie. It is like marching to a different drummer. It is a beautiful trip into a different time. A different place. I loved the gloves. Be prepared to have to think to watch this movie. I do hope that Drisco and the Princes live happily ever after.
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Wasted potential...
grothmag24 March 2001
As indicated by others, excellent, original ideas... it could have been worth watching as a movie or a series, if one didn't mind overlooking the absurd blend of technologies - and I don't.

Characters have the usual fascination with recent (to us) history & literature for their allusions, but that's the curse of mediocre sci-fi. Well, that was too harsh, a few contemporary references are fun, but please...every quote by the hero shouldn't be from the period 1000 to 1150 years before the story's setting.

Alas, though...characters, at least the human ones, were absolute caricatures. Diverse, though...from the scale of travel & events we see, Rustia's not exactly huge, yet over here we have a dissipated Roman emperor-type complete with crown of laurels, over here a medieval king with the inevitable princess for our smarmy hero. Ah yes, and the sort-of orphan boy in too-short pants.

There were some good acting performances, notably Paul Winfield's Akada of course, and also surprisingly (given their minor roles) the two settlers, parents of the twins. Ah, forgotten their names, but their bath scene was the best in the film. I do mean because of the believability and sympathy, not for the more prurient reason. :)

Some shone less brightly - sadly this includes the aforementioned hero, whose apparent charm & magnetism for every inhabitant of Rustia could be used as the definition of "revealed attribute". There must have been something about him, as everyone loved him... yet... what could it have been? His early arrogance? His smirk? Oh, his smooth tongue... which brings us to...

The writing - and I apologize to those who rave about how Bruce Wagner is underrated, but the dialogue was about what I'd expect from someone in grade seven. Perhaps it was written for kids of about nine to twelve, and the writers figured the kids wouldn't be picky? Original ideas, yes, wonderful...but they were let down by the uncreative lines the actors were saddled with. I don't mean that the script needed more big words. In fact, a bit of medical technobabble in the clinic was quite good for that sort of thing, and delivered well. No, that sort of thing isn't necessary for good sci-fi...it's just that it's as if the dialogue was written in an afternoon. No spark at all.

I was optimistic, then annoyed, then sad...interesting, bizarre, slightly off-kilter feel to the whole movie (good!), but shoddy, often cliche design of characters & dialogue poisoned it.
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8/10
A definite watch for scifi fans who crave something different
mbarrett6625 January 2002
I am a big scifi fan. I was very impressed with the movie, it was not long on plot, but was very different, visually pleasing and the characters were interesting enough. A definite to watch at least once if you are a scifi fan who feels movies are too much alike.
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7/10
Delightfully fresh
emdoub26 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Okay - so it was a pilot. I'd have loved to see the series, and I don't watch television.

The "science" was awful - a planet that not only always shows one face to its sun, but has a division between light and dark that's about 10 feet wide, with a wall along the terminator line? Gimme a break...

One of the more charming parts of this flick was, however, the wide array of periods available. The young doctor, arriving via rocket (not spaceship, but rocket) in 3040, rides a 16th-century carriage in late 19th century costume. Olde West homestead is attacked by motorcycle-gang style group, followed by a chase scene between almost-cowboys with blunderbusses chasing ninjas on horseback with crossbows. He goes to work in an early-20th century clinic, with costumes ranging from 1880 to bizarre, visits a Roman Empire-style Governor, gets enamored of a Middle Ages princess, and dreams of returning to a Park Avenue practice. Along the way, keep alert - there's homage to (or outright theft from) dozens of other movies in the SF/Fantasy genre - even a prop from Total Recall. At one scene, both of my kids chimed up "Robin Hood! Kewl!" The plot plods on occasion, but rolls along nonetheless. Other reviewers found the acting wooden - personally, I thought it more likely that they were finding the main character shallow to begin with, which was obviously intentional. Interesting ideas, engaging characters - well worth a watch if you can find it.
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10/10
I treasure my copy of this.
myrddinn13 November 2000
I really enjoyed this movie. It was obviously a pilot, but the world it hinted at was wonderful. I've always wanted to know "and then what happened?"

This series would also work as a book series I think.

If you can find it, watch this movie. It is incredible.
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OK, not great
duncan-1716 December 1998
Not a bad film, but probably more gee-whiz ideas than plot. Had a definite "pilot movie" feel to it.

To non-sf people, it would probably seem bold and innovative. To sf people, it would rate "OK".
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The weirdest movie ever!
Arne-Barne27 April 2002
Ok, maybe It's just me, but as far as I'm concerned, this movie does not make sense! Basicly it's about a guy who travels to a distant planet, where he is confronted with various weird entities. E.i an alien that produces saliva which makes anybody who drinks it immortal, or the screaming (yes, screaming in a very high pitched voice kind of way) red ocean...

The only positive thing I have to say about this movie, is that after I had seen it, I was so completely shocked, so when I switched channels to watch "tele-tubbies", I had the best time of my life, since i laughed my ass off. The quality of tele-tubbies was so much better, and the humor was so much more advanced than that which was presented in white dwarf.

So whatever you do, don't watch white dwarf unless you have absolutely nothing better to do (this includes organising your socks into different piles according to colour, fabric and age...)
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