Total Recall 2070 (1999)
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The story of Total Recall 2070 was nearly that of '...Sheep.' For the benefit of the movie going masses' recognition, the names of things from the movie version of Total Recall were used. The story was about the philosophy behind automated sentiency, mechanized religion and the need for humanity to regain its sense of purpose above the machine, while also living beside it. This is something the series was only beginning to touch before it was canceled.
The lack of knowledge about the show's true roots has led to a complete misunderstanding of it. It is a near perfect representation of PKD's wonderfully strange and murky imagination. People call Total Recall 2070 a rip-off of the movies when in reality the movies were a pale shadows of their sources. Total Recall 2070 is the most genuine incarnation of Philip K. Dick's worlds to date.
Total Recall 2070 shows a futuristic world dominated by multinational corporations, many of them operating on Mars as well. While crime has reduced spectacularly, there are still many problems in society. The show deals with a lot of cyberpunk topics: brain manipulation, androids, genetics, virtual reality, viruses etcetera. The CPB, a type of independent police force, often competing with other jurisdictions, has their hands full on it.
Visually the show is literally very dark with sparse lighting and often a foggy, rainy scenery whenever things take place outside. Clearly the show had a tight budget, often repeating the same cgi imagery transiting between scenes to show parts of the city, but it was very cleverly used. The backgrounds show us but a glimpse of a grim world that is rebuilding itself on technology, nature having been destroyed mostly.
Unfortunately the show is not addictive at all and there are some important elements missing to make it great: humor, a clear direction of storyline, well- motivated and consistent emotions. It too often feels as just another bland cop show, just set in the future, although it's really much deeper than your average police fare. Some characters, like David Hume's wife, or the female lab researcher,Olan Chang, are underdeveloped. But Hume and Farve, his android partner, are excellently casted. Hume is the cool, but emotional and aggressive agent, while Farve is the brilliant investigator, looking for his unknown origins.
The ambient synth music fits very well with the whole Blade Runner feel. It would be unfair to compare it all with what Vangelis and Ridley Scott did for atmosphere: for a TV show they've done a good job transferring the script to a very watchable programme.
Total Recall has occasional swearing and some sex but it is all functional, not just for the heck of it. Overall a very smart show with a lot of conspiracy, cover ups, tensions, but most importantly very relevant issues regarding humanity's fate in a world where technology can be one's friend or worst enemy, depending who is using it, who wants to have it, who owns it and who decides what is legal to do with it.
So, there's some good and some bad. I didn't mind the lower production values but compared to this show, writing has dramatically improved for so many shows these days and so has their addictiveness. I hope to see a nice new cyberpunk/futuristic show soon, right now Westworld is the best one to watch.
In particular avid Philip K Dick and sci fi fans should give this show a shot but you may get bored after an episode or 6.
Total Recall 2070 has absolutely nothing to do with Verhoven's Total Recall film except for a few references (the Mars colonies, Virtual Trips, the Dystopian future concept and of course the name of the show). In fact, Total Recall 2070 has much more relation to Blade Runner and many dub it simply "The Blade Runner Series". To an extent this is true, however Total Recall 2070 goes far beyond Blade Runner in almost every aspect imaginable. It's just as dark, foreboding, hard-core and intelligent as Blade Runner was.
At an early glimpse the show looks like just another one of those cop shows that have littered our screen for years, but a deeper, more focused look reveals just how good this show really is. If ever there was a show that rewarded repeated viewings of episodes--this is it.
Total Recall 2070 follows the escapades of two cops in the Citizens Protection Bureau (The CPB). One is human, the other is not. During the pilot episode, Detective David Hume (the human cop) and his partner go on to check a simple disturbance call in a Rekall facility (Rekall is one of the Consortium mega corporations). Oddly enough, once they enter the facility they find several Androids which are opening fire on them. Hume's partner is killed during the shootout with the Androids and this sets the stage for Hume's new partner, Ian Favre. Hume learns that his new partner is in fact not human, but rather an Android--A Flesh and Plasma based Alpha Android, the first of its kind. Hume is of course reluctant to partner with an Android, but eventually learns to work with him. The extremely complex relationship between Hume and Favre is what this show is about.
Needless to say, the show contains many subtleties and nuances one does not pick up on first viewing (again, a similarity shared with Blade Runner). Detectives Hume and Favre solve different cases as the show goes on, but many of these cases simply serve as a background to the real dilemmas and questions this show poses. Many shows have filler episodes (filler episodes are shows which provide no insight into the main characters or the main story behind the background). Total Recall 2070 has no such episodes. With every episode, one learns more about Hume, Favre, the world in which they live in. Sometimes it's all out there for everyone to notice and at times it is presented through little subtle hints and nuances. It's those subtleties that make this show so unique and worthwhile viewing. I was finding myself eager to learn more and more about the world, about the characters (all of whom are very interesting, deep and complex characters).
The show's background seems fairly simple at first. As the show progresses one realizes how much that world affects its characters and how complex it really is. The year is 2070, the moral breakdown of society is evident, the sun is nothing more than artificial lighting, the world is dark, people are paranoid, Consortium companies (Mega Corporations) have unlimited control over the citizenry and over the government who are no more than puppet figure heads supported and funded almost exclusively by the Mega Corporations. Naturally, those corporations all vie for more power, more money, and most importantly perhaps--more control. In their quest for absolute power they will do whatever's necessary and they have no moral or legal force to truly stop them. And so, Hume and Favre solve cases (all involving a Consortium company in one way or another) and try to restore some order into an extremely chaotic world where moral and legal boundaries are nothing but extinct.
One truly has to see this show and appreciate it to realize just how great it is. Granted, it's not nearly as revolutionary as films like Metropolis, Blade Runner, Brazil, etc. But the show goes into details like no other Dystopian film has ever done. There was an absolutely enormous potential for a 2nd and 3rd seasons as is evident by the fantastic 1st and only season. Unfortunately one can truly lament about this show's relatively quick demise and realize that perhaps today's generation is simply not ready for the subjects discussed on the show. I can only hope more shows like this arise in the future. It was mesmerizing, it was cutting edge and most importantly, it was frightening. A true Libertarian's nightmare. Such intelligent shows are an extreme rarity on today's pop television and eager and curious minds are hungry for something different, something unique--Total Recall 2070 was exactly that.
P.S. Unfortunately only the pilot episode was released on DVD and on its own it is rather useless as the story truly picks up later during the season. Cable channels rarely replay the show, if ever. Thankfully, I have acquired the Japanese DVDs of the show and I heartily recommend you find them as well.
I have tried to participate in a "Save the Program" campaign, along with others who have enjoyed the series, but it seems that our efforts have been unsuccessful so far.
The biggest problem stems from the distant, restrained writing which leaves us with the shell of a typical cop show that's been relocated to a corporate-controlled future. Flat characters and low production values seal the series' fate, removing whatever potential might have otherwise remained.
As others have noted, comparisons to Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and Star Trek: The Next Generation (at least as far as the Data-Farve android connection goes) are hard to avoid (and I am a fan of all three). The series has far more in common with the android-laden themes Blade Runner offers than with the Schwarzenegger movie with which it shares little more than a title and a few images. Thanks to user comments, I avoided comparing this series directly with the 'Recall' movie (as should you).
Poor writing remained the series stumbling block. Contention between man and machine (or android) gets touched on, but never gets fleshed out or fully explored. Det. David Hume and his wife Olivia both start the series out having deep-seated feelings against trusting androids, yet Hume's android partner Farve gets accepted by both with only a whimper, after which the issue gets shelved. In particular, Hume occasionally brings up trust issues with Farve, but moments later is willing to act as if he trusts him with his life. We briefly see Olivia deal with her android-related issues, but this seems to be largely forgotten in favor of relegating her to the typical 'cop's wife' role. Their relationship, including why they love each other and questions involving their history, is never expanded upon. The result is that Olivia's presence distracts from the plot, as opposed to revealing something about their respective characters. In another character switch, Assessor agent James Calley at first seems to support Hume (allowing him to keep an illegal weapon), only to later set up Hume to clean up his dirty work (when he kills 'The Technician'). Questions of whether androids are sentient beings are mentioned occasionally, but are never the focus, only serving as a plot smokescreen. Farve is taunted as being 'only a machine', but this question is forgotten before the next scene.
Lesser irritations surface throughout the series. Why is Det. Hume allowed to openly keep an illegal weapon? Why does he actively desire to keep such a weapon? With such prevalent communications, why don't the CPB officers contact Captain Ehrenthal when questions arise (the 'unauthorized surgery' scene from 'Brain Fever' comes to mind)? We hear about 'calling for backup', but rarely see more that Hume/Farve on screen. Farve seemed resilient to some weapons, but he avoids getting in the line of fire (as opposed to Data, who had a willingness to sacrifice himself so that humans might live). Sometimes we go wildly afield of any semblance of plot. Witness the superfluous sex scenes complete with nudity that established nothing other than a cheap grab for attention.
Scene footage reuse was fairly high. Several times I recognized an elevator CG shot, as well as the outside shot of CPB headquarters where the same two people enter the building. A reverse angle of a street scene previously shown would have slipped by had it not been for a rather recognizable extra in a dark tank top.
Scene retakes to avoid errors were not taken advantage of. Someone scanning a corpse accidentally catches the victim's collar. Elsewhere, a person's shadow moves in the background of an otherwise empty room. Other errors added to the sloppy feeling. In one scene, Farve's gun lights up but no CG shot comes out, an error that could have easily been edited out given that the previous several shots worked. Similarly, a spoiled voice-over for a reverse shot of Rawlings sounded jarringly different. These are errors that shouldn't have made it near the final edit.
Acting was mostly reasonable. The one big question in my mind came from casting Rawlings as Capt. Ehrenthal. His 'soft-spoken' approach just didn't seem to fit his character. His diminutive height was another issue, especially when standing next to Pruner. Based on other production shortcuts that were taken, the sporadic dips in acting quality could be attributed to not allowing for necessary retakes to enable the actors to hit their marks. Karl Pruner's interpretation of Farve captured almost completely Brent Spiner's Data of 12 years previous. In a continuation of the Farve-Data comparison, the series quickly focused on Farve trying to find his 'maker', just like Data did in 'Next Generation'.
I wanted to like this series - honest. I was hoping for one of those little-known gems that catches you off guard. Unfortunately, no amount of polish will bring any real shine to this series. The writers just didn't tackle any big issues, not to mention the low production values. This isn't to say that the series is completely without merit - it just doesn't warrant going to any great lengths to see. If you want to see a Sci-Fi series done (nearly) right, try Battlestar Galactica (2003).
Having seen every episode so far, I still have no idea what the show is about, other than that this amoral company has some insidious plan to take over the world. But there is no life in the show. And no humor. The one character we, the audience, care about - Olivia Hume - has almost nothing to do, which is a shame because the lovely and talented Cynthia Preston is the best thing about the show.
Although the sets are interesting in a Blade Runner-esque sort of way, the lighting is so overdone that everything looks flat and fake. I could go on for pages, but I think I've made my point.
The series revolves around 2 detectives protecting the rights of the underprivileged. One of them where he and his wife have a phobia of androids, and his partner who is an alpha based android. Made of flesh and blood.
It also involves trying to prove that the organization known as REKALL, from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, is one of the most evil organizations on the planet, yet though their methods are questionable, there is no proof that they are. Reacting on prejudice in a way.
Total Recall 2070 has a great style and atmosphere well suited for the series, and a questionable amount of sexual situations, including nudity and near nudity. Most of the episodes are high pace, and usually easy to follow, but they often lose us in the long run.