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Fall 2000: "Freedom"

The four major actors in Freedom are named Holt, Scarlett, Bodhi, and Darius. Their characters are named Owen, Becca, Londo, and James. Now, aside from the reassuring presence of "Londo Pearl," those are the worst dystopian-future names I've ever heard. One of the things that lifts science fiction above the lesser dramatic arts is that it has characters with silly names. Names like "Buckaroo Banzai," "Spock," "Valentine Michael Smith," "Obi-Wan Kenobi," "R. Daneel Olivaw," and "Gilligan." But in the topsy-turvy world of UPN, the character names aren't anywhere near as silly as the actors.

Even "Londo Pearl" isn't as silly as the actor's real name of "Bodhi Elfman." Not that that's going to keep me from saying "Londo Pearl" as often as possible. Londo Pearl Londo Pearl Londo Pearl.

Even though one of the characters is a goofball (and it's Londo Pearl!), all four are superefficient fighting machines, trained in all sorts of unpronounceable punching and kicking and so on like that. Freedom speaks to the anti-authority kung fu-fighting soldier within us all. If it happens that you don't think you have one of those inside you, maybe it would be best to skip it.

The premise is that some sort of national calamity has stricken the United States, and the military (the evil, evil military!) has taken over the country, incidentally imprisoning our heroes, who escape and start performing terroristic actions for "the Resistance."

The opening crawl (of course it's in front of a flag, and of course there are dramatic snare drum rat-tat-tats) ends with: "But it was peace without freedom. And that was a price some of us would not pay." This tone of overblown rhetoric isn't maintained very well throughout the show itself, which is more concerned with macho chatter and fight sequences. Fight "sequences" are more elaborate than the mere "fights" you get in most shows. The fights in Freedom were billed as being "Matrix-inspired," which I was hoping would mean "lots of useless slow motion" like in Secret Agent Man. Unfortunately for me, the fights are actually "Gymkata-inspired," which means there are occasional random cartwheels. And if there's a highbar handy, you can count on someone to do a few giant spins on it.

I liked the action sequences anyway, because every punch, kick, and round-off back handspring has a whooshing sound effect. And they're all the same whooshing sound effect, too. It's a shame that Foley artists haven't advanced their craft more since they were crudely dubbing 1970s Kung Fu movies.

Before they're allowed to break out of the maximum-security military prison, our heroes (who could really use a catchy group name) are forced to fight in a big pit. Normally when two prisoners are forced to fight for the entertainment of the guards (like in every gladiator movie ever, and also in Tron, if you're interested), they make a big show of not wanting to. "Don't make us fight!" they cry. Here, when Decker and Barrett fight each other in a big pit surrounded by screaming inmates (like in "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome"), they seem positively cheerful about it. And why shouldn't they be? There's nothing wrong with two burly fellas showing off their fancy shirtless martial arts moves, is there? Anyway, they know that they're the heroes, so it's not like they'll accidentally kill each other or anything. And indeed, after a lot of sparring, they shake hands and bask in their shared manliness.

That's all it takes for the main characters in Freedom to become the best of friends, too. Minutes after meeting, they're working like a team. Like a team that's somehow... familiar.

Let's see. There's a guy in charge (Capt. Owen Decker), a crazy guy (Londo Pearl), an angry black guy who likes to be called by an initial (James "J." Barrett), and a female guy (Becca Shaw). In The A-Team, there was a guy in charge (John "Hannibal" Smith), a crazy guy (H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock), an angry black guy liked to be called by two initials (B.A. Baracus), and a pretty-boy guy (Templeton "Face-Man" Peck). All I'm saying is that I don't think the parallels are entirely coincidental. And that The A-Team was more fun.

Oh, and did I mention that one of the characters is a master of the art of snapping coins so hard they break spines? Would you like to know which character that is?

Londo Pearl.


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