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Cleopatra 2525 (2001)
Created by Robert Tapert and R.J. Stewart

review by Ian Shutter

Remember that classic science fictional song, 'In The Year 2525', by Zager & Evans? It was a number one hit back in 1969, so when the millennium arrived it was probably inevitable there would be something to revive its SF theme - but I doubt the songwriters could ever have envisioned this witty skiffy adventure series! Imagine a variation on Buck Rogers with Amazonian warriors fighting shape-changing androids (not unlike the T-1000 of Terminator 2) in a colourful dystopia, add mission plotlines with goofy non-stop action for three heroines all dressed up in glam rock fetish fashions. Imagine this scenario packaged as 22-minute telefantasy episodes for a predominantly young audience...
   Cleopatra 2525 stars cute Jennifer Sky as 20th century stripper Cleopatra, awakened from cryogenic storage over 500 years in the future. She meets Hel and Sarge (Gina Torres and Victoria Pratt), a couple of super-soldiers in humanity's ongoing war against giant bug-like machines of extraterrestrial origin, and these women save Cleo from death in the organ harvesting lab where she's thawed. Cleo impresses the dynamic duo with her gibberish of pop culture aphorisms, movie and TV catchphrases, and other contemporary references. With a frivolous, clichéd quip for every desperate situation, the new girl from yesteryear helps form the Cleo trio. They live deep underground, following military orders - from mysterious Voice (Elizabeth Hawthorne) - like a sci-fi Charlie's Angels, aiming to take back the planet's surface from machine enemies - the flying gunships called Baileys, and humanoid betrayer robots made of "polymorphic alloy."
Victoria Pratt as Sarge Jennifer Sky as Cleopatra Gina Torres as Helen
This show really is great fun, with tongue-in-cheek dialogue and lots of wacky SF ideas. The tough one, Sarge (alias Rose) has a bionic eye. The tall one, Hel (short for Helen), is the team leader with a radio transceiver in her skull to get instructions from the Voice. Cleo is the groovy and happening chick that uses her knowledge of present-day trivia as improvised philosophy in a future lacking much in the way of social values or morality. There is a strand of comedy SF (see Woody Allen's Sleeper, 1973) where today's sci-fi becomes tomorrow's mythology, and Cleopatra 2525 pursues this idea almost relentlessly. In the double-length cliffhanger episode, Home/Rescue, our heroines' aboveground trip sees the UFO style abduction of Sarge's younger sister, space cadet Lily (Kate Elliott), in an amusing parody of Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977), and a physical replication process that's not unlike the pod people of Body Snatchers (1994). Such knowing allusions are tolerable, of course, and may in fact be expected here, as this show is produced in New Zealand by the makers of high camp swords 'n' sorcery series, Xena: Warrior Princess.
   In addition to the women's cybernetic implants, other science fictional concepts are beam weapons, personal force fields, and popup holo-displays from forearm gauntlet units, jet-boots and web-launchers (in the Spider-man tradition) for freefall through bottomless vertical shafts between the endless levels of a vast subterranean complex. All these hi-tech gizmos add to the pulp-SF adventure styling, but there are a few problems. In spite of generally good visual effects work, some of the flying sequences remain stubbornly unconvincing, while the show's costume designers throw out any number of supposedly 'futuristic' outfits that would have looked ridiculous at any time since the first Star Trek.
   Still, I guess chauvinist pigs should be grateful for the blatant sex appeal of the Cleo trio, because these ladies usually triumph in battle against male opponents, and the only 'man' in their lives is a muscular but 'neutered' android who's only kept around to fix stuff and build more cool gadgets. Apparently, there's no need for male heroes in this post-feminist world, but in consolation, guys, the future according to TV sci-fi is rarely this much fun!
Cleopatra 2525 vol.1

Buy stuff at:
Amazon.co.uk
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Cleopatra 2525 vol.2


Season One:
episode checklist

Carlton DVD
Volume One:

Quest For Firepower
Creegan
Flying Lessons
Mind Games
Home / Rescue
Run Cleo Run

Carlton DVD
Volume Two:

Choices
Perceptions
Trial And Error
Double
The Last Stand
Hel And High Water, pt.1
Hel And High Water, pt.2


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