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Riverworld (2002)
Producers: Janine Dickins, Mary Kahn

review by Michael Lohr

The Sci-Fi Channel has set about the task of adapting Philip José Farmer's Hugo Award winning novel, To Your Scattered Bodies Go into movie format and possibly a television series. A daunting task indeed, but after watching the two-hour movie, it is a challenge that I think the Sci-Fi Channel and Alliance Atlantis Studios can take on with much potential success.
   In the year 2009, a space shuttle is destroyed by a meteor shower thus claiming the life of astronaut Jeff Hale (played by Brad Johnson). He suddenly awakens floating in a sea of jade-green geodesic bubbles. He then encounters a mysterious cloaked figure carrying a staff of power, who, without warning, pierces him in the forehead with said staff. He then finds himself washed ashore on a beach littered with canisters of drab clothing. Soon dozens of people from different lands and time periods emerge from the water and through the acts of the gods of Riverworld, they can understand each other's language and thus are able to communicate. The astronaut finds himself surrounded by such figures such Samuel Clemmons, the ancient Roman Emperor Nero, a Polish Jew from the Nazi death camps, an African tribal priestess who died on a Portuguese slave ship, a Neanderthal and a Victorian-era British woman who was the inspiration for Alice In Wonderland, and so on. The scope and vision of Farmer's novels is not lost upon this production, but there are a few things left out. One of the biggest questions that fans of Farmer's novels will probably ask is 'where is Richard Burton?' Well, if this is indeed developed into a series, then I'm sure he will show up. I think the Sci-Fi Channel have done a wonderful job of capturing the complexity of Farmer's concept.
   If you know nothing about Farmer's novel series, I suggest you read To Your Scattered Bodies Go, before you watch the movie. Also the movie ends abruptly, which is only understandable if this movie is indeed to be made into a series. Be aware of this, because you could be rather disappointed if you did not know this beforehand, and I wouldn't want you to throw a shoe or a drinking mug into your TV set.
   Note: Riverworld was filmed in New Zealand along the north island's popular rainforest near the same location that Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess were filmed.

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