The creators have assumed every viewer has read the novels or watched the vidpix, because there's no exposition to orient the novice.

The creators have assumed every viewer has read the novels or watched the vidpix, because there’s no exposition to orient the novice.

It’s 2045 and ex-cop Jake Cardigan (Greg Evigan) is a detective for the Cosmos agency, headed by Walter Bascom (Shatner). They’re trying to stamp out Tek, a highly addictive brain stimulant con-trolled by a cartel. But Tek barely gets a mention in the premiere. And oddly, the episode doesn’t focus on Jake but on the guest star.

Unknown soldier Electra Dutton (Jennifer Griffen) gets Jake out of a jam and he recruits her for the agency. But she’s an assassin who’s been programmed to kill by corrupt Gen. Braymer.

When Braymer has Electra attack Bascom, she’s caught by government agents. They’re trying to suppress these particular vets by “rehabilitating” them, which has the effect of a lobotomy. Jake saves the day by helping Electra expose Braymer and show up the government.

Robin Jill Bernheim’s humorless script is a muddle, replete with stilted lines like “You’re a traitor — a lying, stinking traitor!” The delivery doesn’t help.

Director Allan Kroeker deserves some blame for the mediocre performances. Fortunately, Electra dies, so viewers won’t have to watch Griffen in future segs. As the star, Evigan is pretty low-key — he’s David Hasselhoff without the charisma, but at least he keeps his dignity.

Eugene Clark co-stars as Jake’s partner, yet does next to nothing here. Shatner is cool, calm and all-knowing.

The production design is a problematic pastiche. The series is set in the mid-21st century, which the producers envision as an extension of life in the late 20th century. This results in a confusing look — some costumes are right out of “Blade Runner,” while others are very Brooks Bros. Designer Stephen Roloff’s model for everything futuristic seems to be a circuit board.

Granted, we’re not talking about the distant future, but cyberspace, videophones and holograms still aren’t sufficiently futuristic. Concealable shockers look like the hand buzzers baby-boomers used to play with. Some characters have plasma guns while others sport automatic pistols or souped-up Uzis. And what’s an eight-track recorder doing in the villain’s office?

Special effects are run-of-the-mill, although it’s nicely gruesome when Electra deflects a laser with her forearm. The computer graphics, created by C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures, aren’t clear.

The lack of stylistic unity would be less disappointing if the show weren’t trying to be so hip. Shatner is the coolest thing on screen.

Tekwar

Production

UNKNOWN SOLDIER (Sat. (7), 7-8 p.m., USA) Filmed in Toronto by Atlantis Films, Western Intl. Communications, Lemi Prods., CTV Television Network and MCA Television. Executive producers, William Shatner, Peter Sussman. Co-executive producers, Hans Beimler, Richard Manning. Producers, John Calvert, Stephen Roloff. Supervising creative consultant/writer, Robin Jill Bernheim. Supervising producers, Seaton McLean, Jamie Paul Rock. Director, Allan Kroeker.

Crew

Camera, Mike McMurray; editor, Gary L. Smith; production designer, Roloff; art director, Adam Kolodziej; sound, Bill McMillan; music, Fred Mollin.

With

Cast: Greg Evigan, Eugene Clark, William Shatner, Jennifer Griffen, Brett Halsey, Natalie Radford, Ernie Grunwald, Leka Doig, Dana Brooks, Peter Blaise. This premiere episode of "TekWar," USA's new sci-fi series, has more misses than hits. The series follows four syndicated telepix based on the "Tek" novels by William Shatner, and they may have generated enough momentum to carry the series for a while.
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