Goldberg stars here as Vivien, your basic 20th-century computer researcher who conducts an experiment that winds up transporting her back to A.D. 589 in what would come to be known as England. It was a time before Windows ’98, but Vivien has managed to tote her portable piece of hardware back some 1,400 years. Somehow, she’s still able to surf the Web despite a few inconveniences, like the lack of electricity and, indeed, the lack of a Web.
As soon as Vivien figures out that she really has gone back in time and it’s not just a really cool virtual reality Website, she adapts quickly. Her medieval hosts aren’t quite so accepting, dubbing this dreadlocked, tart-tongued oddball a witch. But just as she’s about to get beheaded, she transforms a highly convenient solar eclipse into proof of her magical powers. Instead of headless, she winds up being knighted “The Great Sir Boss” by Arthur (Michael York) and Queen Guinevere (Amanda Donohoe).
Just that quick, Vivien is doing her damnedest to rewrite history by doing away with slavery, starting the industrial revolution and giving everyone a roughly 1,350-year sneak peek at the women’s movement. But soon enough, she finds that no one really wants what she has to offer. Not her teenage charge, Clarence (Simon Fenton). Not barbaric knight Sir Sagramour (Robert Addie). And surely not the jealous Merlin (swell work from Ian Richardson).
Co-exec producer Joe Wiesenfeld’s teleplay is lively, if a bit on the preachy side. Are we really supposed to learn life lessons from a ’90s woman imparting wisdom to people who never bathe? But helmer Roger Young keeps the action focused and Goldberg in reasonable control. She travels over the top a few times , but her energy brings the old story an engaging twist.
Tech credits are all tops, with Barbara Lane’s period costumes terrif. Location shooting in Hungary and the U.K. brings the era to life with gusto. Can’t vouch much for the historical correctness of anything here, but it’s nice to imagine that — even in the era of jousting and indentured servitude — it was still possible to check one’s e-mail.