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Poltergeist: The Legacy Review

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by Simon Crust Apr 1, 2006 at 12:00 AM

    I've not been sleeping well lately. There could be a variety of reasons; stress, kids, money; but more recently it has been a feeling of helplessness when confronted with supernatural powers. Who will guard the human race against the untold hoards of unspeakable evil that live in every open cupboard or under the bed at night time? In the past we had Scooby Doo, though luckily for us it was always fake monsters. Later when the monsters were real we needed a real hero or heroine; Buffy, she managed to free the untapped Slayer in every Chosen One; so things were looking up. Then Angel went and let hell loose on the world. What were we to do?Back in 1996 the forces of evil had another nemesis, a centuries old sect called The Legacy. Headed up by Derek Rayne (Derek de Lint) owner of the Luna Foundation, the front for The Legacy, he self finances the group to prevent any ministerial or government interference and has himself been touched by the very evil he seeks to banish; as a teenager we watched his father die at the hands of a demon, thus passing the burden of responsibility to him; he also has prophetic visions that are of paramount importance to the sect. The other group members are Alex Moreau (Robbi Chong), the computer girl/researcher who works hard in her role, but is often spooked by her encounters, odd considering her career choice, Nick Boyle (Martin Cummins) the no nonsense, shoot first, ask questions later tough guy who survived an abusive father (coincidentally also a Legacy member) to become an emotionally charged member of the team. Next up is Philip Callaghan (Patrick Fitzgerald) on again off again Legacy member and priest, all conflict and devotion here, not sure about the accent though. Finally two waifs picked up in the pilot episode, Rachel Corrigan (Helen Shaver) and her daughter Katherine or Kat, round off our heroes. Rachel is a psychiatrist and the sceptic of the team, amazing considering what she went through in the first episode, but more of that later, with Kat being a 'sensitive' much like Derek, but being too young she is not a fully fledged member even though her abilities make her a useful ally. Together these six friends manage to stem the tide of hauntings, miss-happenings and general tide of demonic energies that somehow manage to leak into our world to upset the balance of power.

    Poltergeist: The Legacy, to give the show its full title, was produced by the same team that brought us the Outer Limits; indeed there are many similarities with structure and look between the two shows. The 'poltergeist' name was probably a ploy used by the creators to associate the series with the films of the same name, however it is only the word that connects them, as the series is a world away from the films. When the pilot first aired is was with a very adult theme; nudity, gore as well as one of the most horrific births ever put on film guaranteed an immediate audience. Unfortunately though the series proper was rather toned down, trying to up the creep factor by reducing the graphic nature; in part it works well. However had the series stuck to its guns and continued with the full on adult horror it would have been quite something. As it is it very quickly falls into 'monster of the week' territory, as good as those episodes are there is a tendency to concentrate on the 'monster' and very little is mentioned about the people behind the Legacy. This is the shows biggest downfall, though sporadic flashbacks are given to the various members there is little emotional involvement from them, any and all rests firmly on the shoulders of the mother daughter relationship between Rachel and Kat. Add to this the nature of 'monster of the week' there is little feeling of coming to a climax; this is addressed very late in the season with a small story arc spanning three episodes that work so well it irks that the series as a whole could have been so much more had the same been applied.

    Enough of that fan rant, because when the show was good it was very, very good. As alluded to earlier there is one particular scene that the show will always be remembered for; the birth of the demon in the pilot episode. It is one of those “I can't believe I've just seen that” moments normally reserved for the most excruciating Japanese exploitation films. I won't say the set is worth getting just for this scene alone, but it's a damn near second. The thing is had the makers not taken the show so seriously it could easily have become silly; but without even so much as a nod or a wink at the camera, the screenplay continues to assault the audience with depraved and ghastly acts and we are drawn into the horror of it all. Although the nature was toned down for the series, the seriousness was not, all the actors played the respective roles with gusto, wringing the full out of the parts, even those woefully under used, such as Robbi Chong, were totally believable in their roles. The only loose cannon would be Patrick Fitzgerald who never seemed comfortable with his hybrid characterisation of a priest come Legacy member. If only he could have kept up the intensity of the pilot episode. However when all is said and done The Legacy is full on entertainment. Even the less than good stories have some redeeming feature in them and this first season was strong enough to win it a further three getting it noticed by critics and fans alike.

    It's been a long time coming to DVD but unfortunately the package is not great, even though the series itself is.