The virtual world becomes a dangerous reality in Chris Carter's Harsh Realm. It's the ultimate mind game when a soldier testing a military war game discovers that the only way out
is to kill the top player! The complete series debuts on DVD in August, including killer extras and 6 additional episodes that never aired on network TV!
The dark and fantastic Harsh Realm, a science fiction series about a war fought by flesh-and-blood humans trapped inside virtual reality, was launched by The X-Files creator Chris Carter in 1999 and died a regrettable, premature death on the Fox channel after three episodes. The remaining six shows found sanctuary on the FX network, and then Harsh Realm slipped into history, its wild story, based on a comic book, far from resolved. Perhaps Harsh Realm's ratings failure had something to do with its broad similarities to the hugely popular The Matrix, released only a few months before, or, for that matter, David Cronenberg's 1999 eXistenZ, in which characters fight for their lives inside a video game. Whatever the reason, enough time has passed to take an objective look at Harsh Realm, and there is a lot to be admired in its high level of imagination, complex plotting, and cutting-edge production values.
Scott Bairstow stars as U.S. Army Lieutenant Tom Hobbes, a decorated hero who risked his life rescuing a buddy, Major Mel Waters (Max Martini), during a peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia. Set to return to civilian life and marry his fiancée, Sophie (Samantha Mathis), Hobbes is summoned by a mysterious superior (Lance Henriksen) and asked to test-run Harsh Realm, a virtual reality war game devised by the Pentagon. Once he begins, however, Hobbes is mentally imprisoned in the dangerous game (his body, along with those of hundreds of other "volunteers," is cared for in a secret military hospital), where he is identified by other, desperate captives as the savior they've been awaiting. D.B. Sweeney is very good as another soldier, Mike Pinocchio, whose sense of mission is re-awakened by Hobbes and who becomes a partner in an endless effort to defeat a madman named Santiago (Terry O'Quinn), who rules Harsh Realm from within. As with The X-Files, the nine episodes in this boxed set are each very striking on their own terms, with post-apocalyptic sets, constant surprises, and that special Chris Carter touch (fans of his Millennium will like Harsh Realm, too) that makes every story look and feel like a collision of a nightmare and a crisis of faith. --Tom Keogh