“Machine Dreams”-Parts 1 & 2
Directed by Mario Azzopardi
January 5, 1999
After the death of his partner, a cop and his new partner track down a group of murderous rogue androids with ties to the Rekall Corporation.
In this pilot film we get introduced to all the core characters of the then forthcoming series here. CPB Detective David Hume (Michael Easton) is the first we encounter. He has a general mistrust of androids. Olivia is Hume’s wife who is unfortunately little more than the token girlfriend here. Ian Farve (Karl Pruner) is Hume’s new partner after the death of his original. Martin Ehrenthal (Michael Anthony Rawlins) is their loud and blustery superior officer in the CPB. Olan Chang (Judith Krant) works in forensics. She does not get too much play here but does more than the character of Olivia. James Calley (Matthew Bennett) works in the Assessors Office (like Internal Affairs). While he is at odds with Hume, he comes off as fair but trying to navigate the politics of the situation.
The villain of our story, aside from the nefarious workings of Rekall, is Richard Collector (Nick Mancuso). Whether or not that is an actual last name or a reference to what he does is a little fuzzy. He is less a villain and more doing his job by looking out for the interests of Rekall. Not noble but in the context of that world not pure evil. He has schemes in schemes and most definitely knows more than what he says but this would not be a corporatist future without at least one character like that.
I enjoyed the execution of the story. Pilots are usually clunky in comparison to the rest of the series since they are be foundation for the rest of the series. Getting the show’s mythology from series bible to screen is not always smooth. I think they mostly avoided that. From the introduction of the new partner to the general climate the characters lived in, it was done very well. My major gripe is the reveal of Farve’s true nature. It was a little on the underwhelming side and it should have been the biggest reveal of the pilot since it set the stage for the rest of the season. The only really under used element was Hume’s wife Olivia. She existed to provide some marital sexy but little else.
As a mystery film it is okay. It is less a mystery and more a series of reveals meant to show how the world of 2070 is. Among one of the more intriguing twists and surprises is what occurs with the immigrant family. Unfortunately it fails to touch on identity or anything deeper than “that’s not right” which is something the distinctly action oriented Total Recall of 1990 managed to do.
The pilot episode as well as the rest of the series borrowed elements not only from the film Total Recall but elements from the original Blade Runner and mixed them together and created a cyberpunk type noir film. Despite its name, the film is much closer to Blade Runner than Total Recall containing more plot elements from the former rather than the latter though like the latter both heavily feature Mars in their narrative.
I think visually it still holds up today for the most part. They managed to create a dirty and decaying future for the most part with the weak points being fleeting external location shots. As for the effects and CGI imagery, what withstands the test of time is what was lifted from Total Recall. The other shots look like cheap graphics but not Asylum movie cheap. Despite the deficits, they still have an effective cyberpunk environment here. Visually overall the film played like a higher quality direct to video release of the time.
Total Recall 2070: Machine Dreams was first broadcast on American television in the very late 90s as part of a science fiction programming block on Showtime. It only amounted to one season, but it is a show that really stuck with me because it stood out to me among the science fiction programming of the time. It was not trying to copy Star Trek (which was the gold standard of broadcast science fiction at the time) but rather the darker Blade Runner. It was doing something different and for me it clicked.
Being on Showtime they had nudity mostly for the purpose of having nudity and went heavy on the sex quotient in the pilot. Showtime had done something similar with the pilot episode of Stargate SG1. Was it necessary? No but it also did not feel gratuitous here like it did in SG1.
Overall I enjoyed Total Recall 2070: Machine Dreams. It was a promising start for a show that ultimately lasted only one season. I recommend checking it out. This pilot episode along with the bulk of the series appears currently available on YouTube. This and the series are a great bit of broadcast science fiction. Watch it (if you can find it)!