- Directed by Julian Grant
- Written by Brad Abraham and Joseph O’Brien
- Fireworks Entertainment and MGM Television
- January 4 to January 25, 2001
- Space (Canada) / Sci Fi Channel (United States)
- Officer Alex Murphy / RoboCop-Page Fletcher
- Commander John T. Cable / RoboCable-Maurice Dean Wint
- OCP Executive Sara Cable-Maria Del Mar
- OCP Executive James Murphy-Anthony Lemke
- Ann R. Key-Leslie Hope
- David Kaydick-Geraint Wyn Davies
- OCP Executive Damian Lowe-Kevin Jubinville
- Chuck Conflagration-Anthony J. Mifsud
- Carver RH-Eugene Clark
- Abby Normal-Marni Thompson
- Albert Bixler / Bone Machine-Richard Fitzpatrick
- Lexx Icon-Françoise Yip
RoboCop has been online for several years and is starting to feel his age and must deal with his now grown son who is an OCP executive as well as the return of his former partner.
I did not expect too much going into this one. It was a poorly advertised, low budget four-part miniseries from 2001. I did not even know it existed until I was doing some reading on RoboCop online and they briefly mentioned this. How good could something that was treated as disposable and forgettable from the start be?
Discovering RoboCop: Prime Directives on YouTube I decided to give it a look figuring I had nothing to lose by viewing it for free. I was pleasantly surprised by a few things from this miniseries. It did not look spectacular nor was it particularly groundbreaking, but it did have a feel similar to the original RoboCop. Director Julian Grant attempted to go back to some of the trademarks that made the original film so special. It tried to be darkly satirical and violent (as much as a TV miniseries at the time could be at least).
The TV rights were set to expire and Fireworks Entertainment wanted to make this before they did. And it definitely shows at points. The continuity of this is set after the original film but does not include the two sequels or the 1994 television series or even the two animated shows. I only watched one of those.
One major area they went wrong in here was in the low production values. I understand this was a time before CGI which allowed for any number of things to show up on screen with a few strokes of a keyboard. However, the shots were tight and there was not much in the background. The bare minimum was done to establish whatever they needed to establish. The story is set in Delta City which is supposed to be a city of tomorrow. Even if this were a real thing and plans did not work out as OCP envisioned, the environment should look special. Instead the characters look like they are zipping around any other urban area of the time in which this was made. There are a few locations in Canada that have a futuristic/otherworldly vibe (see Stargate SG1) that they could have used.
This miniseries reuses footage from the TV series which it is not connected to. Shots of vehicles moving around and even one brief moment when RoboCop’s foot hits the ground come from the show. They did not have permission to use movie footage here but since they did have access to series footage, they reused a movie shot from the show that they tinted blue. Even the train wreck that was/is MGM wanted nothing to do with this. Ouch!
The acting was mediocre more often than not. The actors were either flat or performed in an over-the-top fashion that did not mesh with others in the scene. Most involved were/are known mostly in Canada (I guess) but I dare say are virtually unknown beyond those borders other than Geraint Wyn Davies of Forever Knight fame (BTW great show!). He was the closest to a big-name actor in this miniseries and that is not saying much. Do not get me wrong. He is a fine actor but if that is the biggest name you have in your cast of your major miniseries you do not have any real big names.
RoboCop: Prime Directives was divided up into four movies much like they used to do with miniseries back in the day. I give them credit for doing that rather than do what is essentially a two-part movie. It is made up of four feature-length episodes: Dark Justice, Meltdown, Resurrection, and Crash and Burn. All four episodes are reportedly available on DVD and three of the four are free on YouTube with one (Meltdown) needing to be rented.
Much like the original film RoboCop: Prime Directives had some deeper themes. RoboCop (Page Fletcher) could be viewed as experiencing his equivalent of a midlife crisis. He is an older machine now. Some of this replacement parts are harder to come by if they are even manufactured at all. Once a celebrity, the public and fellow officers treat him as nothing special anymore. He does not draw attention like he once did, and his section of the police station is quiet and virtually abandoned. He feels old and alone.
RoboCop also has to contend with the presence of his son James (Anthony Lemke who might be known beyond Canada too from Dark Matter) who is now a young executive in OCP who holds no great love for his father and in fact when he learns the truth of who RoboCop is remains more than willing to off his father as part of the plot he is involved with.
Missing from this miniseries, with its alternate continuity, is the character of Officer Anne Lewis. Lewis was a significant aspect of the first film and was the first to see RoboCop as Murphy. I am not declaring that she must be a significant character, but she deserves a brief mention at the least. She does not even get an implied reference.
RoboCop Murphy though does get a new old friend in the form of a former partner called John Cable (Maurice Dean Wint). Who names these characters?! In this miniseries he worked with Murphy prior to Murphy being transferred to the Metro West Precinct that cost Murphy his original life. John’s part in all this is that after getting mortally wounded he becomes a new Robocop referred to as RoboCable. It is a similar design to RoboCop but with a coloring scheme that’s more of a charcoal gray than silver and two gun ports. The moments that mimic the Murphy refit in the original film tease something special, but the budget is a roadblock to getting there.
There is a power struggle going on in Omni Consumer Products involving a group called The Trust. James Murphy is involved because one of the members, OCP Executive Sara Cable (Maria Del Mar), has been helping him from the shadows since the death of his mother and uses his loyalty after the abrupt revelation of her involvement in his life to secure his participation. She was relying on a great deal of dumb luck going her way to get his loyalty. Bad planning (or a poorly written script).
The Trust is somewhat adversarial with OCP executive Damian Lowe who has been working to develop an A.I. called S.A.I.N.T. to automate the city. He is feels like a cross between Dick Jones and Bob Morton from the original but never quite gets to that level of magic.
Then there is bad guy David Kaydick played by Geraint Wyn Davies (his last name a reference to author Philip K. Dick) who wishes to unleash a virus to destroy all life on Earth that he has been incubating in his daughter and her mother Ann R. Key (Leslie Hope) is trying to stop him. That there is a big turn in terms of tone and plot for the whole story and turns it into a bargain basement CW story.
And let us not forget the terrorist known as Bone Machine who is former cop Albert Bixler (Richard Fitzpatrick) who goes around causing random destruction but unlike a real terrorist has no stated goal other than apparent chaos. He is working for The Trust. We know he is evil because he laughs a great deal when he does bad things. As Bone Machine he wears a shitty skull mask and the advanced weapons he wears looks like the character design of one of those knockoff Masters of the Universe toys that were everywhere.
As I said the story is a return to something more in line with the original RoboCop-at least at points. There’s dark humor and social commentary. The story is good and a notch above the rather forgettable one season RoboCop: The Series. I could not make it through that show more than two or maybe three episodes when it originally was on. It was too silly. By that point I had discovered the original RoboCop and what they put on television was nowhere near what that was and not because it was censored for television. Anyway…
Speaking of costumes, the RoboCop suit looked bad. It appeared cheap and fit the actor poorly. Worse, it looked like it just might fall apart. I swear you can see the pieces of the torso come close to separating. Page Fletcher is apparently short and fails to do one of the more important things the RoboCop character must do and that is cut an imposing figure.
RoboCop: Prime Directives is nothing revolutionary or even mildly special. It is one of those things that could have benefited from a better budget and a few differences in casting along with at least one more script revision. If any of them had occurred, I think we could have had something really special but as it is it is just a bit of trivia in the RoboCop history.
RoboCop: Prime Directives is an attempt to step back in the right direction for the RoboCop concept but because of budget issues and casting choices it is less than it could have been. In the end this is only something to check out based on curiosity. Otherwise you can skip it. However if you are inclined three of the four episodes can be found for free on YouTube with near as I can tell one of them being available only through rental or purchase.