Thursday, November 06, 2008

Live Action: "Fast Forward"

“Fast Forward” (February 27, 1991)

Writer: Gail Morgan Hickman
Director: Gus Trikonis
Editor: Greg Wong

Synopsis: Nicholas Pike, the vicious gang leader responsible for the murder of Jay Allen, has been released from custody on a legal technicality and his first act as a free man is to mastermind the assassination of the Flash! As the fastest man alive fails to outrun a high-tech missile programmed to obliterate him, he is suddenly thrown through time and finds himself in a dystopian future Central City where Nicholas Pike is mayor, oppression rules, and the mere mention of the Flash's name is illegal!

Commentary: “Fast Forward” is best thought of as The Flash's stab at presenting an alternate history story, a sort of televised Elseworlds adventure. Strictly speaking, the central premise of the episode is preposterous; it's unthinkable that a major modern American metropolis such as Central City could ever be transformed into such a nightmarish dystopia in the span of a single decade. It doesn't help that, as we watch these episodes on DVD, the futuristic setting of the story—March of 2001—has long since passed! We're clearly in the realm of temporal fantasy and a healthy suspension of disbelief is a requirement. It's a fairly standard alternate history nightmare at that, featuring the expected dictatorship, secret police, underground resistance movement, and all of the associated stylistic trappings. “Fast Forward” sports more noteworthy flaws as well. Early in the episode, Barry Allen loses faith in the strength and integrity of the legal infrastructure he works tirelessly to support and decides to run away. The episode sadly follows his lead by outright ignoring the legal quandaries that are presented to us up front. As Michael Nader's Nicholas Pike is a returning villain whose role in the show's pilot episode was pivotal, it's unforgivable that this script fails to elaborate on the circumstances of the villain’s miraculous release from prison. This only serves to contribute to the construction of Pike as a ridiculously two-dimensional villain. If the character had a mustache he'd be twirling it all the while and, unfortunately, the antagonist isn't all that engaging or entertaining. Nevertheless, there are also more than a few moments to relish in this fast-moving adventure, particularly a subplot in which we discover that the underground resistance movement of the future Central City has clung to the legendary scarlet speedster as an icon of justice and liberation even in his absence. It's undeniably satisfying to watch our troubled hero rediscover his faith in justice and become reborn as the protector of his hometown.

High-Speed Highlight: The Flash pushes himself through the uppermost limits of his astonish super-speed powers in a desperate bid to outrun a heat-seeking missile and, when the device detonates at his back, the superhero is tossed through time!

Quotable: “Someone once told me the Flash would be forgotten in a few years. I never thought he'd end up in a museum. All those people out there, waiting for me to save them. I don't know if I can be what they want me to be.” --An uncertain Barry Allen questions his legacy

Special Thanks: Thanks, as always, go out to Kelson Vibber for the screen captures featured here. Visit Those Who Ride the Lightning for an overview of The Flash television series.


Dixon said...

Quite right, Kelson. How a municipality like Central City descend into such a dictatorial state separately from the nation at large is beyond me. For that matter, I simply can't imagine Central City's municipal government surrendering such control to a mayor like Pike, even given the influence of organized crime. The premise of the episode raises the sort of big, unavoidable questions that shatter the fantasy at once.

Thanks for the note about Bilson and DeMeo's comments, too. Indeed, this episode does feel very condensed. There's almost too much crammed in! I can see it being planned as a two-parter.

Craig MacD. said...

This was my favorite episode of the series as a kid. I was really hoping the show would delve more into time travel and alternate universe stuff in season 2 but it never got that far.

Dixon said...

I think that it took The Flash an inordinately long time to find itself as a television series, so to speak, and it's a shame that we will never know where the series might have gone had it been granted a second season. Like you, Craig, I suspect the show's storylines would have delved more boldly into comic book territory.

Mad Mac Genius said...

Also, this episode really fleshed out Julio's character quite a bit, and showed how loyal his friends and the people of the city were to help the Flash.