There was a time—a Golden Era, if you will—when syndicated television series ruled the land. Cheesy action shows like “Lightning Force,” “Super Force,” “TekWar,” “War of the Worlds,” “Renegade,” “Sheena,” “Thunder in Paradise,” “Baywatch” and “Baywatch Nights” kept viewers tuning in to non-network stations during off-peak hours. The trend hit its high point when producers Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi created “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and “Xena: Warrior Princess”—shows strong enough to inspire their own conventions. But as the ’90s waned, networks like FOX, UPN, The WB and MyNetworkTV started gobbling up the independent stations, filling their primetime schedules and leaving no room for the likes of Pamela Anderson’s “V.I.P.”
It’s now the year 2008. Lo and behold, Tapert and Raimi have returned from the depths of “Cleopatra 2525” (2000-2001), bearing with them a new syndicated action series. Not to be confused with crummy fantasy film The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, “Legend of the Seeker” is based on the Sword of Truth books by author Terry Goodkind. I’ve never read any of the books—mostly because there are 11 in the series, and I make it a point not to read anything that takes up an entire shelf at Borders. But obviously, there are a lot of fans out there, many of whom are excited to see Goodkind’s words come to life.
The epic story concerns innocent young farm boy Luke Skywalker—sorry, Richard Cypher (Craig Horner). Richard is recruited by feisty brunette in a diaphanous white dress Princess Leia—sorry, Kahlan Amnell (Bridget Regan). Seems she’s just escaped from the evil ruler Darth Vader—sorry, Darken Rahl (Craig Parker). According to ancient prophecy, Richard is “The Seeker,” a hero destined to save the land from evil. All he’s got to do is get training from the crazy hermit wizard Obi-Wan Kenobi—sorry, Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander (Bruce Spence). To help him on his quest, Zed bestows upon Richard a magical glowing sword called a Light Saber—sorry, The Sword of Truth.
Yeah, “Legend of the Seeker” basically borrows its entire plot and character lineup from Star Wars. Though, to be fair, George Lucas didn’t originate any of that, anyway—he just cribbed his clichés from the “hero’s journey” playbook. Goodkind undoubtedly read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and is following in the same well-trod mythical footprints as Lucas.
Familiarity aside, “Legend of the Seeker” is an entertaining fantasy romp along the lines of Tapert and Raimi’s earlier work. Like “Hercules” and “Xena,” this one’s shot in New Zealand and the gorgeous costumes, props and settings are still in place. Gone (sadly, perhaps) is the campy comedy. The tone is notably more serious, but it seems to fit Goodkind’s work and isn’t completely without its light moments. Fantasy fans will probably find a nit or two to pick in regards to Goodkind’s source material. Those looking for nothing more than to re-enact the glory days of “Highland” need search no further than “Legend of the Seeker.”