Riverworld : Part 1

Although labelled a film, 2010’sRiverworld is a four hour miniseries in two parts. Shown on the Syfy channel and based on the Riverworld books by Philip José Farmer, the made-for-TV film/mini-series is a reboot of the aborted Sci-Fi Channel Riverworld television series, of which only the pilot episode was produced. Directed by Stuart Gillard, produced by Michael O’Connor & written for television by Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Randall M. Badat it stars Tamhoh Penikett, Laura Vandervoort, Jeananne Goossen, Alan Cumming, Mark Deklin, and Peter Wingfield. The eponymous Riverworld is a strange alien planet were everyone who has ever lived and died, is reborn and overseen by extraterrestrial powers known as the caretakers. There are no children or old people as the old get transformed to a younger version of themselves.

War reporter Matt Ellman has just reached Singapore along with his co-worker Simon Moody (Arnold Pinnock) and goes to meet his girlfriend Jessie to whom he is about to propose marriage. At a nightclub he is reunited with Jessie who is with their common middle-aged friends & gay couple Hal & Antonio and married older couple Daniel & Deb. However just as Matt is about to propose both of them are killed, along with all the patrons in the club, in a terrorist attack by a suicide bomber. Matt is next seen in a large seemingly endless room lying on a flat bed with many other bodies and a tag on his wrist is ripped up by a blue alien humanoid. He then wakes up in the water and comes ashore on a river bank along with a few others. A confused Matt is reunited with a younger looking Deb, Dan & Hal but neither Antonio nor Jessie are to be seen. Matt befriends Tomoe Gozen, a 12th-century Japanes monk & warrior from the time of the Genpei War and who married to Minamoto no Yoshinaka. As others confused and wet find wood to light fires, large machines with food trays in them appear. However the antagonists soon arrive to take over the new arrivals and they include explorer Richard Francis Burton and Francisco Pizarro, the Conquistador who conquered the Incas. Hall finds Antonio disguised as a soldier and he tries to help them out. But Dan is killed when he tries to question the soldiers.

Soon it is apparent that the caretakers take away the wrist tags (through which food is assigned and also the person can be tracked) of those that they deem to be important but Matt is not given much info by the female caretaker who assists him from time to time. He is shackled by Pizzaro and Burton, who seems to know where Jessie is, also antagonizes him. Matt is soon reunited with Simon, who was killed 6 years after the Singapore blast. Along with the other heroes, Matt soon discovers that Riverworld has a deeper purpose and is controlled by otherworldly caretakers who are engaged in a civil war. The caretakers appear as blue-skinned robe-clad figures who watch over the humans. They were the beings who created Riverworld and are occasionally described as “demons”. The caretakers are mostly divided between two separate factions: the Salvationists (those who wish to destroy Riverworld to move on to bigger and better things) and the Second Chancers (those who wish to protect Riverworld). There is a civil war between these two groups and their leaders. While the others amass weapons to fight back, Matt is captured and imprisoned by Pizzaro’s men but escapes with some help from the female caretaker, who tells him to find Sam. Matt is saved by Senegalese soldiers let by Yousef who takes him to Sam aka Sameul Clemens aka Mark Twain (Mark Deklin) on a nuclear-powered steamboat. Sam had the boat built by a French lady engineer on Pizarro’s behest but stole the conquistador’s boat and his woman Allegra (Romina D’Ugo) aided by the Senagalese soldiers.

Once back at the main camp a fight ensues, and Tomeo kicks ass, in which many of Pizarro’s men are killed but he himself is shot dead by Sam. We also see that the horses are actually machines! However Burton comes back with his own men and shoots Matt who falls into the river. Tomoe jumps in after Matt but cannot find him, as Burton takes off in the boat. Matt sinks in the river as we see a shot of the planet with the river snaking it’s way all across the globe.

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