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There Were These Short-Lived TV Shows at the Turn of the Millennium

A look at four sci-fi shows that lasted for only one season.

By Edward GermanPublished 5 years ago 7 min read
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At the turn of the Millennium there were some very short lived sci-fi shows broadcasted on the newer baby networks. There were two on UPN, one was on the WB, and the last one was on the Showtime Cable network. They lasted for less than one season and had less than 20 episodes produced. I watched all four shows back in the day and generally enjoyed all of them. They weren't the best but not the worst shows out there, they just didn't have enough ratings.

Freedom

Freedom was a UPN science fiction series that took place in current times. It dealt with four special operation military personnel who joined a rebellion against the US military. In this setting the US had been at war in the Middle East and economic problems were causing unemployment and internal strife. The President toured the country to ensure calm but Air Force One crash-landed somewhere in the US and the President was never found. It was presumed that the President had perished and the result was not a legal transition of power but a coup by the US military. The military declared Marshal Law and restricted civil rights, citing the need to restore order. Once in place, the country resumed a peaceful stance and most Americans accepted the need for Military Rule.

The four main protagonists in Freedom are three male and one female service members who are arrested on trumped-up charges. The leader of the group, Owen Decker, played by Holt McCallany, is ordered to kill the current US President. However, he refuses and is arrested for treason. While in prison, he learns of the resistance movement against the US military leaders who now call themselves the "Regime". Decker meets up with three other service members who have been jailed for other reasons. They all break out of prison with the help of the resistance, and they join the movement once they escape.

Freedom also starred Scarlett Chorvat, Bodhi Elfman, and Darius McCrary. The series was aired on the UPN network from October to December 2000. There were 13 episodes that were made including the pilot but only seven aired. The series was later cancelled after low ratings.

Level 9

Level 9 was also an UPN show that was broadcasted just after Freedom on Friday nights. This series was about a clandestine unit of federal agents from various agencies working to combat cyber crimes. The unit is supported by white-hat computer hackers and one black-hat hacker. The unit was designated Level 9 due to the extreme secrecy of their operations deep within the web. It is also a reference to the highest level of power an agency can exercise. Overall the main objective of the unit is to apprehend a wanted cyber-criminal that goes by the on-line name of Crazy Horse.

By Avi Richards on Unsplash

Level 9 was broadcasted from October 27, 2000, to January 26, 2001. There were a total of 13 episodes made but only 10 were aired on the network. In 2006 the SyFy Channel broadcasted all episodes in their entirety The show starred Kate Hodge as Annie Price, an FBI agent who is in charge of the unit. She uses Roland Travis, played by Fabrizio Filippo, who is a black-hat hacker who is given a choice of assisting Level 9 or going to prison. He provides insight into ongoing cases and to the manhunt for Crazy Horse.

Birds of Prey

The next short-lived show came about two years later and was a live action comic book. This was the series Birds of Prey based on the DC Comic universe and broadcasted on the WB network. The series takes place in Gotham City in an era devoid of Batman/Bruce Wayne. To fill in the gap, Batgirl/Barbara Gordon now known as Oracle, allies herself with the Huntress/Helena Kyle to combat crime in the city. They are also aided by a teenage girl who has telepathic powers.

The Joker discovers Batgirl's secret identity and tries to kill her but is unsuccessful. Gordon survives the attack but is left disabled and now is confined to a wheelchair. As Oracle, she uses her cyber skills to track down Gotham City's most wanted criminals while working with the Huntress to take down any criminal that threatens the city. The Huntress lives at the Wayne estate and has the services of Alfred Pennyworth who has stayed on after Batman had left. Both the Huntress and Oracle become acquitted with Dinah Redmond, a teenage girl who has psi powers. She becomes their ward and lives at the Wayne Estate with the Huntress. Dinah is a meta human not unlike the Huntress, and she explores her mental powers while living with Oracle.

The series stars Ashely Scot as the Huntress, Dina Meyer as Oracle, and Rachel Skarsten as Dinah. The WB series was broadcasted from Oct. 9, 2002 to Feb. 19, 2003 and lasted 13 episodes. Birds of Prey started out strong in the ratings but was canceled due to low viewership.

Odyssey 5

Finally, the last series I will discuss is the sci-fi mystery drama Odyssey 5. Odyssey 5 is about five astronauts who witness the destruction of Earth by hostile aliens while on a Space Shuttle mission. However, the crew is saved by a friendly alien who is known as the "Seeker". The "Seeker" has seen the destruction of dozens of other worlds by the same hostile aliens but was unable to save the inhabitants. After the "Seeker" rescues the crew of the Odyssey, he decides to send the crew back in time by five years. He explains to the crew that by doing so, they can work to prevent the Earth from being destroyed.

Once the crew is back on Earth and some five years in the past, they start investigating how the destruction of the Earth will come about. However, now that the crew is reliving their past, they also want to correct any mistakes in their personal lives. One crew member's own son had died of cancer in the future they had left, while during this time line, the son is alive and hasn't become sick yet. This compels the mother to look for a treatment while trying to conceal her knowledge of the future while the commander of the mission, Chuck Taggart, played by Peter Weller of Robocop fame, has to deal with his crew member's son and the rest of his family. On top of that, the chief scientist thinks history can't be changed and rather find ways to enrich himself instead.

By Avi Richards on Unsplash

The series was produced by Manny Coto who worked on ST:Enterprise, the Showtime series Dexter, and the Fox TV drama 24. The show was shot in Toronto, Canada and was broadcasted from June 21 to October 15, 2002. Odyssey 5 starred Peter Weller as Commander Taggert, Sebastian Roché as Kurt Mendel, the chief scientist of the crew. Christopher Gorham plays Neil Taggert, Chuck's son and the youngest crewmember. Tamara Marie Watson plays female crewmember Angela Perry who nearly died but was saved by "The Seeker". Leslie Silva plays Sarah Forbes a female reporter imbedded with the crew. The show lasted for about 19 episodes before it was cancelled by the network. The last episode ended with a cliffhanger plot intended to connect to a second season which was never made.

My thoughts on these shows.

I enjoyed watching these shows back when they first aired except for Odyssey 5. I watched that show on the SyFy channel when it was in reruns, I didn't have a Showtime subscription during its first airing. Each series had good writers and some good stories were told. However, I think they just couldn't find the right audience. I have not watched these shows since they were first aired but I wanted to share my impressions from when I first tuned in.

I think that Freedom failed because it seemed too unbelievable that the US military would stage a coup and take over the county as it has been done in other countries. The military was depicted as brutal and oppressive toward anyone they came in contact with. It would seem like the US Constitution was just forgotten about and the only people who cared was the resistance. The one thing I do find striking about Freedom was that it debuted one year before the 911 Terrorist Attack. Needless to say unless you are a conspiracy theorist, the US Constitution is still in place and America is not under Military Rule.

I am not sure why Level 9 failed but it was better series than Freedom. It had some good stories in each episode along with some good suspense. I was intrigued by the hacker "Crazy Horse" and whom he might be. Was he a real person or an AI? I don't think we will ever know the answer. However, the interesting thing I found disturbing about the series is the means in which the agents were able to electronically eavesdrop on anyone without a legal warrant. I was left with the impression that this select group of agents had complete power to do what ever they felt was needed to arrest criminals.

I wasn't familiar with the comic series Birds of Prey nor what it was about. My brother who was a big comic book fan mentioned to me about the show just before it aired its first episode and I decided to watch. The premier episode had started out great in the ratings but viewership diminished as the series went along. I thought the series was fair but not excellent, it did give off a very film noir style within a comic book universe.

Of all these series the one I loved the best is Odyssey 5. This show was very well written with solid character development. Each episode had a subplot woven into the larger one, such as when one of the crew members would discover something about themselves or find something that would connect to the aliens. There was always mystery and intrigue throughout the series as well. After watching a few episodes, I felt like I was seeing a Friday night Fox TV show from the 90s.

If you are interested in watching any of these shows, most are on the internet. YouTube is a good place to start with while Odyssey 5 can be watched on Sony Crackle. The show Level 9 can be ordered on Amazon in a box set and also be watched on the internet as well. Birds of Prey and Freedom are searchable on YouTube and be bought on the internet also.

scifi tv
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About the Creator

Edward German

A long-time sci-fi fan who loves the internet. I am also writing on subjects other than sci-fi.

you can follow me on "X" @EdwardGerman3 Listen to my podcast The 1950s Science Fiction Podcast on Spotify for Podcasters.

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