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Charlie Jade article

Here’s an article on Charlie Jade from Genre Commentary, from November 2006:

The Best SF Series You’ve Never Seen: CHARLIE JADE
Submitted by Arwen Spicer on Tue, 2006-11-07 06:59. CHARLIE JADE | Introduction to the wonders of the TV series

Have you heard of Charlie Jade? Unless you live in Canada or South Africa, the answer is probably “no.” If it is, you’re missing out on an extraordinary show: original, intelligently conceived, and populated by refreshingly fallible heroes and ambiguous villains. Filmed gorgeously in and around Cape Town, this Canadian-South African co-production (2005, 20 episodes, plus one “recap” episode) centers on the adventures of the eponymous Charlie (Jeffrey Pierce), a private detective who, in the course of investigating a mysterious girl’s murder, gets catapulted into an alternative universe. Our universe. There he must unravel the machinations of the nefarious megacorporation, Vexcor, before… well, to say any more would spoil the surprise.

Charlie Jade breathes new life into the standard SF trope of the parallel universe. The show moves among three “present-day” universes: the Alphaverse, Betaverse, and Gammaverse. You won’t find Spock-with-a-Beard here; in fact, very few characters have alter egos. This—to invoke Spock again—is logical: given different life circumstances, most people’s parents wouldn’t have gotten together. Charlie comes from the Alphaverse, a Blade Runner-esque dystopia where Vexcor rules a totalitarian state of near-universal surveillance and corporate corruption. But Vexcor has a problem: the Alphaverse is running out of natural resources. Luckily for Vexcor, it has developed a universe-hopping technology that will allow the company to plunder the Gammaverse, a seeming utopian idyll of ecologically sustainable living. To reach the Gammaverse, however, Vexcor’s machine must punch a line through the Betaverse, our universe. And when Gammaverse terrorists blow up the Vexcor’s Gammaverse base, Charlie finds himself caught in the shock wave and stuck in Beta.

He’s not alone: one of the Gammaverse terrorists, Reena (Patricia McKenzie), has also been thrown into the Betaverse. A wanted criminal, she’s on the run, combating Vexcor, her “hellish” new world, and her own conscience. Charlie, meanwhile, has it somewhat easier. Befriended by conspiracy theorist Karl Lubinsky (Tyrone Benskin), he quickly finds his footing in the Betaverse and uses his Alphaverse detective skills to get the dirt on Vexcor.


The deeper he digs into Vexcor, the faster he speeds toward a head-on collision with 01 Boxer (Michael Filipowich), son of the company’s founder and a “courier” who has the power to travel between universes using nothing but water. 01 is one of the most fascinating “villains” TV science fiction has produced. Yet you wouldn’t guess it from his first few appearances: he starts out in the role of standard spoiled-brat thug, the kid who grew up with way too much power and too little love. The writers pull no punches: their depictions of his brutality are unusually graphic for science fiction TV. 01 really is as bad as he seems, but… that isn’t the whole story. To be specific would spoil the unfolding of his character. Suffice it to say that as the season moves toward its end, 01 rises to the role of anti-hero, a necessary complement to Charlie. They need each other—both pragmatically and psychologically—and the multiverse needs them both.

Charlie Jade is not perfect. A complex and detailed story, it is occasionally hard to follow, especially in its early episodes as the viewer is bombarded with a vast amount of information. The writers also have a tendency to keep their three most dynamic characters—Charlie, Reena, and 01—physically separated. This is a shame because the series’s strongest scenes occur when these characters interact. (01 and Reena get all of one scene together. But what a scene it is!)

Finally, like many SF series, Charlie Jade suffers from a slightly naïve sense of gender politics. The show certainly contains strong, interesting female characters: Reena is simultaneously determined, conflicted, moral yet desperate, and the Betaverse policewoman, Blues (Rolanda Marais), is a fitting tribute to Dana Scully, and not just because she has red hair. Vexcor executive Essa Romkin (Michele Burgers) strikes a difficult balance between heartless “ice queen” and human being genuinely devoted to her longtime lover and Vexcor’s founder, Brion Boxer (Graham Clarke). Even one of the more clichéd damsels in distress, Charlie’s Alphaverse girlfriend, Jasmine (Marie-Julie Rivest), ultimately commands a plot line that is refreshingly unstereotyped yet appropriate for her character.

Nonetheless, stereotypes persist: the idealized “angel in the home” wife and mother, the secretary-mistress, the persecuted wife of the “great man.” There’s the subtle—and I’m virtually certain unintended—undercutting of Blue’s authority and competence when her male partner asks her in front of a suspect if she’ll be “okay” interrogating him by herself. And then there’s Paula (Marie-Julie Rivest), Jasmine’s Betaverse doppelganger, who is presented as “ideal girlfriend” material, despite the fact that she displays borderline pathological behavior by repeatedly putting herself in the power of a strange man who won’t tell her his full name, what he does, or where he comes from, and who is plainly being pursued by many people who want to kill him. Isn’t she sweet?

These gaffes, however, are blips on the radar of splendid series, worth watching for its atmosphere alone: the incredible South African scenery; the specifically South African culture, seldom seen outside South Africa and virtually never in science fiction; the sickly green of the Alphaverse, the cool blue of the Betaverse, the blinding technicolor of the Gammaverse; the light touches of CGI carefully inserted to enhance rather than detract from the series’ realism. The visuals are a work of art.

Charlie Jade has garnered no shortage of acclaim. It was nominated for five Gemini awards (the Canadian Emmys). The show took home one award, for best sound in a dramatic series, and it does, indeed, include one of the best sound sequences I’ve heard on TV. You’ll know it when you hear it. Other nominations included best supporting actor, Filipowich (01), and best supporting actress, McKenzie (Reena), both highly deserved nominations.

I’d love to invite you to watch Charlie Jade, but that’s easier said than done. The series currently shows no signs of airing in English-speaking countries outside Canada and South Africa. It has been released on DVD only in Japan. (If you’re fortunate enough to read Japanese, you can find it here.) As far as I have been able to learn, there are no sources of legal, paid downloads. This is a travesty, ladies and gentlemen. But if I can’t invite you to watch the show, I can invite you to voice your support. You can contact the show’s distributor, Park Entertainment here and let them know you’re behind their product. You can also request that the Sci Fi Channel consider airing the series by dropping a line to feedback@scifi.com.

Meanwhile, here’s a list of some of the all-too-few Charlie Jade resources out there:

Official site (good series overview and some photos):
http://www.charliejade.com/

Episode reviews (scroll down):
http://phoenix.bureau42.com/review_list.html#TV

Discussion board:
http://forums.spacecast.com/forums/1003/ShowForum.aspx

Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Jade

IMDb:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0408378/

Full article at Genre Commentary (site abandoned?)

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Comments

One Response to “Charlie Jade article”

  1. tallgrrl says:

    True, there are no “legal” downloads available, but I got “tickets to the UK” and got every episode thanks to The Little Demon. (The one that went away and then came back. *wink-wink*)
    This Complete Set is one of my prized possessions.
    I’ll just say: “Ya do what ya gotta do.”
    This is a fine show that deserved better treatment by The SciFi Network.

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