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In Poltergeist: The Legacy a diverse team of experts combat the forces of evil.
Since the beginning of time, mankind has existed between the world of light and the world of darkness. This journal chronicles the work of our secret society, known as The Legacy, created to protect the innocent from those creatures that inhabit the shadows and the night."
THUS BEGINS the opening credits for MGM Worldwide TV's Poltergeist: The Legacy, a spooky series of modern-day evil from Trilogy Entertainment, the makers of the new The Outer Limits.
The premise for the show is quite simple Evil forces are loose around us, and a group of dedicated professionals battle with them to save the world. Foremost in keeping evil at bay are a world-wide group called The Legacy, a secret society of occult specialists who use their unique abilities to capture the fallen angels. They have been in existence since the 6th Century, originating from London, where their headquarters are still based. As time passed by, individual branches, or 'houses,' began to spring up all over the globe. Each self-governed 'house' is led by a Precept, an experienced dabbler in all things satanic. Each house is ultimately answerable to London's Ruling House, and is comprised of handpicked individuals who have either psychic gifts or the power of the mind to block out the entities. As well as direct hands-on fighting, a significant amount of work is undertaken in the research field, predicting the scenes of future apparitions or collecting possessed artifacts. Each house is identified by its own distinctive insignia, and this symbol is displayed on the ring worn by the Precept.
Poltergeist: The Legacy is centered round the San Francisco House, which is located within a castle-like mansion on Angel Island, over-looking the Bay. To the outside world, this is not the recognizable business premises of a firm of ghostbusters; it is disguised as the Luna Organization, a philanthropic institution that collects artifacts and antiquities.
The mysterious Derek Rayne is Precept of the San Francisco House, and has selected a group of worthy proteges that he can nurture and rely upon when needed. In the pilot film, Derek is drawn to Ireland, where a recently recovered sepulchre is less dormant than hoped. The evil force begins to destroy those that released it, and Rayne is called upon to help Rachel Corrigan, her daughter Kat, and their associate Shamus Bloom (William Sadler Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight). Written by Brad Wright, co-executive producer of The Outer Limits, executive producer of MGM's new StarGate SG-1 and staff writer for Forever Knight and Highlander, the premiere two hour show managed to attract a sizeable audience, and the ensuing season was commissioned.
Cynics argued that Poltergeist: The Legacy was merely sitting on the coat tails of The X-Files, and many similarities were, and will continue to be, drawn between the two. The proof would lie in the success and quality of the first season, and the show's legacy must be that, against all adversity, it survived the full run of episodes.
The series' premise was established in the pilot show, as were the characters of Rachel and Kat Corrigan. The first regular episode, Town without Pity, continues the Rachel story, and hones in on her recurring nightmares. Derek suggests that they steer clear of anything too distressing, but they are ultimately dragged into the clutches of a mesmerizing preacher who allows his congregation to exist on Earth for only a few days every 50 years. Featuring a memorable turn by Nick Mancuso (Matrix, Wild Palms) as the Preacher, this was a strong first episode, and typical of the shows that were to follow. Mancuso's character was subsequently added to the episode The Tenement. The fact that the subsequent series presented a series of very similar shows was its major weakness; there are only so many times that you can watch an exorcized demon being sent back down below.
Anthony Heald (The Silence of the Lambs) delivers an unsympathetic performance of a father accused of abusing his son in Sins of the Father, but the perpetrator of the injuries is actually an evil spirit. Heald's character is an ex-friend of Derek, and this is one of many times when friends, family and old acquaintances are used as linch-pins for the show. In the next episode, Twelfth Cave, Derek's ex-friend David Ogden Stiers (M*A*S*H) sends a possessed Dead Seas Scroll to him, Nick Boyle's ex-girifriend is pivotal in hospital drama Do Not Go Gently, and Alex's sister is in Spirit Thief. When another one of Derek's acquaintances is introduced in Crystal Scarab, the repetitious nature of the by-the-numbers lazy storylines is most apparent. Thankfully, the lush settings, dark photography and visceral effects help distract you from the vagaries of the cliched stock characters.
Rachel's character is introduced in Man in the Mist, and this proves to be the first in a series of Gothic romances (particularly The Inheritance) vaguely reminiscent of Dark Shadows, and providing some respite from the gory exorcisms.
Other notable shows in the first season include Substitute, featuring Ben Cross retreading similar ground to that in The Unholy, and The Signalman, with Kevin Kilner (Gene Rodden-berry's Earth: Final Conflict) as a skeptic who now finds that he must accept the supernatural if he is to prevent a deadly nerve gas being released in a haunted tunnel. The remainder of the season witnesses battles with Aztec demons, witch hunters (Thirteenth Generation), ghosts (Ghost in the Road), an invisible friend (Doppelganger) and a coven of witches (Revelations). Helen Shaver makes her directorial debut in The Bones of St Anthony, a tale of genetic abominations, but little else is of note in this first season, which ends with clip show A Traitor Among Us.
A solid season of well-produced drama, but relying on frequently-used premises that had been covered in considerable detail in Kolchak and Friday the 13th: The Series, the show was renewed before its first season had been completed.
The second season commenced with The New Guard, a show that seems to have been constructed purely to introduce new character William Sloan (Daniel J Travanti) as Precept of the Ruling House. Travanti proves to be a good foil to de Lint, and adds some much needed antagonism and petty rivalry to the underwritten Derek Rayne character.
Fewer big-name guest stars appear in the new shows, and very little new is introduced to the tired mix. Rae Dawn Chong (The Borrower) is cast as her real-life sister's sister in Spirit Thief, but the other casting this year has not been so inspired. Rough Beast draws on the same material that was more successfully covered in The X-Files' Shapes, and features wolf spirits baying at the door, and Devil's Lighthouse evokes strong memories of the awful British movie Tower of Evil. Amityville 3D is plundered in Lullaby, the story of Kat's nightmare when she and her friends release a spirit from a Ouija board, and even occasional The X-Files writer Steve de Jarnatt (Fearful Symmetry) contributes with a script for Shadow Fall. The Choice concludes a season that was no worse than its previous year, but sadly lacking the new direction that was needed.
In truth, Poltergeist: The Legacy has little more to do with the Poltergeist films than Friday the 13th: The Series had in common with Jason Vorhees. In its defence, a group known as The Legacy do inspect the possessed Freeling house in Poltergeist, but the show should be seen as an accompaniment to the movies, rather than an extension. Incidentally, Zelda Rubinstein (medium Tangina) makes an appearance in the series as ancient spirit Christina in The Reckoning, and Poltergeist III director, Gary Sherman, turns his hand to TV in Season Two's Let Sleeping Demons Lie, thus cementing some more ties between movie and television series. A supernatural blending of Mission: Impossible, Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror, with an over-reliance on gory special effects, Poltergeist: The Legacy dares to be dark and unsettling viewing for the impending long Winter nights.
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