Reviewer: Rissi C.
Pieces of a ship and dead men are scattered about the beach. The island is virtually deserted, the lone survivor of the shipwreck being an English merchant named Robinson Crusoe (Philip Winchester). Disorientated, Crusoe quickly learns he must fight for survival on the primitive island. Crusoe rescues a native whom he dubs Friday (Tongai Chirsta). Time passes and it becomes apparent that Friday is to be his only companion. Longing for home and his loving family, Crusoe slowly pieces together shards of his past life only to realize he was betrayed by those he thought were trustworthy. Fearing what may come, Friday and Crusoe litter the island with traps in preparation for discovery. Danger looms for the pair around each corner, especially when Crusoe’s old friend and guardian (Sam Neil) arrives on the island. Meanwhile, his beloved wife Susannah (Anna Walton) remains in his memories as he plots his escape from the island … only who can he trust?
Fans of Cutthroat Island or Pirates of the Caribbean are in for some fun during this twelve-part mini-series. If you want something a bit edgier or a serious, historically correct production you may want to skip this. On the surface this series is purely a feel-good-adventure but for the most part doesn’t require a great deal of thought. For example, for an uneducated man, Friday is certainly too smart when it comes to proper English “book learning." Granted, Robinson has taught him a great deal but for him to understand such phrases as are popular in speech is stretching his characters comprehension (like saying someone’s picture is next to “trouble” in the dictionary). Costuming is above average, particularly during flashback scenes; the wedding sequence was as lovely. You have to suspend realism though since many of the traps they build are downright impossible given their limited resources. The series also assumes too much in presuming the audience will catch on, rather than illustrating some of its plot points (like showing us meetings instead of thinking we will assume two people know one another).
Having gotten all the nit-picking complaints out of the way, this series is worthwhile in some respects, one being subtle religious themes. In “The Mutineers”; Crusoe’s response to Friday’s query is rather enlightening while inferring faith in God. To counter that are references to Friday’s native beliefs, which instead involve spirits. The virtually unknown cast is actually commendable. Getting his start on a reality television show may not have enhanced any acting skills Winchester had, but he is decently talented in the role of Crusoe; he pulls off the lone castaway easily while scenes involving his former life are played with emotion and tenderness. The supporting cast is also noteworthy. Neil makes himself transparent enough to keep people guessing (although we learn early which side he is really on), and Christa is a source of comedic relief; he and Winchester have many verbal bouts that are priceless. Joining the cast later is Mia Mastero, a woman in a male dominated gang of pirates who is just trying to stay alive; she adds a bit of sparkle to the show. Since the series started after the shipwreck, the show relies on flashbacks to help us establish his life beforehand, and because of these scenes we slowly grow to feel Crusoe's hopelessness at his parting from family and long for the happy reunion.
When this first started it was known as a TV series with the prospect of a renewal come fall, but due to low ratings, it wasn’t renewed and then became a mini-series. My favorite episodes include “Gunpowder & Rum,” “The Mutineers,” and “Heroes & Villains” -- in this episode, I particularly liked conclusions a character came to in regards to someone she had objections to, only to discover he was to be trusted. ”Smoke & Mirrors” both delights and is rather bizarre, making us even question Susannah. Going into the conclusion, I had great hopes everything would be tied up nicely with a big bow, so much so that I watched it on television only to be sorely disappointed at the outcome. NBC, the fans need a two-hour television special with a pleasantly happy conclusion!
Flashbacks have a married couple in bed together, unclothed; innuendo, a man finds a woman bathing (nothing inappropriate occurs). A man tries to rape a woman (episode three); she stops him.
Men are stabbed, shot, run through with a pole, or hung (a boy is mauled to death by a crocodile). Another man falls into a hole, with a log falling on top of him and even though he survives, one wonders how.