Novel, 1971–1983
Riverworld (2003)

Television pilot: director Kari Skogland; writer Stuart Hazeldine; featuring Brad Johnson, Cameron Daddo, Emily Lloyd, Jonathan Cake

Riverworld (2010)

Television mini-series: director Stuart Guillard; writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Randall M. Badat, Hans Beimler; featuring Tahmot Penikett, Alan Cumming, Mark Deklin, Peter Wingfield, Jeananne Goossen

Riverworld (2010) scene

Alan Cumming is a blue alien helping a former journalist (Tehmot Penikett) in 2010 Riverworld mini-series.



Up river with the Blue Man Group

Mark Deklin as Clemens in Riverworld

Mark Deklin as Clemens in Riverworld.

Much different, the U.S.-Canadian rebooting of Riverworld for TV in 2010.

Instead of the wilds of New Zealand, the wilds of British Columbia are the location. Instead of the hero being explorer Richard Burton or an American astronaut, he's an American journalist, who yearns to find his all-American bubble-headed girlfriend. In place of warrior princess Loghu or Mali, we have warrior princess Tomoe. Instead of Hermann Goering or King John or Emperor Nero, the bad guy is conquistador Francisco Pizarro.... Why? I don't know, maybe the producers thought they could get the rights to the Procol Harum song for the sondtrack.

But, wait, Burton is back in play after all. Though now he's also kind of a bad guy now.

The one constant is Samuel Clemens. But his story is so truncated that we never see him get his team together, build his boat, or engage in all those intrigues that were so absorbing in the novels. He just appears on the scene to join up with the American journalist and promptly lose his boat to Pizarro.

But at least in this short series, the good guys win through to reach the tower at the head of the river, something that doesn't happen until the fourth novel in the series, where they solve the mystery of Riverworld.

I think they solve it. Hard to tell. Nothing is worked out very clearly in this jerky three-and-a-half-hour film. Time is always jumping ahead—I suspect whenever the producers run out of money to actually film what's supposed to happen in-between.

But it is a passable time-waster. Actor Tehmot Penikett (from Battlestar Galactica) is okay as the rugged American hero. Mark Deklin is a good-looking Clemens, maybe too good looking. And Peter Wingfield is overly villainous as Burton, all glaring eyes and curling lips, but that's the role they've given him. The standout is Jeananne Goossen, whom I've never heard of before, as a Japanese female samurai fighter. Smart, sexy and strong, now there's a woman our hero should hook up with.

The aliens who create Riverworld are the biggest disappointments. I was thinking they looked and acted like rejects from the Blue Man Group—and then our hero made the same reference to them. Just not mysterious enough, more like bickering kids playing with their human toys.

Through five books and two movies, I'm still not sure what they're on about.

— Eric