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including To Your Scattered Bodies Go

Critique • At the movies

2003, 2010

To Your Scattered Bodies GoFirst edition
Novels in series ▽ Novels in series △

To Your Scattered Bodies Go, 1971

The Fabulous Riverboat, 1971

The Dark Design, 1977

The Magic Labyrinth, 1980

Gods of Riverworld, 1983

Publication details ▽ Publication details △

First publication

Literature form

Science fiction

Writing language

Author's country
United states

Five novels

Riverworld (2003) scene
Samuel Clemons, aka Mark Twain (Cameron Daddo), fights for his riverboat in the 2003 Riverworld pilot.

Riverworld awaits its big screen moment

Someone really should do an all-out film adaptation of the Riverworld books—a well-scripted, well-financed series, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's got an incredible but natural setting, fascinating characters (the most interesting from all of human history), an intriguing overarching storyline, involving subplots, and a built-in fanbase, given the longterm popularity of the books. Could be a blockbuster.

But all we've got so far is a couple of weak, condensed television videos that could barely hold the interest of the novels' countless fans.

The river of forgetting

Riverworld (2003): TElevision pilot; director Kari Skogland; writer Stuart Hazeldine; featuring Brad Johnson, Cameron Daddo, Emily Lloyd, Jonathan Cake

First up is a Riverworld TV pilot in 2003, Canadian-made but shot in New Zealand (where The Lord of the Rings was filmed). Needless to say, it failed to launch the anticipated series.

Brad Johnson as astronaut in Riverworld
Brad Johnson as former astronaut Hale.

Despite having seen it though, I really cannot remember much of it. It's competing in my mind with the indelible original stories and the more recent TV remake. Damn, I might have to watch it all over again—a fate as bad as having to live your life over and over again in a primitive state next to a long boring river.

But let's try. First off, the 2003 show replaces colourful British explorer Richard Burton, the first protagonist introduced in the novels, with an American astronaut, named Jeff Hale. Probably figured North American viewers would mix him up with the actor of the same name and think he was searching the Riverworld for Liz. Hale's backstory is he was killed by a meteor shower while orbiting Earth in the present-day, and wakes on the Riverworld with the rest of humanity.

Instead of running into Nazi villain Herman Göring, a major villain of the books, he has to contend with the reincarnation of Roman emperor Nero, minus his fiddle. That one, I don't understand.

Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, makes his appearance in this first instalment of the projected series (although he doesn't enter the literary series until the second novel). But there's no King John, nor an Eric Bloodaxe, for him or Burton—I mean, Hale—to partner or battle with, as they do in the books.

The beloved Neaderthal character, who is a dependable ally in the books, goes unnamed here and is soon killed off.

The female warrior princess Loghu of the books is now an African called Mali....

Okay, I'll stop now. So the characters are different. So the story line is so abbreviated as to not make sense. (When do all the world's people learn to speak English?) And pointless action scenes replace all the thought-provoking parts of the novels....

Trailer for the 2003 TV pilot of Riverworld, that revised the novel drastically.

Oh, heck, there isn't really any comparison to the books here at all. So let's just accept it on its own merits as a movie—

Oh, sorry, it doesn't have any of those either.

Just an hour-and-a-half, run-of-the-mill, television scifi show. Eventually Hale and Clemens get their act together, defeat the bad guys (temporarily) and set off on a fusion-powered boat to solve the mystery of Riverworld.

But that resolution is not to be, as the prospective series ends here.

So let's give up on this film and move on ourselves. See if there's a better world up around the bend—in the next adaptation of Riverworld.

— Eric


Critique • At the movies

2003, 2010