With the DVD of the TV movie Virtuality now out, it's time to review what could have been.

First of all, let's make something perfectly clear: Virtuality is not a TV movie. It's a pilot produced by FOX. This is an important point, because Virtuality fails miserably as a movie. It ends without tying up any of the loose ends, and leaves a big unspoken "to be continued" that (judging from the low ratings of the movie) we'll probably never get the answer to. So what's the point of watching the movie at all? It actually is a very good story, and it's interesting to imagine what the TV series might have been.

At its core, Virtuality is about a group of astronauts on a ten-year mission to reach a habitable planet outside the solar system. This would be a fairly interesting story in itself, but there are a couple of twists. One is that the mission is partly funded by a corporation that has turned the journey into a reality TV show. Another conflict is that, in order to combat the claustrophobia and isolation, each crew member has their own virtual reality headset that allows them to escape into fantasy worlds. The virtual reality is the real core of the story, hence the title. Each crew member has their own favorite virtual fantasy that they live in; the captain plays soldier in a Civil War simulation, two crew members are having a virtual affair in a romantic getaway, etc.

The conflict begins when a mysterious stranger begins appearing in people's VR scenarios. The stranger seems to know all about them and begins interfering with them in strange ways. There are a lot of threads that could have led to interesting story lines. The show's producer (who happens to have a major conflict of interest by also serving as the ship's psychiatrist) is constantly trying to manipulate the crew to increase the ratings, sometimes to the detriment of the mission. The crew is having second thoughts about going on the mission at all. The crew members are fighting amongst themselves.

I could also see how the series would explore some pretty complex issues. In a disturbing moment, one of the characters is beaten and raped inside a virtual world. When she returns to reality traumatized, she finds herself a center of an argument between the other crew members. One argues that she should just get over it because it wasn't a "real" rape. Another, who was raped at one time in the real world, argues that it was real in her mind. The argument becomes an interesting debate about the difference between reality and fantasy.

In the end, there's a major plot twist that one longs to see get resolved. Maybe one day there'll be a Virtuality II that ties up or continues the story. Even if there isn't, I think the movie itself is worth watching. It's an impressive work in a small package. We can only hope the creators of Virtuality (Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor) can create another pilot just as good that they actually can continue next time.

What do you think of Virtuality? Let us know in the comments
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Maurice Mitchell said...

You know, I saw about fifteen minutes of the pilot and got bored and turned it off. Now I wish I'd stuck around for the rest of it. It sounds really interesting and edgy. Ronald D. Moore dis great work with the Battlestar Galactica reboot so I'm sure he has more in store for us.

Freeflyt1 said...

I just watched it last night. It started a little slow as they explained the background of what was happening and developing the characters but then I got hooked. I am so dissappointed it wasn't made into a series. Great potential and story line. It pretty much had it all, interesting cinematography, suspense, sex, violence, and a great mystery that I wish I could watch unfold. It's worth the view but know the end leaves you wanting more.


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