ITV: (July 1994 - August 1995)
In the mid 1990s, ITV had a huge summer hit with the localization of the classic US action game show, Gladiators. It did very well against the also extremely popular at that time, Noel's House Party. It went to spawn tons of toys and other fun memorabilia, It was ITV's golden goose for years, but it had one flaw: It had a limited run. It could only have 16 or so episodes in a series before it had to go away for a bit to let the gladiators rest and John Fashanu and Ulrika Johnson do other things. So, ITV needed to find a show to fill that void. There were two big attempts to capitalize on the success. One was Ice Warriors, a dismal failure on all attempts in trying to be Gladiators on an ice skating rink. The other big attempt was a mish-mash of Crystal Maze, Gladiators & every single horrible Sci-fi movie from the 1950s. A show so bad, that the final few episodes were aired at the peak time that was 9:45 on Monday Mornings, probably to try to compete with Good Morning with Anne & Nick. It's time to climb aboard the Vulture and take a look at Scavengers.
Where should I start? Oh yeah, how about John Leslie. Before this show, he was more famous for presenting the BBC's long running kids series, Blue Peter. After being sacked from that show, probably to make way for someone a bit younger, he took the helm of this show as the completely unconvincing commander of the Vulture, the show's ship. I'll give him credit here, there really wasn't much to work with, having to act like a gruff Space Ship Commander, leading trainee squads to a decaying ship in order to salvage bits and pieces of cheaply made junk. He tries to be a good presenter here, but the role presented to him is just really silly. That's not even getting to his outfit. With the outfit, he kinda looks like Reb Brown from Space Mutiny.
"WE PUT OUR FAITH IN BLAST HARDCHEESE!"
But I digress.
Also with John Leslie was Android, played by Anna Galvin. She was supposed to be the head scorekeeper and main statistician of sorts. However, most of the time, she was used for some awkward banter between her and John. Was she good at her job? Not really. Although she was an android, she seemed too robotic for the job. Plus, I don't even get the outfit. Was she trying to be something akin to the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation? I don't know. But like John Leslie's outfit, it is something ripped from a horrid 50s or 60s sci-fi adventure.
One of the better things about this show was David McCallum. He did the voiceovers for this show and to be honest, he was really good at it. He built up this show like it was the next big sci-fi show. So, he did his job really well. He had the admitted good tagline of "To Scavenge, salvage & survive with honor." I would hire him to do voiceovers for a cool new Sci-fi series. But after the killer intro that he did, we get into the show itself.
And it starts with John Leslie, in his thick Scottish accent, talking to the cont...I mean Trainee Rookie Squads. They are informed of the rules and that they have to get back onto the Vulture in 51 minutes, otherwise they will be left on the decaying cargo ship, presumably to be eaten alive and taken prisoner by some unfriendly aliens. They are told that they aren't competing against each other, but against 8 other teams in the Scavenger League. Since when did this become a league all of a sudden? What type of League do you go into outer space and collect Salvageable parts and possibly could be left to die? This could have been a decent enough premise, if they didn't throw in a lame tournament format. I'll get back to the League in a bit. But after, admittedly, a good graphical landing, we start the salvaging.
And here's where we turn to crap. The show turns into a hackneyed gladiators format mixed with some rejected games from The Crystal Maze, or somehow games that are directly ripped from The Crystal Maze. The first "game" involved the two teams trying to obtain old fuel rods from a trash compactor kinda ripped from Star Wars before being crushed. But we all know that ITV won't allow anybody to be "crushed" on national TV. Maybe some lesser networks like Channel 5, but not ITV. After all that, John asks Android for the scores, and proceeds to bitch her out about going through the crusher first. Yeah, the comedy and acting are about as good as a random episode of Neighbors. Which is one of the many reasons why this show failed; horrible acting.
After each game, they move to another location, with the Vulture Countdown on the bottom thankfully reminding us that the pain will end when the clock reaches zero. We see more of the Cargo Ship Cyclops and eventually get told by Android that they are not alone. Alien forces have also arrived on the ship, so I'm expecting to see more crappy acting soon.
They get to this are where after one of the people breaks the bridge, they have to get more salvage points...you know what, screw this. I can't even begin to take this show seriously. They are collecting silver painted rocks from ammo boxes full of sand and black boxes while yellow colored fog is blowing in their face. And whatever good things I said about this set, to hell with that too. It looks like they ripped off everything from some of the lesser series of Doctor Who, presumably from ones with the seventh or eighth doctors. So after this endeavor...
AHHHH, BRUSH YOUR TEETH YOU HEATHEN!!!
This is supposed to be the villain of the entire series. He and his minions are there to screw over the contestants. However, this doesn't do any justice by looking at his mouth. We need to see his entire body.
NOW YOU'RE RIPPING OF PREDATOR?! DEAR GOD, DO YOU HAVE ANY SHAME???
Wait, he looks like if Predator and Clown from Spawn mated and had a bastard child out of abortion. Either way, he just looks awful.
So, we continue with the ripping off of other popular shows with this game. All they have to do is dismantle this bomb and lift up the top without the metal touching any part of the rods that are sticking out. If it happens three times, then BOOM! Gee, this seems like a direct rip-off of another game from The Crystal Maze where someone had to move a bomb through a course without the centering bubble leaving the circle 3 times. Otherwise, the bomb explodes & they are locked in the room. See, it's the exact same game. Is this show just ripping off anything and has no idea concepts of their own. I mean, the sci-fi spectacle of everything has been done on The Crystal Maze and some other UK shows that escape my head right now. Either way, after this we head to the air lock...but wait!
Yes, a couple of stage hands in alien costumes rejected by Red Dwarf come out and try to kill John Leslie. Oh, do we wish Ulrika Johnsson wish that were true. But, like any good commander, he beats them singlehanded with his blaster. Ugh, now we're going to think that he was Capt. Kirk?
Oh yeah, I forgot he spears the other with a loose pipe to the dismay of everyone hoping this wannabe 3rd Doctor would just go away. With all of this action, I'm just going to skip to the ending. The rest is stuff you've seen before. Games done better on Fort Boyard and The Generation Game, Hell, they even ripped off the water plug game done on The Crystal Maze. Then we get to the last part...The Final Abyss. Yeah, that's just as threatening as The Eliminator.
But before all of that, John has to act like a self-righteous prick and scare one of the rookies with a scaly prop that spits fire. Dear god, no wonder Abi Titmuss casted him aside after Ulrika Johnsson accused him of raping her. I bet he was hitting on all the cute female contestants backstage before they did the show. What a self-righteous sexist prig!
Back to the Abyss though. What the squads have to do is to construct a swing so they can get over the void in order to get back to the Vulture to make sure they get back before Vulture leaves them behind. While constructing the swings, Leslie gives them support from the confines of the ship, reminding the contestants that more Salvage means higher league placing. During this time, the teams construct the swings. When the building is complete, the men start to swing over and the women collect the leftover props from Aliens so that they can swing those over and boost their scores. They normally have between 5 and 7 minutes to do this. If they don't make it back with their junk, they are left behind and get nothing. For those that do make it back with their salvage, they are placed on the leader board.
If they do something like get their foot caught on a rope and don't even try to do anything, then they get left behind because they are morons and score 0 points overall. During this endeavor, we still hear Leslie trying to get his squads motivated by telling them basic things like "Scavenge, Salvage, Survive with Honor." But to be honest, he's only saying that because David McCallum said it better than he did. In the end, the totals are given and they fly off.
However, the story doesn't end here. Sometimes, both teams fail to reach back and we get some more craptacular banter between Leslie and the Borg reject. What's worse than that? Leslie actually starts to hit on C3PO's inferior half sister! Now we know why Abi Titmuss got away from Leslie. She found him sleeping with Android. It makes a ton of sense.
Now this could have been a decent 1-shot series, if not for the horrific tournament format. I can guarantee you that nobody watching this pile of garbage even believed for a second that any governing body would consider something like this a League worth putting together. It's just not feasible. It's like if someone started making a league for chewing the most pieces of gum in your mouth from the hours of 2am-5am. It just doesn't make any lick of sense whatsoever. They could have remedied this by just making 1 Scav Point = 5 British pounds. And the team with the highest total keeps all the money. That wouldn't be that bad from a British weekly nighttime perspective. But it's just wrong and unfeasible.
I don't know what to say afterwards. Everything from John Leslie's crappy delivery and acting, to Android, to the pathetic looking aliens, to the games that were better served being on The Crystal Maze, Fort Boyard & any other game show in the 1980s, to the overblown production values that meant nothing to the show. It was just a total waste that ended up doing its semifinals and finals at the great time of the week that was 9:45 on Monday mornings. Now if that doesn't tell you how much the show sucked, then I don't know what will.
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