Harsh Realm is a science fiction television series about humans trapped inside a virtual reality simulation. It was developed by Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files and Millennium, and began airing on the FOX Network on October 8, 1999. The series fared poorly in the ratings and was removed from the schedule after just three of its nine episodes had aired. The remaining six episodes premiered on the FX Network. Repeats of the series will begin airing Fall 2007 on CBC Country Canada.
The show was loosely based on a comic book by James D. Hudnall and Andrew Paquette. When the creators noticed the credits read "Created by Chris Carter", they sued Fox to get properly credited. The credits were changed to read "Inspired by the Harsh Realm comic book series, Created by James D. Hudnall and Andrew Paquette, Published by Harris Publications, Inc."
"Technology and the threat of nuclear annihilation in the last half of the 20th century have changed the world forever. They changed war and its consequences, as they have forever changed the battlefield and the warriors who must still fight there. It's been estimated that a nuclear device the size of a small suitcase, smuggled in and detonated in New York City would kill several million people instantly and many times that amount with radioactive fallout. This scenario prompted the DoD to create the project code named Harsh Realm. Using the 1990 census, satellite cartography and other classified data, the creators of Harsh Realm have created a virtual reality where landscapes and people are identical to our world, down to every man woman and child. By putting players into this simulated crisis scenario..." —An introductory video to Harsh Realm viewed by Tom Hobbes in the pilot episode, spoken by Gillian Anderson, who was Agent Scully in Carter's most famous show, The X-Files.
Harsh Realm is a military simulation programmed by the US Army and went online October 13, 1995. For several hours, there was no distinction between our world and Harsh Realm. At noon, a nuclear bomb the size of a briefcase was detonated in the simulated New York City of Harsh Realm. Four million people were killed instantly. ("Camera Obscura") From that point onwards, Harsh Realm became a training simulation for a post-apocalyptic disaster scenario. With this premise, Harsh Realm borrowed liberally from such genres as Cyberpunk, alternate history, and Fantasy.
Lieutenant Tom Hobbes is unknowingly thrust into this world by his superiors with one mission: to kill Omar Santiago. Along the way, he meets fellow soldiers sent into the game and alternate versions of people he knew in the real world. Tom Hobbes quickly finds companions such as Mike Pinocchio (a cynical long-time resident of Harsh Realm), Florence (a mute with mysterious powers), and Dexter (an alternate version of his real world dog).
Lieutenant Tom Hobbes' target is Sergeant-Major Omar Santiago, the highest scorer in Harsh Realm. Santiago controlled five eastern seaboard states in a police-state dictatorship and was actively conquering more from a base of power, Santiago City. Its exact real world location is unknown but is located fairly close to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Santiago City is a police-state dictatorship.
From his new companions, Tom Hobbes learns that General Santiago has in fact hijacked Harsh Realm. Hobbes is merely the latest soldier in a long line of soldiers sent to kill General Santiago. Hobbes also learns from a mysterious "ally", Inga Fossa, that General Santiago is planning the ultimate act of terrorism in the real world so that Harsh Realm is all that remains.
It is this world that Tom Hobbes must survive, defeat General Santiago, save the real world, and somehow return to his real life and his fiancée, Sophie Green.
"It's just a game." —Harsh Realm tagline.
See also: List of Harsh Realm episodes
A box set with the 9 completed episodes, including those unaired on network television in the USA, was released on region 1 DVD on August 24, 2004. The box features two commentary tracks on the pilot episode by the show's creator and director as well as other minor special features.
Tom Hobbes (Scott Bairstow)
Mike Pinocchio (D.B. Sweeney)
Florence (Rachel Hayward)
Omar Santiago (Terry O'Quinn)
Mel Waters (Max Martini)
Inga Fossa (Sarah-Jane Redmond)
Sophie Green (Samantha Mathis)
A lawsuit filed by the creators of the Harsh Realm comic book series that was licensed by Fox and Carter as the basis for the TV series became a precedent setting case. In it, Fox attorneys argued that Carter's sole "written by" credit was not only warranted, but required under the rules of the Writer's Guild of America (WGA). The judge in the case disagreed, saying "...in response to the comic book authors’ request for a preliminary injunction, Judge Martin found that “While there are substantial differences between the comic books and the television series, a trier of fact could find that it is misleading to represent Chris Carter as the creator of ‘Harsh Realm’ without giving adequate recognition to the role [Hudnall and Paquette] played in its creation.”
Fox argued – with the support of the WGA – that it could not give Hudnall and Paquette the credit they demanded, because of the WGA agreement. “The problem with this argument,” Judge Martin responded, “is that [Hudnall and Paquette] are not members of the WGA and are not bound by its contract. If the listing of the credits violates [their] right under the Lanham Act, the fact that the violation is pursuant to a contract with a third party is no defense.”
In the comic book (on which the television series is based), a detective named Dexter living in a dystopian city is sent into a High Fantasy world complete with elves, goblins, and werewolves. This world (and many others) are run by a corporation which sells entry into these worlds as an escape from the city. Dexter is sent into Harsh Realm with a mission to track down the missing son of two parents and in a parallel to the television series, this individual also seeks to take over Harsh Realm (albeit with fantastic powers rather than military power).
The television series plays homage to the comic book by naming Tom Hobbes' dog, Dexter.
|DVD Title||DVD Cover||Release Date|| Number|
| Number Of|
|Harsh Realm Complete Series||August 24, 2004||3||9|