Shiny Shelf

Cleopatra 2525: Season One Boxset

By Mark Clapham on 08 November 2002

What if Buck Rogers had been a pole dancer? OK, that’s not the kind of question most people trouble themselves with, but it’s clearly what the creators of this odd little series had in mind.

Cleopatra, a stripper from the present day wakes up from a cryogenic sleep into a ‘Matrix’ style future where mankind has been enslaved and driven underground by the robotic Baileys. Cleo quickly teams up with two fit female freedom fighters, Hel and Sarge, to fight the Baileys and their terminator-lite agents, the Betrayers. Coming from the same stable as ‘Xena’ ‘Cleopatra 2525′ makes those shows look like ‘I, Claudius’ and ‘Edge of Darkness’ by comparison. Part of a bold, possibly mad and unfortunately failed attempt to pioneer a new format on US TV, the half-hour action show, by necessity ‘Cleo’ has punchy plots and minimal characterisation, each episode built around its showcase action sequences. The special effects are cheap and cheerful, the sets merrily recycled. It’s flashy, trashy, Made In New Zealand futuristic

What’s quite surprising is that the show isn’t a total disaster. While never scaling the dizzy heights that the more effective and/or insane episodes of ‘Xena’ and ‘Herc’ managed, ‘Cleo’ provides solid doses of mindless entertainment while occasionally pulling off moments of sincere dramatic effect. Most of the credit for these successes can be given to Jennifer Sky, who invests Cleo with a wide eyed charm that pulls off the corniest jokes and carries through the dramatic beats to endearing effect. Sky’s grip on the show’s tone, of when to play it cheesy and when to play it straight, cannot be faulted. Gina Torres is more limited as Hel, and Victoria Pratt (sentenced to a term in ‘Mutant X’ for her sins) is merely functional as Sarge, with both actresses playing every scene at one note. Not to put too fine a point on it, without Jennifer Sky the series just wouldn’t work.

Camp, silly and comic-book exciting, ‘Cleopatra 2525′ is inessential and fluffy entertainment. This first season covers a lot of ground, settling Cleo into the team and exploring her new world, both above ground and below, climaxing with an underwater adventure. Enough plot threads are carried through to make the show more than a series of glorified cartoon skirmishes. While by no-means a must buy, viewers with the occasional spare half hour could do worse than pick up this DVD set. Certainly, as a tea-time viewing experience an episode of this will go down a lot easier than switching on to ‘Eastenders’.

American readers will know that ‘Cleopatra 2525′ is only half of the ‘Back-2-Back-Action’ hour that Renaissance Productions put out to replace ‘Hercules’. The other show, ‘Jack of all Trades’, was a wonderful but short lived exercise in swashbuckling camp starring B-movie king Bruce Campbell. With the ‘Evil Dead’ films doing well on DVD, is it too much to expect a series starring Ash himself to be released? Let the campaign start here: tell Carlton Visual Entertainment that we want to see ‘Jack of all Trades’, and we want it now…

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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