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1/07/2010. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy Chimera in the USA - or Buy Chimera in the UK

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region2 DVD: pub: Revelation Films. PAR61479. 1 DVD 201 minutes 4 episodes plus extras. Price: 19.99 (UK))stars: John Lynch and David Calder.

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What exactly is a chimera? Basically this is the result of two fertilised eggs fusing together to form a single entity. The result could be an organism with two different DNA identities. It's relatively common in animals, less so with humans but where the latter does result DNA identification can be rather difficult and misleading at times. Most human chimeras go through life without knowing anything about their condition. Some may have slight differences in various parts of the body, for example, differently coloured eyes, though this condition may be due to other factors as well.

'Chimera', the TV series, first appeared on Independent Television in 1991. It was a four part series, each of one hour duration minus advertisements of course, and it has now seen the light of day again as a DVD released by Revelation Films. This is the full version of the series, not a cut-down version which appeared some years ago.

No doubt inspired by the news at that time of advances made in cracking the human genetic code, 'Chimera' attached itself onto that bandwagon. It was written by Stephen Gallacher and seemed to promise quite a lot. Its identity is difficult to discern. Is this horror? A police detective series? Probably a bit of both!

The first episode is very dramatic. From inauspicious beginnings, nurse Tracey Pickford has a fallout with her noncommittal boyfriend Peter Carson (played by John Lynch) and takes a job in a fertility clinic somewhere out in the countryside. In charge of the facility is Dr. Jenner (played by David Calder, who was also in 'Star Cops'). The usual rigmarole commences when something appears to be going on behind the scenes in the clinic. A large number of staff are controlling a creature which is locked up in a laboratory. Every day this creature has large buckets of fruit for its breakfast, enough to make anyone go on the run I wager. Of course, we don't see the creature.

Having been introduced to all these characters, at the end of the first episode we are shocked when they are all horribly butchered, presumably by the creature which has now escaped. The boyfriend, Peter Carson, had received a message on his answering machine and duly goes out the next day to see what has happened. Not surprisingly, the place is swarming with police and he becomes, temporarily at least, a suspect, this despite the fact that he is reduced to tears on identifying nursey's mutilated body.

What happens next? You'll probably be able to guess because the whole series is full of stereotypical characters and plots. The acting is quite good and the scriptwriting sequences are not bad but I'm afraid the rest is rubbish.

We've got a stereotypical police boss, a bit like Jack Frost, and also a stereotypical police sidekick whose holiday was cut short by the incident which is why he's going about in a holiday shirt. The monster has escaped into the countryside. The police know nothing about the monster but, of course, someone else does and he is one of these stereotypical boys from a stereotypical government department. The project has been a secret government project all of the time and, as what happens in every such case, it has gotten out of hand.

Yes, we've got a stereotypical government secret plot and a stereotypical monster, the chimera, which slowly reveals itself as the series progresses. This is a Frankenstein story and we've even got innocent kids being friendly with the monster making the viewers apprehensive about them getting slashed to pieces. Yes, it's old Frankenstein almost to the letter. Of course, there's also a sad and pathetic side to the monster: he's got feelings, too, you know.

Possessing inhuman strength, the chimera is a fusion of man and chimpanzee. Maybe he has turned into a vicious killer because he was locked up and was doomed to die when their experiments had been concluded. He could write in English, testified by the 'help me' written on a vehicle's dusty window. Nevertheless, we know almost from the beginning this creature is doomed!

The series concerns itself with the step-by-step revealing of the chimera, eventually showing his face to the public. Gasp and gosh, he is an ugly looking beggar! We are then taken to its ultimate death. The secret government department is introduced to complicate matters but again that's all plot manipulation padding out the script. Is there a moral to this story? Yes, do not write rubbish!

How often have we seen 'science' as a separate entity which runs out of control and is malevolent in nature. Always brought down by our own hubris, science is seen as the tool of this quest to compete with the gods but in reality it is a part of us and it's neither good nor evil. It's only a process of thought and method and in actual fact it has been the saviour of mankind.

Also, why is it a standard stereotype that anything different or slightly abnormal from the average human template should be a murdering demon? Think about it! Dwarfs in fiction from time immemorial have invariably been portrayed as nasty little things. The chimera adds a new dimension to this prejudice. Why should a chimera, a composite of human and chimpanzee, turn out to be a slashing maniac with a knife in his hand? Perhaps writing anything different would not be so dramatic and it wouldn't fit in to the Frankenstein theme?

The world has moved on from 1991. There's been lots of scientific advances in genetics and surely we are a bit more understanding in our approach these days but, leaving all this aside the story to 'Chimera' is a bit of a botch. It's a story that has been told 100 times over since the time of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. Do we want to hear it again? My advice, avoid this like the Black Death. Wait a minute, there's a new movie by this name which might be quite good. Okay, avoid it like a genetically manipulated plague.

Rod MacDonald

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