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Anchor Bay presents
Highlander: Season Three (1994-1995)

"Does she know what you are?"
- Ceirdwyn (Kim Johnston)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 05, 2004

Stars: Adrian Paul, Stan Kirsch, Philip Akin, Lisa Howard, Jim Byrnes, Elizabeth Gracen, Michel Modo, David Robb, Peter Wingfield
Other Stars: Tamlyn Tomita, Robert Ito, Chandra West, Randall "Tex" Cobb, Brion James, Miles Ferguson, Nancy Sorel, Anthony DeLongis, Stella Stevens, Michael Anderson Jr., Barry Pepper, Conrad Dunn, Roger Daltrey, Kim Johnston, Andrew Woodall, Roger Bret, Roland Gift
Director: Dennis Berry, David Tynan, Mario Azzopardi, Charles Wilkinson, Paul Ziller, Paolo Barzman, George Merdeluk, Gerry Ciccoritti

Manufacturer: Technicolor
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, language, decapitations, sensuality, suicide)
Run Time: 17h:48m:11s
Release Date: November 18, 2003
UPC: 013131261493
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BB+A- A-

DVD Review

Season Three marked the middle of the five-year run of Highlander and in many ways it was the high point of the series. Concepts jelled well, the weaker ideas of Season Two were jettisoned, and a new appreciation for story arcs help make the series more involving and interesting, while still providing plenty of sword-fighting and decapitating action.

The title character, Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul), is an Immortal, a mysterious race of men who can only be killed by having their heads cut off. The Immortals are being called to the Gathering to fight one another to the death, since "there can be only one." The last one standing is supposed to be able to rule the world, for the death of an Immortal in a sword fight results in the Quickening, or the life force, of the slain one transferring to the survivor, together with the accumulated power of the deceased. An equally mysterious group of mortals called the Watchers (no relation to the Buffy group of the same name) secretly keep tabs on the Immortals. But their presence has been revealed to MacLeod in the form of Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes), who has become MacLeod's ally in fighting the evil Immortals. This season also features the ongoing story of MacLeod's new love interest, mortal emergency room doctor Anne Lindsay (Lisa Howard) as she tries to discover MacLeod's secret and he wrestles with whether to let her into his dangerous world.

Adrian Paul has really improved his acting abilities enormously from the first season, when he was rather stiff and uninvolving. By this point he has become very comfortable with the character, both in modern times and in the frequent flashbacks covering the last 400 years. He seems to be having fun with the part here, though his Scottish accent in the furthest back flashbacks tends to be a bit cartoony. Unfortunately, he doesn't really have much chemistry going with Lisa Howard, and she never generates the same sparks as Tessa (Alexandra Vandernoot) in the first two seasons, or recurring Immortal Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen). Gracen in particular is a lot of fun to watch, frequently getting the better of MacLeod in a charming way, and one wishes she appeared more frequently. Much of the season consists of the Immortal of the Week, with the second season notion of having frequent mortal opponents for MacLeod has happily been dropped.

None of the episodes in this season feels perfunctory, and some of them are downright excellent. Among the best is the first episode, The Samurai, which not only explains where MacLeod got his trademark katana, but also goes a long way toward explaining his personal code of conduct. The highly memorable Shadows finds MacLeod hallucinating an ominous and deadly robed figure. The sense of unreality in this episode is downright chilling at times. Perhaps the best, however, is the five-episode arc spread through the second half of the season featuring the evil Immortal Kalas (David Robb), who wants revenge against MacLeod for maiming him years earlier; these episodes also introduce recurring character Methos (Peter Wingfield), who is possibly 5000 years old. Kalas makes for a formidable and nasty opponent. The adoption of multi-part episodes, problematic in a syndicated series such as this one where there's no guarantee that the shows will air in the right order, works very well on the DVD format.

Another area where the series particularly shines is in the episodes featuring young or new Immortals and the problems inherent in such a deadly way of life. The Lamb features a ten-year-old boy, Kenny (Miles Ferguson), who obtains immortality but will never grow up and the implications of such a situation are interesting. Likewise, in Rite of Passage MacLeod tries with little success to educate a rebellious teen girl who obtains immortality and keep her from getting killed.

There are a few weak episodes. Blackmail starts off with a promising concept, that of a mortal catching MacLeod in mid-decapitation on video and using it as blackmail; one has to wonder why no one seems to be concerned about the dozens of headless bodies littering the countryside, but this seems to be as close as the series gets to dealing with this issue. Unfortunately, the idea doesn't go anywhere and the episode's finale is fairly bland. They Also Serve also has an intriguing concept with a Watcher helping a treacherous Immortal pick out rusty and weak Immortals. Alas, the idea is bogged down by heavy padding through use of clips from old shows, and a highly forced setup is used to deprive Duncan of his sword in a vain effort to generate suspense. Richie Ryan (Stan Kirsch) is saddled with a somewhat silly story arc that has him racing motorcycles for no good reason, although it does manage to have a good payoff.

The production values continue to be very high; as a Canadian-French production shot half in Vancouver and half in Paris (which is one way to keep ahead of the body count), there are plenty of opportunities for making plausible flashbacks. The period costuming is quite creative and eye-catching. The sword fights are almost always a high point of the episode, though the Quickenings get ever more elaborate to the point of tedium as things light up and explode all over. However, the last one in episode 22, Finale, shot atop the Eiffel Tower is truly breathtaking in its scope.

Although some may object to its high violence quotient (there is little gore however, and the decapitations are always offscreen), this continues to be a very entertaining series, with plenty of action and ethical dilemmas galore. And the mini history lessons are painlessly provided in the form of almost always entertaining flashbacks.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture generally looks pretty good, although the grain tends to be rather heavy. This isn't a problem except in the darkest scenes, where it has a tendency to get sparkly and annoying. Colors are excellent as are black levels. Shadow detail and texture are at acceptable levels for television, and I didn't note any significant edge enhancement.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The soundfield presented on the DD 5.1 track is quite enveloping, with a good deal of bass and LFE. The theme song by Queen sounds particularly terrific, with enormous depth and detail. The track is quite clean and detailed, without any issues of lack of clarity or precision. Directionality is fairly pronounced at times, but not to a distracting level. Episode 13, Blind Faith, has some problems with the audio going out of synch at times, but that may just be some sloppy looping.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 176 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
3 Deleted Scenes
Screenplay
Production Notes
23 Featurette(s)
8 Feature/Episode commentaries by Adrian Paul, script coordinators Gillian Horvath and Donna Lettow, director Charles Wilkinson, actor Anthony DeLongis, producer Ken Cord, actors Peter Wingfield & Stan Kirsch
Packaging: Digipak
Picture Disc
9 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Still and set design galleries
  2. Watcher Chronicles
  3. Blooper reel
  4. Promo reel
  5. Outtakes/raw footage
Extras Review: Each successive season set of this series carries more substantial extras, and Season Three is ripe to bursting with goodies. Both audio and video commentaries are presented on selected episodes (one on each of the eight DVDs containing program episodes) from someone connected with the episode. The video commentaries are basically edited down versions of the full commentaries, but with a camera on the commentator, a nifty shortcut for those not wanting to sit through the entire episode but get the benefit of the best remarks. These are pretty good for the most part, with Adrian Paul doing the best job. Producer Ken Cord has little to say and is exceedingly dull on his episode. One of the more interesting is that on episode 19, Mortal Sins, where the script coordinators mock the program more than anything and outline numerous fights between the director and the producer. It's a bit of giddy fun, though they do seem oblivious to the need to avoid Nazi insignia onscreen in order to be able to market the show in Germany.

Each episode has with it a set of interviews with cast and crew running between 5 and 15 minutes in length. These are almost all worth checking out for good tidbits and some surprisingly honest assessments of the shortcomings of the program. Most episodes also have a set of outtakes and raw footage associated with it (three do not). In a couple episodes, this takes the form of a deleted or alternate scene that is interesting as well. The Watcher Chronicles on each episode contain additional background information on many of the characters and the events in the episode; unlike earlier seasons, these tend to change for some of the recurring characters. Be warned, however, that they often contain serious spoilers! A promo reel and blooper reel (the same one that appeared on the Season One set) are accompanied by slideshows of stills and production designs.

But that's not all! On the bonus CD ninth disc there is a complete set of scripts for the season, as well as bios, filmographies, production notes, trivia, shooting schedules and more. This is a very generous helping of extra material that will be welcome for serious fans of the series.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

A decent transfer, and a boatload of extra material make this a must for fans of the series. It's not a bad jumping on point for newcomers either.

 


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