Harsh Realm was the third of Chris Carter's sci-fi / horror television series (after The X-Files and Millennium). It takes place largely in a war-stricken virtual reality. It both premiered and found itself cancelled in Autumn 1999.

Only a few episodes actually aired on television. Nine episodes were made in total (available on DVD), and I know of at least one other episode that was written (but not produced). These episodes do not resolve the main plotlines, which concern

the growing sphere of influence of General Santiago in the virtual world and the war's threat to spill over into the real world,

and how

Hobbes (the protagonist) might make it back into the real world.

How much of Harsh Realm's plotline was actually fleshed out by Chris Carter and his production team? In particular, was it known how the main plotline(s) would resolve?

Since Harsh Realm was based to some extent on a comic book, part of the question is:

Was Harsh Realm intended to roughly follow or diverge wildly from the original comic?

  • I'm not sure of a definitive answer but I do know that they had at least a full seasonal plot planned. The show got canceled abruptly in the middle of them filming Camera Obscura. – sanpaco Dec 1 '15 at 23:53
  • @sanpaco : I'd be happy to accept that as an answer, assuming you have a solid reference to cite. :-) – Praxis Dec 2 '15 at 0:15
  • I'll pull out my DVDs tonight and find the commentary I'm thinking of. – sanpaco Dec 2 '15 at 0:35
  • @sanpaco : Thanks! – Praxis Dec 2 '15 at 0:56

Forgive me for paraphrasing but the following is essentially what is said in the Making of Harsh Realm featurette from the DVD box set.

Basically the show was not getting an audience and so Chris Carter received a call from the network out of the blue and was told that the show was being canceled. According to Frank Spotnitz, the third or fourth episode had just aired and they were in the middle of production of the final episode "Camera Obscura" which never aired and he talks about how tough it was to break the news to the actors and get them to finish production on something that would probably never be seen. (The show was aired in its entirety later on the FX network). In the end it was basically just a case of a show that didn't get the ratings and was dropped. There isn't any specific mention of just how much of the backstory they had already planned but it is clear that they had at least something in the works to finish out a full season.

In answer to the question about whether the show was meant to follow the comic, Chris Carter was presented the idea for the show by Daniel Sackheim who got the idea from the comic book which is a sort of detective solving mysteries in a virtual game, Dick Tracy sort of deal. Chris Carter liked the comic but didn't think he wanted to do it as a show, but he liked the idea of an open world with very flexible rules and the virtual reality gave him just that. He mentioned that he'd always wanted to do the Illiad and the Odyssey as a modern adaptation and Harsh Realm gave him a context in which he could do that and still have it make sense to the viewer.

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