The first thing I wrote in my notes when I started watching the pilot of Cleopatra 2525 was, "OMG, Gina Torres' hair." It's not just that it's awful-I legitimately can't tell what it's trying to do. Are those futuristic pigtails? And is that an appropriate hairstyle for a 26th Century woman? I guess we'll have to wait 500 years and see.
Cleopatra 2525 is the kind of series that knows its ridiculous, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's worth watching. The title character, played by Jennifer Sky, is a woman from the year 2000 cryogenically frozen after complications during a boob job. She wakes up in a dark future where flying machines called the Baileys have taken control of the Earth's surface, forcing everyone else underground. Cleopatra (not her real name) joins forces with Hel (Torres of Firefly and Angel nerd fame) and Sarge (Victoria Pratt) in their ongoing war against the robot overlords.
I know I'm not blowing anyone's mind when I say Cleopatra 2525 is trash. After all, it was originally paired up with the Bruce Campbell vehicle Jack of All Trades as part of the syndicated Back2Back Action Hour. But I had to seek this series out for myself-some bad TV is worth watching for the cheese, and some (most, perhaps) is just painful.
As it turns out, Cleopatra 2525 falls somewhere in the middle. The series obviously never tried to present itself as something more than it was, but it's not gloriously campy fun either. This is the problem I've found with a lot of self-consciously silly entertainment. You can't throw together a bad story, laughable dialogue, and low-budget effects and expect to find pop culture infamy. You have to be genuinely awful, and preferably deluded about it. The best bad movies and TV comes from those who had no idea they were making garbage.
But I digress. The first episode of Cleopatra 2525, "Quest for Firepower," is still kind of fun. The highlight is the show's theme song "In the Year 2525," sung by Torres. It's actually a parody of the 1969 Zager & Evans hit-you've probably heard the original, but I advise you to take a gander at the song's Wikipedia page. Did you know "In the Year 2525" was the only chart single for the pop duo? From the Wikipedia: "Their follow up single on RCA-Victor, ‘Mr. Turnkey' (a song about a rapist who nails his own wrist to the wall as punishment for his crime), failed to hit the main music charts on either side of the Atlantic." Gee, I wonder why. Anyway, the version of "In the Year 2525" Torres sings is hilariously literal. I also enjoy the line "Cleopatra is about to discover there's no place like home," because that's a sensible reference.
And Cleopatra 2525 is a great show if you're into cleavage-there is an abundance of it here! I like that the series doesn't pretend to be above that: Cleopatra is stuck in the future because she's a stripper who went in to get her breasts enlarged. We're supposed to stare at them. If we don't, her 500-year deep freeze will be for naught! At the same time, it makes me kind of twitchy when female empowerment gets conflated with boobies. Which is not to say that an empowered woman can't show cleavage (‘sup, Emma Frost), but rather that there should be more to the character than her curves.
I guess the creators of Cleopatra 2525 did give these robo-fighting babes some powers. Hel and Sarge have access to assorted weapons (including lasers!) and web-slinging material that's not at all similar to what Spider-Man uses. The first episode suggests that Cleopatra has the innate power to mimic voices, which seems kind of random but instantly proves useful against a voice-detecting adversary. So, OK, it's not exactly a feminist masterpiece, but it's a trifle less sleazy than it could be.
Just a trifle, though. Cleopatra 2525 obviously isn't a show for me, and that's fine. If I'm going to watch softcore sci-fi porn, I'd rather the men be scantily clad. That's just a personal preference (and a solid start for my "gladiators in space" pilot). Still, if poorly-made half-hour action shows are your thing, the series is available in its entirety on Hulu. Just make sure to watch an episode of Firefly after you're done-it's the easiest way to erase the mental image of Torres' pigtails.