In 2008 a reimagining of L. Frank Braum’s The Wizard Of Oz aired on the Sci-Fi channel in three parts totalling 6 hours. Just six months before this upon airing in the US this became the most-watched show on the network ever. So having heard this I hastily bought the DVD when it was released and proceeded to see what all the fuss was about. I have to say, the hype was well justified with this dark and crazed retelling of the story of Oz.
What Is It About?
Well you may be thinking that this is just a modern version of the classic film we all know and saw as children, but this most definitely is not. This is a total reimagining of the story with much darker overtones.
DG is a waitress in a small Kansas town and doesn’t particularly enjoy it; she feels that she doesn’t fit in there and that it isn’t where she is supposed to be. She has dreams of a lady with purple eyes telling her a storm is coming, if only it were just a storm that was coming. Meanwhile the ruler of O.Z. has been warned that there is a person that could ruin her plans to harness the power of the Outer Zone’s twin suns to bridge the gap between their world and the Other Side (A place you may know better as Earth).
Soldiers are sent from the Outer Zone (O.Z. get it?) to kidnap and kill DG by the evil ruler Azkadellia. Luckily for our plucky protagonist, she manages to escape in the storm but finds herself in O.Z. where she finds Glitch who has had half his brain removed (aka; Scarecrow) and Wyatt Cain (aka; Tin Man) who used to be a law enforcer in the land of O.Z. She then meets Raw, a telepath and from there with the help of other members of the Outer Zone learns that she isn’t as out of place in the O.Z. than she may have previously thought changing everything she ever believed about her life and her family.
The foursome continue on through the O.Z. meeting various people and trying to stay clear of Azkadellia, whilst trying to help the poor citizens with the problems caused when a child made a simple mistake many years ago.
To say DG isn’t in Kansas anymore is an understatement.
Who Is In It?
There are many weird and wonderful characters in Tin Man, including a couple of Hollywood stars you wouldn’t ordinarily expect in a Sci-Fi channel show.
DG (Zooey Deschanel): A small-town waitress with big dreams, she gets a chance at excitement when she finds herself stranded in the Outer Zone. It turns out that she fits in a lot better in O.Z. than she ever did in Kansas and upon discovering why realises that she has to help save O.Z. She is the Sci-Fi channel’s take on Dorothy.
Glitch (Alan Cummings): His real name is Ambrose and he was once the advisor to the queen of O.Z. However when Azkadellia took over she stole his designs for one of his best inventions and took half of his brain. Clearly the Scarecrow in this adaptation as he is looking for the rest of his brain. Hardly surprising he wants it back.
Wyatt Cain (Neal McDonough): The Tin Man in both name and body, he’s a former law enforcer in the Outer Zone who dared to oppose Azkadellia. As punishment he was tortured and has been locked in an iron suit since. He has been stuck in the suit for so long that he lacks emotions and just wants revenge for what has been done to him. Understandable in the circumstances.
Raw (Raoul Trujillo): From a race of telepathic ‘viewers’ who have been enslaved by the evil ruler of O.Z. He and others of his kind are often used to read the minds over those that the Outer Zone’s ruler seeks to destroy. He is based on the cowardly lion.
Tutor (Blu Mankuma): A shape shifter who often takes the shape of a small dog – referred to as Toto, he is also DG’s old magic teacher and joins her on the group’s quest to find the Emerald of the Eclipse.
Lavender Eyes (Anna Galvin): The Queen of the Outer Zone who has been imprisoned by her daughter Azkadellia. She is the woman in DG’s dreams.
The Mystic Man (Richard Dreyfuss): He used to rule the Central City until Azkadellia used her magical influence and made him into her puppet.
Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson): The villain of the piece, Azkadellia wasn’t always the evil tyrant she is now but being possessed by a bad witch will do strange things to a person. She has overthrown her mother, imprisoning her in a magical jail, had the tin man locked into his suit of armour, stolen half of Glitch’s brain and wants to kill DG. If anyone were the Wicked Witch of the West then it must be her.
Into The Storm: DG’s simple life as a waitress/student is turned upside down when she begins having strange dreams about a woman with lavender eyes warning her of a storm. However this wasn’t just any storm that was about to happen, the storm brings with it Azkadellia’s soldiers who are there on a mission. Desperate to save DG, her parents throw her into a tornado which drops her in the dark and strange land of O.Z. Here she meets Glitch, Wyatt and Raw and finds out that her life was not as it seemed and that her true heritage is more important than she could ever have thought possible. DG is captured by Azkadellia’s soldiers whilst Wyatt gets his chance to seek vengeance.
Search For The Emerald: Glitch gets to play the hero before they set off to rescue DG from Azkadellia’s castle. Meanwhile DG is questioned by the evil Azkadellia, who finds out more about the precious Emerald of the Eclipse. Once the group reunite and following the advice DG was given they head South not knowing that there is a traitor in their midst. Some weird things start to happen with DG, and it turns out she isn’t quite as innocent as she once thought.
Tin Man: The group continue heading South and the traitor is uncovered, but after walking into a trap Cain, Raw and Glitch are captured by the leader of the soldiers who reveals in classic Bond-villain style everything about Azkadellia’s evil scheme for the Outer Zone. Meanwhile DG travels to a mausoleum and learns the full extent of her heritage. But as time is running out, will they be able to stop Azkadellia? Or will her plan for the Outer Zone succeed causing more horror and pain for it’s inhabitants? And will the group find everything they’ve been searching for?
Now those are some long episode summaries, but believe me when I say that isn’t even half of what happens in them. Amazingly there is so much more in this three-part miniseries that I haven’t covered so don’t think that you will now know everything that’s going to happen because you have read this – you don’t!
Why Should You Watch Tin Man?
After all that; is this a show worth watching? Well I would say yes it is, $20 million was spent on creating this adaptation and the viewing figures for the US alone tell you that this is a show to see.
For me, a girl who loved the book and rather enjoyed the classic film (and still does) this was a great retelling of an old story. It may not be as bright and happy as the film was but it still has the same basic story, just told on a more adult level with a much more gothic backdrop. The yellow brick road is still there, it’s just that under evil’s rule it is crumbling, the land of O.Z. beautiful in the original film is now decaying and dank.
The familiar characters are still there, just in slightly different guises and there are some lovely nods to the well-loved original . The characters still make me root for them as much as they did before, and though DG is a much tougher and determined version of Dorothy, she is a most welcome change – all that complaining Dorothy did in the original was rather irritating. This is the Wizard of Oz for the 21st century, with a wonderfully strong female hero, and a strong female villain.
Deep down, under the fantastic new sets and special effects that feel like magic this is still the story of a small-town girl who just wants to feel like she belongs, and in helping others she finds a place she does and discovers what is important. Tin Man could have moved completely away from this basic story and gone for something new, but it is great that they didn’t. You can watch this and even though it’s all new it seems somehow familiar because of this.
The casting is superb and Alan Cummings as Glitch is my favourite of all, he has always been wonderful at quirky lovable characters and he hasn’t failed here. Zooey as DG was also a good choice as she wasn’t particularly well-known at the time and so hadn’t already been typecast by her girl next door good looks which could have seen here in something very different to this.
Tin Man is a terrific adaptation of an old classic, bringing a new look and a darker tone to the well-known story. This is rated 12 and I would personally recommend that this isn’t suitable for anyone younger than that in general because of its dark nature, violence and disturbing images. This would be great for young teens and adults that have tired of the original film or would like to see a different take on the story, and is certainly a must for sci-fi fans as they have made this into what I would say will one day be a sci-fi classic.
This won’t appeal to everyone due to the oddness of the characters and settings but much like Kingdom Hospital which I have previously reviewed those who do enjoy it will love it. It is a quirky and dark tale that seems so much deeper than the original. Tin Man was the reason I had high hopes for the new take on the Wizard of Oz, Emerald City. Alas those hopes were dashed, but I still have this to fall back on.
Overall Rating: 4/5 If only SyFy made more like this now!