Golden Years review by The Grim Ringler

Golden Years DVD edition

Years and years and years ago there came a muggy summer when an up and coming writer named Stephen King penned a summer mini-series for CBS that was hoped to become a series for that broadcaster but that never made it past its seven episodes and thus faded into obscurity. Thanks to the wonders of DVD Golden Years can be seen in all its uncut glory (it was edited into a two hour movie for home video in the mid-nineties) and perhaps finally be appreciated for the subtle tale of love, loss, and sci-fi espionage.

Golden Years is the story of Harlan, an aging janitor for a top-secret government base that poses as an agricultural center but that is really a proving ground for highly classified experiments. After being fired for failing an eye exam (an excuse to get the aging Harlan out of the hair of his supervisor), Harlan happens upon one such experiment as it goes up in flames and gets blasted by some of the fallout from the explosion of said failed experiment, leaving him injured and suddenly changed. At first it’s his eyes, glowing green, as he lays in his hospital bed at the base, not really injured but changed. A change that is as deep as his bones but as subtle as the shifting of his wrinkles. After the explosion on the base though a group of government agents are sent in to assess the situation and to clean the matter up. It seems that the secret project that went awry was being headed by a man named Todhunter that was working for the defense department in the hopes of finding a way to help soldiers heal faster on the battlefield, and perhaps even regenerate lost limbs. The project has a far reaching potential and is seen as a top priority, as is finding out what exactly happened to Harlan and why it is that he has suddenly passed his eye exam after failing it before the blast, and his hair is now going from gray to brown. All the while the security chief for the installation is doing her own investigation into what happened in that blast and why her old government partner Jude Andrews is hot on the case. But when all the people that know what is happening to Harlan start to die, thus eliminating the chain of evidence, Terry, the security chief, realizes that if she doesn’t intervene and get Harlan and his wife out of the area and away from Andrews both of them will disappear into the wide maw of the government and never be seen from again. As soon as she gets Harlan and his wife Gina away though Andrews and his goons are hot on their trail and it’s only a matter of time before either he finds them, or Harlan’s reverse aging regresses him to infancy and beyond.

While it is a television mini-series, and feels like one in that there are a lot of melodramatic speeches and moments, this is truly a wonderful series and it’s a shame it never was completed. King’s fingerprints are all over the story and he does a wonderful job of keeping the heart of the story focused on Harlan and Gina and the distance that is growing between them as he grows younger and younger. The science fiction is used more as a device to tell the tale than the tale itself, and it works wonderfully. And you really start to care about Harlan and his wife and feel their pain as they slowly realize that there can be no happy ending for them at the end of it all. And while King didn’t write all the episodes, the story is already strong enough so that when he exits from writing duties the series doesn’t seem to lose anything. The performances are pretty darn good too overall, and never dip too far into soap opera style overkill and give the story a strong backbone and a very clear and human face.

Golden Years is a very good series, and it’s a shame it was never finished and that does hurt the disc ‘cause there is no really good resolution to what had been a very well told tale. But if you can suffer through the non-ending than you are really in store for a treat. This is one of the reasons television can still be fun and special. Given a couple more hours, this could have been a wonderfully chilling look at a government gone mad with its government within the government hunting people down at will as this elderly couple tries to retain their love in the face of a fast-approaching doom. This is a very well done, gripping sci-fi series and shows that King doesn’t always have to rely on ghouls, ghosts, or monsters from beyond to tell a very scary, very good tale.

Unless you are a geek like me it might make a better rental than a purchase but it’s pretty darned good so you might buy it if you can get it cheap.


8 out of 10 Jackasses

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