Saturday, June 6, 2015

ABC's The Quest

Who out there has ever played Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft? Have you read The Dragonlance Chronicles or the Lightbringer series? Have you ever dreamed of being Frodo or Aragon, Sturm or Caramon? Who here has watched The Dragonslayer or The Princess Bride and wished that they could be there, if only for a second to feel the triumph over evil and see justice done? How does that dream about reforging Narsil to defeat the evil demon go again? Have you defeated Lassic or watched Garrosh Hellscream fall dead at your feet? If you get some of these references, you'll love The Quest by ABC. If you get most of them you may have seen it already. If you get all of them and you haven't see it already you obviously don't watch much television.

The Quest is the story of the Twelve Paladins: Reality show contestants who have signed up to fight for the honor of becoming the One True Hero. They battle each other and the enemy. The Quest comes with a twist though: It is not just a reality show. It is also a story about the Kingdom of Everealm and it's fight against Verlox the Darkness. The Twelve Paladins are warriors in the service of the kingdom and competitors for the title of the One True Hero; the person who gets to rebuild the Sunspear and use it to defeat Verlox and free the Kingdom.

The storyline is constantly front and center of the show. The challenges (similar in concept to something you would see on Survivor) follow along with the story of the show, beginning with the training of the neophyte Paladins and continuing through the fight: In later episodes the remaining Paladins (once of each is eliminated in each episode) are actually tested on different aspects of the war itself. Each challenge produces a winner who is awarded with a Mark of a given heroic attribute, sponsored by one of the local kingdoms. It also produces a losing team, or sometimes just collection of people who came in last, of three people who then go to another challenge for immunity. After the immunity challenge, which the contestants refer to as a Fates' Challenge, the two remaining contestants go before the fates to be judged by the other contestants. The final voting is my favorite part of the process.

In most reality shows, the voting is done behind closed doors and whisper campaigns are the rule and voting is done in secret, with the results revealed by the host. Not in Everealm. The Quest has it's own system. Once the two candidates are eliminated, the remaining Paladins are sent out to debate their merits around a table, in the open. After the debate (only a couple of minutes on screen, I'm not sure how long in actuality) the Paladins are led back in front of the fates where the two candidates wait to learn their fate, then line up behind them. When the candidates turn around they see everyone who voted for them, and everyone who did not. This works because the final winner is chosen in a competition and not by vote. It also helps, along with the storyline itself, to get rid of a lot of the backstabbing and intrigue that goes on in games like Survivoror Big Brother. Throughout the show the Paladins are searching for people who exemplify the virtues that the One True Hero should possess.

The fantasy elements of this show are pervasive. The contestants begin the season living and training in a castle. There are fights between sword and spear equipped armies and smaller scale combats between our heroes and Ogres. When Verlox the Darkness is revealed he is shown to be something other than human. There is a crone and a dragon. Potions and orbs abound. Scorpions (Roman-era ballista) are used in quite a few episodes as are swords, shields, bows and of course the Sunspear. At the end of every episode the eliminated Paladin is shown as disappearing magically in a puff of smoke. This seriously is like reading a good fantasy novel (Honestly, if someone from ABC happens across this review I would recommend commissioning a novelization. If it were well done it would sell a ton of copies. I'd buy the first one.) while watching an awesome reality show.

The cast of the show, outside of the Paladins, is also a huge attraction. The heroes are welcomed and guided by Crio, the Steward f the Queen, who is important to the plot in her own right. They are trained by Sir Ansgar the Fierce, a knight with a bit of a temper at times. The Royal Vizier is a regular sight and not the most popular person among the Paladins. Other Non Player Characters are best left as a surprise, but all are entertaining.

My only real complaint about the first season is that it wasn't long enough. The series started with the Twelve Paladins and given that the last challenge is fought by all three remaining contestants, that only leaves us with ten episodes. The storyline does manage to complete over the course of the season but I feel like it could have been extended and enriched. Maybe I'm just complaining because I watched it all in a day and I wanted it to last longer, but I can't help but shake the feeling that a few more Paladins and a few more episodes would have make the show that much more rewarding for viewers and players alike.

I won't spoil the ending except to say that I really enjoyed it. The competition part didn't turn out quite the way I wanted it to, neither my first or second choice won, but the ending to the storyline was pretty epic. There were obviously some special effects employed, thus lowering the "reality" of the reality show, but it's a fantasy storyline so it was necessary. Seeing all of the  Twelve Paladins back in action was both rewarding and fun as well. As for the Sunspear and the final battle with Verlox the Darkness? Watch the show and you'll find out.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Marks of Appreciation

The Quest 
ABC, 2014

The Quest is available for streaming or digital download here:

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