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SDCC 2017: Medinah World Premiere Sneak Peek

Comic-Con 2017“Battlestar Galactica” stars Michael Trucco and Tamoh Penikett were on hand along with Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight) and Natasha Henstridge (Species) to introduce the world to what was being dubbed “The First-Ever Sci-Fi/Fantasy Series from the Middle East,” “Medinah.” The series was filmed in Qatar and has a number of Qatari actors filling out the cast in addition to Roberts, Henstridge, and Penikett. Even with the aura of being groundbreaking for a TV series giving it strength, there are a few clear reasons why “Medinah” has not yet been picked up for major distribution as well as a few reasons that “World Premiere Sneak Peak” lose a little luster when attached to a show like this.

The panel itself had a few things which generated excitement: The large cast of mostly unknown Qatari actors was great to see on a huge stage, their personal stories about always dreaming of coming to Comic Con as a fan and then their first time is in a panel, there were some quick clips of the show that helped to introduce the characters, and Natasha Henstridge, who generated a ton of promise in the 90s with Species, then kinda faded into obscurity. It was genuinely nice to hear the cast and director talk about the challenges of working in Qatar — including dealing with temperatures over 120 degrees — and the unique idea to set a science fiction/fantasy production in the Middle East, which is an area rich with folklore, yet barren of shows in the genre. All of that, plus the buzz of being in a room with Battlestar Galactica stars really got the crowd ready for the sneak peak.

The problems came once the lights dimmed and the show started.

Medinah’s pilot episode involves a number of disparate individuals like a couple (played by Henstridge and Roberts), an american cop (or maybe military serviceperson), a family, a blind woman and her sister in-law (maybe? Their connection was a little unclear) and some criminals all find themselves in a bus crash that happened at the same time that a Qatari billionaire tech mogul was launching a rocket that was supposed to be carrying sulfur dioxide into the environment that could help fix damage caused by global warming. After the bus crash and a short gun fight, all the characters run to a cave to avoid falling debris when the rocket explodes shortly after launch. The cave collapses and they have to look for another way out. Then the episode ends with them exiting the cave into what looks like an armageddon-version of Earth and looking at a mysterious man who is accompanied by a giant hyena-looking creature. Presumably, the questions the series sets up to answer are: Where are they? Why them? Who are they? What actually happened to the rocket? And why is all the acting so stilted?

The biggest issue with “Medinah” right off the bat is that it just doesn’t feel like it is ready. Like, sure the sound editing is still in need of some fixes and the coloring could still use some work, but those are things that, were the show to get some funding, could be easily fixed. What I mean is that the acting is terrible, the script is lazy, and the shots are flat and boring. Many of the scenes have two characters who are family members talking to each other in a manner that sounds as if this is the first conversation in which they have ever engaged. The unnecessarily long action scene that starts the show and is returned to about halfway through (via flashback) is pretty boring and choppily edited. The script, despite having the characters speak in English and Arabic, sometimes switching between the two mid-sentence, is so bland, with no pop. Phrases like “Who are you? Where is our son? What do you mean?”, which can be necessary to move a plot along, seem to latch at the flow of action and drag everything to a halt so the characters can give rushed exposition. It just isn’t really well constructed, and that is too bad, because the setting and the final shot of the pilot build a good deal of intrigue.

If “Medinah” came to Comic Con looking for a studio to back them, they may have been armed with an intriguing concept and very large panel, but they just didn’t quite realize that the concept you are rocking and the size of your panel don’t count for much if you can’t make the audience come back.

Eric Roberts talks about Medinah, while Natasha Henstridge scans the audience for her next victim

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I like to be challenged to think about things, so I studied Philosophy in college. Now I am paying for it.

1 Response to “SDCC 2017: Medinah World Premiere Sneak Peek”


  1. Brian

    I worked on this show. In keeping with Qatari civil rights policies, crew were abused and exploited and remain unpaid. The show’s budget was also $50 million. Having more money was not the issue – just what they did with it, is. To learn more, read this fascinating Blog by the show’s former designer (who was fired for trying to protect the crew from greater exploitation by refusing to sign a punative contract): http://www.arabtelemediauncut.net).

    NOTE: Arab Telemedia was producing the show until they were fired last for embezzling over 50% of the budget. They were then replaced by USA producers who clearly just saw the show as a cash cow.