The 10th Kingdom, on NBC
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This was a 5-part miniseries that aired in 2000. I definitely enjoyed it at the time, and always wanted to see it again. Finally, in 2013, I got it on DVD, so I can write up a proper review. And it occurs to me that thirteen is perhaps an appropriately magical number of years to pass between viewings. Or something, I dunno. Um... oh yes, and I wanted to mention that I quite liked the theme song, "Wishing on a Star," by Miriam Stockley. And the miniseries had a number of stars whose work I've enjoyed in other things, as well as this. Anyway, the story is basically a modern twist on familiar old fairy tales. Around the time it first aired, I think it was fairly popular to do things like that... I'm sure I'd read a few similar things, so perhaps the series didn't seem as novel to me as it might have to some people. But whatever, I am a fan of that kind of thing. And I feel like mentioning that when Once Upon a Time debuted in 2011, it kind of reminded me of this. Although re-watching the miniseries now, it seems more comedic than that show. Still, there's definitely some drama and some darkness in the miniseries, not just humor.
The miniseries is set in two worlds. One of them is "the nine kingdoms," which are lands from what we'd consider fairy tales, though it's now two hundred years since the "golden age," which is when those stories took place. Not that the world has actually progressed at all, since then. The other world is our own, set in the present, and it's the world to which the miniseries' title refers. In part one, Snow White's grandson, Prince Wendell, is touring the 4th kingdom, of which he is soon to be crowned king. For some reason, he has to make a stop at a prison, where his stepmother, the Evil Queen (Dianne Wiest), is incarcerated. But shortly before he arrives, Relish the Troll King (Ed O'Neill) breaks into the prison (wearing magical shoes that make him invisible), to break out his sons Burly and Bluebell and daughter Blabberwort. While there, he also breaks out the Evil Queen. She has a magical dog that does a body-swap with Prince Wendell. So, now the prince is a dog. He escapes, but the Queen sends Relish's buffoonish kids to capture him. She promises the Troll King half of the 4th kingdom, which she plans to take control of. She also frees a prisoner who is a "half-wolf" (Scott Cohen). Wolf, as he's called, looks human enough, though his eyes occasionally glow yellow, and he has some decidedly wolf-like tendencies, particularly when it comes to his appetite. Oh, and he has a tail, but we rarely see it. The Queen sends him to also try to capture Wendell the dog. Wendell, the trolls, and Wolf all end up traveling through a magic mirror into our world, which the trolls dub "the 10th kingdom." (Despite the title, very little of the miniseries is actually set in the 10th kingdom.)
Meanwhile, in New York City, there's a janitor for a residential building, named Anthony Lewis (John Larroquette), whose wife had left him and their daughter fourteen years ago. Tony's 21-year-old daughter, Virginia (Kimberly Williams), is a waitress. She's riding her bike through Central Park on her way to work, when she runs into the dog, which she thinks is a stray. She takes him to work with her, but things get weird, and she goes back to her apartment, where the trolls have already shown up looking for her and the dog. She manages to escape them, and goes to her grandmother's place for the night. (She actually trapped the trolls in an elevator, at which point they start calling her a witch. They'll do that frequently throughout the series, whenever something happens that temporarily foils their efforts, even though those things are rarely caused by Virginia, and also rarely involve magic.) Then Wolf shows up at Tony and Virginia's apartment, and gives Tony a magic bean that will grant him six wishes, in exchange for telling him where to find Virginia. So Wolf finds her, but she's so beautiful that he's not sure whether he wants to love her or eat her. (He does rather comically prepare her grandmother to be cooked, though that doesn't happen.) And once again, Virginia and Wendell manage to escape. As for Tony's wishes, they rather predictably go awry, and he ends up getting arrested. He escapes police custody, and coincidentally runs into his daughter and Wendell in Central Park. He uses his last wish to understand what the dog is saying. Then they all find the portal back into the other world, and are pursued by the trolls, and later by Wolf (who closes the portal behind him).
Tony and the dog end up getting shut in the Queen's old prison cell by the trolls, who take Virginia back to their own kingdom. There, they and their father plan to torture her (as much for the love of torturing as for actually eliciting information from her). Wolf secretly follows them. Back at the prison, when the officials find Tony in the cell, they think he had something to do with the Queen's escape, so he becomes a prisoner, himself. And of course they don't believe him when he says the dog is actually Prince Wendell. Meanwhile, the Queen takes the prince (that is, the dog who is now inhabiting the prince's body) back to her old castle, which had once belonged to the previous Evil Queen, the nemesis of Snow White. And she plans to take revenge on "the House of White" for what they'd done to her predecessor.
Wolf rescues Virginia from the trolls' castle, though she doesn't trust him yet. (It doesn't take too long for her to start sort of trusting him, though she still doesn't really respond to his constant declarations of love.) I want to say, I remember finding Wolf funny and likable, from the first time I watched the miniseries, but when I watched part one thirteen years later, I mostly thought he was too over-the-top silly to really be funny. But watching part two, the character started growing on me. So maybe I wasn't wrong to like him the first time, after all. Oh, and it is rather amusing that he tries to improve himself by reading self-help books he'd picked up in our world. Anyway... Virginia and Wolf (wait, is that a pun? I just noticed that; or maybe I noticed it 13 years ago and forgot). Um, Virginia and Wolf go back to the prison to rescue Tony and Wendell, but by the time they get there, Tony had already made a jail break with his cellmates, Acorn the dwarf (Warwick Davis) and Clayface the goblin. They go their separate ways, and Acorn ends up taking a boat that contains the magic mirror that leads back to our world. So after Virginia and Wolf reunite with Tony and Wendell, they take another boat and try to catch up with Acorn, to get the mirror back. Meanwhile, Burly, Blabberwort, and Bluebell continue pursuing them. And Relish apparently gets upset at how bossy the Queen is, so he decides to invade the 4th kingdom with his army. Though he's still counting on his kids to capture Wendell the dog to give to the Queen. Of course, she's very annoyed about the invasion, which could ruin her plans. She's also annoyed that the dog in Wendell's body isn't very good at acting human. And she's annoyed that her magic mirrors can't show her the people she's looking for, for some reason. And she's annoyed that Wolf seems to have betrayed her. So, she sends the Huntsman (Rutger Hauer) to find them. Well, our heroes meet various people along their journey, and all sorts of stuff happens that I don't want to spoil. We learn that magic is dangerous (and can be addictive). There's some character development for Virginia, and we learn a bit about the history of the 9 kingdoms. The episode ends with Virginia being captured by the Huntsman.
Tony and Wolf manage to rescue Virginia, and they continue their search for the mirror. Meanwhile, Relish continues his conquest of the 4th kingdom. There's a ruling council or whatever, who are desperate to find Prince Wendell, because without him there's no one to fight back against the troll army. Which doesn't really make any sense to me; surely they have their own army, so I don't get why Wendell's the only one who could possibly command them to fight the trolls. In his absence, it seems their only option is to appeal to neighboring kingdoms for help, which would require them to give up the sovereignty of their own kingdom. Which is just bloody stupid, but whatever. I guess sometimes stupid plot devices are necessary, to tell a good story.
Anyway, our heroes finally catch up with Acorn, but he'd already sold the mirror. Now it's become a prize in a competition in a nearby village which is currently having some annual festival, or whatever. All the competitions are always won by the Peep family, for a reason I won't spoil. But Virginia has to enter a competition to win the mirror. Her main rival is Sally Peep (Lucy Punch, who was fun for me to see this time around, since I recently became more familiar with her on Ben and Kate). I won't spoil the details of the competition, but... one part of it is redonk, but funny. Another part... helps solve a problem from the previous episode (something I haven't mentioned). Anyway, Tony and Virginia could finally go home, except she decides to stay, in order to represent Wolf after he gets arrested for murder. And it did seem like he could have been guilty, because it was a full moon the night before, which made it harder for him to resist his wolfish impulses. I'm afraid Virginia's skills as a defense attorney were sorely lacking, but it doesn't really matter, because the trial was basically rigged, anyway. Luckily, Tony and Wendell the dog manage to discover who the real murderer was. (Which wasn't surprising at all.) So Wolf was freed, but unfortunately, the mirror had been taken away while everyone was worrying about Wolf. (They had hidden it in a pretty stupid place.) They track it down again fairly quickly, in the next town (which is where Snow White had been awakened from her curse by Prince Charming, many years ago). The episode ends with our heroes learning the mirror is being auctioned off at a price they can't possibly afford.
Tony, Wolf, and Virginia all try gambling to raise money for the auction. (I'm sure I'd seen them spend money before, and now they had 30 gold coins, called "Wendells," remaining. But I don't recall ever seeing them obtain money in the first place.) Even Wendell the dog plays a part in trying to acquire more money. Virginia quickly loses all her money, but Tony has some luck at cards. Wolf has even greater luck at the game he tries, but he ends up blowing his winnings to create a perfect night out to propose to Virginia... who is predictably furious when she finds out he'd made enough to get the mirror, and wasted it. Nevertheless, they do get enough money to bid on the mirror... but they're outbid by the Huntsman, who then sets a trap for them. Tony comes up with a plan to evade the trap and retrieve the mirror, but it ends up breaking... which means now he'll have seven years of bad luck. In a magical realm, of course that's more than just superstition. But they figure out where the mirror had been made, by dwarf miners, so they go to Dragon Mountain in the hopes of finding another traveling mirror. (Wolf stays behind, since he's completely lost Virginia's trust.)
Meanwhile, the Queen kills Relish, and the fake Wendell returns to his castle with Relish's head. Which means the crisis in the 4th kingdom seems to be over, as far as anyone knows. And Relish's kids, who had been... indisposed... since episode 2, once again become, um, disposed? So they resume their pursuit of our heroes. And the Queen informs them that their father had been murdered, though she says it was Virginia who did it. And of course the Huntsman also continues to pursue Virginia, Tony, and Wendell. Well, they eventually learn that the Queen has another traveling mirror, and that she's at Wendell's castle. But they inadvertently piss off the dwarves, and have to escape from the underground 9th kingdom. Tony becomes unable to travel, so Virginia goes on alone (or rather, with the dog). Oh, I forgot to mention that Wendell was concerned that he was losing his mind... his memories were fading and his thoughts were becoming more... doggy. Anyway, Virginia meets Snow White (Camryn Manheim), or I guess like... the ghost of Snow White, or something. And we learn why the Queen's mirrors wouldn't let her see Tony or Virginia. And we learn a surprising fact about the Queen herself, which I don't want to spoil. But Virginia rejoins her father and they find their way out (after Virginia extinguishes her torch, which totally reminded me of an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender; I can't help wondering if that was inspired by this).
The Huntsman teams up with Burly, Bluebell, and Blabberwort to capture Virginia, Tony, and Wendell, which they do pretty quickly. But Virginia and Tony manage to escape pretty quickly, and wander into a swamp. They get separated briefly by some cute but naughty fairies, and Virginia meets up with Acorn. Tony winds up on an island of magic mushrooms, but Virginia soon finds him... and they fall asleep, possibly forever. Except that they're rescued by Wolf, who had been following them all along. And Virginia reconciles with Wolf. So now the three of them must make their way to Wendell's castle, where representatives of all the 9 kingdoms are assembling for the prince's coronation ball. Of course, the Queen is now secretly in control of the castle, and plans to poison all the dignitaries. Our heroes will have to try to thwart her evil plan, and Virginia must also come to terms with her mother's abandonment. Oh, and the fake Wendell has to pass three challenges- courage, wisdom, and humility- before being crowned king. One challenge is presented by an elf queen, one by Queen Riding Hood III, and one by Cinderella herself (played by Ann-Margret). (Incidentally, Cinderella is like 200 years old, but doesn't look it, because of magical surgery.) I guess I don't want to divulge any more details of the plot. There's a relatively happy ending, of course, on several counts; though there's some sadness, as well. And there's really no such thing as "happily ever after," because of course life goes on, and will always be filled with both good and bad. It's a shame there couldn't be any more stories told about the 10 kingdoms. I'm sure there's a great deal more to tell (of both past and future), but at least this story is complete. And it was definitely a good story, with a satisfying mix of humor, drama, adventure, magic, romance, and... everything.