The Stand (1994) Review

Welcome to our fourth Stephen King deep dive this time we will looking at his Novel The Stand and its two mini series adaptations, the goal in this series is to see which adaptation has the closest ties to the original book, we always discuss the novel last so we will begin with the 1994 mini series directed by Mick Garris.

The series was given a large budget and consists of 4 episodes coming in at a total of 6 hours long and this did not include commercial breaks.

The show starts with a police officer and his family escaping a secure facility which is housing people who are sick with a new and top secret deadly virus.

After this we begin to slowly meet our main cast of immune persons but not before one of the best opening credits I have seen in a TV show.

It pans across the facility showing all the dead of scientists with (Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult playing in the background, the lyrics to this hit song are actually very important and have a lot meaning when tying it to this story.

All our times have come
Here but now they’re gone
Seasons don’t fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
We can be like they are

The Reaper in the lyrics could be referring to the virus but personally I think its a warning of Randall Flag the evil entity of the series with the song being a message to our heroes not to fear him as they will have the power of God behind them.

In fact the show its self doesn’t go too deep into this new pandemic and does have a lot of religious morals, especially when you consider the portrayal of Mother Abigail by the late Ruby Dee, I strongly believe that coming up with a overly positive and serious religious character can be extremely difficult to pull off but Ruby does a phenomenal job here.

Mother Abigail is definitely considered an embodiment of Christianity in her character that initially only appears in dreams to our band of heroes who each share an immunity to the virus.

Speaking of the remaining cast I will say that I was thoroughly impressed with how well casted the series was, I haven’t read the book yet so it’s difficult for me to pinpoint whether these portrayals are accurate to the original novel but everyone here did a phenomenal job.

Some were big names were tied to this production including Gary Sinisi, Molly Ringwald, Jamie Sheridan, Rob Lowe and Bill Faberbakke to name a few.

Jamie Sheridan plays main Villain Randall Flagg, the demonic character who starts splitting up our surviving heroes turning them against each other,  he is a little goofy in this although still maintains his serious side, he is definitely a threatening villain but I really struggled to understand his motives other than taking over the City of Las Vegas.

There are two roles in this production which represent persons with disabilities, one of these characters Tom Cullen is portrayed by Bill Fagerbakke who is best known as the voice of Patrick Star on Spongebob Squarepants, Bill was fine in this but its hard to look at his portrayal as Mentally Handicapped more than simply dim witted. I think when you look at other portrayals in films such as Whats Eating Gilbert Grape, Rain Man or Riding the Bus with my Sister that tackle the mentally challenged in much more realistic portrayals they became much more impactful and memorable due to the realism behind them.

Rob Lowe is here 10 years prior to his work in the 2004 Salems Lot mini series, here Rob plays Nick Andros a deaf-mute and one of the main heroes of the series. Rob is amazing in this and he gives a very respectful portrayal to his character and never tries to over play the disability. He has very few speaking lines during dream sequences but without his voice it gives the character much more personality and in many ways helps to show Lowe’s talents and range as an actor, I look forward to seeing Rob in more productions in the future.

I have only spoken here about my personal choices for the most discussable performances of the production but as a whole everyone does a great job and I don’t think I could pin point a single performance that I thought was badly casted.

I think if I had to say anything about the performances here I would say that there are definitely some sillier characters that I feel were somewhat unnecessary but none of them are massively important roles so I don’t feel it particularly matters.

The show deserves a lot of recognition for its variety of memorable sets, this production might have more locations than any other production of a King book (at least from what we have seen so far). There are so many to choose from but my 3 favourites are Mother Abigails Farm, Las Vegas and the abandoned town where Nick and Tom get shot at by Julie Lawry.

I think if this production struggled with anything I would say pacing, you see while this still comes in at 6 hours the book is huge, in fact its one of kings longest. I haven’t read it yet but I do feel that this production skipped over a lot of plot in order to cut down the production times, for example one of the episodes starts with Stu trying to perform surgery on another survivor, there was no mention of this in any prior episode so it comes out of nowhere.

Another example would be Christina’s relationship with Randall Flagg, a relationship which comes out of nowhere and very quickly falls apart due to certain circumstances.

Tom Cullen being sent away from the other members is another random moment without much background, I never really understood why this was done or why he got hypnotised other than maybe to find the members who turned evil?

I had a really good time watching this series, it had a great cast of likable characters and a story that was almost perfectly told if not for its pacing issues and a couple of sillier performances that I feel slightly took away from the realism that the rest of the show was portraying. Looking past its few issues what we have here is a fairly fantastic television series that makes efforts to respectfully portray more sensitive subjects, beliefs and needs.

If you ever get the chance check this one out, so far during this massive Stephen King Project it is the best TV series and will be hard pressed to get beaten anytime soon.

Up next is the 2020 series will this one offer anything new or will it not compare to the 1994 version?

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