The One Game

SF elements: real world game; Arthurian legend

1988 / DVD

4 × 60 min episodes


The only way to survive is to play

Nick Thorne is the high flying owner of a games company. Then one Friday he finds himself forced into playing a deadly game for everything he holds dear, against his old business partner Magnus, who he thought had died in a lunatic asylum. The game plays out over four consecutive days, as Nick plays to save his company, his life, and his sanity, and Magnus plays to teach Nick a lesson.

This was originally aired in June 1988. Since it doesn’t seem to have been repeated, that must be when I first saw it, and this time is my second viewing. When I started reviewing SF TV shows on my blog in the late 1990s, I added some previously viewed shows with ratings to my index of reviews, and I rated The One Game as “2: great stuff”. That means I must have remembered it, fondly, 10 years on. This viewing, 30 years on, I had no memory of ever having seen it before. Thus do we age.

And this time round, I was less impressed. This may be because the plot concept is no longer fresh and new: being unwillingly involved in a high stakes real life game is no longer a new plot device. Even with a willing suspension of disbelief, that Nick is unfamiliar with the concept, he seems both overly willing to play rather than go to the police, yet surprisingly blasé about what is going on. Has he never read a fairy tale? Why does he never suspect that when some weird character pops up to help or hinder him while he is on one of the quests might not actually be another player? Even after it has happened more than once? There is also supposed to be modern day version of what would happen if Arthur said to Merlin after he’d helped set up the Kingdom, ‘Get lost. I don’t need you any more.’ There are a few Arthurian references (Lady in the Lake, jousting, whatever), but this part of it is too underplayed.

So, still an interesting historical piece, but unfortunately no longer “great stuff”.

Rating: 4
[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 13 August 2019