This "movie" (actually a pilot for a never-produced series, I believe) is one of the more original science fiction concepts to see production in years. The story is of a young medical student in the distant future, fulfilling his internship on a planet that is so far removed from everything that its inhabitants live a largely technology-free lifestyle. The planet is divided into two halves that are often at war, and as we join the story it is just entering into a tenuous peace.
White Dwarf is part futuristic science fiction, part Victorian/medieval fantasy, and part television drama (having many of the best qualities of each). With many such stories, we get no sense of history or depth to the characters, but with this one we are not let down. We are given fleeting glimpses of deeper things (only glimpses at times because, one might presume, it was written to continue as a series, to establish relationships to be developed further as time went on). There are hints of vast histories for the characters, the places, and the ideas the underlie so much of the story. A fine example of this would be the apparently long-standing and deep relationship between Osh, alien warden of "the Keep" (the planet's prison), and the prisoner listed only as "Lady X" in the credits (played by Katy Boyer).
My only complaints about White Dwarf would be with the sometimes stiff acting and the occasional stilted dialogue (when combined, as they normally are, the two can be difficult to take). Still, special accolades should go to Paul Winfield for his portrayal of Akada, the doctor under whom Driscoll Rampart serves his internship, and CCH Pounder, who plays a nurse in Akada's clinic. Both portray their characters with generous portions of substance and apparent ease. The rest of the cast do reasonably well, only occasionally stumbling over the stilted dialogue. This is most noticeable with Ele Keats' performance as Princess Ariel, whose dialogue is always very formal, resulting in a performance that comes across very wooden. For the few of her lines that are more relaxed, her performance improves, serving mostly to emphasize the stiffness that we see the rest of the time. Perhaps this just isn't her genre.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that this unique piece of work is no longer available on video (unless you're willing to pay $50 or more for a used VHS copy). This is rare and inspired fiction, a must for anyone who's growing tired of the recycled ideas we see so often, and who wishes to see something distinctly different, if somewhat imperfect. As a life-long sci-fi and fantasy afficionado, I consider myself very lucky to have acquired a copy, and enjoy every viewing as much as the last. We can only hope that it will be released on DVD someday, and that it will not be doomed to disappear forever into obscurity. Something this unique deserves far better than that.
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