Harsh Realm

Harsh Realm Information

Harsh Realm is a science fiction television series about humans trapped inside a virtual reality simulation. It was developed by Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files and Millennium, and began airing on the Fox Network on October 8, 1999. The series fared poorly in the ratings and was removed from the schedule after just three of its nine episodes had aired. The remaining six episodes premiered on the FX Network. Repeats of the series began airing Fall 2007 on CBC Country Canada.

The term "harsh realm" originates from the "grunge speak" hoax of 1992, in which it meant 'bummer'.

The show was loosely based on a comic book by James D. Hudnall and Andrew Paquette. When the creators noticed the credits read "Created by Chris Carter", they sued Fox to get properly credited. The credits were changed to read "Inspired by the Harsh Realm comic book series, Created by James D. Hudnall and Andrew Paquette, Published by Harris Publications, Inc."

The series was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Harsh Realm is a virtual reality game created by the U.S. Army, programmed to minutely replicate the real world for training simulations. In the world of Harsh Realm, a small nuclear bomb is detonated in the program's version of New York City, killing four million people and thrusting its participants into a post-apocalyptic disaster scenario.

Lieutenant Tom Hobbes is unknowingly thrust into this world by his superiors with one mission: to kill "General" Omar Santiago. Along the way, he meets fellow soldiers sent into the game and alternate versions of people he knows in the real world. Tom Hobbes quickly finds companions such as Mike Pinocchio (a cynical long-time resident of Harsh Realm), Florence (a mute with mysterious powers) and Dexter (an alternate version of his real world dog).

Hobbes' target is Santiago, the highest scorer in Harsh Realm. Santiago, a US Army Sergeant Major in the "real world", is now a self-proclaimed "General" in the simulation who controls five U.S. states as a brutal dictator.

From his new companions, Hobbes learns that Santiago has commandeered Harsh Realm; Hobbes is merely the latest soldier in a long line of men sent on unsuccessful missions to kill the would-be dictator. Hobbes also learns from a mysterious "ally", Inga Fossa, that Santiago is planning the ultimate act of terrorism in the real world so that Harsh Realm is all that remains.

It is in this world that Hobbes must survive, defeat Santiago, save the real world, and somehow return to his real life and his fiancée, Sophie Green.

Episode Information

See also: List of Harsh Realm episodes

A box set with the 9 completed episodes, including those unaired on network television in the USA, was released on region 1 DVD on August 24, 2004. The box features two commentary tracks on the pilot episode by the show's creator and director as well as other minor special features. Also released on region 2 DVD


Tom Hobbes (Scott Bairstow)

  • Lieutenant Thomas F. Hobbes was close to his discharge from the Army when he was called to do one last mission and sent into the virtual reality simulation known as Harsh Realm. He left behind in New Jersey his fiancée Sophie Green. They had planned to move to California. He was decorated for saving the life of his friend Waters when they served together in Sarajevo in 1994. In the realm, Hobbes was reunited with the virtual character of his dog Dexter. He also came upon the dying virtual copy of his mother, Katherine, at the same time she was dying of cancer in the real world. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio. His name is a reference to the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. His gun is a Walther P99. Hobbes originally had a Heckler & Koch P7 pistol in the Pilot episode before moving onto the SIG Sauer P226 pistol and then onto the Walther P99.
Mike Pinocchio (D. B. Sweeney)

  • Specialist-4 Mike Pinocchio served in Operation Desert Storm. After that, he served in Yugoslavia, where he was severely injured by a land mine. The loss of his leg and eye prompted him to volunteer to go into Harsh Realm (in which Pinocchio has neither injury). In the Realm, he worked for Santiago before presumably faking his own death and going to live outside the fence. He drives a modified 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle. His gun is a Heckler & Koch MP5K PDW.
Florence (Rachel Hayward)

  • Florence is mute and a VC ("virtual character"). She has the ability to heal injuries that occur within the game (not pre-existing conditions coded into the game). She was a member of a group known as the Sisters, all of whom were mute healers. But she left the religious group and took up arms. Her gun is a Colt Commando.
Omar Santiago (Terry O'Quinn)

  • In the real world, Santiago is a Sergeant Major in the United States Army and was the most-decorated combat veteran to serve in Southeast Asia. He retired, but apparently that retirement took him to Harsh Realm, where he holds the rank of General in the Republican Guard and is working from his Santiago City headquarters to take over the United States, with a United States of Santiago. Pinocchio claims that Santiago is able to go in and out of the game. The US government in the real world wants him dead. His plans are said to involve destroying the real world so that Harsh Realm is all that remains.
Mel Waters (Max Martini)

  • Although they were best friends in the real world, Waters and Hobbes are at odds in Harsh Realm. First Hobbes finds that Waters married Sophie's virtual character. Waters also works for Santiago as well as holding the rank of Major in the Republican Guard (Waters' real world military rank was Sergeant).
Inga Fossa (Sarah-Jane Redmond)

  • She works with the military in Fort Dix, New Jersey. She can come and go as she pleases between Harsh Realm and the real world, where she approached Sophie Green with information. She has a past connection to Pinocchio. Her motives in Harsh Realm are unclear, having also worked with Santiago, Waters, and aiding Tom Hobbes. "Inga Fossa" translates to "in the trench" in Latin. Redmond appeared in the 2008 film The X-Files: I Want to Believe as a character referred to on-screen as "Agent Fossa", possibly a reprisal of the character.
Sophie Green (Samantha Mathis)

  • Sophie is Hobbes' pregnant fiancée, left behind in the real world. She has two sisters and a brother named Sam. The "virtual character" version of Sophie within Harsh Realm briefly becomes Hobbs' ally until she is gunned down by Waters.


The pilot was written by Chris Carter, best known as the creator of the science-fiction series The X-Files. Carter wrote the pilot as a "high-tech version" of his favorite films"?Paths of Glory, Platoon and Blade Runner. He said of the pilot: "I think this has a tremendous romantic story and a great mythology potential, as well. I think it's a great chance to tell allegorical stories ? to take a godless world, where there is no morality, where there is no standard or code of behavior, and see what the world would be like if it were like that." The Fox executives worried that pilot episode included too much violence for the 8:00 p.m. timeslot, and they tried to get the producers of the show to tone the violence down in upcoming episodes. American writer Judd Apatow said he doubted Carter would tone down the violence: "He's going to do what he wants to do, and he should. I don't think it's his place to tone it down for people. It's parents' place to say, 'You know what? You're not allowed to watch Harsh Realm'. But it's much easier to say, 'Take off the shows' than to tell parents to be aware of what their kids are doing." Terry O'Quinn stars in the episode as Omar Santiago. He was concerned that the viewers would find the show confusing, "There might be some things if you miss the first one you won't know what is going on. The writers are going to have to find a good one- or two-minute intro that explains things." When O'Quinn first read the script of the pilot, he "pretty much understood the concept of the show when I read it, but I had a hard time visualizing it. I'm kind of computer illiterate. So I had a tough time seeing it. But the fact that Carter is doing it is a good starting point."

Harsh Realm lawsuit

A lawsuit filed by the creators of the Harsh Realm comic book series that was licensed by Fox and Carter as the basis for the TV series became a precedent setting case. In it, Fox attorneys argued that Carter's sole "written by" credit was not only warranted, but required under the rules of the Writer's Guild of America (WGA). The judge in the case disagreed, saying "...in response to the comic book authors' request for a preliminary injunction, Judge Martin found that "While there are substantial differences between the comic books and the television series, a trier of fact could find that it is misleading to represent Chris Carter as the creator of ?Harsh Realm' without giving adequate recognition to the role [Hudnall and Paquette] played in its creation."

Fox argued " with the support of the WGA " that it could not give Hudnall and Paquette the credit they demanded, because of the WGA agreement. "The problem with this argument," Judge Martin responded, "is that [Hudnall and Paquette] are not members of the WGA and are not bound by its contract. If the listing of the credits violates [their] right under the Lanham Act, the fact that the violation is pursuant to a contract with a third party is no defense."


The episode was watched by 7.5 million viewers during its original airing in the United States. Ken Parish Perkins of the Philadelphia Inquirer called the pilot "dark, moody and confusing". Ed Bark of The Dallas Morning News said "Fans of heavy automatic weapons fire, bloodletting and unrelenting bleakness won't be disappointed. A supporting character named Mike Pinochio supplies the gutter-level language, none of which can be printed here." David Kronke of the Daily News of Los Angeles said: "Fortunately, Carter makes the show's pilot episode exciting, smart and edgy enough that, for the time being, viewers will be intrigued enough to see how this ordeal will play out." Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote: "If most of these Harsh Realm characters are virtual, why should we care? And if the show is playing out inside Hobbes' brain, why do any of the events depicted matter? Presumably future episodes will answer those questions, but the pilot exudes lots of flash and little heart. The characters lack any spark of life and depth. Harsh Realm could improve, but at this point dark conspiracies and paranoia have become tiresome. How many viewers will stick with Harsh Realm to a point it starts to make sense?" Mark McGuire of the Times Union commented that "Carter's script and the direction of Daniel Sackheim are riddled with hoary, snory contemporary clichés."


The theme music contains samples of speeches given by Benito Mussolini.

  • Pilot
    • Prodigy - Fat of the Land - "Climbatize"
    • White Zombie - AstroCreep: 2000 - "Electric Head Part 2"
    • Organik - "Piece of Meat"
  • Leviathan
    • Moby - Play - "Run On"
    • Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe - "Super Beast"
  • Inga Fossa
    • White Zombie - AstroCreep: 2000 - "Electric Head Part 1"
  • Kein Ausgang
    • "?dith Piaf - Love & Passion (box set) - "Y'A Pas D'Printemps"
  • Camera Obscura
    • "Suo Gan"

DVD release

DVD Title Release Date Number
Of Discs
Number Of
Harsh Realm Complete Series August 24, 2004 3 9

See also

  • Simulated reality

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Harsh_Realm" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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