I loved ReBoot, the original series, I fell in love with its characters and followed them on their adventures as they tackled virus and games. As worried as I was about the live action elements of ReBoot: The Guardian Code, I decided to give it a fair shot. Having watched it, I can only say…I absolutely detest it.
The original ReBoot was an animated series and followed Guardian Bob as he defended Mainframe from viruses, bugs and games, where they competed with users, trying to make sure they lost. It was a wonderful series that played with computer and technology terms and presented them in easy to consume representations. Operating Systems are cities, connected and accessible through the Net. Each system has a Guardian, a complex agent that is part anti-virus and part administrative system tools. And of course, Viruses are super-villains.
ReBoot was clever in its writing and how it engaged its audience without overwhelming them with technobabble and is so important that its episodes are shown and stored in the Smithsonian for posterity.
ReBoot: The Guardian Code doesn’t deserve to be part of the same franchise. It’s unoriginal, creatively bankrupt and about as stupid as the original was clever.
Megabyte and Hexadecimal never did something so heinous to deserve being in this show
Before I keep going, let me mention something about myself. I’m a software developer and have worked in the IT industry as a developer for nearly ten years. I’ve worked with about every development language and platform there is, and have grown to hate most of them, but that’s another story.
What I want to make clear is that I know code. I know and understand back-end systems and web mumbo-jumbo. And knowing these things, ReBoot: The Guardian Code doesn’t just annoy, it outright pisses me off. I despise this show for how profoundly stupid it is.
ReBoot: The Guardian Code follows a group of unlikable bland teenage stereotypes as they attend Alan Turing High School, where computer sciences are apparently the most important part of the curriculum. On their first day, the characters, who all know each other and play online together, get called to a room that’s well out of the way and bumble their way into cyberspace, where they become Guardians, helped by an AI that creates a body for itself and forces the audience to deal with a shallow Lieutenant Data derivative.
The greatest danger they face comes from the Sourcerer, a world-famous hacker who revives Megabyte and lets him loose in Cyberspace and performs attacks on different systems for a myriad of frankly pointless plots that tend to be more about annoying people than causing real damage. The other danger is from the government and the “Department of Internet Security.”
I learned about all these elements within the first couple of episodes of ReBoot: The Guardian code, and despite my initial reaction of “this is stupid.” I decided to keep watching it. I mean, I’ve seen many shows with horrendous starts that become amazing pieces of TV along the way.
And then they mentioned Dark Code and I lost it.
You see, the Sourcerer doesn’t create malware, he doesn’t crack systems and reprogram things. No, he injects networks with Dark Code, which in terms of the show is pretty much Dark Magic, it can even create zombies and alter AI and is so mystical and vague that nothing, except the characters, works on it. The Department of Internet Security notices his influence by stream of purple alphanumeric characters on screen, because this department has people who can read the data streams of the Matrix apparently, and viruses and malware are colour coded in the real world. Hell, they sometimes deploy anti-viruses but other times send out “strike teams,” which show in Cyberspace as attack helicopters, in a series that fails to keep the writing consistent.
And with the whole Dark Code and Strike Teams and all that malarkey we come to the main issue with this show. The writing is stupid, and it assumes the audience is ignorant of technological terms when we all know that even kids these days are more tech-savvy than their parents and teenagers even more so. And with a high-school setting you can kinda assume that’s the demographic.
It’s not a modern telling of ReBoot, it doesn’t have the clever writing that masks complex topics in clever narrative, but one that takes basic concepts and builds layers of mumbo jumbo around them, such as the catch-all Dark Code or the zombie bot net. Yes, Zombie, and the affected programs must be decapitated just like in movies. It’s that level of stupid.
The strangest thing is that the original ReBoot already had its own interpretation of the net and Web, and a whole mythos around it that is still pretty valid today and that gave every subsystem in the net personality and colour and made them memorable. This one is generic cyberspace, inhabited by things the series can’t decide on what to call them. Are they bots, programs, protocols, or something else entirely? It’s a generic unit with a generic appearance that is about as catch-all as the Dark Code.
And these presentation issues are nothing compared to when ReBoot: The Guardian Code attempting to clumsily explain stuff at extreme length, as if the writers thought the audience was stupid. There is one episode dedicated to bot-nets and DDOS attacks where characters all launch into repetitive explanations of what those terms mean. It’s painful to watch a supposed master hacker use the term “Distributed Denial of Service attack,” over and over and explain what it does to no one but himself, instead of just saying DDOS and moving on. This, by the way, is the same episode featuring the zombies.
Characters constantly explain tech term they all already know, when logically they wouldn’t need to say anything. But it’s the audience they’re talking to, and the problem is, the audience is likely to have a greater degree of knowledge about the terms than the characters do—and even if they don’t one mention is enough, not twenty. Worse still, it doesn’t make narrative sense. Yet every time, the writers subject you to a barrage of exposition, if we can call it that, that does nothing for the story nor for the audience.
I could forgive a lot of this stuff if the stories were good or the characters interesting but they aren’t and aside from being disgusting in appearance and cockroach-eating habit, the Sourcerer is not a threat, he’s a watered-down villain without any dangerous goals. The height of his plots is to hack the series equivalent of Siri, so it behaves rudely towards users. That’s it. Hell, even the teenage angst is poorly written and that’s the easy part.
And I’m not going into the episode where they reach Mainframe and talk to Bob and the other characters. I refuse. It’s atrocious even as fan-pandering and it completely disregards its predecessor’s story, showing characters as they are during the first season and not who they are after the end of the series.
The original ReBoot is a series that still holds up. Sure, some of its concepts might be outdated, but the writing and storytelling make up for those. ReBoot: The Guardian Code on the other hand is so poorly thought out and written that’s already