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Home > Sci-Fi > Max Headroom M-m-mondays #2: Rakers

Max Headroom M-m-mondays #2: Rakers

September 13th, 2010

Continuing my weekly look back at 1987’s Max Headroom series.


Written by James Crocker and Steve Roberts

“Raking! What’s it all about?”  –Max

“Raking? It’s about survival, and that’s all I know.”  –Fringer

“You know enough. Thanks, old friend.”  –Max

The Story: Theora learns that her brother Shawn has taken up the deadly sport of “Raking,” a gladiatorial contest involving motorized skateboards and razor-equipped gloves. The competition’s promoters hope to interest the powerful Zik-Zak corporation in sponsoring televised broadcasts. It could be even bigger than Scumball!

Behind the Screens: I’m going to say it right up front, I did not like this episode. I don’t recall what I thought of it back in the day, but in the far-flung future of 2010 it seems dumb as a razor-lined post.

What strikes me most about the Raking scenes are how dull they are. The souped-up rakeboards don’t seem any faster than they would be under human power, and the game–such as it is–is pretty much just a one-on-one skate duel that ends the moment someone gets stabbed. Bigger than Scumball? I do not think so.

A popular Network 23 kids’ show is called “Missile Mike,” and it seems to be on the air 24/7 during this episode. Like Raking, there’s very little to it: a few snippets of live-action in which the title character fires an endless stream of bullets while the voice-over shouts “Missile Mike!” (I’d love to know the source of this footage; it has the look of an exploitation film.) Max, living as he does inside the TV, believes Mike to be a maniac gunman on the loose.

This episode marks the first appearances of three recurring characters. Rik is a fringer and pedicab driver with helpful connections. (And if his last name doesn’t turn out to be “Shaw,” I will eat a Zik-Zak Burger Pak.) Simon Peller is Network 23’s pet politician, and he’ll become more significant in the second-season opener. Peller is rather shady, yet even he draws the line at blood sports. Finally, there’s Zik-Zak’s corporate chairman, the amusingly-named Ped Xing.*

The Two-Way Sampler does double-duty in the finale, substituting for Edison’s broken TV camera during his expose of the illegal raking track.

The Ratings Report:

Theora’s Level of Concern

How Minutes Into the Future Is This Now?

Really, the only thing that seems remotely futuristic about Raking is the low-rent Road Warrior costuming of its participants. According to Wikipedia, the motorized skateboards were actually being sold at the time.

When Theora abandons her controller post after receiving an urgent call from her sister-in-law, Edison has to go through a fair amount of trouble to find her. Videophones are ubiquitous 20 minutes into the future, but cellular phones don’t even seem to exist.

A throwaway line of dialogue reveals an important facet of Max’ world: the TVs have no off switch.

extreme sport that seemed dated in 1987, much less now  -10 minutes
no cell phones  -5 minutes
TVs that cannot be turned off  +1 minute

= 6 Minutes Into the Future

*Imagine it on a yellow traffic sign, and you’ll get the joke.

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