|Genre||Children's science fiction|
|Created by||Philip Dalkin
|Developed by||Robert Greenberg|
|Written by||Robert Greenberg
|Directed by||Esben Storm
|Voices of||Matthew Parkinson|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||26|
|Executive producer(s)||Patricia Edgar|
|Running time||30 min.|
|Production company(s)||Australian Children's Television Foundation
|Original channel||Seven Network|
|Original run||13 February 1999 – 25 August 2001|
Crash Zone is an Australian children's science fiction television series which aired on the Seven Network from 1999 to 2001. It was produced by Australian Children's Television Foundation, in association with the Disney Channel, and ran for 26 episodes. The series starred five high school students, "high-tech whiz kids" of varied backgrounds, who are hired by the president of the Catalyst software company to save her failing business. The premise of the series was unique in that it was one of the first series to examine the early use of the internet as well as the video game industry and artificial intelligence.
Mike Hansen (Nikolai Nikolaeff), Alison 'Pi' Renfrey (Cassandra Magrath), Rebecca 'Bec' Chan (Frances Wang), Marcello Di Campili (Paul Pantano) and Abraham 'Ram' Foley (Damien Bodie) are five Melbourne high school students who all have a strong interest in computers, online gaming and the internet. While playing an online computer game, they each discover a coded message. The message prompts them to follow a series of clues that eventually leads them to a meeting with Alexandra Davis (Nicki Wendt), president of the software company Catalyst.
Confessing that she was the author of the messages, Davis reveals to the teenagers that her company is struggling and she would like to hire one of the teens as game testers in order to design games for her company at "The Crash Zone". Davis proposes a competition in which the winner takes the job, and while the competition is fierce, she is impressed by their teamwork and offers them all positions in the company. The one exception is Ram, whom she feels is too young, but is allowed to remain with the teens. As well as the developing friendships with each other and their social lives, the teenagers also discover Virgil (Matthew Parkinson), a mysterious artificial intelligence which exists on the internet.
The second series has the teenagers returning from their summer vacations to find the financial situation at Catalyst to have become much more serious. Davis has been forced to lay off most of her staff and they may be next. Two new characters are introduced in the second series, 12-year-old Penny Gallagher and her father Matthew Gallagher. Penny Gallagher, who is befriended by Ram, persuades her father to offer Davis a deal to save Catalyst from bankruptcy. Although knowing very little about the video gaming industry, Matthew Gallagher is a very successful businessman and very quickly turns the company around. However, his changes often results in conflict between him and the staff.
- Alison 'Pi' Renfrey (Cassandra Magrath) - is the daughter of a highly popular actor and is usually regarded as the richest of the group. She is pretty, spirited and occasionally rude.
- Marcello Di Campili (Paul Pantano) - an Italian, he has high hopes of becoming super rich one day and often gets into trouble as a result of his various shady dealings. He is lively, humorous and comical.
- Abraham 'Ram' Foley (Damien Bodie) - is the second youngest of the group but is the most creative and technically intelligent of the group. He remains one of Mike's best friends from the first.
- Rebecca 'Bec' Chan (Frances Wang) - is Chinese and is often portrayed as an intelligent, highly successful academic student. She is popular with the Catalyst staff.
- Mike Hansen (Nikolai Nikolaeff) - is probably the oldest of the group and the most successful game designer and tester. He often assumes control of the group when things go wrong. He is also the funniest of the group and is patient and quick-thinking.
- Alexandra Davis (Nicky Wendt) -
- Nigel Hartford (Richard Moss) -
- Virgil Reality (Matt Parkinson) - Originally a "Buggy" Artificial intelligence experiment created by Alex when she was working for Sunjim. Virgil was "born" when Alex trashed the AI 2000 program when she couldn't get it to work properly. The remains floated about the internet like a ghost before forming the AI Virgil who spent the next few years wandering the internet before appearing in the Catlyst network server where he met the Crash Zone team and subsequently met his creator Alex. The name 'Virgil' is given to him by Mike.
- Penny Gallagher (Heidi Valkenburg) - is the youngest of the group at twelve yet she is quick and computer savvy and has produced ingenious creations. She is introduced to Catalyst by Ram.
- Matthew Gallagher (Jeremy Stanford) -
|#||Title||Writers||Original airdate||Series No.|
|01||"The Dream Team"||13 February 1999||#1.01|
|After decoding a secret message on the Internet, five teens are offered the job of a lifetime: beta testers for the game company Catalyst network. Upon arriving they are informed only one of them can be taken and they are given a chance by Alex the company head to prove themselves by designing a new game character for her. The group's teamwork however impresses Alex who hires them all. During the episode the group also encounter a mysterious AI who they name Virgil who has wandered in to the Catalyst server and who existence they decide to keep hidden for now.|
|02||"Identity Crisis"||9 October 1999||#1.02|
|Settling into their jobs, the group runs in trouble when Alex discovers Virgil. Fearing that Virgil is a spy for Rival company Sunjin, Alex tries to get rid of Virgil. Virgil tries to get the kids help even though he cannot remember who he is and his only clue is a fragmented data file. With the kids help in restoring the file it is discovered that Virgil is actually a program called AI200 that Alex tried to get working for Sunjin but scrapped because it was too buggy. Now Virgil has evolved and found his way home.|
|03||"Undercover"||16 October 1999||#1.03|
|When Alex's valuable necklace goes missing every one is suspected an Pi feels obligated to solve the case when people think she is the thief due to her apparent poor background. Virgil still trying to understand human emotions helps Marchello look for his little sister Sam who is lost in the city.|
|04||"Big Business"||6 March 1999||#1.04|
|05||"It's Only Words"||30 October 1999||#1.05|
|There is tension in the group when Bec believes Mike has made a racist comment towards her putting the whole group on edge. Things are made worse when a dangerous computer virus gets in to the Catalyst server threatening the latest game Trillin. With the group not looking like they will make up soon Virgil risks his life to fight the computer virus with Alex's help causing the gang to realise the foolishness of their fight. Fearing they have lost their friend due to their fighting the group is relieved when Virgil reappears a little shaken from the fight but fine all the same.|
|06||"Secrets and Lies"||6 November 1999||#1.06|
|Bec is intrigued and delighted by a "'net romance" she is pursuing. The boys are skeptical and their worst fears are realised when they find out it's really Virgil writing love letters to Bec. Pi tries to think of a way to save Bec from the humiliation of finding out she is romancing an artificial intelligence! How can she do this when her own lies are getting her deeper in trouble herself?|
|07||"Truth Hurts"||13 November 1999||#1.07|
|Pi and Bec are asked by Alex to design a game to appeal to girls. The game, "Boyfriends" is about the trials and tribulations of teenage romance. The trouble is Bec and Pi have very different ideas about what it means to be a girl. The game is a mess and when Mike tries to use it to bring his separated parents closer, everyone realises they have got a lot to learn about emotions and life.|
|08||"No News Is Good News"||3 April 2000||#1.08|
|09||"Birthday"||10 April 2000||#1.09|
|10||"Leap of Faith"||17 April 2000||#1.10|
|11||"Heroes"||24 April 2000||#1.11|
|When Virgil goes missing after confiding in Ram, it's obvious to the kids that Sunijim have somehow captured him. Marcello sees this as a way to redeem himself in Alex's eyes and, with his friends' help, infiltrates Sunijim in an attempt to rescue Virgil from Brad Kane. When Marcello gets into difficulties, the team use all their computer skills to save Marcello and Virgil, reuniting the Crash Zone team|
|#||Title||Writers||Original airdate||Series No.|
|15||"It's an Art"||Jeff Peck & Philip Dalkin||9 June 2001||#2.02|
|16||"Free Stuff"||Jeff Peck||16 June 2001||#2.03|
|18||"Games People PlayJeff Peck"||30 June 2001||#2.05|
|19||"Your Cheating Heart"||#2.06|
|21||"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"||21 July 2001||#2.08|
|22||"Sabertooth"||28 July 2001||#2.09|
|23||"Walkabout"||4 August 2001||#2.10|
|24||"Men in Khaki"||Jeff Peck & Pino Amenta||#2.11|
|25||"Skin Deep"||18 August 2001||#2.12|
|26||"Rear Windows"||25 August 2001||#2.13|
The series was the first collaboration with the Australian Children's Television Foundation and the Disney Channel. It proved a very successful show and eventually aired in Canada and the United Kingdom as well. The series was nominated for several awards including the Australian Film Institute Awards, Prix Jeunesse and the New York Film Festival. It was also given honorable mention at The Chris Awards and was an official selection at the Prix Danube, the Chicago International Children's Film Festival and The Museum of Television and Radio.
In 1999, series producer Patricia Edgar was nominated by the Australian Film Institute for "Best Children's Television Drama", specifically its first episode "The Dream Team". Esben Storm was also nominated for "Best Direction in a Television Drama" for directing its first episode. Edgar was again nominated to receive "Best Children's Television Drama", along with Bernadette O'Mahony, for their work on the episode "Skin Deep" in 2001. Its second season saw the series also nominated for "Most Outstanding Children's Program" at the 2001 and 2002 Logie Awards.
- Edgar, Patricia. Bloodbath: A Memoir of Australian Television. Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0-522-85281-5
- Gough, Noel. "Teaching in the (Crash) zone: manifesting cultural studies." Deakin Centre for Education and Change. Australian Association for Research in Education. 15 July 2009. <http://www.aare.edu.au/99pap/gou99688.htm>.
- Gough, Noel. "Locations, liminalities and literacies: science education in The Crash Zone (and other heterotopian spaces)." (Post)modern Science (Education): Propositions and Alternative Paths. New York: Peter Lang, 2001. 249-73. La Trobe University. 15 July 2009. <http://www.latrobe.edu.au/oent/Staff/gough_papers/noelg_CrashZone_2001_final.pdf>.