Wired, Part One
Wired, Part Two
Hunt in the Hub
Lost and Found
On the Wire
The Wrong Morph
Eye of the Storm
The River Rising
The Hologram Man
Synopsis: 2040 A.D. They created him to kill their enemies, but he refuses to destroy anymore...
Renegade "synthoid" Zeta (voice of Diedrich Bader, Batman: The Brave and the Bold), marked for reprogramming after developing a conscience and defying his evil orders, flees from a ruthless government agent. Capable of transforming himself at will into any human shape and possessing amazing cybernetic resources, Zeta joins Ro (voice of Julie Nathanson, Beverly Hills 90210) a 15-year-old street kid in her own kind of trouble with the law. In this spin-off from the blockbuster animated series Batman Beyond, futuristic vehicles, weapons and technology meld with the touching and humorous story of two misfits who need each other to survive in a dangerous world.
Review by James Harvey
Fans were quick to latch onto The Zeta Project when the animated series originally premiered on Kids'WB! almost ten years ago. Using Batman Beyond as the perfect springboard, The Zeta Project amassed a cult fan-following that remains strong even to this day. As strong as that following was, it wasn't enough to allow the show to last more than a couple seasons, but it still left an impact on the DC Animated Universe and its fans. The first season was eventually released to DVD in 2009 and ... that was it. The second season never saw a release to home video due to underperforming sales of the first season. Thankfully, Warner Archive has come to the rescue with a new two-disc DVD collection of the final 14 fourteen episodes of the animated adventure series.
Without question, the second season of The Zeta Project improves upon the first, as it finds a strong balance between it's light-hearted tone and the dark-ish, serial aspect nature that creeps around the edges. It feels a shade more grounded and serious at times, though it never forgets to throw in some banter and humor to keep things a little less tense and to spruce up some of the drama. The show's slight redesign in season two, which seems to happen during the two-part "Wired" season opener, also helps pull backs on the overly bright colors from the first season to create a more consistent tone. More shading is used, especially on Zeta (who looks a little more detailed with the added shading, as opposed to the flat design from the first season), and people and backgrounds are given a more realistic color scheme. Things feel a little more appropriate, and not as flat pastel-look as the first season.
The second season of The Zeta Project also has a clear story in mind, and a specific endpoint it wants to hit concerning Zeta's drive to find his creator, and that all leads to the stellar final episode, "The Hologram Man." Not only does it finally bring together some of the show's key themes, and drops a few possibly status quo altering moments, it manages to both create an intriguing cliffhanger but also a sense of closure. There's enough dished out that, even though we know we won't see more of The Zeta Project, there's a sense that all of this will close with our heroes the victors. That said, there's enough left open enough that it would be interesting to see more.
There are some other really stand-out episodes, too, like "Ro's Gift," "Quality Time," "Lost and Found" and "On The Wire" that are great watches. It's worth noting "Ro's Gift" is a follows The Brain Trust, villains we were first introduced to in Batman Beyond. For more thoughts on each episode, check out the episode reviews in this subsite.
Overall, the second season of The Zeta Project is a an improvement on the first season and a very satisfying viewing experience. Even the filler episodes have value to the series as a whole, providing a closer look at the future world of the DCAU and fitting in some great character moments. It's a vastly underrated series , as there's always something positive to take away from each episode, even some of a weaker installments. It might not provide the same dark, gritty appeal of Batman Beyond, but presents us with an alternate and different take on the world our favorite heroes reside in. It's a look into the larger world, one that is worth visiting.
Moving on to the Warner Archive release of the series, all thirteen episodes of the second season of The Zeta Project are included, along with the season finale of the first season. All episodes are presented in standard format and look great, easily able to stand alongside the release of the original The Zeta Project's first season years ago. Video is clear, though aliasing is very noticeable from time to time, and there are some flaws in the actual masters which can be distracting. That said, it's a respectable transfer, even with the flaws. The audio is crisp and clear, without an issue to be found.
That said, there are a handful of issues with the release itself, though most of it is cosmetic. The disc menus are static and bare, just listing the episodes and a reproduction of the cover art. I understand this is a manufacture-on-demand title, so it's not a major strike, but I was a little letdown in comparison to Warner Archive's stellar work on their Blu-ray releases. However, comparing the menus of this release and Static Shock: The Complete First Season, this seems to be the standard design used by Warner Archive. The package art for the release is also somewhat of a disappointment, particularly the cover art. I understand that access to promotional artwork that could be used for The Zeta Project is scarce, but it's still somewhat unattractive.
Also, outside of the inclusion of the final first season episode of The Zeta Project, there is no bonus content to be found on this collection. While this is par-the-course for most DVD releases nowadays, it is slightly disappointing as there was bonus content produced for The Zeta Project: Season Two before Warner Bros. Home Entertainment cancelled it's original intended release back in 2009. It would've been nice to see that content brought back up, though I assume Warner Archive tried and was unable to due to rights and legal issues.
It's also worth noting this is a two-disc DVD-R set, not a regular DVD. To note, that's not an issue when it comes to be able to produce a quality release. Again, the audio and video is solid. It's just noteworthy in that these discs will not have as long of a shelf-life as a regular DVD, so the utmost care is required in order for viewers to get the most out of these releases for as long as possible. Personally, I still find this to be a worthwhile purchase even if DVD-Rs are used.
Warner Archive's DVD-R release of The Zeta Project: Season Two is well worth picking up. It finally collects the last 14 episodes of the series, something fans have been waiting eight years for, and gives them a solid audio/video presentation. Featuring plenty of action, great characters, and a surprisingly mature premise (though not forgetting that the target audience is children), The Zeta Project is an underrated gem of the series. And, for those who are just discovering the DCAU for the first time, particularly those who enjoy Batman Beyond, The Zeta Project provides an interesting look into the larger world outside of Gotham City. Warner Archive has done the series justice by finally bringing it to home video, and while the packaging may not be perfect, it's still a worthwhile addition that fans of the DC Animated Universe should add to their collection. Recommended!