TV viewers are ready for a break from the brawls, car chases and sex of action shows, say the producers and cast of Destiny Ridge. It’s an environmental adventure series being filmed in Jasper National Park.


The Prince George Citizen

Friday, May 21, 1993


JASPER, Alta. (CP) — A menacing growl vibrates up the wolf’s narrow chest and escapes through bared fangs as a rifle shot cracks through the bush. The animal drops, blood staining his yellow fur. “Cut,” shouts the director and the wolf rolls on to his stomach, rubbing off the fake wound and lazily stretching out to rest muzzle on paws. He yawns once and assumes a bored attitude — hey, Crow has had tougher gigs than this.


The cast and crew of the Destiny Ridge TV series, being filmed in Jasper National Park, give the wolf a wide berth but they can’t resist pecking into his cage. The wire mesh seems a politically incorrect blemish on the mountain-side location of the series, but trainer Gerry Therrien says it keeps humans out.
“People wanna pet your bear, your cougar, your wolf — but then, if something happens, the animal pays.”
Therein lies an issue at the heart of Destiny Ridge: protecting wildlife and the wilderness from People.

The series — to be broadcast this fall on the CanWest Global System and CTV affiliates in Calgary and Edmonton — focuses on a group of good-looking young park wardens working with socially responsible citizens to protect a pristine mountain environment.
Although Destiny Ridge is no front-page docudrama, its characters focus on the trendy topic of environmentalism and that gives the program a political bent.

“I think with the concern about the environment and conservation . . . we’re really ready to accept (these issues) and it’s reflected in television,” says actor Richard Comar (Bordertown) who plays the chief park warden, Don Jenkins.
Comar sees a trend — shows like Destiny Ridge, North of 60 (CBC) and Northern Exposure (CBS) that “get away from big, wealthy people” and depict a simpler lifestyle, something more low-key, more family-oriented.


Producer Andy Thomson doesn’t want the series to become “preachy” but acknowledges its premise is undeniably political. The fresh, cold mountain air, stunning vistas and serene pace of Jasper have also unleashed a zeal in the cast and crew to proselytize about nature and a basic lifestyle.


“Being up here is so relaxing,” enthuses Comar, a Canadian who lives in Los Angeles. “Talking to my wife on the phone, where there might have once been an argument and she’s, like, really strobing, and I’m just so laid back, saying: ‘Well, we’ll work it out. ”

But Raoul Trujillo (Black Robe), who plays a park warden, rejects any political role for the series. Both he and Comar insist its characters, their experiences and various romantic entanglements will be key to the series’ success. “I think (the writers) are interested in environmental issues and consciousness-raising, but through its characters,” Trujillo says. “It’s clear who’s the jerk here — the developer, the money-maker, the capitalist. The good guys are the wardens who are also very sensitive and concerned about the earth and animal life.”


Larry Raskin, one of the show’s creators and producers, compares Destiny Ridge with the ’60s television duster Gunsmoke.
“In a way, this is a modern, ’90s version of a western. . . . Bad guys come in and have to be run out of town.
“But instead of keeping the town safe from the wild frontier, it’s keeping what’s left of the wild frontier safe from the rest of the world.”


Television viewers want a break from the exaggerated brawls, car chases and gun battles of action series, says Comar, lounging in light-weight hiking boots, green jeans and a bright orange parka with a Parks Canada flash.
“People wanna get back to nature, they want to see trees and animals, green things that grow —they’re tired of seeing back-alley cop shows, with hypodermic needles lying in the gutter and rubbies and rats running around.”
Elke Sommer, who plays a lodge owner and the chief warden’s on-again-off-again love interest, agrees the time is right for a nature-based series. “I think the inundation of violence, sex — everything in extreme measure — has been too much,” says Sommer.
“Viewers . . . yearn for something normal, less exaggerated.”


Still, the series is not without conflict as the wardens and townsfolk deal with over-development and commercialization, illegal poaching and the international trade in animal parts.


Life in the wilderness involves its own form of violence, adds Nancy Sakovich, who plays idealistic junior warden Julie Fryman.
“Because of the location, there’s a lot of violence but it’s the kind that you’re subjected to because of nature. But it teaches you respect . . . it really puts you in your place.”


Destiny Ridge is a co-production of Edmonton’s Great North Productions and Atlantis Films of Toronto, working with Global Television and CanWest. The series has also been sold to the German network ARD-erbung.

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