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Series / Michel Strogoff

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Michel Strogoff is an adaptation of Jules Verne's famous novel, broadcast for the first time in France on Christmas, 1975. It became very popular and was broadcast again several times along the years, being a children's favourite.Though produced and directed by French film makers, it is considered an European show, since it involved actors and technicians from five different countries and was funded by French, West German, Austrian and Belgian television.The outdoors scenes were mostly shot in Hungary.

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This series provides examples of:

  • Anti-Villain: Ivan Ogareff is an villain of the Well-Intentioned Extremist variety, who does not wage war against the Russian Empire for glory and plunder, but in order to offer the Tatars freedom and equal rights (a far cry from the book version of Colonel Ogareff).
  • Battle Couple: Ivan and his mistress Sangarre constantly work together during the campaign, Sangarre being a spymaster, messenger and The Consigliere for Ivan.
  • Bling of War: The high-ranking officers in the Russian Army (particularly the Grand Duke Dmitri) wear their dark green uniform with a lot of shining medals, ribbons and so on. The Tatars are slightly less colourful, but they do love their fur capes and chapkas.
    • Averted with Blount and Jolivet who, despite being both officers (major and commandant, respectively) never wear their uniforms, even during formal events. On could argue they do it to protect their incognito.
  • British Stuffiness: Harry Blount fits this trope to a T, since Verne originally wrote him as an affectionate caricature of British citizens. However, he quickly shows a kinder and more caring side when Jolivet is injured in a fight, and is genuinely concerned for Michael and Nadia's well-being.
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  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Feofar Khan acts this way towards Ivan Ogareff, rightly suspecting the colonel to work for his own purposes behind the Tatars' backs. First Feofar launches the campaign sooner and faster than planned to prevent Ogareff from winning too many battles and gaining too much support amongst the Siberian tribes, then he makes sure that Strogoff is not really blinded, so that he'll be able to use the man against Ogareff.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: When asked his opinion about Grand Duke Dmitri, Strogoff can only answer that the Duke is certainly the best dancer in all Siberia - which says a lot about his military skills.
  • Darker and Edgier: Most of the comic relief episodes present in the novel disappear in the series: no fluffy moment with Pigassof's dog, Blount is not so much The Comically Serious as a pessimistic Deadpan Snarker, Jolivet, who had his clowning moments in the novel, is here bitter and cynical... The shortcomings of the Russian Empire, such as corruption, incompetent administration and serfdom, are also discussed at length.
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  • Death by Adaptation: Marfa Strogoff survived in the original novel, but here dies from her wounds and consequent complications.
  • The Dragon: Officially, the Tatar Taizis and Colonel Ogareff are both Co-Dragons for Feofar Khan; in fact, Ogareff has other goals for Siberia than just plunder and feudal rule and knows this will likely lead to a fight against his boss.
  • Decomposite Character: the telegraph operator Nikolay Pigassof of the original novel is separated into a nameless civil servant who is killed during a battle and M. Pigassof, a gold digger who helps Michael and Nadia.
  • Fanservice: Where to begin? Shirtless Scene? Check, for both the hero and his main opponent. Sexy Soaked Shirt? Check. Bathtub Scene? Check (rather a bath-in-the-river scene, but still counts). Intimate Open Shirt? Check again.
    • In fact there are only two scenes where a guy is shirtless and it's not fanservice, both moments involving rather nasty injuries.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Michael and Nadia begin their journey slightly wary of each other, their ordeals slowly getting them closer, until Nadia trusts Michael enough to give him the only weapon she carries. After the last battle of the campaign, they also add Blount and Jolivet to their tight-knit little band.
  • Historical Domain Character: Alfred Nobel in mentioned several times, as Nadia's father was one of his assistants. Though never named on-screen, the czar must be Alexander II, since the action takes place in 1875 and the imperial seal shows a cyrillic A.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Wishing to get rid of Ogareff, Feofar Khan plans to use Strogoff to kill him, and then reap all the glory of the Tatars' victorious campaign. It works beautifully save for the little fact that Ogareff's death prevents him from opening the gates of Irkutsk to the Tatars, leading to their crushing defeat.
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: Strogoff has no particular grudge against Feofar - it's just military business between these two. However, since Ogareff personnaly ordered Strogoff's mother to be tortured in front of her son, Strogoff swears to kill the man himself.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Played with: the lovely Nadia Fedor is the daughter of a scientist who got sent to Siberia for his political opinions and while not actually mad, he is considered as slightly craked by the Grand Duke and several officers.
  • Mercy Killing: Ogareff's death at Strogoff's hands can be seen at this. Strogoff could have disarmed him and leave him as the Grand Duke's prisoner, but this way, the man is spared torture and a degrading execution.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: On the train ride between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod, Strogoff rescues Nadia from a drunken merchant; when the police control the travellers, the merchant denounces Strogoff as a spy for revenge.
    • A bit later, a group of fishermen help Strogoff to safely escape Tatar soldiers. Almost immediately after their village is attacked and burnt, and the women taken captive.
  • Noodle Incident: at the beginning of the first episode, Strogoff is training with some other soldiers and comments that he could have done better on the round. One of the others jokingly states that Strogoff overdid himself at his friend's birthday party on the previous day but wisely refrains from giving too many details in front of their officer.
    • After being kicked out of Feofar's camp, Jolivet and Blount made several unpleasant encounters, particularly one Tatar chieftain who wanted to behead one of them and impale the other. The how and why it happened are never mentioned and both men remain rather tight-lipped about it.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Feofar repeatedly objects to Sangarre being one of Ogareff's lieutenants on the only basis that she is a woman. He also mocks Ogareff for not being a true Tatar (Ogareff has a Russian father and a Tatar mother). Feofar's officers don't seem to mind this much, though.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: General Voronzov is more interested in defending Irkutsk and avoiding grievous losses to his troops than in vainglorious actions and won't turn down volunteers on the grounds that they are political prisoners.
  • Revised Ending: The German version of the series leaves out the epilogue, where Michael and Nadia attend a ball given by the Czar in St. Petersburg. The reason the Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen gave for this cut was that such an "operetta ending" did not fit the overall tone of the film.
  • Running Gag: Alcide Jolivet and Harry Blount constantly place bets on everything, from people to coming events, until the end of the series, when Jolivet gleefully notes that the Englishman owes him over two thousand roubles in lost bets.
  • Spared By Adaptation: Unlike the book version, Sangarre survives the battle of Irkutsk. However, without Ogareff's protection, life won't be so easy for her.
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors: Despite defecting from the Empire, Ivan Ogareff still wears his old colonel's uniform under the Tatar cloak and chapka, symbolizing both his mixed parentage and the fact he is a modern, rationalist leader, as opposed to Feofar's feudalism.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Blount and Jolivet belong to the Type Two version: they both snark and make fun of each other, bicker like an old married couple, but still care a lot for each other and one will rarely act without the other's approval.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Ogareff's ideas for Siberia are quite liberal for the period: he wants to create a Republic, independant from Moscow, where the Tatars and the other tribes would have equal rights, modern education, a better access to medical care... Too bad his methods to reach that goal are war, treason and murder.
  • Worthy Opponent: Ivan Ogareff openly admires Strogoff for his courage and sense of duty, and even considers recruiting him for the cause. On the other hand, Strogoff considers Ogareff's ideas as perfectly valid and even names him a hero for never backing down.
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