The series, based loosely on the comic strip of the same name and incorporating elements from several previous adaptations, follows the adventures of Steven "Flash" Gordon (the nickname is a reference to his abilities as a high school track and field athlete) (Eric Johnson) who lives with his mother in Maryland and whose scientist father was lost in a mysterious accident when Flash was 13 years old. Flash's former girlfriend, Dale Arden (Gina Holden), is a television news reporter and is engaged to police detective Joe Wylee. They meet the elder Gordon's eccentric former assistant, Hans Zarkov (Jody Racicot), when rifts in space appear, allowing travel between Earth and the planet Mongo.
Mongo is ruled by the ruthless dictator Ming (John Ralston), who controls "Source Water", the only source of safe drinking water on Mongo. Unlike the previous adaptations, he is not normally called "the Merciless" and is instead called "Benevolent Father". He also exhibits the traits of modern, media-savvy dictators, rather than the more simplistic, stereotypically evil characterization of earlier incarnations. Also unlike previous depictions, Ming resembles a blond caucasian human, rather than a bald East Asian man, possibly to avoid the allegations of racism associated with the original depiction. Ming has a daughter, Princess Aura (Anna van Hooft), who is disturbed by her father's brutality. The series adds a new non-Terran character, Baylin (Karen Cliche), a bounty hunter from Mongo. She finds herself trapped on Earth and becomes a comrade of Flash, Dale and Zarkov and their guide to Mongo and its inhabitants.