Last night Canadian viewers got a look at the new sci-fi series Continuum on Showcase. The series, created by one of the minds behind FOX’s 24, joins the ranks of other Canadian genre shows, a group that includes hit series, Lost Girl. So how does this one stack up to the others?
Let’s bitch it out…First off…a caveat: I freakin’ love star Rachel Nichols. I’ve loved her since she starred on the final season of Alias, so I’m pretty psyched that she’s got her own show. With that said, however, am I glad that that show is Continuum? Eh…
The series on the whole has a very interesting premise: a fish out of water police procedural about a Protector (aka police officer) from the year 2077 who is inadvertently transported into the past and must stop eight terrorists from starting a war. The brief glimpses of the future offer a world saturated in visual and media displays, with holographic imagery, specialized weaponry / suits and content that downloads directly from a user’s eye. It’s fairly standard Philip K. Dick stuff, although it’s done well (the special effects are decent) and I’m a sucker for futuristic worlds where corporations have taken over for governments because…let’s face it…Nike and Walmart are going to take us there people (for a comedic take on this idea, be sure to check out the book Jennifer Government). Unfortunately when Kiera (Nichols) arrives in modern day Vancouver, the show trudges up the usual seedy griminess that always crops up on these shows (see also: Dark Angel or better yet – don’t).
As a pilot episode, ‘A Stitch In Time’ has the burden of establishing the premise and laying the foundation for the overall series, so in the grand scheme of things, it’s important not to judge too harshly. That’s an especially good policy to adopt here, because the show is a mixture of tired cliches and hackneyed dialogue with juuust enough of a twist to make things interesting.
Tired cliches include a disbelieving protagonist who focuses too much on her former life (obviously this is to be expected, but for audiences it’s not exactly great television to watch someone pine for a family to whom a reunion spells “series finale”). The cop banter and barky overacting from Captain Dillon (Brian Markinson) is groan-inducing – I kept waiting for him to complain about having “cops like these” on his force or some other Lethal Weapon-ism. And the obvious partnering with generic hottie, Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster), is sure to yield some kind of romance eventually. So far, so familiar.
So why bother continuing to watch?
Well, as mentioned, a pilot is traditionally one of the worst episodes a series will produce. Looking beyond the aforementioned faults, there’s a number of interesting elements at play. The teen actor playing Alec Sadler (Erik Knudsen) is good, and the relationship between him and Kiera is unique, even if the character of a brilliant teen hacker is not.
More interesting is the overall conspiracy / Liber8 plan. There was some kind of malfunction that accidentally transports the group back 65 years instead of six, but what is their end-goal, especially now that their timeline is so off-track? Why, beyond the return to “democracy” that’s been lost in the future, are they acting like anarchists and looking to start a war, as Travis (Roger Cross) suggests the moment we meet him in 2012?
And then there’s that nifty little coda in which Alec asks for information on himself in the future and Kiera flashbacks (actually forward) to her first meeting with her husband, Greg’s (John Reardon) boss. Naturally this is Alec in the future (William B. Davis). This is hardly revelatory considering that Kiera already mentioned he developed the majority of her futuristic technology, but the reveal brings to mind other questions about why Future Alec (FA), and Kiera’s husband for that matter, were involved in Liber8′s escape. It’s clear that FA and Greg were involved because they debated whether the convicts should be killed right before the convicts time traveled. Remember? As soon as Greg saw Kiera in the execution chamber, he panicked and clearly tried to stop whatever happened. So not only do we have the mystery of FA and how he went from farm kid to all powerful CEO, but also why he and Greg orchestrated the entire time travel plan.
As a result of these mysteries, I’m interested enough to continue watching. I do hope that now that the premise has been established the show can settle in and begin exploring who these people are in greater depth. For now, it’s a generic cop show with some pretty big plot holes, awful dialogue, and nifty gadgets that has a good premise and decent actors. We’ll see where it goes!
- The promo for next week’s episode suggests that Kiera’s lie about being a Portland cop unravels fairly quickly. This is good because while I can believe that her outfit acts as body armour and her wrist cuff is the equivalent of every James Bond gizmo, I can’t believe that she’d be able to join the Vancouver police force simply by giving a name and a badge number. I’m pretty sure the minute she couldn’t produce any physical ID they’d be hauling her off to the clink. For believability’s sake, I hope that this is addressed next week.
- Thus far only two members of Liber8 have made any impression: Lucas (Omari Newton) who worked on the time travel tech and Travis (because Cross was on 24). That leaves five others to flesh out, because Travis mentions one member didn’t make it. Thus far my notes on the remaining others are little more the ethnic and sex based qualifiers, so that’s…not good. Who are these people? Why did they agree to this “one way ticket”? And why do they all seem like ridiculously hardened criminals when Lucas specifically called himself an IT guy?
- One potential answer to FA’s involvement in this = his description of the two approaches to time travel: 1) time travel changes the future and 2) time travel that merely allows the future to play out. Consider the latter approach. If FA remembers meeting Kiera as a seventeen year old boy, then he may have made sure she was in the execution chamber so that she would travel back to 2012 and help him become the man he becomes in 2077. Make sense?
- The other big question mark is what’s happening with Alec’s stepparents? His parents are clearly messed up in some nefarious stuff as evidenced by creepy stepfather’s dialogue: “He’s not ready yet.” Ready for what? Pasteurized milk? Or joining the revolution? Inquiring minds want to know.
- Finally, will Kiera’s futuristic tech run out of juice at some point or can she recharge? There’s a suggestion that her cool hologram gun doesn’t function in 2012, but everything else seems to be doing just fine. If the wrist cuff and her enhanced cataracts are going to become regular features, I hope the show elaborates on some of the rules governing them. If not they risk becoming the equivalent of a narrative “get out of jail free” card.
So that’s episode one. What did you think of the premiere? Any ideas what Liber8 is up to? How come we haven’t seen Liber8 leader Edouard Kagame (Tony Amendola) in the past yet – or was he the one Travis suggested didn’t “make it”? And how likely are Kiera and Carlos going to hook up on a scale of “it’s happening” to “hell yes”? Sound off below.
Continuum airs Sundays at 9pm EST on Showcase (Canada)