Syfy has been a fertile ground for its own original programming (save Alphas, which got canned after a far better second season and cliffhanger, to boot) and for importing shows outside the U.S. Besides the Canadian urban fantasy Lost Girl, the channel recently picked up the time travel show Continuum (its first season aired in Canada last year, and its second season is going into production soon). When I heard the summary of what the show’s about, I kept having blurry flashbacks of the 90’s time travel show TimeTrax run through my mind. After getting a few episodes into the first season, I’m at least convinced this will be a bit more interesting and complicated than “a cop from the future fights crime in the past” show has been.
The basic story is in the year 2077, corporations have become the government, and rallying against that are the terrorist group Liber8, whose eight members by the opening of the pilot episode, are about to be executed. They somehow escape in a time vortex, accidentally dragging future cop Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) into the terrorists’ destination: 65 years into the past. Not knowing how and if she can get back to her time, she goes hunting for the eight, and getting an unexpected ally in teenage computer expert Alec (Eric Knudsen), who has a big link to Kiera’s time. She ends up using the Vancouver police (oh yeah, she lived in and now lives in Vancouver, where the show is filmed) and is partnered with Carlos (Victor Webster) who both seek the fugitives, albeit for different reasons.
One of the things I have been enjoying about the series so far (I finished watching the entire first season recently, don’t ask how), is the way its been playing with the idea of what these future people’s influence on the past could do. One of the eight, Kellog, decides to use his knowledge of the past to gain a small fortune and get distance from his comrades, who vary in degrees of instability. Kiera tries to adjust to the likelihood she can’t get home to her family, and her growing concerns about the world she left. That even the characters don’t know what time travel will do to their past/future is a nice bit of tension going into the series.
Then there’s the added gray area of whether Kiera would want the future to be the way it is. Its clearly a fascist-run world, where its operatives are wearing and have tech implanted on them, and its easy to see why Liber8 may have a point to their extreme methods. Even though the show settles into a more procedural tone after its first few episodes, in one investigation, Kiera’s knowledge of the future makes her handling and resolution of one case morally dicey. At least my fears of the show turning into Law & Order: Pre Crime Unit are proving unfounded at this point.
Besides Nichols as Kiera (known for her stints on Alias, Criminal Minds, and being a green girl in the Star Trek reboot), the show’s filled with a lot of genre actors to boot. I found myself often weirded out when realizing Curtis from 24 was in an episode that also featured the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files (and there is another X-Files recurring player that appears later on in the season). And also, it’s hard for me to recall the last time a sci-fi show shot in Vancouver actually is not played off as another city, but as Vancouver.
Yeah, there’s a few things the show has yet to get over, like the convenience of Kiera getting to work with the cops so quickly in the pilot (although, the following episode and even the season finale deal with those issues in some interesting ways), and our heroine having a sad reflective moment almost every episode (and yes, with sad pop music to boot). But I would argue the show improved during its first season like most freshman shows tend to, especially in the last few episodes. Not to venture too much into spoiler territory for American audiences watching the show right now, but a lot of elements that get set up are wrapped up and turned on their head before the season’s over. I’m not sure where season two will go after the last big reveal is made, and that’s both thrilling and discomforting.
On a base level, there’s some fun in watching Continuum for seeing a good-looking heroine in a skintight future supersuit fight bad guys (don’t worry, she does wear regular people clothes too). On the other hand, there’s trying to figure out what the big plan of Liber8 is now that they are in the past and the quandaries of wondering whether the future that they come from should be changed. It reminds me a lot more of the Terminator TV show (and speaking as a big fan of that show, that’s quite a compliment) merged with a procedural. To sum it up, if you’re a fan of TV sci-fi, this is one that’s worth checking out.
Continuum airs Mondays 8/7c on Syfy