TV SHOWS don’t get enough love here on GeekChocolate; that may be because there’s not a lot on the small screen to shout about these days. So, when something like SyFy’s new time-hopping sci-fi cop thriller, Continuum, comes along reviewers like myself sit up and take notice.
Reader, it is excellent.
Control the past, save the future
Keeping it as spoiler free as I can, here’s a quick primer: Continuum starts in the year 2077 with an act of terrorism not-so-subtly reminiscent of the 9/11 atrocities. Edouard Kagame (Tony Amendola, Stargate SG1) leader of the terrorist organisation, Liber8, sits at his desk and broadcasts a statement to the world. He tells us now the governments of the world sold our freedom – our liberty – to the corporations after the governments needed a corporate bailout sometime around 2057.
Moments after his house is raided by the Corporate Protectorate Service (the police) and his broadcast interrupted, we see an explosion topple a building. Liber8 has killed tens of thousands of people to ensure the death of just twenty members of the Corporate Congress.
A quick peek into the home life of Kiera, our main protagonist, later, and we’re at the public execution of the Liber8 members. They sabotage the execution chamber somehow causing it to throw them, and Kiera, back in time to 2012.
To elaborate any further would be risk spoilers, but what I’ve described to you so far is, literally, just the beginning. At the time of writing this review, four episodes have aired on SyFy and the series is definitely finding its feet as the story continues to unfold. There are a lot of themes to wrestle with in Continuum but, mindful of this, the writers don’t throw them all at us at once.
A future glimpsed
Kiera’s array of late-21st Century technology means she soon comes to the attention of a young genius named Alec, who serves as her constant companion and guide to life in 2012. Realizing who Alec will become and his effect on the future, Kiera must be careful not to reveal too much or risk pollution of the timeline.
Ask any Trek fan about temporal mechanics and you’ll likely be told “I hate temporal mechanics”, nevertheless, fellow Trekkies (I’m a ‘Trekker‘ refusnik) it’s worth putting our hatreds aside for a while as it’s a continuing theme.
Early in the show Kiera threatens to hunt down and kill the ancestors of one terrorist, thereby ensuring he is never born. Later, one of the Liber8 number uses his foreknowledge of events to become very rich, befriend his own forebears and ensure that they want for nothing.
This constant mindfulness or disregard for the purity of the timeline raises moral questions for audience and protagonist alike – should Kiera allow a killer to escape with stolen research because she knows that killer’s work with that stolen research will eventually become a force for good in the world? What would you do?
The science, and politics, of fiction is always most effective when grounded in reality, and Continuum shows us a glimpse of a future which could easily turn out to be very close to our own. We live in a world where Google’s “project glass” device exists in prototype, estimated to be just five years away from being consumer ready. Apple has more money in the bank than the United States government. Is it so hard to believe that in fifty five years time computers will be implanted in our heads and corporations will have bought out governments?
It may be based on the old sci-fi trope of “future-cop-goes-back-in-time” but it’s this underlying gritty, almost frightening realism, that ensures Continuum stands out as a decidely up-to-date time travel piece. Additionally has some advantage over advantage the likes of Time Trax, Timecop and Life on Mars in the form of high quality 2012 CGI effects and an audience matured.
Firefly, Journeyman, Charlie Jade, Stargate: Universe, Jericho… science fiction TV is hard to commit to today. Genre fans have previously been burnt with the loss of shows which deserved better. We can only hope Continuum won’t soon be added to that honor roll, but at least the outlook is bright as it has just been renewed for a second season of 13 episodes, three more episodes than the first season.
I can’t recommend Continuum highly enough, and its current Thursday night slot right after the glorious Warehouse 13 on SyFy UK makes for a double-whammy of sci-fi goodness as the week is winding down. This show is a classic in the making, make sure you don’t miss it first time round.