Nope, it’s not about a political revolution. Or a food revolution. I am worried about the latest “concept” science fiction show to be on a major television network.
This fall NBC will show Revolution. The show is from the mind of J.J. Abrams. This can be a blessing or a curse. Most of the stuff he is associated with is good—Lost, Fringe, Alias, etc. However, these shows also suffer from being incomprehensible at times—Lost and Fringe, suffer from lapses in judgment—cutting Felicity’s hair, or poor conception—the Undercovers. Only time will tell if Revolution is a success.
The concept is about America fifteen years after all electrical device apparently cease to function. I say apparently, because for those who have seen the “upfront” trailer there is some Lost type machinations going on behind the scenes. This is a science fiction area well-travelled by S.M. Stirling in the Dies the Fire series. However, the premise does have a lot of promise.
I am not too hopeful because from the upfront it looks like these people have managed to find some kind of post-apocalyptic Abercrombie to keep them clothed and an Aveda salon to keep up their looks. Where one gets product fifteen years after the cessation of electricity is a source of never ending curiosity for me.
Science fiction on major television networks is usually a fail. Fox has managed to be successful with the X-Files and Fringe. Let’s remember, however, that the X-Files’ last episode was aired in 2002 after a nine season run and Fringe is scheduled to be done next season after its fifth season. For every one of those shows there is a Terra Nova, Earth 2, or Alien Nation.
The failings are many, but most of the time the concept is supposed to make up for a lack of character development, compelling plots, or genuine emotion. How many times does one of these shows come out and the main complaint is that you do not care what happened to any of the characters? Too often. If you put B-grade writing on a beautiful stage it is still B-grade writing.
The other failing that drives me nuts is that the characters behave so differently than would be expected of a normal person in a normal setting. Just because it is the year 2100 or you have been sent back in time or you are living on a world where aliens are integrated among us does not mean that you will suddenly behave in a way that is counter to most people’s instincts. Sorry, but that is nonsense.
I can hope that the show runners behind Revolution have looked at the landscape of mediocrity, identified the true gems, and crafted a blueprint that has a reasonable chance of critical success. Otherwise, it’s just going to be another CSI: Dinosaur Island.
One last thing, here was my primary quibble with Terra Nova—besides the turning of a science fiction show into a low rent procedural with different scenery—why did the people defending the compound from dinosaurs or “sixers” or whatever use some kind of sonic wave weapon as the primary heavy artillery? Sure, I can see not transporting armored vehicles equivalent to tanks or utilizing guided rocket systems but even in 2012 there are small, shoulder fired rocket systems capable of leveling an entire building. What would one of those do to a giant lizard threatening your sanctuary? I do not know what a t-rex tastes like but it has to be better than running scared any time one of those things came out of the tree line.