Our Fall Science Television preview concludes with our last installment. ScriptPhD.com give you a sneak peek of the conclusion of Warehouse 13, the hit reality show Destination Truth, and new series V and the delectable, highly-recommended ScriptPhD.com pick for best new fall show, Stargate Universe. I sincerely hope that our three-part guide to some (though not all) of the vast and rising science and technology content on television was a helpful guide and provided you a variety of options from shows returning and launching as you embark on your Fall TV seasons. Wishing you all full TiVos and busy remotes!
Season premiere on November 3rd on ABC.
Where were you when JFK was assassinated? Where were you on 9/11? Where were you this morning? These ominous questions, flashed for the audience at the beginning of the V pilot, are intended to convey: something important is going to happen. Using an excruciatingly suspenseful build-up to introduce the main characters, a series of shaking events leads to a spaceship hovering over New York City and, as it happens 29 others around the world. [Those of you who enjoyed District 9 are not hallucinating at the V poster–you will note some quite obvious parallels in this show.] There is some spectacular imagery and special effects in play as a blinding light reveals a surprisingly beautiful human face–Anna (Morena Baccarin), the leader of a stranded people, in search of sustenance and replenishment, all in exchange for their advanced medicine and technology. Everything seems peaceful, idyllic and perfect. Seems.
Right away, amidst an outpouring of affection and goodwill, incongruities pop up. The “V”‘s (visitors) are curing diseases, giving rides in spaceships, and boosting local economies. But the ambassador Anna will only give a filtered, staged interview about her people to an ambitious TV reporter (a delightfully smarmy Scott Wolf). The V Ambassador Program to spread their culture and beliefs seems more akin to a cult–one that snares the son (Logan Huffman) of FBI Agent Erica Evans (Lost alum Elizabeth Mitchell). All this devotion to the V’s arouses the suspicion of Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch) despite people flocking to churches. He is warned that the V’s are really out to obliterate humanity and are not what they seem. An unrelated piece of evidence–that terrorist chatter is up since the arrival of the V’s–yields a secret New York City terrorist cell with C4 explosives.
The two plots fuse together in an ending that is so shocking and central to the extended plot of the show, that ABC asked critics not to reveal any of it. And really, why would we want to ruin your fun? Suffice it to say that the “reveal” of the global spaceships was Part I of an elaborate deleterious plan already set in motion decades ago. Global figures, senators, politicians, everyday people are not who you think they are. The infiltrators will surprise you. And some of their actions will surprise you even more. V, armed with an excellent ensemble cast and terrific writing, explores some salient, important themes; the destructive power of unchecked devotion, and the need of human beings to believe in something in the face of daunting adversity, but at what cost? The consequences are dire, the foes fiercely armed, and the ultimate war will be launched. Let’s hope that what was a thoroughly satisfying, intriguing pilot is developed into a cogent, well thought-out piece of science fiction.
While not as tightly composed as the wonderful FlashForward, V still has some fine acting, suspense, some genuine surprises, and a mysterious story arc that should keep me watching at least through the first season. A definite ScriptPhD.com sci-fi pick.
Season finale airs on September 22, 2009 at 9 PM on SyFy.
One of this summer’s unexpected (and inexplicable) hits, breaking out as one of cable’s top 10 programs, was SyFy’s original procedural about a team of United States secret service agents working in the government’s secret Warehouse 13, a storage unit in the middle of South Dakota, that houses supernatural objects, relics and artifacts from history. Fallen agent James MacPherson (how much do we love Roger Rees? So much!), an archnemesis of the team throughout the first season, reappears in the season finale, properly entitled “MacPherson”, brings this conflict to its climax and conclusion (or is it?)
The ScriptPhD has screened the season finale, and can verify certain questions are answered while others are raised. MacPherson, having absconded with the fire-resistant phoenix medallion, along with other artifacts, plans to sell them for nefarious purposes. In the hunt to retrieve them (and him), it is revealed that computer whiz Claudia Donovan knows James, and may have even had help from him to hack into the Warehouse computer system. Just as Agents Lattimer and Bering bring him in to be permanently bronzed (seriously, I said bronzed), something unexpected happens, and MacPherson receives help from the person you least suspect. Someone will have possibly perished, someone is a traitor in the midst (and it’s the person you least suspect), and a whole new season’s worth of mystery is set up in the last five minutes.
Airs Wednesday nights at 9 PM on SyFy
For those of you looking to spice up your science reality beyond the occasional National Geographic special, you might consider SyFy’s popular reality hit Destination Truth. Like its network sibling Ghost Hunters, the show, now in its third season, focuses on diffusing the occult and unexplained through the scope of research and the scientific method. Think Survivor meets MacGyver. With a training in both dramatic arts and archaeology, host Josh Gates uses acting chops and bona fide science credentials to look into the world’s most intriguing unexplained mysteries… with flair. At times cheesy [seriously, throw anyone into a pitch-black environment with a night-vision camera and it will engender spookiness] and other times truly interesting [an exploration into the unexplained paranormal hauntings of the Romanian Hoia Baciu Forest ends up with some unexpected results], Truth Hunters still manages to entertain while informing. Josh and his team still examine the evidence using all the technological tools in their arsenal–soil and water samples, thermal imaging, electromagnetic imaging, etc–to come to a science-based conclusion, and only makes definitive statements if the trail of evidence allows it. That, and did we mention the scenery is gorgeous!
This season promises many exciting adventures, with Josh traveling the far corners of the world, including the Himalayan kingdom Bhutan, the heart of Chernobyl, home of the worst nuclear accident in history, an overnight stay in King Tut’s tomb and dives in ancient Caribbean caves.
And finally, I’ve saved the best for last…
Series premiere airs on October 2nd at 9 PM on SyFy.
Imitation, while always the sincerest form of flattery, can sometimes be a double-edged sword. And in the world of television, especially when emulating a Peabody award-winning series such as Battlestar Galactica, it’s a huge risk. From the first shots of austere, dilapidated oblong tube-like hallways of a base ship, it’s obvious that new series Stargate Universe is channeling the spirit of its just-concluded post-apocalyptic cousin. Like in Battlestar, a group of humans fight for their survival on a displaced vessel far from home under savage conditions. There are FTLs, coordinates, and ship jumping galore. There is also a deeper subtext woven into the microcosm that explores the deeper existential issues of justice, science and reason versus emotion and might, and cohesiveness across race and class. And like Battlestar, it makes for compelling, incredible television.
Eli Wallace (David Blue), an MIT dropout video game nerd, is approached by the Secret Service and informed that the secret weapons puzzle he mastered required solving an ages-old math proof. “What are you going to do, beam me up to your spaceship?” he deadpans when they attempt to enlist his help in a project. Yes, actually. Eli finds himself aboard a hyper-secret US government military mission-a hidden baseship deep in outer space. He must solve an ancient language to navigate a Stargate, a millenia-old portal allowing instant transportation anywhere in space that has been modified due wormhole dangers. Only when the base comes under attack unexpectedly, the crew aboard must jump through the Stargate unknowingly for their survival. which is where the Stargate Universe story begins. A group of soldiers, scientists, and civilians end up on an ancient ship–appropriately named the “Destiny–headed on a self-driven course millions of light years away from Earth and completely unsuited to support them.
What had started out as a high-tech mission to outer space becomes an instinctual fight to survive, subsist and get along. Serving as a primer of the weekly exploration, science and humanistic backstories that will serve as the platform of the larger story arc, one of the first episodes centers around a mission to a nearby desert planet to find chemical lye to neutralize carbon dioxide threatening the crew of the ship. A book-smart but socially stunted Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) butts heads with a formerly incarcerated headstrong Master Sgt. Ronald Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) over the best course of action, while a power struggle plays out between Colonels Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips) and Young (Louis Ferreira) over who is in charge of the new ship. Backstories of the characters’ lives back on Earth, told in timely flashbacks, provide a tapestry of ghosts and demons that each is carrying with them aboard the Destiny. With action, sleek sets and high-quality CGI that combine with flawed yet likeable characters forming personal connections under impossible conditions, Stargate Universe is not only instantly-addictive, it’s easily the best new show of the fall season.
To answer a burning question many fans may have, you do not need to have familiarity with erstwhile Stargates (SG-1, Atlantis, etc) to fully enjoy the experience of Stargate Universe. All questions about how the Stargate portal works, and its role in the universe depicted in this spin-off, are addressed in the pilot. The ScriptPhD screened the first three episodes with no knowledge of the aforementioned and was able to thoroughly enjoy the series.