Continuum season 1 episode 1 review: A Stitch In Time
Rob finds much to recommend sci-fi crime series Continuum in its pilot episode. Here's his review of A Stitch In Time...
This review contains spoilers.
1.1 A Stitch In Time
After its Canadian premiere in May, Continuum makes it to British TV screens courtesy of the Syfy channel. Having already received a warm reception in its homeland, expectations are high that the show will translate well to an international audience.
For those unaware of the basic premise, Continuum begins in 2077, in a world where corporations have taken over the globe and personal freedoms have been eradicated. Terrorism still exists in the guise of Liber8 who rebel against corporation rule and think nothing of slaying thousands in order to kill a few specific targets. Our protagonist, Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols), is charged with overseeing the execution of members from Liber8 when the prisoners manage to escape back to 2012. Kiera follows, and starts to track down the escapees whilst integrating herself in her new timeline.
The premise itself is interesting enough, and offers promising storylines – how did Libert8 get the time machine? Are the mysterious corporations involved? And will the show employ Back To The Future-style paradox mechanics? There’s little in the way of competition for this type of show, with perhaps the now-cancelled Alcatraz being similar in its we-need-to-get-the-bad-guys-but-there’s-something-else-going-on vibe. The fact that a second season has already been commissioned would indicate that Continuum won’t share Alcatraz’s fate – but is it any good?
The pilot goes the way of many before it – set the scene as quickly as possible and get people back for a second week. In this, it mostly succeeds.
The acting is solid, certainly Nichols has the charisma to be a show carrier. The supporting cast on the other hand is given little to do apart from propel the plot and set the scene. The relationship between Nichols and Webster will no doubt develop but here, has little to do. The Libert8 gang are equally bland although there are hints of internal frictions that will hopefully provide some depth to their motives. It was disappointing to see that we got no idea of how evil these corporations were or what freedoms had been lost, in fact, life in 2077 didn’t look that bad. I can only imagine future episodes will cover this in more detail. As an aside, it’s always good to see William B Davies back in genre television, even though his appearance is this is brief. One hopes, and expects, that he will enjoy more screen time as the series progresses.
The episode opens impressively with the above-standard CGI creating a Blade Runner-lite world. Similarly, it is good to see that some attention has been paid to the detail and technology of 2077, with weapons and the ‘super’ suit being particular examples. However, the climatic shoot-out does hint that the suit will become a deus ex machina in the writers’ arsenal. This would be a shame, as the show’s other gadgets, like the ‘internal’ hard drive are more interesting concepts to explore. Considering the effort made, and plot possibilities, I imagine the world of 2077 will be one to which we return frequently.
Of particular interest amidst a pilot that was largely formulaic, was the attempt to moralise Liber8 tactics. Although the execution seemed forced, the show makers tried to inject ambiguity into the terrorist motives, and though justifying the slaughter of thousands for the sake of twenty may still be a big ask, all signs point to this being a meaty recurring theme. I appreciate any show that goes for moral ambiguity; 24 did it very well and was certainly an essential element of that show's success. It is perhaps too early to tell if this will become something that Continuum will focus on, but the thought of a show – and a sci-fi one at that - exploring the terrorist/freedom fighter dynamic is a fascinating one.
Likewise, it looks like Continuum will eschew the more traditional 'bad guy of the week' formula Instead, we get the more exciting prospect of a true time-travel dilemma – bad guys using their knowledge of the future to affect the past. For all the traditional routes that the pilot has followed, that concept alone will get me back for a second week. Throw in a few paradoxes and possible alternative futures and the show will certainly have a future or at least the possibility of one. The next few episodes will be key to see where they take it – but there is certainly promise.