Star-Crossed episode 1 review: Pilot

Review Caroline Preece 19 Feb 2014 - 12:02

Star-Crossed seems to be behind the times on the sci-fi high school genre. Here's Caroline's review of its first episode...

This review contains spoilers.

1.1 Pilot

There are good shows and bad shows, but there are also shows that surpass expectations and shows that fall woefully short of potential. Unfortunately, though The CW’s latest stab at supernatural high school romance, Star-Crossed, has every chance of being the next Vampire Diaries or Reign and actually developing into something worth watching week to week, the premiere episode belongs in the latter category. There are a lot of great ideas, competent young actors and a pleasing dollop of daring in the show’s first hour but then, despite this, all of the good things have to fight to get noticed over the bad.

So, getting the disappointing stuff out of the way first, Star-Crossed is by its very nature a dated high school show, with a compilation of actors from other series just to draw attention to this fact. We have Aimee Teegarden from Friday Night Lights, Malese Jow from Vampire Diaries, Matt Lanter from 90210, Grey Damon from everything and a whole host of other guest stars/recurring characters who are noticeably recognisable for anyone who’s been paying attention to the US teen drama scene over the last few years. That wouldn’t be a drawback, but I think the show has ambitions above and beyond this target audience.

The CW has crafted an entire business model around the popularity of supernatural romance shows, but Star-Crossed, in all its efforts to say something important/new, fails to step out from the shadow of previous series like Roswell, with which it bears much resemblance. It’s one of those shows that always appear at the tail-end of a trend, like everything that followed Lost, but fails to move the genre forward any further. Does anyone actually want or need another Romeo and Juliet-with-a-twist stories that inevitable develops into an ever-revolving love triangle that happens to include an alien? I’m the ultimate CW apologist, and I’m not even sure I do.

But that’s a bit unfair, because Star-Crossed also has a lot going for it. As with the previously mentioned Reign, there are new ways to present the aged high school soap if a few tweaks are made, and propelling the action ten years into the future is an effective way of doing so. The futuristic flourishes are subtle enough to please sci-fi geeks without becoming a distraction and the extent of technological and societal changes has obviously been worked out beforehand (that might sound like faint praise, but not when so many shows don’t even seem to bother), and the idea of a group of alien teenagers, the Atrian Seven, being integrated into the school system with other, unwelcoming, kids obviously has shades of American history, also.

The story is relatively simple – an alien race has crash landed on earth and humans have attempted to deal with the new arrivals in the best way they know how – control, strict laws and segregation. On the day of the crash, a human child, Emery (Teegarden), befriends one of the Atrians, Roman (Lanter), and years later they are reunited on the first day of school. The love story is obviously coming, given that both of them are outsiders (Emery has spent the last four years in hospital with a vague, yet-to-be-explained disorder) and, you know, ‘star-crossed’, and cool kid Grayson provides the third point to their developing triangle.

As an exploration of fraught race relations in America, Star-Crossed has good intentions but emerges pretty toothless in practice. People have been critical of the show for its old-fashioned perspective and shaky character introductions, but experience has taught us all to give shows like this more of a chance. It all hinges on how much focus the love triangle gets over the admittedly intriguing genre stuff but I, for one, have hopes for the future after the final twist.

There are things that could well start to bring the stronger elements of the show to the fore, and this premiere should have enough promise to keep open-minded sci-fi fans and teen drama enthusiasts coming back for a while at least. This premiere wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad either, and we’ll have to wait and see whether Star-Crossed has bitten off more than it can chew with big ideas and sci-fi concepts, or whether it can improve on itself in the coming weeks. 

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Disqus - noscript

I'm not sure I agree with this. Roswell, unlike Star-crossed, was about an alien race forced to remain in secret, whereas this new show twists the typical story to make it more about them adapting to an oppressive society. That's what I loved about it. There seemed to be more to it than mere romance; the way the human populous acted toward the members of the alien race made the show entirely fascinating.

I read this in high school it was called Romeo and Juliet, What drivel they shove at kids these days. but hey all you have to do is just show one of them just a picture of a dodge ball and they fetal position in fear.

"What drivel they shove at kids these days"

Not really. 20 years ago they didn't really make TV for older teen/young adults. The A Team or Knight Rider was perhaps the nearest you got. I can't think of much else, however I'm happy to be corrected.

I think it's fair to say neither of those were exactly award winning and mostly the shows were aimed at boys.

Truth is there's a wider selection of movies and TV for older teens than ever before, so some of it will be drivel, but there's never been a golden age of TV, let alone TV aimed at the audience this show is trying to attract.

How anyone can read this and not think: "Alien Nation!" baffles me. But that was back when they made sci fi for adults not teens.

Scratch this whole reharsh thing and put on more DC!

I thought the show was rather dangerous for US television. It does not show Americans in a very good light at all. And as for the comparisons with "Roswell" (which I do own the boxed set of...) I don't see it at all. To me it looks at least a bit like a simplified version of the movie "District 9". There are a few vague similarities with "Alien Nation" but that was a buddy cop show.

Its very difficult to have original concepts now. There's only so many story-types and environments around that work in a television format and many of them have been done to death. "Almost Human" would be a better replica of "Alien Nation", "Lost" (at least at first) could be compared with "Gilligan's Island" and so on. At least this show is attempting something different by making us the bad guys.

I also thought they did an excellent job of the "10 years in the future" but that may well be the show's downfall. It will be an expensive little number to make, and since there doesn't seem to be much of an appreciative audience I don't imagine it will last.

After a very short amount of time I began to wonder if I was watching a science-fiction television show or was I watching a music video. The over-bearing use of music adds a real lameness factor to the show, especially when they take a song like "Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In" and make it sound like a Muzak version of Perry Como singing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or something. Comedian Steve Allan used to do this sort of thing to up-tempo pop songs of the sixties. But at least he was going for humour. These people likely take themselves very seriously. Perhaps too much so. Give me Tomorrow People, Arrow, American Horror Story, Bates Motel, etc... over this any day. I will stay tuned but I hope they whip this show into shape soon or I won't be for long. It's not as bad as Bitten, but it would be nice if it had more plot and fewer scenes drowned out with music. Even when I liked the music there was way too much of it and it was too much in the foreground. When you take out the commercials, your average one hour show these days only runs 40 minutes. I fail to see the need for shows like this one and Bitten to have SO MUCH in the way of padding out and FILLER SCENES. Bitten for example is two-thirds filler scenes for most episodes. This show is not quite that bad, so I'm hoping future episodes will be better.

I completely agree. Not sure why people feel the need to put everything in a bracket. I'm a huge sci-fi geek and think this has such amazing potential over and above the romance side. This show has actually got me wondering exactly how would we act if aliens did indeed land on earth?

I'm still waiting for the next great televised space opera...or they could just bring farscape back, I miss it so much :'(

Definitely going to give this show a chance to grow into its skin. I'm seeing more of West Side Story rather than Romeo and Juliet, with a healthy dose of District 9 xenophobia. With guts and grit, this show could easily develop into something far more noteworthy than just another superficial sci-fi teen parody. As for the DC hormone and hunk overload which is way too cookie-cutter driven...how many angst-ridden super heroes with bangin bods and bad-ass attitudes (and no masks so you REALLY don't know who they are) do we need to endure without reaching for a real book???

Definitely going to give this show a chance to grow into its skin. I'm seeing more of West Side Story rather than Romeo and Juliet, with a healthy dose of District 9 xenophobia. With guts and grit, this show could easily develop into something far more noteworthy than just another superficial sci-fi teen parody. As for the DC hormone and hunk overload which is way too cookie-cutter driven...how many angst-ridden super heroes with bangin bods and bad-ass attitudes (and no masks, but you REALLY don't know who they are) do we need to endure without reaching for a real book???

It was an alright episode.
I know I will skip over the romance of the main female and male because I tend to do that. Secondary characters ( like Julia ) are the ones who wake up my interest since I want to see what happens to them.
I can't say much about the series since it only started so I will judge later on.
Have to say that the characters are not annoying so far but, since it is only the "Pilot" it is to be expected.

The only problem I had with the episode was the background music. I understand, once or twice using some song is fine but, it just annoyed me. Hope they tune that part down a little.

I sincerely doubt we would shoot them immediately. Also I can't help but think the xenophobia is over-exaggerated. If they really were invading, do you really think they would CRASH THEIR SHIP? Unless they were going for an elaborate deception I suppose.

likingthis show a lot. hot leads that belong together and cant be together for good reasons - gets me every time. Also, more evolved beings - gets me every time. But it turns out the Atrians have their scoundrels as much as the Terras. Oh well. thats life.

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