Monday, June 24, 2013

'Continuum' - Season One (2012)

Starring Rachel Nichols, Erik Knudsen and Victor Webster
Created by Simon Barry

In the year 2077, corporations have replaced government in ruling the people. While this dystopian future is advanced and many people live lives of comfort, freedom is a thing of the past. People are born with "life-debts" that they can never erase, always forced to work for the corporations for "life-credits" to earn their amenities.

Police officer Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) is ordered to witness the execution of a band of terrorists, the leadership of a group known as Liber8, who blew up a corporate congress building and killed thousands. But when the execution gets underway, the terrorists reveal their secret plan: In a flash, they travel back through time to the year 2012 and prepare to begin their revolution again in an earlier time, to rewrite history in their own image.

What they didn't count on was that Kiera would be thrown back in time with them. Posing as a government agent, Kiera works with the Vancouver Police Department, partnered with Detective Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster) to track down these terrorists and put them away for a long, long time. She also forms an alliance with a young technical genius, Alec Sadler (Erik Knudsen) who in the future will run one of the world's largest and most impressive corporations - and only young Sadler knows the truth about Kiera's identity.

As Kiera attempts to adjust to life in 2012, the members of Liber8, including their vicious and charismatic leader Edouard Kagame (Tony Amendola), grow more cunning in their methods to undermine government and police authority. And at the end of the day, Kiera wonders if, even after she's defeated Liber8, will she ever be able to go home to her husband and son?

"Continuum" is one of those mildly interesting, rather entertaining, but not exactly mind-blowing Canadian TV shows. It's solidly constructed, decently acted, and has a few really interesting ideas rumbling around inside of it, but it's never going to be the greatest thing on TV.

The show mixes police procedural with time travel, though it does so more successfully than previous attempts that I've seen. What's interesting is that the writers seem to be playing with the idea that the future can't be changed, that nothing Kiera or Liber8 do in the past will actually alter the future - including killing their own ancestors. Several theories are presented, including one of my favorites, that Kiera and Liber8 were already part of the timeline of 2012, though no one particular theory is proven true by the show. At least, not in this season.

Another interesting idea in the show is that it forces you to sympathise with Kiera, who you often forget is actually an enforcer for a government that oppresses the people. But the thing is that Kiera is actually a good person. She will always protect the innocent, and in flashbacks is shown to sympathise with rioters once she learns they just want food, and she also shows mercy to the criminals she captures. The members of Liber8, on the other hand, are vicious terrorists even though their goals sound noble - freedom and happiness for all. The show doesn't play with this moral conflict in the slightest, which is unfortunate because after the time travel aspects, it's easily the most interesting thing about the entire concept. For a better example, check out FX's "The Americans," which uncomfortably forces you to root for a pair of KGB spies in the early 1980s. If "Continuum" was that good a show, trust me, I'd be raving.

Otherwise, it's fairly disposable entertainment. The acting is decent, but not noteworthy. Rachel Nichols is a fine enough actress (and an attractive one) but the material doesn't often call for her to do much more than be confused about how things are done in 2012 versus 2077, or to look sullen as she's missing her family. She comes alive in a few parts, though, where she gets to interact rather naturally with her co-star, Victor Webster. The two have good chemistry together, which is often the saving grace of any show. No matter how well-written, two actors who can't work together will suck the life out of anything. These two can handle it.

The cast is also another weak-point for the show in general, if an entire series populated by familiar Canadian TV character actors will bother you. Everyone on this show, you've seen somewhere else, whether it be "Battlestar Galactica," (or its short-lived "Caprica" spinoff), or the various "Stargate" shows, "Jericho" or really any other TV show shot in Vancouver. I'm pretty sure Vancouver has the smallest, most incestuous pool of TV actors on the planet. Yeah, they're all here, making the series often feel like some kind of SyFy Channel reunion party.

If you can get past that, the show isn't bad at all. The episodes move at a decent clip, with only a couple outright stinkers in the bunch (mind-control VR helmets? c'mon, guys, it's 2012 - use a Kinect). The finale sets up some storylines for the second season well enough, though the episode itself feels somewhat anticlimactic. Still, this season is only 10 episodes long and ultimately that understatement might be part of what saves it. The show doesn't outstay its welcome or try to be too grandiose for its own good.

Season One of "Continuum" streams on Netflix.