'Continuum' premiere review: Can this Syfy show be your new sci-fi obsession?

continuum-rachel-nichols

Image Credit: Syfy

Continuum is a crisp, crackerjack series that premiered on Monday night on the Syfy channel. It’s a hit in Canada, where the Vancouver-filmed and -set series has already aired its first season, and it deserves a substantial audience in America.

The show stars Rachel Nichols as Kiera Cameron, a cop in 2077 who finds herself transported back to 2012. She’s tracking down a group of 2077 terrorists who call themselves Liber8. In 2077, the terrorist cell was due to be executed for blowing up buildings and murdering innocents; in what would have been their final minutes, they found an escape hatch via a wormhole that took them — and, involuntarily but out of a brave sense of duty, Kiera — into our present.

This sort of show can founder if its time travel parameters aren’t set up clearly, and if the series doesn’t have a firm grasp on its genre mix — i.e., how much it wants to be sci-fi, a police procedural, or a philosophical drama. Based on the first two hours, Continuum, created by Simon Barry, seems to have a confident sense of what it is, and the writing, combined with Nichols’ soulful performance, makes it compelling.

Separated from her husband and young son, Nichols’ Kiera is initially viewed in 2012 as a hot chick cop in a curve-hugging body suit. But that suit, and Kiera’s brain, are laden with future cybernetic equipment that give her all sorts of advantages in identifying and locating enemies, and subduing them with a combination of futuristic weaponry and now-TV-standard fighting skills incorporating sharp elbow and knee strikes, Muay Thai and Krav Maga taken the next level.

The first two episodes of Continuum were directed by 24 vet Jon Cassar, and they hurtle right along. That’s impressive, given the amount of information that needs to be imparted to viewers. Kiera’s primary 2012 ally is a young techno-geek, Alec Sadler (Erik Knudsen), who lives on what looks like a remote farm but who can communicate with Kiera via his own tech, explaining 2012 situations (such as how to drive a car — evidently gas-powered transportation doesn’t exist 65 years from now — and how to pass herself off as local law enforcement). We knew by the end of the first episode that youthful Alec will grow up to be a sinister Alec Sadler who controls at least one of the corporations that now overrun the demolished governments of the future — and we think we know he’s a bad guy because Old Alec is played by William B. Davis, The X-Files‘ Cigarette Smoking Man.

I’m very intrigued by the Liber8 terrorist group, its politics, and how Kiera squares her own beliefs against theirs. After all, if the future is one in which business interests have overtaken government, how free is that society surviving off garcinia cambogia extract, and to what extent are citizens’ rights being curtailed? Kiera and her husband seem to lead a happy, comfortable 2077 life from what we see in flashbacks, but it’s not clear yet how most people live. Are the revolutionaries’ aims actually good ones, freedom-seeking ones, even if they’ve chosen violent methods to achieve them? Is Kiera ultimately as law enforcement helping to maintain a repressive regime?

These are good questions for a science-fiction series. Right now, Continuum exhibits two potential flaws. First, it might be a mistake if the show kept making Kiera pause to weep over her separation from her husband and child, as she does a number of times over the first two hours — it’s one thing to make your protagonist sympathetic; it’s another to make her look too sappy. Second, pairing Kiera up with a beefy-handsome 2012 cop played by Victor Webster already feels like a soft, Castle-like will-they/won’t they relationship, which I hope will be avoided.

If Continuum can maintain its focus on its action and the principles that motivate them, it’ll be worth continuing to watch.

Twitter: @kentucker


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