Let’s be honest: time travel shows are a bitch. Not only is the creative team on a show responsible for setting up two universes (if not more), but also some kind of logical set of rules for affecting the continuity of said universes. Continuum – a Showcase series that makes its American debut on SyFy tonight – smartly stays away from defining these rules in its pilot, moving away from the metaphysical to establish an interesting mythology about a failed revolution, a teenage prodigy, and a police officer who is ripped from her family and transported back to 2012, landing herself smack in the middle of it all in one fell swoop. It’s a show with some promise – albeit one I’m tempering my expectations for, considering some of the more disturbing things in the pilot.
‘A Stitch In Time’ introduces us to Kiera Cameron, a Protector in the year 2077. She works for the Vancouver police force, employed by the corporate dictatorship who took over America when the government went broke and took a bailout from the corporations. That piece of the premise is probably the most interesting – and unfortunately, the part we’re going to hear a lot of people talk about, but never see (according to the opening scenes, the bailout happens in roughly 2057 or so). When the pilot opens, Kiera’s busting a man who’s one of the members of Liber8, a violent revolutionary movement who get sentenced to execution for killing thousands of people when they blew up two skyscrapers trying to take out the heads of the most powerful corporations in the conglomerate.
Kiera gets pulled into the past when the prisoners create a vortex at their execution site, dropping them into 2012 Vancouver (they were only planning on arriving in 2071, but apparently, this is even better). Through some really inexplicably lame plot convolution, Kiera manages to fake her way into the police department, where she’ll be hunting the organization she was trained to stop from starting a war “they’ve already lost once.”
Kiera’s character is really heavy on the sci-fi, being a super cop with computer chips in her head and fancy futuristic do-it-all suits that she wears on the job. But the technology on and inside her body is important: it’s created by Alec Sadler, who in 2077 is one of the most powerful people in the world, his liquid chip technology being the foundation of the technology-driven society of the future. In 2012, however, he’s a 17-year old computer whiz, who is testing his proprietary technology when Kiera arrives. His character is the most interesting part of the show – and not just because of the horribly predictable reveal at the end, when Kiera remembers meeting the elderly Alec in a Vancouver park.
His character is really the crux of the show: his involvement in the future is important to all of the show’s major plot lines – he’s the guy who creates the technology and has the money to bail out the government; his presence at the executions hints that he may have orchestrated it; and his presence in 2012 with Kiera and Liber8 will ultimately define the rules of the show. As he suggests to Kiera, there are two different bodies of thought in quantam physics: she’s either part of a time loop, and this already happened (therefore the future can’t be changed), or them traveling back to 2012 created a time rip, and they’ve now become part of a new time line, with the impending war Liber8 is planting the seeds for bound to arrive a lot earlier – and unlike the first time, may not fail.
It’s a lot, yes – and the events of the pilot play out in rapid, brutal fashion, moving from gun fight to gun fight, including an off-screen massacre where Liber8 rip through the Vancouver police office to free one of their members. At times, ‘A Stitch In Time’ gets way too bullet friendly, with long, drawn-out shooting matches with nobody getting killed, injured, or having some kind of important, meaningful interaction. In fact, the best action moments in the episode are when Kiera puts her super-suit to use, shocking someone from distance, or trying to pick up traces of people by measuring heat patterns in their footsteps.
Most of her family material feels arbitrary, as well: the show posits that there are two stories going on in Continuum – a personal tale of a strong mother trying to reunite with her family, and the over-arching story of social change and time travel, which Kiera only seems concerned with as far as her family is involved. If the show is going to keep the personal parts of her story interesting, she’s going to have to get embroiled in this battle further than “I just want my family back”… at some point, her drive to get home is going to be superseded by the dense conspiracy/revolution at the heart of the show, and it will make her crying and emotionally manipulative ‘flashbacks’ she has recorded in her head feel completely arbitrary to the show.
Continuum doesn’t have much time to establish its characters and introduce the many facets of its narrative, so the forgettable character work in ‘A Stitch of Time’ is mostly forgivable: although it spends too much time chasing and shooting, the pilot does a great job establishing its world and characters, without spending too much time defining its rules or justifying its conveniences. It’s tautly paced, and appears to have a strong grasp on the story it wants to tell… of course, this is sci-fi: plot lines can be ruined in a second.
– it’s very odd to have a female protagonist who is basically endorsing the 1%’ers, fighting an extremely violent social justice and liberty group.
– Kagami is apparently one of Liber8 who didn’t make the trip… why not?
– Alec’s decisions are by far the most important on the show (considering his influence on the future with his impending wealth)… just something to keep in mind moving forward.
– the “8” sculpture in the 2012 is missing one of its curves in 2077, suggesting the future is ‘broken’, and 2012 was selected for a reason, not merely an accident of going 60 years instead of 6.