In the US: Monday 11th December-Wednesday 13th December, Sci Fi. Repeated Sunday 17th December, starting at 5pm.
In the UK: Begins 9pm, 9th January 2007, Sky One
While Big Finish have been jessieing around, trying to recapture the essence of Sapphire and Steel for their audio plays and generally failing hopelessly, someone else has been quietly doing likewise. Surprisingly enough, it’s the US’s Sci Fi Channel who have done their level best to create something with the same qualities as that British fantasy classic, yet is wholly different, original and American.
Yes, a Sci Fi Channel mini-series that’s actually rather good – will miracles never cease?
Back in 1961, something happened. No one’s sure what. Some think God died. Others think the rules of the universe simply broke down. Whatever it was, a motel room off Route 66 was taken out of normal existence, leaving behind 100 or so ‘Objects’.
The Objects are indestructible and can sense each other. They want to be united. Each has strange powers, some useful, some not. The Comb can freeze time. The Spectacles can stop combustion within 20 feet. The Cufflink? The Cufflink can reduce blood pressure, while the supposed Prime Object, the Clock, can sublimate brass. As I said, the powers aren’t always useful.
Then there’s the Key. The Key can open any lock of any door and take you to that missing motel room and then back again to any other door in the world. But what happens if someone’s already in the room and the Key gets used?
The Lost Room is a quest. Early on in the mini-series, Detective Joe Miller (Six Feet Under‘s Peter Krause) stumbles upon the Key. But it’s not long before others are after him. You see, with all these Objects in the world, various groups have formed to collect them, each with their own theories about why the Objects exist and what the best thing to do with them should be.
I’m not spoiling you much by saying that someone close to Miller gets stuck in the room without the key and the rest of the mini-series is his quest for a way to bring him or her back. Along the way, Miller meets with other Object-owners and collectors and gradually tries to piece together the mystery behind the Objects and the room.
The three parts are somewhat varied, with a slightly hectic, plot-filled first part, a more sedate second part that starts providing us with some juicy characterisation and a third part that has a clever ending that’s perhaps a slight cheat – but only slight. It alternates between dramatic, comedic, and intellectually exciting within minutes and keeps you engrossed the whole way through, avoiding most of the possible clichés that could have arisen.
Perhaps the only major flaw in the whole thing are the various cabals of collectors, who have a little too much of the Illuminati about them at times. Miller is something of a cipher, although Krause is charismatic enough that we don’t notice until the story’s finished. The supporting cast is surprisingly star-studded, too, with Kevin Pollack, Julianna Margulies and Ewen Bremner all doing their best with some equally good scripts.
There are a few holes that Nerd Polyfilla will no doubt fill in (I’m already doing it right now) and there are obvious plot strands left in place for a potential sequel, which make the ending not quite as satisfying as it could have been.
But all in all, it’s been a long while since I’ve watched something that kept me guessing all the way through, as it throws up new and original ideas every few minutes (although I’m sure that someone, somewhere will be able to name a sci-fi short story that has similarities). The idea of everyday objects being capable of reality-warping oddness, bizarre things happening in the universe that we don’t understand but could kill us all the same: we’re in honest-to-goodness Sapphire and Steel territory, but with the pacing and budget of the 21st century.
If you didn’t catch it the first time round, watch the re-runs on Sunday. If you’re in the UK, it’s coming to Sky One in January so stay tuned. It probably won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s really worth watching.
Here’s a somewhat jerky YouTube trailer for The Lost Room and you can go to the official site to watch some videos as well.
Peter Krause (Joe Miller)
Kevin Pollak (Karl Kreutzfeld)
Julianna Margulies (Jennifer Bloom)
Dennis Christopher (Dr. Martin Ruber)
Ewen Bremner (Harold Stritzke)
Peter Jacobson (Wally Jabrowski)
Roger Bart (Howard “The Weasel” Montague)
Chris Bauer (Lou Destefano)
Elle Fanning (Anna Miller)
April Grace (Lee Bridgewater)
Benjamin Petry (Isaac Kreutzfeld)
Jason Douglas (Anthony)
Chris Monberg (Little Jim)
Craig R. Baxley
Michael W. Watkins