In Canada: Sundays, 9pm ET/PT, Showcase
Canada seems to have had a thing for time travel for late. Maybe it’s pining for a previous government or something, but following semi-hot on the heels of Being Erica, we have Continuum on Showcase – Canada’s last best hope for original programming thanks to all the government cutbacks.
Continuum is doubly a show about time travel since you feel like you’re going back in time when you watch it – it’s essentially a remake of Time Trax, starring everyone who co-starred but didn’t star in that series you used to watch: Rachel Nichols from Alias, Victor Webster from Mutant X, Lexa Doig from Andromeda, Roger R Cross from 24, and probably everyone who’s been in any episode of Stargate ever (but not starred in it).
Here we have Nichols as a cop in a dystopia 65 years in our future in which the corporations have bailed out the failed governments and imposed their own not-always benign laws. When a bunch of incarcerated terrorists (or are they just rebels?) somehow manage to escape to 2012, Nichols gets accidentally dragged back with them and she has to round them up again before they can take over the world, prevent the future and kill lots of people in the process.
So far, so Time Trax. The big difference between Continuum and Time Trax, however, is that despite being a little mired in the police procedural genre, Continuum is actually pretty good, with some interesting attempts at world building, a couple of twists on the whole time travel thing, and some really halfway decent bits of futurology.
Plus it’s got Rachel Nichols in a catsuit. That’ll work.
Continuum is a one-hour police drama centered on Kiera Cameron, a regular cop from 65 years in the future who finds herself trapped in present day Vancouver. She is alone, a stranger in a strange land, and has eight of the most ruthless criminals from the future, known as Liber8, loose in the city.
Lucky for Kiera, through the use of her CMR (cellular memory recall), a futuristic liquid chip technology implanted in her brain, she connects with Alec Sadler, a seventeen-year-old tech genius. When Kiera calls and Alec answers, a very unique partnership begins.
Kiera’s first desire is to get “home.” But until she figures out a way to do that, she must survive in our time period and use all the resources available to her to track and capture the terrorists before they alter history enough to change the course of the future. After all, what’s the point of going back if the future isn’t the one you left?
Kiera knows that the eight terrorists will resort to criminal activity to further their goals of taking down the corporations that will one day rule the world. Lives will be lost. Her goal is to kill or capture them before they can turn the world upside down.
For Kiera, there’s only one organization that can help her hunt down Liber8, and through clever thinking, manages to work with the Vancouver Police Department. Partnered up with Detective Carlos Fonnegra of the Special Investigations Unit, Kiera positions herself perfectly to hear about Liber8’s activities and hopefully intervene.
Like Kiera, Carlos is a cop with a passion for justice. They are from totally opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. Coming from 2012, Carlos believes in justice for the individual while Kiera, coming from 2077, believes in justice for the corporation. This provides sparks on many levels: work, political worldviews and emotionally.
Yet despite their differences, they have each other’s back. And although they get off to a rocky start, there’s an inherent trust that blooms between them. Kiera, brought up and trained to always depend on her technology, finds her relationship with Carlos has her learning to listen to her gut for the first time.
Is it any good?
Well, it’s not Tolstoy, but it’s actually a pretty decent hour-long bit of sci-fi that for once is not only filmed in Vancouver but is set in Vancouver as well.
The show is essentially a cop show, with Nichols having to chase down and stop terrorists from destroying the corporations that end up running the future 65 years from now. Here we have our first twist: Nichols is on the side of the evil corporations, not just practically but philosophically as well, whereas the terrorists are on the side of the individuals and freedom. But Nichols is law-abiding and an upholder of justice and the terrorists are the ones who murder the innocents to achieve their ends. It’s like having to root for Servalan and Travis against Blake and Avon in Blakes 7. Or for Hordak against She-Ra.
Will she change sides? Who knows, and more importantly, would it matter if she did because all of this happens in Nichols’ past and here we have the next twist: is the future changeable or is the future the way it is because of what Nichols and the terrorists all end up doing in the present day? There are strong hints it’s the latter, because Nichols comes across a Jesse Eisenberg-a-like working on the prototypes of the technology that she uses in her police work; she knows him in the future (spoiler: it’s William Davis, the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files) and there are strong hints that he knows all about Nichols at their first meeting.
The last twist is the show’s future building, which makes Minority Report pale in comparison. Here we have technology and ideas that feel like they’re from 65 years in the future and not, like Terra Nova, just versions of the 1950s with a bit of CGI added.There are brain implants, computer-brain integration, heads-up displays for eyes, thinking clothing, all set against a semi-Blade Runner backdrop. It’s quite impressive for a Canadian cable show. Indeed, Nichols’ catsuit is almost a character in its own right, a never-ending bag of tricks that can make her invisible, bullet-proof and more, and you’re always waiting for the next trick – hence my earlier “that’ll work” (did you think I was being sexist? O ye of little faith)
Unlike Time Trax, there are hints that the future is not going to be off limits to the writers and we are a going to get a dual plot, with some of the show dedicated to the future narrative and some to the past. Since the present-day police work is the least interesting aspect of the show, albeit a very action-packed, gun-happy, martial-arts happy aspect that’s better than Alias on a good day, this can only be a good thing and I’m hoping that they haven’t spent all the budget on the first episode. It’s also clearly a serial show with a decent story arc and hopefully minimal padding planned, one in which neither the good guys nor the bad guys are morons. And who knows who the bad guys are in this anyway?
Attempts at characterisation are a little thin on the ground, although Nichols does a good job of conveying the loss of her family, who are in a future she can’t return to. Jesse Eisenberg-a-like gets a family who are against the corporations of the present day, but seeing as he might end up setting up a corporation, he’s not big with hanging out at their protest meetings. Otherwise, everyone from Nichols’ new ‘partner’ Victor Webster gets little to do beyond growl and ask questions. In fact, the bad guys get more background than Webster and the other cops.
On the whole, though, a semi-thoughtful, semi-decent science-fiction action show that’s neither too demanding nor too derivative. And, like I said, it’s actually set in Vancouver, so Nichols can ask Webster “Was anyone brought in last night?” and the answer is only one guy was – which is refreshing.
Fingers crossed they won’t cancel it like Endgame.