Friday 4 December 2009

Paradox (BBC TV SF detective series)

I have a major concern about this new series, since I've never found one which so strenuously avoids being watched. I missed most of the first episode due to my supposedly idiot-proof new digital recorder deciding to record only the last twenty minutes of the hour-long episode. I initially assumed that I'm just a higher grade of idiot than they allowed for, but in view of subsequent events I'm beginning to wonder. This failure did prompt me to investigate BBC's iPlayer, which provides access via their website to any of their output for the previous seven days. I had thought I'd need to watch it online, but discovered that I could download it and watch it on TV, given the right connections. One connecting lead later, plus much fiddling with computer settings accompanied by the traditional grumblings and cursings, eventually produced a result. The picture didn't occupy the whole screen but it was acceptable and at last I could see the whole episode.

For the second episode I was prepared. I not only checked carefully that the digital recorder was set for the full hour, I also set the DVD recorder to provide a backup. The next morning I checked the digital device - complete blank. So I sneered at it and congratulated myself on my thoroughness until I checked the DVD - also a complete blank. So it was back to the iPlayer again, except that this very shy series had evidently found out about this back-door route as the screen kept going black, but I discovered that hitting the ESC key brought it back again. I await with interest next week's happenings; will the iPlayer crash altogether this time?

Anyway, what's this reluctant show all about? The two principal characters are a scientist monitoring satellite data who finds that mysterious images giving fragmentary views of disasters keep being downloaded from a satellite, and the police detective he calls in to help identify them. Together they discover that the disasters haven't happened yet, and race (with varying degrees of success so far) to piece together what, where and who in order to try to prevent them.

This is looking like a classic piece of TV hokum. So far there is no indication of how this might be happening, or why only images of disasters are shown, or why the images show random close-ups which provide just enough evidence to lead the detective to the spot, or why all the disasters happen so conveniently close to their Manchester base. The scientist is unconvincing, displaying a rather creepy and enigmatic air of mystery instead of going off his trolley as any sensible person would, but fortunately the detective is played by Tamzin Outhwaite who is always worth watching (and not just for the usual male reasons - stop sniggering at the back!).

Perhaps the explanation for the difficulty in seeing the show is that it has acquired artificial intelligence and is too ashamed to be reviewed? Well, it's not all bad; there's a lot of drama in the race to piece together the evidence, interspersed with scenes of those involved heading unknowingly towards their disasters. If you can park your critical faculties and accept the preposterous premise at face value it becomes quite exciting. It could be one of those series that turns out to be so silly that it becomes addictive. I'll stick with it for the time being to see how it goes - provided of course that it decides to let me watch it (come on, now, it's not such a bad review, is it?).


Fred said...

_Paradox_ reminds me of a US TV show from several decades ago. If I remember correctly, the main character got a found a newspaper every morning outside his door which reports the coming events of the day.

He then spends the day with friends trying to avert the impending disaster or accident or murder or whatever.

Since the articles included relevant names and addresses and locations, as a newspaper article would, the focus was on the prevention and not much on determining what and when and where, etc.

It quickly became formulaic, at least for me.

Anthony G Williams said...

I gather that there's a more recent series, Farsight, which has similarities, but I don't know anything about it.

Fred said...

_Farsight_? I hadn't heard about this one.

In any case, the paradox is similar to that for time travel.

Anthony G Williams said...

Sorry, memory failed me: the series is called "Flashforward". See

Fred said...

Thanks. I'll check it out. I haven't heard of this one either.