Saturday 7 September 2013

TV - Under the Dome (2013) and other series

Based on a Stephen King novel (which I haven't read), Under the Dome is set in the present day and concerns events inside a small American town that is suddenly and mysteriously sealed off from the world by an invisible dome-shaped force field several miles across. Cue some dramatic crashes and slicings-in-half as the dome arrives.

The focus in the early episodes (I've seen the first three so far) is entirely on the impact of this event on the townspeople and visitors who are caught there, with all sorts of personal stories and devious schemes being gradually revealed and people showing their true colours under the stress of the situation. We are not shown anything about what's going on outside the dome (except for the sight of biohazard-suited people performing tests on it) nor is there any hint as to how or why it might have appeared. Bizarrely, there is no attempt by those outside the dome to establish communications with those within, which if anything like this happened in reality would be a first priority. While radio waves don't reliably penetrate the dome, it would be simple and obvious to erect message boards on both sides.

Also, apart from one brief mention, no-one has so far expressed any concern about what would rapidly become the priorities as a result of the shut-down of mains electric power. First there is the piped water supply. If the source were outside the dome, it would be cut off immediately. If inside, the towers providing water pressure would soon run dry as they need electric pumps to keep them filled. Then there's the availability of food. Shops normally keep only a few days supply of food (rather less for perishables) and much of that will be frozen or refrigerated, as will be the food in people's homes. With no power, except for a few places with their own generators, that will quickly spoil, so only dried and tinned food will be available, plus whatever happens to be growing – and ripe – in fields and gardens. While there seems to be plenty of farmland and a lot of cows within the dome, it takes months to raise crops, and people might get tired of nothing but beef to eat. And incidentally, when the generators run out of fuel, how will they be refuelled? Without power, the gas stations won't be able to operate. You could probably get around that issue by moving one of the generators to a gas station, but nothing like this has even been mentioned. In fact, the main problem with the loss of power identified so far is that teenagers can't recharge their phones and media players (without which, of course, their world comes to an end), and the only response to potential shortages has been someone bulk-buying cigarettes.

As a result of this peculiar omission of such obvious practical issues, so far it's just a routine "disparate group of people trapped in isolation" story, with the mysterious dome being merely an excuse for this. There's no evidence in the first few episodes of anything that we haven't seen before, but it's just about interesting enough for me to persevere with for the time being, in the hope that it improves.

Fringe continues to impress (I'm now in Season 3) with Anna Torv playing Agent Olivia Dunham (actually two of them, in parallel worlds) still very much the highlight of the series. The way she shifts body language and expressions depending on which Liv she's playing is fascinating; the uncertainty and vulnerability of the "original" Liv, the result of experiments she was subjected to as a child, being replaced by the bold swagger of the confident "alternate Liv" who did not experience that. The progress of the plot threads is somewhat erratic, with some episodes focusing on carrying forwards the intriguing parallel worlds mystery while others take a time-out for more or less unrelated X-Files type weird events. I am becoming a bit irritated with the increasingly overt product placement, though. I don't mind the characters driving around in cars provided by a sponsor, but it's too much when they start commenting on them too.

I am impatientily awaiting the arrival on DVD in the UK of the third season of Game of Thrones (due February) and the second season of Continuum (due who knows when?).

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