Friday 22 November 2013

TV – Under the Dome, Orphan Black and Person of Interest

I have commented on Under the Dome before, which I criticised after seeing the first three episodes because I felt that the events depicted bore little relationship to the likely course of events if a town was indeed abruptly separated from the rest of the world. In particular, the shortage of water and food would begin to hit home far more quickly than was shown, especially with the lack of power ruining all of the food in freezers and refrigerators within hours. However, the various personal dramas and conflicts that have dominated the story held my attention sufficiently to keep watching, and the shortage problem did eventually take centre stage – in episode 6! It took even longer for any progress to be been made in discovering what might have caused the dome to appear, but that proved to be very mysterious and mystical. Only in the final episode of the first season did the SF element start to take centre stage, and the episode finished on as contrived a peak of suspense as could be imagined. It isn't great SF but has been just about worth watching so far for the performance of the major characters. I gather that a second season is on the way, but I just hope that it isn't going to be stretched out until it dies of futility, as so often happens.

A rather different story that I've also been following is Orphan Black, which is based on a novel premise: Sarah Manning (played by Tatiana Maslany) is a young woman who is down on her luck when she meets her double, who turns out to be genetically identical. When her double dies, Sarah takes over her life. Then she meets another double, and another…. This is a constantly intriguing and frequently amusing drama as the doubles try to figure out their history while being faced with an acute danger – someone is trying to kill them. By the end of the first season, it becomes clear that being hunted is only one of their problems; they are also under covert observation and their future hangs by a thread. Maslany has great fun playing the various, and very varied, doubles and the constantly evolving plot gripped my attention from the start, with one unexpected twist after another. A second season is on the way – soon, I hope.

Orphan Black is a Canadian production, which reminded me of another from that country (which seems to be carving out an impressive niche in TV SF) whose second season I am impatiently awaiting: Continuum. Why it is taking so long for this to be available on DVD in the UK I don't know, but it is frustrating, because the first series was excellent and, as with Orphan Black, left the story dangling with much to be resolved.

Some good news - Person of Interest is back on UK TV for a second season! I really enjoyed the first season, in which the geeky inventor of an all-embacing computer surveillance and analysis system (Michael Emerson) recruits an action man (Jim Caviezel) to save people identified by the system as being at extreme risk of being involved in a violent crime - whether as the victim or perpetrator is not always clear. The contrast between the odd couple plus the two NYPD detectives who reluctantly become involved with them is the source of much entertainment, providing light relief from the action scenes. I didn't review it at the time as it seemed to me to be more of a technothriller than SF, but the second season starts with a new and more science-fictional development: the computer system has developed its own form of intelligence, and can be bargained with. I'm looking forward to the next twenty-two episodes.

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