Entertainment Magazine

Review #3534: Continuum 1.1: “A Stitch in Time”

Posted on the 31 May 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Bronzethumb

Written by Simon Barry
Directed by Jon Cassar

Pilots and premieres are always a tricky business: they’ve got to balance all the introductions and set-up and world building against telling an individual story. In genre shows, the introductions are all the more complex because it’s not simply a matter of saying “here’s the characters and here’s what they’re doing”, it’s a matter of getting the audience to buy something strange and out there. It’s a tough job and not all premieres can do it well, so it’s gratifying that this new Canadian offering is going full-tilt right out of the gate, skipping the messy let’s-explain-everything-and-THEN-get-on-with-the-story stage and wrapping plot, premise and character into a single story strand that’s easy and entertaining to follow.

Review #3534: Continuum 1.1: “A Stitch in Time”

“Continuum” starts in Vancouver in the year 2077, where a terrorist group called Liber8 has been attempting to topple the corporation-run North American Union. Kiera Cameron, a CPS Protector — that is, an ordinary beat cop — is part of the guard detail for the execution of Liber8′s key leaders. When the prisoners enact their time travel escape plan, Kiera is pulled along for the ride and winds up in 2012, where she makes allies and sets herself to the task of trying to recapture Liber8 and return to her own time. On paper, it’s a bit of a thin premise, a science-fiction twist on shows like “Brimstone” but without much of a shelf-life: there’s less than a dozen of these bad guys, how much mileage can the writers wring out of this premise?

This is why the second half of the episode was so impressive: the Liber8 terrorists defy expectation and start acting like a highly-organised group of terrorists who, as a collective, can present a formidable and long-term threat for the protagonists. Which they proceed to do, in spectacular fashion. It kicks things up a notch from a formulaic time travel procedural to something with a lot more potential for long-term character and story arcs, more reminiscent of “Fringe” than anything else.

When one character declares “this means war,” we believe it’s exactly that. The episode isn’t the first problem of the week for Kiera to solve, but rather the opening chapter of an ongoing story, which helps the overall structure and flow of the premiere. It doesn’t jam all the details into the first twenty minutes but parcels them out as the audience needs them while telling a single continuous narrative about how Kiera and Liber8 came to be where they are.

There’s a lot of world-building going on, done well but perhaps lacking subtlety. The political situation of 2077 is established quickly but lacks any depth beyond declarations that traditional governments were bailed out/taken over by corporations who have since put the kibosh on a lot of citizen’s rights. The blunt presentation is almost enough to make the audience root for Liber8′s goal of toppling corporate control and restoring democracy, but they’re not presented much better, given that within the first two minutes they pull off a major terrorist attack and spend the rest of the episode being bad guys in the name of their cause. Hopefully the contrast will be further explored and fleshed out as the season goes on.

One thing that did feel a lot more subtle and well-developed was some of the details surrounding how the future became the high tech megacity that it is. This ties into easily the most interesting character, Alec Sadler, a proto-Steve Jobs type who falls in with Kiera from the moment she arrives in 2012. Actor Eric Knudsen plays the part fairly straight with a touch of the awkward nerdiness he displayed back on the late lamented “Jericho” but doesn’t overdo it. Alec isn’t a snooty Sherlock or a three-fries-short-of-a-happy-meal Topher Brink; he’s a smart kid in a situation where smart kids don’t get a lot of appreciation. His tech savvy makes him an important part of the ensemble, his circumstances and “destiny” promise some interesting stories later down the line, and that nerdy genre-savvy allows him to comment on Kiera’s temporal situation and suggest things to the audience who aren’t as up on time travel tropes.

Sadly, none of the other characters are as well-developed. Carlos, Kiera’s new partner in 2077, is all attitude but no depth and he’s easy to forget about. As for the protagonist, it’s hard to fault the writing of Kiera — both her life in 2077 and her reaction to coming back in time — or the performance of Rachel Nichols, yet the character doesn’t quite leap out at the audience or feel wholly three-dimensional. Then again, people said the same thing about Olivia Dunham in the pilot of “Fringe”, and “A Stitch in Time” is only a first episode that did so many other things right, so it’s not unreasonable to cut the show some slack.

For a show that looked pretty procedural in its premise, the first episode really delivered — and even better, it presents itself as the beginning of a much larger story. There are moments of foreshadowing and mystery littered throughout the premiere, and the “execution” scene alone demands rewatching in order to pick up the little hints and clues. Of particular note is the presence of William B. Davis, who appears for two scenes yet almost single-handedly opens up whole avenues of time travel storytelling. It’s easy to get invested in the world of “Continuum” from this episode alone, and the possibilities of what this show can achieve when it’s not bound by the restraints of an introductory episode are pretty phenomenal. In short: definitely worth watching.

Rating: 8/10


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