Thursday, November 28, 2013

TV Review: Continuum

In the slowly increasingly history of the Arsenal I've really only talked about TV shows twice. The very first official post where I talked about Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, and that one time I talked about my opinions on the sixth series of the new Doctor Who. (Well, okay, three times if you include that time I talked about Firefly in a video.) It's a little funny because it's not like most of the entertainment I consume is just books so that's what I have to talk about. There are plenty of times where I sit down on the couch after a rough day and enjoy whatever happens to be in my Netflix queue at the moment (Mythbusters if you were interested) and there are plenty of video games that I enjoy playing. Perhaps the only person I know who is a more avid fan of the Total War franchise is my colleague Carvan. I think, however, that a lot of the TV shows I watch and video games that I play are pretty out there in the public consciousness and I don't really need to talk about them. I mean, who the heck in the sci-fi community hasn't heard of Doctor Who by now?

Continuum, I suspect, makes a notable exception in that case. I was only made aware of it because it was in a list of suggestions for me on Netflix based on my interest in sci-fi and time travel. Although I've only seen the first season I've ended up with rather strong opinions on Continuum and I have yet to meet anyone who's also seen the show. (Considering that as of writing it's an ongoing series that at least suggests it has got a rather strong following to merit continued existence.) As such I feel justified in writing about this series and pestering you all with my opinions on it.

Continuum is a series that is (originally) set in the year 2077. The governments of the world failed financially and had to be bailed out by the large corporations. As a result the corporations now control and own everything and there are, unsurprisingly, some people who are unhappy with this situation and are leading a rebellion/terrorist campaign against the corporate-controlled government. A handful get captured for bombing the Corporate Congress and were slated for execution but managed to engineer an escape attempt that transported them back to the year 2012, taking with them a police officer called Kiera Cameron. Much of the show then revolves around Cameron trying to stop the terrorists/rebels from trying to interfere with the past so that they can change the future as well as trying to return to her family in her own time. The series relies on a lot of what at this point are time-travel tropes such as the future fish out of water, meeting future famous and influential people, and exploring the paradoxes of time-travel. It doesn't bring terribly much new to the table aside from some Great Recession social commentary, but it's at least fairly enjoyable.
I have, however, two fairly large issues with this series which make me rather ambivalent to the whole thing. The first, and definitely my biggest issue, is how the show handles its portrayal of Cameron and the terrorists/rebels. As you've probably noticed throughout this review I've been adding a stroke whenever I talk about the rebel/terrorist group known as Liber8 in the series. The reason I do so is because I'm not entirely convinced that Liber8 are the bad guys in this scenario. To further explain, in the future of 2077 the freedoms of speech, press, and peaceable assembly have been removed by the government and in many cases martial law has been instituted. In response to these and other harsh measures the member of Liber8, much like V in V for Vendetta have been left with no alternative than violent (and explosive) insurrection. Officer Cameron, by contrast, only occasionally questions the morality of her cause and her support of the existing regime. In the TV show the members of Liber8, who are some pretty hardened criminals regardless of the cause for which they fight, are unequivocally depicted as the villains engaging in theft, murder, kidnapping, extortion, and all manner of other crimes. Cameron is depicted very cleanly as the hero of the series, a traveler lost in time who is trying to do the right thing. However she also utilizes fairly unethical means to gain evidence and confessions in her police work and shows no respect for the legal protections all people are granted when suspected of a crime. And I at least didn't hate Cameron, she was an interesting character and fairly compelling, but there's a part of my brain that was constantly going, "She's a pawn of the government quashing the rights of the people! She violates legal protocol to get results!" That part then picks up a red flag, climbs a barricade, and promptly gets shot but it raises some good points.

The other big issue I have with this series, and perhaps this gets resolved in later seasons, is an inconsistency on whether or not the events occur in one timeline. The first and last episodes of the series pretty strongly state that the series occurs within one timeline and the characters are currently in a time loop and are unable to alter past events in spite of their intentions. However, in the middle of the series they deal specifically with the grandfather paradox and end up with a "Well we just don't know. Maybe we're in a branching timeline. Maybe this is the same timeline but something's different." For my readers who are unaware, the grandfather paradox is a classic time-travel paradox that has bugged the heck out of sci-fi nerds for decades. Suppose you have a time machine and decide to travel back in time to a point before your grandfather has ever met your grandmother. You then kill him. What happens? Some suggest you can kill him, but the timeline will auto-correct and you will cease to exist when the timeline "erases" any errors, a la Back to the Future. Others theorize that you simply cannot kill your grandfather because then you would not be able to exist to come back in time and kill him. Even if you tried your hardest to kill your grandfather the simple fact that you exist means he'll have a series of extremely close scrapes and continue to go on and meet your grandmother. And then some hypothesize that he wasn't really your grandfather all along and in fact you might be your own grandpa, a la Futurama.  Continuum takes on the grandfather paradox and actually kills the grandmother of one of the characters, however said character continues to exist after their grandmother dies. Perhaps this is explored in a later season of the series, but because this is very definitely the same timeline it raises the question of how the character's still able to exist when by all rights they shouldn't. It's all very frustrating and makes me wish the series was more consistent with its own time travel rules.

Overall I have mixed feelings on the series. It was kind of enjoyable, but I feel like it doesn't bring anything new to the table and doesn't do everything it's trying to do well. Definitely not on my recommend list of TV shows if that tells you anything. 

- Kalpar

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