One Good, One Bad

This week we're going to take a look at two science fiction shows that are running on television. One of them is entering its second season while the other is in its first. One of them segues between the present and a grim post apocalyptic future, and the other between the present and the ancient past. One of them is very good and one of them is not.

Primeval

Primeval debuted on BBC America in August of this year. The commercials like to call it Torchwood meets Jurassic Park, which is rather astonishing because I quite like Torchwood and Primeval leaves me cold. Torchwood makes me feel exhilarated, as though anything could happen, and I have a strong emotional connection to the characters (don't get me started on the season two finale – I'll cry) while I watch Primeval mainly because it's unintentionally funny. One of my favorite lines, which you can often hear repeated in the commercials for the show, is "Everything we know about the universe is wrong!" Which means of course that there is no gravity, or at least that it doesn't work the way we thought it did. When I say it's time for bed because we have school/work the next day my youngest son reminds me that we probably don't, because everything we know about the universe is wrong. But I digress.

The basic premise of the show is that there are some sort of wrinkles or tears in the space/time fabric, which allows creatures from the past or future to come galumphing into our time and space. The cast members, who are clearly from another universe where everyone is white, team up to try to save the UK from whatever might come wandering through, whether that's a dodo, a scary dinosaur, a mutant bat or a long lost spouse. There is a scientist, a zookeeper, a lab tech, a student, a bunch of people from the government and another scientist who has been hiding in the past for the last six years. Some of them work together and some at cross purposes.

Every episode so far has followed the monster/threat of the week format. Something comes through the rift, which is called an anomaly despite there being so many of them that they're not really anomalous, and terrorizes a specific geographical location. The scientist and his sidekicks, some of whom are young and attractive, try to herd whatever it is back through the rip while the government people try to kill it. This is a premise that could be lots of fun, if a bit repetitive, but unfortunately doesn't work for me. Instead of being entertaining, exciting and suspenseful it's really just kind of blah. I just can't bring myself to care about any of the characters, which means I care even less about the plot. All the danger in the world(s) is meaningless when I don't have a connection with the endangered.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

If you're not watching Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on Fox you should start. It's compelling, engaging, emotional, nerve-wracking and all the things good dramas should be. The season two opener, called Sampson and Delilah, aired on September 8th and was enthralling. I tend to be a little antsy while watching television and usually do two things at once, whether that other thing is knitting or deleting old email, or if the show is only mildly interesting, playing a computer game or writing. From the opening notes of the beginning song, Sampson and Delilah mesmerized me and captured my complete attention.

Last season's finale ended with Cameron, the terminator John sent back to protect his younger self and his mother, starting a truck and setting off a bomb. At the same time Cromartie, the bad terminator, massacres an entire FBI squad sent to bring him down, sparing only agent Ellison. The season two opener picks up immediately after, interweaving the character's stories. Cameron has survived the explosion but her chip has been damaged. When she first sets eyes on John she identifies him correctly but incorrectly believes her mission is to terminate him. Suddenly that which was a friend is now a foe. The first few minutes have no dialogue, just music, which makes the scenes that much more powerful.

Season two introduces a new character, the creepiest kind of terminator, the melty kind that can impersonate anyone with no trouble. The first time I saw one of these creatures I climbed up onto the back of my couch, huddled against the wall, in my lizard brain's feeble attempt to escape from the menace on the screen. This season is sure to send me straight to the doctor to ask for a prescription for some anti-anxiety pills. You can watch Sampson and Delilah, as well as episode two called Automatic for the People here, at the official website.

One-Paragraph Review
This week's one-paragraph review is from Kyra, an elementary school student who comments on her field trip. She says, "We went to the Liberty Science Center and saw a super scary IMAX about an Adrenalin Rush and it was in a dome and there were skydivers and base jumpers me and my friend shared my sweater to cover our eyes. I was so SCARED my head and stomach started to hurt." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.