The only way to make a cop show better is to give it a sci-fi twist, right? That’s exactly what Simon Barry’s Canadian TV series Continuum does.
I’ve been wanting to watch this show since the beginning of the year. Although it’s already in its second season, it just premiered in the U.S. this January, on Syfy. It took me a while, but this week I finally caught up on the first five episodes of season one. And I’m totally hooked.
Continuum‘s premise is ingeniously simple at first glance: a cop — no wait, that’s a Protector — in 2077 has helped arrest a group of freedom fighters, who are now awaiting execution. But when they escape via time travel to 2012, she’s accidentally whisked back in time with them. (Or is it an accident…?)
What follows is a riveting science fiction cop show, with Protector Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) trying to get her bearings in 2012 Vancouver. She also makes it her mission to take down the terrorists from her time — an organization called Liber8. Helping her is the teenage computer fanatic Alec Sadler (Erik Knudsen), who created the tech she uses in 2077; this allows them to communicate from the beginning.
Alec sets Kiera up with a Bluetooth so she doesn’t look like a mental case talking to herself, and off she goes to help the Vancouver Police Department track down these terrorists. Their goal? To start a war in the present, shaping the future in their favor.
The problem is that Kiera is not able to say exactly who she is. After all, who’s going to believe she’s from the future? Misunderstandings abound, and the detective she ends up working with, Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster), has misgivings about her even as he tries to cover for her. At one point, he says, “You know, I can’t figure out if you just like playing hero, or if you’re actually a little bit crazy.”
Part of the fun for the sci-fi geek in me is watching Kiera use her 2077 tech to investigate. Her Protector suit gives her the ability to taser people, hack ATMs for cash, shut down security cameras, camouflage (well, a little bit), engage in some secret messaging — and it absorbs bullets like a sponge. Her eye tech also gives her a HUD that helps her read people, take exact measurements, and recognize patterns wherever she goes; for instance, she can look at a body and instantly read the exact size of a puncture wound. And being from the future, she knows more about science than the people of 2012 — including things like anti-matter. (As Carlos says, “Did anyone ever tell you you watched too much Star Trek as a kid?”)
But by the end of episode four, a new character arc starts to take shape when her Protector suit is damaged. She sometimes turns off her other tech, knowing by now that if she never makes it back to 2077, she’s going to have to learn to live with 2012’s simplicity, even when she’s investigating crimes. Alec says, “I thought maybe you were trusting your gut instead of your tech,” hinting at an inner struggle she’s going to have to face.
I have to say, I adore Kiera as a character. She’s a very strong lead for the show: a tough, capable career woman who can be too serious for her own good at times, with a wife and child she loves in 2077. She wants to get back to them. She also wants to take down the Liber8 group here in 2012, before they spark a war that could potentially destroy her family’s future in 2077.
Episodes tend to launch with a flashback to Kiera’s life in 2077, keeping you in tune with her motivation to get back to her family. Brief flashbacks occur throughout episodes — never overtaking the present stories but presenting just enough reflection to remind you of who Kiera really is and what her life is truly about.
The members of Liber8 are equally interesting, with the group politics shifting when the leader hovers near death. Some of the personalities are more dangerous than others, and watching their interactions is one of the most riveting parts of the show. With them being freedom fighters, it also pits Kiera as the cop who may be defending a future that we, today, would not want — namely, a future where corporations run the world.
The Liber8 member given the most screen time at first is Matthew Kellog (Stephen Lobo), who embraces the idea of living in 2012. He’s much more interested in eating real meat, fruits, and vegetables — not to mention making a ton of money playing the stock market — than in helping Liber8 take down Kiera or trying to return to 2077. And so he becomes a traitor to his group, feeding information to Kiera when it benefits them both. She’s not sure whether to trust him or not, but she’s sometimes forced to work with him. As a charming, manipulative character who can sometimes be over-the-top casual about things, he’s one of the most compelling faces on the show.
The question Continuum poses from the beginning is this: If we make changes to the present, will it cause problems in the future? Kiera doesn’t want to tell Alec about his future in case it changes things, and at one point, she lets a murderer go because she knows the woman will invent technology that will revolutionize living in the future. The terrorist group even goes after Kiera’s mother to see if killing her would kill Kiera, too. This type of dilemma crops up again and again — and the results aren’t always what you’d expect. If you’re into time travel paradoxes, this is the show for you.
Underneath all the sci-fi glam is an old-fashioned cop show. And it’s a marvelous one. The balance of action, character development, and analysis is spot on, making Continuum one of my favorite new shows this year.