Friday, October 21, 2011

Eureka: The Joy of "Lame Duck" Television.

One of the most frustrating things about watching any ongoing television series is often the zero-sum nature of the plot. In order to keep the show consistent from week to week, the characters and situations must return to the status quo at the end of each episode, leaving much less room for character development than in a one-off movie or miniseries. There have been exceptions to this, of course, but more often than not, real change in principal characters tends to be minimal.

Recently, though, Syfy announced it was going to end one of my favorite programs on the network, Eureka. Instead of the usual practice of simply not renewing the show after the current season ends, Syfy has announced that the coming season will be the last, and even budged for an extra episode to give the show a proper finale.

This situation means the writers have the chance to bring the show to a definite conclusion, instead of just dropping out of existence with plot threads dangling in the breeze like so many other genre fiction programs have done, and I'm looking forward to it.

The season that just wrapped up (on a dramatic cliffhanger, of course) has been a joy for me, and pushed all my geek buttons. For those that aren't familiar with Eureka, the show takes place in a fictional town (named Eureka) somewhere in Rural Oregon. The town, run by a large corporation with ties to the Department of Defense, is populated entirely by some of the best scientists in the world, and basically exists to give them an isolated place and plenty of resources to pursue all sorts of science-fictional research projects into technology that is often decades ahead of anything seen in the outside world. The main character, Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) is the Sherriff of the town, whose primary purpose is to reign in some of the wilder experiments and stop them from blowing up Eureka (or a large chunk of North America, depending on just how crazy things get). The whole vibe has a certain retro feel to it, and comes across as kind of "Andy Griffith in Tommorowland."

The current story arc concerns the development of a faster-than-light spacecraft, and the resources of the entire town have been channeled into a mission to Saturn's moon, Titan (especially poignant because of the state of our current space program). During the buildup to the launch, we get to hear more about some of the characters and how many of them were inspired to become scientists specifically because of their childhood dreams of seeing the stars. Unlike some of the other genre franchises out there, Eureka also takes great pains to show us how major projects like the trip to Titan are not the work of some rogue genius, but of a large group of brilliant and hard-working minds working together.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes, and I hope the show gets the ending it deserves.

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