SyFy has taken some heat here and there when it comes to their programming choices. The network has its foot firmly planted in the reality show arena, and has also stuck a big toe in the sports arena with its decision to air wrestling. To some it may seem like the network has turned its back on original programming and has stepped away from the science fiction genre. Especially with the cancellation of shows like Stargate Universe and Caprica. I, for one, have been pretty vocal about my displeasure that there isn’t really any sci-fi on SyFy.
When I first made my complaint I should have been more specific. At the current time there’s no space-related science fiction on SyFy. But with Eureka, Warehouse 13 and the new show Alphas, science fiction in general is alive and well. The technical definition of science fiction is:
fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component (via Merriam-Webster)
Eventually I’ll get my space fix once BSG: Blood and Chrome airs, but for now, I’ll settle for their other offerings.
Capping off SyFy’s summer Monday night line up is their new original show Alphas and is summarized as follows:
Alphas is an action-packed thriller from writers Zak Penn (The Avengers, X-Men: The Last Stand) and Michael Karnow. In the series, five ordinary people are brought together to form one extraordinary team of Alphas — people with the unique power to stretch the capabilities of the human mind giving them superhuman physical and mental abilities.
Operating within the Defense Criminal Investigation Service of the U.S. Department of Defense and led by preeminent neurologist and psychiatrist Dr. Lee Rosen (Emmy Award-winner and Academy Award-nominee David Strathairn), an expert in Alpha phenomena, the team investigates cases that point to others with Alpha abilities. As they work against the clock to solve this new brand of crime, they must prevent their own personality differences and disparate backgrounds from interfering with their ultimate mission to catch the enemy.
The premier episode follows the group as they track down a sniper that pulled a seemingly impossible job of assassinating a prisoner who was in police custody. As details of the mission come to light, the group realizes that the shooter has uncanny abilities like their own.
David Strathairn plays Dr. Lee Rosen. He’s a neurologist and psychiatrist with an understanding of neurological disorders. He doesn’t have any Alpha abilities but he’s the glue that holds the group together through his nurturing, calm demeanor and his ability to help each group member as they cope with the pros and cons of their individual conditions.
Malik Yoba plays Bill Harken. Bill’s ability is super human strength brought on by a surge of adrenaline that results from the fight or flight response. He’s a former FBI agent with a propensity for protocol and procedure. The downside? He’s only able to maintain the adrenaline surge for short periods of time due to the negative effects it has on his body. Mainly his heart.
Laura Mennell plays Nina Theroux. Nina can influence those around her to do anything she tells them to. Whether it’s getting out of a speeding ticket by influencing the officer to eat it, literally, or convincing someone that a hotel flyer is a search warrant, she uses her ability to do what she wants or what is necessary. The downside is that those who know about her ability can’t know for sure if actions are genuine or if she’s overpowering them. It makes relationships a bit difficult.
Azita Ghanizada plays Rachel Pirzad. Rachel has the ability to enhance all of her senses. She’s basically a walking forensics lab which comes in handy at crime scenes. The problem with her ability is that she can only enhance one sense at a time, leaving her other senses dulled and useless. This issue can pose problems when she is required to be alert to her surroundings.
Ryan Cartwright plays Gary Bell. Gary is in his twenties and is the youngest member of the group. His ability allows him to actually see electro-magnetic waves such as television, radio, and cellphones. His ability makes it easy to track people, but is overwhelming in every other aspect of his life. While it’s not said outright on the show, his side effect is something akin to autism.
Warren Christie plays Cameron Hicks. Cameron is the man the team is chasing in the pilot episode. His ability is called “hyperkinesis” and it’s basically perfect hand-eye coordination and perfect motor skills. This ability allows him to be an expert marksmen with former military training and he was also a minor league pitcher. The side effect of his ability is that he has a tendency to crack under pressure and when that happens, his ability leaves him altogether. He’s got a rough exterior brought on by the trials and tribulations he’s had to face in his life.
When I first started seeing the ads for Alphas the first thought that popped into my mind was “Heroes”. It had to do with regular people having these abilities that made me draw the comparison. After watching the pilot however, it’s not quite the same. These characters are flawed. Like, you know, real people. The pilot gave you enough about each character to spark your interest, but didn’t overload you with the characters back-story. It was just enough to whet the appetite.
As with any new show, it’s going to take time to really gel. Every pilot episode of every show can be a bit rough. This one was no different in that respect, but when a show focuses on an ensemble cast it can be difficult to pull it all together in one episode. The cast here did a really good job of portraying these characters who have to live with these abilities, as well as work with others who have them as well.
The one bonus that I had no clue about was the appearance of an ex-BSG cast member. Anyone who follows this blog knows what a sucker I am for anyone who was involved with that show. Callum Keith Rennie, who played Leoben on BSG, is Wilson, the government suit who enlists the help of Dr. Rosen and his team. Major bonus points go to the casting director for that choice.
Overall this was a good start to what could become a great series. There’s many different directions this series can take and with the writing talent of Zak Penn behind it, it could be really special. I’m pretty excited to see just where this series will go. The pilot airs again tonight at 5pm EST and I highly recommend checking it out. Knowing SyFy, they’ll air it a few more times before the new episode next Monday so check your guides and set your DVR.
I’ll be back next week with a normal recap of the show so if you miss it, check here on Tuesday.Tags: Alpha abilities, Alphas, Azita Ghanizada, Callum Keith Rennie, David Strathairn, Laura Mennell, Malik Yoba, Ryan Cartwright, SyFy, Warren Christie, Zak Penn