Syfy’s newest scripted series Continuum begins in the year 2077 as a group of convicted terrorists are about to be executed en masse before an audience of the world. From a front row seat two government types debate whether the execution should be quite as public as it will be.
At the moment of execution, one of the terrorists tosses something into the execution and a flash of light appears before anyone can react. Except, that is, one of the security guards, Kiera (Rachel Nichols, Star Trek), who jumps into the midst of it. All of them, the terrorists and Kiera disappear into the glowing void. In the meantime, the older man from the gallery (William B. Davis, The X-Files’ Cigarette Smoking Man) smiles ever-so-slightly.
The series, which debuted in Canada last year before going across the pond to the U.K., will make its U.S. debut Monday night on Syfy. Creator/Executive Producer Simon Barry along with stars Nichols and Victor Webster chatted with television journalists this week to discuss their new series, which has been renewed for a second season.
It turns out, the glowing light that consumed the terrorists, a group known as Liber8, and Kiera is a wormhole. The device had been intended to transport the group to a much more recent time, to the trigger point for their revolution, explained Barry. However, an error transports them instead much further back in time, all the way to 2012. Although it wasn’t Liber8’s original plan, they still believe they can change the course history even from their much more distant vantage.
Now trapped in our present day, Kiera dedicates herself to both getting back to her husband and son in 2077 and to bringing down this group of terrorists before they can destroy the future. But are the terrorists really terrorists, or are they much nobler freedom fighters? What is the nature of the society from which they emerged?
The future painted by Barry in Continuum certainly looks bleak to us, but the creator rejects calling it a “dystopia.” He explained, “I think dystopia is a relative term. I didn’t want to create something abjectly oppressive in an obvious way.” From the characters’ perspectives it’s a matter of perspective; it always depends on point of view. “If you asked Rachel’s character [Kiera], she would say no. But the Liber8 terrorists/freedom fighters would have a different opinion.”
Trying not to paint the world in a broad brushstroke, the series creators are going for that “gray area.” “Perspective,” Barry said, “has a lot to do with how we make judgements. Although it’s easy to paint the future with one brush, there is a point of view that there is a process of evolution within society.”
Societies change incrementally and subtly. What might be oppressive to someone coming from the outside, is normative to a person living within that society, perhaps all he or she has ever known. “When you’re living it,” Barry added, “you don’t necessarily see [that society] for what it is.” What is allows viewers to do, he said, as does all good sci-fi “is to see their own world through a different prism.”
The show, according to the creator tries to “look at the world we live in on every level, breaking it down into politics on a macro level, social rules, behavior, even relationships, technology’s influence on all of these things. But always through the characters’ perspectives.” They try to give both points of view and perspective; it’s really a debate, he said.
For Barry, creating the show was about fusing his “love of sci-fi into a feasible production vehicle. Time travel is good for that.” The show’s structure, he explained, allows them to have a “great mythology with two timelines.”
Social media like Twitter created buzz last year after the series’ great reception in Canada and across the pond, and audiences were anxious about when the show was going to air here. Barry and the series stars are excited to finally be premiering on Syfy.
Many television series are shot in Vancouver, where Continuum is shot, but the beautiful British Columbia city seldom gets to play itself. “I’d originally developed [Continuum] for the American networks,” he noted. But the Vancouver-based Barry was thrilled that he was allowed to set the series in his home town. For him it was a “nice bonus to showcase Vancouver.”
Vancouver has a rich pool of actors to draw from “because of the amount of work that comes here,” he said. There are, indeed, many familiar faces in the series from Tony Amendola (Once Upon a Time’s Marco/Geppetto) to Jennifer Spence and Mike Dopud from Stargate Universe, and of course William B. Davis, among many others.
Asked what will capture viewers and bring them back week after week, series star Victor Webster said, “I would tune in because I like a show that makes you think.” The series, he believes asks as many questions as it answers, exploring some pretty important themes. The show, he explained, is “fast paced, relatable, within the realm of possibility.”
Bringing in “aspects from many genres,” Continuum presents ideas, “relevant for today, but brought through the future,” an offers a ‘perspective through someone who has come from the future.” The series has both thriller and character aspects that he believes will resonate with audiences.
Nichols added that the show has procedural, serial, as well as character-driven elements. “The sci-fi genre allows us to do so many things” with social commentary, whether on corporations, government or society itself. But the show is also very much about family as her character’s driving force is to reunite with her own 2077 family while she is stuck in our present. She believes that “audiences from other genres will get into it.”
With dual timelines and multiple story threads and perspectives, it is a huge task to maintain control on the entire story. It has been the downfall of more than one otherwise excellent genre television series (yes, I’m talking about you X-Files).
Barry explained, “It is a full time job managing all the threads the show’s mythology introduces. First day in the writing room, we all made a decision. Had to know their rules of time travel and where the show was going to end.” Although it’s impossible to pinpoint an exact number of episodes or years to shoot for, there is a “possibility that there would be several years of mythology that can play out, but you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself. Know that the mythology has many stories within them, but focus on one component that is manageable. Stay focused on central characters’ goals and issues.”
Continuum premieres on Syfy Monday, January 14 at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Photo/Video credit: Syfy Network and NBC Media Village