“She bought me a cheeseburger.”

I was skeptical when I heard SyFy was making a show based on one of my favorite 90s films, 12 Monkeys. I remain skeptical—but I must admit, the pilot shows potential.

Title: “Splinter”

Directed by Jeffrey Reiner
Written by Terry Matalas, Travis Fickett, David Peoples, Janet Peoples

Aaron Stanford as James Cole
Amanda Schull as Dr. Cassandra Railly
Zeljko Ivanek as Leland Goines
Kirk Acevedo as Ramse
Noah Bean as Aaron Marker
Barbara Sukowa as Jones
Emily Hampshire as Jennifer Goines
Ramon De Ocampo as Oliver Peters
Robert Wisdom as Jeremy

Full cast and crew information may be found at the imdb

Premise

A man from a post-apocalyptic future goes back in time in order to prevent the plague that will wipe out most of humanity, but his future world has incomplete information about how he might accomplish this end.

High Point

The show creates its own mystery, one that will obviously unfold in a way that varies from the source material. The pilot gives us enough exposition to understand the problem, while keeping us in suspense as to what the answers will be. Even the Army of the 12 Monkeys, essentially a red herring in the film, remains an as-yet unresolved mystery here.

Low Point

The original film treated time as a closed loop; time travel becomes part of what happens, but it does not change anything. Cole’s mission isn’t to prevent a plague; he must gather information that will help them cure it in the future.

In this film, time travel does affect the future, but the writers haven’t decided how that works. Cole scratches a watch and its future version develops a scratch it never had before, and yet characters recall events from the past that Cole hasn’t caused yet. We also have the strange phenomena created when past and future versions of the same items come too close to each other. Proximity makes an actual difference, causing weird and unpredictable effects that help the plot.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 We have a series based on a successful movie inspired by an earlier film. What it does not borrow from its sources, it takes from the entire history of SF time-travel, with the already-derivative Terminator franchise and Continuum series its most recent and familiar influences. To the creators’ credit, they clearly intend to take the direct source material in new directions.

Effects: 5/6

Acting: 5/6 The show has strong leads, and Aaron Stanford is oddly engaging as Cole. The performances overall include a fair bit of obvious TV acting.

Story: 5/6 It’s a pilot of an obviously arc-heavy series, so I have to allow it some slack. I do wonder why a trained medical person would be so up-front about expressing her belief in time travel based on an incident no one could corroborate, one that occurred while she was under duress, and not predict the results such an admission receives.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Production: 6/6

Overall: 4/6

In total, “Splinter” receives 30/42