Many critics consider Brannon Braga and Bragi F. Shut’s entry into the Dark SF sweepstakes as the best of the bunch, this year’s Lost. I believe this show could evolve into something interesting but, based on the pilot, it has a long way to go.

Cast

Carla Gugino as Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey
Charles S. Dutton as JT Baylock
Brent Spiner as Nigel Fenway
Robert Patrick Benedict as Lucas Pegg
Brian Van Holt as Cavannaugh
Peter Dinklage as Ramsay
William Mapother as Gunneson

Plot:

When a boat makes first contact with, well, something of alien origin, a government agency shanghais a team of experts to investigate.

High Points:

You’re one of us.

The pilot features a good set-up, and the unexpected effects of the transmission proved interesting—- though they make it unlikely this can remain unknown for long. At least one Jack McGee should turn up to make things difficult for the team.

Low Point:

I’ll accept the forced heterogeneous eccentricities of the crack team. I’ll accept the beer-drinking super-brilliant überbabe whose hair and makeup remains impeccable even under the most desperate of circumstances. And I’ll accept any number of things necessary to make the premise work, like constantly exposing your brain trust to needless danger.

However, you cannot send along marines to protect the team, and then have them hang behind when and where the team faces real danger. You cannot have brass who recognize that this is the most important discovery in history, and then have them make no attempt to secure the area. (The U.S. couldn’t spare at least one battleship to engage in maneuvers a mere 80 miles off their coast?) You cannot stress how important this ship is, and then blow it up the moment some foreign types come near (again, we’re 80 miles off the coast). This isn’t intelligent writer’s fiat; it’s unnecessary laziness.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6. A good show can be assembled from reused elements, of course. Still, this pilot could be used as a drinking game: take a shot every time you recognize where you’ve seen this scene, bit, effect, cliché, or line of dialogue before.

Effects: 4/6. The “trees like glass” scene is cool, and the show boasts some other decent effects. However, the use of negative-flash-o-vision? It was cheesy when The Outer Limits used it in the ‘60s. It was cheesy when every lame SF tv-movie (and at least one ep of the original Battlestar Galactica) used it in the 70s. It’s cheesy now, and worse, it’s used at critical moments.

Story: 4/6. The story begins well, and creates some excellent opportunities for future developments. It suffers from too much tv silliness (see “Low Points”)

Acting: 4/6. This varies quite a bit. Dinkley and Spiner do well, and no one is really bad (Baylock’s superior is rather wooden). I think some of the performers may shine in future episodes.

Emotional Response: 3/6. Given the set-up—- the fantastic inserting itself into a quiet, fairly realistic scene—-and the setting—- the modern Mary Celeste—- this should have been a lot creepier. I found that the action elements detracted from the horror, destroying the mood of the shipboard scenes. The rest has a few good moments (the unexpected effect of the signal), but I felt disappointed.

They handled with ham-hands the obvious personal darkness/mystery surrounding each character. Several inter-character exchanges could be replaced with:

CHARACTER A: What about that blatant enigmatic aspect of your character?
CHARACTER B: Ah! That will be revealed/explored in a future episode.

Production: 5/6.

Overall: 4/6.

”Trees Like Glass” receives a score of 25/42

Additional Comments

My feeling is that they rushed the development. The premise holds a fair potential for creepy mystery (much still remains), which has been wasted because they revealed too much, too soon. I didn’t really like this pilot (and my wife, who called it a “pathetic pastiche,” loathed it), but I still think the show has potential. It’s going to have to win me over very soon, however.

Judging from some of the buzz and reviews, others hold very different opinions. How about the readers and posters of Bureauland?

The Timeshredder’s reviews may be found here.