Tube Talk: A Super(natural) Sci-Fi Summer

By Paula Hendrickson
Television Columnist

Sure. I could get behind a sci-fi story about a small town mysteriously encased in a clear dome. For the sake of entertainment, I’m even willing to accept that a glowing egg somehow controls said dome. And as a Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan I can totally get behind the idea of a teenager returning from the dead.

But last summer I struggled to suspend my disbelief with CBS’s Under the Dome (returning June 25 for a third season) due to some utterly implausible – and inexcusable – details.

Most memorable? In one episode, Julia’s (Rachelle Lefevre) leg is severely injured and in the next one she’s walking around with barely a limp. Worse yet, without that slight hobble, the only way a casual viewer would know about the wound was from a gauze bandage was wrapped around her leg – over her jeans. Really? This is the same woman who was shot in the chest a couple weeks earlier (in Chester’s Mill time, that is) and was running around trying to save the town a few hours later.

Those aren’t the show’s only details that had me talking back to my TV last summer. I’ve blocked the rest out, but it averaged at least one head scratcher per episode.

Yes, folks, details do matter — especially in sci-fi.

Star Trek worked in all of its incarnations because the futuristic science was grounded in actual science, even when they had explain why something implausible today worked in future.

I’m no expert in quantum mechanics, but there’s something called Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (yes folks, Breaking Bad science-teacher-turned-drug-lord Walter White had a reason for calling himself “Heisenberg”), which has something to do with keeping the matter being transported intact. Writers explained the scientific principle away by making the “Heisenberg compensator” a key part of the transporter.

I’m not asking Under the Dome to make scientific sense. I’m just asking them not to ruin the show with sloppy details like bandages worn over clothing. It’s not much to ask, really.

If you’ve also lost interest in Under the Dome, but still want some fun summer supernatural sci-fi entertainment, here are a couple new shows debuting this week you might want to check out:

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel: based on a best-selling Hugo Award-winning novel by Susanna Clarke, the seven-part series debuts Saturday at 9:00 p.m. CST on BBC America.

The lavish drama, set in England against the backdrop of the Napoleonic War, focuses on the increasing rivalry of the titular magicians. The reclusive Norrell (Eddie Masan) — who congers a fleet of ghost ships to frighten off the French navy— is thought to be the last of the “practical” magicians, until the more flamboyant Strange (Bertie Carvel) appears on the scene and challenges Norrell to up his game. When dark magic is unleashed, no one is safe.

Dark Matter: Syfy’s new series from the producers of the classic sci-fi series Stargate debuts Friday at 9:00 p.m. CST on Syfy.

The Stargate pedigree alone should draw a few million viewers. The twist here is the entire crew of a spaceship awakens from stasis with amnesia. They don’t know their names, their roles, when or where they are or how they got there. Without names, they go by numbers, and in one case “The Android” (Zoie Palmer). The premise raises almost endless questions. What happened to them? Can they trust each other? What do they do now that they’re awake?

I can’t guarantee that either of these new shows will pay closer attention to detail than Under the Dome, but it will be nice to have a couple more options.

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