Do the Time Warp

What would you see if given a glimpse into your future? What would everyone on Earth see? How would this change the world?

Begging all of these questions is ABC’s new blockbuster TV series FlashForward, which premiered in the UK on Channel Five on September 28th and has certainly hit the ground running.

When the entire world simultaneously blacks out for 137 seconds, mass devastation ensues, with millions of people losing their lives from the resulting accidents. Planes go down, cars crash and swimmers drown in what at first appears to be a shocking act of terrorism. However, it soon transpires that the world did not simply lose consciousness during ‘the blackout’, but that everyone on Earth was also given a glimpse of their life six months into the future.

The premise is intriguing, and the first few episodes are hugely enjoyable, featuring terrorist plots, explosions, shoot-outs, emotional character struggles and even a Nazi thrown in for good measure. However, whilst FlashForward’s excitement factor is undeniable, it loses major points for originality. The climax of this pilot season will obviously be the discovery of whether what occurred during the characters’ flash forwards actually comes to fruition.

In this, the show seems to be asking many of the same questions as did the fifth series of Lost (another ABC production). Are we the masters of our own destiny, or is the future already written? Can we change where we are headed? On occasion the FlashForward simply feels like a Lost spin-off but this (especially for Lost fans) is no bad thing. Whilst its exploration of time-travel may not be terribly innovative, the flash forward, just like Lost’s flashes backward and forward in time, is a mechanism through which captivating character links and plot twists can occur. And whilst FlashForward is essentially a sci-fi action-thriller, it is also a brilliant character drama.

Joseph Fiennes’ starring role in the show sees him join a long list of British actors doing well in the television business at the moment. Hugh Laurie has just witnessed the sixth season of House hit our screens, Stephen Moyer is getting a lot of attention for his role as Bill in the vampire hit True Blood, and Dominic West received praise for his role in critically acclaimed The Wire. Now, FlashForward has Fiennes take up the role of FBI Special Agent Mark Benford, putting in a solid performance as a severe and troubled recovering alcoholic charged with investigating the blackout.

The show sees Fiennes link up with a long list of acting talent. John Cho of Harold and Kumar fame plays Demetri Noh, and considering his history of less serious acting roles he gives a very convincing performance as Benford’s no-nonsense sidekick whose own story provides an intriguing side plot. Demetri struggles with the fact that he did not experience a flash forward during the blackout, fearing that this could be because he’s destined to die before the six months are up. Cho delivers his character’s anxiety and paranoia marvellously as his character becomes increasingly obsessed with his own mortality.

Also notable is another Brit, Sonya Walger (known for her role as Penny Widmore in Lost) who plays Benford’s wife, Olivia. In her flash forward she sees herself romantically involved with another man, and the strain this puts on her marriage provides yet another impressive and emotionally-charged side-narrative. She plays her part convincingly and certainly boosts the size of the male audience but her presence in the cast, along with that of Dominic Monaghan in later episodes, further contributes to the idea that FlashForward is simply a Lost tribute show. One could be forgiven for occasionally forgetting which programme they are watching.

Whilst the cast is strong, at times the plot can be tedious and in recent weeks the pace has slackened. This could be a symptom of the decision to upgrade the series from just thirteen episodes to a full length season. It wouldn’t be surprising if viewers were left slightly frustrated after the last few episodes. Given only minor revelations and little to chew on, the show has become a bit of a slow-burner.

However, the series is still in its early stages and will hopefully rediscover the momentum of the first few episodes. We have been given exciting revelations and enigmas, not least the discovery of ‘Subject Zero’, a man found to be fully awake during the blackout. There is much to be satisfied with and the early signs are promising. With a lot left to reveal the show could prove to be the next big series to come out of America, following in the footsteps of Heroes, 24 and of course, Lost.


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