There was a time when utopia had a bright face in science fiction. Remember the days when Captain Kirk was the heir to King Arthur and his Enterprise was the home of the knights of the round table? Those days seem to be long lost. In the last 10 years the post-apocalyptic stories have taken over everywhere. So the odds are good for dystopias.
The 100, Dominion, Game of Thrones, Agents of Shield, Metal Hurlant, Orphan Black to name a few. The bright perspective of future is gone. Maybe it has to do with a change in how we think our future will pay out for us, peak oil, CO2 footprint – you name it. The fact is, a dystopia is way easier to tell than a love, peace and harmony story, because it reduces mankind to a bunch of killers and victims – action and suspense hard-wired. It simplifies the stories, the good, the bad and the ugly are easy to identify, arent’t they? And it’s easy to take sides.
Well, no. Almost all those dystopias mentioned have a very complex dealing with their protagonists. The heroes are often no heroes at all in a classical sense. They are tragic heroes at best, or criminals that deal with their fate in the best possible way. Humanity? That’s luxury. It is surviving in a world so different from ours. No order, no food, no friends. So they must restore order for their little world.
When „12 Monkeys the series“ was announced I was underwhelmed. I didn’t like the Gilliam movie so much. But that had nothing to do with the sujet, but Gilliam himself. His movies are mostly descents into the badest realms of humanity.The settings are … well, ridiculous in my opinion. Besides, the movie told the story, we know the outcome. So, what could a tv series do in any way different or even better?
Mild spoilers ahead
After watching the first season I changed my opinion entirely. The series is excellent, the stories are complex (maybe too complex, but I’ll deal with that later) and the protagonists are developing – they become real people. Something I missed in the movie, despite their big names. „12 Monkeys the series“ seems to verify the new perception, that the tv series is the new movie.
The actors are … well chosen. Aaron Stanford plays a different „Cole“. He is determined, has rough edges, but only wants to achieve, that the future, his future ends through his interventions in the normal timeline.
Amanda Schul as Dr. Cassandra Railly is his counterpart pre-dystopia, a virologist of the CDC. And Barbara Sukova as the „German“ creator of the time machine is a lucky find. I won’t go into detail here, you can read everything in wikipedia, if you want to.
As you might have guessed „12 Monkeys the series“ focusses on one aspect, the movie had never time for: the causality and integrity of time. The central idea is to stop the plague via time travel. We know the result in the movie. The series shows us very vivid the problems of different timelines and the consequences for the protagnonists. While the people in „our“ time (2015) deal with time travelers their causality remains intact. But not for the time travellers. They jump back and fourth. This leads to very interesting situations. And to very grave influences for the future in the year 2043. So if you’re not watching all episodes, you will problably (literally) get lost in time and space.
The question in the beginning was: is there enough substance to tell the story of the movie in a series? The answer in the end is: The movie is completely irrelevant for the series (and so is the short film „La Jetée“). They both share the initial setting, but the stories that lie behind the protagnonists are a different animal.
„12 Monkeys the series“ was renewed for asecond season. And thats very fascinating, because of the stories to come. The series will probably not show up in Germany, because the tv environment isn’t ideal. The series is not suitable for private broadcasters like RTL, RTL II or SAT1. The audience of these stations isn’t the right one. It’s ok for pay tv. SyFy or SKY. My recommendation: watch it via iTunes. It’s worth every penny. And: watch it in English, because the German translation cannot mirror the peculiarities in language AND accentuation (Sukova as the „German“ scientist …).