Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

Here’s a belated follow-up on my previous yammering about the SciFi Network’s series Eureka. As I expected, the show blends the quirkiness of Northern Exposure with the Big Science of the Manhattan Project. I watched most of the episodes and would rank it in the “OK, I guess” category of marginal TV. Keep in mind that my pop culture entertainment bar is set low.

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Colin Ferguson and Joe Morton are the saving graces of the show, and both are highly watchable. Ferguson’s role is Jack Carter, the US marshal who, along with his quasi-Goth teener daughter, stumbles into Eureka where he is named sheriff of the rarified scientific village. He often assumes a handsomely exasperated expression, which exudes “Oh, those wacky scientists! What will they do next?” Morton is the super-engineer-inventor who serves as Jack’s wise knowledge base, and who can whip up amazing devices in what looks like a cluttered and dumpy garage. Matt Frewer of “Max Headroom” fame is some sort of animal control officer and rounds up various genetically engineered chimeras, which are mostly unseen. Frewer is a massive disappointment with his wincingly fake Australian accent.

Among the actresses, there’s a tough chica Jennifer Lopez doppelganger who is Sheriff Jack’s deputy; and the beautiful and ultra-organized government liaison who tries to bridge the gap between Eureka’s black box/skunk works sponsors and its eccentric polymath citizens. Allison Blake is the actress who portrays the gov’t liaison. Blake would seem to be a decent actress, and the character has potential. Unfortunately, her part is poorly written, and the role is flat. The nefarious psychotherapist, “Beverly Barlowe,” whose aim is to infiltrate Section Five, is annoyingly predictable.

Of course, there is a Mysterious Presence, which is a requirement for an eccentric town where the laws of physics can go awry at any given microsecond. The presence is The Artifact, an alien…er, something which is contained in some super-duper force fields within the forbidden (naturally) Sector Five of the Eureka lab complex.

In the episode entitled “Invincible,” The Artifact causes all sorts of mischief when its exotic radiation escapes its confines. The episode begins with a cell biologist about to add a reagent to a cell culture plate. We see the actor holding the Pipetman P1000 horizontally, and the sample fluid looks like it is ready to slosh right into the piston. GAAAAH! This is anathema to any bench scientist who uses these instruments. Anyway, just as the drop falls into the culture plate, an explosion occurs in the lab. Not long after the accident, the cell biologist develops regenerative powers. When he realizes later that it was strange radiation from The Artifact that caused his cell lines to go wild, and not his own breakthrough, he becomes despondent. He falls from a bridge in a suicide attempt, which is diverted by Sheriff Jack. Due to the cell biologist’s clumsiness, they both slip and tumble from the bridge. Jack escapes injury since he lands on top of the biologist. The scientist’s serious wounds then heal with unnatural swiftness. His newly acquired powers accelerate, and he is soon able to perform telekinesis and read minds. The Artifact and its funky radiation have messed with his mind, which is now evolving at a rapid pace. The scientist’s powers are too much for him to handle so he lashes out at others, including his hapless lab assistant: “I said I wanted the PARENCHYMAL CELLS, you FOOL!” When he realizes that the brilliant but ethically challenged head of the Eureka labs wants to study him as a research subject, the increasingly disturbed biologist makes his way to Section Five, dramatically walks down a long hallway to the spinning weird light, i.e., The Artifact, and becomes one with it. Cue credits.

That’s pretty much what Eureka is like. Some banter. Plots with a lurking conspiracy surrounded by Science. Toss in eccentric and endearing characters: a cute, sort of mute autistic kid who scrawls complex formulas on the sidewalk; the teddy bear of a guy who is the proprietor of the Cafe’ Diem; and the dog which might just have fully human intelligence.

The latest news on the Eureka web site, says that the series has been renewed. Although it doesn’t qualify as a “must not miss” show according to my impeccable standards, I’ll probably watch it when I feel the urge to destroy a few neurons . The series has potential, but the writers are not quite “there” yet with the concept and characters. Still, Eureka is a fun place to visit with its science-drenched culture, the affable Ferguson, the MacGyverish-Master-Po-ish Morton, and a pesky alien Artifact.

Comments

  1. #1 John Wilkins
    January 10, 2007

    So, Spiderman without the redeeming humor?

  2. #2 JKB
    January 10, 2007

    the increasingly disturbed biologist makes his way to Section Five, dramatically walks down a long hallway to the spinning weird light, i.e., The Artifact, and becomes one with it.

    Very mimsy…

  3. #3 David Bruggeman
    January 10, 2007

    Eureka is a good counterpoint, IMO, to the persistent downer that is Battlestar Galactica (good tv, but perpetually depressing).

    Point of information: Allison Blake is the character, Salli Richardson-Whitfield is the actress. I think you’re spot on regarding her character – she doesn’t have much to work with.

    There is an interesting discussion about the tension between researchers and research administrators in H.O.U.S.E. Rules, when the smart house gets upset. Never thought I’d see that in a non-news, non-documentary television show.

  4. #4 Doc Bushwell
    January 10, 2007

    J. Wilkins:So, Spiderman without the redeeming humor?

    Hmmm, not quite. There’s actually some humor scattered around. Ferguson and Morton get the best lines.

    JKB: Very mimsy…

    Pimsy, too.

    David B: Point of information: Allison Blake is the character, Salli Richardson-Whitfield is the actress.

    Ack! Thanks for the correction. Good observation on the H.O.U.S.E. Rules episode. The occasional tidbits like that are what keep me coming back to the show. I haven’t watched the new Battlestar Galactica. I prefer my Starbuck as Dirk Benedict.