Sunday, 16 March 2014

TV – The Dead Zone (2002-7)

A trawl through TV SFF series and serials available on DVD pulled up a dozen that looked interesting enough to try, and the US/Canadian production The Dead Zone ("based on characters" from Stephen King's 1979 novel of the same name) was the first one to drop through my letter box. This lasted for six seasons with 80 episodes made, but (as so often seems to be the case) was cancelled without reaching a proper conclusion. In this particular instance it probably doesn't matter too much, in that the basic plot is quite open-ended with each episode largely self-contained and without any prospect of some dramatic conclusion solving an edge-of-the-seat mystery.

The setting is a small town in the present-day USA. Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall) is a teacher who spends six years in a coma with major brain damage after a car crash, before making an unexpected recovery. He discovers that his brain has rewired itself and he now has psychic abilities; making physical contact with people is sufficient to tell him a lot about them, including things they don't know themselves, from their past, present or future. He also discovers that his pregnant fiancee Sarah (Nicole de Boer), having been told that Johnny had no hope of recovery, married another man – the local sheriff (Chris Bruno). Johnny gets involved in solving crimes and preventing deaths, attracting growing media attention, especially from a local journalist (Kristen Dalton).

I've seen all of the first season, and I'm quite impressed. The script is intelligent and the lead character's problems complex and difficult enough to engage adults, not just adolescents (as seems so often the case today).  The first three episodes form one continuous story of Johnny's recovery, the discovery of his abilities and the rapidly growing interest of the news media.  The focus then switches away from this to individual cases he deals with (some of them seeming rather trivial), though returns to the main story line from time to time. So far I'm finding it sufficiently absorbing to keep watching it, although I suspect I'll lose interest long before the end. Time will tell.


Fred said...

Obviously the TV series doesn't follow the novel.

It sounds similar to a number of other TV shows in which the hero somehow gets advance warning of a future crime and spends the episode trying to prevent it. _Person of Interest_ is the latest incarnation, I think. I also remember another one in which the hero got tomorrow's newspaper every morning.

Anthony G Williams said...

Person of Interest is one of my favourites, largely because of the dry humour which underlies the relationship between the two protagonists.