It's the year 2077, and cops are hot. The world, however, is a bit of a mess, at least from our 2012/2013 point of view. Globo-corps have rescued incompetent governments from financial ruin and now have their hands up the collective handholes of society through political means, creating a future that's nice and shiny on the outside but freedom-less and oppressive on the inside. The well-to-do live the good life while the poor split a slice of bread for dinner and corporations rule everything. Meanwhile, a group of idealists protests the corporate regime. Hmmm... sounds like today.
That's the set up for Continuum, a surprisingly smart and savvy science-fiction drama that draws on 9/11 and out-of-control corporations and that made its American debut tonight on Syfy. (The series has already aired on Canada's Showcase network and is renewed for a second sesason). But 2077 becomes but a flicker of the past when one of the aforementioned hot cops, Kiera Cameron (an equally hot Rachel Nichols), accidentally time-travels to 2012 on the coattails of a group of terrorists who are working under the name Liber8 and escaping execution through temporal displacement. In layman's terms, they planned on bouncing by time-travelling outta Dodge. The terrorists' plan was to fidget with the past in order to change the future by ousting the corporate giants before they could take our future freedoms away.
And that's where Continuum leaves its mark. Our hero Kiera is essentially a lackey for the future evil overlords of 2077, and the so-called freedom fighters she's hunting down are rallying for changes that we can all get behind. There's even talk in the present about the lame government bailouts for financial institutions that are the essence of Liber8's philosophy. What changed between 2012 and 2077 that kept the voice of the people down? Is extreme violence justified if the cause is right? Ostensibly, Kiera is our "good guy," but as a cop employed by Corporate Congress, isn't she also working for the bad guy? The situation is vice versa for the Liber8 terrorists, who don't mind blowing up a building full of innocents provided it's also one small step against the persecution from the Corporate Congress. It's a terrorists vs. freedom fighters argument with a time-travel wrinkle thrown in for good measure. Except Liber8 only intended to travel six years in the past, putting the terrorists and Kiera on a pretty even playing field when it comes to outdated tech like iPhones and cool-guy Bluetooth headsets when they're used to palm holo-phones and skull implants.
But Continuum does find a clever way to include limited future technology through Alec Sadler, a geeky shut-in in the present day (2012) who in the future is the boss of a tech giant that's responsible for a lot of the police's hardware. It's a stretch to say that young Alec's infant network could integrate with Kiera's 2077 gizmos, but the leap of faith is worth taking because it results in their partnership, which is integral to the show. With Alec the only one who knows the truth about Kiera and the only one who can help her out, there's a sweet Person of Interest-style relationship where Alec can sit in his Computer Clubhouse and help Kiera out in the field.
Continuum is also very aware that it's a time-travel show and that sci-fi fans know there are rules to such things. But the premiere didn't shy away from tht at all and almost immediately addressed the issue with two possible theories, courtesy of Alec. Kiera's actions in the present could greatly affect the future and mess a whole lot of stuff up, or her journey back to 2012 could all be part of the plan and she's just "going through the motions" of something that already happened in another time loop. This adds another layer to the already rich concept of Continuum that the show can play with (however, Alec's reaction to meeting Kiera for the "first" time in a flashback/flashforward seemed to indicate that he was already familiar with Kiera, as did his nonchalant reaction to her teleporting back with the terrorists).
BUT MORE LAYERS! In addition to the philosophical questions of corporate invasiveness in society, the puzzling wonder of time travel, and the sweet-ass future technology (skin-tight nanotech suits are fashionable and functional!), Continuum features an emotional core that really completes the show. Kiera isn't Robocop or Jean Claude van Damme in Timecop, she's an innocent hot lady from the future who accidentally ended up with a one-way ticket to present-day Vancouver. She's been ripped away from her husband and son, and like any other rational person, just wants to return to them. This is essential to Kiera's character, because without her longing for her family she'd be boring. When she's beating up thugs on a monorail she's fairly stock and reminiscent of TV's other tough female cops, but when she reflects on seeing her son again she becomes a human being, and that's all we can ask for out of television. Give us someone who is badass and who we can also sympathize with.
"A Stitch in Time" laid the groundwork for a potentially excellent series in solid fashion, and if you aren't excited for Episode 2, then you must have something against pretty-good ambitious television. There's a lot going on here that many other shows would fumble, but so far, Continuum is doing all of it right.
– Yeahhhhh Cancer Man is back! That's X-Files vet William B. Davis as the grown-up Alec Sadler.
– I've seen a handful of episodes and the quality stays roughly the same.
– Lovely Canadians, please don't spoil the series in the comments for those who haven't seen it.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom