"We came to this land 100 years ago, looking for a new start. Well, it gave us that - and much, much more. Bounty enough to feed every nation on Earth. So we worked this land, we worked it hard. We loved it. And when we had to, we fought for it..."
It is the future. Humankind has moved out from Earth to colonise planets in far-flung solar systems. One such planet is New America, in the Mu Arae star system, some 15 parsecs from Earth.
New America - possibly in keeping with many such colonies - has been founded by a nation of old Earth, in this case - unsurprisingly, given the colony's name - the United STATE (singular) of Earth. New America is apparently largely agricultural. As the opening voice-over, spoken by the show's principal character, Tom Hart, suggests, the planet is rich enough to supply all of Earth's food needs. But all is not well - either on New America, or back at home on Earth. On the colony, a bitter war has been fought in the recent past - over what, precisely, is unclear, although it seems linked to events on Earth which lead to the rise of the United STATE of America, an altogether more imperialistic regime than the old United States...
Now, the government of the United State is seeking to restrict the colony's ability to act as a independent world. Trade with other nations on Earth have been curtailed, leaving the United State as the colony's sole market - a market which also controls the net worth of all food exports from the planet. Unrest is brewing on the colony: people are resentful of the way in which the United State government is exerting control over them. The government itself is becoming more beligerent towards its colony: new laws have been enacted that curtail civil liberties; a new military Regional Commander has been assigned to the planet - with the firepower to do considerable damage. Among the colonists themselves, talk of revolution is brewing. At the nexus of all the unheavals and potentials for turmoil is Tom Hart himself. Father, widower, farmer - and war hero. Surrounded by turmoil within his own family, Tom attempts to run his business, raise his sons and daughter, live with the loss of his wife, and avoid seeing his planet slide into revolt and strife once more. Such are the broad brushstrokes that mark the pilot for what could be one of the most thought-provoking science fiction series yet to be made. The echoes between the situation on New America and with America's own history and war of independence are clear. One cannot mistake the fact that the distant United State of America back on Earth - and completely unseen on the screen - is a latter-day England, while the war cruisers dispatched to New America are a latter-day representation of His Majesty's Navy. Nor to is it any coincidence that the new Regional Commander to the colony has an English accent. But this is no simple rehashing of America's war of independence played out in some futuristic guise. From the start, Revolution comes across as a richly-layered tapestry with many, many threads of stories, backstories, opportunities, hopes and possible betrayals all woven into a compelling tale that is beautifully told and which quickly draws the viewer into the lives of Tom Hart, his family, his friends - and his potential enemies, be they representative of the imperalistic United State, or be they members of his own family, however indirectly related.
Other elements of America's history are alluded to, and appear to have a potential prominent role. Will Hart, Tom's youngest son, has returned home from spending seix months among the unborn - clones, who, like the indiginous Ameri-Indians appear to be both mystical and regarded as second class citizens, relegated to reservations at the behest of the powers that be. Nor does the mysticism end there - for it is clear that Tom's own mother has a psychic ability; she realises Will has come home before he arrives at the farm; she is aware of his time with the clones - and she foresees the events that form the climax of the pilot and which looks set to be the opening gambit in the coming revolution. Indeed, it is through her, as much as anything, that one gets the impression that there is a major plot line running from the idea of clones on the planet, through her to Tom and his family.
For those who have watched the crop of science fiction shows, New America will be a familiar place: while it is undoubtedly a place of the future, with space elevators, an FTL technology of some description and gigantic space craft - it is also one rooted in the technology of today: cars that are instantly familiar to us trundle Earthly blacktop; people communicate using devices not that dissimilar to our modern cellphones and use video technology that would not look out of place in any home here on Earth. And this in itself lends weight to the power of the story - the familiar technology, the everyday homes, the simple life Tom Hart and his family have adopted again serve to draw us further in, help make us care about and for these people, to make the dilemmas they are facing and about to face our own. Of course, any series that follows on from the pilot is going to have a tough time - simply because the pilot sets the bar so high. But it is hard to believe the writers / creators would embark upon this endeavour unless they had a clear idea of the ground they want to cover - and there are more than enough story arcs established during the pilot, unto and including the marevelous cliff-hanger ending, to ensure that any follow-on series have rich soil to plough.
Indeed, if this pilot is guilty of anything at all, it is simply that it is too good. It does so much beg for a follow-on series - it DEMANDS the series be made. Anything less would be nothing short of a travesty. And it is because of this that one has to ask why the SyFy or Sci Fi or whatever they are calling themselves today, has not actually aired the pilot in the USA.