What would you do if a stranger told you that he was from the future? What if he needed your help to change that future? Would you? Could you? Last night’s premiere of the “12 Monkeys” series on Showcase and Syfy, inspired by Terry Gilliam‘s 1995 blockbuster film, asks that question as James Cole and Dr. Cassandra Railly race against time itself to stop a deadly plague. Grab your decontamination suit and follow me.
It’s 2013 and Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), a virologist, is doing a presentation on plagues and how they just seem to show up when we least expect them. She’s a young doctor with a promising career and she has a boyfriend Aaron Marker (Noah Bean), who is also climbing the ladder of success. Everything is good, right?
Sometimes the future hangs over our heads like the sword of Damocles, but sometimes it hitches a ride in your car. Cassandra’s plan to spend a luxurious weekend with her cutie, is short-circuited when a stranger kidnaps her. This stranger knows everything about her past and more unnerving, her future. He has one question. Where is Leland Frost?
The world James Cole (Aaron Stanford) comes from is not pretty. It’s a dying world with few humans left. The year is comes from is 2043. What happened? Sometime around 2017, the plague happened with a vengeance. The plague has killed seven billion people. There are a few people that are immune, but the virus keeps mutating. There is very little food left and definitely nothing that resembles civilization as we know it. Think “The Walking Dead” without the zombies.
The future is bleak, but in 2043 there is a way to reset the past. It’s called splintering. Jones (Barbara Sukowa) and a handful of scientists find, and then, use a time machine to send Cole back to the past in hopes of finding Leland Frost. Why Frost? A recording made by Cassandra in 2017 is found and in that recording she is calling out for Cole to find Frost. Are we confused yet? Time travel has always been hard to explain, but in this first episode, I’m happy to say, it actually makes sense in a sort of Star Trek kind of way.
What connection does Leland Frost (Zeljko Ivanek) have with the plague? With the police hot on his trail, Cole takes Cassandra to an abandoned building where he explains that he is from the future and that he needs to find the man Cassandra mentioned in the recording, but Cassandra doesn’t know the man. Time travel is not an exact science Cole explains. He was sent back to the wrong time. As proof of his being a time traveler, Cole shows Cassandra her watch, the exact watch she has on her wrist. When Cole is shot by the police, he tells Cassandra to meet him at a hotel in Philadelphia. Sounds like a plan, right? Well, there is one problem. The meeting is two years away and before she can question him, Cole vanishes.
It’s 2015 and Cassandra waits for Cole at that hotel in Philadelphia. Her life has drastically changed since last seeing him. When Cole does arrive, he’s still bleeding from the bullet he took in 2013. It’s not explained why the scientists in the year 2043, didn’t patch up the bullet wound but Cassandra takes care of Cole. She’s found Leland with the help of a friend. We learn that Leland’s real last name is Goines. Could explain why he was so hard to locate. Cole and Cassandra crash the party that Goines is attending and bump into Aaron who still has feelings for Cassandra. Who are the people that Leland works and why does Leland act like he recognizes Cole. It doesn’t matter because Cole has a job to do. He has to kill Leland to reset the future, but Leland has his own secret.
Right before Leland gives the order to have Cassandra killed and Cole dissected, Leland reveals that Cole and he met once before in 1987. Cole doesn’t remember. The Army of the 12 Monkeys is mentioned, a name that is new to Cole. Is this the group behind the plague? A hint is given in this first episode and it concerns a colleague of Leland’s. We’ll need to keep an eye on Oliver Peters (Ramon De Ocampo).
This is a smartly written science fiction show which deals with time travel by following a few rules in how we imagine time travel would or could work. People and objects can’t share the same space at the same time, so Cole has to be careful not to run into himself. If successful in killing Leland, Cole would no longer exist; the future changed, but Cole is willing to die for the future; his future. Leland thinks time travel is a paradox but how does he explain meeting Cole, twice.
When Cassandra objects to Cole killing Leland, Cole’s reply is haunting in its simple truth. Everyone is already dead thanks to the plague. We see first hand what not to do with time travel when Cole places the two watches together. Space and time has always intrigued us. Are they one and the same? Scientists, like Stephen Hawking and Einstein call it space time. Cole expected that his killing Leland would change the future. It did not. Cole is still alive and, a piece to the puzzle is locked away in a psych ward. What does Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) know about the Army of the 12 Monkeys? We’ll have to wait until next week to find out, but until then, you can read my interview with the very talented Amanda Schull here.