Friday, September 6, 2013

Surface thoughts

So, Wonder Wife and I are currently watching Surface, an unsuccessful 2005 science-fiction series pulled after one season. We operate at the whim of Netflix streaming and have found a surprising number of shortrun sci-fi series that we wish had had more episodes - Alphas, OutcastsThe Dresden Files, Nova, and Flash Forward among them - but this is not about the serendipity of tripping over a cancelled series that you like.

Surface centers on the interaction between a few people - a California oceanographer, a Lousiana good ol' boy, and North Carolina teen - and a new underwater species: some sort of large vertebrate with an electrical charge and an active lifestyle that involves eating dogs, sharks, whales, boats, and so on. With a bit of a Close Encounters vibe, these civilians come into conflict with shadowy government agents who have their own agenda regarding these creatures.

We're only halfway through the show's fifteen episodes, but we've been having a rollicking good time. There's technobabble science, high-seas adventure, conspiracy espionage, and interpersonal drama in pretty equal measure, with decent pacing and appealing characters. It's not a great show, but it certainly is solid entertainment.

What's noteworthy is that for me it puts lie to the idea that Aquaman is a hard character to write for.

This show is all about something coming up from the depths of the ocean; the core of the show is  a sea-monster, for cryin' out loud. And is sure has a lot of watery set pieces: among them, we've had a research submarine expedition, the carrier Ronald Reagan and a military sub in the Arctic, spear-fishers under an offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico, a pickup-creature chase along a river, and a jerry-rigged bathysphere being lowered from an outlaw salvage ship. And those are just the scenes with the main cast: the sea-monster teasers have taken us all over the world.

And yet, much of the show plays out like any television thriller: scientists work in labs, senators meet in conference rooms, agents drive SUVs, children get dropped of with ex-spouses, cell phone calls are made and answered, pins are placed on large maps in cluttered situation rooms, and characters share beers while assessing their chances. While the plot is ocean-driven and the show ocean-centric, nothing ever feels ocean-bound.

So why is Aquaman seen to be so limited? Just because he is an ocean-based hero, that doesn't mean he can't ever function on land. Almost half the world's population lives within 100 miles of the ocean, and if you add the navigable rivers there's even more. Think about how many world-class cities are ports: New York, Boston, San Francisco, London,  Shanghai, Singapore, Rotterdam, Tokyo, and on and on. Granted, Aquaman's probably not going to be crossing the Sahara or parachuting into Siberia, but there's a lot of world that is still reasonably open to him from a plot perspective, and he doesn't have to stay submerged to be effective.

Aquaman is a marine mammal, not a fish - he can come up on shore, look for information, contact sources, visit an old friend, and yes, even engage the enemy on their own turf. The major action scenes in an Aquaman story, as in Surface, should certainly be on the water - getaway speedboats, island hideaways, cruisers remaining in international waters, and so forth - but nothing keeps Arthur Curry from being a force to be reckoned with on dry land. He still packs a punch like a ramming whale, right?

I gotta check Netflix again. Are we sure he didn't have a show for even one season?

1 comment:

  1. The best thing about Entourage was Cameron's Aquaman. It could've been great.