First Thoughts on NBC's "Revolution"

Including audiobooks and comic books, I read a lot more than I watch television and movies so I don't catch a lot of new shows. I was a fan of "Jericho" a few years back, a show about a small Kansas town trying to endure in the aftermath of a nuclear exchange and the collapse of the United States government.  When I first heard of "Revolution" I thought of "Jericho" and decided to check it out.

The premise of "Revolution" is that 15 years ago some event removed power from the entire globe. We're not talking all power plants failed or an EMP fried lots of devices, nothing electronic works. To be honest, this is something I have a hard time buying into - sometimes willing suspension of disbelief is hard. As someone who majored in Computer Science and Engineering I had to take a lot of Electrical Engineering classes and this selective suspension of the laws of physics is awfully hard to swallow. After all if you really suspended electricity you'd die pretty quickly as your nervous system and brain would lose their ability to transmit messages. I know S.M. Stirling did a series with this as a premise, starting with Dies the Fire, though I've not read that series.

For the time being I swallowing my disbelief to see how things develop. The series takes place around Chicago with the main threat being the Monroe Militia which rules over everything. There is a magic gadget that one of the protagonists possesses that apparently can make electricity work again, suggesting there may indeed be something "magical" about the suppression of electricity.

The society that has emerged is one that people familiar with the post-apocalyptic genre will recognize pretty readily - one that has been forced to go back to a medieval level of technology. Firearms still work but the Monroe Militia has banned civilian possession of them. Flashbacks have been showing what transpired in the aftermath of the event that suppressed electricity.

For the time being I'm watching the show. In my opinion it illustrates the challenges in sustaining interest in a setting - it is an interesting setting, but interesting settings are, in my opinion, not that difficult to create. The difficulty is, I believe, in keeping that setting going. This is true whether you are making a book, movie, television series, or RPG campaign. In this case there is obviously a mystery as to why electricity no longer works and the possibility of brining it back. But this seems to be see something that needs to be addressed vs. kept in the background. It's a balancing act - you don't want to reveal or resolve everything at one but at the same time you can't keep your audience - or gaming group - hanging forever. Ideally a revelation or resolution should not close off dramatic opportunities so much as opening up new ones.

Comments

  1. I’m definitely a sucker for sci-fi and post-apocalyptic stories. Revolution seemed a bit shaky with its premiere, but I’ve since caught up to tonight’s episode, thanks to my Hopper; I must say that the characters are developing quickly, and I think that’s a huge plus for the audience to stay interested. A few of my coworkers at DISH just told me about the show being signed for an entire season. I have hope in Abrams to not drop too many mysteries. I’m just glad that my Hopper has enough memory to save the good and the bad shows. From there, I’ll make the decisions for myself.

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  2. Like you guys I always get sucked into this genre, The Omega Man with Charlton Heston and Ron Grainer's masterful score is one of my all time favorite films.

    Revolution has great characters and the set is just amazing but I don't stay focused on the story through an entire episode. The dialog seems too closely tied to the events at hand. I would like to see the characters interact with the new world in a more organic way. As the show is written now the environment/world (which is wonderfully rendered) seems very artificial, like a set.

    And I wish they would write in a humorous character, someone who pokes fun at SF and the whole premise of the show would be very funny. This characters disbelief of the situation and eventual acceptance of the horrible truth would be interesting to watch, and would really help to relieve some of the drudgery that so often plagues the post apoc world.

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