The latest entry in The CW network’s Angsty Teen High Concept Sweepstakes is “The 100.” Premise: 100 years after a nuclear war, the only survivors of humanity live in a space station called “The Ark.” As an attempt to find out if the earth is now viable for human habitation, they drop 100 impossibly attractive juvenile offenders on death row. The kids are expendable.
Well, at least there’s no vampires for a change.
I decided to watch this show because Flabbergasted is reviewing “The Walking Dead” and that dreadful “Helix” show, and newcomer Ganesha has thrown himself on his sword to review “Arrow.” It seemed only fair that I step up and review a series, too. I mean, you know, other than Cosmos II: Armed and Fabulous, which I’m also reviewing. Because episode reviews are what drive readership on a site like this, and we need more of that sort of thing. Also because, hey, spaceships, right? This is the first show on American TV since Stargate: Universe was cancelled to have spacecraft in it.
Weird to think that, right? I know.
There’s too many characters to keep straight on a first outing, and like all pilots there’s way too much exposition, so I’ll just set the storyline up in chronological order, including stuff we see and stuff we’re told. It’s easier to keep it all straight that way. The ‘big reveals’ and ‘stuff we’re telling you about because we can’t afford or were too bored to show it’ gets a bit convoluted.
97 years ago, there was a nuclear war that wiped out all human life on earth. (How retro!) There was, however, a bunker built underneath “Mount Weather” that was apparently never occupied, but was stocked with enough supplies to keep 300 people alive for several years. At the time of the holocaust, there were 12 nations with working space stations. They pooled their resources to build one great big space station called “The Ark.” So far so good. They’ve even got a section of the space station rotating to provide artificial gravity! Kickass! Hard science! On TV! The last time anyone did that was the short-lived “Defying Gravity.” The last time anyone paid ATTENTION (“Defying Gravity” was kinda’ halfassing it) was Babylon 5, which ended in 1999. So: Cool.
In order to conserve limited resources, families are only allowed to have one child. (I see an obvious math problem here) and all crimes are punishable by death if you’re over 18. If you’re under 18 you’re stuck in a very roomy cell with a nice cupola window. When you turn 18, you’re tried and either given a second chance or killed.
About 16-17-18 years before the show begins, most of the characters are born, including a girl named “Octavia,” who is an illegal second child. The first sixteen years of her life, her family kept her existence a secret, but then she was discovered and put in jail (Why?) and her mom was executed. She’s referred to as “The girl that lives in the floor.” As with everyone in this show, she’s impossibly good looking. There’s also a girl named Clark who’s ostensibly our protagonist.
Several months before the show begins, Clark’s father (Station engineer) discovers that life support is failing (Really? Just discovered it? Like signs weren’t there all along? I mean it sounds like a chronic problem to me.) They’ve got perhaps a year left before the station dies. Clark’s family decides to go forward with the info, but “The Council” slaps her in jail and kills her dad, but lets the mom go (why?)
In desperation, the Council decides to take 100 of the delinquent kids and send them down to the surface to find out if it’s livable. If it is, then they’ll start moving people down from the station. If it isn’t, then, well, they’re all screwed. The Chancelor’s son – Wells - is in love with Clark, so he commits a crime so he can go along. Octavia’s brother evidently kills a guard and attempts to kill the Chancelor so he can go along pretending to be a guard on the lander. (This is actually pretty clever and sets up what I assume is the only competent storyline in the series)
The lander with Clark, Octavia, Octavia’s Brother, Wells, and a bunch of others goes out of control, and crashlands 20 miles away from Mount Weather. Two kids die in the crackup. So we’re down to “The 98.” Also, Wells leg is injured.
The kids immediately break up into two camps: one side lines up with Octavia’s brother, a smaller group lines up with Clark. Clark wants to get to Mount Weather, O-Bro’s group just wants to do “Whatever the hell we want.” (They actually chant this) Clark, Octavia, Handsome Rebel Guy With A Tears For Fears Haircut, Jasper, and Comedy Relief Sidekick # 2 head out for the mountain, while Wells has to stay with O-Bro’s group at the lander.
Up on the station, they’ve lost contact with the lander, and they’re freaking out. They are still able to monitor their life support bracelets, however. The Doctor (Clark’s mom) breaks the law using too many resources to save the Chancellors life. While this is going on, the Vice-Chancellor mentions that sending the kids down allows them to extend their life support by a month. Killing a few hundred more people might buy them more time still. He seems inordinately interested in making sure the expedition fails.
Octavia strips down and jumps in a lake and nearly gets eaten by a giant snake. They see a mutant deer. Handsome Rebel Guy With A Tears For Fears Haircut establishes himself as Clark’s bad boy love interest. Back at the camp, O-Bro talks everyone into breaking off their bracelets so the people up in the station will think they’re dead and earth is uninhabitable. This will keep them from attempting to make another landing. He claims no one is in charge, but he immediately ingratiates himself with a couple of the thuggier guys to make sure he’s the real leader. They force Wells to comply.
On the station, the Chancellor recovers and pardons the doctor.
Clark’s group makes it to the foot of Mount Weather, and then Jasper gets speared in the chest and dies. Clark says, “We’re not alone here!”
Well, at lest there’s no vampires. Yet.
This is not a great show, nor even a very good one. The impossibly-good-looking kids are all cearly in their early 20s, the acting is all over the place (Octavia is spectacularly bad, but has an amazing butt, and they make a point of showcasing that as it’s really all she’s got going for her), and the premise is interesting, but not particularly well thought out.
For instance, the life support failure thing is a REALLY GOOD plot driver. But they don’t seem concerned at all about the gene pool, effectively halving their numbers every generation, and their rules are ridiculously over-draconian for the circumstances we see. I mean, the station is HUGE. Clarks’ cell is as big as my kids bedroom. Big hallways that seem mostly empty of people. This doesn’t add up. And if they’re as resource-poor as they say, why are they executing people by dumping ‘em out an airlock? I mean people are meat, right? And chemicals? And you need those? So wouldn’t it make more sense to cap ‘em and then drop ‘em in the recycling bin?
The kids have been in an artificial environment their entire lives, and yet they display no trace of fear or even agoraphobia on earth. I mean, I’m *FROM* earth, and you’d never catch me sleeping outdoors! I don’t even like going in the back yard after dark. It tends to get snakey back there. What’s more, the make a 20 mile hike in a day and a half, through a dense forest, with no gear, no supplies, and no navigation equipment. (Well, Clark has a map, but no compass). That’s all just goofy.
The show appears to be cobbled together from bits of the RDM Battlestar Galactica (In fact, it even has Mr. Gaeta, effectively playing Mr. Gaeta again), After Earth, Outcasts, Survivors, and your standard cold-war era postapocalyptic flick, what with the monsters in the woods glow-in-the-dark trees and various stupidly impossible mutants. Honestly, I found the retro aspects of it kinda’ charming, but as a show it’s kinda’ dumb and very poorly thought out.
Wells, Octavia, Clark. Lotta' people named after SF writers here.
Exactly how could the Ark not know if earth was habitable or not? They can look out a window and see it, presumably they could drop probes, monitor radiation from orbit, etc.
There's a genre of show I like to call "Battlestar Galactica Season 5," in which the survivors of a great ordeal are attempting to make a life for themselves in a strange hostile new world. The BBC's "Outcasts" was one of those (I mean, seriously, it honestly felt like an unlicenced sequel), and now there's this show.
But, hey, at least no vampires.
Kevin Long is a well-reviewed Science Fiction author, who has written three full-length anthologies, and is at work on several other projects. He used to blog under the name “Republibot 3.0,” but now that his stalker is dead, and he can afford to be less paranoid, he uses his real name. His personal website is here and his Smashwords page here. Or, if you prefer Amazon, his books are here, here, and here. Check out his site, and buy one of his books. He’s got a wife and kids to support! ANd, hey, if anyone knows how to embed these links so they don't take up twenty miles of space, that'd be keen, too!