Flashforward: the Excellence that “Knowing” could have been   Leave a comment

flashforward Watch Flashforward, Episode One

Robert Sawyer’s Flashforward has been made into an ABC miniseries. It is a masterpiece. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how faithful the series is to the original book, but the book won an Aurora Award.

The premise is that everyone blacks out at the same moment for 2 min and 17 seconds. In that time, they glimpse their futures. When they return to the present, mass chaos has already happened. Planes fell from the sky, cars crashed, trains derailed. People died, lots of people died. Everyone had blacked out, so no one was in control of all those vehicles.

The main characters, and there are several, include two FBI agents, a surgeon, a man who lost a daughter in Afghanistan, a doctor about to commit suicide, and several others. The series will be about them either trying to avoid their futures, or trying to get to them, depending on what they saw.

Oddly enough, the date they jump to, April 29, 2010, will be the season finale of the show–and at that moment you get to see if they reenact their futures or not.

Obviously, I don’t know how they can carry this through after that episode…BUT, I’m thoroughly pleased with watching till they get there. After this first episode I know that we have a great team of writers involved.

Now, this is what “Knowing” should have been. In my original review of “Knowing” I talked about how the movie, though predicting disasters, left very few for the main characters to experience, and I was troubled by the fact that it seemed the directors had determined that no one could change anything, so why bother.  That movie dripped with errant theology and left no doubt that everything was predetermined.  I don’t mind that fate or God may be a part of my life, but free-will is a human trait,and makes movies much more palatable.  To see someone struggle against their fate, to see them try.  It is what makes those who are given two weeks to live all the more heroic for skydiving or organizing a political rally.  How we react to what seems to be inevitable–THAT is interesting.

Already, I can tell that the show has set up five or six different beliefs about pre-determinism.  Some believe God gave them a gift, others that He gave them a punishment.  Some want to avoid the future, some to run to it.  For some it predicted a horrible mistake they will make.  

“Knowing” passed up all opportunities for real drama with real people, skidded ahead with bad dialogue and coincidence, to an ending which tried to justify the movie.  

Flashforward is like Mozart taking hold of the Salieri “Knowing” and actually making a great movie out of it.  Yes, I know, Knowing only had two hours…but still, this series is good solid writing.

1.  The characters are individuals, who walk onto the scene with their own problems, their own pasts.  They are well drawn and WHAT they do will determine the plot, not what others do.  Now that the big blackout is done, the characters guide the series.  They will push things forward accidentally or on purpose to meet up to April 29th.  They will determine their plots!

2.  Great dialogue, great stuff that isn’t about “the plot”— that Dimitri has to dance at his wedding to “Islands in the Stream.”  That the chief of the FBI has to lie about his vision because he’s embarrassed.  

3.  The plot starts with the action.  I can imagine this series beginning without the crash first.  But who would have waited the whole episode to have the blackout?  Nope, have the crash first, back up, and then take it slow.  Maybe this is just the difference between TV and reading….but I think starting as fast as you can into the action gets people involved with you.  I noticed in Robert’s book, first chapter, that he has a description of each character first…but within a page, he gets to the blackout.  He knows the blackout is a great hook, and that everything of importance happens afterwards.  

4.  I like the music in this series, already, the building, the back and forth between plots so quickly so that you know they are happening simultaneously–the music and this choice to flash around gives you a sense that everything is tied together.  In some sense it is like a trailer—when the trailer starts shuffling between images so fast that you get excited: all trailers seem to end this way these days.  The director took the music and that shuffling sequence to build suspense.  

I hope Robert Sawyer makes a huge amount of cash from this.  This is brilliant stuff.  And I’m glad to see a Canadian Science Fiction Writer land such an opportunity.  I hope they do more interviews with Robert Sawyer in the States.  

Well, I will keep watching the series.  I’ve already become a HUGE fan.

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