I have sometimes been indifferent to EUREKA, the series about an isolated town populated by supergeniuses, because the stories seemed too repetitive to me. It seemed like every time I tuned in, the plot was about somebody’s fabulous invention malfunctioning and causing havoc. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but what bothered me was Sheriff Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) and others being stumped about what was happening. Week after week. If I lived in that and cows suddenly started appearing on town roofs every morning, I would say, “Hey! Somebody’s experiment is malfunctioning, and causing havoc in town!” Case closed. (Of course, not every episode was like that; but of the ones I saw suffered from plot holes.)
What TPTB have done for this season is move forward by looking back. As the episode began, the denizens of Eureka were preparing to celebrate Founders’ Day, commemorating the 60th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s vision of a creative haven where the world’s greatest thinkers would be allowed “to live and create.” Fargo (Neil Grayston) even dressed as Einstein to play the part. Covering the soap opera side of things, Zane asked Jo (Erica Cerra) to marry him, and of course her response was not the one he was expecting… Then a… wait for it!… freak accident projects Jack, Jo, Fargo, Henry (Joe Morton) and Alison (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) back to the year 1947, when town was known as “Camp Eureka,” a secure military installation paranoid about spies. Alison immediately blended in as a nurse, and tried to convince Carter to keep a low profile because their presence could change history — perhaps to the point of interfering with the founding of the town in 1950. Unfortunately, “low profile” and “Jo” do not go together. “Explosions” and “Jo”? Oh, yeah, sure. Not that Alison is perfect: She shows off CPR skills, and uses Jeep jumper cables to serve as a defibrillator.
As always happens in this sort of story, somebody in charge took a particular (usually credibility-straining) interest in the “strangers.” In this story, that guy is Dr. Grant (James Callis, ex-Baltar, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), a physicist with a curiously open mind. Naturally, as always happens in this sort of story, Carter’s knowledge of the future (He knew Jackie Robinson would go 0-for-3 in his major-league debut) played a key role in convincing Grant that something was up. Poor Fargo found himself naked in the stockade. He told a funny variation on Terminator’s “Your clothes; give them to me” scene. Harry chose to hide in plain sight, in the motor pool, because, as he noted, nobody looks twice at a mechanic like him. Henry was frankly thrilled to observe the town before its founding, but everyone else wanted to get home. But can they accomplish that with only primitive 1947 technology available? Well, that wasn’t quite true: They all still had PDA’s. And Einstein’s lab harbored a particularly useful invention… Henry noted that Grant’s contributions to the field of physics would be remembered in the 21st century. In fact, one of his creations was responsible for this time glitch: In 2010, Kevin repaired the Einstein-Grant Bridge, accidentally completing a circuit with the device when it was in 1947.
In addition to the most hilarious high-tech/low-tech jailbreak ever (featuring Fargo peeing on magnesium powder to accelerate a chemical reaction and melt the lock), what I loved about the premiere was that this story has consequences. When the gang returned to 2010, they discovered the “present” had been subtly changed: Now Zane has no interest in marrying Jo; Henry and Grace are married; Kevin is not autistic; Tess (Jaime Ray Newman) did not go to Australia to work on a radio telescope array. Oh, and Dr. Grant is in 2010. Hmmm… think his presence has anything to do with the mysteries?
I am interested in seeing how far TPTB are willing to take the changes, and how long they will last. I am just a sucker for an intelligent time-travel story (and 1947 is a great year to visit). In addition, Callis was so great on BSG that I would watch him in anything, and while he was squandered on last season’s ABC misfire FLASHFORWARD, I think Callis has landed on his feet this time. Just the same as EUREKA has.