REVIEW SUMMARY: A fantastic hour and a half of SF television.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A body falls out of the sky in the Canadian Arctic and sparks an international firestorm in a post-oil world.
PROS: Fantastic plotting, acting and potential.
CONS: Never picked up for a series.
In the Canadian TV pilot Borealis, which aired back in January 2013 on the Space Channel, a body falls out of the sky in the Canadian arctic, and threatens to cause a major international incident. Taking place in the near-ish future, global energy supplies have declined, leaving many nations to look for new sources of oil. The Canadian arctic contains some untapped oil reserves, and the world wants a piece of it. The Russians are interested, and looking far into the past to see if there was a Russian presence (and thus some claim on the land), while environmentalists are out documenting abuses.
Into the middle of this complicated mess is Vic, a Canadian agent who owns a bar in the border town called Borealis. He caters to all types: the Russians, Environmentalists, folks looking for a job, Canadian military, and others. He simply wants to make a living and with the arrival of the body, he finds himself stuck in the middle of all the problems, while trying to figure out who killed the guy, and just why he’s got some ancient nails in his pocket.
There’s a lot to love in this short film / pilot. Vic, played by Ty Olssen (Battlestar Galactica / Arrow), is a solid center to the show, and his interactions with the wide range of side characters is both natural and generally hilarious – his sidekick, Taq (Patrick Gallagher), absolutely steals the show with his deadpan attitude towards everything.
This reminds me of a couple of things that I’ve seen on bookshelves lately – Tobias Buckell’s Arctic Rising and Margaret Atwood’s story Bearlift, and this seems like it could have been an early foray into climate-focused science fiction on the small screen, something that we’ve seen already in books in the couple of years.
What stood out for me is that Borealis was a surprisingly smart production: it’s plot was impeccable, both setting up a world and characters, all the while having a superior story to boot, making it better than most of the productions that make it to the television. It’s a bit of a shame that it wasn’t picked up for a full series, because if this was the starting point, where it ended up could be really interesting.
At the end of the day, Borealis is a great hour and a half that stands fairly well on its own. Hopefully, we’ll see something like it make the rounds again at some point.