A few weeks ago, I finished watching a show that one of my sci-fi nerd friends had enthusiastically recommended to me. Eureka was a product of SyFy, a channel that has given us many gems over the years (Battlestar Galactica being the brightest). I’m going to put together a short review of the show while giving away as few spoilers as possible. Here goes.
The pilot episode begins with the protagonist, US Marshal Jack Carter, driving his daughter Zoe to Los Angeles when their car crashes in Eureka, Oregon. Eureka, we are told, was conceived by Albert Einstein as a place where the world’s greatest scientists could live and have freedom to experiment and innovate. After the events of the pilot, Carter ends up as sheriff of Eureka, and the show chronicles his adventures as the only Everyman in a town full of geniuses.
There are several things about this show that stand out to me. First and foremost is its writing. The writers of this show come up with a surprising amount of creative plots and twists for the story. For instance, one of my favorite episodes features a large number of people in the town having shared dreams, and the dilemmas that result. The writers on Eureka are also quite bold, unafraid to take the show in a completely new direction and upset the apple cart to take us on more interesting paths. At the beginning of the fourth season, several of the main characters get transported through a wormhole to the year 1947. They eventually make it back to the present day, but notice that several things about the Eureka they left behind have changed. Frequently, when a show shifts around so many details, the changes usually don’t last for more than a couple of episodes before the writers change them back, fearful of fan alienation. Eureka never does this, and the changes they make become permanent. While this initially upset me, I grew to appreciate it, and my appreciation for the show increased as a result.
Eureka’s characters are compelling as well. Most of them grow and change in some way throughout the series. While many of the cerebral Eureka citizens look down on Carter, they eventually come to appreciate his practical, outside-the-box thinking, and he becomes a beloved and essential member of the town. Carter finds himself in a love triangle with DoD Liaison Allison Blake, and her ex-husband Nathan Stark, who serves as director of Global Dynamics, the government-funded corporation where all the scientists work. Blake is frequently the voice of reason and calm when inventions and experiments go awry, as they often do. Stark is a less boisterous version of Iron Man’s Tony Stark, a guy with a healthy ego who still cares for Allison and their son, Kevin.
Other interesting characters in the series include Jo Lupo, the badass deputy sheriff who eventually meets a man that softens her, Douglas Fargo, a timid researcher who finds his confidence later on, and SARAH, the “smart house” that Fargo builds for Carter to live in. SARAH, in many ways, behaves in a humanlike manner, being a sort of mother figure to Carter and Zoe. Last but not least, there is Henry Deacon, the town’s jack-of-all-trades mechanic.
Lastly, Eureka also features music by Bear McCreary, the genius who gave us the incredible Battlestar Galactica soundtrack. He adapts his style to reflect Eureka’s more light-hearted tone, and his musical ideas set the scene for the show well.
So, in short, Eureka is not your typical sci-fi series. It doesn’t take place on a spaceship, or even in space. It doesn’t involve lasers shooting ships out of the sky, or even alien planets. In many ways, it could even be set in your own backyard. But it’s a very well-done series, and worth checking out. Sadly, I got into it right before it ended in summer 2012, but it is still worth checking out on Netflix or other sources if you’re itching for a new show.