The recent news of Continuum being “renewed” for a 6-episode final season got me thinking… after my rage subsided, and rational thought was again possible…
Continuum has a lot in common with one of my other favorite cerebral science fiction shows, Fringe. They’re both highly thought-provoking. They both portray deeply human characters that grow and evolve in unexpected ways. Each handled either dimensional or temporal travel in a way that was refreshing, intriguing, and ultimately heartbreaking. And most importantly both became too “challenging” for the general SciFi audience.
At least that’s how it feels. Being a devoted fan of both it’s difficult not to see their respective “gifted” shortened final seasons any other way. Both reached the peak of their creativity right before being canned. Both became much more challenging in their penultimate seasons, even though I don’t believe it made them “too” complicated. And yet it’s hard not to see a correlation between the increasing complexity of their plots and the dwindling viewership that eventually lead to both shows being prematurely terminated.
I know it sounds somewhat arrogant to say that the reason these shows were cancelled is because too many people couldn’t understand what was going on, and maybe it is. But I’m not a fan of science fiction because spaceships make me giggle, laser guns are cool, and blue women are especially attractive. (Those things are most definitely true, but just incidental!) I enjoy SciFi because of it’s inherent intellectual complexity. SciFi forces you to think, to consider, to wonder, and to imagine complex human, and scientific issues. This is why it’s fun! And also the laser guns!!!
I happen to think the final (shortened) season of Fringe was one of the show’s best. It seemed matured and stretched the show’s established boundaries, perhaps because the writers had nothing to lose, and went for it all. In a lot of ways the third season of Continuum went even further than the final season of Fringe, with it’s increasingly interwoven and, at times, meandering veiled plot. But if the plots of both had been too easy, dumbed down, or just more of the same, fans would have cried that the shows were becoming boring, and predictable. So which is it, stay simple to appease the the larger audience who might get frustrated with complex plot, or go for the glory and really try something special?
Getting renewed for a shortened final season, and expecting the fans to be thankful”for a “wrap-up” of a great story almost seems patronizing. It’s like they’re saying “hey, at least we didn’t get Fireflied!” I might be going off the deep end here, but I almost rather Continuum didn’t get renewed for a shortened final season. If it hadn’t perhaps the SyFy channel might have picked it up and continue the story. Maybe Netflix would have done so. But now, with a rushed, condensed final season (Simon Barry has stated he had designs for a 7-10 season run) how could it ever get picked up somewhere else? If the story has been ended, however it might be, would they just pretend that end didn’t happen? Or would they “work out of it” and make it part of the larger story just to keep going? This final season destroys any hope of a renewal. I’ll watch the final season with bated breath, but make no bones about it, Continuum has been cancelled!