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Paradox

So, thanks to the dread meme of impossible decisions, I dug out Paradox for a rewatch. At least I think that was the reason. Something made me decide that it was time to watch it again, anyway. Nearly four years on, it's every bit as good as the first time. In fact, annoyingly, I enjoyed it even more this time than I did when it aired. Even more annoyingly, it turns out that there are still only five episodes. And there's me wearing my "Proud Of The BBC" T-shirt today as well...

For those who don't know, which I suspect would be pretty much everybody, Paradox is a sci-fi drama that aired on the BBC in late 2009. An astrophysicist receives a peculiar transmission from his satellite, which appears to consist of photographs of an event that hasn't happened yet. Since it looks like an explosion of some kind, he calls in the police to investigate, and see if they can use the clues in the photographs to prevent the explosion from happening. The pictures don't stop coming though, and consequently, every Tuesday evening after the news, the team find themselves with another set of impossible photographs, and a mystery to unravel. And it was axed, and it's really frustrating.

It's not a perfect show (with very few exceptions, what is?), and I can see a few things that perhaps should have been done differently. For the most part, though, it really is annoyingly good. It didn't exactly hit the ground running, granted, but by episode three it's in fine form, and the final episode is damn near perfect. Sadly, most critics seemed to have made their minds up by the end of episode two, and by the looks of things so had the BBC. Finding your audience and having time to grow are not allowed in the modern world. This is frustrating enough when it's an American TV show, cancelled after twenty-two episodes; but when it's British, and cancelled after just five hours, it takes irritation to a whole new level. It's such a good idea for a show, and the characters themselves are good too. The police team have a few clichés amongst them, but the storyline around young DC Callum Gada is compelling, and the almost indecent excitement that the case arouses in DI Rebecca Flint has the promise of good things ahead. Creepy Ministry of Defence shadow Amelia James is a strong presence in the background, and the necessary conflict comes from cranky DS Ben Holt, who's less interesting than the other characters, admittedly, although it's probably good that there's somebody approximately normal and grounded in the cast. For me though, the stand out is Christian King, the scientist at the heart of it all. On the surface he's the standard, socially incompetent geek, but it goes much deeper than that. He's spectacularly aloof, to the extent that every twitch, every flicker of the eyes, maximises his distance from the human race. He can't keep people far enough away. It's a heck of a performance. I can't remember the last time I warmed to a character as quickly as I did to Christian. There's so much going on beneath the surface that you'd need another twenty episodes just to figure him out, let alone the mystery that's thrown itself at him (from outer space, just to add to the fun).

But there aren't another twenty episodes. There's just five, and there's remaining just five no matter how much I wish for more. The writer had planned a three series story arc, so presumably had intended for at least fifteen episodes in total. I'd love to have seen where he was going with the show, and where the story was taking the characters, particularly Christian and Callum. But it wasn't to be. Sometimes television is the most irritating thing in the world. I mean really, five episodes?! That's barely even chapter one.

Comments

( 19 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
sarren
Aug. 11th, 2013 03:17 pm (UTC)
I loved the first ep the best. I really, really did not expect that ending, it was fantastic.

And I loved Tamzin Outhwaite and her character, great female lead characters in the sort of show I watch is still too darn rare. I was already a fan from her role in The Fixer, tbh. Now, that was another brilliant show that was cancelled way too soon.
swordznsorcery
Aug. 11th, 2013 05:02 pm (UTC)
She was good. I wasn't sure at first, which is one of the reasons why I feel that the show got better as it went along. To begin with I thought she was a bit too much the standard TV cop. I liked how we saw her character develop though, with her growing obsession with the project, and also all the friction between her and Ben, as well as her relationship with Christian. I'd have loved to have seen how she would have handled things with Callum.
liadtbunny
Aug. 11th, 2013 03:35 pm (UTC)
I can't see how I could've missed sci-fi on the BBC but I don't remember Paradox at all. Unless it was over Christmas and I was working.

The BBC today would think 5 is loads of episodes. They are calling 'Field of Blood' a series when it consists of one story in two parts!

I don't know - is it better to have a few (near) perfect episodes or many with the odd gem mixed in with a Ben Steed?
swordznsorcery
Aug. 11th, 2013 05:04 pm (UTC)
Pretty sure it ran through December.

It might almost be worth seeing what Ben Steed would make of it! A strong, central female character is the sort of thing that must give him nightmares. He'd probably have her DS beat her up.

I want more episodes, damn it. *whine*
liadtbunny
Aug. 12th, 2013 02:50 pm (UTC)
Yep, too busy.

And she'd like it and beg to go back to the typing pool and gaze adoringly at the DS as he asks her to make tea!
swordznsorcery
Aug. 12th, 2013 07:48 pm (UTC)
You're suspiciously good at this. Own up. You actually are Ben Steed, aren't you...

The frightening thing is, somebody somewhere actually thought he was worth hiring; and that all those character-assassinating scripts that he wrote were worth making. I will never understand how that happened.
liadtbunny
Aug. 13th, 2013 03:10 pm (UTC)
Lol. More like years of cringing over "Oh Pella it hurts" in Power. I'd have edited it out, blurgh.

Nepotism? It must be! I hope it wasn't Chris Boucher who hired him.
swordznsorcery
Aug. 13th, 2013 11:59 pm (UTC)
Boucher must have had at least some involvement, surely. I know fans like to lionise him, but he has to take ultimate responsibility for all the uneven characterisation that went on. I don't see why he shouldn't take the blame for Ben Steed as well!
elenopa
Aug. 18th, 2013 01:45 pm (UTC)
It ran in July. I remember because I watched it on Iplayer and distinctly remember having my hair in curlers for the end of term school do for one episode.

I would have like it to have got another season. What got me though was the title. Not everything was a paradox. The first episode, the events happened without the team's interference; in some other episodes, it was the team that caused the images to come true and they would have been better not to have got involved.

Must watch it again sometime as I really like Christian.
swordznsorcery
Aug. 18th, 2013 07:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, nicely remembered. Strange, I could have sworn it was the end of the year!

Yes, the title was a misnomer, at least in the general sense. It was a nice, snappy title though, which I suppose they thought was more important! Episode one certainly wasn't paradoxical though, no. The others tended to be a bit of a mix.

It's worth watching again. I was pleased with how well it stood up to a re-watch.
magentadawned
Aug. 11th, 2013 10:24 pm (UTC)
I should have watched this, I don't know how I missed it if it was on the BBC!! Sounds similar to Flash Forward.
swordznsorcery
Aug. 11th, 2013 11:18 pm (UTC)
Similar notion, but with a lot of differences. "Flash Forward" was another one that I'd have liked to have seen more of. It had a lot wrong with it, but there was good stuff there too.
profshallowness
Aug. 14th, 2013 06:53 am (UTC)
Oh Paradox. I agree that it improves on rewatching and all its potential, cut off like that, hurts because of that. There were so many interesting things yet to develop, the ones you mention, as well as the cliffhanger ending and the fact that audio messages were being sent.

Logically, I understand that it didn't get enough viewers for renewal, because, somehow, for most people, the premise wasn't cool and intriguing and Christian King wasn't fascinating - I reacted in much the same way as you, so, emotionally, I'm mystified by people's response. There was maybe a tension between the sci-fi and action/thriller elements and the very thing that kept me hooked - that the show looked at the impact of what had happened for the team - might also put off casual viewers.

I keep expecting Emun Elliot to blow up and be The Next Big Thing and for more people in fandom to realise that this show happened and was so great.
swordznsorcery
Aug. 14th, 2013 08:35 pm (UTC)
People seem split between those who never saw it at all, and those who didn't like it because it wasn't what they expected it to be, so yes, I suspect you may be right. People complained that it was too predictable that the first message wasn't decoded in time, but that the second was, without seeming to realise that the point wasn't really whether they solved the riddle, but what effect it was having on them.

And yes, the audio messages would have been interesting. I suspect that the shadowy Ministry plot was going somewhere as well; and there was Callum's subplot to deal with, and whatever effect the shooting had on Christian. It's the sort of thing that fandom could have great fun with, if there were actually a fandom!
profshallowness
Aug. 15th, 2013 06:49 am (UTC)
I'm trying to remember how it was promoted - they hadn't put the trailers on the DVD. I seem to recall having a decent grasp of the premise going in, so I'm fairly sure that it was marketed as sci-fi, probably alongside the against-the-clock, solving the mystery element and the promise of things blowing up. For me, the premise was intriguing, but it was the characters that drew me in. I mean, as soon as we were introduced to Christian, I was on side. But if people in general hadn't been quite so hooked, I suppose they'd miss all the interesting developments. And like you say, there could have been so many other developments, because so much was sown.
swordznsorcery
Aug. 16th, 2013 03:34 am (UTC)
The main trailer was a bit vague, really: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YF7nkyoL49g

I don't know. Maybe primetime BBC1 was just the wrong place for it. Science fiction that isn't Who seems to struggle in the UK generally.
profshallowness
Aug. 16th, 2013 06:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link! It's certainly emphasising the mysteriousness, but to me it's pretty clear that it's sci fi.

I applaud the Beeb for trying to air more grown-up sci fi, and in a way, it had to air shows like Paradox and Outcasts on primetime BBC1 to regain costs, but they haven't succeeded in capturing the zeitgeist or bringing in the masses like Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes or shows from other genres have done.
swordznsorcery
Aug. 18th, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
"Outcasts" was a bit of a mess, unfortunately. "Survivors" too. Good cast, good idea, bad execution. I suppose I'm prejudiced, but I can't say the same for "Paradox". Watching it again, I was really pleased with how the story built over the five episodes. TV critics seem to have taken against it from the get go though, and that can often turn viewers off.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/6644532/Paradox-BBC-One-review.html

That review is fairly typical of what I remember at the time. It seems to have been written by somebody who only saw half the episode, and then moans about plot inadequacies that are more like viewer attention deficencies. I don't really think it was that hard to follow, but it didn't have the viewer-friendly frothiness of "Life On Mars", I suppose.

[/grumble]
profshallowness
Aug. 19th, 2013 07:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, that was a snarky review. I wasn't really aware of reviews, I think I decided to watch it based on the premise and I'm one of the people for whom 'sci fi crime drama' is always going to sound inviting. For others it's offputting. And if some of those people are critics, they may well put off the undecideds - iPlayer was definitely available when Paradox aired.

By the way, I agree that Paradox didn't fail like Outcasts and its high concept didn't tap into the nostalgia of Life on Mars.
( 19 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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