One of the great unsung heroes of science fiction/fantasy, writer and producer Jane Espenson has toiled tirelessly behind the scenes on such epic television odysseys as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Battlestar Galactica. Now assigned the duties of showrunner on the forthcoming Galactica prequel Caprica, Espenson cuts her boss lady teeth as part of the re-branding efforts on the new Syfy original series alongside co-creator Brent D. Mote.
Espenson has handily demonstrated that she has both the smarts and the scripts to make just about any idea fly. In spite of that, Warehouse 13 gives off an oddly familiar aroma of ingredients made up of former SyFy flavor-of-the-month projects that the network saw fit to either cancel or simply not renew. The comically mundane objects possessed of magical properties brings to mind the 2006 mini-series The Lost Room (excellent, by the way), while the melding of detective stories with elements of the supernatural was a staple of 2007’s The Dresden Files.
That said these days you just can’t have a single idea in a television show, rather you have to have many. So you take the form of a procedural, splice in a bit of Twilight Zone bizzaro, add a dash of buddy movie, and perhaps a sprinkling of black bag government cover-up and you’ve essentially got yourself a TV show. Taking the open-ended question of “what the hell else is in there?” offered up by the closing shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark and running with it, Warehouse 13 follows the efforts of comically mismatched Secret Service agents Pete Lattimer (McClintok) and Myka Bering (Kelly) to track down and obtain various objects known as “artifacts” that imbue their owners with strange and frequently dangerous powers. Once found they are then stored in the titular top-secret facility. Their guide on this journey into the unknown is Artie Nielsen (Rubinek), an ill-mannered scatterbrained genius who serves as the operational chief, dispensing crumbs of information as to the Warehouse’s ultimate nature under the supervision of deeply mysterious program director Mrs. Frederick (Pounder).
It all sounds enticing enough, but thus far the show sorely suffers from a distinct lack of drive and each week plays out the very definition of formula. Artie is the token mad genius, whose duties chiefly include exposition, so naturally he talks to himself (makes it much easier) and exhibits the social niceties of a cave troll. Bering is a headstrong, buttoned down, by-the-booker while Lattimer is a rule bender who operates on hunches and intuition. Naturally each week they bicker like school children. He’s street smart, she’s book smart. He’s a smooth talker, she kicks ass like Trinity from The Matrix. They’re both ridiculously good looking and ooze sex appeal in buckets. But thus far they’ve failed to transition to real people and more closely resemble the culmination of a focus group wish list detailing whom precisely they would like to live vicariously through for forty-five minutes each week.
The introduction of emo teenage tech-wizz Claudia Donovan (Scagliotti) might hopefully serve to inject a little youthful effervescence into the proceedings, or at the very least shake up the seen-it-all-before dynamic. Frederick is an interesting prospect but so far has been given little to do beyond showing up to look menacing before skulking off back into the shadows. What the series badly needs is the introduction of an arch villain akin to X-Files Cancer Man. Something to refine the focus and get the show off the object-of-the-week groove in which it currently resides.
Starring: Eddie McClintock, Joanne Kelly, Saul Rubinek, Genelle Williams, C.C.H Pounder, Alison Scagliotti, Simon Reynolds
Created By: Jane Espenson, D. Brent Mote
Network: SyFy Channel
Airtime: Tuesdays, 9:00pm EST