From the creators of Lost comes an explosive new drama,
Heroes - a show about ordinary people discovering they
have extraordinary powers. The hit series is currently doing
well in America with weekly viewing figures exceeding 14 million
and increasing every week. Heroes comes to the UK when
it premieres on the Sci Fi channel in February 2007. Charles
Packer gives us sneak preview of what to expect from the series...
There is something within the psyche of human beings, which
longs for stories of heroes, the oldest recorded story that
we have, Gilgamesh, dates back to 2000 BC. Although Gilgamesh
as a historical figure dates from around 2700 BC. From culture
to culture the names and places change, but the underlying
themes remain unnervingly similar. Often the eponymous hero
will come from humble beginnings only going through the metamorphosis
of self discovery when events around them conspire to create
the necessary level of peril for the hero to discard his humble
chrysalis and burst forth into his new life.
monomyth was best examined in Joseph Campbell's seminal work
The Hero with a Thousand Faces, itself based mostly
on Jung's work on unconscious cultural archetypes, where he
makes a compelling argument for the existence of the monomyth.
Though his postulations and conclusions are not without its
critics it still remains an important work. The idea has formed
the basis of some of the best-known modern stories, the most
famous being the original Star Wars trilogy where George
Lucas plundered Campbell for his basic structure. So, it is
little wonder that new shows will continue to appear based
around the theme of the reluctant hero.
Coming to the UK Sci Fi channel in the first quarter of this
year (2007) is the new hot show, from NBC in the States, Heroes
(created by Tim
Kring who had previously created Crossing Jordan
and Strange World) which if you had to put it in a
box, is a combination of X-Men and Lost. After
watching the first four shows that description really doesn't
do justice to the show. Given that the series is using such
a well-worn archetype, the interest really is in the execution
of the show rather than the premise. This is helped greatly
with the inclusion of Jeph Loeb as writer and co-executive
producer. As well as being a greatly respected comic book
writer he has also worked as a writer and supervising producer
for Lost and Smallville. Heroes has a
comicbook sensibility in its structure, even to the point
of having each episode having a chapter number and Issac's
paintings of the future fitting together like panels in a
comic book to tell a story.
The premise of the show is fairly straightforward. Across
the world, but mostly in the USA - one would presume for budgetary
reasons, people are starting to realise that they have extraordinary
powers. With no Charles Xavier character to draw this large
ensemble cast together, their first reactions range from delighted
bemusement to horror. What do you do when you wake up one
morning to discover that you can fly or that you can bend
space and time, or worse still you are plagued by visions
of the impending apocalypse?
such a large ensemble cast the show skips from one story to
another giving just as much as you need to keep you interested
without loosing the various threads. It also uses that old
Babylon 5 trick of showing you what will happen but
without telling you how. The artist, Isaac, who can see visions
of the future is shown, quite graphically dead, with the top
of his skull removed as early as the second episode, though
you quickly realise that Hiro has jumped five weeks into the
future, just in time to see the end of the world, an end which
the heroes must try and prevent. It's a ploy that I have always
found both annoying and intriguing but let's face it, it kept
me watching Babylon 5 for five years and, if the show
keeps up the quality of the initial episodes, will, no doubt,
have me glued to this show. This device is also used in Isaac's
paintings, which effectively tells the whole story, though
at the start of the show they look more like random images.
Apart from their personal internal coping mechanisms, culture
plays a large part. The show is set in our reality, in the
here and now; therefore the idea of superheroes is not unknown
to any of the characters, Masi Oka (previously seen in Scrubs)
who plays Hiro Nakamura is absolutely delighted to discover
that he can bend space and time, meaning that he can stop
time and teleport from place to place. The show's, not unreasonable,
explanation is that as a repressed Japanese office worker
and obvious Otaku, Hiro's immersion in manga, anime and Playstation
games gives him the psychological makeup of someone who would
die to have this sort of stuff happens to him. Of course,
in the real world, things are not as simple as they are in
comics and good old Newton pops his head up. Unavoidable consequences
are often the equal and opposite reaction. The first couple
of episodes did give me some concern as Hiro and his friend
are presented as very personable and a little quirky; Hiro
especially comes over like a kid who has been given the keys
to the candy store, whilst this level of naiveté makes the
character very endearing, it also runs the risk of portraying
his character as an Asian stereotype. Thankfully in future
episodes Hiro returns from the future all testosteroned up,
carrying a big sword, presenting a much more battle hardened
linchpin character, though not possibly the most important
to the final outcome of the show, is Sendhi Ramamurthy [pictured
right] who plays Mohinder, a genetics professor who comes
to America in search of his father's murderers and the extraordinary
people that his father had claimed to have found. Ramamurthy
is an accomplished actor of both stage and screen, having
previously appeared as a guest in Numb3rs and Grey's
Anatomy as well as staring in the West End with The Royal
Shakespeare Company's production of A Servant to Two Masters
and appeared on Broadway in Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink.
Ramamurthy brings a quiet intensity to his role of the son
of a brilliant geneticist, who not only believes that beings
of extraordinary powers are being born around the world, but
that he could also find them by tracking their genome, a contention
that leads to his murder.
funniest and grimmest introduction to a character that the
show has is Hayden Panettiere's Claire Bennet, a high school
cheerleader who, by way of introduction, appears to be throwing
herself off higher and higher structures, trying to work out
not only why she doesn't die, but how come all her injuries
repair themselves. Hayden has appeared in Malcolm in the
Middle and Ally McBeal, though to a sad fanboy
like me the best one has to be providing the voice for Kairi
in Square Enix's game Kingdom Hearts.
Pasdar and Milo Ventimiglai play the Petrelli brothers. Nathan
(Pasdar) is running for office so is less than enthusiastic
that his brother Peter (Ventimiglai) wants to find out why
his brother can fly and why he can only fly sometimes. Pasda
has had a long and successful career since first appearing
in Top Gun and has appeared in numerous film and television
roles. Milo can be seen in the upcoming Rocky movie
playing Rocky's son.
complicate an already complex scenario, Peter is also sleeping
with Simone Deveaux (Tawney Cypress from Third Watch),
the girlfriend of Isaac Mendez. Santiago Cabrera, who has
appeared in Spooks, Judge John Deed and Empire,
plays Mendez, the artist who can paint the future and who
tragically ends up with his skull sawn off. To complete the
massive and very talented line up we have Ali Larter (Varsity
Blues and the excellent Final Destination) who
plays Niki Sanders, a woman with an alter ego who thinks nothing
of disembowelling bad guys, and Noah Gray-Cabey who plays
her son, Micah. Last, and certainly not least, is Greg Grunberg
(Alias) who plays the telepathic cop Matt Parkman.
All these lives are inexorably intertwined in the coming apocalypse,
though whether for good or evil only time will tell.
the side of the bad guys is a character, which we never see
in the earlier episodes, called Sylar who appears to be killing
others with special abilities. Though I wouldn't put good
money on this, as the show has a way of challenging your expectations.
His activities bring him to the attention of FBI agent Hanson.
If not being able to harm yourself wasn't enough for a high
school cheerleader, how about having a father that seems to
be kidnapping and experimenting on those with powers? You
just know that it's going to be a difficult daughter and father
conversation when Claire Bennet discovers what her father
does for a job.
the great acting and engrossing story doesn't keep you watching,
then the almost cinematic level of special effects should
keep your attention rooted to the screen. I have no idea how
much money they spent on each episode, but as the old slogan
goes, you'll really believe that a man can fly. That said,
some of the best sequences involve Hiro, when he suspends
time, watching the actor walk in and around frozen explosions
or pluck objects suspended in mid air is frankly quite breathtaking
for a television show.
of the things that the show did make me wonder was just how
limited will the characters powers turn out to be. Sure they
have spectacular powers, but each only has one. In comic books
heroes can fly but they usually have more than one power.
It does give the show its underlying reason why they have
to band together to save the world, being invulnerable is
great but not when you have ordinary strength, or that you
can fly but you can also get shot.
if the writers are able to keep up the high level of storytelling,
then the show will quickly become the next 'must see' television,
its got me hooked.
thanks to Julie Warmington at Holler
will begin broadcasting on the Sci-Fi Channel
from February 2007.