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"Surface" Review

By Shawn McKenzie 10/17/2005

NBC’s “Surface” is the second out of three alien invasion shows of the season that I have reviewed (the first one being CBS’s “Threshold” and the third one being ABC’s “Invasion,” the latter of which I haven’t reviewed yet), and so far, I’m not entirely impressed.

Laura “Dee” Daughtery (Lake Bell) is a young marine biologist who discovers the secret about a mysterious underwater creature while going on a research dive.  Government Scientist Dr. Aleksander Cirko (Rade Sherebedgia) and Pentagon Official Davis Lee (Ian Anthony Dale) are both try to keep things under wraps though.  Richard Connelly (Jay R. Ferguson) is a Louisiana fisherman and insurance salesman who loses his little brother George (Eric Ladin) in a fishy diving accident (I had to include that pun.)  He becomes obsessed with finding the creature that killed George.  Miles Bennett (Carter Jenkins) is a 14-year-old boy who brings a baby creature ashore.  They all try to find out if these are ancient sea creatures, or beings from another world.

In the first episode, Miles is waterskiing with his friends Zack (Connor Ross), Phil (Eddie Hassell), and his older sister Savannah (Leighton Meester) in Wilmington, North Carolina, when he falls off his skis.  While waiting for his friends to come back for him, Miles sees a weird creature in the water.  He swims back to the boat, and the coast guard picks them up and detains them.  On board the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan tanker on the Weddell Sea in Antarctica, Cirko tries to explore a strange phenomenon.  In Sausalito, California, Dee wakes up and forces her son Jesse (Bobby Coleman) to get ready to go stay with his dad (she is divorced) so that she can go diving by threatening to cut off the ear of one of his favorite stuffed animals.  She then goes to the Oceanographic Institute in Monterey and boards the M.V. Kellie Chouest in the North Pacific Ocean to dive, with supervision by Andy Kline (Donn Swaby) and Barry Cobb (Court Young.)  While working on studying the bottom of the ocean in her diving submersible called the Mystic, she comes across a huge creature that knocks out her connection to her on-shore crew.  Miles gets in trouble with his dad Ron (Ric Reitz) about the coast guard bust, while Savannah teases him (why didn’t she get in trouble as well?)  On the Louisiana Coast near the Gulf of Mexico, Richard, his little brother George (Eric Ladin), and their friend Bug (Brent Sexton) are celebrating Richard’s birthday.  At the Port Arthur U.S. Navy Base in Bangor, Maine, Cirko observes a sea creature mark on a submarine.  Miles wakes up in the middle of the night and goes exploring with Phil to see if they can find the creature again.  They find a nest of creature eggs, go back to Miles’s house, and put one of the eggs in his family’s aquarium.  Richard and George go harpoon fishing underwater near an oil rig when George is dragged away by what appears to be the same creature, and Richard goes unconscious after seeing a bunch of lights in the place that George was dragged.  The government confiscates the Mystic and all of her research, ticking off Dee.  Richard’s wife Tracy (Kelly Collins Lintz) visits him in the hospital, where he blames himself for George being taken away by the creature.  Cirko and Dr. Singh (Shishir Kurup), while interrogating Dee, tell her that her research program has been suspended indefinitely and the Oceanographic Institute is now under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Armed Forces.  Miles notices that the creature in the egg has eaten all of the other fish in the aquarium.  It breaks out of the aquarium, and he captures it in the bathroom.  Laura and Richard both head to Wilmington when they see on the news that a huge “whale carcass” has shown up on the beach and looks just like the creatures they saw.  At the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland, Cirko gives his findings about the creature, and he presents a tooth that might be one from it.  Finally, in the Caribbean Sea off the Coast of Belize, an old fisherman (Ramon Chavez) and his grandson (Jose Isordia) witness a weird meteor shower.

In the second episode, Miles is still trying to hide the baby sea creature from his mom Sylvia (Louanne Cooper) and sister, with the help of Phil, who keeps it in a cooler out in a playhouse in the backyard.  On the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, the creature makes a deafening noise, shattering the windows of a lighthouse and injuring the lighthouse keeper.  On Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, Cirko meets with Lee for the first time, and they examine the creature found off the Cape of Good Hope and discover that it is a mammal.  Richard and Dee both show up in Wilmington, where armed soldiers restrict their ability to see the creature carcass (though Richard tries anyway.)  Miles’s parents decide to go on their trip to Cabo, despite having to pay for the busted aquarium.  Miles is left in charge to Savannah.  While trying to cut into the creature carcass with a laser, Singh is injured when this weird goop shoots out if it.  Dee introduces herself to Richard for the first time, and he shows her some sketches he made of the creature.  They are separated by military officers and are forced to have their blood tested.  Miles and Phil feed the baby creature, and they decide to name it Nimrod.  Singh goes into cardiac arrest, and weird stuff comes out of his mouth.  Richard buys a boat with Dee and Jesse (who has come on this trip to Wilmington with her) to find out more about the creature.  Miles tries to feed Nimrod sushi, but the creature appears to be lethargic.  Richard, Dee, and Jesse go out to the beach, where they encounter hagfish (worms that feed on dead carcasses.)  They bring one of them back to their motel room, where they study it.  Richard tells Dee about George, and Cirko finds out that Singh is in a hibernation state.  Savannah tells Miles that she is going to invite people over for a party after the parents leave.  During the party, Savannah makes out with her boyfriend Greg (Daniel Newman) in the playhouse, when Nimrod gets out and freaks everyone out.  In New Iberia, Louisiana, Richard comes home to Tracy and his two girls, Heather (Victoria Staley) and Emily (Caroline Kent), and tells Tracy about the creature, but she doesn’t seem to believe him.  Dee goes back to the Institute, where Barry tells her that she has been fired because she went down to Wilmington.  Miles finds out that Nimrod prefers his food to be alive.  Singh wakes up and appears to be completely healed.  In the Great Barrier Reef near Australia, three fisherman are devoured whole by one of the gigantic sea creatures.

In the third episode, in Lake Travis, Texas, a girl named Kadee (Jennifer Badger) is parasailing with her friends Mallory (Emily Labelle) and Garth, when a giant sinkhole sucks them under.  Miles and Phil continue to store Nimrod in the playhouse.  Dee goes to see Carolyn Pizzoli (Jennifer Gatti), a scientist in Berkeley, California, who tells her that the contents of the hagfish are that of a Liopleurodon, a sea creature that has been extinct for 100 million years.  Richard decides to take his family to Southeastern Cryptozoology Conference in Houston, Texas, to study undocumented animals.  He meets a man at the conference who appears to have had a similar experience as him, but it turns out that the man was crazy.  Cirko and Lee investigate the sinkhole in Texas, which appears to have dried up the lake.  Dee contacts Cirko, and he shows her an underground volcano in the same spot where she first encountered the creature.  Miles and Savannah make dueling threats to expose both Nimrod and the party to their parents.  At the Berrong Institute of Oceanography, Dee is told that a thesis of hers was plagiarized, and she is denied access to her research.  Ron almost stumbles in on Miles and Phil feeding Nimrod while looking for his toolbox (also, Nimrod apparently has the ability to turn on the TV without it being plugged in.)  At his first day back to work for an insurance company called Parkhurst following the death of George, Richard starts hearing George’s voice whenever he is around water (even at the watercooler.)  Cirko shows Lee his research of the sinkhole in Texas, which appears that the creatures lived in magma for millions of years.  He shows Singh his findings about the membrane of the carcass.  He smears some of it on his palm and puts it over a flame, proving that it will protect his hand.  Dee goes to the National Oceanographic Sound Survey and talks to Wayne Johnson (David Sherrell) about getting the recordings from the underwater creature encounter.  Unfortunately, two men came and confiscated it before she got there, so the best that she could get is a sound recording that came from 100 miles away from the spot.  She listens to it, but it doesn’t produce any results.  Richard goes grocery shopping, where he hears George’s voices in the rain.  At dinner, Miles gives a weird prayer.  Immediately following the prayer, the playhouse is struck by lightning and blows up.  Tracy finds Richard on the ground, where he tells her that George is still alive.  Miles finds Nimrod in the dryer and feeds him a goldfish.  Dee applies for a waitress job, and it doesn’t pay much.  One night, after getting home from work, she listens to the recording again using a different bandwidth.  She hears the creature noises, and she calls Cirko.  Lee answers and threatens her to keep quiet.  Cirko and Lee discover that the waters around the sites of the sea creatures are heating up.  Finally, at the Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, the geyser erupts in molten lava instead of water, making a group of tourists flee the scene.

In the fourth episode, a mother and her daughter encounter some small dead sea creatures in Anguilla, Caribbean Island.  Miles and Phil continue to feed Nimrod live goldfishes, though it is getting expensive for Miles.  Cirko presents his findings in Washington D.C., saying that all of the sea creatures are warming up the seas and throwing off the Earth’s ecosystem.  Richard has another dream about the lights he saw when George was killed.  He and Tracy go to see Dr. Davey (Michael Harding), and Richard tries to explain that George is still alive somehow, and that he is calling to him.  While working at the restaurant, Dee sees a shipment of fresh calamari.  She gets the idea to track whale migrations by following some calamari and find out where the whales went using the boat of her friend Jackson (Austin Nichols), a former fling of hers.  Weather balloons keep dropping everywhere, with the latest one dropping in Muncie, Indiana, indicating the Greenhouse Effect.  Phil tells Savannah’s friend Amber Lou (Leslea Fisher) about Nimrod in an attempt to impress her (though she is interested in Miles.)  Richard visits the house of a Mrs. Balkim (Mimmye Goode) on an insurance visit, when George talks to him through her busted plumbing.  Dee and Jackson run into a dead whale, and they follow the creature that killed it, which knocks Dee, and the motor, out.  Phil tells Miles that he told Amber about Nimrod.  Tracy takes the girls away when she learns that Richard has been fired.  Jackson determines that they will have to wait until morning to get the boat started again.  Amber comes over and seduces Miles into letting her see Nimrod.  Dee dives under the boat to repair the propeller, but the creature appears right under her.  She shoots a GPS tracking device harpoon into it.  Bug comes by Richard’s house to check up on him.  Richard decides that he needs to go back to the place where George was killed, and Bug gives him a gun to protect himself (though I don’t know how a little handgun is going to kill a huge underwater creature.)  Miles takes Amber out to Phil’s backyard above-ground pool where they are keeping Nimrod.  They almost kiss, but it was all just a setup by Savannah to embarrass Miles.  As Amber and Savannah leave, Nimrod comes up and eats Kutcher, Amber’s poodle, freaking them out.  Thanks to the tracking device, Dee is able to study the creature better.  Richard goes to the place where George was killed and finds nothing.  He is about to give up when he sees a picture in the paper about the sinkhole that matches the visions in his dreams.  That is the conclusion of the episode, and it is the first one without some shocking creature occurrence at the end.

I don’t know why this show isn’t quite as good as “Threshold.”  On the positive side, we finally get to see actual aliens with the sea creatures and Nimrod (“Threshold” only hints at them.)  On the negative side, the story isn’t that intriguing.  So far, it just feels like a sea creature version of 1975’s Jaws.  Out of the four storylines (Dee, Richard, Miles, and Cirko), Miles’s story is the most entertaining.  Sure…it’s a little goofy, since no sane person would bring a cute but obviously dangerous sea creature home with him, but it is the only story out of the four that makes me want to keep watching the show.  I just want to see if Nimrod grows up and starts wrecking havoc upon the world.  While it’s cool that the four characters haven’t teamed up yet (though there have been occasional flashes), I’d like to see them start to collaborate.  I bet that it will happen during November Sweeps.

The cast is decent at least.  Bell left ABC’s “Boston Legal” to star in this show, and she is believable in her role (though I would someday like to see a female scientist that wasn’t incredibly hot.)  Ferguson’s character is balanced between being truly crazy and appearing sane, and I’m still trying to decide if I like him.  Jenkins is playing the Elliot role from 1982’s E.T., and even though he isn’t realistic as a kid, he is fun to watch.  Serbedzija’s thick-accented character is the most boring one on the show.  They try to portray him as mysterious, but he is just plain dull.

Josh and Jonas Pate created “Surface” (it was originally called “Fathom,” but they changed it over a disagreement with a comic book.)  The twin brothers created the 1999-2000 USA/Sci-Fi Channel cult classic “G vs. E.”  That show was cool and strange, whereas this show just has a glimmer of potential, but I’m still waiting for it to be a little more interesting (or at least as interesting as “Threshold.”)  In the weeks since the premiere, it has gotten a little better, and it is the only show out of the three alien invasion shows to get a full-season order, which means that I will have plenty of time to see if my interest in it surfaces.

Ratings System:


Try to catch this show every week...

If a better show is on, tape this one...

If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...

If this show is on, change the channel immediately!


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