In its basic setting and tone, The CW’s new sci-fi adventure series The 100, which premieres tonight, may remind some viewers of ABC’s Lost, with a dash of Lord of the Flies for good measure.
The series takes place in the relatively near future, 97 years after a nuclear apocalypse rendered Earth uninhabitable. Survivors were forced to live on space stations orbiting the planet, and now, only one of those stations – known as the Ark – remains functional.
Although the science team suspects Earth won’t be safe for another 100 years, oxygen and other supplies aboard the Ark are dwindling fast, so the ruling council makes a drastic decision: They’ll send 100 youthful offenders down to the planet and monitor their vital signs via wrist devices to see whether they can survive.
Among them is Clarke (newcomer Eliza Taylor), the level-headed teenage daughter of the Ark’s medical officer, Abby (Paige Turco). Clarke, we learn, had been arrested and slapped in solitary after she and her now-dead father had defied the Ark’s council members and tried to alert the ship’s population to their imminent danger.
Although their shuttle landing goes badly, cutting off all communication with the Ark except their wrist monitors, most of the 100 teenagers emerge onto the “new” Earth ready to shake off what they perceive as years of mistreatment by their elders and adopt “whatever the hell we want” as their new mantra. After Clarke and a small group of volunteers – which includes the obligatory sensitive hunk, Finn (Thomas McDonell) – set off in search of a cache of supplies, the rest of the teens party hearty and defiantly destroy their wrist bands so the grown-ups on the Ark will think they died on a still-hostile Earth.
Ironically, the young rebels don’t realize they’re not that far from the truth. While Earth may look like a pristine paradise, it’s teeming with mutant life forms, some of them deadly, including the show’s own variant on “the Others” from Lost.
Meanwhile, back on the Ark, scheming second-in-command Kane (Lost alumnus Henry Ian Cusick) is staging a coup against Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington, Grey’s Anatomy) as part of his ruthless plan to radically downsize the Ark’s population to ensure that he and his own loyalists will survive.
Clearly, The 100 isn’t exactly weak when it comes to story, although this being the CW, I suspect the grown-ups in space are quickly going to be marginalized in favor of the kids on the ground and, at least in the pilot, most of those kids fall into tired teen stereotypes all too easily. Given that pilot episodes are forced to paint characters very broadly, there’s hope that, in time, the survivors among “the 100” will emerge as individuals instead of a horny teenage blur.
Production elements in tonight’s premiere are very good, and the densely packed story line delivers some genuine “OMG!” surprises. All in all, The 100 is among this spring’s more satisfying series premieres, especially for sci-fi fans.