Ronald D. Moore's "CSI meets Harry Potter" TV series filmed its pilot episode recently, but what's it really like? How will the man who brought us the mysticism-tinged Battlestar Galactica reboot handle a world of magic?
We got curious about Moore's NBC show 17th Precinct, and decided to do some digging. Here's what we found out. Spoilers ahead!
As you've probably heard, 17th Precinct is a veritable Battlestar Galactica reunion, plus all the other cast members (including Stockard Channing) make for a bit of a dream cast. We've read the pilot script and read up on what's already out there on the internet, and now we know a lot more about how the pieces fit. Oh, and the good news is, this is a funny, breezy script — Moore hasn't written anything this funny and cute since the days of Star Trek. It's not as dark as the various BSG shows, or Virtuality.
(We're not the first to review the pilot — Hollywood Insider reviewed it last month, but we somehow missed their post until just now. And there's also some great info at 17th Precinct Podcast. See also After Ellen and After Elton.)
17th Precinct takes place in the city of Excelsior, which is basically San Francisco with a few noticeable differences. Like Alcatraz doesn't have an old prison on it, and the Golden Gate Bridge doesn't have cables on it. Cars drive themselves. Instead of Christmas, you celebrate the Equinox. (And yes, there are "gods" instead of "God.") Houses have "power plants" — which are actual plants that supply the energy for devices inside the house. Moore has always been a master of world-building, and this show is no exception. It's a really richly described setting, with lots of odd little details.
And the show takes a lot of pleasure in delving into the ways that the existence of magic changes police work. Instead of a forensics team, you call in the necromancer when you have a dead body. Instead of an autopsy, you do a necropsy. The police station's resident necromancer, Morgana, can summon the spirit of a recently deceased person and ask him/her questions. Instead of photographing the crime scene, the cops create magical "etchings" that show them every angle.
No major spoilers here. But basically, we follow the cops of the 17th Precinct on two different cases in the pilot. Two partners, Jeff Bosson and Caolon Longstreet, investigate the murder of Excelsior's Executive Prophet, the "man who forecasts the future for the entire city." It seems as though the Executive Prophet was preparing to came out with a prophecy that would have upset someone powerful — so he was stabbed to death, slowly and sadistically. Meanwhile, experienced cop Mira is saddled with a new partner, Jimmy, to investigate a house that seems to be cursed — but there's a surprising twist.
This show will really live and die based on its cast of characters — and as we mentioned, the cast is pretty amazing. Here are the people you'll be spending time with as they solve the latest baffling case of the week:
Caolan (pronounced Kaylan) Longstreet. Played by Jamie Bamber, who's putting on an American accent once again. He's a beat cop who is determined to get a promotion to sergeant, because otherwise his personal forecast is "poverty with a chance of destitution." He's a brilliant forensics expert who can tell at a glance what happened in a violent crime scene. He has two kids and is married to Susan.
Jeff Bosson. Played by James Callis, keeping his British accent. The slightly more irresponsible, jokey counterpart to Caolan's family man. He's keeping a big secret from his partner.
Susan. Played by Smallville's Kristin Kreuk. Caolan's wife, who thinks that every love potion ought to go with vodka, or what's the point? She runs an antique store, which isn't doing as well as it used to. She also has a huge dark secret.
Lt. Liam Butterfield. Played by Caprica's Esai Morales. Liam used to be Lisa, and is pretty defensive about it, saying lots of stuff about how he's not Lisa any more, inside or outside. Otherwise, he's pretty much a total hard-ass.
Mira Barkley Played by Stockard Channing! She's just returned to the Precinct after a long time away. And she and Liam had a huge history, back when Liam was Lisa. She can't help needling Liam about his past, and telling Liam that he makes her ill. (Liam tells Mira she needs a punch in the mouth.) She's been brought back for some mysterious reason, but meanwhile, Liam sends her out on crappy assignments like the "cursed house" business.
Jimmy Travers. Played by Matt Long. A rookie officer who gets partnered with Mira — who is not happy about it. Jimmy doesn't know how to wipe his ass in the rain, as Mira puts it. But then it turns out Jimmy knows a lot more than Mira realizes — he has a special talent.
Morgana. Played by Tricia Helfer. She's the Precinct's resident necromancer, who does the necropsies and stuff. She is the most overtly mystical character of the bunch, telling a dead guy "you passed through the veil of death" and saying "nothing is created, nothing is destroyed" before a necropsy. She knows that you can't lie during a necropsy and takes advantage of it to ask people personal questions.
Wilder Blanks. Played by Eamonn Walker. He's the chief inspector, and he and Morgana have a bit of a history together. He also has a tricky history with Mira.
So yeah — this show has the potential for lots of soap-operatics, interspersed with magical "case of the week" shenanigans. It all works better than you'd expect, although maybe not well enough for a week-by-week show. And there are hints scattered throughout the pilot that could blossom into a long-term plot about the nature of magic vs. science, and the possible fate of this magic-enhanced alternate world. All in all, there's a lot of promise here.