I wasn’t really sure what to make of the TV series of ‘12 Monkeys’. I haven’t watched the 1995 film it was based on in some time but that also means I’m less likely to prejudge where it goes. Saying that, TV series based on films have had some success over the years, simply because with episodes they have a lot longer to breath out the plot than a couple hours.
There are very few people left in 2043, most of the world population dead from a deadly plague. Scientists who survived in a bunker weren’t idle and Dr. Katrina Jones (actress Barbara Sukowa) utilises a time machine, knowing from a recorded message only one person, James Cole (actor Aaron Stanforth) can be prepared and sent into the past, stop the plague and effectively destroy their timeline. Unravelling the clues and in the pilot, Cole expects to die when he kills the man responsible and then discovers it’s not going to be as easy as that. He also has to find out just what the 12 Monkeys are and sort out problems in his own time and follows the clues over a 30 year period, the limits of the time machine and how long he can survive the injections. By changing the past, he changes the future, hopefully to being a better one. It’s just frustrating that whatever he does changes nothing.
There are limitations, mostly lack of power, as to how far Cole can go into the past and he has to avoid paradoxes. One thing that doesn’t come out in the earlier episodes while he’s in 2043 is that although he’s told to avoid Dr. Cassandra Railly (actress Amanda Schull), part of an anti-epidemic team, he needs her help when he’s in 2015. Considering it is her message that got him to act, no one gives a thought that her information is vital to solving the mystery. Then again, if you think about it, if the mystery of the 12 Monkeys was solved then it would be on the message, except that message is damaged. You can’t help but get drawn in.
How much to say without spoilers is difficult. Just when you think there is a big reveal, you get told something different. A lot of the people have their own secrets and there are some nice surprises related to knowing some events aren’t likely to change but need to go in a particular order. There’s also knowledge that just because things are known by some people, it doesn’t mean it isn’t set up that way. Far too many people know about Cole’s mission but don’t want to change it because it will damage the way things will turn out. This is not a series that you can’t pay attention to. The plot layering means you’ll need to have a sharp think about some implications.
I wish there had been an audio commentary with some of the episodes, especially as there is a disclaimer given on the DVDs for some. There are a selection of deleted scenes on each disc and on the final one, deleted scenes, gag reel and cast auditions. The majority of the Webisodes involves Jennifer Goines (actress Emily Hampshire) and her interview for a deputy is priceless, as is her original means to sort out the Mockridge board of directors. Shame she couldn’t remember their names.
I really didn’t know what I was expecting from ‘12 Monkeys’ but I really enjoyed it and the twist at the end means you don’t know where the next season will go. Watch out for splinters.
(region 2 DVD: pub: Universal Pictures. 4 DVDs 546 minutes 42 * 13 minute episodes and extras. Price: about £ 6.50 (UK) if you know where to look. ASIN: VFD 94574)
cast: Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull, Kirk Acevedo, Barbara Sukowa, Noah Bean, Emily Hampshire and Tom Noonan
check out website: www.universalpictures.co.uk