I decided to give a new CW TV show called The 100 a go. On first glance it should appeal to me. It’s set in a post-nuclear holocaust future where Earth had been rendered uninhabitable. The only survivors of humanity live on an orbiting space station called the Ark. Some prisoners – the 100 of the title – are sent down to the surface of the planet to see if it is habitable again.
Now I must point out that I did have some reservations. The prisoners in question are what you would probably describe as “juvenile delinquents”. The images I had seen of the show presented lots of good looking young folk (who were supposed to be in their teens but the actors are probably in the late twenties). I caught a distinct whiff of love triangle plot developments just by looking at still images.
But I thought I’d try out the next episode that was broadcast on TV here in the UK on E4. It happened to be episode six but it quickly got me up to speed.
In this episode we got some flashbacks where a woman on the space station had a second child which was in contravention of a strict one child only law. She therefore had to keep the existence of the second child, a girl named Octavia, a secret and whenever anyone came to the living quarters the girl had to hide under the floor. The only other person who knew was the girl’s brother Bellamy. So the girl has to grow up within the same four walls and never meets anyone else. Eventually when she is 17 she ventured out and got caught.
Oh, and I should mention that if you break a law on the space station the punishment for adults is “floating” i.e. you’re ejected out of the airlock. This is the fate of Octavia’s mother.
Live on the space station is depicted in a suitably dystopian way. The rules are everything and a police force is there watching for any infraction. But the life support is failing which is why the kids are being sent to earth early.
Down on the planet I had to get up to speed with who these kids were. Sure enough there seemed to be a love triangle brewing between two girls and a boy. But honestly I was much more interested in the other storyline. Octavia had gone missing out in the forest and some other kids were looking for her. Then some mysterious marauding people appeared and started hunting the kids. A few of the kids got dispatched with traps of the spikey wooden stake variety.
Huh. I wasn’t expecting that.
I went back and started watching the earlier episodes I had missed. I assume this show is being marketed for a “young adult” demographic but it was surprisingly dark. I suppose I should not be surprised at this because the scenes on Earth reminded me a bit of The Hunger Games and that series is about as dark as you can get.
I do like the asides to the space station. As mentioned before there is a legal system of “you break a law, you get floated” but another interesting layer is the revelation that the life support system is failing. To make it through the next few months the authorities will have to cull their population by around 209. But this number goes up by ten for every day they delay a decision being made.
This puts me in mind of a short story by Arthur C Clarke called Breaking Strain where two men on a spaceship have only enough oxygen for one to survive the trip and they have to decide what to do. I enjoy stories where physics cannot allow any leeway to morality. I wonder if the character of Clarke in this show is named in homage. The reason she is one of the prisoners is because she discovered the secret that the life support is failing. Oh, and I’ll mention that Paige Turco plays her mother on the station. I remember watching Paige back in NYPD Blue many years ago and I always liked her.
Also I want to mention the slightly clunky space station design. The Ark looks right somehow, like a space station should look. It looks functional and like something that man would be just about capable of building in the foreseeable future. I do like the rotating sections that are used to produce gravity, again referencing Clarke and Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Watching the previous episodes also showed me the first days the kids spent on Earth. As soon as they get there two separate phisolphies form in classic Lord of the Flies territory. The blonde girl Clarke seems to be a natural leader. She wants the all to behave responsibly and organise an expedition to a promised cache of food. On the other hand Bellamy, who has accompanied his sister Octavia to the surface, pronounces there are no rules and they can do”whatever the hell we want”. As an added tension Octavia bonds with Clarke’s camp.
And there are lots of external threats. I’ve mentioned the “Grounders” who are the descendants of the humans who were stuck on Earth. They are prone to throw a spear through your chest if you stray into their territory. But there’s also mutated beasties and acid fog to ruin your day.
(You know, I’m momentarily put in mind of that dreadful move After Earth that Will Smith made with his son where they crash on a future wild, mutated Earth. Don’t worry, The 100 is at least, well, 100 times better than that.)
So in summary this is a promising show with a surprising body count among the kids on the planet. I’ll be watching the first season to see where it goes.