By Andrew Stone
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This article is over 9 years, 6 months old
A cop show with a lead called Cameron may not sound enticing to readers of this magazine, but stay with me. For a start, Continuum reinvigorates the tired police procedural format with a time-travel story arc, and does so more credibly than the late and unlamented Crime Traveller.
Issue 377

In the process it raises interesting questions about the kind of future capitalism is creating, and the role of collective action in social change.

The plot follows Vancouver cop (or “Protector”) Kiera Cameron, who is transported back in time from 2077 to the present when a group of rebels called Liber8 effect a daring escape from their imminent executions. She dedicates herself to preventing them from subverting the future, in the hope that she will discover a way to return to her time.

She is helped by some handy technology she brings with her, including a camouflaging battlesuit and cybernetic visual implants, as well as by the skills of present-day tech expert, Alec Sadler, who is testing a prototype wireless network to which all Protectors will be attached in the future.

Sadler’s skills help him create a false identity for Cameron as an agent for a shadowy intelligence agency called Section 6, supposedly seconded to local law enforcement.

But is the future worth protecting? Science fiction generally provides a better mirror for the present than a crystal ball for the future. It’s notable then that Continuum’s high-surveillance police state of 2077 is not the state-capitalist dystopia of Nineteen Eighty-Four but a world where governments have collapsed to be replaced by a multinational “Corporate Congress”. Abundant technology exists alongside grinding poverty.

The viewer is therefore given credible motivation for Liber8. But sadly in their attempt to “force the masses to rethink their pathetic existence” Liber8 comes across as a rather bloodthirsty caricature of anarchism. The debate about how to bring about change is echoed in the present, where investment banks and technology multinationals are among the villains investigated by Cameron.

But the answer to that debate seems to revolve around two unappealing alternatives – impotent consciousness-raising or violent and voluntarist “propaganda of the deed”. A peaceful but ineffectual Occupy protest is thus turned into a diversionary riot by Liber8, and though one story involves a union leader, his organisation’s powerbase is explained to Cameron as residing in its control of pension funds!

These frustrations aside, Continuum provides further evidence of the damage done to ruling class ideology by five years of economic crisis. Its ambiguity as to the malleability of time – are the time travellers perpetuating a time-loop or can they (and by analogy we) change the future – also provides intrigue. It may not provide the answers that socialists would wish for, but Continuum illustrates how widespread the questioning has become.

Andrew Stone

Continuum is produced by Simon Barry and Sara B Cooper and released on DVD 27 February

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