My favorite sci-fi series of all time, #14: Alcatraz

Criteria and honorable mentions here.

I am taking something of a wild leap here, in that I can’t conclusively prove that Alcatraz was sci-fi, but the undoubted existence of time travel means it’s not that big a leap. It’s certainly no… Quantum Leap! (See what I did there?)

The premise was simple: every single inmate from Alcatraz disappeared in 1963, and returned 50 years later, at the exact age they were when they left. A secret agency was created to figure out what is going on. It’s a crime drama, but since the entire backstory is very sci-fi, I’m including it. (It was produced by J.J. Abrams which should further add sci-fi street cred, if such a thing exists. If it doesn’t, it should.)

Favorite character: Dr. Diego Soto (played by Jorge Garcia, otherwise known as Hurley from Lost). He’s obsessed with the history of Alcatraz and owns a comic book store. Plus, it’s freakin’ Hurley.

Favorite secondary character: Ray Archer (played by Robert Forster). The “uncle” of the female lead in the show, I’ve always liked his presence on screen. If you want Sam Elliott without the mustache (and my G_d, why would you??), Robert Forster is a good type for the whole “I have integrity, so listen to me” thing.

Favorite moment: The opening credits and score perfectly set the tone for the series as a whole. Of the criminals, my favorite was the sniper with the glasses.

Why it’s here: It was a fascinating concept and expertly done. Sam Neill was great as the “asshole with a heart of gold that turns out to be fool’s gold because he’s still fundamentally an asshole.”

Why it’s not higher: Fox cancelled it. There was no resolution to the storyline, and without a payoff, I can’t justify putting it any higher. The main lead, Rebecca Madsen (played by Sarah Jones), was a bit colorless at times; I haven’t seen her in anything else, so I can’t say if it’s just a bad performance or a bad part.

 

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