Surface: The Complete Series
R1 - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (4th September 2006).
The Show

"Surface" appeared on NBC during the 2005 season, the series lasted 15 episodes and was cancelled soon after. While the show has some merit there are many elements that are borrowed, if anything "Surface" is a patchwork developed by fans of Steven Spielberg films with a little of "The Abyss" (1989) and some "X-Files" (1993-2002) style government conspiracy cover-up story lines thrown in. Yes aside from the interesting look of the sea creatures featured in this series there isn't a lot that can be claimed as being original. However despite this I did find the series enjoyable it wasn't a chore to watch and the characters were marginally interesting.
"Surface" follows three main characters in three different parts of the US, Dr. Laura Daughtery (Lake Bell), a marine biologist, Rich Connelly (Jay R. Ferguson) an insurance salesman and Miles Barnett (Carter Jenkins) a teen-aged boy who all find their lives fundamentally effected by the discovery of a new and dangerous species that dwells in the sea. Dr. Daughtery is trying to study the new species and at all costs while dodging the government who wish to keep these animals a secret and anyone with knowledge of them dead. Dr. Daughtery included. While on a diving trip with his brother off the cost of Louisiana, Rich encounters one of these animals that drags his brother into the depths of the ocean causing him to drown. Since that traumatic moment Rich has been fixated with these creatures, seeing holes at the bottom of the ocean and struggling to make sense of them. He decides to leave his family to pursue these creatures and more importantly find out what happened to his brother and what the holes mean. Along the way he encounters Dr. Daughtery and they team up to uncover these fascinating creatures and learn more about them while on the run. Meanwhile in Wilmington, North Carolina Miles discovers some strange eggs floating on the surface of the water. He takes one home, keeping it in his family fish tank. Eventually the egg hatches, it's a baby creature that he hides from his family. Keeping a strange new creature becomes more work than Miles anticipated but eventually forms a bond with it.
As mentioned before the Spielbergian elements are something that most viewers will likely catch onto quite quickly, considering there is a quote on the front of the cover that establishes the show as having "Speilbergian tricks" the first thing some people might recognise is the character of Miles who is not too dissimilar to Elliot in "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982), hiding the creature from his family and raising it. Rich's character is also very familiar, the show's creators have commented that he is basically Roy Neary from "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind" (1977) but instead of being fixated on mountains, Rich is fixated on holes in the ocean that emit an intense green light. It becomes quite obvious what movies the creators and writers favored growing up.
The show also has a rather curious government conspiracy element that isn't too far off from anything seen in "The X-Files" but instead of two compelling FBI agent characters "Surface" instead is given a rather bland and uninteresting agent, Davis Lee (Ian Anthony Dale) who will stop at nothing to get to Dr. Daughtery and silence her and bury her findings. Which is something that bothered me while watching this series, there was no point in covering all this up. Because 1) the creatures cannot be stopped and therefor will eventually be seen by anyone near a major body of water and 2) it doesn't make sense to kill her because it only motivates her to reveal all this to the public sooner and causes more problems for the agency. They should have recruited the doctor and allowed her to conduct research under their watchful eye. Which is something that the creators should have considered, keep this in mind the most interesting aspect of this show are the monsters and not the Government cover-up stuff that seems added for the purposes of padding out the series.
And now that we're on the monsters, I was surprised that this show received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series. The Emmy's must have some low standards for effects because I found the effects on this show to be the weakest link in the whole chain. It was evident that not a lot of money was allocated to the producers and as a result the creatures and water effects looked half-completed, the creature had little texture and was almost always very photo-unrealistic. If the show was given more money to play with I'm sure the effects would have been far better. This is a Sci-Fi show that is largely dependent on effects that help sell the creature if you can't do it justice why do it at all?
I can spend a lot of time picking this show to pieces, but at the end of the day I can suspend my disbelief and I can forgive the creators for loving Spielberg films, because this was a interesting series that showed some promise. For those that spent their time following the show questions were answered some more than others in its finale which ended on a rather interesting and ambiguous note. It still would have been nice to find out what the creators had in store for us in Season 2 though, alas we will never know what happens to these characters (unless this DVD sells millions and the show gets picked up again...but I can't honestly see that happening here).

The series included 15 episodes below are a description of these episodes:

Episode 1 (Pilot):
There's something in the waters and oceanographer Dr. Laura Daughtery is determined to find out what it is and why the government doesn't want anyone to know about it.

Episode 2:
Trouble washes ashore when a teenager named Miles brings a strange egg into his home and calls the hatchling "Nimrod".

Episode 3:
Things are heating up below the surface as scientists theorize that the creatures cause global warming and Laura loses her job because of accusations of plagiarism.

Episode 4:
Hoping for a clue to the unidentified species' origins, Laura fires a GPS tracking device at one of the creatures but is unprepared for where it leads her.

Episode 5:
Nimrod proves to be more work than the average pet when Miles and his friend, Phil (Eddie Hassell), are interviewed about the disappearance of their next-door neighbor's dog.

Episode 6:
When scientist Aleksander Cirko (Rade Serbedzija) uncovers the secret origins of the unidentified species, the surprising results lead to murder, mayhem and a government investigation.

Episode 7:
Drastic measures are called for when Laura, Rich and Jackson (Austin Nichols) must hide to avoid the government questioning, and Miles and Phil return Nimrod to the sea.

Episode 8:
The mystery continues as Laura and Rich lose control of their submersible as they get closer to the creatures' spawning site.

Episode 9:
It's a race against time as Laura and Rich discover that the unidentified species are laying thousands of eggs on the ocean floor.

Episode 10:
Surprises abound when Laura and Rich surface in their submersible and discover that the boat that brought them to the spot is missing.

Episode 11:
It's time to go public with the news, buy Laura discovers that they must first get past Lee and his men with their explosive footage of the species.

Episode 12:
Life on the runs from Lee and his secret agents takes its toll on Laura and Rich - until a bizarre Internet conversation gives them surprising leads.

Episode 13:
An abandoned lab may hold secrets about the past, but Laura has a sneaking suspicion that something in the shadows may be more curious about them.

Episode 14:
Family tensions boil over as Rich finds that his wife suspects him of having an affair, and Miles must choose between Nimrod and his family.

Episode 15:
A Tsunami is looming and everyone is in a race to get to higher ground as Laura makes a desperate attempt to rescue Rich and Nimrod makes a surprising discovery.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1 this anamorphic transfer is clean and sharp, the transfer presents colors vividly and sin tones are natural and realistic. I could not spot any print damage and aside from some compression artefacts and minor aliasing and also moire patterns appeared around some objects. Otherwise blacks were deep and flaws were minimal, Universal has presented this show with an acceptable transfer that will likely please most viewers.

Audio

Only one audio track is included on these episodes, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. I found that for a 5.1 track the majority of sound was directed to the front speakers although environmental and directional effects occasionally made use of the rear channels to add depth. Although the majority of sound was directed to the front I found that dialogue was presented clean and distortion free, music as well as rendered effectively. While this track isn't as aggressive as film soundtracks it's more than suitable for this TV series.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired only.

Extras

DISC ONE:
First up we have a series of deleted scenes the first for Episode 2 which runs for 2 minutes 45 seconds. In this reel we see Miles' dad is suspicious about their fish tank suddenly breaking and they talk of possibly cancelling their trip. In this extension we get additional dialogue at the dinner table.
We also see Laura being evacuated from a beach and taken to a evacuation center where she has to register in with her I.D.

Next are deleted scenes for Episode 3 which run for 4 minutes 52 seconds. Laura tries to contact her colleagues about the plagiarism charges and instead gets a warning.
Additionally Laura chats up a receptionist to get some audio recordings of undersea activity.
The receptionist discovers that the files are missing and Laura tries to find out if there are other recordings she can use in this extended clip.
returning home, Laura pays the baby sitter, cleans up after her son and starts to listen to the audio recordings.
Miles visits Nimrod whose hiding him in the playhouse, Miles discovers Nimrod likes heat as he's resting on a heat lamp.

Also on this disc is the "Sci-Fi and Special Effects" featurette which runs for 8 minutes 37 seconds. In this promotional clip, the cast and crew talk about what the show is about and how it developed from being a film script to a serialised show. The creators discuss their influences and the Visual Effects crew show us how the CGI effects for this show are created, from the creatures to vehicles and set extensions. Overall this brief clip doesn't shed any enough light on this series, it would have been nice to see more behind-the-scenes footage from the production but for a short lived series I guess this is all we're likely to get on this complete series release.

Rounding out the extras on the first disc are a selection of bonus trailers, all of which are start-up previews and can be skipped, they include:
- "Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5" which runs for 45 seconds.
- "Seaquest DSV: Season 1" which runs for 40 seconds.
- "Los Vegas: Seasons 1,2 and 3" which runs for 30 seconds.
- "Battlestar Galactica" new season promo which runs for 31 seconds.

DISC TWO:
We have some deleted scenes for Episode 5 on this disc that runs for 2 minutes 26 seconds. In these scenes Cirko and Lee talk about possible scenarios in dealing with Laura and Cirko threatens to quit if she is harmed in this extended clip.
Laura also discovers that her digital video of the creature has been erased, and Cirko offers her the opportunity to work for them.

Also included are deleted scenes for Episode 6 which run for 1 minute 18 seconds. Here Rich checks to see if Dr. Singh (Shishir Kurup) is dead in this extended clip.

DISC THREE:
More deleted scenes are included for Episode 9 which run for 3 minutes 24 seconds. The local North Carolina police find and kill a gator in the woods, in this extended clip the contents of its stomach are examined.
After getting attacked by creatures Miles is discovered in his room by his sister Savannah (Leighton Meester), Miles tells her he saw more eggs and that the creatures travel in swarms in this extended clip.

DISC FOUR:
The last of the extras are more deleted scenes for Episode 14 and runs for 9 minutes 54 seconds. Rich has a dream about creatures attacking his family and is woken up by Laura. Afterwards Laura hypothesises about how these creatures were let loose into the ocean.
Miles returns home after running away, Miles' girlfriend peeks through their window.
We also see Rich preparing to go after Agent Lee and extended moments from when he's interrogating the agent in a motel room.

Packaging

This 4-disc set is packaged in a 2-panel digi-pack that comes with a cardboard slip-cover.

Overall

The Show: C+ Video: B Audio: B+ Extras: C- Overall: C-

 


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