Salvation was shown on CBS this summer — finale just this past week — but binge-junkie that I am, I binge-watched the whole 13-episode run over the past few days on Amazon Prime. And this series is binge-watchable and excellent indeed.
The premise or starting point is actually the least original part of the story, one we've seen several times before: an MIT student discovers a deadly asteroid is heading towards the Earth, due to arrive and likely render us into extinction in less than a year. But the series really takes off from there — figuratively and literally — and delivers all kinds of surprises and lessons, just what a good science fiction story should do, including —
- an Elon Musk kind of billionaire, working on not one but two ways of countering the impending catastrophe — an "arc" (named Salvation) that can get 160 or some number like that of people off this planet, with a view towards setting up shop on Mars or anywhere the human species can continue; and a device, separately launched, which can pull the asteroid enough off-course that it avoids the Earth (crashing into the asteroid won't work because the resultant pieces will still take out a lot of the Earth's population)
- a Hillary Clinton type of President in office, who's beset by people high up in the government who want to kill her
- a Russia a lot like the one we have today, though more on the verge of attacking the US if provoked
- a top-notch mainframe computer — reminiscent of the one in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress — though not sentient
- all manner of loving and not-so-loving relationships, with characters who manage not to be cartoonish
On the last point, Jennifer Finnigan does an excellent job as Grace, one of the central female characters (and it's good to see she got over Barry from Tyrant). Ian Anthony Dale puts in a similarly strong performance as Harris — he's Grace's boss in the Department of Defense — and it's always good to see Tovah Feldshuh (this time as President) and long since time that we saw John Noble (Fringe) back on television again. Charlie Rowe (the MIT student) and Jacqueline Byers make an appealing couple struggling with a relationship as they each struggle in different ways to prevent or do something about the end of the world. But my favorite is Santiago Cabrera as Tanz, the billionaire computer-genius high-tech quick-witted space-engineering mastermind — so good I'm sorry he's not with us here on this Earth right now, even without an asteroid rapidly approaching.
Top notch science fiction on television, highly recommended, and I'd watch a second season right now if it existed.