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Threshold: Pilot

"It was like a forest, but the trees were made of glass."

Emboldened by the success of Lost, last season's phenomenon, all of the networks are jumping on the bandwagon this fall with their own science fiction dramas. Most of these efforts will sink ignominiously beneath the waves. Threshold may very well be the one that makes it.

Threshold is fascinating. It's like a cross between X-Files and The A-Team, with a sci-fi premise and a bit of Lone Gunmen for flavor. And I suspect that it's not just a mix; it has original elements of its own.

Carla Gugino (Karen Cisco) stars as Molly Anne Caffrey, a brilliant "contingency analyst" with the Blackwood Institute in Virginia, and a loner with no life. Lecturing around the world on worst case scenarios and living alone with her dog, Monster, Caffrey suddenly becomes the most important person in the world when a worst case scenario actually occurs: something alien crashes into the North Atlantic, and wreaks havoc on a ship called the MSC Big Horn.

Gugino is a charismatic and talented actress, and she may have finally found her breakthrough vehicle. Caffrey, while young and beautiful as nearly all television leads must be, also exudes intelligence, authority, and vulnerability. And they've given her a fascinating team of genius-level misfits to help her save the world: a nerd, a smart-mouthed gambler, and a refugee from the sixties. Not exactly Charlie's Angels, are they?

Misfit number one: Rob Benedict plays Lucas Pegg, a nerdy astrophysicist and Jeopardy champion. Lucas appears to be more than a caricature; I enjoyed the scenes that he did.

Misfit number two: Peter Dinklage plays Arthur Ramsey, an expert in linguistics and mathematics, as well as a gambler, boozer, and womanizer. And a little person. Again, I particularly liked the scenes he did, including one where he was threatened into behaving.

Misfit number three: Brent Spiner, best known as Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, plays Nigel Fenway, a microbiologist and MD as well as a former sixties radical. As a long-time Trek fan, I have to say that seeing Brent Spiner at work in a series again is a delight, and they've given him a marvelous character to work with.

Rounding out the cast are Charles S. Dutton as J.T. Baylock, Deputy National Security Adviser, and Brian Van Holt as federal agent Dave Cavennaugh, who appears to be the square-jawed leading man hero type. Is Cavennaugh going to be Caffrey's leading man? Could very well be. The pilot also includes a notable guest appearance by the talented William Mapother, most recently known as the villainous Ethan Rom on Lost.

I can't give you spoilers, for two reasons: (1) I don't believe in spoiling people, and (2) the review DVD I received wasn't complete, and left us with a cliffhanger. But what I saw was intriguing. The acting is excellent, and the story got to me. Along with other stuff I won't mention, there were four dimensional objects, synchronized cockroaches, and a dream sequence about trees made of glass that gave me the creeps.

Yes, alien invasion has been done, but come on: everything has been done. It's the execution that matters, and let me tell you, someone put some thought into this one. The cast is just excellent, and I was very impressed with what I saw. With the possible exception of the second season premiere of Lost, this is the show I'm waiting to see this fall.
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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