Over the past few months I’ve been going through old TV series thanks to Netflix. In the lull between seasons, I decided to go back to some of my favourite shows. I’ve seen the glorious first season of Heroes, before the thing derailed. I’ve seen the five seasons of Fringe, with John Noble bringing me to tears more than once.
But while I’ll probably speak of those series and more in the future, today I’ll talk about two of my all-time favourite series. Both aired on Syfy (originally Sci-Fi Channel) and even crossing over with each other on one occasion. These series had amazing characters, interesting situations and wonderful storytelling. They were Eureka and Warehouse 13.
This series did what Science Fiction is supposed to do: take real-world scientific concepts and theories, extrapolate and then turn the dial to 11 to create fantastic situations.
Set in the fictional town of Eureka in Oregon. It’s a community of the best minds in the world, a place where they can work for scientific progress. In 1947, Albert Einstein convinced President Truman to establish it, or at least that’s what the in-universe story is.
Eureka is a town of super-geniuses, where everyone has at least one PhD. The main character, Jack Carter is a U.S. Marshall whose car breaks down just outside of town while driving his runaway teenage daughter back home. During the events of the pilot, he helps solve a situation caused by an experiment run wild, a very common situation in the series, and by the end, the acting Sheriff of the town, a Colonel in the army, recommends Carter as the new Sheriff of Eureka, which to the former Marshall meant a pay and clearance level rise.
As I mentioned above, this series is Science Fiction done right. Everything that happens has a solid scientific basis, just taken to unrealistic levels. From insanely powerful radio waves causing anything from loss of voice to water turning red, to a distributed neural network making the townspeople share their dreams.
The characters are amazing and Jack Carter and Henry Deacon are my favourite. Carter is, as I’ve mentioned, the normal guy in this town of mad geniuses, but while they have all the scientific knowledge of the world at their fingertips (and the most advanced technology in the Eureka-founded local corporation Global Dynamics) they all seem to lack in common sense. That’s where Jack comes in. The things they talk about all go over his head, but he comes up with solutions through keen instincts, good observations skills and just common sense.
Henry is a complicated man, but he’s something of the town mentor, a scientist but also a spiritual man and the only one that seems to talk “normal,” often translating the most complicated concepts for Jack to understand, such as when someone describes freaky meteorological conditions and he boils it down to “Perfect Storm” and “Ice Funnel of Death” to Jack, with the Sheriff commenting (quite often in fact) on why they didn’t just say “Ice Funnel of Death” to begin with.
This series has family drama, relationships, parenthood, romance and grief, and also time travel, alternate and virtual realities and just about every form of AI that you can imagine. But even with the crazy technology in Global Dynamics and the various laboratories in town, the characters keep it all grounded, even Nathan Stark (based off Tony Stark and just as self-centred) and Sarah, the Jack’s AI House.
There are plots, conspiracies, ancient mysteries to uncover and so much more. It ran for five seasons and every single one of them is outstanding.
You can find Seasons 4 & 5 on Netflix, but much like me, you’ll have to acquire the first three seasons through other means, as they pulled it from that service some time ago.
Where Eureka was a wonderful Science Fiction series, Warehouse 13 is the best Urban Fantasy I’ve ever seen. It takes our world, full of its mobile phones, nine-to-five jobs but adds a layer of weirdness on top. In fact it adds a layer on all of history.
Warehouse 13 is the latest in a long line of storage spaces for dangerous artefacts. These artefacts, as described by Irene Frederic, one of the central and most mysterious characters in the series, are “simply the meeting of an object, a person… and a moment.” Warehouse 13 is in South Dakota and designed by Albert Einstein, M.C. Escher and Nicola Tesla. Built into the side of a mountain, Einstein’s joint and support designs automatically expand the Warehouse whenever it needs more spaces to hold artifacts. Tesla created electric guns for the agents, Escher created an ever shifting and really convoluted vault and Phineas Farnsworth, the creator of the Television, also created personal video communicators that all agents use.
Artefacts are common objects charged with power due to their owner living through a “moment,” a particular emotional situation. Most artefacts have good uses, but all of them have dangerous drawbacks. For example, Lucrezia Borgia’s Comb gives some form of mind-control, but it fills the user with a deep longing to find love, much like its original user and also with deep and violent jealousy of others. Carlo Collodi’s Bracelet, made from puppet strings and belonging to Pinoccio’s author, gives the user the ability to control their own body like a puppet—which could for example give a quadriplegic have full control of their body. But if they use it for too long, it implants a seed of darkness in their hearts, making them vicious and malicious.
Artefacts are around the world and it’s up to Warehouse agents to find them, neutralize them and bring them back for storage. Two of the main characters, Pete and Myka, start out as Secret Service agents transferred to the Warehouse. At first they want nothing but to leave, but as they start experiencing what Mrs. Frederic describes as “a world of endless wonder,” they take a liking to the life of a Warehouse agent.
Warehouse is perhaps even more outrageous than Eureka, the situations even more outlandish, especially because the artefacts have wildly different effects, most of them not even in the realms of pseudo-science, but much like that show, it’s the character’s relatability that keeps the entire premise and story grounded. Artie is the father figure and mentor, he keeps the rest of the cast in line, gives them assignments and his moments with Claudia are tender and sometimes even tearjerkers…though it might just be me.
Warehouse 13, much like Eureka, has phenomenal humour but also handles serious and even dark topics wonderfully. Each episode moves the season’s story forwards while at the same time having the case-of-the-week.
But my favourite element, as a fan of Urban Fantasy and alternate history, is how every artefact comes with a history lesson. Some are a bit flimsy but overall they’re fantastic. Lucrezia Borgia and Alice Lidell, for example, get wonderful stories to describe why their artefacts behave the way they do. Speaking of Alice, she actually lives in the mirror and is a sociopath serial killer and if you shine light on the mirror while looking at your refection, you swap places with her…fun!
Warehouse 13 also ran for 5 seasons, which you can find on Netflix.
These two series are near at the top of my very long list of all-time favourites, and I hope you see why and give them a shot. If you’ve already seen them, give them another look and if this is the first you’ve heard of them, then you definitely have to watch them!