Show is quite watchable for those somewhat attuned to developing technologies, and stands a chance of developing a cult following like those for “The Prisoner” (its most obvious antecedent as storyline continues through upcoming episodes), “Max Headroom” and “Twin Peaks.” Timeslot, leading into “The X-Files,” is ideal.
Sydney Bloom is the young daughter of scientist Dr. Joseph Bloom (David McCallum), who is killed off (or is he?) under mysterious circumstances early in first episode.
Time shifts to several years later, to more-or-less present, where grown-up Sydney (Lori Singer) works for the phone company by day and tinkers with her home-made computer (assembled from parts liberated from her employer) in her off hours.
She’s discovered a gateway into a kind of virtual reality some steps removed from how it’s perceived today: she can suck people into it through her modem, providing they’re on the other end of the line, and then return them, with no memory of what’s happened, to where they were before.
Plot goes off in two directions during pilot, written and directed respectively by co-creators Thania St. John and Michael Katleman (other creators are Jeannine Renshaw, Geoffrey Hemwall and Adam Cherry).
In the more pedestrian storyline, Sydney uses the new technique to check out co-worker and prospective suitor Scott Cooper (Adam Baldwin).
The second strand finds Sydney and her technology pursued by a mysterious outfit known as the Committee, an apparently para-governmental org that’s a conspiracy theorist’s worst nightmare. It’s the Committee that will propel series as long as it runs.
Singer is immediately likable and, more important, has a strong enough personality to carry the series, which she ultimately must.
The series features Michael Easton, as a childhood friend and current platonic pal known only as Duncan, and Will Patton as Dr. Frank Morgan, a scientific brain with his own experiments in virtual reality. Featured in pilot are Louise Fletcher as Sydney’s mother, Penn Gillette in a nifty cameo as Sydney’s cranky neighbor, and Stephen Mills as a mysterious stranger who looks — probably not accidentally — like a cross between an FBI agent and Richard Nixon. Scary.
Show’s much-vaunted special effects include some nifty computer display simulations (from Bill Barminski, Consumer Prods.) and considerable doctoring with film color credited to CST Entertainment Inc. — every time Sydney goes into virtual reality, she and everything around her take on odd hues. This will probably grow old, quickly.