In the new Strike.TV pilot Fusion, a forensic psychologist and a well-meaning cop join forces to catch a killer — who is also a cop, albeit more of the prostitute-murdering, rogue variety. Lest this be too easily mistaken for Law & Order: Special Internet Unit, this otherwise routine formula is spiked with a little supernatural spice: None of the players involved are of the Human 1.0 variety.
Fusion, which premiered on Jan. 26, is the brainchild of Richard Manning, a man who boasts serious sci-fi cred with projects like Farscape and Star Trek: The Next Generation under his belt, and his winning way with speculative fiction does much to breathe otherworldly life into the typical crime procedural format. The lady psychologist has a whole touch-based, second sight thing going on. And both good cop and bad cop, when provoked, transform into lizard-eyed, growling menfolk with superhuman strength. Despite Manning’s highly visible forays into deep space with his previous work, these characters are planted squarely on terra firma and duking it out in a monster-of-mysterious-origins grudge match.
Only the pilot episode is in the can at this juncture, and the creation of subsequent episodes will hinge on how effective the pilot is at drumming up both audience interest and financial backing. In an interview, Manning revealed that cast and crew worked in exchange for fast food on the first ep, but he did say, “You can really only do that to them once.” While reluctant to discuss minimal budget requirements for continuation of the series, Manning offered, “It’s not like we need a full Hollywood crew and a full budget. Part of the question we had going into this was, ‘How good a project could we pull together with minimal resources?'”
Manning thinks the web could prove to be a particularly symbiotic breeding ground for a sci-fi series. Touching upon the often short shelf life of oldteevee sci-fi, he explained, “The downside of genre programming is that it is kind of niche. On a major network, it’s hard to get a sizable enough audience to justify making a show that can be more expensive and more complicated and harder to write than certain other types of shows.” All in all, he cited the new medium, and the show he has cast into it, as a “grand experiment.”
The experiment is off to a promising start. Given that cast and crew were fueled by little more than french fries and altruism, there are few effects in play beyond a fleeting shot of human eyeballs mutating into lizard-like peepers. But this may be a good thing in lieu of a second-rate, school-project-level CGI monster — and a little mystery works surprisingly well. Indeed, the pacing of the pilot shows confidence by quietly building momentum, rather than shoving everything down our throats in one go. Significant plot points are left unresolved: Which sub-category of “Other” do the good and bad cops fall into (alien? monster? lab-experiment-gone-awry)? How will the leading man not only retrieve, but win over (if that is indeed his intention) his attractive colleague, who just isn’t that into mutants?
Furthermore, the actors’ performances are respectable, and there’s actually a whiff of chemistry between the two potential romantic leads. With any luck, Fusion will soon find itself fused with a financial backer and be given a chance to deliver on its initial promise.