Under the Dome
Aired on: CBS
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I first saw the trailer for Under the Dome, a new science fiction drama airing on CBS, I was surprised. The backdrop/skyline of the town reminded me of that of Jericho, a science fiction series that also had aired on CBS until it was cancelled after two seasons. CBS is not a big fan of science fiction shows, so I wondered at their interest in this one. Then I realized that Under the Dome was a television adaptation of a recent Stephen King novel. I decided to check the premiere episode out when it aired at 10:00pm EST on Monday, June 24, 2013.
Under the Dome is centered on a small town called Chester's Mill. Nothing really special happens in the town of Chester's Mill...at least, nothing the average townspeople know about anyway. But one fine day, the ground quakes and suddenly a huge, invisible dome appears over the town, slicing cows and homes in half and leaving the people in the town, including a few mysterious visitor just passing through, unable to reach the outside world. Phones don't work. People outside the dome can't hear them. And worse, since the dome is invisible, people have already been killed driving or flying into it.
As the show continues, we are introduced to several main characters stuck inside the dome. Each one is hiding some sort of secret about their lives. Just before the dome came down, Army veteran Dale "Barbie" Barbara (Mike Vogel) buried someone out in the woods. We later find out that this someone was a doctor married to local investigative reporter Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre), who has just been given a lead on mysterious stockpiles of propane in the town. Those stockpiles were reported to local police by Andrea Grinell (Dale Raoul) who believes she detected fear in the Police Chief's (Jeff Fahey) voice when he tried to ease her mind about the shipments.
As it turns out, those stockpiles might mean something sinister. We learn this when the Chief tries to discuss it with James "Big Jim" Rennie (Dean Norris), a shady politician who sees the dome as his chance to control the town. His son, Junior (Alexander Koch), isn't as ambitious, only seeking to control one part of the town. After their break-up and the falling of the dome, Junior decides to act on his ambition by kidnapping his former lover Angie McAllister (Britt Robertson). Angie's parents are on the other side of the dome, but her brother Joe (Colin Ford) has been trying to figure out the origin of the dome and how to "turn it off."
As I watched the premiere episode of Under the Dome, I began to think of it as classic Stephen King. First, there is the mysterious stranger in town in Barbie. Then, there is that slimy guy who has to try and take over the situation in James. Junior is the psychotic guy that always appears in a Stephen King novel. There's the well-meaning Chief of Police who is always in way over his head and that one member of town who is looking to uncover the truth. Classic Stephen King is usually the best Stephen King...that is, if the creators of the show keep close to his story.
Where I see the problem is in how long this series can last. The novel is over a thousand pages, so I suppose that could be stretched into a season's length, but then what? Under the Dome might have been better as a mini-series like The Stand. And then there is CBS, a network notorious for maintaining a very short leash on science fiction series. The series made a decent opening impression with an interesting sci-fi storyline, some underlying intrigue and charismatic main characters, but can Under the Dome maintain these characteristics, and for how long? I think I'll keep an eye on this series and see where it goes. If anything, at least it has sparked an interest in reading the novel it's based on.