Borealis takes place in the near future, 2045, in the not so near Arctic, in the International Arctic Free Zone. The central character is Vic Carboneau, played by Ty Olsson. Vic owns the tavern/hotel/brothel and is the Customs Officer. Meanwhile, a number of different international interests are vying for control of the area and the valuable mining and oil rights. Patrick Gallagher plays Taq, Vic’s best friend and right hand man. Terry Chen plays Roger, the town’s de facto coroner/doctor. Alison Freemont is an internationally known biologist/conservationist/blogger, played by Michelle Harrison. She’s trying to keep the indigenous wildlife from being driven to extinction. Greyston Holt plays Dan an American postdoctoral student who ends up helping both Vic and Alison. Cristina Rosato plays Bettina, one of the girls who works out of Vic’s place. Clive, played by Bryan Dick, is one of her customers and a recovering addict who also does some work for Vic. While Vic does his best to keep things running smoothly in Borealis, the “law” comes in the form of the Canadian military led by Raminder, played by Karan Oberoi. When things start to heat up in Borealis and an international shake up of control looms, the UN sends in Svetlana, played by Christine Horne, to keep things on an even keel.
|Dick, Horne, Holt, Olsson, Harrison, and Gallagher|
The acting in Borealis is simply fantastic. I was already familiar with Ty Olsson from Supernatural and Patrick Gallagher from Davinci’s Inquest and Glee, so I expected top flight performances from them and that’s what they delivered. The two have great chemistry in every scene. Bryan Dick and Terry Chen both deliver both strong comedic beats and dramatic sequences. Dick was actually in one of my favorite episodes of Torchwood. Michelle Harrison delivers a wonderful performance as a strong, smart scientist. Likewise, Rosata’s Bettina avoids becoming a simple stereotype. The women are neither harsh nor victims.
The writing is also exceptional. Andrew Rai Berzins and Andrew Wreggitt are the writers and creators, and they’ve created a very rich landscape. There is a lot of room to develop the different threads started in the pilot into a series. The characters are also multi-faceted and well-rounded. Perhaps most interesting, is the potential in this not too distant future to examine real, fundamental issues about the environment and politics which are current. I’ve come to expect that element in much of Canadian television, just as I’ve come to expect great dialogue. One of the things that might be a bit problematic for a more general North American audience – other than a cable pick up – would be the frequent, and very realistic, use of the f-bomb.
The pilot was directed by David Frazee. He makes good use of long, moving shots, especially in the opening sequence. The fight scenes are in long shots as well – the way they should be shot when they are this well choreographed. For a science fiction story set in the near future, Borealis really makes very circumspect use of special effects. They are used very judiciously – the dirigibles flying overhead being the most obvious – and are done exceptionally well. The production was shot outside of Calgary and the setting was perfect. Vic’s bar, the military base, and Svetlana’s base were all given distinctive looks, yet still felt very much of the same period.
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