NBC's six-part miniseries is perfect for mystery lovers, regardless of their religious philosophies. At its heart: the timeless battle of good and evil.
By CHASE SQUIRES, Times TV columnist
Published April 10, 2005
An astrophysicist, a nun, God, Satan and the Bible walk into a network television series.
No matter what happens next, NBC has already pulled off a TV miracle by introducing Revelations, a smart drama that threatens to spark discussion and make viewers think, while incorporating religion without mocking or pandering to people of faith.
The six-part miniseries, beginning Wednesday, isn't a reality show, a cop show, a medical show or a light, safe comedy. Instead of teenagers, team challenges and blood-spattered crime scenes, Revelations offers an addictive mystery, the battle of good and evil, and the biblical end of days.
The novel nature of the series alone would be refreshing. The bonus is, it's also good.
Writer-creator-producer David Seltzer said in a conference call with reporters that it's time for a drama that challenged viewers to think about spiritual matters. Terrorism and war make daily news, faith-based politics are in the headlines, The Da Vinci Code is a longtime bestseller, and religion is increasingly the top of public and private debate, he said.
"People are very nervous as to where they're heading," he said. "I think it's time to explore their relationship to the hereafter and the now. Not necessarily to put their papers in order, but whether or not there is something mankind can do. . . . We're looking at 35 wars going on in the world presently, any one of which could become a flash point that could end our lives. It is time to start taking it seriously."
Seltzer, who wrote The Omen, teamed with actors Bill Pullman (the president in Independence Day) and Natascha McElhone (Lauren, the mysterious girlfriend in The Truman Show) for a series that will fill The West Wing's time slot through the spring. If it does well, Seltzer said Revelations could return as a regular series.
"The door is open because the world hasn't ended, and there are a million stories to tell in search of evidence that we're in the end of days," Pullman said, joining Seltzer in the conference call.
The first episode provides enough foreshadowing to hook mystery lovers. From the start, viewers are sucked in, meeting Pullman's Dr. Richard Massey, a grieving father whose daughter was murdered by devil worshipers. McElhone, as sleuthing Sister Josepha Montafiore, drags the skeptical man of science into her conviction that the world is about to end by introducing him to a comatose girl, the victim of a lightning strike in Florida, who speaks in tongues and appears to channel his daughter's spirit.
While the show is filmed in Los Angeles, Canada, the Czech Republic and Italy, Florida sneaks into the plot early. Sister Josepha and Dr. Massey try to keep the girl alive despite a move to harvest her organs by whisking her off to the fictional Sisters of Mercy Convent, supposedly in St. Petersburg.
The special effects, especially the shadow of Jesus on a cross, are nicely understated. The slow emergence of evil, bureaucracy and an uncertain religious hierarchy are convincing.
The show isn't aimed at any one view of religion, said Seltzer, who asks that those who fear the show will misinterpret the Bible hold their criticisms until they actually see it.
"There's probably always going to be people offended, but there's a core of people who understand this comes from a questioning, rather than giving answers," Seltzer said. "One of the things that we're doing that's very healthy, we're drawing attention to the relevance of the Bible in our time," he said.
Seltzer wouldn't say much about his own faith.
"I certainly do believe that there is a higher power, but I have to leave it at that," he said.