I'm sitting up getting ready to watch the final Futurama movie and I figured that while I'm waiting I could write about one of my favourite science fiction shows which is also my favourite superhero show. It also has the unpleasant distinction of belonging to my "Why did they cancel it?" club. I'm writing about 'The 4400' here, and as I picked up the complete series a while back and I've watched the show in it's entirety I feel I can give this mammoth set the justice it deserves.
And who knows, maybe I'll be able to get a few Heroes fans to try this corker of a show out as well.
Jacqueline McKenzie as Diana Skouris
Joel Gretsch as Tom Baldwin
Patrick Flueger as Shawn Farrell
Conchita Campbell as Maia Rutledge
Chad Faust as Kyle Baldwin
Richard Kahan as Marco Pacella
Mahershalalhashbaz Ali as Richard Tyler
Laura Allen as Lily Moore Tyler
and Bill Campbell as Jordan Collier
Over the last hundred years thousands of individuals were disappearing suddenly and without any trace. Without any explanation forty four thousand of them are returned in a flash of light and no recollection of where they have been for the missing years. The government investigates these people and grows concerned when they begin to manifest strange powers, powers with the potential to change the fate of the human race...
The 4400 ran from 2004 until 2007 when it was cancelled before it's time (I suspect a single season more would have brought things to a completely satisfactory close, but it was a victim of the same axe which chopped The Dead Zone). It featured an on going storyline interlaced with single episode and short length story arcs, this story gradually revealed the purpose of the abductions and the powers which were granted to each abductee on their return.
The show is also notable thanks to fantastic reoccurring performances from Jeffrey Combs and Summer Glau, Combs plays a sort-of-subtle homage to his Re-Animator character Herbert West. Staying well within a role he's suited for and skilled at.
To briefly skim over each season it's fair to say that the first season is excellent gradually building up towards the revelation of why these individuals were abducted with delicate pacing, the second season continues from this point and brings the details of what's happened to the 4400 into a clearer focus while also following Richard and Lily Tyler's ordeal after the birth of their child. The third season is the weakest of the seasons, due to a cast member leaving the storyline takes a somewhat unusual turn and for a while I felt that the show might have lost it's magic. But by the latter part of season three it had recovered and the fourth season -- which looks deeper into an 'opposition' force which first began to appear in the third season -- is just utterly fantastic and at times breathtaking.
The first thing you notice about this boxed set is it's big. Really big. I'm talking a monster sized "eat up all your other DVDs on the shelf if left unattended" big. But this is hardly surprising as the set contains 15 discs. The surprising thing is that it's not as big as many other 15 disc sets. In fact it's comparatively small. Consisting of a dust sleeve which protects a book with the old plastic pages, 15 of them to be precise.
The artwork as well is exceptionally evocative and well done, the book has a full length picture of the entire cast which echoes the initial scenes when the 4400 first arrived. The interior continues this theme and spices it up with screen captures from the show. The dust jacket also matches this and in an exceptionally nice move it even has artwork (the title basically) on the interior of the sleeve, so you have something to look at while sliding it back in.
It's a really well put together product.
There is an entire disc of extras in this set and a wealth of material can be found on it (and the other discs):
-- Video Introduction by Series Creator Scott Peters
-- Pilot Episode
-- Audio Commentary from Scott Peters and Joel Gretsch
-- The 4400: The Ghost Season
-- Promicin: The Moral Choice
-- Viral Grassroots
-- Show Specific
-- Deleted Scenes from Seasons 1, 2 and 3
Region: 2 PAL
Season 1: 247 mins
Season 2: 530 Mins
Season 3: 537 Mins
Season 4: 540 mins
This set is available for £39.99 from play.com, and while that may seem expensive you need to remember that this show is providing a total run time of 1854 mins (30 hours and 54 mins). Which is actually 2.2 ppm (one of the reasons I like to work out ppm/pence per minute).
The 4400 is a brilliant, if occasionally flawed work of science fiction, it's something that you should definitely try out if you're a fan of The X-Files, Close Encounters or even Heroes. I'd go as far as to say that despite being a flawed creation it is still vastly superior to Heroes in many aspects. I certainly prefer it over that deceased equine that's being flogged on our screens currently.
From it's hauntingly beautiful opening sequence to the final episode The 4400 is a superb product and while I'm one of the first to admit it is flawed in places it's still something I enjoy watching greatly.