While Syfy's latest series, Incorporated, isn't a reboot of any previous properties, but with the number of tropes it draws from it feels like it might as well be. Take a healthy dose of 1997's Gattica, and a mix of walled-garden films and TV series (you know the ones, where a small community of have-everythings live segregated away from the rest of the have-nothing population, such as Elysium), some Demolition Man, and a bit of Judge Dredd for good measure, and you've basically got the setup for Incorporated.
Set in 2074, with most of the 2016 coastlines long flooded with the arctic ice all but gone, most of America lives around the Great Lakes region. The population lives in one of two segments of population – those in the sterile-but-safe-and-comfortable Green Zones, or in your typical midst-fall-of-civilization desolation of the Red Zones. In the Green Zones it's all a tightly regimented corporate culture (think Big Blue rather than Silicon Valley corporations), and in the Red it's a hard life where it's all gangs, drugs, and desperation.
The television broadcasts all have the requisite background information that one would need to understand that there's widespread civil unrest with apparent terrorist attacks playing out against the corporation's interests. Canada is building a giant fence to keep out the waves of millions of illegal American immigrants that have been flooding to towards the Great White North. Bacon as a delicacy to such an extent that even in a Green Zone it's only had as an anniversary present (the question if life would really be that much worth living if bacon wasn't readily available isn't touched on strangely enough).
There is one innovative image of a car driving down an idyllic highway with lush forests on either side headed towards the corporate headquarters. As the camera pans up higher, it suddenly moves over the top of the "walls" to either side of the highway, exposing that the forests are actually a projection, blocking the view of the fences and the rotting carcass of the bulk of the city expanding out as far as the eye can see. One corporate employee getting in trouble for possessing food porn on his computer (not sex with food, just a model eating a steak) is also good for another chuckle, but only a chuckle.
We have all the bits one would expect from a future setting: self-driving cars, near-militarized social structures, those on the "good side" having technology and clean homes but somewhere sterile and joyless lives, while those on the "bad side" indulge in anarchy, drugs, and all kinds of deviancy but they at least feel more alive. Being in a green zone includes the benefits of a steady corporate job (as long as you follow all the rules) and include safe housing, regular meals and luxuries such as medical care, non-toxic water and meat. Having children is regulated, and children's television programing indoctrinates children to spy on their parents.
These are all fine enough clichés, but the way they're put together doesn't feel [yet] to be going anywhere particularly new. As another contemporary example, Westworld doesn't really have anything new in it's cobbling together of ideas (Who's actually a Cylon, messing with linear storytelling, etc.), but they set a storyline up where who the characters are and where they're going was intriguing from the outset. Here in Incorporated, we're going to have to bite the bullet and accept that it will take some time to see if these characters and their journeys are something that we get engaged with.
The show comes with a strong executive production team with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as executive producers, and was created, written and directed by brothers David and Alex Pastor (who wrote Self/less and both wrote and directed Carriers). It's cast tries hard with what they've been given to work with, but after it's first episode it feels like they are stuck in a storyline that has them going in a safe direction rather than giving us something that catches our interest with a – "huh, I wonder what's going to happen next?"
The cast is made up of Sean Teale (Reign) as Ben Larson, Allison Miller (Kings, Terra Nova) as Laura, Eddie Ramos (Teen Wolf) as Theo, Julia Ormond (Mad Men, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) as Elizabeth, Dennis Haysbert (the Allstate Insurance spokesman) as Julian, David Hewlett (Stargate: Atlantis) as Chad, and Ian Tracey (Man of Steel, Timecop) as Terrence.
Evaluation After Episode 1: They've got a good sandbox, now they just need to make it more engaging before audiences wander off – 6.5 Stars out of 10.