As ReGenesis is currently being shown on Belgian television (Friday night on canvas), I thought this would be a good time to reload this review from the Delirium Vault archives.
And now we move to the wacky world of television series…
ReGenesis is the name of the show and you’re in luck if you manage to track it down. It is a Canadian tv show (of which the third series has just been broadcast on Canadian tv), it hasn’t been bought by many tv stations (as far as I can tell, it’s only been bought by French tv in Europe – but, luckily, the pan-european channel ARTE bought it, so at least it could be seen in a handful of countries with one broadcast) and the series has been released on DVD. But only the first season. And only in the UK. Yes, we’re really trodding the thinnest line between cult and obscure here.
ReGenesis focuses on the life and works of David Sandström (played by Peter Outerbridge), a brilliant biochemist who drinks more than he speaks and has more enemies than friends because he’ll never shut his mouth and frankly often is quite an asshole.
But he’s also brilliant, though you may not get this impression when the series opens. Sandström is on the verge of breakdown and stumbles through the streets. He’s calling people on his cell phone. He confesses: “Now I’ve done it, I’ve gone too far…”
So what happened? Rewind six months…
Which brings us to my biggest problem with the series… the show likes to jump around in time. There are quite a lot of scenes throughout the series which don’t stop at the end, but suddenly rewind in hyperfast mode to a point earlier in that scene to focus on another character.
If that sounds confusing, let me explain. A scene opens with David Sandström walking into the office. He’s greated by Bob, an equally brilliant guy but overtly shy because he has Asperger syndrome. Bob tries to talk to David, but David says: “Not now, Bob.” and walks on, closes the door of his office and looks at the list of known victims of a virus outbreak. We see him scribbling and he gets an idea. He grabs the phone and makes an appointment with a fellow scientist. Suddenly the screen rewinds to the scene where David walks into the office. David ignores Bob again, but now we stick with Bob and we get to see why Bob wanted to talk to David.
This is mildly irritating at first, but you soon get used to it and – let’s be honest – it also shows how good the actors are, because these interwoven scenes were shot with two cameras and are occasionally quite long, so everyone clearly should know their position and lines, in order not to fuck up two scenes at one go.
So what’s the story? The first series opened with a flash forward to episode 12. David tells us things are completely fucked up and then we scroll back six months, to how it all began… with a race against time to identify the cause of a deadly virus, spreading rapidly and headed straight for the city. It’s up to Sandström’s NorBAC (North American Biotechnology Advisory Commission) to identify patient zero and contain the outbreak.
ReGenesis combines shorter stories (taking up only one episode, sometimes even less, sometimes a bit more) with a storyline that’s behind some of the stories and is spread over the entire season. Quite effective as a new story can be introduced at the beginning or the end of an episode and because you can’t tell whether this new story belongs to the larger scheme or whether it’s not related to any of the other plots.
What was a bit annoying (but prone to happen in series like this) is that, in my opinion, a bit too much happens to David Sandström. Especially in the first three episodes. And it’s only in the last two episodes (of the first series) that your suspension of disbelief has to work overtime again.
What is also helpful is that all the main characters have storylines dedicated to them. Which doesn’t only show there’s life outside a lab, but it helps you to think of the characters as human beings.
Now I am not a biochemist, though I did attend some scientific classes when I was younger, but the series focuses a lot on biology, viruses, chemistry and physics, so as a layman you can only guess how much of the theories in the series are bullshit. My first impression was that a lot of it was quite credible and Wikipedia informs us “extensive knowledge of various chemistry and biotechnology issues is required to find out why the plot in many episodes can’t be true (if it can’t)”.
Over on Amazon.co.uk, one happy customer informed the general public: “I’m a biochemist, and while I love science-based TV, I almost always have to watch with my suspension of disbelief cranked up to high. Not so with ReGenesis. Real, accurate science, and fascinating storylines. Of course the real genius is that they manage to make it accessible to the layman too without huge indigestible dollops of exposition. I watched the entire first season in less than two days, then made my husband (who wouldn’t know a carbon atom from a cheese sandwich) watch it too. He’s as hooked as I am […]”
All in all, ReGenesis is a pretty intelligent series and quite rewarding for those who are lucky enough to find it somewhere (on TV or DVD).
You can read more about the series on its Wikipedia page, but beware of some spoilers.