“The 4400” was one of the best sci-fi series: abductees return from the future, without having aged


Another television series that explored the idea of “powers” was “The 4400” which aired on the USA Network, and was produced largely by CBS and Paramount, running from 2004-2007, for four seasons.  The pilot episode seemed also to be produced with the help of Universal.  It premiered on July 11, 2004, and was created by Scott Peters and Rene Eschevarria.

As the series opens, a UFO, looking like a large comet, lands near a lake between Seattle and Mt. Rainier.  The people who get off the spaceship are those who have disappeared at various times since 1946.  Reports had been rumored that some of them “went up” in a white beam.  None of the people have aged.  It becomes apparent that perhaps they have been shown the world’s future and have returned to change it, although that would seem to violate the “time arrow of physics”.

One of the government officials, Tom Baldwin, played by Joel Gretsch, has a son Kyle (Chad Faust) who has been comatose since his cousin Shawn Farrell (Minnesota-bred Patrick Flueger) was abducted.  Shawn’s abduction was unintentional, as he tried to intervene to protect Kyle.  But when Shawn returns, he takes on some powers, particularly being able to heal people.  Kyle comes back to life, but thinks he is someone else.

Shawn goes on to become one of the most charismatic young adult characters in the show, rather comparable to other similar sci-fi characters like Clark Kent, Jake 2.0, and Kyle XY.  He helps form the 4400 Center.

One of the female characters comes back pregnant, which obviously introduces interesting possibilities.

In time, the civil rights of The 4400 becomes a major legal and moral issue.

In the second season, the government learns that the nervous systems of The 4400 contain promicin (or promycin), a neurotransmitter that helps explain their powers.  (Actually, it’s hard to see how a neurotransmitter could manipulate space-time enough to cause self-teleportation, like Clark Kent can do – only aliens could do that – meaning that we ever encounter someone who can do that who is still human, we have proof that human life was seeded from another planet.)   The government tries to develop a drug to remove their abilities, a promicin inhibitor, which roughly sounds analogous to reparative therapy for homosexuals.  The drug induces AIDS-like disease, which even affects Shawn for a few episodes.  This leads to a great public scandal, until a particular character Jordan Collier (Billy Campbell) organizes The 4400 and promotes the idea of promicin for the general public as a healing drug (it sounds analogous to the medical marijuana issue).  Kyle eventually takes promicin and develops powers.

“The 4400” was one of the best of the sci-fi series, and is to be commended for lasting four seasons and holding a strong story line together, with likable characters and issues that map to contemporary moral and political conflicts.  It seems rather apt to consider now given the NSA scandal.

Published Wednesday March 19, 2014 at 11:50 PM EDT.


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