A few years ago I came up with an idea for a book. I’d always been a fan of time travel… of What If stories… of Groundhog Day shenanigans… and this idea combined them all in a way that just made sense to me. I sat down to write this story about a man who lives his life only to die and have everything restart sometime in his adulthood. The world would be different, an alternate timeline would have been created somewhere along the way, but most of the fundamentals would still hold the same. So while the Allies might have still won World War II, you might be married to someone else in this new world.
How unnerving would that be? How would you go about trying to find a way to center yourself within this new life? What about your friends? Your family? The woman you were once married to… do you have to leave all of that behind this time?
And what about next time things reset? Or the next life?
And then what if you found out you weren’t the only one experiencing this?
All of those thoughts and feelings about our actions in the world and how each of us are sometimes tied together in ways we would scarcly believe… all of that went into my novel: The Echo Effect (available here for purchase). I’d not see a version of all of this in anything I’d consumed until I started watching The Lazarus Project.
What I discovered was a show that I might have written in another lifetime. The basic plot is that George is a regular guy – he develops apps for a living (or he hopes for a living). He has a girlfriend who he is massively in love with. And in the background of this nice, pleasant story, the news is beginning to talk about a virus spreading. A few months pass and some very familiar images begin to show up in his life: masks, excess deaths, fear, paranoia… until the day that his now pregnant girlfriend gets sick and dies.
And then the world resets about 9 months.
Only George doesn’t forget what happened before. Yet he’s the only one. So he starts preparing for the worst, scaring his lady and friends, and basically acting like a crazy person. It isn’t until a woman shows up (Archie) who informs him he’s not the only one who can remember the previous timelines. That she works for a Lazarus Project who has been tasked with ensuring the big, world ending threats, don’t end up destroying the world. She tells them that the catch is they can only go back to July 1 of the current year, and if the clock strikes midnight on June 30, then that new July 1 becomes a new Save Point.
And she offers him a seat at the table to help them avert the civilization endings.
The thing I love about this show is that within the first episode I was all in on George and his plight. Maybe it was due to writing a book that felt somewhat like a twin to this story, but I could really sympathize with his struggle to try and retain his sanity at the beginning. And then later when he is forced to do some really, really, terrible things… I still found myself rooting for him to find a way out of the mess he’d made. Even if that meant falling short of his true goal.
Each episode trys to focus on various other characters who are apart of the Project. In this I’m reminded of the flashback sequences from Lost. Here, they look at some of the aborted timelines, where we see the issues each of them have stuggled with in the past while also doing a nice job of still connecting to George’s journey throughout. These are flawed humans dealing with some level of shit which can only wear and tear on your pysche.
These shows do a masterful job of making small connections mean nothing when they are introduced, but soon enough you begin to see how every little thing connects. Sometims you expect it and other times you will be completely caught off-guard by how a reveal in act 1 of an episode suddenly changes everything about something you previously thought you knew and understood.
The only bad thing I have to say about the show is that it is only 8 episodes so far, and the cliffhanger they left us on after season 1 had me completely in shock wishing my DVR had one more episode. However, from what I’ve read, they are in the process of filming right now, so the wait may not be quite as long.
If you like any of the shows or movies I referenced above… if you like really good science fiction with solid character work… if you like paying attention and having it pay off later – then this is the show for you.
John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.
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