By Paula R. Stiles
Stonehenge Apocalypse. SyFy Channel, 9pm, June 12, 2010. Starring Misha Collins, Harper Hill, Peter Wingfield, and Tori Higginson.
One fine day, a tour guide takes a group out to Stonehenge. In the middle of her spiel, the stones start humming and shifting around while the middle stone glows. Do they sensibly run and get clear? Of course not. They’re stupid cannon fodder straight out of a Doctor Who teaser. So, when the stones move into alignment and put out a huge electrical charge, it vaporizes the tourists in the middle of finally deciding to run. Naturally, this gets the government involved, with Dr. John Trousdale (Peter Wingfield) leading the team in trying to figure out what happened and what the incident at Stonehenge has to do with pyramids around the world suddenly turning into supervolcanoes. But it’s not until the Hero of the story, a maverick scientist named Dr. Jacob Glasser (Misha Collins) whose ex-colleague, Dr. Joseph Leshem (Harper Hill), has disappeared while on an archaeological dig in Maine, comes on the scene that answers are forthcoming. Having heard on his UFO talk show from a caller that “Stonehenge moved!” and noticed a large energy surge between Maine the British Isles, Glasser investigates. Once in England soon after (he’s very nimble), he magically deduces that Stonehenge is a mechanism on a countdown that is controlling megalithic sites all over the world. He realises humanity is on a collision course with planetary disaster.
Right, so there’s the plot for the first hour or so. To say more about it would be to spoil the heck out of the story and we don’t want to do that. Though the mystery does turn out to be fairly original and toys with Chariots of the Gods territory before going in a more…ah…geological direction, shall we say. If you’re into theories about Stonehenge/neolithic megalith sites and ley lines, you’ll have a good time. If you’re into any of the principle actors above, you’ll also have a good time. The acting fits the style of the production, which is to say that everyone has fun chewing the scenery. I’ve seen some complaints about the acting and honestly? Expecting a different style is not the same as critiquing the quality of the acting. The quality is just fine for this kind of film. Taking it seriously would be very much the wrong choice for an actor.
I readily admit that I came on board for the Misha Collins/Peter Wingfield configuration and the man candy was indeed lovely to look at. Collins uses his Castiel voice from Supernatural, but brings in his own funky Twitter sense of the absurd as Glasser (“You’re telling me the fate of the world hangs on our driving around until you see something on your little meter?” one character asks him in the second half). Wingfield has fun making us think one thing about his character and then going in a different direction. Plus, he gets the best lines. To his team about the mystery at Stonehenge, he says, “I don’t think it’s Merlin waving his magic wand, so let’s get moving!” About Glasser after someone calls him “a prodigy”: “Yeah, that was before his brain went pear-shaped and he started a UFO talk show.” Hee! Good times.
Hill also does a good job in a role very different from the ME he plays on CSI: New York. Higginson’s “English” accent is awful, sometimes here and sometimes there, but she at least doesn’t embarrass her gender by turning into a Damsel in Distress and she also plays a pivotal role as the liaison between Glasser and Trousdale’s team. Her character even gets a nice coda that wraps up her arc well.
The writing is surprisingly good for a SyFy “original” – that is to say, Stonehenge Apocalypse is fun and entertaining rather than dull and irritating, as most SyFy “original” crap is (2.14 million viewers, about twice what your usual SyFy Saturday night fare gets, agreed). I’m sure no one expected it to win any Emmys. Paul Ziller is listed as the director and co-writer, but I doubt he had much to do with the writing on this one (being responsible for snooze-worthy tripe like Beyond Loch Ness). So, I’m going to give credit to his “co-writer”, Brad Abraham (whose interview with Fangoria strongly implies he wrote most of the script and gives a nice peek into the making of these flicks for SyFy), instead.
Abraham writes a tight, fast-paced story that gives us answers (even if they’re goofy) at a nice clip. The pace gets a little frenetic toward the end and some characters are killed off a bit too abruptly. Plus, you have to put up with some disaster-film cliches like an utterly stupid military commander (“It looks dangerous! Let’s nuke it!”), an ancient countdown clock that looks as if it were made yesterday, the usual mash-up of history and geology (though, mercifully, very little of this story is set in the U.S. and none of it in southern California), and Vancouver standing in for many parts of the globe. The apocalyptic cult and UFO fringie plots (“It was a robot head!”) are also, alas, dropped before being properly developed. I really didn’t mind the low budget, though. It gave the film a 70s Doctor Who feel.
I have to wonder why SyFy doesn’t just make series out of something like Stonehenge Apocalypse or Riverworld instead of its current pseudo-intellectual Friday-night lineup (yes, even Warehouse 13). They’d be no sillier and lots more fun.
Stonehenge Apocalypse reairs on SyFy on July 31, 2010 at 7pm.