The Lost Room (2006, 3 episodes)
Starring Peter Krause, Julianna Marguiles, Kevin Pollak, Elle Fanning
Something happened in the motel room in New Mexico back in 1961. But no one is quite sure what it was. The scientific minded believe some sort of event that bent space-time. Others say that God died in that motel room. Whatever happened the room vanished from our reality, but some how the small everyday trinkets inside made their way into the world. A ballpoint pen. A plastic comb. A wristwatch. A room key. They appear to be nothing special. But they are. This is the universe created in the Sci-Fi Channel mini-series The Lost Room. While Sci-Fi has an incredibly erratic track record for original programming, see sawing back and forth between incredibly horrible movies about giant animals killing people and thoughtful, interesting series. The Lost Room definitely belongs in the latter category, but sadly, as much as the mini-series serves as a pilot to an ongoing program Sci-Fi passed. Even though not all of its plot threads are tied up, The Lost Room is an incredibly interesting program that does exactly what great sci-fi should: throw a ton of ideas at you.
Detective Joe Miller, Pittsburgh PD, responds to the scene of homicide. The two victims are covered in horrible burns and appear to be partially phased through the walls and ceiling. Miller investigation leads him into the possession of a motel room key that, when inserted in any tumbler lock door, opens on a motel room existing outside of natural space time. Any object left in the room vanished when the door is closed, the room resetting itself. Powerful forces want this key and as a result Miller’s daughter is in the room without the key when the door closes. She vanishes into thin air and the detective abandons his career to find her again. This journey leads him to discovering the story of the room, the violent cabals that seek to possess the magical items in the room, and finally to a figure whose essence is tied to the birth of this modern legend. Parallel to Joe’s journey is his colleague and forensic scientist Dr. Martin Ruber who becomes obsessed with tracking down objects and believe he has a higher calling. These two stories intersect in some interesting ways and its Ruber’s story that appears to have been the plot line that would have fed into a regular series.
What makes The Lost Room work is that it is unafraid to be science fiction in that it worldbuilds with expertise and presents ideas that you would never think of, but that make complete sense when you think about them. I was reminded by classic sci-fi writers: Bradbury, Ellison as well as a heavy dose of Stephen King as well. The writers cleverly worked to not overpower the Objects, an example being The Comb. The plastic comb can stop time, but only for 10 seconds, and if used in succession too frequently induces vertigo in the user. To use the Objects successfully a person must be able to think outside of typical thought. There’s also the added twist of what happens with objects are used in conjunction, having properties that are unpredictable. The mini-series really left me wanting to know more about this world and what clever Object combinations could be.
Acting wise you have Peter Krause doing an excellent job. Julianna Marguiles has never been an actress I cared for and her character just doesn’t fit in this story very well. Kevin Pollak is one of those solid character actors who, despite or because of his strong comedy background, can play a character as walking the tenuous line between good and evil. Dennis Christopher (Breaking Away), a wonderful character actor was the standout for me. His role of the obsessed Dr. Ruber really hooked me and wanted me to learn where that character would go in the regular series. This is a a great overlooked science fiction story that has begun to find its audience on DVD. The creators recently announced at the San Diego Comic Con that a comic book continuing the story of The Lost Room is in the works so we may very well get a continuation of Dr. Gruber’s story.