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Eureka: Season 4.0

Universal // Unrated // July 5, 2011
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted June 28, 2011 | E-mail the Author
The Series:
When a good series lasts a little too long and goes down hill, it is said to have 'jumped the shark,' but is there a term that describes the opposite?  What about a series that has outlived its welcome that suddenly, against all expectations, improves?  If there isn't a term for that, I nominate "pulling a Eureka" because that's what this show managed with the first half of season 4, now available on DVD.  After a fairly dismal third season they came back with a very strong set of shows that really improved the series.
The show is set in the small town of Eureka, a government created city founded after WWII where the best and the brightest scientists in the country can work and create.  Think of it as a permanent Manhattan Project.  Into this town of geniuses stumbles Federal Marshal Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) who wrecks his car while transporting a prisoner back to L.A.  After solving a few mysteries in Eureka the locals take a shine to him and the next thing he knows he's being transferred.  He's Eureka's sheriff but instead of dealing with the town drunk and the occasional vandalism, he has to handle killer robots, freak climate changes, a new sun that pops up in the sky, and many other end-of-the-world disasters.   

I've never been a huge fan of Eureka.  It's okay, and I enjoy watching it, but the scientific problems that pop up in every episode are more what I would expect on a Saturday morning kids show or a 50's B-movie (an intelligent flying drone, a superhero who can walk through walls, someone stealing another person's appearance etc.).  That doesn't mean it's a bad show, just not top shelf SF. 
While the second season was an improvement on the first, by the time season three rolled around (especially the second half) the episodes started to feel a bit too familiar and took on a disaster-of-the-week aspect that made them all meld together.  Before I popped in season four the only things I could remember about the previous year's episodes was that Carter's daughter, Zoe, had gone away to college.  Consequently, I wasn't expecting much when this set arrived in the mail.  Much to my surprise however, the show started a episode-spanning plot that was both entertaining and interesting.

As the season opens, Eureka is getting ready for Founder's Day, the anniversary of the founding of the town.  People are dressing in the style of the late 1940's, there are games, and people are digging up old relics from the town's past and displaying them.
One of these relics goes wonky however, and transports Carter, his deputy Jo Lupo (Erica Cerra), Global Dynamics head Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), all around genius Dr. Henry Deacon (Joe Morton), and accident prone comic relief Fargo (Neil Grayston) back in time to 1947.  At that time the city was nothing more than an Army camp (and all of these scenes are nicely sepia-tinted, and strangers (especially Fargo who shows up nude) are not welcome at all.  With the help of one of Einstein's colleague Dr. Trevor Grant (James Callis) Decon is able to patch together a device that will get them all back to 2010, which works with only one slight hitch:  Dr. Grant steals Carter's device and manages to travel back with the rest of the group.  This changes things in 2010 subtly but significantly.
Allison's son is no longer autistic; he's a regular, bright kid.  Lupo in now the head of security at GD, but she never started dating her boyfriend from the original time line and he's pretty much a jerk in this one.  Fargo is the head of GD, much to his delight, and Henry discovers that he has a wife, someone he only met for a minute prior to the time travel.  Carter's girlfriend, the one who moved to Australia at the end of the past season is back in Eureka, which is awkward since he and Allison just started getting close.  Oh yeah, and they can't tell anyone about what happened.  The military has a protocol for anyone who has traveled in time (aside from the usual one-day-at-a-time method one presumes) and it involves permanent isolation.

Henry and Trevor start to figure out a way to set everything back to the way it was, but not everyone wants that.  Allison is ecstatic that her son is normal and Fargo is very happy being the head honcho. But then there's Dr. Grant.  Carter doesn't trust him, and could he have a plan of his own? 
This story line gives the series a much needed kick start.  It's interesting seeing the characters in their familiar setting but with everything just slightly askew.  There's internal tension between the time traveler about what the right course of action is, and some very awkward moments with the 'new' Eureka population.  (I particularly liked the problems Henry had with his wife.)  The writers were able to make the major characters more interesting as well as creating a season (well, half season) long arc that was very engaging.
The DVD:

This two disc set inlcudes the first 10 episodes of season four.

This series comes with a DD 5.1 soundtrack that sounds good.  Being mainly a dialog-based show the rears aren't used as much as they could be but during the action sequences the sound is fairly enveloping.  Being a recent program, the dialog is clear and clean with no distortion or background noise.  Overall this is a nice sounding show.
The 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced image looks pretty good too.  The level of detail is fine, the colors are strong, and the blacks are solid.  In the few dark scenes the details are still clear.  There is some digital noise here and there, but nothing major.  This is a show that looks fine.
This set comes with several deleted scenes, most of which are pretty minor, a gag reel, and a commentary to the season premier episode with the director, writer, and executive producers.  There's also a nice 5 minute behind-the-scenes featurette, In the Beginning:  Camp Eureka 1947.  This looks at the designing of the WWII era camp that became the town of Eureka.  They did a great job creating that set, and it was nice seeing how they did it.
This season there was a little bit of cross over with another SyFy channel program Warehouse 13... a single character from each show made an appearance in the sister program.  Happily, the episode of Warehouse 13 where Fargo goes to install a new computer system is included.  It's an extra on the last disc, but you should watch it before Crossing Over, the episode where Claudia visits Eureka.  Things will make more sense.
Final Thoughts:
If you were thinking of giving up on Eureka after season three, you should definitely give this season a try.  The 10-episode long story arc breathes new life into the show and arguably makes it more interesting than it ever was.  A great effort that comes recommended.
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