Preliminary plot details and the name of an actor tapped to star in J.J. Abrams’ new television pre-crime drama were recently divulged by Deadline. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the enigmatic show seems influenced by the classic “Minority Report.”
Last year we heard that Abrams and Nolan would be teaming up for a new television show, but we received only few details.
Now, however, we have a title “Person of Interest,” and one of the co-stars, Micheal Emmerson, who played Ben in the recently concluded “Lost.”
The plot will center around an assumed dead government agent, who is tapped by an eccentric millionaire (Emmerson), who seems to have access to a technology that allows him to know about crimes before they happen.
The nature of his knowledge has not been made clear yet, but we can make some guesses.
Prescience has been a common theme in literature for as long as there have been stories to tell, but we know a bit about Abrams’ sensibilities, and so, we can be fairly sure that he won’t take a mystical route here.
It’s very unlikely that the characters will be referencing anything akin to divine intervention or magical talismans. We will likely get a technological explanation, but there is also plenty of precedence for this option.
The first thing that comes to mind, is Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report,” which also dealt with criminality.
In this story, a small team of natural “precogs” were discovered; mutant children who were born with the rare ability to access the normally untapped psychic powers of the human brain.
These children had been captured and hooked up by the brain to computer systems which were able to analyze their visions to stop crime before it happened as part of the government’s Precrime division.
In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, Harry Seldon was able to predict the future using advanced math, which he called Psychohistory.
The theory here was that every human action is the result of chemical and physical reactions, which are themselves innately predictable.
Thusly, a scientist with a sufficiently powerful computer, a sufficient understanding of human nature, and a large enough sample set, should be able to understand and predict the future actions of populations of people.
Of course, Seldon’s predictions were rarely specific enough to see the actions of individuals within the group, as The Foundation would perhaps know that there was a 99% chance that a serial killer would go on a rampage
in a certain city at a certain time, but not necessarily know who the killer would be, nor the identity of his victims. So it might not work as well for Abrams’ plot, unless modified a bit.
Of course, there is also the possibility of Time Travel, but that’s an element which always introduces too many plot holes, especially in a TV series, as episodic fiction doesn’t give the writers the opportunities to work the tech into the earlier events, unless they have the story planned out well in advance, which is uncommon for television.
Of course, I suppose there is always the chance that he will go with something mystical or religious. At least that would be better than the possibility that the method of forecasting will remain a mystery. It’ll be fine if it’s mysterious for a few episodes, but by episode five, the audience should understand at least party where the information about the crimes is coming from.
Otherwise, the audience is being strung along, just for the sake of the strings, which, while popular right now, I suppose, doesn’t really make for a good story.