Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

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On the night a deadly flu pandemic hits the city of Toronto, famous actor Arthur Leander suffers a heart attack and dies on-stage during a performance of King Lear. While the pandemic continues to spread, the people in Arthur’s life start to realise that the world as they know it is coming to an end.

Twenty years later Kirsten, one of the child actors who witnessed Arthur’s death, travels between settlements in the post-pandemic world together with a company of actors and musicians. As they try to keep something of the old world alive in their performances of Shakespeare’s plays, they will have to navigate the dangers of their new world.

I really enjoyed the book Station Eleven and I was looking forward to the TV adaptation, but unfortunately it turned out to be kind of a let down for me. The show has a great cast and it started out promisingly, but pretty soon it took a turn for the worse as it started deviating from the book. I am not opposed in principle to adaptations deviating from their source material, at least not if it serves a purpose. In some cases this can be because a certain narrative technique or storyline just does not translate well across mediums and therefore has to be adapted, or in other cases it can be because the adaptation can add a new perspective to the story. For example, since Station Eleven was written before the COVID-19 pandemic and the TV-show was made during/after the outbreak, it would have been interesting to explore the effect that this has on how we as viewers experience the story.

However, for this TV-show I did not find that the deviations from the book added anything worthwile to the story. Instead, the additions seemed to make very little sense and disrupted my suspension of disbelieve enough to take me completely out of the story. The book has several different storylines and while some of these do come together in the end, not all of them do. Clearly, the writers of the show did not find this a satifying enough ending, and so they have changed these storylines in order to forcibly make them come together. It should not come as a suprise that the storylines have suffered in the process.

The show does have some things going for it. I liked how they handled Miranda’s character, and Arthur also seemed to gain some more depth which would have been interesting to explore further. However, in general I think the show would have been a lot better if they had stuck more closely to the book.

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