The Alphas team (l-r): Ryan Cartwright (as Gary Bell), Laura Mennell (as Nina Theroux), Warren Christie (as Cameron Hicks), Malik Yoba (as Bill Harken), David Strathairn (as Dr.Lee Rosen) and Azita Ghanizada as Rachel Pirzad
Twenty years ago Ira Steven Behr went where he had never gone before when he was hired as a writer/producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation. From there, he spent seven seasons executive producing as well as writing for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, followed by similar work on other series including Dark Angel, The Twilight Zone and The 4400.
Currently, Behr is serving as executive producer on Alphas, (premiering Monday, July 11 @ 10:00 p.m. EST/PST) a new Syfy series that follows a group of average people with enhanced abilities (a.k.a. Alphas) who investigate cases that are linked to rogue Alphas.
Earlier this week, Behr spoke with the press about Alphas and what audiences can look forward to. Here are a few highlights from that Q & A. Enjoy!
Regarding the show’s themes; certain Alphas’ abilities are more like gifts, but some people perceive them as problems. A few of these gifts are also sort of run-of-the-mill capabilities but times ten if you will. So is there a sense of, “If you work hard, you too can be an Alpha?”
Well, we certainly use neuroscience as a basis for a lot of the jumping off points for our episodes. If you look on YouTube you’ll see the most amazing things that people can do.
I remember growing up it was always, “Oh, he’s a savant. Oh, she's a savant.” Now, instead of being a savant, you’re an Alpha, and maybe our characters’ skills are pushed up a little bit, but I don’t know if you’ve seen the (real-life) gentleman who they take up in a helicopter and fly him over a major city like Rome for 45 minutes. After they land, he goes into a room with walls covered in white drawing paper and over the next five days he draws the entire city, every window, every pillar, every post, to scale. It’s amazing to watch, and if that isn’t an Alpha ability I don’t know what is.
I think the thing we dramatically like is that each of our characters’ abilities comes with a downside. For instance, Gary (Ryan Cartwright) is an incredible transducer who can pick signals up out of the air, but the obvious downside is his autism. Then there’s Hicks (Warren Christie), who is hyperkinetic and has the most incredible control over his body. However, he also has certain psychological problems that have put him in AA, caused his divorce, etc.
So all these abilities come with a downside, which is an interesting thing. As far as themes, yes, there are a lot of them in the show, but we’re only in the first season, so many of these ideas and themes are only going to get deeper and richer as the series continues.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with either Eureka or Warehouse 13, your warm-up acts on Monday night, but do you think Alphas is similar in its general tone to those? If not, how might it differ?
I have seen a couple of episodes of each show and I think they’re both lighter in tone. We have a lot of humor in our show, but our episodes do tend at times to be darker in their plotlines.
We’re the 10:00 o’clock show and I think we deserve to be. That said, I do feel that we all share this kind of character-driven humor, and obviously we’re all ensemble shows. So we have similarities and some strong differences.
Where is this first season of Alphas going to take us?
Oddly enough, in about three-and-a-half hours I will be meeting with the network and pitching the final episodes of the season and telling them where the series is going.
So I’m going to be very interested to see if they agree with us. One of the things that really appeals to me about the show - in line with some of the other work I’ve done - is that, again, it’s always evolving and isn’t a cookie cutter kind of series where every episode is exactly the same and plays out basically as the one the week before and the following week’s episode.
What’s going to happen without giving anything away is that this is a group of people who aren’t really your first choice to be part of an investigative unit or to be going out into the field and getting shot at. They’re kind of working for the government, but the government doesn’t totally know whether or not to trust them and vice versa. The team is also working against this organization of Alphas called Red Flag, and Red Flag keeps telling our people that they’re on the wrong side.
It’s a very precarious position to be in, and as we like to say in the writers’ office, the center cannot hold. Eventually things will start to crack, and I think by the end of the first season there will be cracks appearing all over the surface.