Impact -- TV Review

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Science fiction, Mom once told me, means "it could happen someday."

Not the most accurate of descriptions, but by those standards, ABC's two-night telefilm "Impact" is better classed as dark fantasy.

In this fantasy, the moon is embedded by a magnetized brown dwarf fragment that starts dragging our night satellite toward our planet. This leads to flying cars, serious static electricity and, oh yeah, 39 days until the End of the World. That's right, Earth's about to get mooned.

But coming to save the day are characters who will do their best not to be upstaged by the plot: A dream team of earnest experts with furrowed brows and a Plan that borrows from "Major Tom" and "Armageddon"; a Kennedy-esque U.S. president; cute buck-toothed kids; a pregnant fiancee; James Cromwell in curmudgeon mode; and a main cast so white it puts the moon to shame.

Unfortunately, despite the title, there's not a lot of dynamism in "Impact." Instead, there's a lot of heel-dragging, such as during a train journey in which a boorish Yank flirts uselessly with the affianced woman, or when characters moon (sorry) over photos of dead loved ones.

Viewers sticking with "Impact" aren't looking for insights into the human condition; they're coming for smoking craters, staying for lunar landings and to giggle helplessly at the faux science. So get on with it already.

Still, you will learn stuff: The diabolical, goateed freelance writer looking for a scoop keeps his liquor cabinet flush against his desk, so that's my weekend project. And you'll learn how hard you can wince thanks to such dialogue as "you can't hide from gravity" or a presidential adviser insisting on "English, please" when told of the moon's "elongating, elliptical orbit." Those are sure some hard words, Martha.

"Impact" is a testament to audience demographics: The geeks are inheriting the television earth, and if that means it's time to bring back the miniseries -- and do so in a sci-fi/fantasy realm -- I'm all for it.

I'd just like to see it done better.

"Impact's" effect is not deep, but it is broad and occasionally thought-provoking. Even if it could never really happen.

Airdate: 9-11 p.m. Sunday, June 21 and Sunday, June 28 (ABC)
Production: Impact Films
Cast: David James Elliott, Natasha Henstridge, Benjamin Sadler, Florentine Lahme, Owen Best, Natasha Calis, Yee Jee Tso, Samantha Ferris, Steven Culp, Ron Lea, Michael Kopsa, Colin Cunningham, James Cromwell
Executive producers: Jonas Bauer, Rola Bauer, Tim Halkin, Howard Braunstein, Michael Prupas, Greg Gugliotta
Creator-writer: Michael Vickerman
Co-executive producer: Irene Litinsky
Producer: Ted Bauman
Director: Mike Rohl
Director of photography: Gord Verheul
Production designer: Eric Fraser
Costume designer: Trish Flynn
Casting: Candice Elzinga, Cornelia von Braun
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