Spoiler Alert: CBS’ “Salvation” illustrates the problem of a countdown. When a show has a significant, world-ending event on the calendar, it can only end poorly. The asteroid is coming and for two seasons of “Salvation” the main thrust of action comes from the reaction of people to the asteroid and the ineffectual efforts of the government, a rogue hacker organization and a genius billionaire to divert the asteroid from its course. There are plenty of amazing, thought-provoking episodes, especially in the first season. And then there are the dumb actions, mostly in the second season.
By the penultimate episode, none of that matters. Humans are
doomed by the incoming asteroid. Old rich and evil people have made off with
the show’s namesake spaceship/lifeboat for humanity and there’s nothing left to
do but tie up loose ends, except “Salvation” is a TV show and needed a way to
continue if it were picked up for a third season. (It wasn’t.) That’s when the
writers decided it wasn’t an asteroid.
If you’re writing a series with an asteroid and you’ve built
it up to the point of impact, you either need to end it with a bang or with the
success of people over nature. In this case, “Salvation” decided to offer a
vote of no winner and scuttle everything it had built up to the last episode,
which was unfortunate because they could’ve gone out with a bang.
Three episodes into “Salvation” and I can’t believe how stupid the characters are. The premise of the show is there is a planet killing asteroid on a collision course with the Earth. It has a 97 percent chance of colliding with our planet creating and extinction level event. The U.S. government has known about it for three months, and ordered a rocket from the Tanz company to send up a gravity tractor. The rocket has to retrofitted to work for what the government wants, and in testing, the retrofits don’t work right and the rocket blows up. The gravity tractor is out as far as the government is concerned.
In the meantime, a college student’s algorithm found the
asteroid. The student informs his professor, who disappears. The student gets
close to Darius Tanz, head of the Tanz company, and tells him what’s going on.
Tanz contacts the Department of Defense. Both the student and Tanz get added to
the secret group that is trying to find ways to deal with the asteroid. With
the gravity tractor out, one of the men has proposed running the IO satellite
into the asteroid to knock it off course.
The student and Tanz point out that doing so won’t move the
asteroid. It would instead create a lot of meteorites that would rain down on
Earth with no telling where they would land. The man, who proposed the idea,
concedes the point and asks if Tanz has a better idea. Tanz proposes the
invention of an electromagnetic engine which doesn’t exist. They agree on that
solution for the moment.
Flash forward to the next meeting because the president is
getting nervous and wants an update. The man, who proposed the ramming of the
asteroid, comes back with the same proposal, but this time, he’s done the
calculations: the created meteors would rain down on Russia, China and Korea
killing an estimated 1.4 billion people. They have two windows. The first is in
seven days, the next is in 60 days. Rather than give Tanz and his team 60 days
to build and perfect their EM engine, they decide to go with the first window
because it gives them two chances to get it right.
What? The false logic here is that they have two chances.
Unless they have two satellites in orbit around IO, they have only one chance.
Waiting for the second window wouldn’t change anything. If they didn’t get it
right the first time, there is no second chance. The IO satellite would be
careening into space, and there’s no backup. You have one satellite and one
chance. Wait for the second window.
However, there’s a larger problem. Russia and China have
active space programs. Chances are they’re going to find out about this asteroid
and what the U.S. did. If they do, there’s a good chance, they’ll see the
destruction of the asteroid as an act of war and decide to use their missiles
to blow the U.S. up. The political wonks and military people should understand
that’s the natural reaction of any person in power and that this secret
asteroid information is going to get out. At the very least, some spy is going
to find out. More likely someone’s going to let something slip.
If colliding with the asteroid is the only choice, this
group needs to make sure it has a plan to evacuate the countries that are going
to be affected before it decides on this plan of action. That means the
information about the asteroid needs to be brought before the United Nations
and nations need to know what’s coming. Even more importantly, the U.S. doesn’t
have a monopoly on “smart” people or space. In fact, with the defunding of
NASA, the U.S. isn’t the leader in space exploration any more. The asteroid could
be used to bring countries together; instead of as a way to fill the American