A little bit of X-Files intrigue, a little bit of Indiana Jones-style supernatural archaeology and a whole lot of steampunk gadgetry fires up the pilot episode of Warehouse 13.
A clever drama debuting July 7 on Sci Fi Channel’s soon-to-be-renamed SyFy Network, the show follows feuding federal agents Pete and Myka (Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly, pictured above) when they get unhappily reassigned from Washington, D.C., to South Dakota.
There, they encounter a cavernous warehouse filled with weird artifacts stored over the past century by the federal government. Rumpled manager Artie, played by Saul Rubinek (pictured above, center) welcomes the agents with an array of antique gizmos. Their mission: Track down a sinister artifact each week and bring the relic back to South Dakota for safekeeping.
“Making the pilot, we had this notion that Artie is like Q in the James Bond world,” says producer David Simkins, checking in from the Warehouse set in Toronto.
“Artie hands out the gadgets,” Los Angeles show-runner Jack Kenny adds. “Creating this show, ‘steampunk’ was our mantra.”
If subsequent episodes live up to the pilot, SyFy may have a hit on its hands. Borrowing a page from the Breaking Bad school of high-contrast desert cinematography, the artfully shot Warehouse 13 emphasizes its characters’ isolation. Most importantly, stars McClintock and Kelly generate exceptional on-screen chemistry. He’s loosey-goosey; she’s rigid. It’s been done before, but these funny, relatively unknown actors make the bickering investigators’ shtick seem fresh again.
Simkins and Kenny got on the phone with Wired.com for a show-and-tell sampling of Warehouse 13‘s low-tech gewgaws.
Named after inventor Philo Farnsworth, the Farnsworth communicator is supposedly hacker-proof.
“This is basically a video cellphone and it was invented by Philo Farnsworth, the unrecognized inventor of television,” Simkins says. “We imagined that Philo invented it one weekend in 1929, it worked, and it’s been in the warehouse ever since. One reason they still use it is that the technology is so old, no one can hack it. It’s not digital. I don’t even know what it runs on but it’s untraceable because the Farnsworth exists totally off the grid.”
The Tesla Gun
The Tesla Gun is named after brilliant scientist Nikola Tesla.
“We say this little ray gun was invented by Thomas Edison’s great rival, Nikola Tesla,” Simkins says. “It’s basically a stun gun, like a Taser: There’s an electrical charge, you aim it, it fires.” Kenny adds: “And the Tesla destroys immediate short-term memory.”
Encrusted with dials and flashing lights, this device serves an unknown function.
“In figuring out the kind of world Artie inhabits, we talked a lot about Jules Verne and steampunk,” Simkins says. “We’re not quite sure at this stage what a lot of these things do, just that they’re really important.”
“I have no idea what the hell that thing is,” Kenny laughs.
A new computer screen is patched into an old keyboard in the Warehouse’s gadget-filled office.
“This goes back to the steampunk aspect of old tech meets new tech,” says Kenny. “Besides this piece, Saul has a portable computer that’s actually an old Smith Corona typewriter that we steampunked up and turned into a Sea-Monkey-looking portable laptop computer.”
Warehouse 13 episodes will also include a holographic device repurposed from a 1960s-era Bell & Howell slide projector, implosive grenades that suck all the energy out of a room, “schlags” that send spiderlike tendrils into lock mechanisms, and hypnotic Eye Flower fireworks from China that appear to freeze time and space.
“In this show, we’re dealing with the concept of magic and illusion and what’s real and what’s not,” Simkins says. “We put things in this warehouse that we don’t quite understand.”