Small-town USA gets refugee time-travellers in The Crossing.
In August 2015, a Syrian father clutched his son as he stepped off a tiny rubber boat onto the shores of a Greek island. The Pulitzer Prizewinning photograph of that moment became a symbol to screenwriter and producer Dan Dworkin (MTV’s Scream, 2015- current) of the struggle for more than 5.6 million refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war – and the world’s inability to cope with the scale of the refugee crisis that the war had created. “The look on the guy’s face, as a father, killed me. That was the spark initially. That’s when I emailed Jay [series cocreator and producer Jay Beattie] and said ‘refugees’,” Dan reveals.
LOST IN TIME
That one-word pitch “refugee” eventually became science fiction series The Crossing (2018), which is exclusive to internet streaming service Showmax. And there is a twist. When local sheriff Jude Ellis (Steve Zahn), his deputy Nestor Rosario (Rick Gomez) and Department Of Homeland Security agent Emma Ren (Sandrine Holt) question some of the 47 “refugees” who have mysteriously washed up on their small fishing town’s beach with their dead and dying, they too claim to be fleeing war – one fought in the United States 180 years in the future. They might be from the same country on the surface, but not only are the refugees culturally and ideologically different from their baffled new hosts, some like Reece (Natalie Martinez) have been genetically engineered to have superpowers that could pose a threat to the locals.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Through the refugees’ eyes, we’re told a cautionary tale of genetic tampering, widening class divides and a genocide to come. It’s a horror story for modern times, projected onto an uncertain future. And that has always been a feature of the most striking sci-fi and horror stories. The 1954 Japanese film Godzilla, about a city-annihilating mutated dinosaur produced by radi- ation, was as much a product of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima as were the “Atomic Age” sci-fi comics coming out of the United States in the early 1960s that focused on men and women like Marvel’s The Fantastic Four (debuting in 1961), who were given amazing but difficult-to- control powers by nuclear radiation. They’re vastly different tales created by nearly opposite experiences with nuclear power.
FEAR THE FUTURE?
Aside from examining the way that the refugee crisis has seized imaginations and been abused as a fear-mongering political tool recently, The Crossing is also about a more primal fear: losing a child. Jay adds that “we are both dads, so a lot is informed by being a parent and the notion of being separated from your child, the notion of having your child taken from you; the notion of not knowing what happened to your child.”
The future isn’t all about fear though. “There’s a lot with the human drama but there’s also a lot on the sci-fi end. We were very excited to explore facets of genetic engineering. It plays a significant part in terms of where The Apex (genetically advanced humans) comes from and the science of that. We get to that in the show. That was really fun!” says Dan. “We had a consultant, a synthetic biologist who helped with our science. We were very excited to think about what the future might look like in 150 years. That’s the best research, the most fun we’ve ever had talking to researchers and futurists about what they think the future might hold.”
The Crossing blends modern-day issues like refugees and war with sci-fi elements like genetic manipulation.
The refugees are saved before they reveal where they’re from: 180 years in the future.