I’ve been watching this new J. J. Abrams (of Star Trek, the 2009 version) show called “Revolution” this fall. It’s the fictionalized (obviously) account of what would happen in our country if “the power went out.” I understand it’s just a show. I understand it’s all made up. But there’s something that has been bothering me the entire time. I’ll get to that in a minute.
The premise of the show is that at this one moment, every single electronics device on earth stopped working. It was not only electronic, but electric. All cars stopped (batteries don’t work anymore evidently). Planes dropped out of the sky. Light bulbs wouldn’t work. No. Electricity. Whatsoever. So there’s no power. 15 years have gone by since the power went out. Now people use swords and crossbows (and rarely guns), live in smaller groups, and martial law reigns. Everything is very pre-industrial revolution.
Some shows have a “hook.” It’s the thing that keeps you watching. “Lost” had them trying to get found. “24” had Jack Bauer trying to stop the terrorists. Star Trek: Voyager had the crew trying to get home again. The obvious overarching “hook” in “Revolution” is: what exactly caused the power to “go out?” They haven’t given the answer yet, but I’m not sure I can keep watching for more than a season without them telling me the answer. I might just give up watching and wait for the show to be over. One night, three years from now, I’ll look it up on Wikipedia. “Oh. That’s what happened.”
Now I’m not an electrician. I’m not an engineer. But I’m fairly certain that the principles of electric activity on earth are part of the natural order. I’ve seen lightning on the show, so I know electricity is still present on earth. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you can run a clock with a potato. You can make an electric motor with a magnet and some copper wire (plus a few other basic things). So what could make these things not produce electricity anymore?
And finally, the thing that caused me to look askance at this show’s premise from the get-go: the human body runs on electricity. Each person is basically a large battery (see: The Matrix). This is why defibrillators (i.e. “shock paddles”) work to correct someone’s heart dysrhythmia: the human body uses electricity through the entire organism. The heart “beating” is initiated by an electrical impulse (hence, “Electro Cardio Gram” ECG or EKG…same thing). Every time your muscles move, it’s due to the electrical signals sent down the muscle fibers by the positively and negatively charged ions of calcium and other ELECTROlytes (see what I did there?). And then there’s the human brain. Every single message in your brain is passed along via electrical charge from one cell to the next.
So how will the writers of “Revolution” reconcile this basic fact of biology (that all their actors didn’t instantly die when “the power went out)? I don’t know. But I’m going to keep watching for now.