The depths of our oceans, our inner space, is as mysterious and uncharted as the stars, our outer space. If only someone could make an interesting series exploring this idea, capture our imaginations, and provide even a hint of the sinister mysteries that may lie beneath the calm looking surface of the waters. Surface is not that show. It tries valiantly, but pulls up short.

Undoubtably, the buzzword among television executives for this fall season was “invasion” (that and copy Desperate Housewives, Lost, and CSI). No less than three alien invasion shows hit the airwaves this fall: Threshold, Surface, and, furthering the case for a lack of imagination, Invasion. The central conceit of the show is a tricky balancing act to begin with: the premise basically involves the search for sea monsters. A lot of forethought and creativity has to go into such a project to keep it from falling headlong into silly territory, an unending, uneventful search for the Loch Ness Monster.

Dr. Laura Daughtery (Lake Bell, formerly of Boston Legal), babelicious scientist and single mom, is searching for the origin of life. Studying hot vent ecosystems at the oceans depths, she stumbles across a mysterious beast. Bell gives it her all, but only has so much to work with. No one knew what to do with her over at Boston Legal, and here, she doesn’t even have interesting dialogue to work with. She is then drawn into the vortex of vaguely threatening conspiracy types, ostensibly led by Dr. Aleksander Cirko (Rade Serbedzija), in her pursuit to find out what it is that she encountered. There are a couple other subplots to this sea serpent soap opera to keep our interest afloat, but they not worth mentioning unless you need more examples of some of the absurdities to be found in the show.

Created, written and directed by brothers Josh and Jonas Pate, who have done some interesting work (G vs. E) in the past, Surface doesn’t quite work. The chief problem is that this series takes every cliche of horror (actually, this is the “near beer” of horror), tosses them in a blender, then regurgitates them without much fresh spin. From Jaws to Close Encounters of the Third Kind to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, there’s not a Spielberg production that this show isn’t afraid to rip from. It borrows everyone of Spielberg’s notes, starting with his theme of putting ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Luckily, they realize that the buildup is usually better than the payoff, so they keep their monsters shadowy at best. Much like their plotlines: it’s like watching a mystery unfold where you don’t care about the answer.

“Does the uncertainty make you nervous?” Dr. Aleksander Cirko
“The men I work for … they are addicted to facts. They want to know.” Davis Lee (Ian Anthony Dale)

Yet, there are some questions at work within the series. With the grand debates going on in the country over Intelligent Design vs. evolution, it is easy to make that spiritual connection. One thing that gets overlooked is that science, as well as religion, is about the pursuit of truth. They take differing paths, follow different methods, and focus on different areas of our lives, but they both pursue truth. They are pitted against one another needlessly, since all truth is God’s truth. And with Surface, the mysteries of creation point to a Creator.

“There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number–living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.” Psalm 104:25-26 (New International Version)

Surface plays like a B-movie stretched into a series. Not enough thought was put into crafting this series. The plot holes are laughable. There is not one involving character. This is strictly going through the motions television, more trite than suspenseful. The show is too much surface, not enough depth.