THE LIBRARIANS, 1.1 – “… And the Crown of King Arthur (TV Review)

Syfy – UK Premiere December 2014 – Season 1 DVD out now
Created by: John Titcher
Screenplay by: John Rogers
Developed and Directed by: Dean Devlin


In the intervening years before Falling Skies gave viewers a legitimate reason to remember him for more than the hospital gown, ER’s other dashing doc plied his actorly trade as the eponymous Flynn Carsen in a trilogy of made-for-TNT fantasy adventure romps about a seemingly unheroic but brilliantly-minded man hired to protect a range of historical and magical artefacts and store them in a secret underground section of the Metropolitan Public Library.

Moving from film to a weekly series in late 2014, the franchise added a plural to its title and expanded the format by introducing four new characters to lighten the Librarian’s load (and reduce Wyle to recurring guest star). X-Men’s Rebecca Romjin leads the new recruits as no-nonsense “Guardian” Eve Baird, a Colonel and former agent who must protect and train the new workforce. Jacob Stone (Christian Kane) is the manly labourer with a high IQ, Cassandra Cillian (Lindy Booth) a brilliant mathematician with superhuman memory retrieval skills, while Ezekiel Jones (John Kim) is a wiley expert thief and techno-whiz.

They make for a diverse group of personalities, even if on paper they appear to have fairly similar intelligence-based skillsets; being as they are candidates to succeed Flynn in the role of Librarian. Flynn’s reason for welcoming them into the super-secret sect is that a shadowy organisation known as the Serpent Brotherhood are bumping off potential employees, so it was a case of save or be skewered.

As the titular MacGuffin, King Arthur’s Crown is wholly surplus and redundant to the pilot’s plot, merely used to ease new viewers into the show’s Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code globetrotting search ‘n’ solve structure. The mystery leads the gang to the Black Forest and is decoded in record time, before focus returns to the assassination plot and ends on a traitorous cliffhanger.

“Family friendly” is very obviously the key phrase at the forefront of director Devlin’s mind, while “grit” is blacklisted. Bookish Flynn’s impassioned outbursts and smirk-worthy quirks unashamedly channels Doctor Who’s iconic wackiness. So, too, does the fantastical humour, which – along with the gaudily lit cinematography – blunts any of the more violent action set-pieces. For instance, Flynn sharpens his swordsmanship against a seemingly invisible opponent, using the autonomous, free-swinging Excalibur – whom he calls “Cal” and sees as a friend.

The Librarians’ worst offence, however, is its heavy-handed musical score, which doesn’t so much compliment the tone of the episode but signpost it in an almost patronising manner. If the producers ever wanted to save money in the future, they could achieve exactly the same outcome by incorporating idiot boards reading THIS IS FUNNY or THIS IS DRAMATIC instead. While I appreciate the necessity of vibrance to determine the frivolous concept, it is a shame that this graceless approach diminishes the levity of the episode, resulting in a broad and amateurish atmosphere.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars