- Eddie McClintock (Pete Lattimer)
- Joanne Kelly (Myka Bering)
- Saul Rubinek (Artie Nelson)
- Genelle Williams (Leena)
- Simon Reynolds (Daniel Dickenson)
- CCH Pounder (Mrs. Frederic)
- Michael Boatman (Professor Marzotto)
- Sherry Miller (Lorna Soliday)
- Al Sapienza (Captain Dan Powell)
- Gabriel Hogan (Sam Martino)
- Dillon Casey (Cody)
- Sarah Allen (Emily Krueger)
Directed by Jace Alexander. Written by Rockne S. O'Bannon & Jane Espenson & D. Brent Mote. First broadcast July 7, 2009 on Syfy.
Plot Summary (Contains Spoilers)
Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock, Tim Sullivan from Bones) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly from Jeremiah and Vanished) are two Secret Service agents assigned to the President's detail during a high-profile event at a Washington museum. Their very different approaches -- she's methodical, he's intuitive -- seem likely to clash, but their separate actions end up saving the president's life from a supernaturally possessed museum employee.
Their actions catch the attention of a mysterious functionary called Mrs. Frederic (CCH Pounder), who's powerful enough to have them instantly transferred to the middle of nowhere -- specifically, a huge, abandoned-looking warehouse in the deserted wilds of the South Dakota badlands. There they meet the warehouse's manager, Artie (Saul Rubinek, who was in key episodes of Stargate SG-1 and Eureka, and played Donny on Frasier), who explains that this location, Warehouse 13, is where the U.S. government stows away all of the mystical and paranormal artifacts it had stumbled across throughout its history. Pete and Myka are needed, he says, to investigate supernatural-seeming events and track down and extract any artifacts that might be causing them.
Though Myka is skeptical, and angry about the transfer, the two agents undertake their first mission, which involves an Iowa college student uncharacteristically beating up his girlfriend. The mystery leads them to an Italian Renaissance professor, the student's godmother, and the girlfriend, all of whom seem to be hiding something; but the key lies in an old painting secreted deep in Warehouse 13.
U.S. Department of Storage
For a lot of people growing up the the 80s, the most evocative scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark wasn't the huge rolling boulder, or the bit with the snakes, or even the Nazis being sandblasted into oblivion. It was that final tag, where the U.S. government, unsure what to do with the Ark of the Covenant, just sealed it up in a nondescript crate and slid it onto a shelf deep inside a vast warehouse filled with thousands of similar crates, there to be cataloged, lost, and forgotten.
What's endearing about this fantasy -- that somewhere in America there lies a treasure trove of infinite wonders buried by bureaucratic indifference and government ineffectiveness -- is that ordinarily science fiction presents government, especially the American government, as rapacious exploiters of the tiniest shred of advanced technology, drooling at the slightest opportunity to turn the unconventional to its own (often destructive) advantage. Consider a mild example like Seven Days, in which the Roswell crash was investigated minutely by hordes of government scientists night and day for years, until the secrets of time travel were laboriously extracted from the twisted wreckage.
And yet here, charmingly, we have a warehouse the size of Yankee Stadium, filled to the brim with things like two-way video communicators, a Edison's human-energy-powered car, and a ray gun invented by Nikola Tesla. Yet no one is the slightest bit interested in doing anything but bagging and tagging them, unless the people doing the bagging and tagging use them to track down more stuff to bag and tag.
The Secret Lives of Famous People
What this speaks to is the compelling idea that paranormal stuff stays naturally on the down-low. The world is full of it, saturated with it, and yet it stays hidden, out of sight, and even when the ponderous American government gets involved nothing happens beyond boxing and inventory control. It's the same idea that's given a secret supernatural life to the most interesting of the real world's pantheon of inventors -- particularly and especially Tesla, who in recent years has added onto his already bizarre reputation with the invention of a cloning machine (in The Prestige, in a fascinating turn by David Bowie, of all people), as a vampire (on Sanctuary, played by Jonathon Young), and now here, building ray guns. It's the same kind of idea that keeps Supernatural going (and there it was the famous Samuel Colt that invented a special gun, one that could kill even things that weren't alive): the supernatural world is immensely powerful and right beneath the thin skin of the normal world, and yet hidden from us all.
Warehouse 13, however, takes this concept more in the direction of Eureka, complete with the lighthearted banter between a hunky, stolid, impulsive man and a no-nonsense, driven, by-the-book woman (who nonetheless sees the value in the man's complementary skills). Eddie McClintock, the man in this case, isn't quite as experienced as Eureka's Colin Ferguson at being the anchor in a storm of madness -- but then, there's not as much madness going on here, just random investigations with the faint whiff of missed opportunity.
The Unthreatening Threat
The two-hour pilot accomplishes its task of setting all this up in a very mild and unassuming fashion, but it leaves open the question of whether this will continue to be interesting week to week. So far there's not much sense of an overarching direction, or anything that could be said to be at all sinister, which has the unfortunate effect of declawing all the potential thrill of the supernatural. (This flaw should be particularly obvious to the network, Syfy, since its reality shows trade in the thrill of the paranormal.)
The way the show handles the two leads is so far absolutely by the numbers. The first time we see Pete he has his shirt off, so we can see his muscular torso, and he's making love to a woman who exists solely to demonstrate Pete's credentials as a Lothario. When Pete and Myka work the museum together, their conflicting approaches set them at odds with each other, yet by the end of the pilot, after having been through a near-fatal ordeal, they're working easily together. After spending two hours trying to get reassigned back to Washington, Myka decides to stay at Warehouse 13 for reasons having more to do with Pete than her career. And so on.
It's pleasant TV, but perfectly safe. Perhaps the most revealing moment of the premiere comes when the two agents are touring the Warehouse and they stumble across a kettle that grants wishes. It turns out that if you make a mistake and wish for the wrong thing, instead of turning the world inside out or making you eternally miserable, the kettle just gives you a ferret. If only life were like that.