Remember the final moments from Raiders Of The Lost Ark? We see the fabled Ark Of The Covenant placed in a wooden crate, nailed shut, and pushed into storage with, as the last revealing camera shot shows, tens of thousands of similar crates in a gigantic storage facility that could contain the greatest mysteries of the known Universe. The idea of Warehouse 13 sparks from the end of Spielberg’s classic. What if the US government had a secret warehouse located in the barren wilds of South Dakota, and had a pair of Secret Service agents assigned to locate items that have gone missing while investigating possible new acquisitions? Throw in shady Government agents, conspiracy-theory nuts and an underlying plot thread that hints at the real reasons behind the facility and you’ve got the solid foundations for a show.
There are immediate ties with The X-Files here, never more so than with the casting of a pair of good-looking leads who frustrate and delight each other with equal measure. Pete Lattimer is a nerd in the best traditions of Mulder, addicted to junk food, a avid collector of comics and a recovering alcoholic; a risk-taker, underappreciated and mistrusted by his bosses. Contrasting him in the Scully role is partner Myka Bering, a smart, rule-following agent who takes the job seriously and frequently clashes with Lattimer over his methods.
McClintok and Kelly bring good chemistry to their roles, trading one-liners and insults and keeping a constant underscore of sexual tension going in nice will-they-or-won’t-they scenarios. Equally good is veteran character actor Rubinek as the NSA boss of the Warehouse, a typically grumpy old bastard with a mysterious past and nice line in self-depreciating humour. In fact, a deep streak of comedy runs through the heart of Warehouse 13, balancing nicely with some decent action and drama and reminding us that, really, this is all a bit dumb. Entertaining, but dumb all the same.
While there’s a continuing plot Warehouse 13 also works as a story-of-the-week show (again echoing The X-Files) with Bering and Lattimer on the trail of artifacts that include everything from the Excalibur Sword and the stones from the Tower Of Babel to a Victorian steampunk vest and Bruce Lee’s punching bag. Season 2 also has plots involving time-travel, spontaneous combustion, secret Russian agents and the death of the cold war… there’s a lot going on here and most of it works, and refreshingly doesn’t always take itself too seriously.
Sci-fi buffs will appreciate seeing regular genre faces; Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner, Star Trek Voyager Captain Kate Mulgrew and The Dead Zone’s Anthony Michael Hall turn up in recurring roles, and crossover plots and characters from other SyFy Channel productions Eureka and Alphas have happened, creating a science-fiction universe to rival the crime world of CSI. This is a good series with a healthy cult following and the potential to run and run; its third season has just finished in the US and a fourth has been commissioned. You get the impression that with a larger budget and a slot on a more highbrow network (say, Fox or HBO) that this could hit deserved mainstream success with ease. Warehouse 13 is well worth exploring.
EXTRAS ★★ Sadly, the Playback label has not treated this title well. The four discs don’t have the 12 episodes in the correct order – disc four contains episodes 4, 8 and 12, and the special Christmas episode is also missing. There’s a lot of show for your money and commentaries, a blooper reel and some informative behind-the-scenes features will please fans, but the mix-up of episodes is shoddy and unforgivable.