'In Search Of' episode 3 review: 'Monsters of the Deep' doesn't live up to its name
Three episodes in, Zachary Quinto appears to be the show's only redeemable aspect with little else holding up to the high standards of the original
'In Search Of' got off to quite an inconspicuous start considering the lofty expectations set by its much more famous predecessor. It would be the second time the show would be getting its reboot after History's first misguided attempt to have Mitch Pileggi host the show in 2002, but this time, they got smarter with their casting. On board came Zachary Quinto, very much the like-for-like replacement for the venerable Leonard Nimoy. After all, who better to take up the mantle than the man who took up the role of Spock in 2009's 'Star Trek'? All things considered, the first two episodes do indicate that Quinto was an exceptional choice. Unfortunately, he appears to be the only good thing about the show.
The premise of episode 2, 'Supermans,' was of the exploration of some of humanity's most mind-boggling feats of strength and endurance, as well as the possible reasons for these remarkable characteristics. And unlike the pilot, 'Aliens,' there were no false promises or disappointing buildups, with the episode proving to be a marked improvement in almost every regard.
'Superhumans' saw Quinto interact with three people: first a man who had saved another from the burning wreck of his car by inexplicably bending the door frame through sheer strength and force of will; the second a Shaolin monk, who through decades of mental fortitude training and meditation practices had managed to surpass normal human pain barriers; and the third a man, who thanks to his unique genetic predisposition, was one of just 40 people on Earth who could not feel pain.
A pleasant change of pace from the helter-skelter approach of 'Aliens,' episode 2 instead took audiences through the reasoning behind each person's abilities in a calm and collected manner, walking us through the scientific experiments to get to the bottom of the so-called mystery.
Quinto was as excellent an host as ever, always ensuring the guests felt comfortable and relaxed in an alien environment and lending an empathetic ear when necessary. As each of his guests is put through the tests carefully calibrated to measure their heightened ability, Quinto's there to provide a simple-worded explanation so that one never falls too far behind. A light-hearted moment also sees him testing the limits of his abilities, and as 'Superhumans' closed out, it felt like there was hope for the series yet.
'Monsters of the Deep'
'Monsters of the Deep' sees the series return to its old ways, grossly overselling its premise to grab eyeballs. It's unfortunate that a show which such a gloried history — 'In Search Of' was a cult hit amongst science fiction fans due to Nimoy's standing in the community — indulges in such cheap tricks. Right off the bat, it's apparent that there will be no 'monsters' (if you feel its fair to term these creatures that way) in the episode.
Quinto narrates the tale of an Australian boy who walks into the ocean at 6 am in the morning, only to find as he walks out that both his legs are bleeding profusely. The mystery soon went viral, with many theorizing about the fantastical, alien creatures that could have inflicted such a heavy wound. The answer, however, was quite anticlimactic: sea fleas. Thousands and thousands of sea fleas. Do they make you cringe and squirm? Sure. But do they inspire fear and dread as monsters are wont to do? Not by any stretch of the imagination. And for an episode that has 'deep' in the title, this incident unfolded in shallow waters that was all of one foot deep. But more on that later.
He sets up his experiment, attempting to lure and study the fleas himself, but fails. One can appreciate the enthusiasm and vigor with which Quinto approaches every single one of his guests' stories, but it also gives you the feeling that it would be quite easy to dupe him. He comes across as too nice and innocent a guy to nonchalantly and apathetically brush off stories when they're mere hogwash, and sometimes, that's necessary to keep up the integrity of the show. Otherwise, what's to stop any Tom, Dick, and Harry from coming forward with their own spectacular, unproven claims?
His childlike enthusiasm can quite easily rub you off the wrong way if you're not a fan. In another segment of the episode, he accompanies a scuba diving instructor, finding himself at extraordinary depths of 50 feet. Amazed, stupefied, and blown away by all the coral and fish around him, Quinto later surfaces to excitedly claim he saw an octopus. Just your run-of-the-mill octopus and not even the poisonous kind that Australia is infamous for.
There were segments in the episode that were comparatively less disappointing than the others, but barely so. One involved Quinto being shown around a repository that preserved some of the deep sea creatures that had washed ashore, with quite a few living up to their moniker of 'monster.' The other involved the host visiting a facility that documented some of these deep sea creatures and tagged them as possibly new species based on DNA matches with other existing ones. The show did finally catch some luck in this regard, with their visit coinciding with the researchers discovering a brand new species of fish as they filmed. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
'In Search Of' has so far thrown up two misses and one hit, and one can't help but wonder whether it was a wise idea to expand its running time from the original 30 minutes. The previous format left little room for filler segments, while this time around, there seems to be an unnecessary dragging along of storylines to make up the running time. Quinto can only do so much, and it's high time they crank up the quality from whatever this current iteration is.