How can you tell if a person is “smart”? Do they use big words? Do they talk in abstracts? Do they make frequent reference to their IQ and intellectual achievements? Are they awesome at Dektop Tower Defense? Are they more interesting and engaging than most people?

The crew of geniuses in IQ-145 have the first few down (except the DTD part), but in twelve episodes, the latter continues to escape them.

In the tradition of so many other sci-fi series, the plot of IQ-145 is intentionally obscured throughout the first several episodes. Essentially, the series follows a team of secret agents working for a shadowy organization called MIQUIN, who are bound together by the fact that they’re all geniuses, aka have scored above 145 on IQ tests. (The merit of this qualification is a debate for another article.)

They use Minority Report-esque computer technology and their super-genius skills to solve crimes, including the murder of MIQUIN’s founder, a man whose son, Nate happens to be their newest recruit.

Nate is played by Thomas Dekker, an actor currently positioned as the sci-fi community’s It-Boy, having jumped from a supporting role on the first season of Heroes to the savior of humanity on The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

IQ-145 was shot before Dekker’s rise to prominence, and since the series aims to be the same sort of futuristic sci-fi that would appeal to fans of the Terminator-verse, it’s in a perfect position to attract a real following. If only it were watchable.

The most glaring problem with this series is that none of the supposed geniuses seem very smart. The most intellectually innovative thing that Nate does is to realize the name of their parent company, MIQUIN, might not be a nonsense word (as the other geniuses assumed), but some sort of…anagram.

The apparent dimness of these characters is no fault of the actors. Their parts are written so thinly it’s hard to imagine how they could be played any other way. The protagonists are the most basic of sci-fi archetypes – the shadowy alpha-male, the icy but beautiful woman, and the young, super-talented newbie who drags the exposition out of the other characters for the audience’s benefit.

These sort of stock characters can be used to great effect if coupled with an interesting plot (i.e. The Matrix), but the action of this series is moved along solely by searching for answers to questions about which we are given no reason to care. What is MIQUIN? Who killed Nate’s dad?  At one point in the seventh episode, Nate’s best friend interrupts a meeting between the IQ-145s by asking, “Who ARE you people?” This is the only question I want answered.

The redeeming factor of the series comes from the green-screen heavy cinematography, courtesy of the show’s writer/director, Billy Dickson (an industry vet, and cinematographer of hits such as One Tree Hill and cult-favorite, Babylon 5).

The show exists almost entirely in computer generated environments, which tend to look impressively real, and even when they don’t, they’re still exciting. The style of the scenery floats between high-rise cityscapes and tech-filled back chambers, giving the whole show a looke that’s sort of BladeRunner sans post-apocalyptic overtones.

Almost all of the sci-fi feeling comes from the visuals, and to the cinematography’s credit, it took me many episodes to realize that there was almost no science fiction involved in the plot of the show itself. There’s nothing in the writing that separates it from a show about ordinary, non-sci fi detectives, other than the admittedly awesome CG environments.

Science fiction is all about speculation and imagining alternate worlds that reflect our own, but there’s nothing speculative or imaginative about a group of people with IQs above 145. That’s just MENSA.

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