The job of a pilot is to establish a show’s premise, characters and story arcs for the season. The Seachange reboot is in the unique position of continuing a premise that was established in its original series over 20 years ago, but also having to establish its premise for new viewers. I felt this pilot really only did half the job.
As both a writer and a fan of the original series, I was eager to see the reboot but also viewed it with a healthy amount of cynicism. I never had the expectation of the reboot to be exactly like the original or pick up where the 2000 finale left off, that would be unrealistic. However I did expect some aspects of the original series to be maintained in the reboot.
The pilot kicks off in Africa where it’s revealed that Laura is working as a volunteer for Africa Aid, well at least for the first few seconds, until her supervisor tells her she is fired and her visa has been cancelled as she assaulted another volunteer. She then goes home to renew her visa and also squeeze in a visit with Miranda.
We are then re-introduced to Pearl Bay (which has been re-located from Barwon Heads & St Leonards, Victoria to Brunswick Heads near Byron Bay) and Miranda (originally portrayed by Cassandra Magrath, now recast and portrayed by Brooke Satchwell). A sausage sizzle is being held to stop sand mining from ruining Pearl Bay and Miranda is at the helm of the protest, and avoiding Laura’s calls. Miranda is unaware of Laura’s return and Laura is unaware of Miranda’s pregnancy. Meanwhile Bob Jelly has finally been hit with a dose of karma as he is released from a two-year stint in prison, but hasn’t changed his ways at all. When he returns to Pearl Bay, he is rejected by Heather and hit by Laura as she is driving into town, which leads to the first courthouse scene.
Before the courthouse scene, Laura and Bob are at the police station, where Miranda goes to see her and tells her she’s pregnant. After Laura leaves the police station, she goes home only to see she doesn’t have a home and Kevin reveals a variety of typical Pearl Bay-esque accidents lead to her home’s destruction. He also accidentally implies that there are complications with Miranda’s pregnancy, however when Laura goes to Miranda for answers, the deterioration of their relationship over the last 20-ish years, as well as Miranda’s plan to give the baby up for adoption is revealed.
Throughout the episode, minor story arcs, such as the relationship between the police prosecutor, Lillian, and the court clerk, Zac, and Bob hiding cash in black plastic bags in the ocean, are established.
While a storm is brewing in Pearl Bay, despite Miranda’s best efforts, Findlay Knox (Darren McMullen), an Environmental Consultant with the sand mining company manages to literally swim into Pearl Bay and charm the residents into believing that the sand mining is good for the town.
Meanwhile Laura faces court for hitting Bob with her car, however before she does she watches witness, Ben Russo (Dan Wyllie) arguing with the magistrate and his wife, Clara, while in the box. Their fight leads to Clara dismissing the case and eventually quitting, which I’ll get back to.
As the storm reaches its peak, Miranda has chained herself to a bulldozer to stop the sand mining efforts, only for her efforts to be in vain as she has gone into labour. She ends up giving birth at the Tropical Star, as it is the storm’s evacuation centre, with Findlay delivering as he has had experience delivering mammals and farm animals. It’s then it’s revealed that Miranda is giving the baby up for adoption to Anna, Pearl Bay’s police sergeant. Anna names the baby Joe, after her father.
The next day, Anna offers Laura the job of magistrate after Clara Russo quits. Although Laura is hesitant, when Miranda hears Laura’s iPad go off and finds emails from Africa Aid about her dismissal, Miranda tells her she’d like it if she stayed. Laura hurries back to the police station to accept Anna’s offer.
The episode ends with Kevin and Stone chatting about how to leave their mark on the world, with Kevin remarking that no-one will remember them in 20 years time.
As I mentioned earlier, as both a writer and a fan of the original series, I was eager to see the reboot but also viewed it with a healthy amount of cynicism. I never had the expectation of the reboot to be exactly like the original or pick up where the 2000 finale left off, that would be unrealistic. The finale and original series ended with Max and Laura finding out they’re expecting a baby, Rupert going to live with Jack, Miranda about to go to uni, Meredith waking up from her stroke-induced coma, and Pearl Bay being saved from becoming a toxic waste dump. This pilot revealed that Max and Laura were married and have since split, they had a daughter, Stella, but not much else about Pearl Bay or its characters.
I expected that some original characters wouldn’t return, such as Harold as Alan Cassell died in 2017, Angus, as Tom Long is currently battling Multiple Myeloma, and Rupert and Trevor as both Kane McNay and Christopher Lyons have changed careers and have young families, however I didn’t expect that the majority wouldn’t. Hopefully some more will return, and if not, that at least their fates are explained as this pilot made it feel like they never existed.
Another thing I mentioned earlier is I felt that the pilot only did half its job in establishing the premise, character and story arcs of the show. I feel this way as the pilot didn’t re-establish the original premise for new viewers clearly. As a fan of the original series, I knew who the original characters were and what the premise was, however if I was a new viewer, I would have no idea what was going on. I think an introductory clip showing moments from the pilot and original series finale would have easily established the show’s premise and what was to come in the pilot. That being said, I found Laura’s inevitable decision to accept the offer of being Pearl Bay’s magistrate again a nice full circle moment to the original series’ pilot.
I also felt that the writing was a little messy due to having to reach both fans of the original series and new viewers, and having to base the reboot on material from 20 years earlier. For instance, Miranda and Laura discuss Laura’s absence from Pearl Bay, which leads to a huge continuity error when Miranda says Laura and Max took off for London before she finished school and left her and Rupert for dead. However, in the original series finale, Miranda was just about to go to uni and Rupert went to live with his father.
I felt that the biggest flaw of the pilot’s writing was the characterisation of Miranda. In the original series, Miranda was written and portrayed as an idealistic but smart young woman. Miranda is still idealistic and intelligent in this pilot, however she seems like a shadow of her former self as she didn’t become a lawyer like she planned, she stayed in Pearl Bay, she is unaware that 5pm is close of business, and it’s not really made clear why she made the choices she made, and why her relationship with Laura has deteriorated, or why she feels animosity towards her half-sister, Stella.
Despite my feelings towards the pilot’s flaws, there were moments I enjoyed such as the argument between Mr Russo and Clara, the introduction of Radio Riley, and Kevin’s end of episode philosophical talk with Stone which makes an inside joke about the reboot.
Because of my love for the original series, I will give this reboot a chance (however it’s really more of a sequel than a reboot) and I hope it improves over time.
-Laura, Miranda, Bob, Heather and Kevin are the only original characters appearing in the reboot, at least at this point in time.
-Pearl Bay’s newspaper is now “The Bay Times”.
-Clara Russo’s resignation letter is hilariously polite and aggressive at the same time: “To whom it may concern, I quit! -Clara Russo :)”
-According to Laura’s Africa Aid supervisor, Max is in jail and violent and Stella is addicted to drugs. Something that wasn’t mentioned again in this episode.
-Laura states that she left Pearl Bay 20 years ago, with 10 of those years spent in London.
-Radio Riley also works for the Pearl Bay Tourist Authority, and the bridge has finally been repaired.
Best one liners and interactions:
- “The electrocution was not my fault!” (Laura to her Africa Aid supervisor)
- “Pearl Bay: the gateway to free parking, pork pies and pelicans.” (Radio Riley)
- “How about I address you as a massive pain in the arse? Is that better Your Honour!?” (Mr Russo to Clara while in the witness box)
- “It’s bad luck that the women’s netball team turned up.” (Stone to Miranda)
- “Can we arrest her?” “Ooh, I’m tempted, after that hair perm she gave me for my last birthday with the ringlets. Do you remember? But no.” (Lil-Anna on Shirley Watts)
- “He’s right, this woman is a known lunatic!” (Bob on Mr Russo’s description of Laura)
- “It’s the 20th century Laura, no-one minds about that anymore.” “It’s the 21st century Kevin.” “No, when did that happen?” (Kevin-Laura-Kevin about Miranda being an unwed expectant mother)
- “Did you even breastfeed me?” “I expressed…endlessly!” (Miranda-Laura)
- “A few things, there was coastal erosion, the rising sea levels, Port Deacon scouts got a bit silly on their end of year…but I think the last king tide would have been the last straw.” (Kevin’s answer to Laura’s question about what happened to her house)