The Guardian, 22 October 2012

Detectives Blog

You know that moment at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when we see the crated ark fork-lifted into a huge warehouse full of similar crates? We know what an incredible artefact the ark is, because we just saw it melt some Nazis (but not Indy and Marion, because it’s an ark, not an idiot). We’re pretty sure it’s the most powerful thing on earth. And now, suddenly, we realise that the US government has a huge secret stash of similar objects with untold supernatural powers.

Well, that’s where Warehouse 13 is set. The Warehouse is in South Dakota, and it is full of powerful, dangerous artefacts that can have a huge impact on the world around them. Edgar Allen Poe’s quill and notebook are locked in the Warehouse, for example, which is lucky because anything written with the pen in the book will appear in reality, sapping the energy of the reader as it does so. Marilyn Monroe’s hairbrush is there too: brush your hair with it and you will instantly become platinum blond.

HG Wells’ time-machine allows the user to occupy the mind of someone in the past. And HP Lovecraft’s silver key makes anyone touching it look like a terrifying, tentacled cthulu monster to those around them (if you think I have chosen this one as an excuse to use the cthulu emoticon, (;,;) you’re absolutely right). Virtually every artefact demands that its user pays a high price for the power they temporarily acquire: ring Pavlov’s bell and you can summon any dog to your aid. Downside? You drool uncontrollably for 24 hours.

Luckily, the agents at Warehouse 13 are on the ball. They monitor news reports from all over the globe to spot any which might suggest artefacts are being used. Then two or more agents fly out to neutralise the artefact, bag it and bring it back to the Warehouse for a long retirement.

The two leading field agents are Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering. They’re perfectly suited to Warehouse work: he’s a little psychic and she has a photographic memory. He goes with gut instinct, and she’s all about doing the homework. There’s chemistry, but not too much. These agents would not kiss on the mouth and live happily ever after. Rather, they’re best friends, always close without the risk of jeopardising it.

They would, however, get nowhere without their boss, Artie Nielsen, offering advice through the Farnsworths (a steampunk videophone), and techno-whiz Claudia Donovan providing the crucial hot-redhead-smart-mouth dimension. The Warehouse has a few other helpers: Leena, who can read auras and whose devotion to Artie is never in doubt; Mrs Frederic, Artie’s boss; and HG Wells, sporadically back from the past. The H stands for Helena (played by Jaime Murray) by the way, which makes HG pretty much the minxiest sci-fi writer of all time.

Warehouse 13 is a show suffused with feel-good vibes, and their Christmas specials are a particular delight. The real passion its writers have for inventing apposite artefacts is a joy: many are literary, but certainly not all. The Bobby Jones Golf Clubs, for example, fill the wielding golfer with an unquenchable rage. It takes quite a golf scholar to know about a tempter tantrum in the 1921 British Open.

Iconic? Well, Pete and Myka owe something to Mulder and Scully, so perhaps not. But any show which boasts Buffy alumni Jane Espenson as a co-creator and Drew Z Greenberg as an exec producer is always going to be fun.

Duffers? Why no Christmas special planned for this year? Hmm? Do they want to ruin the holiday season? Do they?