Under the Dome, a new 13-episode miniseries based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel, is the story of a small town that is suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an enormous transparent dome. The town’s inhabitants must deal with surviving the post-apocalyptic conditions while searching for answers about the dome, where it came from and if and when it will go away.
Stephen King's popular fantasy-thriller Under the Dome makes a largely successful leap to weekly television series, as evidenced by this first-season set. Overseen by a host of high-profile creative figures, from King himself and Steven Spielberg (both executive producers) to Lost veterans Brian K. Vaughan (credited as series creator) and Jack Bender, Under the Dome expands considerably on King's central premise of a small town in Maine that finds itself cut off from the world by an invisible, impenetrable dome. Tasked with making order out of this sudden chaos is a cross-section of everyday citizens, including former Special Forces vet Dale (Mike Vogel), newspaper editor Julia (Rachelle Lefevre), newly minted sheriff Linda (Natalie Martinez), and scientifically inclined teen Joe (Colin Ford), as well as Machiavellian used car dealer Big Jim (Dean Norris of Breaking Bad) and his deranged son (Alexander Koch). Tension builds at an agreeably brisk clip over the course of the debut season's 13 episodes as forces outside the dome attempt to break through while residents trapped inside struggle to make sense of their fates while contending with the growing and insidious influence of Big Jim and his son. Expanding the already sizable Dome (one of King's longest written works) into series format has its pros and cons: characters are given more time to develop, and many of the changes made to the book's premise--most notably to several characters and the nature of the dome itself--are mostly positive ones, and the large cast capably handles the material, with Norris and character actors Leon Rippy (Deadwood), Mare Winningham, and Ned Bellamy, all in recurring roles, taking the lion's share of the laurels. On the downside, however, the story feels stretched thin over the course of 13 episodes instead of a miniseries length: certain characters' actions feel shaped by the need to extend their arcs (sheriff Linda and Koch's Junior, for example), and key discoveries that would normally change the direction of the main storyline are left dangling, undoubtedly to be addressed at a later date/season. Dialogue too remains a consistent weak spot, and may put off casual viewers drawn in by the considerable attention and high ratings generated during Dome's initial network run. As it stands, Dome is a good if not great King adaptation--certainly better than most of the TV efforts to translate his work--but the jury remains out on whether it can hold its own over the course of multiple seasons.
Extras on the four-disc Under the Dome set are substantial and vary from behind-the-scenes material to viral content. The show's inception and production is chronicled in several lengthy and detailed featurettes, including the 29-minute "Filming the Pilot," which features interviews with Vaughn and most of the major on- and behind-the-camera talent, as well as numerous moments with King himself. The author is also featured in his own extra, which pairs him with longtime friend and fellow author Michael Connelly for a brief read-through of the book's opening chapter and discussion of the show's expansion of the source material. "The First Season" adds considerable making-of detail for all 13 episodes, while "From Novel to Series" and "The World of Under the Dome" cover writing and casting and location work, respectively. Less compelling is "Joe's Blog," a series of 11 text and video posts generated by Ford's character, while the de rigueur gag reel and deleted scenes are, for the most part, forgettable. Three-plus minutes of promotional spots round out the wealth of supplements. --Paul Gaita