(pronounced "The Forty-Four Hundred") began as a Mini Series
created for the USA Network
. The Mini Series
aired as six episodes in the summer of 2004, and the show was brought back as a series with a 13-episode season in the summer of 2005, followed by a third 12-episode season in 2006 and a fourth, 13-episode season in 2007. After that, between the writers strike and the very evident signs of The Chris Carter Effect
, the series was not picked up for a new season.
The basic premise is that four thousand, four hundred people from the past century have been abducted, then Touched by Vorlons
, and returned to the present day. They have not aged and they do not remember their abductions.
Many of the returnees discover that they have new abilities, such as telekinesis, mind control, clairvoyance, or unnatural control of phlebotinum
The main characters are Homeland Security agents investigating the 4400. A small group of 4400s are regular characters. Episodes combine the Myth Arc
with a "Freak of the Week" (see below).
The 4400 provides examples of the following tropes:
- Anti-Hero: Jordan Collier was one of the rarest types imaginable: an Affably Evil one. The Wrath of Graham illustrates this incredibly well.
- Artistic License – Astronomy: In the pilot the nations of the Earth fire their nuclear weapons at the incoming "comet". Some strike, but do not deter it. Then the object is shown passing the moon. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles are not designed to be fired into space, and certainly don't have enough power to get to the moon — a three-day journey with today's technology.
- Back from the Dead
- Bad Future: Pretty much any glimpse of the future thanks to precognition and Time Travel, in both the short and long term.
- Black and Gray Morality: Even the best-intentioned groups are often Well-Intentioned Extremists, and those that aren't are not often very effective. Doubly so with the different factions amongst the abductors, who both have to let horrible things come to pass for their preferred futures, though the evil faction definitely wants the worse outcome.
- Blessed with Suck
- "Powers" have included spreading contagious diseases and other less-than-desirable abilities.
- Danny Farrell gained the ability to spread promicin to anyone who came in contact with him, thereby giving them abilities, which could be seen as awesome. However, due to the nature of promicin, there was a fifty percent chance that he would kill the person instead.
- California Doubling: Filmed in Canada.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome
- Dennis Ryland and Nina Jarvis both disappear after the third season.
- As does Diana's boyfriend Ben in the middle of the fourth. Dang.
- Barely averted with Richard Tyler, who inexplicably vanishes for a while after the third season, but makes a last minute two-episode reappearance near the end of the series. His wife, Lily, also appears for an episode during this time, and despite the character only being projected by another 4400, they got the same actress back, who initially left after her real character died (or the other way around).
- Cliff Hanger: Which the now-canceled series ended on.
- Coconut Superpowers: Practically everyone, in fact, it was more unusual to find a character whose power actually involved special FX.
- Cuckoo Nest: Which actually introduced a new Love Interest.
- Dating Catwoman: After Tom Baldwin is Marked, Meghan discovers she has literally been sleeping with the enemy.
- Epiphanic Prison: Crossed over with Ontological Mystery in one episode. A person has the power to create these for conflicting people so they can learn how to work together.
- During the second season, the 4400 Center was almost a carbon-copy of the real life Church of Happyology.
- The software company in the fourth season is pretty much a Bland-Name Product version Microsoft.
- Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: Isabelle.
- Face-Heel Turn
- Dennis Ryland.
- Also Isabelle, who goes back and forth a couple times before being forced to learn that Redemption Equals Death.
- Fish Out of Temporal Water: The title characters.
- The Future Is Shocking
- A God Am I: Besides Isabelle, a boy in the first chapter of fourth season goes all the way with this because he gains the ability of making other people think he is a god.
- The Government: NTAC.
- Healing Hands: Shawn.
- How We Got Here
- Idiot Ball: Richard Tyler knows an original 4400 with the ability to reverse a person's aging. He tricks this person into returning Isabel to her "true" age. The idiot part is that if he knew of a 4400 that could reverse the aging process, why did he not think to bring his dying wife to this person?
- It is implied that Richard met Cora when Lily was already dead.
- This would also be a Game Breaker as making loads of people younger, which includes removing their memories, would have far-reaching consequences on the world. Not that that wasn't the point of the 4400 in the first place, but if more people knew about her Cora would have more visitors than Shawn Farrell!
- I Just Want to Be Special: Danny Farrell, Shawn's younger brother. After his older brother gets healing powers, he gets jealous. Eventually, in later seasons, he's one of the first main characters to take the superpower-granting drug that has a 50% fatality rate. He's given the power to spread the drug to others like a contagion, which may kill them, and he can't control it. Be Careful What You Wish For. Shawn has to reverse his healing powers and Mercy Kill him after Danny accidentally kills their mother and several other people and can't stop it. So there's that.
- Improbable Age: Thirty-year-old NTAC boss Meghan.
- Kudzu Plot
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Between the main and randomly encountered 4400s, various NTAC agents, government agents, and regular humans, it's no wonder the showrunners subtitle each 4400 with their name and date of disappearance.
- Magic from Technology: Superpowers such as telekinesis are explained with a new neurotransmitter: Promicin.
- The Main Characters Do Everything: In season one, you wonder how Tom and Diana have enough time in their lives for Tom to visit his son in the hospital every day and Diana to spend time with Maia.
- Mass Teleportation
- Mercy Kill: Shawn does this when Danny is dying painfully from his ability in the last episode.
- Messianic Archetype / Dark Messiah
- Jordan Collier from season 2 on, though after his death and resurrection he becomes less sleazy and more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist, causing many deaths but treated as the biggest threat to the real bad guys.
- Also, Graham Holt. Jordan did not take this well.
- Monster of the Week: Really a "Freak of the Week," a one-shot returnee whose new ability provides the plot of each episode (although this becomes somewhat less the case as the series progresses).
- Mysterious Waif: Maia.
- Myth Arc
- New Superpower
- Omniscient Morality License
- The abductors were clearly psychics in regards to how the powers they gave out would be used; they made a serial killer far more effective, so a relative of one of his victims would start killing random innocent members of the 4400 for revenge, which was used to invoke public sympathy for the group. No telling which one's worse: the Gambit Roulette or the disregard for innocent lives.
- They sent back a woman whose power was the ability to wipe out an entire town overnight. Utopia Justifies the Means, right? It's either that, or a horrible future for humanity where billions of people have died. Also, the "Typhoid Mary" thing was suggested to be The Government's fault — their Promicin Inhibitor fucked up a lot of people's powers before it started killing them.
- Oracular Urchin: Maia.
- Power Limiter: Ten weeks after the returnees came back, the government started injecting them with a "Promicin Inhibitor" or "PI" to keep them from developing abilities or to limit the abilities of those who have already developed them.
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Isabelle. Twice.
- Radiation Immune Mutants: Or rather, Promicin Immune Returnees.
- Rule of Drama: In the pilot, the ACLU steps in and successfully argues that holding the 4400 against their will violates their rights. There's a lot of headscratching that can be done about that, but it is simply a way for the writers to get the 4400 out into the public and to have to try to go back to their lives without the counseling that they would need.
- Shout-Out: The finale scene of the final episodes has "Where Is My Mind" by The Pixies playing.
- The South Paw: It's revealed by Dr. Kevin Burkhoff that 9 out of 10 left-handed people survive the Promicin injections. Therefore, most of the non "Original Recipe" P-positives would be left handed.
- Story-Breaker Power: Maia's precognition abilities are powerful enough that she could solve most of the important story plots before they become extremely complicated. Whatever she predicts comes true 100% of the time. The Marked even considered her a significant threat to their plans. Which makes you wonder why other characters don't simply ask Maia to help them solve some of the shows big mysteries.
- No, as it's clearly stated that Maia can't force herself to have visions, she merely has them whenever they come to her. Keeping her around could be handy, as she is seen interacting with people in close physical proximity more often than other, but there are several sides who want her with them and on their side, plus her adoptive mother and lots of other people won't let her get abused, partly as she's an orphaned, Fish out of Water child.
- Shawn and Cora also count, as if everyone knew about them and could get to them they would both be flooded by requests of use of their powers on themselves or people they care about, as we see the few times Shawn tries to set up a healing service.
- Superhuman Transfusion: Isabelle's blood can restore other returnee's abilities from the inhibitor.
- Super Senses
- Time Travel
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Jordan Collier's plans to establish a new world order of people with abilities. Considering their methods, this also applies to the abductors of the 4400. Particularly harsh when it comes to the abductors: the best outcome of their machinations involves half the human population dying at some point so every survivor can have superpowers, just so that the remaining half of humanity can survive and create a less horrible future. The worst (and default) outcome is everyone but a very small group of well-off and privileged humans dying and the world becoming an ecological nightmare.
- Touch of Death: Shawn, though thankfully he rarely uses it.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: Alana's dream-land power works this way.