Touch, the latest pilot from Heroes creator Tim Kring, is finally offering up more substantial plot and character information. Details have emerged on Kiefer Sutherland’s role as well as the rest of the characters – who have not yet been cast.

Please note: the following information contains spoilers for the pilot episode of Touch, and probably one or two episodes into the first season as well.

Kiefer Sutherland plays Martin Bohm, a former journalist working as an airport baggage handler (subtle, huh?) to support himself and his son Jacob – after his estranged wife died in the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Jacob is the main source of drama in the series. He can’t, or perhaps won’t, talk and has an obsession with numbers and patterns – particularly 3:18. He resets all the clocks in the house to 3:18 and is caught climbing a local cell tower at the same time. Jacob even begins writing down winning lottery numbers, before they’re announced – making Martin suspect something strange is afoot.

Child Protective Services attempts to separate Jacob and Martin on the grounds that the boy is autistic. He gains at least one sympathetic ear in Clea Hopkins, a social worker who sympathizes with Martin – while remaining skeptical.

Martin seeks the help of a mad genius-type named Boris Podoltsky, who explains that the boy is a “conduit for energy”, and is able to see the exchanges of electrical and biological energy that make up human existence. Essentially, Jacob is able to analyze the basic mathematical functions of events and reactions, and accurately predict future outcomes almost instantly (no word on whether he can “see the code” or not).

The basic gist is that Jacob isn’t a superhero or a mutant, he’s an incredible genius. He doesn’t “see the future” as much as he works out the inevitable sequence of events before they happen, albeit with a degree of insight that doesn’t exist in the real world. His abilities can appear psychic as well – he correctly predicts the sequence of numbers that another character is about to dial on a telephone.

I have to say, I’m not really impressed. the initial  pitch for Touch sounded like it was going to be a straight superpowers/science fiction affair with a more dramatic, relationship-focused, story. The core idea seems to be there, but why invent a pseudo-scientific mcguffin to explain the boy’s powers? It’s not like “almost-psychic super analytical genius” is any more likely than a pint-sized Charles Xavier.

It will be especially interesting to see how Sutherland handles the role. More of a family man than 24‘s Jack Bauer, Martin is an ordinary guy who can’t catch a break, thrust into an unreal situation – while having to deal with the very real danger of losing his son.

Of course, the show still hinges on the casting. The role of the boy in particular will be difficult to fill, calling for subtlety and nuance that’s rare in child actors (and not all that common among adults, either).

In any case, you’ll be able to judge for yourself before too long. There’s no season order for Touch yet, but with Kring and Sutherland attached to the project, odds are that Fox will pull the trigger sometime this summer.

Source: Hollywood Insider