Dangerous planet Earth: The CW's new sci-fi drama 'The 100' premieres

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Kate Ellis / TV Media
Henry Ian Cusick stars in “The 100”

Henry Ian Cusick stars in “The 100”

Many sci-fi shows over the years have explored the nature of humanity in unconventional ways. Sci-fi as a genre allows people to explore possibilities and delve into what society could be like if pushed to the limit, without actually descending into the madness that so often accompanies it.

In television's latest foray into the future, take a look at what happens when youths convicted of various crimes are exiled to planet Earth, which has been uninhabitable for nearly 100 years. Think literary classic "Lord of the Flies" on a futuristic planet with older, more delinquent kids, and you have "The 100," which premieres Wednesday, March 19, on The CW.

"The 100" -- pronounced "The Hundred," not "The One Hundred" -- is based on an up-and-coming book series by Kass Morgan. The only survivors of Earth's Armageddon are the astronauts from the 12 international space stations that were in orbit during the time of the nuclear explosion. They joined together to create what they call "The Ark" in an attempt to save the human race. Ninety-seven years later, three generations of children have been born in space. The population of The Ark is nearly 4,000 people, and the future of the human race is being jeopardized by over-population. Capital punishment and population control are a few of the ruthless steps taken to ensure their survival.

Unknown to many on The Ark, 100 youth imprisoned for various crimes are being used as test subjects and are ordered on an expedition to Earth to see if the planet is still a desolate wasteland. Among the exiled youths are the children of some of The Ark's most elite citizens: Clarke, the daughter of the Ark's chief medical officer; Wells, son of the Ark's chancellor; risk-taker Finn and illegal siblings Bellamy and Octavia. At first, the planet is party central for the teens, with no rules. But Earth can be a magical place one moment and ruthless and lethal the next. The now lush planet seems to be habitable for humans upon first contact, but the more time the exiles stay, the more they learn about it. From deer with two heads to a mysterious spear that pierces the chest of an exile, the new planet Earth is not what it seems.

The leaders of the Ark have equipped each outcast with a wristband that tracks how their body reacts to Earth's conditions. When the youths figure this out, they start to break the bands off in rebellion, letting Abby (Clarke's widowed mom), Jaha (Wells' father) and Kane (a shadowy second-in-command) believe they are dying. Blind to what is happening below them, the leaders are faced with decisions about life, death and the existence of the human race.

The 100 on the surface must band together, forget their differences and forge a new path on Earth for humans on the drastically changed planet their ancestors once called home. The primitive and intense place is full of the terrifying unknown, but they must figure out a way to survive because the fate of the human race depends on it.

Eliza Taylor and Thomas McDonnell as seen in “The 100”

Eliza Taylor and Thomas McDonnell as seen in “The 100”

"The show is … taking the network to a different place that is maybe not what people are accustomed [to] watching on The CW," Isaiah Washington ("Grey's Anatomy), who plays Chancellor Jaha, told TVLine at Comic-Con. "'The Vampire Diaries' already opened up that door, but now with [executive producer] Jason Rothenberg, we’re going to take it to that 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad' level. It’s not just sci-fi."

Leading the cast is Australian newcomer Eliza Taylor, who plays Clarke. She has appeared in many Australian shows such as "Neighbours" and "The Sleepover Club," but this is her first time on North American television.

"It’s definitely an unusual show and it was challenging getting into the right head space," Taylor told Alloy Entertainment. "To imagine that you’ve never set foot on the Earth is a big task, but the places that we shot, like out in Vancouver and the rainforests, were amazing. Everything -- the trees and the woods -- were all real. We had so much to react to. The sets that they chose looked untouched and prehistoric, so it was very easy to get into the mindset of someone who’s never seen any of this before because I personally had never seen anything so beautiful."

Exiled to Earth with Clarke are Wells (Eli Goree, "Emily Owens, M.D."), Finn (Thomas McDonell, "Suburgatory"), Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos, "50/50," 2011) and her brother Bellamy (Bob Morley, "Neighbours"). Octavia and Bellamy are an anomaly in this futuristic society -- because of the overpopulation crisis, families are limited to having only one child, having more is a serious offense. The siblings, therefore, share a bond that the others can't understand.

Up in the atmosphere, Clarke's mom, Abby (Paige Turco, "Person of Interest"), The Ark's chief medical officer, anxiously awaits news of her daughter. She's joined by Wells' father, Chancellor Jaha, played by Washington, and Councilman Kane (Henry Ian Cusick, "Lost"), the chancellor's shifty and mysterious second-in-command.

Making up the production team are executive producers Matthew Miller ("Human Target," "Chuck"), Jason Rothenberg (the upcoming "Twilight Zone" feature), Bharat Nalluri ("Torchwood," "Emily Owens, M.D."), Leslie Morgenstein ("The Vampire Diaries") and Gina Girolamo ("The Secret Circle"). With such popular shows under their belts, these executives are poised to produce another great show.

With all its thrills and uncertainty, "The 100" is bound to be another hit for its network. Catch all the excitement and futuristic technology you can handle when it premieres Wednesday, March 19, on The CW.