There’s two paths forward with a TV series based on Source Code.
One is to do a police procedural where everything that happened to Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) in the movie has no bearing on the show. Simply introduce some nearly dead federal agents who work for Project Source Code who are transported into the bodies of civilians killed in devastating events. The agents do quick police work and stop the perpetrators from committing future atrocities. It’s like Quantum Leap or, more closely, the time-traveling procedural Seven Days – which also saw government operatives traveling back in time to prevent disasters.
This approach, while tidy, jettisons much of what made the film appealing – not just Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan’s chemistry. Much of the film centered on the intriguing relationship with Colter Stevens’ handler Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), and the tension with her boss, Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright). Also, Colter’s goal was not just to acquire the identity of the bomber, but to also save the lives of everybody on the train – lives initially deemed irrelevant by the project. Colter also needs to resolve his father issues, and his mortality. His is a spiritual quest for presence and a kind of acceptance.
Long Arcs (plus)
The other option picks up where the movie left off and explores the repercussions of Coulter’s actions, while at the same introduces new protagonists and antagonists. This would look like Lost in that a few main storylines don’t take place “on the island,” but unfold elsewhere to flesh out the world of the show.
MOVIE AS PILOT: At the end of Source Code, Colter has taken over the body of some guy named Sean. It’s complete identity theft. How could he get away with this crime? He’s got to run. He can’t teach history, he doesn’t know “his” family.
We’ve been told – between the email Colter sent Goodwin, and from what Dr. Rutledge says about “someday a terrorist attack will happen that will be perfect for the source code project” – that at some point, time is up for Colter-as-Sean. Until then, R&R. He doesn’t know how long he has.
Obviously Colter takes his new girlfriend away from Sean’s job and family. The love birds disappear off to Costa Rica and live a few months of bliss. This can be a quick intro. Maybe we learn that Sean’s family is looking for him. Maybe we see Colter drawing the military patch on another cocktail napkin. He’s dreading contact from Goodwin or the baddie Dr. Rutledge.
One day, the love birds take a nap on the hammock. In his sleep, Colter is yanked through that warplight to get beamed into some new dude – named, whatever, Tom. On a plane. He’s back on a mission. Act break.
Each mission is the main A story of an episode. For those who like a tidy procedural, there you are. Colter and Goodwin have a Scott Bakula/Dean Stockwell thing. In-between attempts to foil the bombing, Colter-as-Tom gushes about how happy he was in Costa Rica. Sometimes Goodwin gets in trouble for telling Coulter more information than she should. Information about his father, or about Christina back at the beach in Costa Rica.
What’s Christina’s deal? She’s also a hero of the show. She would wake in the hammock when real Sean is suddenly poured back into his body after Colter zipped away. Real Sean has no idea how he got to Costa Rica. Real Sean has major amnesia. Christina senses right away something funky has happened. In Lost-speak, this is the off-island stuff: Christina’s search for the man she loves.
Maybe she looks up the military badge that Colter drew on the napkin. She searches for the base, trying to track down whoever Colter was. Christina goes back to Chicago and talks to everybody on the train about when Sean was acting weird that last day (in the movie). Maybe the nurse from the movie quit working at the Veterans Affairs hospital because she learned creepy things about ignoring DNR orders to transfer nearly-dead patients to a secret off-site facility.
Meanwhile, on the plane, the A-story progresses through trial and error until Colter-as-Tom saves the day. He then flies the plane to Costa Rica. (Remember, he’s a great pilot.) Real Sean is there, in a hospital with terrible amnesia. Christina is gone too. The last thing she said to Real Sean was that she had to go look for somebody who left just before Sean woke up in the hammock. Colter-as-Tom blushes, “That’s me!”
B-Story: Christina assembles a team: the nurse, the computer programmer, maybe Colter’s dad. They track down this mysterious, top-secret Source Code project. Through the nurse, Christina gets a list of names of civilians who have been admitted to VA hospitals suffering from amnesia. The programmer teammate bings the hell out of the list to deduce that what these amnesia cases share in common is that before the gap in their memories, they had recently lived through a near-terrorist attack… like being on board a subway where a suspicious package was taken away by police. Or driving over a bridge, which previously was closed because a van parked underneath – full of explosives – got towed away.
Third Act twist: Those amnesiacs were probably reincarnated into by other agents. Yes, indeed, there are other agents out there who reincarnate through the Source Code project. Colter-as-Tom witnesses this first-hand when Sean is transferred out of his little hospital, on the orders of an unseen military doctor from the United States, somebody named Dr. Rutledge. But where to?
Colter-as-Tom follows Real Sean and a military escort back to the states. Dallas. Christina has tracked down where the base might be – near Wells, Nevada. She and her team go, and have a layover in Dallas.
Colter-as-Tom sees Christina and her assembled team waiting at the airport gate. Coulter-as-Tom begins to break the ice with everybody. In the corner, a scruffy kid also waiting to board suddenly wakes, confused. They all board.
Seconds into the flight, some random dude goes to the bathroom in a huff, and in the mirror, we see his reflection is the kid at the terminal. But this dude looks older, sterner. He’s one of the agents. Is he a good guy? A bad guy? Yes. Is he there to save the plane? Must be, right? From who?
Interested in what happens next? Good pilot.