A baby adrift after a shipwreck on the Aegean Sea. The image of a huge crucifix on the side of a sunlit Mexican mountain. A grieving astrophysicist, certain the world can be explained by science. And a Satan-worshipping prisoner who savagely killed the scientist's daughter.
These are only some of elements that form the confusing, yet intriguing, story line for NBC's "Revelations," a six-hour miniseries focused on faith, mystery and miracles. Also adding interest are a semiconscious young girl muttering strange words and an intense nun determined to make sense of the babble -- and head off the end of the world.
Natascha McElhone and Bill Pullman star as Sister Josepha Montifiore and Dr. Richard Massey, who investigate signs that the end of world is nearing as predicted in the Bible's Book of Revelation. Despite their differing beliefs, the two work together, hoping to forestall the inevitable.
"Sister Jo is attempting to intercept the end of days and stop Armageddon," said McElhone, who found her character's passion and conviction appealing. "That is a tall order for anyone, but she believes she's being spoken to by God. She wants to affect a cosmic kind of change, like throwing a pebble in the water. The ripples will take care of things down the line."
The ripples follow the individual odysseys of the three main characters: the astrophysicist, the nun and the murderer Isaiah Haden (Michael Massee).
"One worships science, one worships God and one worships Satan," said creator and writer David Seltzer. "They're the human surrogates of those gods, battling it out to see who's right."
Seltzer credits his theatrical film "The Omen" with inspiring him to read the Book of Revelation. "I fell in love with the language and the clues of the Bible," he said.
Bringing to television a tale that centers on biblical prophecy, Jesus Christ and the New Testament was part of the mission for executive producer Gavin Polone.
"Usually on television, when you see any rendition of faith, it becomes it so nonsectarian it has no meaning," Polone said. "I've always felt that the executives in the entertainment industry are completely out of touch with the culture of most Americans. They're disconnected from the nation's character and religion. I wanted to do something that would be directed specifically toward the Christian audience."
The miniseries was shot in several locations, including Prague and Matera, Italy, where "The Passion of the Christ" was filmed. Polone credits the non-studio settings with giving "Revelations" a richness that's closer to a theatrical movie than a TV show.
"The viewer at home who isn't as savvy about how things are produced, who isn't used to big visual effects in a TV production, will immediately notice the difference," Polone said.
The series also attracted theatrical-quality talent. Veteran actor Pullman, whose character is desperately trying to figure out why his daughter was killed, said he prepared for the role by reading about physics and researching how science explains religious beliefs.
In the series, the astrophysicist's spiritual skepticism is shaken when Sister Jo shows him a piece of paper on which the comatose girl, her limp hand held by the nun, has penciled a sketch identical to one his daughter once drew.
"Rational thought and empirical thought lead you in different directions," Pullman said. "And true inspiration doesn't always come from science."