Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More Brit For The Buck

While everyone else in the scribosphere has been watching Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion, I was wrapped up in another British SciFi export The Tomorrow People.

I recently purchased both the first and second sets available from A&E DVD. The results are mixed:

I absolutely hate the packaging for both sets. it is cheap and totally doesn't do the show any sort of justice on the shelf. Even the original logo isn't used for the box! No stills on the back of the box, nothing to indicate any enthusiasm on A&E's part to really sell this show. A real disappointment.

The Tomorrow People as a concept for a series is great, and immediately falls into the whole X-Men category - outsiders who are protecting humanity even though they are feared and even hated by those same homo sapiens. Where it fails is in the execution of the show - poor acting, directing, production design, special effects - you name it, they botched it.

And yet...

The concept is so strong that you want to believe in the show. You want to "jaunt' (teleport), 'link' (communicate telepathically) and open your mind as easily as opening a clenched fist.

(Which, by the way, is a very powerful visual metaphor for the show as a whole and should have been used by A&E in their packaging. It has an almost X-Files opening credit sequence and it amazes that the design department didn't latch onto that. As a matter of fact, one of the villains of the show, The Doomsday Men, should have used the symbol of a clenched fist for their military uniforms...)

(See, I told you it was close to this!)

I understand that there are more seasons to come, and that the stories, while designed for children, do deal with issues of concern to all - prejudice, war, the environment, etc... There actually was one two part episode - "The Dirtiest Business" - that was quite adult. Would that creator Roger Price had written more episodes like that instead of drivel like "A Man for Emily".
I also understand that this show was remade in the nineties for the Nickelodeon cable network. I took a look at it and really wasn't impressed with the remake. The Tomorrow People at its best, is a show about revolution and evolution and becoming the person you were meant to become. It is a show about taking responsibility. It is a show that is filled with all of the teen angst of growing up.

These are themes that have been dealt with in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but in this case the metaphor would be scifi instead of horror. There is so much potential with the TP concept that you want a J. Michael Straczynski or a Joss Whedon to get hold of the rights and wash off all the crap that has calcified on the Tomorrow People's hull.

I do look forward to seeing the rest of the series when it comes out on DVD, but I will be taking these sets back to Amoeba and trading them in for store credit.


Christian Johnson said...

Tommorrow People? I loved that show. I watched it religiously. It is good to know I was not alone.

I will now have to pick up these, sadly disappointing but super nostalgic, dvds immediately.

Bill Cunningham said...

It was disappointing - there were only two commentaries and no behind-the-scenes footage or stills. A&E usually does a "bang-up" job on these things. I understand the UK release has more commentary tracks and there's even a documentary floating around there.

This is a show that deserves a serious update - I'm not talking about grim and gritty - but a rethinking of the show in the same vein as Battlestar Galactica was rethought as a serious scifi drama.

Christian Johnson said...

I agree that many of the past sci-fi shows deserve updating, including Battlestar Galactica, but I am one of the limited few who is less than impressed by the newer version.

I admit that it is a valid re-envisioning, and I understand why other people like it, but the show made too many of what I consider unnecessary changes. That and the "internal logic" of the show sometime failed. Why, for example, did the Planets integrate their military structure by sophisticated computer? Especially when their one historic enemy has powers to take advantage of this "advance" and this advance was the first thing removed in prior wars. Was there an intervening war with another culture? That would make sense, otherwise the updates are hubris and that hubris should have been discussed.

For example, Baltar could have assured everyone that his system utilized a "multiple path" logic system based on crystal structures and thus immune to the Cylon's binary logic systems. Naturally, an "adapted" cylon could overcome such a system for narrative conflict, but the groundwork for a number of universe specific tensions seem unresolved.

But as I said, I am one of a few who is less than satisfied with the show. And for all my criticisms, I am always happy to see successful and "fan created" science fiction.

If all rethinkings were as disappointing as BG, I would be a very happy man indeed.

James Moran said...

If you haven't already, you must check out Sapphire and Steel, another heavy sci-fi UK show, from the very early 80s, starring David McCallum and Joanna Lumley as mysterious entities who repair holes in Time. One of the oddest, freakiest shows I've ever seen, it's quite slow and stagey, but is bloody good stuff. Start with Assignment 1, and work your way through.