From my hotel room last night I watched the premiere of the newest incarnation of “The Tomorrow People”. For those of you who don’t know, this series originally premiered in the UK in the 1970s. It also had another brief reincarnation that most people my age probably saw in the late 1990s as a collaboration between Nickelodeon and a British studio.
As I watch TV, most of the time I can keep my inner writer calm and force the suspension of disbelief necessary to keep watching. However, last night I had some issues with this show. There may be some spoilers below but if you’ve seen any of the previous versions of the TP, none of this will surprise you.
My first problem came with the origin story. This is the classic reluctant hero. The reluctant hero has a single mother, his father having abandoned him at an early age, giving him plenty of pent-up daddy issues. His latent powers are causing him and his family all kinds of problems. We’ve all seen this before. So let’s examine the reluctance aspect of the reluctant hero.
If you, as a teenager (remember this is generally for a YA audience), have been having the crappiest year of your life because you thought you were broken, in need of therapy, medication, and God knows what else, were to suddenly find out that you could stop taking your meds and you actually possess super powers… tell me, how reluctant would you REALLY be?? Confused, surprised, and shocked, maybe. But this kid (Stephen, the character has the same role in all the incarnations) in the series just seemed to be playing the part of the reluctant hero because that’s the archetype he needed to fill … and that frosted my muffin and pulled me right out of the show.
There were a few other nitpicks that bothered me, like the fact that they completely stole the teleportation visual effect from the horribly written and equally poorly casted movie “Jumper”.
Stephen eventually decides to go with Jedekiah because he thinks its the only way to save his family, but, there is little exposition anywhere in the pilot that would justify this decision.
In the end the writers of the show have maneuvered all of the characters into the correct positions to move the plot forward toward whatever end they’ve chosen, but it all feels like wooden chess pieces on a board, not like real people making real choices based on real motivations and emotions. It’s flat, and there are no characters that you truly identify with, you just sit back and watch them. What truly worries me is that much of the audience for this show simply won’t care that the characters are archetypes and not real people or that their motivations are chess-strategies rather than what truly drives a human being.
In spite of the recent addition of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D to prime-time television, I still think mainstream TV needs more well done science fiction. And by that I mean smart, thought-provoking, well-written, deep science fiction with rich, well-rounded, believable characters, not troped-up pulp.