In the 70’s ITV Network in England debuted The Tomorrow People, a sci-fi kids show hoping to compete with Doctor Who. It lasted from 1973-1979 and was devised by Roger Price. It told of the next stage of human evolution, dubbed Homo Superior. They were later sued by Magneto, but that’s another story. The show had a US release on Nickelodeon, but I didn’t get the station at the time and I think i caught the closing credits once or twice when I visited my grandfather. The show had an audio revival in 2001 thanks to Big Finish, who also does the Doctor Who audio dramas.
In 1992 Nickelodeon started broadcasting in the UK and decided to put together a new version of the show. Price returned but none of the cast did as they made a brand new show. Teleporting was added to a Tomorrow Person’s power set (they used a teleporation device in the original–in fact the new kids didn’t have any high-tech weapons at all) which included various psionic powers but also includes a psychological block against willingly taking a life. This one I saw and while there was a darker tone and the emphasis was more on mad scientists than the alien threats I’ve the original kids faced I still enjoyed it. I wish it had lasted longer than a pilot miniseries and one short season.
Now a new version has been created for the CW Network, without Roger Price’s involvement and pushing the age to when “break outs” occur to the farther end of the teenage years. I’m not saying this can’t work. While I’m disappointed the original age group is being left out in the cold…AGAIN…the later years are just as filled with uncertainty as the younger years. Puberty isn’t an issue anymore but now you’re on the road to becoming an adult and you again start thinking about wanting to be something more or at least finding out who you are. So can a show for kids make a successful push to adult TV or are kids being robbed for nothing? Again.
Our main character is Stephen. He is our entryway into the world of the Tomorrow People, who on the surface are not too far off from their predecessors. They have the three powers (teleporting, telekinesis, and telepathy) and a genetic block against purposely killing someone. Stephen isn’t an unlikable character and neither are the three Tomorrow People he meets. Cara has been trying to contact Stephen, knowing that he was “breaking out”. (And if you haven’t guessed by my previous use of the term it means a Tomorrow Person’s powers are developing.) I’m not sure if she’s the leader or her boyfriend, John, is. Rounding out our cast is Russell, who uses his powers to steal stuff.
And that’s one interesting aspect and a change I don’t particularly mind considering the new demographic being targeted. While they can’t kill without a major headache (indicated to the audience by what sounds like a bad case of tinnitus) some are using their powers to cause all sorts of trouble. Some mentioned include tagging the White House, getting missile launch codes and tweeting them, and other acts of mischief. That means the guys hunting down Tomorrow People do have a reason for concern, even if the man in charge is an easy mustache-twirler.
That’s where the changes I’m less than welcome for start coming in, but it only affects the adaptation. The bad guys are a group called Ultra. They’re a government shadow organization that is supposed to hunt down Tomorrow People. If they can’t force them to join, they kill them off. If a “Tomorrow Agent” screws up a mission, they die. It’s that last part that makes them the obvious villains despite attempts later in the pilot to make them sympathetic, like their goals a noble. However, they’re methods aren’t and I think had they been toned down that would be fine.
Ultra is not from the original series from what I can tell from Wikipedia (question the source), but Jedikiah was the name of a recurring villain in the series. (In the original he was a shapeshifting robot or something.) I won’t spoil the twist but Jed has a connection to Stephen.
I’m not surprised that none of the original characters are rebooted (except for TIM the computer) since the 90’s remake didn’t, either. However, I do have a problem with Stephen. In the first show (I have seen the first episode but that wasn’t enough to gather a lot of info) we do get to see someone “break out” for the first time as an entry into the show. In the second we see all the main cast “break out” so they’re learning together, with one character already meeting the ship in the first few minutes of the pilot. Stephen is our gateway, but he’s also a gary stu character. While the other “gateways” were nothing special compared to other Tomorrow People, Stephen is treated like some “chosen one” character. He displays a power none of the others have and his backstory makes him more special, meaning both Ultra and the (for lack of a better term) rebels want him on their side in the war. Making him this special goes beyond adaptation issues and just bothers me personally. Just make him another kid whose only special because of his connection to both sides, not making him Tomorrow Messiah.
Then there’s the “war”, which keeps giving me flashbacks to Jumper and I’ve never seen this movie. If Ultra wasn’t so obviously being run by a psycho xenophobe this could have been more of a struggle for Stephen and even for the audience, as they would have to decide which side is right. It could have been Marvel’s “Civil War” done right. Yes, I do defend the idea of obvious heroes and villains but I can take a good story that plays both sides fairly and this could have done so perfectly. Instead, we know jedekiah is the bad guy and a potential story element was lost.
So is this new version of The Tomorrow People bad? No, I can’t say it is. There are some good ideas and only Stephan’s exaggerated importance and the lack of balance of perspective bothers me as its own property. However, I’m not sure this is a fair adaptation of the original series not because of the new target age group but because only the base ideas are there and then spin in a whole new direction. Maybe if this had been a Jumper series (it worked for Buffy) or an original idea, then my only complaints would be Stephen and Jedikiah as they’re portrayed. Apparently the aliens of the first show and the mad scientists of the second have been replaced by the NoMen from Kamen Rider Dragon Knight and I don’t think it serves the show very well. I don’t think I’ll be watching any more episodes but I can’t call it a bad show, and if you have no connection to either of the previous incarnations, and maybe even if you do, you just might enjoy the new Tomorrow People.The Tomorrow People airs Wednesday nights on the CW. Check local listings for times in your area.
- ‘The Tomorrow People’ Review (screenphiles.com)
- Premiere Particulars: The Tomorrow People (caragaleblog.wordpress.com)
- Tomorrow People: Just because you’re not crazy doesn’t mean you’re sane (io9.com)
- ‘The Tomorrow People’ Premiere: A Super-Human Star Is Born (hollywoodlife.com)
- The Tomorrow People – Pilot Re-cap and Review (geektotv.wordpress.com)
- The Tomorrow People – “Pilot” (reviewmybanter.wordpress.com)
- Review: ‘Tomorrow People’ evolved from many yesterdays past (latimes.com)
- TV: TV Review: The Tomorrow People (avclub.com)
- The CW Orders Additional Scripts for The Originals, Tomorrow People and Reign (tvline.com)