Friday, 11 October 2013

Pilot: The CW's THE TOMORROW PEOPLE, 1.1 - 'Pilot'

Friday, 11 October 2013

What's it about? The Tomorrow People is a US remake of a cult British sci-fi drama of the same name, that originally airing on ITV between 1973 and 1979, before a revival between 1992 and 1995. The CW remake retains the core premise of outwardly normal young people "breaking out" (i.e. exhibiting psionic powers like telekinesis, telepathy and teleportation).

Who's made it? The original was created by Roger Price (now aged 72 and retired), but this remake has been developed by Greg Berlanti (No Ordinary Family), Phil Klemmer (Chuck) and Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries) for The CW. Danny Cannon (Nikita) directs the pilot and is also a co-producer.

Who stars in it? Robbie Amell (cousin of The Arrow's Stephen Amell) follows in his relative's footsteps by playing a superhero on The CW as protagonist Stephen Jameson. Aussie actor Luke Mitchell (Neighbours) and Aaron Yoo (Friday the 13th) play veteran 'tomorrowers', alongside the gorgeous Peyton List (Mad Men, FlashForward) as rebel leader Cara Coburn. Genre favourite Mark Pellegrino (Supernatural, Lost) plays villainous Jedikiah Price (rehashing his Being Human baddie), and Sarah Clarke (24) appears as Stephen's 'muggle' mother. Jason Dohring (Veronica Mars) doesn't actually appear in this pilot, but he will become part of the series.

What's good about it? This 1970s concept still has merit, even if numerous versions of the idea have been done over the intervening decades. But what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in execution. The new-look Tomorrow People has a slick and fast-moving pilot that covers a lot of ground quickly, includes enough entertaining moments to overshadow its clich├ęs (like Stephen 'sleep teleporting' into a neighbouring couple's bed), and has gathered together an appealing, attractive cast who play their simple roles well. The action was also filmed well and was easy to comprehend.

Robbie Amell will make hearts melt like his big brother, and thankfully has a similar charisma that makes him easy to watch. Luke Mitchell effectively has the Cylops role from X-Men, made even more blatant when it becomes clear he's in a relationship with Peyton List's version of Jean Grey, setting up a love triangle with newcomer Stephen as a cuddlier "Wolverine". There's even a loose Matrix-y feel, in that Stephen's "next level powers" mark him out as The One—leading swiftly to a "bullet time" sequence where Stephen manipulates time to decrease the speed of a bullet heading his way. And I haven't even mentioned the influence Jumper's had on the human teleportation in the show. So yeah, this series is very derivative, even beyond the fact it's a remake.

Away from the style and homages to better things, what lingered most about TMP were some twists in the tale I didn't expect. It would be too much of a spoiler to say more, but the back-story of Jedikiah and where the pilot leaves us in terms of the "hero's journey" was actually very interesting. (Although fans of the original will have a different reason to be interested in Jedikiah).

I also appreciated how the story didn't deal in black-and-white morals, when you heard Jedikiah's perspective on the dangers posed by 'tomorrow people' you actually understood his argument for neutralising the "homo superiors".

What's bad about it? However TMP manages to differentiate itself in small ways from its peers, it will never escape the fact it's just another iteration in an overexposed sub-genre post-Heroes. Syfy only recently axed Alphas, which covered similar territory. I do wonder if we haven't hit critical mass by now (even in receptive geek cliques), as the novelty value of seeing superheroes on TV is dropping like a stone. Are people still keen to watch good-looking guys and girls throw people around rooms with the power of their mind?

I always found it very dumb the Tomorrow People are inhibited from killing people, which evens the playing field against people without super-powers.

Is it worth sticking with? The pilot's ending was unusual enough for me to set a record for next week (despite it feeling a little forced by the writing), although I have a feeling things will eventually settle into the more typical 'us versus them' storyline, with The Tomorrow People pursued by Jedikiah's People. But hopefully not.

Anything else worth mentioning? Did you know that the voice of the super-computer TIM is provided by Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens? I'd be cynical about that trivia, but if it's good enough for Paul Bettany (Iron Man's super-computer Jarvis) who am I to argue with that career choice?

I'm guessing Stephen's LONDON poster was a nod to the show's British origins.

Where and when does it air? Every Wednesday on The CW in the US for the next 13 weeks. E4 have the UK rights and it's expected to air early-2014.