TV Review: The Tomorrow People (2013)

The Tomorrow People

The Tomorrow People was a relatively entertaining show, and surprisingly, in my opinion it did something that a lot of other shows failed to do, which was remake a show originally developed for the British market in America, see the US versions of Shameless, Skins and The Inbetweeners for examples of shows which failed to make the transition successfully. Also see Being Human, The Office and Queer as Folk for examples of shows which did managed to translate the original source material decently across the pond.

I think that the success of some of the show I listed above, was due to the same key factor, and that is identity, the shows which I feel were most successful did so because they managed to take elements from the British original but also took off on their own, to make the point clearer, The US versions of The Office and Being Human in particular did not start particularly strong, both were just carbon copies of the original, but as soon as they started to use original plot they began to becoming more engaging shows, and in the case of The Office, arguably outpaced the original in terms of popularity.

Anyway, The Tomorrow People joins some of the fellow luminaries listed above in being a successful adaption of a British TV show. The Original Tomorrow People ran from 1973 to 1979, and it had a distinctly Doctor Who feel to it, which is not unsurprising given that ITV, the television channel in Britain that it aired on, was looking for their own answer to the longstanding BBC science fiction show.

The remake, from the get go was a very different beast to the original, which I’ve already suggested is part of why I liked it. The original was firstly a product of its era, with special effects that seem a little bit silly in hindsight, and the scope of the show was also significantly broader, dealing with everything from devil worshippers to alien invasions. The remake however, is far more limited, focusing on just ‘The Tomorrow People’ who I will expand upon later, and they also removed some of the more obviously Sci-fi elements, no aliens, little to no super tech, they did however keep the advanced artificial intelligence called TIM, a decision I personally was in favour of. But I suppose the shows, despite being canonically set in the same universe, are very different animals. The remake comes on the heels of dozens of big budget superhero movies such as Iron-Man, Kick-Ass and Batman, whereas the original as I mentioned up top was conceived to compete with Doctor Who, so the differences are understandable, and to use the phrase again, both shows are a product of their time.

So both do different things, but I feel like they conceptually have some of the same bones, and are both in their own ways entertaining to watch. That being said, the remake, I felt struggled to find it’s feet, so I wasn’t altogether surprised when it was cancelled after only one season, although I do admit to being disappointed by that fact, especially considering how and where they left the story. If you want to read about another show I felt was cancelled too soon then click here.

Okay, that was a lot of set up, and I haven’t talked too directly about the actual show yet, so lets rectify that. Throughout the 22 episode season we follow Stephen Jameson (played by Robbie Amell) who has recently begun to ‘Break Out’, which is the shows terminology for when someone who is a tomorrow person and has started to experiment subconsciously with their abilities. As it turns out, the Tomorrow People are the next step in human evolution, classified as ‘Homo Superior’ due to their superhuman capabilities. Due to this, the overall superpower thing and the sudden outbreak of other super-humans across the planet, you get a real feel of Heroes from the show, but it certainly had it’s own identity.

In the show, The Tomorrow People, as a collective are all gifted with one of three powers, proficiency with them varies, but each member appears to be able to do use their power to some degree or another, those powers are known at the three T’s (namely Telekinesis, Telepathy and Teleportation). They use these powers to survive against a shadowy, pseudo-governmental organisation called Ultra which is pursuing them. Their also exists a fourth ability, called Temporal manipulation, and is so incredibly rare that their are only two examples of it within the shows canon, those being the main character (obviously) and the main character’a father, Jack Jameson (played by Jeffrey Pierce). 

Something that always irritates me about these types of shows, like X-Men or Heroes is that when you have people with superpowers, and they are being subjugated by normal humans, it’s just not believable. At least The Tomorrow People provide us with a serviceable explanation for this, apparently the Tomorrow people aren’t always physically superior to humans, but also morally, they have a genetic block that physically prevents them from killing, and if they attempt it they will suffer a debilitating and blinding headache until their either stop or pass out.
 
I mentioned that the remake borrows sparingly from the original, the backstory for the show remains pretty consistent though, even the explanation for the name. They are apparently called The Tomorrow People because they are the next step in human evolution, so in effect they are literally the people of tomorrow.

So we come into the story, while Stephen is still ‘Breaking Out’, he has chalked up the first steps of his burgeoning abilities, such as hearing voices and suddenly being in places he shouldn’t be with no memory of how he got there to suffering from schizophrenia, with the drugs he is taking to treat his ‘condition’ actually retarding the development of his abilities. It’s continues that way until he meets Cara Coburn (played by Peyton List) a member of The Tomorrow People, that he is convinced he’s not crazy. It took relatively little convincing, but that’s the power of a pretty face I guess. 

Something I did like was that their relationship was complex from the offset, Cara is clearly a very caring individual, so she’s protective of Stephen, who clearly also needs protection and guidance, maybe a little bit of mothering. But they also are obviously attracted to one another, giving him a viable alternative to his best friend Astrid Finch (Madeleine Mantock) who is in the nebulous friend territory. They also seem to have an instinctive, bond, presumably because both are telepaths, but more likely because of plot convince. That bond also sets the cat amongst the pigeons so to speak because Cara’s boyfriend and the de-facto leader of the group John Young (played by Luke Mitchell) was already wary of bringing another stray into their community, was jealous of Stephen’s raw power, and his status as the son of the original leader of their community, and obviously just the usual alpha male stuff. 

He very quickly meets other members of The Tomorrow People community, the most prominent of which, and the most worth mentioning being Russell Kwon (played by Aaron Yoo) who was one of the best things about the show, and he becomes even more interesting once his background is fleshed out in a later episode. Their goal is to use Stephen to stop Ultra, the shadowy organisation I mentioned earlier, he is in fact uniquely placed because his uncle, Jedikiah Price (played by Mark Pellegrino) is the head of the organisation. Pellegrino’s character is another bright spot for this show, he is deeply complex, clearly aligned with the ‘bad guys’, with honest reasons for disliking or fearing the Tomorrow People, after all, if they are the next step, what happens to regular old humanity? But also selfish reasons, both his brother and nephew were gifted with incredible gifts, and yet he was not. Loyal to his organisation, but also deeply reticent to kill either his brother, his nephew or John Young with whom he has an almost father/son like relationship. He contains multitudes, and Pelligrino has the depth and gravitas to play such a complicated character, just see his role as Lucifer on Supernatural. Side note, and only because I mentioned it up top, but he also starred in the US version of Being Human where he played a character called Bishop, whose relationship/dynamic with the main vampire character called Aidan Waite (played by Sam Witwer) isn’t entirely dissimilar to his relationship/dynamic with John.

Speaking of backgrounds and relationships, the show does pacing really well, we learn about the various characters steadily and in a way that feels more natural, linking it to the events of the episode at hand.

Overall I would say the characters were strong, felt realistic, and were engaging enough, the story itself was reasonably well written, and had good pacing and forward momentum. It obviously struggled and it was far from perfect, but I do think it was a mistake not renewing it for at least a second season. Thankfully however, you do at least have 22 episodes to enjoy, and you can always go back and watch the original British version as well. So with that all said and done, I think I will give The Tomorrow People (2013) a rating of 7.5/10.

 

First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org/


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