In the last decade, there have been a few superhero team themed series, each with varying degrees of success and quality. Mutant X was the first among them, a series that in my honest opinion ran for too long. There’s Birds of Prey, the first attempt at doing something Batman related but with a terrible plot and even worse writing. There’s Heroes, a show with a fantastic first and 4th (and last) season, but with everything in between pretty much making sure no one was watching by that point; and Alphas, a show that should have never been cancelled, and with a very interesting and likeable cast and even better premise.
So, in late 2013 comes the new attempt at cashing in, with The Tomorrow People, a remake of the 1970s British series, and a show as bad as its pretentious and quite ridiculous name.
After the first episode aired, I decided on giving it a 3-episode chance, meaning the series had 3 episodes to impress me or at least convince me it was worth watching.
Three episodes are up and it has failed miserably in its mission.
The series opens up with Stephen, a “teen” high-school student portrayed by a 20-something year old actor (a prevailing casting sin in this series), who suffers from sleepwalking “episodes” as well as mild schizophrenia, hearing voices and whatnot. Suddenly, he starts hearing a new voice, belonging to the female lead, Cara, and with her help he understands he’s not crazy, just part of a new species, Homo Superior aka The Tomorrow People, with fantastic powers called the Triple-Ts: Telekinesis, Telepathy and Teleportation, and with a genetic inability to kill (something beyond my BTT: Bullshit Tolerance Threshold, or Suspension of Disbelief as its most commonly called), they collapse if they ever go psycho on someone. That didn’t stop Cara from killing her would-be rapist during her breakout (what their awakening is called here), but I can let that detail go.
What I can’t let go is the terrible plot. From the start, the series commits some superhero show sins, and uses more than a few clichés, such as Stephen having almost instant mastery over the Triple-Ts, with only his unique power of Time-stop eluding him and becoming a Deus Ex Machina for the writers to use to get him out of serious trouble, as is the case with Episode 3. Giving him a unique power that no other Superior has ever had is another mistake I can’t forgive; but the worst offender is Stephen’s role as “the chosen one”, with the exact words being said during episodes 1 & 2. Why is he the chosen one? Simple, his father, also Homo Superior, used to be the Tomorrow People’s mentor, basically Xavier, but he vanished while looking for their utopia, a place where they could live and be themselves (aka Genosha); so Stephen’s the only one who can help them find him…even if they have an underused British-accented supercomputer that could do the job for them more easily.
I do have to say the mental illness angle, and Stephen’s father “suffering” from the same “condition” and leaving when he was younger, does create a wonderful bit of family drama and tension, but once Stephen has his powers and finds out the truth about dear old dad, he doesn’t tell his mother and brother anything, and for no real reason; even if the revelation, while shocking, would help with the abandonment trauma they all suffered when daddy left.
The first episode also introduces the villains. Ultra, an organization that uses HSs to hunt others, and either taking their powers, recruiting them or outright killing them, and headed by Jedikiah, revealed as Stephen’s uncle and possibly the best character in the show, but not because it’s a wonderfully written character but because he’s portrayed by the awesome Mark Pellegrino, who does bad guys wonderfully.
By the end of the first episode, Stephen starts working with the bad guys, thinking they’re the best option he has for finding his dad. During episode 2 he realizes this was a bad move, even after every other character told him (at least five times each in Episode 1) how bad they were; but by then he’s stuck in the double agent role, a development that even from the start seems extremely forced, as Stephen is the least subtle of spies and is caught almost red-handed more than once between episodes 2 and 3. Worst of all is his shock at how ruthless and evil Ultra is as an organization, even after Jedikiah’s induction, during which he almost tells him “we’re in the business of homo superior genocide”.
As with other superhero themed shows, there are plenty of special effects for the powers, and they’re pretty good, but even at their best the powers are extremely underwhelming. Teleportation is their location-changing mechanic from scene to scene; and they barely use TK, probably because it’s the power that costs the most money to render. Telepathy is the most commonly used power in the show, and as usual, the projected thoughts sound like an echo.
The action scenes and fights are well choreographed, but they annoy me to no end. These are fights between super-powered people, who have supposedly mastered their abilities, and still they go at each other without even using them, relying on simple martial arts. You’d expect some TK-juggling or some Nightcrawler-styled teleport fighting, but no, just kicking and punching and grabbing. This, for me, is a massively wasted opportunity to highlight the powers and make them interesting beyond shoving trashcans and other inanimate objects.
Characters-wise, the only well written and well-performed ones are Jedikiah as I’ve mentioned, Stephen’s friend Astrid, and Stephen’s mom; the rest being either flat or completely unlikeable (or in Ultra-employees’ case, killed off). Stephen is a dull protagonist and almost clueless and hopelessly optimistic and naïve, which doesn’t match this show’s tone very well, and the rest of the Tomorrow People are self-righteous, self-centered arrogant bastards, and in fact, the only difference between them and Ultra is the different side of the fence.
There’s still hope for the show to pick up and achieve its potential, but from what I’ve seen so far, I highly doubt it.
The Mental Attic Score: There’s better ways to waste an hour.