'The Tomorrow People' premiere: A little of everything, with just a bit of something
The Tomorrow People is based on a ’70s British sci-fi series which is probably fondly remembered by people who are definitely not in the CW’s target demographic. Not having been alive in the ’70s, I can remember — fondly, albeit very vaguely — the ’90s reboot of The Tomorrow People, which aired in the US Nickelodeon and starred future-Moneypenny Naomie Harris. The ’90s Tomorrow People had the advantage of being a a science-fiction show at a time when science-fiction was not everywhere. It had a serialized mystery involving an alien spaceship. In the context of early-’90s television, everything I just wrote was mindbending. It also had a lead character whose nickname was “Megabyte.” Few things age worse than mediocre science-fiction.
The newest reboot of Tomorrow People is pitched directly at the contemporary crowd of YA-inflected genre fans. Produced in part by Greg Berlanti and Julie Plec — which is to say, the people behind roughly half of the CW’s current schedule — Tomorrow People starts with a troubled teenager named Steven who is an attractive troubled teenager who wears Amazing Spider-Man hoodies and is undergoing some weird changes. His superpowers are emerging; he’s actually part of an emergent race of superhumans, who have to live in secret in order to protect themselves from blah blah blah, we’ve all seen X-Men and fifty years of X-Men riffs so you get the picture.
In this iteration, the superhumans are called “Tomorrow People.” That bit of introduction comes from Peyton List, aka Mrs. Sterling #2 from Mad Men, who spends much of the premiere offering exposition. “We didn’t choose the name, I swear,” she says apologetically, perhaps realizing that “Tomorrow People” sounds incredibly old-fashioned.
The Tomorrow People have three main powers: Teleportation, Telepathy, and Telekinesis. This rule is established early on and then thrown aside by the end of the first episode, when it’s established that Steven has the power to stop Time. (Fortunately, “Time-Stopping” is still a “T” word, so the alliteration holds.) The Tomorrow People are caught in a shadow war with a government agency known as Ultra, which enlists Tomorrow People to their cause and can dampen their powers. They are led by Jacob from Lost.
It also turns out that Steven’s father was a powerful Tomorrow Person and that he has a grand destiny and something about a Promised Land. The series premiere of Tomorrow People was overflowing with mythology and underflowing on interesting drama; there was about a ten-minute span that was just Peyton List and a cool blond guy showing Steven around their secret headquarters and telling him all about the Tomorrow People. But there’s nothing wrong with laying a large groundwork of mythology — and Tomorrow People took some interesting zigzags in its closing minutes that could make the show interesting.
Well, “some interesting zigzags.” Actually, the show seemed to toss half its concept out the window. See, after capturing Steven and then losing him, Jacob from Lost paid a visit to his house. It turns out that he’s actually his uncle, named Jedikiah, which was originally the name of a shape-changing alien robot in the old-school Tomorrow People. I bring that up partially because it’s nice of the show to service fans who probably won’t watch this reboot and partially to hopefully imply that this show might get crazy enough to feature shape-changing alien robots. Uncle Jed tries to tell Steven that everything he has heard about the Tomorrow People is a lie; that they’re actually terrorists, basically; and that he should come work for him.
Steven finishes the episode in a surprising place, working for his uncle at Ultra…although he’s apparently only doing that to serve as a double agent for the Tomorrow People. So basically this show is the first season of Nikita remixed with The Vampire Diaries. It’s unclear how the show will fit in the fact that Steven is still technically a high school student in the mix here, but much time was spent on his friendship with a fellow misfit-y student named Astrid. The whole thing seems like a bit of a mess and like a freefloating remix of everything cool from the last decade of science-fiction. But hey, teleportation fight scenes are cool. So Tomorrow People has that going for it, which is nice.