The 2016-2017 television season has been overrun with shows featuring time travel. Last year, The CW got things started with DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (and we have to give special mention to the network’s The Flash which also dabbles in messing with the space time continuum), and this season the same network introduced Frequency — which has people communicating through time by magic radio — while NBC had Timeless and Fox has just introduced Making History, the only time travel comedy.
On the same night Fox premiered Making History, ABC jumped into the fray with their own time travel drama Time After Time, based on the cult classic movie from 1979. The movie, with a screenplay by Nicholas Meyer who also directed, posits that famed author H.G. Wells (“The Time Machine”, “War of the Worlds”) got his idea for one of his most famous works because he actually built a working time machine in his basement (in 1893, mind you). Wells was also friends with Dr. John Stevenson who, it turns out, is Jack the Ripper. While paying a visit to his friend one night after committing another murder, the police show up at Wells’ door, find the murder weapon in Stevenson’s bag, but cannot find a trace of the suspect … because he took off in Wells’ contraption, landing in 1979 San Francisco where he found he fit in perfectly well. Wells was able to chase him there because Stevenson did not have the key to hold the machine in place so it returned to its starting point. Wells, finding the future is not the Utopia he believed it would be, falls in love and needs to find his friend before he kills again.
And that is exactly what the first two episodes of the TV series Time After Time is also about, pretty much following the movie’s storyline scene for scene save for moving the date of arrival to 2017 and the location to New York City. In both cases, the men emerge from a the time machine which is on display in an exhibit about H.G. Wells. The series needs to add a new plot device in the form of Vanessa Anders (Nicole Ari Parker), the current owner of the time machine who also has some familial connection to Wells, yet neither of them know how but she becomes his ally in trying to track down Stevenson so Wells can take him back to 1893.
Time travel is always tricky business when constructing a story around the concept, especially when famous figures are incorporated. In Time After Time‘s present, Wells is a renowned author but has yet to write any of his books, and is quite thrilled when he learns he is a published author. So we already assume he does return to his own time at some point when the series comes to an end. During an encounter with Jane Walker (Genesis Rodriguez), the museum curator who becomes smitten with Wells’ innocence, Stevenson is told that he’s the most famous serial killer in the world … but no one knows his name, only the Jack the Ripper moniker. This doesn’t sit well with Stevenson, but it also leads us to conclude he does not make it back to jolly old England to be tried for his crimes.
The two leads, thankfully, are engaging (although not quite as riveting as Malcolm McDowall and David Warner in the movie). Josh Bowman, perhaps best known to TV audiences for his role on ABC’s Revenge, cuts a menacing figure with the ability to be super suave when targeting his next victim and downright frightening when his dark side kicks in. It’s odd though how quickly he assimilates into modern society, quickly mastering the use of a cell phone and the internet. And while he’s certainly easy on the eyes, did Stevenson have a membership at Ye Olde Planet Fitness in 1893? He’s really a bit too buffed out, but I’m sure most viewers will not have any complaints.
Freddie Stroma, from Lifetime’s UnREAL, does bring a nice sense of wonder to the Wells character once he arrives in 2017. It’s fun to see his delight as he walks through Times Square, and we feel his utter despair as he sees that mankind has not advanced much past the violent behaviors as he had expected. But one really shouldn’t expect a Utopian society in just 125 years time. Wells’ awkwardness endears him to Jane and the viewer, making him someone we really want to root for.
While most viewers probably have not seen the original movie, the pilot episode will feel awfully familiar to those who have. The spin comes with the introduction of Vanessa and the little hint that Wells made a trip to the future once before, telling her of their relationship and leaving himself a message that she gives him which is frustratingly vague. That leaves us with the question of whether the quest to track down the Ripper will carry on over the course of the season, or will he be dispatched quickly while the quest to put together the pieces of Vanessa’s lineage becomes the story’s arc, setting up more episodes of Wells gallivanting across time.
With a decent cast and story (and kudos for bringing Meyer on board to write the second episode), Time After Time looks like it could be intriguing enough to fill the void left by the Timeless season finale.
Did you watch Time After Time? What did you think? Let us know in the comments section below!