The Tomorrow People Review: "Pilot" (Episode 1.01)
The surprise isn’t that The Tomorrow People, a cult UK science fiction series that originally ran in the ’70s, is being remade. Heck, the Brits revisited the well twice over the years, once as a ’90s TV series, then again as a series of audio plays.
What is surprising is that this time around a U.S. production company is behind this new edition of The Tomorrow People, and that they were willing to retain a number of elements from the original. Only enough to connect it by some thin threads to a show produced 40 years ago, of course. Beyond that, we’re in a whole new universe.
In this one, an easy-on-the-eyes teen named Stephen Jameson (played by Robbie Arnell) is popping anti-psychotic medication because he keeps waking up in strange places like his next-door neighbors’ bed and keeps hearing a voice that insists that he’s really okay. But he’s not crazy. He’s one of “The Tomorrow People,” a group of homo superiors who are telepathic and telekinetic, and can teleport from place to place.
The voice in his head is a fellow Tomorrow Person, the doe-eyed Cara (Peyton List, in her first major post-Mad Men role). She coaxes Stephen to the underground lair where the rest of their kind reside as they seek some vaunted holy ground where they can be safe and hide from the dangerous eyes of Ultra, an organization that is looking to seek out and either fix or kill the homo superiors before they do some serious damage to the world. As explained by Jedikiah Price (Mark Pellegrino), the head of Ultra, there are young people just learning of their powers and doing dastardly deeds like stealing $70 million from the Federal Reserve or trying to tag the Oval Office.
And wouldn’t you know it, Stephen’s father was also a powerful Tomorrow Person who supposedly had the key or the map or the clues to help them reach the promised land. But he disappeared, maybe at the hands of Ultra. Cara’s hope is that by bringing Stephen into the fold, he can help them contact the elder Jameson.
As you have likely picked up by this point, this new version of The Tomorrow People is trying very hard early on to be all things to all geeks. In place of any firm connection to its source material, the show hooks itself onto a variety of other sci-fi and fantasy franchises. Stephen’s struggle with his newfound powers is straight out of the Star Wars or Harry Potter playbooks. The “Tomorrow People” might as well be an offshoot of X-Men. And Stephen being built up as this potential savior of these homo superiors, complete with the added ability to slow down time, reeks of The Matrix.
In that respect, I’m trying to give the show a little bit of leeway. For one, this is the first episode and if while trying to squeeze as much exposition and motivation for all the characters into an hour-long chunk they have to lean on a little bit of familiar plotting and shorthand to get the ball rolling, they can be forgiven. Especially because in spite of that, they managed to cook up a fairly compelling little show with some great action sequences, and that ended on the right kind of unexpected cliffhanger that has at least one viewer (that would be me) curious to see what happens to Stephen and the rest of the Tomorrow Boys and Girls.