Remember the late 70s movie Time After Time? It starred Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), David Warner (Time Bandits, Tron), and Mary Steenburgen (Back to the Future III)? It’s okay if you don’t remember it. Time After Time has become one of those lost classics that turns up every now and then on a cable channel.
McDowell plays H.G. Wells, the writer. Wells conveniently completes a time machine at the same time police are ready to arrest Warner’s John Leslie Stevenson, aka Jack the Ripper. Of course, Stevenson jumps into the machine and takes off to the future followed shortly by Wells. In the future, Wells meets Steenburgen’s Amy. The two hunt down Stevenson and after the typical cat-and-mouse chase win the day.
Time After Time is dated and at times feels like a made for television movie. It’s still a fun film to watch if you don’t take it too seriously. The action/chase scenes are good, but not edge of your seat. It has humorous moments as well. The scene of Wells discovering McDonald’s french fries is one of the better scenes in the movie. Plus, David Warner makes an excellent bad guy.
Now ABC has remade the movie for television and the results are…well…not good.
Pilots should do two things. The first, set the tone for the episodes to follow. The second, grab the audience so they want to watch the rest of the series. The Time After Time pilot fails to do the second and if we judge the series on the pilot there’s not much there to grab us.
The pilot manages to boil down the two hour movie, not including the ending, into the first half of the episode. It also manages to boil out anything that made the original good. Even by television standards the action in Time After Time is boring. Actually, that’s not a fair statement. There’s a lot of series on television that deliver great action, however, Time After Time isn’t one of them. The scenes intended to scare or excite us fail to do so and are only mildly amusing.
The acting shares a lot of the blame in why the pilot fails to grab the audience. None of the actors can convince the viewer that anything is wrong or why we should care. Genesis Rodriguez’s constant crying gets old fast. It doesn’t make the viewer scared for her, but it does get the viewer annoyed with her. She cries a lot for a character who early in the episode bragged that she was a gun owning Texas girl.
Freddie Stroma stumbles as the Wells character. Stroma does a good job as the new resident in modern America trying to find his way. However, those moments are few and don’t last very long. The series quickly makes him into a tough guy wannabe that Stroma can’t pull off.
One character in the series that’s not in the movie is Vanessa Anders. Anders is Wells’s great-great granddaughter who steps in to help Wells. At some point in time, Wells time jumped to the future in order to have her warn him of something that will happen in the more distant future. It’s pretty convoluted reasoning that the episode does nothing to straighten out. The reason, we assume, will be explained in a later episode. None of this matters because Nicole Ari Parker’s Anders delivers lines like she’s just not interested in the series.
The generally poor acting does highlight the great acting of Josh Bowman. Bowman plays the Stevenson/Ripper character not as madman, but as someone who is totally in control of his madness. It’s creepy at times to watch his portrayal. Unfortunately, the writers have him holding a knife to Jane’s throat more than having make the viewers feel uncomfortable.
As a whole, the pilot episode is boring. However, scenes from future episodes make it seem like the cast will be time jumping all over the place. There does seem to be an increase in the action and adventure. These future scenes also make it look like Time After Time will be another time travel series like Timeless.
Do we need another time traveling series? Another series where the villain or villain is trying to manipulate time as future scenes make it seem? Yes, if it’s good television and if it takes the idea into a new direction. Time After Time does not seem to be that series.
Instead of time jumping around history Time After Time should be about Jack the Ripper in 21st Century America. Imagine a series about a Victorian era serial killer finding his way in a new world chased by a friend clinging to the old world. That particular series has a wide range of possibilities. As it stands, I wouldn’t bet on a second season of Time After Time.