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Journeyman Pilot Revists Past

There is one thing I can say about Journeyman, the new fall show on NBC about a man who travels back in the past without his control. The show is certainly revisiting the past. In fact, you might say you’ve seen this show before…when it was called Quantum Leap

I checked out the pilot tonight, and my impressions are below. Once again, avoid reading if you want to watch the show when it airs on broadcast TV and don’t want to have something spoiled for you.


Dan is a reporter who has a nice house, a loving wife, and a great son. Everything seems to be going his way until he’s suddenly thrust into the past. These episodes of living in the past take random amounts of time out of the present, which certainly upsets the people in his life (boss, wife, brother, etc.)

The production value is high, and the actors do a reasonable job. They are sometimes given stilted dialog and it’s hard to tell if the lines are bad or also badly delivered – the beginning of the show is especially difficult to watch in spots as the actors seem unsure of themselves.

But the overall the formula is exactly the same as the Scott Bakula classic. Dan has to solve some problem in the past and once that is done, he can return. The only real difference is that he travels back and forth between the past and present and that complicates things, but otherwise I guess the series creator figured if it worked back in the early 90’s, it can work again.

The first storyline makes little sense. Super spoilers here.

Dan goes back in the past and ends up saving the life of a guy, Neil, who is trying to kill himself by standing in front of a trolley. Neil says he was going to kill himself because of a girl. Dan goes back to the present, but then returns, and ends up in a cafe with Neil and his girlfriend and ends up convincing her not to abort her child – the implication that in the previous timeline this abortion is what caused Neil to kill himself. Dan returns to the present and finds out that Neil’s wife and kid end up murdered, so then he ends up back in the past again, only this time 10 years later. Dan intends to warn Neil and the wife, but finds them estranged and the wife and kid heading to LA. Dan ends up breaking up Neil’s attempt to kill them by distracting Neil such that he gets hit by a bus. Neil’s son ends up a doctor who then saves the lives of a handful of children after bus accident.

If this makes sense to you, then you should watch future episodes Journeyman. I however can’t make heads or tails of it. I see the irony in getting Neil killed by a bus rather than a trolley, and I see how Dan disrupted the timeline enough to allow Neil’s son to live. But seriously, how convoluted can this get? Should Dan honestly feel good about this? I’m all for real stories that are messy, but this one is just bizarre. Unless others tell me it gets a lot better, I’m going to watch something else.

5 Comments on Journeyman Pilot Revists Past

  1. Oh it gets a lot better. I should know I just jumped back in time to fix something or another and I must say you have no idea what you will be missing.

    Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

  2. I think Kevin McKidd did such an awesome job in HBO’s ROME and is such a great actor that I have to give this one a chance. Of course if the writing turns out to be horrible, even he won’t be able to save it. Keeping my fingers crossed on this…

  3. Scott, I think you missed the part after the final commercial break where he jumped again but this time ended up in bed with Bob Newhart and Suzanna Pleshette just when Bob was waking up and the camera pans over and he was actually Harry Potter.

  4. I don’t see how it’s any different than any other TV show in terms of ‘mysterious forces’ at work behind everything. That seems to be the sure fire easy formula for inducing mystery in a show. Not that I think it’s a great device… just… par for the course.

    Also getting tired of the references to Quantum Leap. Sure, they’re unavoidable but come on… have you watched Quantum Leap lately? Cheesey as hell. Series does NOT hold up well. And what, because there was a time travel series in the late 80s that means one made in 2007 has to be compared to it in denigrating fashion? I don’t buy that.

    In general I think hardcore sci-fi geeks give all new sci-fi a hard time, grilling it to death and are unwilling to appreciate from average Joe’s point of view.

    It’s all been done before, and if you want to go that route should just call it quits for all new sci-fi. I’m sure you can find previous examples for everything if you really want to try — and that’s the core of my point. I’d rather just enjoy it for what it is, and appreciate that mainstream networks are pushing things in a sci-fi direction. Finally, the genre is starting to recieve some love from people other than the most hardcore geeks.

    I can’t help but be happy about that. 🙂

  5. I see your point of view Eric, I just think it doesn’t apply to Journeyman. I liked the new Bionic Woman despite that being a direct reprisal. I loved Firefly, and Babylon 5 and Star Trek. There is good TV sci-fi. It’s just Journeyman that isn’t it.

    My film school friends used the term ‘generic recombination’ to describe the fact that everything has been done before. Heck, there are only a handful of generic fiction archetypes in any case.

    Quantum Leap was a comedy – yes it is campy and silly. I didn’t love it either (or even watch it much) but since the premise is identical you can’t ignore it when writing about Journeyman. In fact, if you read a review that doesn’t refer to QL it means the reviewer is too young to have ever watched the earlier show.

    Hey, maybe it will get better and we’ll all be watching it. I’d be happy with that, no matter what premise it uses.

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