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TIME AFTER TIME Doesn’t Travel to Quite the Right Place (Review)

TIME AFTER TIME Doesn’t Travel to Quite the Right Place (Review)

Warning: Minor spoilers follow for the Time After Time premiere.

ABC is throwing their hat into the time travel drama ring with the premiere of Time After Time… or are they? Press material states this is not a time travel show but “a series that looks at the world of today through the eyes of yesterday.” H.G. Wells and his time machine are at the show’s heart, however, so there is a measure of time hopping. Series executive producer Kevin Williamson told a group of reporters time travel happens three to four times in season one, in which the story unfolds over a period of about three weeks. So, there’s time travel but the show doesn’t center on it. Make sense?

It doesn’t, and the hesitancy to fully embrace the time travel aspect of it all may harm the series. But let’s stick to discussing the two-hour premiere rather than speculating. As you might guess from the name, the show is an adaptation of the 1979 film Time After Time featuring H.G. Wells going forward through time to find his colleague Dr. John Stevenson, a.k.a. Jack the Ripper. The show is directly inspired by the movie starring Malcolm McDowell and David Warner. Williamson’s a fan and said, “We do a very faithful adaptation in the pilot. There’s no question about it. I love that movie. Then, we pulled in the thread of where the series is going to go–which you see in episode two. It starts to evolve and expand beyond the premise of the movie.”

Freddie Stroma and Josh Bowman step in as Wells and Stevenson, respectively, and they have big shoes to fill. Stroma brings an optimistic, earnest character to the screen, while Bowman layers on charm mixed with a healthy dose of terror and mischievous as Jack. The potential for interesting scenes between the two characters is there, but the more fascinating part in the premiere is how they react to modern day New York after putting boots on the ground from the nineteenth century.

Wells expects to find his utopia, a world without violence where advances in technology and science have had a profound effect. Stevenson is the glass half empty who predicts the future is just as bad if not worse than their present day. Guess who’s right? Because of Stevenson’s attitude, he’s more accepting of the noise around him. It was a deliberate move. Bowman explained, “We wanted to make him somewhat of a chameleon, someone hard to catch. We want Wells to jump through more hoops than John would have to. Wells expects a utopia, and when my character gets into the world, he jumps in headfirst and drinks it up and finds out how to use these different instruments and gadgets to give him an edge.”

He needs the edge because Wells is trying to get Stevenson back to the past so he can be apprehended for his crimes. The cat and mouse game is what drives the plot, but other factors come into play. There’s Wells’ family connection, which is incredibly convenient but not unbelievable, and also a love story. Upon arriving in New York, Wells almost immediately meets Jane Walker (Genesis Rodriguez). She’s a contradiction. The character talks about being independent and not needing a love interest and Rodriguez pointed out how she gets to be the hero and save Wells “time after time,” but it doesn’t jibe with what we see.

Jane shows kindness to Wells, but the helping hand becomes familiar too quickly–and I’m not talking about a physical relationship. Women can be both independent and romantic, I’m not saying otherwise. The aspect about their relationship that puts me off is how fast they seem to be comfortable with each other. Even if there’s a “connection,” I would have liked a slower burn for the sake of making it feel more realistic. And from a practical aspect, Jane doesn’t seem like the sort who would allow a total stranger into her apartment, much less let him sleep on her couch.

That said, Rodriguez does bring a fun air to Jane. Aside from the Wells infatuation, she’s wholly likable with her pragmatic qualities and open mind. For example, she thankfully gets over the whole time travel disbelief within a few scenes.

Though it may not be tagged as a time travel show, it faces the tropes other period roaming series do–things like comments about not altering the timeline or ripping the fabric of time, convincing others time travel is real, and the whole man-out-of-time bit. Time After Time hits many slots on the Bingo card. The requisite jokes about technology and subjects like Tinder are amusing if not terribly original.

All in all, Time After Time has promising ideas and some sold chemistry between various characters, but it’s only scraping the surface. The upshot is the foundation is stable and the cast is solid. They can overcome some stumbles if the overreaching arc is strong enough. Will it be? Time will tell.

3-burritos3

Time After Time debuts with a two-hour premiere on Sunday, March 5, at 9:00p.m. ET/PT on ABC. If you can guess how many times I used the word time in this article, I will consider giving you a prize.

Images: ABC

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