Ads for the new series The Tomorrow People run with the tagline “Different is Dangerous,” which, considering this is one of several iterations of the same sci-fi drama over the past 30-or-so years might be saying something about the endless cycle of rehashed ideas, re-imaginings, and recycled plots. But looking at the familiar conceit of a series that follows a group of outsiders who represent the next step in human evolution, it’s not hard to imagine why a television network would be interested in adding that to its line-up.
Launching on the British ITV network in the ’70s, The Tomorrow People popped up in various forms again in the ’90s and early 2000s, and has found its way to CW’s airwaves to be filled with the requisite CW style casting choices that now apparently includes finding a member of the Amell clan. But the show also brings along at least two recognizable faces that can be picked out among the throngs of benignly attractive people who make up the rest of the cast. One of which, Mark Pellegrino (Supernatural, Being Human) will likely have some crossover appeal, whereas Peyton List, who played Roger Sterling’s second wife Jane on Mad Men, may not. That being said, the series obviously plays more to the strengths of Pellegrino’s resume and, as such, relies heavily on the actor’s presence and his ability to sell affable menace in the pilot, as the villainous Dr. Jedikiah Price.
Developed by Phil Klemmer, the series manages a similar tone as some of his past efforts like Veronica Mars and Chuck – as is the case when Peyton List says “We’re called ‘tomorrow people. We didn’t choose the name, we swear.” While that bit of meta-dialogue isn’t too frequent in the pilot episode, it does help lighten things up some and makes getting through the initial slog of exposition a little more enjoyable. To the show’s credit, it seems as excited to get through the getting-to-know-you phase as quickly as possible, devoting roughly the first half of the pilot to explaining the three Ts of Tomorrow People: telepathy, teleportation, and telekinesis, as well as setting up the series’ antagonists in Ultra agents run by the aforementioned Dr. Price.
There is also the domestic component to Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell), who, in addition to balancing a new life of ostensibly becoming a superhero, has a single mother, a younger brother, a mysteriously absent father, and all the trials and tribulations of high school (i.e., girls, bullies, science class) to deal with as well. Despite what must have been a mind-blowing string of days for him, the pilot manages to find some structure within the bustle of Stephen’s burgeoning Tomorrow Person abilities that also opens up the plot for the storylines yet to come. It is a crowded episode that builds to a crescendo multiple times – all of which allude to a larger aspect of the series, and Stephen’s role in it – and is as ridden with sci-fi and superhero tropes as you might expect. The inclusion of all this information also asks: why now and not later? – but the possible benefits/drawbacks to this approach likely won’t be seen for weeks to come. Besides, given the scale of the pilot episode, it makes sense to cram as much spectacle into that space as possible, as the restraints of a weekly series may result in a heavier reliance on character interaction than dynamic displays of Tomorrowness.
The show might face another roadblock in terms of just how hard-faced and stern most of its characters are presented. Other than Aaron Yoo’s Russell Kwan, the Tommorow People generally come off as slightly weary and overly aggressive – Luke Mitchell’s John Young, in particular – and while that characterization certainly fits with the setting and tone, the show will get a lot more mileage out of that depiction if it’s used in a more strategic manner, rather than a general approach to all things Tomorrow Person.
But that’s The Tomorrow People in a nutshell; it maintains a certain appeal without necessarily expressing itself in a particularly novel manner. Even a cursory glance at the pilot episode will yield a treasure trove of stylistic and narrative influences from X-Men comics, to The Matrix and beyond (not to mention the series from which it is adapted). And while it’s not dealing with new concepts, or even approaching its ideas them from an original angle, the series could prove to be an interesting jaunt down a familiar path simply by expanding on the traits that are inherent in its DNA. It’s clear in this pilot episode that the show isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel; it’s simply taking it for a spin around a different block.
The Tomorrow People continues next Wednesday with ‘In Too Deep’ @9pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: