Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks - TV EDITION: Time Travel

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through The Shelves. Join us as every week, we pick three titles that fit the week's theme and tell everyone a bit about them!

We are traveling again this week, this time through time, on the small screen. And I'll be honest, there's really only one TV show about time travel that I really care about right now, and it took some time for me to think of two others. But think of them I did, and they had something rather surprising in common...

Life on Mars (2008-2009) Based on the UK series of the same name, this one season wonder starred Jason O'Mara as a present-day cop who gets hit by a car and wakes up in the '70s. He's still himself, and he gets flashes of his life via his TV set somehow, but he's living in the '70s, no doubt about it! Thankfully, he's still working as a cop. But the style of police work is much different from what he's used to, as exemplified by the police chief played by Harvey Keitel - which should be all I have to say about the character for you to get the picture. A bumpy ride, perhaps a bit too concerned with the mystery of the time travel (although the way they wrapped it up was very clever, I thought), but it's a lot of fun once you stop worrying about that.

Terra Nova (2011) The one season wonder starred Jason O'Mara as a cop in the year 2049, who travels back in time with his family to the Cretaceous period, as their world has become near-uninhabitable. But he almost gets detained for trying to smuggle their newborn baby with them, and once he sneaks through, has to convince the leadership on Terra Nova that his skills as a cop are vital. Thankfully, there's a rebel group of settlers working for a corporate interest causing all sorts of havoc, so he's allowed to stay. When it fully embraced the sci-fi elements at its core, Terra Nova was kind of thrilling, but it was too simplistic and nonsensical overall to really hold together - although LORD did Jason O'Mara REALLY try!

Doctor Who (1963-1989, 2005-present) The world's longest-running TV series (I'm PRETTY SURE), by virtue of its lead character: A time-traveling alien from the planet Gallifrey, known only as The Doctor, who can regenerate himself into a different body when he "dies". The original series is fun in a kitschy, almost-campy, Saturday morning show for kids kind of way, but the new series ups the stakes and the visual effects to create something truly thrilling. This is long-form, serial storytelling at its absolute best, with tremendous performances from each of the thirteen men who have stepped into the Doctor's TARDIS (that's "Time And Relative Dimension In Space" to you, and yes it looks like a British police call box, and YES it's bigger on the inside), as well as from most of the pretty young things who play his earthly "companions" in his travels. In any given episode, Doctor Who can go anywhere and be anything, from horror ("Blink") to romance ("The Girl in the Fireplace") to allegory ("Cold War") to slapstick comedy ("The Lodger") and absolutely everything in between. But mostly, it's just a lot of fun, with overarching plots that actually hold together on both the macro and micro levels, and consistently satisfying individual episodes littered with great performances from a veritable who's-who of great British thespians.


  1. The only one I've seen is Doctor Who, but I do remember Terra Nova kind of crashing and burning. lol

    1. It's really sad because all the elements were there for Terra Nova to be REALLY good, but the corporate interests kind of ironed out everything interesting in their effort to get it to appeal to all quadrants.

  2. How sad is it that I've never seen even one episode of Doctor Who?

    1. Not gonna lie, it's pretty sad, Dell! But only because you're missing out - plenty of us Americans have never seen it!

  3. OOOO I LOVED Life on Mars (and a Jason O'Mara mini-theme is very welcome) and it's a great fit but I used it earlier for the TV cop theme. It was fun and clever with that incredible cast. I was so sorry it didn't last.

    I watched Terra Nova expressly because it starred Jason O'Mara, and he did try hard to make it work, and at the beginning it was cool and fun but started to get ragged after a bit but had it lasted I would have stuck with it.

    I've tried with Dr. Who but it's just not my kettle of fish.

    I went with a newer show and two that I loved dearly when I was a kid and recently revisited thanks to a couple of the nostalgia held up and one did not despite having Imogene Coca in the cast.

    Atlantis (2013-2015)-When marine scientist Jason (Jack Donnelly) is mysteriously transported from present day England to the legendary land of Atlantis via a deep sea accident he discovers a world of legend and myth ruled by King Minos and his scheming Queen, Pasiphae. At first he blunders about but shortly is befriended by Hercules (Mark Addy)-not yet the strong man of legend and Pythagoras a brilliant but poor youth. As time passes Jason encounters monsters and gods as well as the mysterious Oracle (Juliet Stevenson) who has expected Jason’s arrival and holds the secrets to his destiny and the fate of his father who vanished when Jack was young. A little silly and too contemporary at times but a fun show with an excellent cast.

    The Time Tunnel (1966)-“Two American scientists are lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages in their first experiments on America’s greatest and most secret project…”The Time Tunnel”! Tony Newman (James Darren) and Doug Phillips (Robert Colbert) now tumble helplessly towards a new fantastic adventure somewhere along the infinite corridors of time!”

    So began this short lived series of adventures through time where each week the pair landed to witness another piece of history (the sinking of the Titanic, the signing of the Magna Carta, etc.) overseen by a team scientists and military able to shift them through time periods but unable to return them to the present. Created by master of disaster Irwin Allen.

    It’s About Time (1966-1967)-Goofy comedy created by Brady Brunch mastermind Sherwood Schwartz concerning two astronauts traveling faster than the speed of light who end up in prehistoric times that is best described by its theme song sung in rhyme:

    “It’s about time, it’s about space,
    About two men in the strangest place.
    It’s about time, it’s about flight.
    Traveling faster than the speed of light.
    Here is their tale, of the brave crew.
    As through the barrier of time they flew.
    Past the fighting Minute Men.
    Past an armored knight.
    Past a Roman warrior.
    To this ancient site.

    It’s about caves, cavemen too.
    About a time when the Earth was new.
    Wait’ll they see what is in sight.
    Is it good luck or is it good night?
    It’s about two astronauts.
    It’s about their fate.
    It’s about a woman,
    And her prehistoric mate.
    And now, It’s About Time!”

    1. LOL THAT THEME SONG! GOD I miss theme songs!

      Time travel TV shows are tough to get right... Life on Mars mostly did, I think. It was only when it got bogged down in the larger mystery that it got frustrating, but when it focused on the characters it was fun. Atlantis... did not for me. Way too contemporary feeling, even allowing for the time travel angle.

      I've always thought that one's attitude towards Doctor Who depends largely on the first episode you watch. The first one I ever saw was the stand-alone episode "Midnight" with David Tennant's Doctor, which is really all kinds of great - a brilliant Twilight Zone-esque morality play-cum-locked room mystery in miniature. But if you first watch an episode that is too focused on the overarching story (like, say, "Let's Kill Hitler") or one that isn't to your tastes, it could put you off for good.

  4. I haven't seen any of these but I want to start Doctor Who.

    1. DO IT! It's so good - really great storytelling and fun sci-fi adventures.

  5. I could never get into Dr. Who especially with those daleks that reminded me of salt shakers. My niece loves Dr. Who especially David Tennant. I did see the episode with those horrifying angel statues...they freaked me out. Life on Mars was great but I kept missing it and need to watch a many ,episodes. I didn't watch Terra Nova because I could not understand how they could think that paradise would be in a time period with dinosaurs.

  6. Doctor Who!!!!!! It's not as great anymore right now I think... but I'm looking forward to the next season without Moffat. -Mette

  7. I think I've seen a little bit of each. Doctor Who I just can't because it's a little silly as well like you mention yeah not for me.