Who needs Scotty to beam you up when you can teleport — that is, use your mind to transport yourself from one place to another? Not the stars of The Tomorrow People, an offbeat science-fiction miniseries on Nickelodeon this week.
Just like their audience, the Tomorrow People are regular modern-day kids — until they discover that they possess some special powers: the ability to teleport, to read minds, and even to breathe life back into dead people. No sooner do they learn how to use their newfound talents, however, than they are pursued by power-hungry adults eager to capture them and exploit their secrets.
Intended to represent the next stage in human evolution, the Tomorrow People come from all over the globe. Adam (Kristian Schmid), a long-haired, sensitive Australian hunk-in-the-making, leads off the opening credits, having teleported onto an island where an ancient spaceship crash-landed; the island soon becomes the Tomorrow People’s headquarters. He meets up with Kevin (Adam Pearce), a British boy who is so psychic that he can literally teleport in his sleep, and Kevin’s schoolmate Marmaduke (Christian Tessier), known to his friends as Megabyte, a rambunctious, redheaded American whose father is involved in international scientific research. The three eventually befriend Lisa (Kristen Ariza), who doesn’t know what teleporting is until she does an inadvertent disappearing act during a talent show in Virginia.
Unfolding slowly over the four nights, the complicated story lumbers from one vignette to another with few connecting scenes. In fact, the locale changes so often — one minute Britain, the next the U.S., the next the island with the spaceship — that the producer, Roger Price, decided to add captions to help kids follow the action.
Despite the confusion, however, suspense builds as the teens pop in and out of the picture, always one step ahead of the venal adults and trying to make contact with understanding parents. As much espionage thriller as otherworldly science fiction, the chase-filled series gets tense at times — but never so scary that the kids will be asking for that old night-light again. Besides, even an adult can see that the Tomorrow People are cool (Megabyte wears Ren and Stimpy T-shirts and MTV jackets) and ready for anything.
The action helps to disguise the cast’s less-than-Olivier-esque acting (if you close your eyes during some speeches, you can almost see the typing on the script pages). Still, the actors are likable, particularly ponytailed Kristian Schmid: Preteen girls will go wild over this 18-year-old star of European soaps.
Young sci-fi groupies may be less enthused by the limited special effects, however. Sure, they’ll like the part when the kids teleport away just in time to escape being hit by a truck, but they’ll be turned off by the old alien spaceship that looks more like it came from Flash Gordon than from Total Recall.
As with a lot of science fiction, if you really think about the story, you’ll notice flaws in the internal logic. Why is it, for example, if the kids can teleport everywhere, that when they want to go in or out of the home-base spaceship they must wait to be sucked in or spit out by giant pneumatic tubes? And the linchpin of the plot is the kids’ ability to teleport; the fact that they can bring dead people back to life is treated as merely incidental. Wouldn’t that be more alluring to the greedy, aging grown-ups than teleporting? Still, such problems didn’t stop The Tomorrow People from becoming a smash hit with kids in Britain when these episodes aired there last year, and they probably won’t bother American kids looking for a little armchair getaway. B