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Review – “Journeyman”

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Heedless of the inherent difficulty involved with creating stories about time-travel, television tries to offer one up every few years, and with modest success.  Quantum Leap returned us to the past and made the adventure almost as fun as Marty’s trip to 1955 in Back to the Future.  Even Early Edition, which plodded over two seasons, had its charm.  Some efforts, however, fail to work their magic and you wind up stuck in the past, like Day Break.  Time travel done well, however, is storytelling gold.  The concept always resonates on some level because everyone has wished at one point or another for the opportunity to go back and “do it right this time.”  And Journeyman—created by Sports Night and The West Wing producer Kevin Falls—takes us back in fine form. 

Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd) enjoys a happy marriage and good career writing for the San Francisco Chronicle.  On his way to pick up his wife’s wedding band—he’s having it touched up for his anniversary tonight—Dan takes a quick trip through time. 

At first he thinks it’s all a dream.  He walks into a restaurant where everyone’s celebrating a football game that he recalls happened eight years ago.  And then he sees her.  Her name is Livia (Moon Bloodgood), and we later learn that Dan would likely have married her had she not died in a plane crash nine years ago.  Hmm…do the math on that one.  It’s not a typo. 

Then he wakes up; back in the present, and in the back seat of another cab, just able to meet his wife to celebrate.  The next morning, however, he wakes up in Golden Gate Park.  In 1987.  There, he saves a man’s life.  That man is Neil Gaines, and Dan will track him through time to a pivotal moment where their actions will affect the fates of many others.

That last sentence maybe reads a little too “Capra-esque,” but that is one of the underpinning themes of any time-travel story—the far reaching consequences of every choice, every life, great or small. 

Dan’s wife Katie (Gretchen Egolf) starts to worry for her husband.  From her point of view, Dan disappears for days at a time.  His co-workers all think he’s on drugs.  His brother is certain that his marriage is starting to collapse.  Life in the present seems ready to fall apart as Dan stumbles through the past, trying to discern his purpose.

The show has a few obvious throwbacks.  The lone hero “leaping” back in time to put right what once went wrong is an old device. Dan does not have a holographic companion helping him out, however.  He’s not even sure how this has all started and we’re never really given an answer.  But he does get some hints that, somewhere, an answer awaits discovery.  As it turns out, Dan is not alone on this journey. 

The show’s creators give audiences a rare example of humility and fortitude in Dan’s portrayal.  Throughout the pilot, he finds himself in awkward moments that test his commitment to his wife, and each time, Dan trudges up to the high road.  The storyline might go in any number of directions from here, but for now, what we have is a man—a real man—that chooses honor over impulse.  Given the set ups in the pilot, Dan’s principles will find greater testing as he, and his new calling, continue to develop.

Time-travel stories are rarely ever about changing the past more than they are about choices.  The writers of Journeyman seem to have firm grip on this principle.  Their plot devices might piggyback on the success of past efforts, but great stories are really old stories told in different ways.  I have my eye on you, Journeyman; please do not let me down.


Written by taj

September 19, 2007 at 6:39 am

2 Responses

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  1. I think I’ll just stick with Doctor Who.


    September 24, 2007 at 10:45 am

  2. Probably not a bad idea.


    September 24, 2007 at 12:23 pm

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