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‘The Tomorrow People’: A Series Primer

From kids’ fun to teen angst

“The Tomorrow People” on The CW is a reboot of the 1973 British ITV show that ran for eight seasons — some with 13 episodes, some as short as four. There was also a three season revival in 1992, but I have never seen it. The original was based in and around London.

“The Tomorrow People” considered themselves Homo Superior, the next stage in human evolution, but realizing that sounded arrogant called themselves the “Tomorrow People.” At the same time, however, they called baseline humans “Saps,” an entirely disrespectful shortening of Homo Sapiens.

A galactic mythology

The series took place in a firmly science fictional universe with galactic civilizations, space ships and time travel. A non-telepathic Anubis-headed race, the Koltan, built the pyramids on Earth (and elsewhere) and installed global psi-dampers in them, retarding the psionic development of the entire planet. The Koltan are fond of eating humanoids, but regularly tire of planets and abandon them with their machinery still running.

The Galactic Trig is the federation of telepathic races in the universe. They are pacifistic to the point of uselessness (more on that later) and don’t recognize non-telepathic planets, marking them as restricted.

When the Koltan psi-damper equipment finally ran down, the first psi to manifest was John. He was almost immediately discovered by Galactic civilization, who gave him a psionic techno-organic computer named “Tim” that he installed in an abandoned subway station serving as their lair. Tim boosts the psionic power of those who wear receivers and was almost effective as a modern movie hacker with early ’70s computer systems. After John came Carol, Kenny, Stephen, Elizabeth, Tyso, Mike, Hsui Tai and Andrew.

Secrets of a Tomorrow Person

When a Tomorrow Person (TP) manifests psionically, it’s a stressful and dangerous experience called “breaking out.” The 1973 TP manifested at puberty, so the new cast was mostly tweens. The 2013 version will clearly have actors in their mid-20s playing late teens.

Breaking out begins with partially heard voices that eventually builds to an unbearable cacophony. Along with the telepathic issues, the new TP may teleport uncontrollably. Whether that involves appearing high in the air or underground, the third fatal possibility is a half-teleportation into the transitional dimension of hyperspace. While all teleports pass briefly through hyperspace, unprotected flesh soon begins to lose cohesion there and the experience is fatal in relatively short order. The TP liked to call teleportation “jaunting.” The range of a natural jaunt is several blocks, but boosted by Tim, can be interstellar. The TP often find themselves so dependent on Tim that they sometimes forget they can jaunt without him.

TP telekinesis is generally short in range, a few feet, and weak, no more than the person might easily lift themselves by hand. While their macro-scale telekinesis is lame, their micro-scale telekinesis was most impressive. They could heal grave wounds or even resurrect the recently dead. They could tracelessly reassemble shattered objects and Tim could create objects at will, Star Trek replicator-style.

Telepathy in the show was most often used like a private walkie-talkie or cellphone network. It was said that TPs could only hear other TPs, but that was an evasion as they tap-danced around the moral issues. Other telepathy-based skills included: selectively erasing Sap memories, reading the “shape” of Sap brainwaves to understand and make themselves understood in any language, mind control (only used by aliens), behavioral modification (spun as rapid education with the final decisions still left to the Sap in question), hypnosis and projecting illusions.

The final key characteristic of TP, also shared by all telepathic races, is the inability to directly kill. Unlike Asimov’s robots, however, they are fully capable of allowing death through inaction, although usually not when in the physical company of the potential victims. They were also shown having no problems with eating meat or wearing leather; so the question is if they were just modern first-world citizens who don’t usually have to confront that issue or if telepaths can willingly kill non-sentients.

Additionally, most telepaths are sort of ineffective at defending themselves. The 1970s show solved that, in part, by giving them mildly criminal sidekicks to do dirty work when required. Also, they made contact with the British prime minister and appealed to his basic human decency. Remarkably, for a politician, that worked and he called off the Men in Black who were kidnapping the TP and trying to force them to be Cold War soldiers.

Contrasting the series

From after-school show for British children in the ’70s to prime-time American series aimed at teens in 2013, the differences are bound to be significant. Socially and politically the landscape has changed dramatically. While the TP will still be incapable of killing, one expects they will be much better at defending themselves. A galaxy of time-traveling aliens will likely be gone in favor of an entirely Earthbound story. Light-hearted jaunting about will be replaced by a constant struggle with native, inimical anti-mutant threats. Linking the two shows, original John, played by Nicholas Young, has been cast as a scientist. My most fervent hope is that the phrase “our special powers” never appears in the new series.

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Could they be a Rut-ro! Shaggy
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