Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Time-Travel Blind and Journeyman: My Response to TV Guide's Adam Schubak

Journeyman was included in TV Guide's Worst TV of 2007. Writes TV Guide's Adam Schubak, "The major problem with this show is not so much the time traveling as it is the two completely unnecessary love triangles . . . . Week after week, the show spends half the episode dealing with the family drama while the rest is spent in the past trying to help random strangers whose fate has them going on to do something great in the future."

Wow, talk about clueless. The great strength of Journeyman is its powerful mix of family/love triangles on the one hand, and the societal issues on the other, and this mix was brought to a near-perfect pitch in the last two episodes.

But beyond the fact that Schubak just didn't get Journeyman - and was by no means alone among TV critics - I think there is a more serious, and therefore more interesting, factor at work here.

I realized a long time ago, when I was just a kid, and I'd spend hours holed away reading science fiction, and my mother would chide me for wasting my time, that some people, otherwise intelligent and even sensitive, are just blind to the virtues and appeal of science fiction. Years later, when I published my first science fiction novel - The Silk Code, in 1999 - my mother was steadfast in her well-meaning opinion. "You're a good writer. Why don't you write novels about real things?"

"Ma, science fiction is about real things ... ," I tried to answer.

In fact, it's about the most real things in our existence - our uniquely human capacity to edit the very nature of the universe.

As a genre of science fiction especially complex, time travel stories bear a special challenge. You've got to love the buzz-saw of paradox, have a high tolerance for - actually, a zest for - the nearly incompatible, the things that don't add up to any common sense.

The appeal of a time-travel series such as Journeyman is that it is especially uncommon. How can a man choose between a son he knows and loves, and a daughter that has just been brought into being in a new timeline he has created? Whatever choice he makes brings him pain, personal and cosmic.

Adam Schubak is entitled to find a show that presents such a choice of little interest - just as a color-blind person might understandably turn his back on a magical sunset.

"Quantum Leap it ain't. Heck, it's not even Back to the Future Part 3," Schubak concludes about Journeyman. He's right about Quantum Leap, at least - Journeyman, especially in its last two episodes, was far better. As for Back to the Future - well, let's just say that Part 3 was an integral part of the trilogy masterpiece, which doesn't jibe with Schuback's "not even Part 3".

But, it's ok. Schubak is time-travel blind, so of course he doesn't get it. It's just that ... well, maybe next time TV Guide should take its cues from someone a little better versed in the genre.

My reviews of Journeyman episodes ... 1: NBC Quantum Leaps Into Journeyman ...2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 5 ... 6... 7 ... 8. Livia's Story ... 9. Dan Unravels His Present ... 10. Jack's In! ... 11. Livia's Beau ... 12. The Perfect Time Travel Story ... Lucky 13

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