Time After Time‘s first episode aired last week, Sunday March 5 at 9pm. Episode 2 is tonight! I caught up on ABC’s website (I don’t recommend it. The playback was terrible). The basic premise is that H.G. Wells (of Victorian sci-fi fame) is living and building a time machine during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror… except the Ripper is actually his friend Dr. John Stevenson. Stevenson hops into the working time machine to escape the cops, and Wells chases him to 2017.
Already you can see a bit of a problem with the premise, which boils down to…is Wells (Freddie Stroma) really just going to chase John Stevenson/Jack the Ripper (Josh Bowman) around for 1-5 seasons? And how will he go back to 1893 and write The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, etc?
It was a novel by Karl Alexander, and then a 1979 film. That kind of creates a problem, since novels and movies have endings, and TV shows seek to go on forever (since I see no indication of it being a miniseries).
Anyway, spoilers ahead! Also, don’t watch this if you aren’t someone who is fine to watch someone gets stabbed in the first 60 seconds. That’s not a spoiler since it’s Jack the Ripper.
Stroma is, as assistant curator Jane Walker (Genesis Rodriguez) says, “cute,” especially after he shaves the weird period facial hair. His H.G. Wells has a childlike wonder about him, although a harder side to his personality becomes evident when he beats the snot out of Dr. Stevenson.
Bowman’s Dr. Stevenson, on the other hand, exudes the suave, clever persona of who I expect of Jack the Ripper. He’s more savvy than Wells, pawning an old watch and haggling for the price. He also appears to charm the women he’s brutally murdering, like the prostitute in the first scene or the two women from the clubs later in the episode. Can you say Victorian repression?
The time travel element was equal parts charming and clichéd. I liked that there were no holds barred when they get to 2017. Wells watched the news with tears streaming down his face as they reported on ISIS and American mass shootings. The idealist’s dreams were crushed, and Stevenson only compounded it as he called himself an “amateur” in modern society.
As I said, Stevenson was wily and able to make his way around the city despite being a man out of his time. It was a bit of a change from the usual, although the villain does usually have an easier way in time travel movies.
The cliché parts have to do with the general Victorian-man-in-present-day, although it’s colored by Wells’ open-mindedness instead of prejudice. He obviously insults Jane by assuming men are in charge, and he has a cringe-worthy “I always knew race would drop away!” moment with an African American security guard. He’s bewildered by changes, and has an awkward moment with Jane and electric razors. And no time travel film is complete without the man of the past being hit by a car.
Stevenson kills a woman at a club called Utopia, and Wells takes Jane forward three days, where they find that she is the Ripper’s third victim in four days. They thwart the second murder (and Wells delivers butt-kicking), but Stevenson escapes.
And because they thwarted a murder they had previous knowledge about, the police let them stay in Jane’s apparently unlocked apartment with no protection detail. And Jane is kidnapped. Roll credits.
It’s not going to win any Emmy’s, for sure, but it’s good enough. My main concern is with the sustainability of Wells chasing after Stevenson in modern day NYC. As always, though, I am always willing to give it another chance.
Director: Marcos Seiga
Teleplay: Nicholas Meyer
Story: Karl Alexander &Steve Hayes
Image Credit: http://televisionpromos.com/shows/time-after-time/
OT: I am super excited for Beauty and the Beast this weekend! Guess what you’ll be reading about next Sunday?