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TOMORROW PEOPLE: THE NEW GODS
The classic '70s British cult series returns
By Tony Whitt
August 17, 2001
The Tomorrow People return in their first new audio drama
© 2001 Big Finish Productions
As new Tomorrow Person Paul breaks out for the first time, John and Elena encounter resistance as they try to contact him telepathically. The interference is linked to a public appearance made by media stars Zane and Katya, whose fans are unusually adoring of their idols. When John falls under their influence and seven fans die of overexcitement, the Tomorrow People realize that there's far more to the charismatic pair than there appears.
To many US sci-fi TV fans, THE TOMORROW PEOPLE
is little more than a footnote, a vague memory of a show that aired on Nickelodeon and looked a lot like an even lower budget version of DOCTOR WHO
. But to an entire generation of British fans, this was the show that briefly tried to give DOCTOR WHO
a run for its money in the early '70s and almost succeeded. The concept was and is an interesting one: homo sapiens are gradually evolving and developing telepathic and telekinetic abilities that emerge during adolescence, an emergence they call "breaking out." A group of alien races called the Galactic Federation help the Tomorrow People to aid Earth through this transition, but the TPs must keep their own existence secret from the "saps" whom they've evolved beyond. It's an idea with startling and somewhat frightening implications if you think about it too long while later TV series like PREY
did, however, the original series did not. Now Big Finish Productions has revived the concept in a far better version than the execrable one which Nickelodeon itself tried to launch in the mid-eighties.
Series regulars Nicholas Young and Philip Gilbert reprise their roles as John, the first and eldest of the Tomorrow People, and TIM, the supercomputer created to help the TPs in their quest to find more of their own. Young gives one of the best performances here, playing John as an older, wiser, and yet somehow more lonely man who feels more distant by the year from the children he helps. Young is also vastly chilling in the scenes in which he's under Zane and Katya's influence. TIM is presented with more of a sense of humor here than he had in the TV series, but the writers seem to have forgotten that he's also a computer which can access any information in the world. Having him admit to ignorance of Zane and Katya on the grounds that he's a "mere machine" is a bit hard to swallow, though it of course allows for the necessary info dump for the listener who doesn't
know who they are. Sadly, Philip Gilbert's voice shows his age, but his performance is still quintessentially TIM, and no one else could ever do it this well.
The new Tomorrow People and the other actors also shine in this production, buoyed by the excellent quality of Rebecca Levene and Gareth Roberts' script. Paul is the stereotypical tough street kid, though he fits in well with the format. His initial comments about the Tomorrow People being "a tree-hugging hippie workshop" are hilarious, and Wilson does an extremely good job of portraying the initial fear and later exhilaration at taking an evolutionary leap. Helen Goldwyn stands out as the passionate and sarcastic Elena, possibly one of the hippest TPs the series has ever produced. Finally, Matthew Ashforde and Louise Rolfe give amazingly convincing performances as the ditzy media types they switch back and forth between brainless and malevolent effortlessly.
Happily, the transfer of TOMORROW PEOPLE
to audio only accentuates the best parts of the series concept, and Levene and Roberts make good use of those elements. The humor is well-balanced with horror, and Russell Stone's incidental music is a far cry from any of the poor stock music the original series often used. There's barely a misstep in Nicholas Pegg's direction, and the original theme music never sounded as good as it does in CD-quality stereo. Granted, the sound effects are as cheesy as ever, and Levene and Roberts' plot is a reworking (though a much improved one) of the original series episode, "The Slaves of Jedikiah," but that's all easily overlooked given that the rest of the production is so smooth. Over all, it's an enjoyable forty-five minutes and a great update of an old favorite. If this is what tomorrow looks like, BFP should continue looking forward to the next TOMORROW PEOPLE
TOMORROW PEOPLE: THE NEW GODS
Format: Audio Drama, 1 CD, approx. 45 minutes
Cast: Nicholas Young (John), Helen Goldwyn (Elena), Daniel Wilson (Paul), Philip Gilbert (TIM), Emma Lowndes (Sarah Badger), Louise Rolfe (Katya), Matthew Ashforde (Zane), Billy Miller (The Changeling)
Writer: Rebecca Levene, Gareth Roberts
Director: Nicholas Pegg
Publisher: Big Finish Productions