Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Television: Journeyman: excellent, with tragic ending

Journeyman was a television series of unusual calibre, that like some of the best, lived and died in tragic brevity - only last year.

I'm introducing it via a diversion to The X Files, a series that was assuredly advanced for its time, but whose appeal gradualy waned.

The X Files was, at the very least, unusual television fare. Theme, plots, characterisations, writing... most aspects either stood well above the median, or at the very least dared to be something else. I was drawn into it by enthusiast friends, and found myself watching it religiously - a can't-miss time of the week.

After a while, the episodes seemed to adopt a certain... mechanical... air. But at that point, the overarching storyline took over for me, so the combination of milieu, single-episode plot, and unfolding story kept me in thrall.

Although that background story arc never reached the pointlessly, endlessly convoluting mireof the series Lost, the X Files series ran for so long that even interest in its broad storyline waned, for me.

I'll still watch the upcoming X Files film - I can barely pass up a half-decent science fiction film, and it is X Files. If you want to catch up on the full story, it's far easier to focus on a single episode: The Truth, which catches and recapitulates all the plot points painlessly, and with resolution to all that which had been left hanging before.

Journeyman bears a few superficial congruencies with The X Files: science fiction, an episode's "mission", and a single evolving storyline.

Living in current-day San Francisco, Dan Vasser finds himself yanked into the past seemingly at random, for a number of times over a period of days, to achieve something that only becomes obvious as he works his way blindly through the periodic touching of somebody's life.
Although he's flying blind, each journey through time has specific purpose, as if he's being manipulated by someone with an overview of multiple timelines. But he never understands how or why he journeys, nor who or what is sending him.

Although Journeyman is somewhat more quotidarian than The X Files, it also has a number of advances: it is quite modernistic in feel, the production values are higher, the writing is better, characterisations deeper, and it is more emotionally engaging. It has a strong focus on Dan's family, and is particularly touching at times (despite some over-sentimentality in the soundtrack). The conclusion to episode one especially moved me; as did episode twelve - particularly poignant for me in its focus on Dan's son, close in age to my own six-year-old. Some amazing technology in that episode too, which postulated a turbo-charge due to reverse engineering of a device dropped in the past.

Journeyman has a constantly-evolving storyline, faster and more satisfying than X Files, and one which raises the stakes, episode by episode. Each time you are drawn further into Dan's world, in a clear and directed story that stands in marked contrast to the frustrating spaghetti-plotting of X Files and Lost.

Journeyman episodes can be downloaded from the net if you know where to look - they were posted free on the US network at the time (now gone from there).

I've watched 12 of the 13 episodes. Only one more to savour, and I can be sure it doesn't end cleanly. It was abruptly terminated after the 13th with no possibility of revival. Sigh. I shall scour the net for signs of the intended future for Dan and his world.

No comments: