If Appellate Judge Mac McEntire went back in time to the year 2002, he'd probably just end up in line for Attack of the Clones again.
"We saw the Earth destroyed, and in a heartbeat, everything and everyone we knew was gone."
Writer Manny Coto made a name for himself by writing several fan favorite episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, and has since joined the 24 writing staff. Before that, though, Coto shone in his own highly praised yet short-lived Showtime series, Odyssey 5. Now all 19 time-twisting episodes are on DVD in a five-disc box set. But is this adventure worth reliving?
Facts of the Case
It's a routine mission for the crew of the space shuttle Odyssey 5. Commander Chuck Taggert (Peter Weller, Naked Lunch) leads the pack with his son and co-pilot Neil Taggert (Christopher Gorham, Jake 2.0). Along for the ride are fellow astronaut Angela Perry (Tamara Craig Thomas, Tromeo and Juliet), the brilliant yet horny geneticist Kurt Mandel (Sebastian Roché, Legend of Earthsea), and popular TV journalist Sarah Forbes (Leslie Silva, The Agency).
But, while in orbit, the crew is stunned to see the Earth destroyed in an instant, imploding into a giant gaseous cloud. With their air running out, the crew members ready themselves for their own deaths. Instead, they're rescued by a mysterious being called the Seeker (John Neville, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen). He's seen this phenomenon on countless other worlds but is too late to stop it on Earth. Instead, he's able to send the five survivors back in time five years. Their bodies cannot go back in time, so instead the Seeker sends their consciousness back, into their bodies of five years ago. Waking up back on Earth with knowledge of what's going to happen in the next few years, the crew reunites with a new mission: find out what destroyed the Earth, and stop it.
In most time travel stories, there's usually a bunch of business about how if you go back in time, you can't change anything or you'll alter the future. Odyssey 5 throws that out right from the start. In this case, the outcome is the destruction of all humanity, so messing with the future is fair game. Along with their global concerns, the characters also see opportunities to redo five years of their own lives. They attempt to correct past mistakes, sometimes successfully and sometimes with unexpected results.
If the time travel aspects of the series aren't enough to wrap your heads around, try the sinister conspiracy angle, which our heroes believe will eventually end the world. In their adventures, the Odyssey crew comes across two enemies. First are the synthetics, which look and act like ordinary humans but are really made of slimy artificial goop that looks like week-old chowder. Then there are the sentients, life forms that somehow exist only on the Internet. Invisible, they're watching our every move, they know almost everything about us, and they're able to cause all kinds of trouble. Conveniently for our heroes, all this action takes place close to home, with hints that a secret group inside NASA also has a role to play. The five time travelers of the Odyssey have to confront these enemies armed only with their combined wits and a little luck.
On that note, let's take a closer look at the main cast:
Peter Weller as Chuck Taggert
Leslie Silva as Sarah Forbes
Christopher Gorham as Neil Taggert
Sebastian Roché as Kurt Mandel
Tamara Craig Thomas as Amanda Perry
As you can surmise from the above, the real strengths of Odyssey 5 are the characters and their personal conflicts. The other half of the series is the science fiction part, with the sentients, synthetics, and other fantastical elements. Many of the ideas present are intriguing ones—such as numeric code developing into intelligent life, and computers created not out of plastic and wires but out of biological tissue—but the execution of these ideas sometimes falls flat. Sure, there are chases, gunfights, and explosions aplenty, but the action/suspense scenes aren't nearly as intense as they could be, and therefore they're not at the same level as the dramatic scenes. Sci-fi fans will want to enjoy this one for the interesting plot and characters, and not for the action.
The picture and sound quality here are top-notch. Colors are bright and vivid, and dark scenes have deep, rich black levels. There aren't a lot of show-off sound effects or music in this one, but the audio is immersive enough, with no immediate flaws. The actors do tend to shoot though the exposition awfully quickly, so English subtitles would have been a definite help, but there aren't any. As for extras, Coto and Weller sit down for an informative commentary on the first episode. Although it starts out somewhat self-congratulatory, the commentary eventually covers such ground as where the series would have gone if it had continued, and some of the fun antics that went on behind the scenes.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Odyssey 5 isn't just a TV series, it's a cancelled TV series. So, if you're going into this one expecting everything to come to a conclusion, you'll walk away very disappointed. Coto says in the commentary that he plans to bring back the series and finish it in the future, but for now, the fates of Taggert and company are lost to an unresolved cliffhanger. There's enough good in the series that it can be enjoyed even without a big ending, but it's still a letdown to have no resolution.
Here's a series with solid writing and acting, backed up by some fascinating concepts. That being said, it doesn't quite reach the lofty goals it has set for itself. Recommended for sci-fi junkies only.
Manny Coto and the crew of the Odyssey are free to go on battling those sneaky sentients. Showtime is found guilty for axing a good show before it reached its potential. Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary on Pilot Episode with Creator Manny Coto and Actor Peter Weller
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