Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Journeyman: I turn my camera on

An actual original episode of a network series I watch in late December? Is that allowed? I guess it is if the show's been canceled. Spoilers for the penultimate episode of "Journeyman" coming up just as soon as I throw out all my red turtlenecks...

I have to assume that this was shot after the strike began, because "The Hanged Man" felt like a first or second draft. The idea of Dan accidentally making significant changes to both the world at large and his own family was a very cool one -- about time Dan experienced the butterfly effect -- and I loved Kevin McKidd and Gretchen Egolf's performances in the Dan/Katie emotional tug of war about their child of variable gender, but too much of the episode needed polishing.

Almost all of the dialogue from Dan's trips to the past seemed like placeholders -- "I saved your life," "Thank you for saving my life!" "Son, it's the man who saved our life!" "Oh, thanks for saving our life" -- waiting for someone to take another pass through the script. Really, the entire mission was just an excuse to make Dan deal with the Zach/Caroline issue; in later drafts, I imagine it either would have been punched up or those scenes would have been cut even shorter to focus on the real heart of the episode.

As for that heart, Zach vs. Caroline is one of those time-travel dilemmas that's more than theoretical. Dan's got a living, breathing, very sweet little girl staring him in the face, but he's also the only one who remembers the living, breathing, very sweet little boy who's supposed to be there. He knows Katie's never going to remember this daughter -- not that this is any consolation to Nanotech Katie -- but he's still making a choice to erase this girl from existence. (There are also countless other changes in the Nanotech timeline he's erasing, but this show has been at its best when it focuses on personal matters directly affecting the Vasser family.) That's a hard choice -- even if it's one Dan knew he had to make, if only to appease The Powers That Be who sent him to save that kid's life in the first place -- and McKidd did his best work of the series in playing those scenes.

Jack investigating the late FBI agent was interesting, but what do you suppose was up with Dr. Langley? Did Dan inadvertently change something else about the timeline by letting the corporate espionage lady get killed, or was Langley simply pretending not to recognize him because the security guy was there? (Their previous encounters have either been one-on-one or in places away from where Langley works.) One episode to go, and I'm hoping we at least get an answer to how Langley was able to call Jack while he was in the past.

What did everybody else think?


K J Gillenwater said...

I didn't feel like this was a draft at all. Probably one of the best episodes yet...the scene with the falling RV and Dan tumbling down the stairs had my heart racing. Even though I *knew* he wouldn't die...it was a tense moment.

And the whole thing with the camera and technology and a daughter that wasn't supposed to exist. Lord. I wish they hadn't held on to such an emotional episode for so near the end.

The only thing I think they could have done to improve it, was to have Dan pull his daughter's butterfly artwork out of his jacket pocket or something. That would have been poignant. But would it still exist??? Hmmm...

I still cannot believe this show is almost over. It is so good, so emotional, so intense. Is NBC crazy?

I'm looking forward to Wednesday's episode to see what else we learn. I was just as confused as you about the tachyon guy. Was he pretending he didn't recognize Dan? What's with the picture? And what does Dan's dad know about all of this??? I still think there is more to learn about the dad.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The only thing I think they could have done to improve it, was to have Dan pull his daughter's butterfly artwork out of his jacket pocket or something. That would have been poignant. But would it still exist??? Hmmm...

Since he still had a Zach photo in his wallet even in the Nanotech timeline, I'm guessing he would have any artifact of Caroline that he had on his person when he traveled.

Anonymous said...

I loved this episode. The whole Zach v Caroline thing was super-emotional.

I did wonder why Zach didn't disappear until the second time Dan went back in time. He lost the camera the first time, and didn't really do anything the second time. It also seemed a little weird that he didn't help the woman and her son other than saving them from the RV crash. The other two trips were just about getting the camera back. Unless they are saying he got that kid to develop the eyesight thing in those other trips.

But the butterfly effect stuff more than made up for it.

K J Gillenwater said...

I think the camera had to be "lost" in the past for awhile in order for the kid to think about inventing the replacement eye. Which is just freak-o to even think about....the kid needed to see the camera early enough in life that he was impacted by the thought of what could be created with such technology.

Um, totally off topic here, but did anyone else see the news that "Bionic Woman" has not been cancelled??? They get rid of "Journeyman" and keep "Bionic Woman"? What in the hell??????

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with you about the scenes with the mother and son that Dan saved. But Dan's trips to the past and his interactions with people there have never been the strong part of the show. The heart of the show is how Dan's time traveling affects his life in the present, and on that score, this episode knocked it out of the park.

Anonymous said...

If the show were going to continue, it would've been interesting to have the son/daughter switch be a two or more episode arc, so Dan grew more attached to the daughter, while still knowing he had to set things right again.

That was some rather provocative lingerie 1948 Livia had been wearing when she first arrived in the future, huh?

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a superb episode. I'm so glad I hung in there with this show past the first few episodes. I wish networks still had the Seinfeld mentality of giving shows time to find their feet and their ratings.

I'm so glad and yet I'm so sad because I knew NBC would cancel this and I didn't want to care and damn it I care. What a fantastic job everyone did in this! The pain that Katie and Dan felt was heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

Without reading the comments, let me point out that last night felt like an episode of $timetravel drama meets Star Trek meets Medium. I think it was mostly the tech. The leaving the camera thing I could even tell you the episode of Enterprise (I forget where they used the screens in the air)

Of course this is probably only because I watch precious little scifi and paranormal programming.... everyone else has probably seen it a million times to my one or two. It was funny though.

So this is the Journey variation of the Grey's Anatomy Script

Derek: Meredith, I'd love to have sex with you in the on-call room, but I have to [medical]

Meredith: Really, Derek? You have to [medical]? Doesn't that cause [medical]?

I know the names should be capped and everything should be centered, but I'm just not that motivated.

It was a good episode, despite the mindmeld with several other shows.
At least there wasn't anyone talking about the Temporal Prime Directive.

Anonymous said...

kristen - I think he didn't disappear until the second time because it was the second time that Dan made a stink and the evil security lady saw it, setting off a chain of events that ended in the kid being killed and Zach disappearing.

All in all, I thought it was a great episode. I was completely riveted from the first scene. The acting between Dad and Katie was superb and I felt for both of them and their daughter.

I was wondering if the Langley that reached out to Dan all those times was slightly future Langley. So present Langley doesn't know Dan, but in the future, Langley figures out a bunch of TT stuff and reaches out to Dan. I don't know, it was one explanation for the lack of recognition, if that lack of recognition was for real.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this episode very much, but they still didn't put much effort into having the time-warp situation make sense. Dan has changed the past so much that technology is completely different, and his child was conceived at a different time, therefore becoming a daughter instead of a son -- and yet everything else in his life hasn't changed at all, up to the exact same events and even conversations having happened in exactly the same way?

That's like saying, "I killed a butterfly a million years ago, and that totally changed the earth's timeline, but, amazingly, my own life turned out exactly the same except now my boss is a talking dinosaur."

I'm willing to suspend my disbelief -- and would be happy to keep doing so if the show continued -- but it would be nice if I didn't have to suspend it so much.

Anonymous said...


It's a time travel show. TIME TRAVEL. You're going to have to suspend your disbelief a LOT otherwise there's no hope. You can nitpick shows like these to death, or you can take what's given to you and enjoy it.

Not that your comment wasn't fair, it's just there are a million things like that one could legitimately point out.

BigTed, is your name really Ben Silverman?

Anonymous said...

Ha... As I said, I enjoyed this episode, and I'll be sorry to see "Journeyman" go. But you're right, it IS a show about time travel... which is why I wish the time-travel elements had been handled better throughout the show's run. Science-fiction writers have been dealing with these issues for decades, so it's not as if it would have been impossible to dramatize them in a way that made more sense.

Nate said...

Wassup Sep?

Yet another great episode! And it might have been even cooler if at the end he got home and there at his house was... his little daughter! That would have left a great cliffhanger for Wednesday's Part II Finale.

Jericho fans sent nuts to the network to bring their show back; what can Journeyman fans send? Well since so much of Zach's presence revolves around The SF Giants, and Barry Bonds played for them... maybe the fans should mail in steroids?

Ok.. maybe send M and M's and we'll pretend they're steroids?

Anonymous said...

Jenn - I thought the same thing about Dan only knowing a future version of Langley.

One other thing - NO one mentioned the rare astrological (?) phenomenon's that has only ever happened on Dan's/Livia's birthdays. Does that mean everyone born on those two days is a time traveler? It is a cool idea to explain why they were picked, but should there be more people jumping through time then?

Since this episode introduces the butterfly effect idea, we could send butterflies. But those campaigns rarely work, so it is probably worthless.

Kenrick said...

I thought this episode was amazing. I LOVED the Caroline vs Zack part. The acting was great and Dan searching for Zack and Katie fearing for her daughter really tugged at my heartstrings. The only downside I found to this is how much power Dan has over the lives of everyone, and how a person's entire history can be changed at a whim.

If the camera was so important, I don't understand why Dan didn't try harder to get the camera back the first time through. Some random security lady can't stop Dan! He could've just punched his way out of there like he normally does and then go POOF. Haha, the second time around I was hoping he would just punch her, or maybe have Livia take her down.

I guess as others have said, that chain of events had to occur for the bionic eye to be created?

Yeah I had first assumed Langley recognized Dan, but wouldn't admit to it 'cause the guard was there. I couldn't tell if his glance back was like an "I'm sorry" glance or a "who the hell are you" glance. After reading the comments here, I can believe that Dan had previously met the future Langley (although that doesn't explain the picture), which is why the present Langley gets nutjobs hounding him.

About Dan's birth - I didn't quite catch everything the mystic said. So it happened twice in the last 100 years. Were they just like instantaneous occurrences so only Dan and Livia can time travel, or did it have some longer duration so that EVERYONE born during the span of that event could potentially TT?

Anonymous said...

Nate -- A group of people at savejourneyman.net are sending Rice-A-Roni ("the San Francisco treat") to NBC as a plea for the network to keep the show.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I don't think Dan has met Future Langley before. After all, he arranged his earliest meetings by calling the guy in the present. Unless Future Langley likes to travel back in time and intercept his earlier self's phone calls and voicemail messages, I think we have to assume at least one of those earlier meetings involved the 2007 version of Langley.

Anonymous said...

Spoon, right?

Unknown said...

I thought the astrological thing was cool, albeit I did think, "You're telling me NO ONE ELSE was born on that day?" Even if both Dan and Livia were born in SF and the magical comet only affected people born there, it's hard to believe only one baby was born that day.

Still, that's a neat way to designate time travelers to me, somehow.

XWL said...

Vorenus would have gotten the camera away from that kid the first trip in the past and probably disarmed both security guards while beating up on evil security lady for good measure.

I miss Vorenus.

Dan could have used a little more Vorenus in him, might have saved the show.

There have been a few too many moments like the pleading with the kid rather than just ripping the bag away from him immediately where Dan has to act like an indecisive idiot for the plot complications to develop so that they could be solved 40 minutes into the script rather than after 10.

Anonymous said...

Dan had to go back the first time to save the kid and his mom. He had to go back to get his camera because the kid would have been killed for it. By saving the kid and showing him that the people who were going to buy the camera would kill for it, he sent the kid on a different path, where he teamed with the lab geek (who we were told made a success of himself in the present) to develop the digital eye.

I think Dr. Langley was pretending not to know Dan. The look from inside the door had a certain apologetic quality.

As to the mysticality of Dan and Livia's birthdays, of course there is a higher power affecting things. If it was just science and quantum physics bouncing them around the timeline, it wouldn't keep putting them together, and it wouldn't keep sending him to save people, quantum leap style. Physics doesn't have an adenda.

I am incredibly curious to see what the creators have in store for the series finale, though. I am going to miss Dan and his timeless black sweater over white t-shirt combination.

Anonymous said...

And thank The Powers That Be that the writers didn't squeeze in one last dollop of timeline alteration to unimpregnate (knock down?) Theresa. That would've been a little too much. The "goalie" discussion had me worried, in several ways.

Damn, I'm gonna miss this show. I wish this main plot had come up in an earlier episode to hook more people on the TT and emotional angles. The FBI/Henry/couples subplots could've been attached to some other TT mission here, as far as I can tell.

I actually didn't have much problem with the alt-present having so few differences, but that was mainly from sympathy for the budget hit they took on the newsroom tech. It might have been fun, though, to see Katie get some Earl Grey from the kitchen replicator or something like that.

XWL said...

Another thing that bugged me about that episode is they left out a golden opportunity to explore one of the classic moral dilemmas relating to time travel.

If the death of one innocent lead to a hugely better world, would that death be justified?

Had Dan found out that not only consumer tech was more advanced in this new timeline, but that the world was far more prosperous, secure and no major terror events had succeeded in the interim (or countries invaded), then he would have had a real quandry.

Knowing that "fixing" the past to the one he knows condemns more people it saves, and leads to global strife by letting one child die (and changing the gender of his own child), or leaving the altered timeline in place and accepting the knowledge that he personally let someone die when he could have prevented it.

It would have made him a more nuanced character if he still changed things back both for selfish reasons (personal preference for a son), and moral reasons (saving one innocent does out weigh the potential benefits when that person is absent, cause Dan has an obligation to save those he can and not focus on the bigger consequences).

Journeyman is an intriguing show, not always perfect in execution, but seemed headed to being something good (or it could have all spun off horribly and gone awry after another season or two).

Maybe it will do well enough on DVD for a few reunion direct to DVD releases. That seems to be the real future for most sci-fi type projects, they don't get the broad audiences the networks want in prime time, but the audiences they do get become passionate and become a huge gravy train for the studio.

That was how Firefly played out (and even Futurama to some degree).