Not too long ago I shared with you one of my favorite sci-fi series from my youth (that's a bit redundant I suppose ... back when I was a kid, nearly all my favorite TV series were sci-fi), and today I'm going to share another one with you. I rather suspect that it's this series that triggered my (thusfar) lifelong fascination with the time-travel subgenre of science-fiction.
This show was called Voyagers!, and it starred the late Jon-Erik Hexum as a former pirate named Phineas Bogg, who had been recruited as one of a band of time-hopping foot-soldiers charged with making sure that the history of the world stays on the right track. The tools of the trade: a hand-held, brass-clad time machine called an Omni, just a little larger than the average pocketwatch, as well as a handsomely leather-bound historical reference known as the Voyager Guidebook. Unfortunately, the less-than-competent Bogg lost his Guidebook when his Omni accidentally bounced out of his time-zone "jurisdiction" into the 1982 bedroom of 12-year-old Jeffrey Jones (played by Meeno Peluce), who just happened to be a history prodigy.
Neither were crazy about being stuck with each other at first, but with no way to get Jeffrey home, Bogg enlisted his help in lieu of the missing Guidebook. Together they would help the Wright Brothers invent the flying machine, set Spartacus on his quest to lead his famous slave revolt, thwart a Confederate plot to kindap President Lincoln, prevent Teddy Roosevelt from being killed by Billy The Kid, guide Marco Polo and his party safely toward their first meeting with Kublai Khan, and even pluck the stolen Mona Lisa off the doomed ocean liner Titanic.
There simply aren't enough good things to say about this series. Not only was it endlessly entertaining, but it was also worthwhile from an educational angle -- informative and historically accurate to a far greater degree than any other time-travel show before or since -- and it was masterfully designed. The best sci-fi shows seem to be the ones that make the future seem timeless. The most obvious example is the Omni ... rather than a wrist-worn device with digital controls (which, I read in one magazine, was one design that was considered), it was made to look on the outside like an heirloom from a century ago. And in the sole episode which actually visited the Voyagers' never-specified "home time", we saw elegantly crafted wood decor instead of sleek metal or plastic, and classy traditional fashion instead of form-fitting polyester jumpsuits.
It completely amazed me when Universal actually put the complete 20-episode series on DVD shelves back in 2007. It was such an obscure and little-known show (or so I thought), having basically been consigned to an early death from day one, running against ratings juggernaut 60 Minutes. Plus, both of its stars have been long gone from TV -- Peluce all but retired from acting in 1985 (I hear he's now a teacher in the Los Angeles school district), and Hexum died from a tragic on-set accident at around the same time, shortly after beginning his next series, "Cover Up". But, never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I put in a pre-order on Amazon as soon as it was listed, price be damned (and it turns out it was pretty reasonable after all)! Needless to say, I've enjoyed it thoroughly from start to finish once, and I'm about to do so again ... particularly all those scenes that I haven't seen since their original airings (which were, to make room for more advertisements, cut out of the Sci-Fi Channel rebroadcasts from what must have been the mid '90s).
5 years ago