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Not even an iPhone gets service in 1987: thoughts on Journeyman


I just watched the Journeyman pilot last night. I’m usually skeptical about shows dealing with time travel as they tend to be irresponsible with their rules and mythology and fall into the traps of paradox. This show, however, was a pleasant surprise.

I’m not going to summarize the plot, that’s been done elsewhere. I will say that the show did some interesting things with the subject matter. Here we have a story that asks what it would actually be like if a man suddenly started jumping back in time and was missing from his present life, often for days. A lot of doubt and suspicion of the protagonist Dan’s mental health state is the answer. Can he convince his wife that he isn’t cheating/gambling/sleeping around/using drugs?

moonbloodgood.jpgThe other thing I found interesting was the character of Livia. Besides being played by an actor with an utterly ridiculous name (it has six ‘O’s, come on), she was the most intriguing part of the show to me. For those who didn’t watch, here’s the idea: Dan and Livia used to be engaged. Livia died in a plane crash. Dan ends up married to a woman who, at the time Livia was alive, was dating Dan’s brother. Now as Dan goes back in time, he sees Livia before they met, while they were together, he even sees Past Dan with her and his brother and future wife. This sets up some really great dramatic tension. I have two examples.

The first came when Future Dan needs some information from Past Livia. He waits for Past Dan to leave the room then enters. The fact that he’s ten years older isn’t noticed, nor is the coincidence that he happens to be wearing the same clothes mentioned. He has just listened to his brother’s girlfriend, who he knows he marries in the future, give a toast to his own engagement to Livia. After getting the info he needs, he gets up to leave and Livia kisses him goodbye and says “I love you.” He begrudgingly returns the kiss and sentiment all the while guiltily looking over at his future wife who, since this is the past, has no mutual feelings of infidelity. That’s quality drama.

kevinmckidd.jpgThe second comes when Future Dan is visiting his old apartment that he shared with Livia. She comes home and finds him, again not noticing that he’s ten years older. She is pleased at this happenstance and decides a nooner is in order. Future Dan, who still has feelings for Livia, is at first agreeable to the idea, but a stroke of guilt (or maybe just the heeby-jeebies) makes him take a sudden exit. He better cut that shit out or Past Livia might get pissed at Past Dan and Future Dan would suddenly have memories of her leaving him, not her dying in a plane crash.

The other thing about the show that I noticed was the prominent inclusion of the iPhone that Dan carries. Kudos to the producers for getting this into a series so quickly and also for not featuring it so much it feels like an ad. I realized, as Dan frantically Googled a name while running through an office building, that the iPhone is the best thing to happen to the thriller genre since the laptop. It’s a portable device that has a large, high resolution screen that allows characters to make and receive calls, access the full Internet replete with graphics, watch videos, and send email. And it’s all real so there’s no “buy-in” for the viewer to believe in or doubt the tool. The screen is perfect for over-the-shoulder shots of a character frantically looking for something or trying to find an answer before it’s too late. It also serves as a plot device since any exposition can be written off with a quick YouTube video, as it was last night. Mark my words, we’re going to see much more of this.

PS. I knew that Dan (Kevin McKidd) looked familiar. No it’s not Rome. It’s #22 on his list that I recognize him from.

Justin Dickinson



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