On the 21st of May 2005, Doctor Who fans were introduced to a very special character named Captain Jack Harkness. Con man. Expert flirter. Amazing Coat. My introduction to Jack was a few years later, but since the 9 year anniversary came the same day as I finished another Torchwood/Doctor Who rewatch, I thought it was only fitting to dedicate a little post to my love for Jack.
If you grew up in the 90s chances are you watched this next show in my TV nostalgia flashback. The Secret World of Alex Mack was a teen sci-fi drama that aired from 1994 to 1998 on Nickelodeon in the US and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) here in my country. I remember it was always a favourite that I would never miss when I got home from school.
For those unfamiliar with the series let me give you a little introduction. Alex Mack is an ordinary teenage girl until, on the way home from her first day of junior high, she is nearly hit by a truck from the local chemical plant. She gets covered in a top-secret chemical called GC161 which changes life as she knows it. She develops superpowers. Telekinesis, the ability to shoot electricity from her fingers and morph into a puddle. They don’t sound like the most useful powers but Alex uses them to navigate her way through high school and life in general.
She keeps her powers secret, only telling her budding scientist sister, Annie and best friend Ray. Alex fears that she’ll be locked up and have experiments performed on her. The CEO of the Paradise Valley Chemical Plant, Danielle Atron is the evil-doing antagonist of the series. She knows there is a child out there that has powers from GC161 and spends far too much time trying to find out who it is. So not only does Alex have to deal with being a teenager, she has to outwit would-be captors who always get THISCLOSE to discovering her.
One of the things that is especially great about the show is how relatable I remember it being. Alex is a bit of a tomboy, not part of the popular crowd in school and a bit awkward at times. Larisa Oleynik brings some great acting to her portrayal of Alex.
The show had some great dramatic storylines and just the right amount of humour. The series grew and aged with the audience and came to an exciting climax at the end of season 4. It was a series that was lucky enough to have a proper and satisfying ending. Though I guess you could say there is a slight cliffhanger, but nothing that will make you throw things at your TV, more of an audience decides what happens next.
I havent had a chance to find it for a rewatch, which is why this review is so brief, but if you can track the show down, and there are episodes posted on vimeo, I would highly recommend it.
For now, check out this intro: http://www.veoh.com/watch/v6561596JAS76KXd
In my first TV Nostalgia post, I wanted to talk about a little TV show that came to mind a couple of weeks ago.
When I think back on my childhood about my favourite shows and who my idol was, the answer is usually pretty simple. X-Files and Dana Scully. Later followed by Farscape and Buffy in my early teens. But something occurred to me the other day, these three shows, well ingrained in sci-fi and paranormal themes were probably not the only reason I still love those genres today.
In fact, the catalyst that may have started me watching
those shows was a little known Australian kids show from the early 90s called The Girl From Tomorrow. I’m not sure what inspired this sudden moment of nostalgia but it encouraged me to track down the series for a bit of a marathon.
It was a series about a teenage girl Alana from the year 3000 who gets kidnapped and transported back to 1990. She befriends a girl named Jenny who helps her adapt to life in the 90s and get her time capsule back from the evil Silverthorn who intends to use it to conquer the future.
In the year 3000 we see humans are in a state of Utopia, rebuilding Earth after something called The Great Disaster, an event that happened in 2500. In order to understand what happened, a time capsule is being built to travel back and investigate. When it returns from the year 2500, its explorer Tulista is being held hostage by Silverthorn a criminal from that year. The people in the year 3000 have no weapons, but possess technology called tranducers which are far superior to Silerthorns laser pistol. Realising he is out-numbered, Silverthorn kidnaps Alana (who was Tulistas student) and escapes to the past.
The first thing that struck me watching the series again as a near-30 year old is how well it actually stands the test of time and how much I still enjoyed it. It reminded me of old Doctor Who and probably took some inspiration from the series. There is even a mention of our favourite mad-man in the blue box, proving that Doctor Who has been ingrained in Australian culture as much as the British.
The graphics are what you would expect from a low budget series from 1990 but it makes no difference to the enjoyment of the show. There are plot holes and paradoxes and all kinds of timey-winey things that are a bit silly or outrageous (it is a kids show after all) but the series is well written. It is quintessentially Australian with the slang and representation of life in the 1990s. It has some nice casting, Katherine Cullen as the passive healer-in-training Alana and Melissa Marshall as streetwise Jenny, who sometimes spends more time doing high-pitched yelling, but is still very likeable. Oddly, neither ladies went on to do any shows/movies beyond the series. Veteran Australian actors, Helen O’Connor, John Howard (who has the unfortunate coincidence of sharing a name with a former Prime Minister) and Andrew Clarke also take main roles in the series, giving it some extra credibility.
As a side note, I just want to make special mention of Helen O’Connors portrayal of Jenny and bratty Petey’s harassed mother Irene. She is an actress I’ve grown up with on Australian TV and she really earns her pay in this series by spending a lot of time tripping over things or having things dropped on her. You could make a drinking game out of it.
Series one ends in a cliffhanger and continues on in The Girl From Tomorrow: Tomorrows End.
At the end of the first series, Jenny was badly injured and taken back (forward?) to the year 3000 to be healed. The story picks up a month later, Jenny is now healed and Silverthorn is apparently a reformed man, remorseful for his crimes. The scientists soon discover that history (and ultimately their present/future) has been altered by their actions so Jenny and Silverthorn must be returned to their respective times to set things right.
When Alana and Lorien return to the year 3000 from depositing Jenny and SIlverthorn to their times. They discover the world they came from is now a barren wasteland – The Great Disaster had destroyed the whole planet, rather than just half of it. They return to 2500 to find the era has not been altered and set out to discover the cause of The Great Disaster. Unbeknownst to anyone, Silverthorn had stolen plans for a Time Gate so that he can continue his evil-doings.
Earth in 2500 is a polluted dystopia and its actually not hard to imagine, that humans could be in that kind of place in less than 500 years. When Lorien is
captured, Alana must enlist the help of new character Nik and a returning Jenny to search for the cause of The Great Disaster while evading capture by the head of evil corporation Globe Corp.
Tomorrows End is definitely more action driven than its predecessor but contains a much more complex plot exploring the cause and effects of time travel. There are jumps in time and crossing time lines that would probably make The Doctors head spin. It has predictable moments and contrite set ups, but overall it’s still a fun ride.
I was glad to rediscover the series. And it reminded me about my first cosplay attempt at 5 or 6. I made my own transducer from the inside of an old headband and my own PJ (Alana’s computer wrist band) from a piece of paper that I coloured purple. It was primitive but I remember many adventures of make-believe in my house.
So with that thought in mind, tell me about your early sci-fi shows or characters you used to dress as in the comments below and If you’re curious about The Girl From Tomorrow, you can find the series on youtube or I recommend you buy it from various DVD outlets.