Before a TV channel wants to spend money on something, its usually traditional for the producers to make an initial episode or TV movie which outlines the basic plot and premise of the program.
However, not all of these projects get the green light and make it as far as getting an actual full series commission, due to the fact that they are poorly timed, excessively expensive, or just being plain old crap.
I'm going to have a look at a couple of these pilot shows that were given the thumbs down from the TV people, and give my opinion of them...oh yes.
ReWind (SyFy - 2013)
Its a bit like- The Time Tunnel,Quantum Leap, Sliders
After a terrorist group destroys New York with a nuclear bomb, an international team of scientists and military types assemble to make use of a top secret time travel device to subtly change history so that "bad" events (usually ones that involve mass death and so on, particularly connected to the US) don't happen. However, the time travellers can only spend a short period of time in the past as the time window created by their machine only remains open for a fixed, but random, amount of time, meaning that if they fail to get back to the window, they will be stranded in the past, and, if they fail their mission, they will not be able to try again without causing a temporal paradox!
The team are aided in their efforts by a computer called the "Panopticon", which can fairly accurately predict the outcome of changes made to the past and what their knock on effect will be in the future, however the machine is not always correct.
Finally, the time travellers and their secret base are protected from changes in the time line by a side effect of the time window, so no matter what they do to change the past, they themselves will not be changed.
Plot of Pilot -
After the nuclear destruction of New York, a team travels back in time to 1929 to kill a street punk who spends the majority of his life committing crimes. This punk will eventually kill the wife of the scientist who built the nuclear bomb for the terrorists in a botched mugging attempt, sending the scientist insane, which eventually leads him to build a bomb.
The team are briefed on 1920s culture and language and given era appropriate clothing and equipment, then they step through the portal, being the first humans to attempt time travel.
they are successful in their attempt, but find that time travel is a fairly gut wrenching experience.
Once back in the past, all of the travellers are tempted to alter events to suit their own personal needs, but decide against messing around with their own personal histories.
Back at time travel HQ, the technicians find that after the travellers have departed, the amount of time they have to get back decreases, this, coupled with the fact that the travellers get lost while trying to find the guy they're supposed to kill, and end up nearly getting killed when they have a traffic accident with a moonshine bootlegger.
Just as they think they are going to fail in their mission, they find the man they are supposed to kill, and discover that he is committing crimes in order to provide for his younger sister. They decide against killing him, instead, one of the travellers poses as the mans "guardian angel", and tells him of what will happen if he continues being a criminal. The man heeds the warning and New York is restored, however the travellers run short of time to get back to the time portal, so it becomes a race against time to get back to their starting point, which is made significantly easier by one of the historians remembering that a hidden road used by bootleggers can get them back much quicker.
With seconds to spare, they make it back to the portal, and are relived to see that New York has been restored.
While they celebrate, the military liaison dresses in a winter coat, loads a gun and steps through the portal while no one is looking, which immediately causes New York to disappear again.....
So why did it fail?
While the basic premise of the show was good, the problem was it has all been done before. Both "The Time Tunnel" and "Quantum Leap" covered the whole "time travelling to change things for the better" trope, while "Sliders" covered the whole "a team of people go about alternate Earths correcting wrongs". With such a well trodden concept, and a large budget required to recreate the past, this show, if it ever made it to a full series, would have to have been really popular to justify itself.
The plot of this initial episode is fairly bland and uninteresting, I knew as soon as it was mentioned that they were going to go back in time to kill someone that there would be a reason found for them not to abuse time travel for the purposes of cold blooded murder, and it came as no surprise whatsoever that at the end someone else found a way to use the machine to fiddle around with history and cause a disaster, so as a series, each week the team of travellers would have jaunted through time fixing problems etc etc, exactly like Quantum Leap and Sliders.
Final Score - 4/10
doorways (sic) (1993)
Its a bit like - Sliders (see later)
Our reality is not the only reality in existence, as Dr. Thomas Mason finds out when he stumbles across a young woman named "Cat". Cat has the ability to find and travel through "doorways"(sic) , which are naturally occurring portals that allow anyone stepping through them to travel to an infinite number of alternative realities. Dr. Mason and Cat travel through these portals in an effort to keep one step ahead of "The Dark Lord", an enemy from Cats home reality who relentlessly pursues her.
The Plot -
Dr.Mason MD meets a woman called "Cat", who is on the run from someone she calls "The Dark Lord", who appears to be some sort of demon/alien from her own reality. Cat struggles to convince Dr.Mason that she is telling the truth, both due to the fact that she can barely speak English, and due to the fact that the police and the FBI are wanting to have words with her.
Eventually, Cat proves she is telling the truth by showing Mason a "doorway" to another reality, which they promptly end up falling through after the bad guys catch up with them.
Cat and Dr.Mason visit various different Earths, including one where there are no petrochemicals left and the towns and highways of America are terrorized by gangs of bicycle riding punks.
Cat has a defense against the bad guys though, in the form of a weapon she stole from her own reality, which is a sort of gun that fires explosive flechettes, or, as she describes it "Fwick!...BOOM!".
Dr.Mason faces up to the fact that he wont be returning any time soon, and continues to travel with Cat hoping that they will eventually find a way for him to get back to his own reality, however no matter where they hide, the servants of the Dark Lord are always able to track them down....
Why did it fail?
Despite the series concept being created by George R.R Martin , its timing was completely wrong. The early 90s were not a good time for Sci-Fi offerings, particularly one which was as weak as "doorways" ended up being.
The pilot episode was poorly scripted and acted (With the character Cat pretty much sounding like she suffered from some sort of mental retardation, and Dr.Mason spending most of the time acting like a confused buffoon) and the special effects were of very poor quality (even by early 90s standards), Plus, the series itself would have been expensive, as each week the travellers would have had to visit an alternate Earth, which would have required a lot of money to be spent on costumes, sets and special effects. In the end, with the main characters being thoroughly unlikable, and the premise being a tad on the expensive side, the series was given the thumbs down.
Interestingly enough though, when you watch this pilot, it has many, many, many similarities with "Sliders", which eventually got greenlit 2 years after doorways had been binned. these similarities did not go unnoticed, so much so that George Martin himself had to issue a statement to say that screenwriter Tracy Torme, the creator of "Sliders", had had no involvement with "doorways" bar his agent applying for a job on his behalf as a writer.
Another interesting note is that doorways starred a young Carrie-Ann Moss , Kurtwood Smith and Max Grodenchik , all of whom later went on to find stardom in other projects.
Final Score - 3/10