Monday, 9 March 2015

Serial offender - The Girl From Tomorrow/Tomorrows End (1990 & 1993)

Another delve into the mysterious and murky world of childrens TV serials finds me once again washed up on the shores of Australia for another sci-fi outing, this time with hints of time travel and environmentalism....

Produced by Film Australia (one of the writers went on to create "Spellbinder"), "The Girl From Tomorrow" was one of the numerous TV series created by Australian TV networks in the 1990s, most of which ended up being shown on CBBC (as in the case of this one) or less frequently CITV and Channel 4. An odd thing I found out about this series is that the premise is actually based on a Soviet TV series called "Guest from the future" (Гостья из будущего) which aired on Russian television in 1984.

The show begins in the year 3000, most of the Earth is uninhabited due to a disaster which occurred in the year 2500, which led to the entire northern hemisphere being rendered an uninhabitable wasteland.
Alana is a 15 year old girl who was born on Titan (by the year 3000, the moon, Mars and some of Jupiters moons have been colonised, with Venus in the process of being terraformed), but whose parents sent her to Earth to get an education. While on Earth, which is now a veritable ecological paradise, she becomes close to Tulista, one of her teachers who instructs her in the use of the "transducer", a device which resembles a headband and acts as a brain amplifer, allowing the user to manipulate objects by thought alone. Alana hopes to become a healer (I love how when trying to be exotic, programs like to replace the word "doctor" with "healer" to make it sound less scientific and more cuddly) and the transducer can be used as a healing device, however, as Alana finds out in the opening sequence of the first episode, if someone uses a transducer isn't able to concentrate or control their emotions, the transducer can be a pretty destructive weapon.
One of the leading scientists in the year 3000, Bruno, has invented a time machine, and Tulista, being a historian amongst other things, has been chosen to travel back in time to the year 2500 in order to try and find out the exact nature of "The Great Disaster", which they hope will enable them to make better progress in rebuilding the northern hemisphere, this causes much concern for Alana who believes that time travel is dangerous, and Tulista will be killed, so, she smuggles herself into the "Science Dome" just in time to see the time machine vanish into the past.
The machine returns almost as soon as it left, although 28 days have passed from Tulistas point of view (relativity is awesome innit?), but Tulista has an unwelcome guest with her in the shape of Silverthorn, an all round ne'er do well from the year 2500, who immediately proceeds to threaten everyone in the science lab with his laser pistol, but soon goes off the idea of being their overlord when one of the scientists demonstrates the incorrect use of a transducer. Silverthorn, realising he isn't going to be welcome in the future, decides instead to try the past, and, grabbing Alana as a replacement hostage, he sets the time machine going again and transports himself and Alana back to the year 1990.

Once there, Alana experiences culture shock as she escapes the time capsule (which materialises in a rubbish dump) and wanders dazed and confused through the local town, before she eventually meets up with Jenny Kelly, a typical 90s teenager with strange coloured hair and a penchant for being rebellious.

The remainder of the series sees Alana try to find the time capsule and return home before the 28 day time limit causes it to go without her, all whilst trying to avoid the machinations of Silverthorn, who is doing surprisingly well for himself due to his abuse of the Time capsules databanks which allow him to make money by knowing about things before they happen.

(This series was filmed in 1991, however it didn't air until 1993)

Following on from the end of the first series, "Tomorrows End" sees Alana return to her home time, however Jenny has to go with her, as does Silverthorn, both of whom sustained injuries which only the advanced science of the future can heal. After a month living in the future, it is decided that both Jenny and Silverthorn must be returned home, as their presence in the future has somehow altered the past. While Jenny has fully recovered from her injuries, Silverthorn claims to be suffering from total amnesia, however this is just a ploy to gain peoples trust, which allows him to steal Bruno's plans for an upgraded version of the time capsule, a time portal.
Jenny is returned to 1990 without incident, however when Silverthorn is returned to 2500 (which is shown to be an over populated, polluted post industrial wasteland), he tries to steal the time capsule again, but Alana and Brunos new assistant Lorien escape and travel back to 3000, however when they exit the time capsule, they find the future Earth has been totally destroyed. Quickly deducing that Silverthorn must have done something to alter the future, they return to the past, only for things to go horribly wrong as Lorien is captured and turned into a mindless slave for "Globecorp" (a megacorporation that owns everything on Earth) and it turns out Silverthorn has been using the time portal to bring items from the past into the future, including some nuclear weapons (all weapons, short of personal weapons, have been banned by Globecorp, being as countries blowing each other up is bad for business) which are then used by Globecorps director of operations on Earth, a megalomaniac called Draco, in an evil scheme to take control of Earth away from the board of directors who live in opulent luxury on the moon, while everyone planetside is left to slowly starve or be poisoned to death.

A third series was planned, but was never filmed as funding was not made available, being as the series' special effects budget was quite high, plus the two main actresses were getting too old to convincingly play teenaged children.
There is a strong environmental theme running through the show, although this was common in the early 90s, what with the hole in the ozone layer being discovered and concern mounting over depletion of natural resources etc.
The series does make attempts to be funny on occasion, most of which are successful, albeit cringeworthy in places, such as Alana becoming all giggly after consuming a chocolate eclair, having never been exposed to processed sugars before, which leads to Jenny being embarrassed whilst trying to ask a boy out, and then later leads to Alana spewing up in class as he stomach finally rejects our 20th century processed food.
The remainder of the shows humour usually comes courtesy of two "stock" characters, Petey, Jennys younger brother (standard annoying pre teen boy type) and Eddie (standard clueless goon type), both of whom go through a series of bungles and misadventures over the course of both series' .

The series now looks really dated, but, thanks to its time travel theme, this is perfectly ok, as all the scenes in 1990s Australia are authentic, although the visions of the future do have that distinctive "wobbly set" feel to them, and are properly representitive of what people in the early 90s thought the future would be like.

Another odd thing is that although Silverthorn is made out to be a big badass villain, some lines of dialogue in the 5th episode of the series illustrate that although he wants to exploit his knowledge of the future for his own personal benefit, his intention is on the whole, good, as he wants to stop the world from becoming the radioactive hell hole that it became by his time, this is probably the first time I saw a villain on TV that had this kind of noble purpose hidden behind ruthless ambiguity.

I have fond memories of this series, as it approaches the subject matter in an intelligent and entertaining way, without being condescending in some manner as shows like this intended for children end up being these days, although that said some of the episode "cliffhangers" were a bit daft

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