Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"The Tomorrow People" on CWTV: teenagers with power now seem like old hat; more from Greg Berlanti

The idea of the attractive, clean-cut teen or young adult with powers (more often than not, white) is perhaps becoming “old hat”.  Based on my own observation, there may be a little of this in “real life”.  When do genetic gifts transcend when is possible in our normal world.  When would a genetic gift turn someone into a different “species”.
The Tomorrow People”, created by Greg Berlanti (“Everwood”), Phil Klemmer and Julie Plec, premiered on CWTV on Oct. 9, 2013 with a Pilot, but it is actually reworked from an older British series in the 1970s.  Apparently you don’t have to come from another planet or get an infusion of nanobytes to have powers.  They can occur with a genetic mutation, at least according to this show.

Slowly, the tomorrow people have been finding one another and setting up a secret community below the NYC subways, with the help of a supercomputer named “TIM”.  And the government sees them as a threat, and has set up a special clandestine unit called Ultra to hunt them down and prevent them from threatening humanity.

The Pilot focuses on 16-year-old Stephen Jameson (Robbie Arnell), growing up with an athletic younger brother and single mom in a brownstone on the East Side. He’s been on meds for hearing voices, and the doctors claim he is schizophrenic, like his disappeared father.  But soon his “3 T’s” (telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation) start to appear sporadically.  He starts winding up sleeping in other people’s homes, and cannot explain how he got in.

He gets picked off the NYC streets by Ultra but his friends get him out.  He suddenly finds that one of his telekinetic powers is to stop bullets (Clark Kent could do that in “Smallville”.)   Then he is introduced to his uncle Jed (Mark Pellegrino), who recruits him to join Ultra to save his own skin, but he will become a double agent.

The official site is here
The script raises questions about loyalty and identity.  He is told he is endangering the “humans” in his family (brother and mother).  But why would we think he is not human?  By definition, if he could be born biologically by humans with such a mutation (recessive or dominant) he’s human.  I think “Smallville” provoked a question that, for all we know, could come up some day.  If we all do have a common ancestor from another planet (if we’re all Martians, to start with), and someone like Clark really arrives, would he be legally human and entitled to the same rights?  But we can even ask a question like that about another creature on our planet (evolved in parallel with intelligence the result of “convergent evolution”) of about our congnition but inhabiting a different space, the dolphin (including orca), having some “powers” (like sonar) that we don’t have.  Does that creature have the rights of a human?  What re the ethical implications? 
One could also make a psychological parallel with homosexuality (where gay people were seen as “different”), but the analogy breaks down because the “tomorrow people” really could reproduce and displace those persons who don’t have “powers”.  Likewise, an analogy to race would breakdown quickly, because race is indeed biologically superficial, relating only to how skin reacts to sunlight at a particular latitude.  It’s noteworthy that the “tomorrow people” use their powers only to defend themselves and for morally good purposes – that is, the people that appear in the cast never get “Wicked”.  But the script says that some other teen TP’s have become computer hackers (like they’re responsible now for the Target hack).  Imagine how dangerous it could be if someone could change the contents of a computer memory or harddrive with thought alone. I wouldn’t want to be able to do that.
I’ll check some more episodes soon and see where Berlanti et al take this.

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