Time After Time Review: Two Brits and One Kick–Ass Latina

Time After Time is based on the 1979 novel/movie of the same name, with a few key updates that bring it into the 21st century.

Time After Time (1979)
Time After Time (1979)
Warner Bros. / Orion Pictures

Knowing that one of my favorite movies was about to become a TV series, I sat down to rewatch 1979’s Time After Time and realized it’s far more dated than I remembered. Man, those visual effects were absolutely horrendous. Okay so it was the 70s, but that decade also gave us Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Alien among many others. The damsel-in-distress trope was in full effect, and though Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen (his onscreen love interest) were married the following year their chemistry was non-existent. Mostly I was surprised by how fondly I remembered the movie, when it doesn’t hold up well in 2017 at all. The premise of H.G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper through time is what stuck with me, I guess. That said, there is so much to like about ABCs reimagining starting with its strong female lead that stands up to and knocks out the ripper at one point. What?!?

TIME AFTER TIME - "Pilot"
Courtesy of ABC

The first hour was tasked with introducing all the characters, but you quickly got a sense of why someone like H.G. Wells (Freddie Stroma) would fall for Jane Walker (Genesis Rodriguez). The woman’s brilliant! I’m familiar with Stroma from Game of Thrones and as a Miamian myself, I know Rodriguez from telenovelas, Entourage and Big Hero 6. These two actors will probably never marry, but their chemistry runs circles around McDowell & Steenburgen’s versions. Both are extremely likable in their respective roles. Then there’s Jack, and boy is it cool to hear Josh Bowman speak in his natural accent. That’s right Revenge fans, Mr. Bowman was born in Berkshire, England. While I loved the first season of Revenge, they lost me early in Season 2. Bowman was a’ight on that show, but he’s clearly having a ball as Dr. John Stevenson. I’ve read a couple of early reviews that complain Time After Time’s leads are “too attractive.” If they weren’t as pretty, that would be an issue as well. Folks always find something to bitch about. No matter how you slice it or dice it, audiences opt for eye candy. Still, all three are wonderful young actors who managed to hook me in the first hour. By comparison, and this is not a slight because I loved Timeless, but it took me four or five episodes to fall for that trio.

The series paid homage to the film in many ways, opening almost with the exact same camera angle as the ’79 version. The tone, while in 1893 London, felt very much like its movie counterpart only our new leads have a charisma and connection that you sense straight away. Much of the classic lines are present here as well, which was a nice touch. Naturally the series is as violent as one would expect, though there’s not a ton of blood. This isn’t Walking Dead, know what I mean?

TIME AFTER TIME - "Pilot"
Courtesy of ABC

Anyway, we suspend our disbelief long enough to accept the fact Wells built a time machine while researching his novel. Soon Scotland Yard arrived looking for the ripper, and Dr. Stevenson popped into the machine ending up in modern day New York. Our serial killer’s the risk taker, taunting Wells that he “Writes about life without actually living it.” Well, all that changed rather quickly as Wells now finds himself chasing his old buddy through time. Wasn’t it great to hear the music crescendo and suddenly stop? The machine froze over, and boom it’s 2017 New York. Syfy’s 12 Monkeys gets tons of criticism because characters simply vanish when they time travel. There are no fancy lights or blurry motion effects. They’re simply gone. Personally, I dig it. Time travel is quick and fairly uneventful on this show as well, which works for me. I loved the way they teased us with music during the time travel sequences.

Which reminds me, composer Jeff Russo’s (Fargo, The Night Of, Legion) score is reminiscent of Bear McCreary’s early Da Vinci’s Demons themes. Both convey a sense of wonderment and innocence mashed with the intense thrill ride the characters find themselves propelled into. McCreary is one of my all time faves, so I mention this as a huge compliment to Russo. He’s killing it on Legion as well, by the way.

TIME AFTER TIME - "Pilot"
Courtesy of ABC

The fact Wells and Stevenson arrived at an H.G. Wells exhibit in a museum where Jane Walker worked, and that the machine’s now owned by Vanessa Anders, his ancestor, tied everything together neatly. Even the security guard sending Dr. Stevenson to the Renaissance Hotel was a clever choice. The first ten minutes of the pilot covered a huge chunk of the movie, so the pacing was spot on. Jane’s reaction to the very proper Wells was terrific. It was amusing the way he stood up each time Jane did. Stroma captures Wells’ naiveté just wonderfully, like when he learned his work’s been published in the future. Good thing her female intuition lead Jane to prefer the cute one. Imagine if she fell for the other guy? Their attraction was instant, which makes me wonder if Wells will take her back to 1893 London and the two share a life together? The real Herbert George Wells divorced his wife Isabel Mary Wells in 1894 and his second wife, Amy Catherine Robbins, died in 1927. The possibilities are endless with time travel, so I’m curious to see how the writers handle the Wells/Walker relationship.

TIME AFTER TIME - "I Will Catch You"
Courtesy of ABC

Wells’ relationship with Vanessa Anders is another pretty interesting development. In the second hour, we learned via a DNA test that the two are indeed family, and that he visited her in college. Will the series take us to that time period? The moment led her to become the woman she is in 2017, which ultimately is a very good thing for H.G. Wells. Is he going to start screwin’ up time, like on The Flash? While she did slip up, sending security guards to interfere with the Wells/Stevenson meeting, you can understand why she did it. She was only looking out for her great-great-great grandfather, you know? I like the character, and I want to learn more about her which is all that matters.

TIME AFTER TIME - "I Will Catch You"
Courtesy of ABC

At the center of the drama, is Wells and Stevenson’s cat and mouse chase through time. Naturally, at 112 minutes the movie ultimately killed off its villain. The series could not take the same route, otherwise what you’ve got is ABCs “The Bachelor” who time travels. Ha! I’ll be honest, this storytelling engine does not seem sustainable over several years. Jack the Ripper is not a redeemable guy, but it will be interesting to see how the writers keep the character fresh yet threatening. How long before the chase gets old? While Wells understands he doesn’t belong in the future and sheds a tear watching Trump on TV (I know the feeling pal), Stevenson is totally at home there. It did frustrate me a tad that Jack the Ripper adjusted to cellphones and clubbing beautifully, while the creator of time travel couldn’t turn on a TV. It’s okay, I get why the writers did it, but I’m hoping they don’t make H.G. Wells the goofball in order to prop other characters up. Again, Freddie Stroma is likable enough that he makes it work. Just like in the movie, Stevenson set his sights on Wells’ girl and they learned she had 3 days to live. However, they saved her… so are we now in an alternate timeline?

Closing Thoughts…

I think ABC airing the first two episodes together was a smart move, and I loved that “I Will Catch You” picked up right where the “Pilot” left off. The second hour was basically “Pilot” Part 2, and both episodes were directed by Marcos Siega. The characters were fleshed out a little more, but it was mostly Stevenson using Jane to get the time machine’s key. Waking up on Jack the Ripper’s couch would freak anyone out. It was pretty ballsy the way Jane spoke to Stevenson and later knocked him unconscious. The movie’s damsel-in-distress sure has come a long way. I would’ve been poopin’ in my pants. Yeah, Jane Rocks! Overall, Time After Time is well written, and features a charming cast which won me over very quickly. Though I’m not sure what the weekly format will prove to be, or which time period’s we’ll visit… I’ve already decided I’m along for the ride. The producers have said that Wells’ adventures will inspire his most famous novels, which is how this series will differentiate itself from the others. I say this all the time, there are a bazillion cop/procedural shows… we can definitely do with a few more time travel stories. Tune-in, support sci-fi shows.


Time After Time airs Sundays at 9/8c on ABC.

  • Interdimensional Dave

    It took me a little while to warm up to Stroma but I took an instant like to Genesis Rodriguez. She’s great. As for Bowman, I know nothing of his previous work. I hope “Jack” get a little more teeth to his character. He’s suave and clever but he doesn’t have the depth that Warner’s character did in the film version.

    I was worried for the life span of “Time” but after the third episode I’m convinced they know what they’re doing and have a few surprises for us.