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Series / The Tomorrow People (1973)

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1970s British Speculative Fiction series created by Roger Damon Price, who also created You Can't Do That on Television. The Tomorrow People followed the adventures of a group of Homo superior, the next stage in human evolution. The titular Tomorrow People were an ensemble of three to five children and young adults born with special powers, primarily telepathy and the ability to teleport or "jaunt". Using these abilities, the Tomorrow People fought to protect Earth from home-grown and extraterrestrial menaces, while keeping their own existence secret from world governments that would misuse their powers, awaiting the day when they could (very politely and bloodlessly) take control of the world away from the "saps" (short for Homo sapiens).

It is almost impossible to discuss The Tomorrow People without comparing it to Classic Doctor Who, to which it was, essentially, ITV's answer.note 

Starting in the third season, the team often traveled to other worlds (played by the BBC Quarry through a sepia filter) on missions for the Galactic Federation, an interstellar alliance of telepathic species.

The Tomorrow People was revived in the mid 90's with the help of Nickelodeon for three seasons. During the Turn of the Millennium, Big Finish produced a series of The Tomorrow People audio dramas, reuniting many of the original cast members. The audio series has now concluded, although yet another revival (which is Hotter and Sexier than its past incarnations) came about on The CW, but lasted just a season. It has its own page now.

The 1970s series and 1990s reboot provide examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: John seems to regard Emily as one of these in "A Man for Emily".
  • Actor Allusion: The first 90s story features two police officers named Young and Holloway, named after Nicholas Young and Michael Holloway from the 70s show.
  • Adults Are Useless: Not just useless: an inferior species. In the Revival, they are also pastiche moronic-adult caricatures as well.
  • Aesoptinum: The main characters' telepathy makes them incapable of killing.
  • Age-Appropriate Angst: From Tyso and Andrew when the older teenagers in the group forbid them to go out by themselves.
  • Apocalypse Hitler: In "Hitler's Last Secret", Hitler is re-awakened from his suspended animation in a Bavarian mountain ready to take control of the new Fourth Reich.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "Monsoon Man", when Middlemas asks if they're allowed to park, Wilkie scoffs, "Double attempted murder AND kindapping. And that's just today! Psh, you're wetting your pants over a parking ticket!"
  • Artistic License – Biology: In "Hitler's Last Secret", John explains, straight-faced, that "Genes are those body cells known as the DNA molecule." Which is about as biologically accurate as saying "Fribble fribble rhubarb, fribble fribble ploo," and only slightly better grammatically.
  • Ascended Extra: Jade Weston appeared in a few short scenes in "The Culex Experiment", then later became the tritagonist in "The Living Stones".
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Hold on... Since when was Hsui Tai a Japanese name?
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: "Hitler's Last Secret" reveals that Adolf Hitler was an alien metamorph who is also now behind the rise of neofascism amongst European youth.
  • Big Bad: Jedikiah, although he only appears in seasons one and three.
  • Big Brother Mentor: John is this to all the Tomorrow People apart from Carol and Elizabeth. Adam to all apart from Lisa.
  • Binary Suns: The show briefly mentioned a planet called QX5 that orbited two suns.
  • Bloodless Carnage: In "The Revenge of Jedekiah", John and Elizabeth are gunned down by soldiers with fully automatic assault rifles. Not only do they (barely) manage to survive their injuries, but when we see them sprawled on the floor, there isn't a trace of blood.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Glenn College becomes one of these when The Doomsday Men take it over.
  • Briar Patching: In "The New Gods", an ancient alien consciousness leads John to destroy its idol, thinking it to be the source of the being's power. In fact, the idol was restraining its power, so its destruction set it free.
  • Bus Crash: In the Big Finish The Tomorrow People line, we are told that Kenny, one of the early Tomorrow People, has been killed by an assassin.
  • Busman's Holiday:
    • In "The Vanishing Earth", Ginge takes a holiday at the seaside. While visiting the haunted house at a funfair, he gets captured by an alien criminal Spidron who is mining the Earth for its rare minerals.
    • The fittingly-named "A Much Needed Holiday" sees the group take a holiday to a primitive planet to get over the tragic events of "The Dirtiest Business", only to stumble across a population enslaved by aliens mining for diamonds.
  • Butt-Monkey: What scenes Tyso was in, he was either the butt of a joke, or in a position where he was rarely pleased to be seen.
  • Canon Discontinuity: In the Big Finish audios, for no reason other than the writer's distaste, they make a special effort, in an audio-only medium where no one need ever know anyway, to point out that the switch from tacky belts to tacky bracelets and TIM's upgrade to "mobile trash bin" form have been undone. Also, the names of several of the 90's revival characters are listed among Tomorrow People who died while breaking out, effectively writing off the entire series as a Near-Death Experience.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • The group's "sap" friends Ginge and Chris, from seasons one and two respectively, are not heard from or seen again after their respective appearances.
    • Tyso and Stephen disappear between seasons 4 and 5 (which was apparently because the powers wanted Mike to be the star of the show).
    • In the 90s version, no explanation is given for Lisa and Kevin's disappearances.
  • Claustrophobia: Canonically, this is what Tyso has.
  • Contagious Powers: In the first season of the 1990s series, Megabyte is the only one of the characters without powers, but then (surprise!) he gets them in the last episode of that season. In 'The Living Stones', new Tritagonist Jade Weston breaks out as a Tomorrow Person in the final episode.
  • Continuity Reboot: In the 1990s revival.
  • Damsel in Distress: Carol often played this role in the show's first season.
  • Demoted to Extra: Tyso's fate by the end of series 4, after being Out of Focus since the middle of series 3. Apparently his portrayer, Dean Lawrence, didn't seem to mind as he had been planning to leave at the end of that particular series anyway. On the Beyond Tomorrow documentary he even issued a Take That! to episodes produced for series 5 and later.
  • Die or Fly: In the 90s reboot, Jade spends much of her series hanging out with Adam and Megabyte and wishing she could be a Tomorrow Person. Her powers are revealed when she saves herself (and her crush Megabyte) from an exploding boiler room.
  • Documentary: The Talking Heads - centred Beyond Tomorrow, which was finally released in 2005 after being filmed in 1997.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The slow and painful process of 'breaking out' (i.e., becoming a Tomorrow Person) which just happens to occur in one's teenage years...
  • Downer Ending: "The Dirtiest Business" ends with the Russian girl who breaks out killing herself to save the lives of others, leaving Mike distraught.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The Origin Story from the 90s series had a different theme song and different visual and sound effects for teleportation. Adam had long hair. Megabyte looked younger. Lisa and Kevin were prominently featured. Adam and Megabyte didn't interact with each other until the final scene despite being best friends in subsequent episodes. First-time teleporters always landed in the ocean close to the home base island in The Origin Story, but never in later episodes.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: "The Lab," the group's Home Base below the London Underground.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: "The Thargon Menace" has an unusually high body count, with practically every guest character dying.
  • Evolutionary Levels: The entire premise revolved around "the next step in human evolution".
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: Homo superior are inherently unable to kill people, so they arm themselves with stun guns.
  • Fictional United Nations: The Galactic Federation seem to be roughly along these lines, especially in the last story "War of the Empires": They have a council made up of members of different races and accord developing worlds protected planet status that officially bars advanced aliens from interfering with them, but in practise they have no real way of enforcing their laws and their attempt to broker peace between the Thargons and Sorsons ends in failure (although they promise to reform and get rid of the bureaucracy they are mired in after the Tomorrow People narrowly prevent Earth being caught in the crossfire of the war).
  • Free-Range Children: Parents are mentioned but hardly ever seen, and many of the Tomorrow People live in the Lab.
  • Funny Background Event: In the 90s series, an old man is frequently seen taking his tortoise for a (leisurely) walk down the pavement. This is never commented on.
  • Green Rooming: Tyso is introduced in the first episode of “Secret Weapon” ... before spending half the serial in a coma.
  • Hand Wave: In the second series, it's stated that John found a way to jaunt without giving off the flashy light show. It leads to Fridge Logic when Elizabeth jaunts in an identical manner while she's breaking out.
  • Healing Hands: Homo superiors have this power.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    Dr. Culex: The boy on the bike? He's seen too much. Get him!
  • Hollywood Science: In sufficient quantity that Dr. Chris Evans should really have thought twice about having his name listed as "Scientific Advisor" in the credits.
  • Human Subspecies: The titular race is characterized in-universe as Homo superior, the next step in human evolution.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Pretty much inherent in the series concept.
  • Humans Are White: "Worlds Away", Elizabeth was once forced to sit out their visit to a Human Alien planet because there weren't any black people on that world. A native asked her if she was from the same planet as the other Tomorrow People, then commented that there must be "an interesting variety of skin color" on Earth when she said yes.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The Tomorrow People were presumably safe when jaunting through hyperspace. If they jaunted into hyperspace and stayed there without protective gear, their bodies would be annihilated. Additionally, hyperspace was seen as a place where time had no meaning, but you'd return to your own time upon leaving. That is, unless some major temporal screw-up had occurred, which ran the possibility of freezing time temporarily. Note that hyperspace was not instantly lethal. When breaking out, Elizabeth accidentally became stranded in hyperspace. While she was in deadly danger, there was a reasonable amount of time to deduce what had happened to her and mount a rescue.
  • Identical Stranger: The Galactic Federation's diplomatic corps consists mostly of clones of the actor who also provided the voice for TIM.
  • In Medias Res: 1970s series. As a result, the seemingly much more interesting origin story is only ever presented in Expospeak info-dumps.
  • In Working Order: In the 90s remake, the kids use a crash-landed spaceship as headquarters. While it cannot fly, it can act as homing beacon for Tomorrow People, heal them when they nearly drown, enhance their telepathic abilities, and whip up the best orange juice known to man.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Spidron from "The Vanishing Earth".
    • The KGB agents from "The Dirtiest Business".
    • The US President from "War of the Empires" receives no punishment for attacking the Tomorrow People and opening fire on the Thargon fleet, an act which almost gets Earth destroyed.
    • None of the villains in the first 90s story (Colonel Masters, Professor Galt, Lady Mulvaney) seem to receive any sort of punishment for kidnapping and unethical experiments.
  • Kirk Summation: The series manages a few, notably in "A Rift in Time" when the Tomorrow People debate the values of their version of history with the representatives of a 20th century Roman Empire:
    Gaius: How can one man rule unless others obey? How can one be free without slaves?
    Elizabeth: How can any man rule wisely without first learning to obey? How can any man be free while others are enslaved? How can anyone achieve greatness while others are prevented from fulfilment?
    • She possibly tops that when she dismisses Colonel Masters' claim that weaponising telepaths will put an end to war, pointing out that's what people have thought about every new weapon:
    They even thought that the old English longbow would put an end to war, after the carnage it caused at the Battle of Agincourt. Well, there've been a few wars since Agincourt, haven't there, Colonel?
  • Landmarking the Hidden Base: Years before the Doctor Who revival did it, the 90s remake had an immortal Egyptian villain hide his power-nexus pyramid in the middle of London... as the top of the Canary Wharf Tower.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: In the original series, Mike demonstrated a limited but effective form of telekinesis - he can open any lock. A gang of criminals kidnapped him and some of his family for leverage on the superhuman lockpick. At one point, the boss asked one of his mooks if the telekinetic and his family are safe. The mook's response - "Sure. Got 'em under lock and key."
  • Mad Scientist: Doctor Culex. Professor Galt has a few of these tendencies as well.
  • Mind over Matter: Several of The Tomorrow People were able to learn this ability.
  • Monster Threat Expiration: Occurs in "The Culex Experiment." Every time Culex directs one of her mosquitoes at a disposable guest character, it stings them into a coma within a few seconds. But when she traps Ami with one of them, it buzzes around her menacingly for several minutes until her friends teleport her to safety. At the climax, Culex unleashes a whole swarm of them at a small group of heroes and they apparently don't manage to sting anyone before the Tomorrow People casually freeze them to death.
  • Motive Decay: Jedikiah. In "The Slaves of Jedikiah," the shapeshifting android was not really villainous, but was perpetrating his apparently-evil deeds because he was under orders from a kind alien who mistakenly believed humans to be dangerous and barbaric. In his various reappearances, Jedekiah is simply evil, and obsessed with revenge, conquest, and the eradication of Homo superior — and the Tomorrow People already seem to know this to be his natural personality ahead of time.
  • No Endor Holocaust: At the end of "The Blue and the Green," the Tomorrow People solve the problem that aliens are about to cause all humans to commit extreme violence by knocking the entire world unconscious so they only dream about committing violence. What happens to everyone who was driving a car, travelling by plane, being operated on, etc., is never addressed.
  • No Equal-Opportunity Time Travel: Done with space travel rather than time travel in "Wolds Apart," when the characters visit a planet of Human Aliens. As there are no dark-skinned people on that world (or at least that part of it), Elizabeth isn't able to accompany her companions in public.
  • No Name Given: Original Tomorrow People John, Carol and Kenny are never given surnames. Particularly egregious with John, the only character to be in every episode.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Galactic Federation, who will spend a lot of time talking about a problem but are reluctant to take action. Due to this, on two occasions, Timus had to secretly enlist the aid of the Tomorrow People to deal with two specific problems. However, at the end of the final story the Federation decides to change this.
  • The Nth Doctor: Jedikiah was played by Francis de Wolff in two out of three appearances, but in a weird move, Roger Bizley played Jedikiah for "The Medusa Strain", which took place right after the end of "The Slaves of Jedikiah".
  • One-Book Author:
    • Kenny was Stephen Salmon's only acting role. He was dropped after the first season due to his notoriously bad acting. He didn't have an interest in acting and later became an electronic engineer.
    • Misako Koba (Hsui Tai) was another castmember who acted in the show reluctantly. She decided to focus on raising a family instead of pursuing an acting career.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Nigel Rhodes, who was English and playing the evidently Scottish Andrew Forbes, often experienced this. There was one episode where Andrew faked an American accent. That often slipped too.
  • Psychic Powers: All Tomorrow People are capable of communicating via telepathy and of Psychic Teleportation, as well as other powers.
  • Puberty Superpower: New teeps begin manifesting their powers in a dramatic "breaking out," their head suddenly crowded with overheard voices via telepathy and, more dangerously, teleporting instinctively with no destination in mind, winding up stuck in hyperspace forever.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • After the first season, Carol and Kenny were sent to the Galactic Federation's headquarters The Trig to work as ambassadors for Earth. This due to Sammie Winmill deciding not to renew her contract and Stephen Salmon being such an appalling actor they didn't bother bringing him back.
    • After season three, Tricia Conway is said to have become a law enforcement agent with the Federation and is working off-world. This was due to Anne Curthoys being unable to reprise the role as she had begun work on a soap opera.
  • Pyramid Power: Done in the Nineties revival. The plot is that an immortal Egyptian pharaoh is trying to recreate the circumstances required when the stars align to give him great power, which requires him to move a bunch of obelisks all over Europe (supposedly explaining why they were brought to London, Rome etc. in the nineteenth century). The protagonists point out that this would mean he would have to have built a central focusing pyramid in the middle of them, in central London...they then look behind them and see the pyramidal top of the Canary Wharf Tower. Note this was years before it was used as the Torchwood Tower in Doctor Who.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • In the 70s series, Timus from the Galactic Federation and the Prime Minister on Earth.
    • On one occasion when they were being kidnapped and experimented upon by the establishment, they responded by actually kidnapping the Prime Minister. Once the situation was explained to the Prime Minister, the dear old chap was only too happy to help.
    • In the 90s series, General Damon.
  • Religion of Evil: The sect of monks that raised Hsui Tai treat children as the reincarnation of their gods and sacrifice them when they come of age to maintain their innocence, before recruiting a new set. Made worse by the fact that their leader doesn't believe in the gods and is merely interested in keeping his position of power and comfort.
  • Revival: In The '90s as a live-action series, and the Turn of the Millennium as an audio drama and The New '10s as another live-action series.
  • Robot Buddy: TIM, a bio-electronic computer, who later became a mobile trash bin.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Basically the attitude of US astronaut Dave, who goes AWOL and risks court martial in order to rescue John, who once saved his life.
  • Series Fauxnale: Season three's "The Revenge of Jedikiah" was meant to be the end of the series, as Roger Price had got fed up with his own creation by that point. So much that he planned to end it by the killing off the whole cast at the end of the season, but he was talked out of it.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: "The Dirtiest Business" sees the group trying to help a Russian telepath named Pavla escape from the KGB, only for her to sacrifice herself at the end of the episode.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silly Reason for War: "The Blue and the Green" has most of the world's population on the verge of mass violence and riots between those who preferred the color blue to those who preferred the color green. It eventually turned out that this was being psychically induced by the onset of the pupal stage in a brood of aliens left as eggs on Earth during the fall of Rome. The Tomorrow People save both the aliens and the Earth by knocking everyone on the planet unconscious and giving them violent dreams to provide the necessary psychic energy to the aliens in a comparatively harmless way.
  • Space Clothes:
    • Very tacky belts worn to enhance jaunting abilities, as well as a low-budget, not-at-all-bulky space suit. If they jaunted directly into hyperspace, the suit would keep them in one piece.
    • Then there were the bubble-skin jumpsuits in "The Living Skins"...
  • Spock Speak: Notably averted with TIM, who actually speaks much more naturally than many of the non-electronic advanced aliens. One of the Big Finish audios comments extensively on how unusual this is.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: The first episode the 1990s remake to come into his powers was named "Adam Newman." Adam as in the name of the first man, and Newman as in "New man" — first of a new species of human.
  • Subspace or Hyperspace: John theorizes that their form of teleportation involves travel through hyperspace. They later learn that Tomorrow People who do not successfully "Break out" (i.e., come into their powers) get lost in hyperspace and eventually lose bodily cohesion. Elizabeth is saved from such a fate in her introductory episode. John later adjusts their Jaunting belts to "change the angle" at which they enter hyperspace, as justification for a special effect change. In the Big Finish series, one of the villains is the insane, disembodied consciousness of a Tomorrow Person who had become stuck in hyperspace.
  • Take a Third Option: "The Blue and the Green" involves an alien species whose life cycle involves feeding on violent emotions, which they instinctively provoke telepathically in surrounding life-forms, to complete their pupation. A brood of these aliens hidden away on Earth has reached this stage, and the Tomorrow People are faced with a dilemma: if they don't stop the aliens' pupation, their telepathic influence will cause widespread violence and a massive death toll, but if they do, the aliens will all die; either option involves condoning the deaths of innocent people and breaking one of the Tomorrow People's most fundamental principles. They escape the dilemma by putting every human on Earth to sleep during the vital time period, so that they can experience the violent emotions without acting on them. (The episode carefully avoids addressing the fact that putting everyone to sleep while they're going about their daily lives — flying aircraft, operating heavy machinery, etc. — would itself result in the deaths of a significant number of innocent people.)
  • Take Me to Your Leader: Lampshaded in an episode when a species called the Sorsons arrive on Earth and make this request, TIM mentions that the Sorsons have been monitoring Earth broadcasts for a long time and are aware of the cliché:
    The Sorsons are not without a sense of humour.
  • Teen Genius: Mainly John, although Stephen did display bouts of ingenuity when he wasn't going after all the food.
  • Teen Idol: Mike Holoway, who played Mike Bell, was a singer and drummer in the band Flintlock, who were very popular amongst the teen crowd. His 'popstar' persona was carried over into the show, where his character would play in a band called "The Fresh Hearts." In one episode he was shown to be writing a song and even asking TIM for advice.
  • Telepathic Spacemen: The Galactic Federation, a space collective of telepathic species, sends communications to the human Tomorrow People via telepathy. Due to the distances involved, the messages are usually received by a telepathic computer instead of directly, except in desperate cases.
  • Time Police: The Guardians of Time, presumably. The Guardians are a more advanced form of human than Homo superior (called either Homo novus or Homo sapiens temporum), though it isn't exactly clear what their role is, as their appearances all involve them being lured into traps by villains seeking to exploit their ability to facilitate time travel.
  • Tin-Can Robot: TIM had a mobile unit that looked a bit tin-canny.
  • Title Montage: The 1990s version, unusual in that the montages consist of clips from the upcoming episode.
  • Video Inside, Film Outside: 1970s version only. The 1990s version was shot entirely on film.
  • Weather-Control Machine: The Nineties remake had a villain who was an American cereal magnate with such a machine; in a more-thoughtful example than most, his Evil Plan was to use it to destroy the corn harvest of the United States in order to make his own stockpiles more valuable à la Egypt in The Bible.
  • We Are as Mayflies: The original series featured a time traveling character called Peter who, despite being over 100 years old, looked about 12. In typical Tomorrow People style, when they speculate on how old his (physically elderly) grandfather is, the best guess they can come up with is "older."
  • We Didn't Start the Führer: In the episode "Hitler's Last Secret," it is revealed that Hitler was a shape-shifting alien.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Colonel Masters and Major Turner have no compunctions about kidnapping telepathic teenagers and subjecting them to dangerous medical procedures, but believe they're acting in Britain's best interests.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Elizabeth delivers a massive one to John when he initially chooses not to rescue dying astronaut Lee.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: "Worlds Away" was inspired by Chariots of the Gods. It's revealed that the Pyramids of Egypt were the result of aliens.
  • Written-In Absence: Elizabeth is often absent during season six due to Elizabeth Adare's pregnancy. As a result, she is said to be working on diplomatic missions for the Galactic Federation.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: in one episode, they encounter a Negative Space Wedgie. A ship entering the wedgie immediately exits the way it came it, but with around eight hours passing for the crew. Inexplicably, the crews' watches stop.
  • You Can Say That Again: Occurred on a few occasions in the show, each time with someone saying "that again!"