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Series / Time Trax

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Time Trax (1993-1994) was a television series, an American-Australian co-production.

Time Travel is invented in the last decade of the 22nd century, and its inventor, Doctor Mordicai "Mo" Sahmbi, uses it to help criminals escape justice by sending them back 200 years in time. When Sahmbi uses it himself, police Captain Darien Lambert volunteers to go into the past himself, capture the fugitives and return them to the 22nd century to pay for their crimes.

As a more evolved 22nd-century human, Lambert is in better-than-peak physical condition, and possesses a special ability called Time Stalling which allows him to react much faster to his environment. He also has access to advanced technology, like a MPPT (Micro Pellet Projection Tube; to all practical effects a stun ray) disguised as a car alarm, and SELMA (Specified Encapsulated Limitless Memory Archive), an artificially intelligent supercomputer the size of a credit card, capable of projecting a holographic avatar in order to better depart and quarrel with Lambert.

The main Phlebotinum of the series are TXP, a drug which allows the "molecular alignment" required for time travel, and TRAX, the time machine which makes time travel possible. (Lambert's MPPT can project pellets loaded with TXP.)

The Time Travel treatment in the series was inconsistent. Captain Lambert, fearing the possible consequences of altering the timeline, did not actively attempt to interfere with the flow of history known to him, although he frequently left messages for his colleagues in 2193 (via the 'personals' sections of a newspaper). However, the series made a couple allusions to a theory of parallel timelines to try (not very successfully) to evade the issue of temporal paradox, implying that the time travellers went into an alternate past so that their actions there had no effect on the 2193 "present." (This would prevent the newspapers ads from being read in the future, however...) This inconsistency affected the selected method for retrieving fugitives also; after they received a projected pellet, sometimes Lambert published an ad requesting the retrieval, but most of the time SELMA would emit a "transmission tone" which somehow was detected by TRAX and triggered the time travel of the fugitive.

The series contained examples of:

  • Accidental Pervert: It's not Darien's fault that the time machine can only send things back to a specific location, which happens to be a ladies' room. In a later episode, when he needs to retrieve a briefcase sent by his boss, he has to ask help from a female cop.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Averted, while Procardians can understand English (they have studied Earth for some time), their vocal cords are very different, which prevents them from making the right sounds. The one time one of them says "thank you", it sounds absolutely horrible (think auto-tune on steroids).
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Since Selma is disguised as an ordinary credit card, Darien doesn't ever have to worry about money. Presumably, Selma simply hacks the machine as she's being swiped. This becomes a problem when Selma is stolen by a crook, who thinks it's an ordinary credit card.
  • Artificial Gravity: A scientist from the future named Dr. Carter Bach has invented an anti-gravity belt called APTUX (Anti-gravity Personal Transport Unit, Experimental). However, the prototype was Made of Explodium, resulting in the invention being banned. After ending up in the past (he is not a fugitive, though), he resolved to recreate and perfect the technology, to fulfill man's greatest dream. He makes a more advanced version that is more stable. Darien actually gets to try it out, awing a kid, who happens to be reading a comic book. Unfortunately, some shady characters are after the invention, and the belt ends up being destroyed. Darien makes Bach promise not to make any more. The scientist agrees... and tells him he wants to focus on something else (Darien later finds out it's an invention that allows one to Walk on Water).
  • Becoming the Mask: A convicted cop from the future escapes to the past (our present) and becomes a marshal, in the style of a old-west lawman. He's genuinely at home in the role.
    • His connection with Darien seems to hinge on the fact that likewise Lambert seems to fit in way better as a fugitive hunter in the 20th century, than he did as a cop in the future.
  • Blood Sport: In the future, boxing is considered this trope and has been made illegal.
  • Boxing Episode: In one episode, Darien is approached by the father of a kid who has escaped into the past to become a boxing champion using his enhanced future physique and "time stalling" as advantages. Darien is forced to train in order to knock him out of the championship.
  • Broken Pedestal: Darien is upset to discover his old military instructor is now in the 20th century as he had been busted for selling forged paintings. He does handle his anger to save the man's missing son. Finding out his mentor is dying of a disease incurable in the 20th century, Lambert decides to let him live his remaining time out with his family rather than sending him back.
  • Bullet Time: Time Stalling
  • Child Prodigy: Elissa Chang-Knox was accepted at MIT at only nine years old. In the episode 'The Prodigy' Darien tracks down a twelve-year-old accidental fugitive (he was kidnapped in the ultimate child custody dispute) when he breaks a National record (that should not be achievable by a 20th-century child) during a school track meet. Darien tells him later that Will's running speeds are not ordinary in any time frame.
  • Da Chief: Darien's police captain in the future. He interacts with him only through messages, though.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: In the pilot, Elyssa dies in Darien's arms because Sahmbi has pulled her into TRAX without the benefit of taking TXP (time travel is deadly without it).
    • Darien finally meets his mother (who is a temporal fugitive), only for her to give her life to save his. He holds her, as she expires from a mortal wound, unable to send her to the future, as the shock would be fatal.
  • Disintegrator Ray: A scientist in the future invents a weapon that can blast a person into molecules with sound waves. Darien is the one who originally arrested him, losing his partner to the weapon in the process. This time, he is determined to stop the guy in the past and avenge his partner.
  • Disposable Love Interest: In nearly every episode, Lambert gets a new girlfriend, then leaves her behind by the time the end credits roll.
  • Energy Weapon:
    • The same scientist who invented the Disintegrator Ray (see above) invents a powerful laser that is used to cut open thick safes in seconds. His cronies use it to rob armored trucks to finance his research.
    • Another episode involves a sort-of weapon that fires invisible beams that speed up a living being's heartbeat temporarily with eventual fatal results. The episode's villain uses it to consistently win at horse racing. Darien later finds the farm, where the guy's horses get sent after every race (he keeps buying new ones) and finds dozens of them buried there. The bad guy then kills an underling this way, causing a heart attack.
  • Evil All Along: Top defense attorney Laura Darrow comes to the present to tell Darien that she's just won an exenteration for her client, a doctor accused of killing his wife. When she and Darien track him down, they find the guy is working for Sahmbi. Laura blames Darien, claiming that after he and the media "railroaded" the guy for a crime he didn't commit, he must have gone bad. However, when the doctor talks of how he can easily kill them and get away with it, Laura realizes he really did murder his wife and she's been wasting the last year trying to "clear" a guilty man who has no qualms helping Sahmbi in his plans.
    Laura: So you were guilty all along.
    Doctor: Which just shows what a brilliant lawyer you are.
  • Evil Twin: In the form of an android created by Sahmbi in the episode "Almost Human".
  • Expositron 9000: SELMA.
  • Fantastic Racism: White people are a despised minority in the future, as the planet is united as one country in which Asians and Africans outnumber other ethnic groups. Lambert has been derided with the vicious slur Blanco!.
  • First Contact: According to Selma, an alien race from the planet Procardia have made contact with Earth a few decades before Darien's departure into the past. A ship with a Procardian delegation is expected within the next few years. As Darien discovers, though, Procardians have been to Earth before but have found humans wanting. One of them was accidentally left behind, and her lover later arrives to look for her on a one-way trip. After they are reunited, Darien offers to send them to the future to await their ride home. They agree, even though TXP hasn't been tested on non-humans and could be fatal. Also, all their loved ones will be dead by the 22nd century. However it will at least mean being reunited with their own people, and not constantly being on the run from suspicious humans since Procardians can't speak human languages.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Darien Lambert
  • Flying Car: These appear to be ubiquitous in the future.
  • Flying Firepower: One episode has Darien run into a 22nd-century scientist who is "inventing" new devices in the 20th century (most of them either his own or others' inventions). The most dangerous invention is the APTUX (Anti-gravity Personal Transport Unit, Experimental), a belt that allows a person to fly. In the climax, a bad guy gets his hands on the second prototype (a more stable version) and starts chasing Darien and the scientist while firing a submachinegun from above. Darien is able to knock him out with his MPPT, and the guy crashes to the ground, with the belt exploding.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: The transmission tone. Sometimes is not used and Lambert resorts to the old trick of personal ads.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The people of the future sure do love their acronyms.
    • SELMA - Specified Encapsulated Limitless Memory Archive.
    • CINDI - Consumer Information Network Data Interface.
    • APTUX - Anti-gravity Personal Transport Unit, Experimental.
    • There are also TRAX and TXP, whose acronyms are never deciphered.
      • It's All There in the Manual: promotional materials when the series debuted said TRAX stands for - Trans-time Research And eXperimentation.
  • Human Outside, Alien Inside: The Procardians who appear in one episode have have a number of not-so-obvious biological oddities about them.
  • Identical Grandson: Lambert's paramour from the future, Elissa Chang-Knox, and her FBI agent grandmother in the present, Annie Knox, who helps Lambert on his initial pursuits.
    • There's also a platonic variant: the holograph form of Selma is based on the sole photo Darien has of his mother; when they meet in the 20th century he takes one look at Liz and recognizes her instantly.
  • Impersonating an Officer: In one episode Lambert's police badge is stolen and is later used for a Flashed-Badge Hijack by the guy who stole it.
  • Improbable Age: In the above-mentioned episode where Lambert's badge is stolen he teams up with another cop who remarks he's pretty damn young to be a police captain.
  • Improbably High I.Q.: Darien's IQ is stated to be 205, which is "about average". One would think that, by the 22nd century, the IQ scale would be revised to make 100 the average, as it is now.
  • In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: A few in-universe examples.
    • At a Nashville airport, Darien meets a woman destined to become the biggest star in country music history but just starting her career. He finds out a stalker from the future is after her and has to stop him.
    • When a senator destined to become President resigns, Darien realizes the man is being blackmailed by someone with secret knowledge from the future of the man's unknown son.
    • Darien meets a priest who was once a famous NBA star (played by Julius Erving). When Darien babbles about the man's stats and being a Hall of Famer, he's confused. "You know something I don't?" Realizing the man isn't in the Hall of Fame yet, Darien just says "they have to let you in!"
    • Darien checks out a horse who's famous in the future for being undefeated in its career. Thus, when the horse loses a race, Darien realizes someone from the future is altering things.
  • Loony Fan: A guy from the future is a huge fan of a popular country singer. He buys all her paraphernalia and copies of all her songs and jumps to the past, when she is just starting out. He starts sending her notes and gifts in the form of items that are hers from the future. Eventually, he kidnaps her and shows her a hologram of her future self singing, excitedly explaining that he plans for her to become a star early by singing the same songs she would eventually write. Darien ends up stopping him and explains to her that, due to this change, she might no longer be popular in her future (his own "present" remains unchanged, though).
  • Mad Scientist: Mordecai Sahmbi, a brilliant inventor, who discovers Time Travel and the drug that allows one to use his time machine without dying. In order to get rich, he helps convicted criminals flee justice by sending them into the past. When his scheme is discovered by cops, he kills The Mole and flees into the past himself. He is an occasional thorn in Darien's side. Darien encounters others during the show.
  • May–December Romance: implied with Elissa Chang-Knox (Mia Sara was 25 when the pilot aired, but the narration says she's 17 at the time of the encounter) and her Mad Scientist mentor Mordecai Sahmbi (early sixties); one of the reasons he turns corrupt is because she left him sometime in the past - he lures her back to work with him on the TRAX project, but she's working very hard to keep things professional. To be fair to the show, it doesn't show their relationship as healthy or right, but twenty-first century viewers tend to find it more than a little Squicky, especially after these lines in the pilot:
    Darien (face and voice utterly neutral): Were you lovers?
    Elissa: You have to remember... he was like a God to me.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future…
  • Mundane Utility: A 22nd-century scientist "invents" a number of devices in the 20th century. How does he use a device for instantaneous cooling? To chill beer, of course. Why? What other purpose might such a technology have?
  • Nom de Mom: In an interesting example, it's mentioned in the pilot that "according to the custom of the time, he was allowed to choose his own name." Darien chooses his mother's surname, although in the episode where he meets and loses his mother it's implied that he didn't know anything about his father.
  • One World Order: It's briefly mentioned that, in the 22nd century, Earth is united under a single government. This results in Fantastic Racism against this world's minorities - white people.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Darien at the end of "One On One."
    Darien: SELMA, how fast can you run?
    SELMA: *amused* I can keep up with you.
  • The Paralyzer: Darien's Micro-Pellet Projection Tube, disguised as an ordinary car alarm keychain. Two of its buttons fire stun pellets (green and blue), which stun a person either for a few minutes or a few hours. The third button is for dosing the target with TXP, a drug required for Time Travel. Notably, one episode has a person point out that it looks like a Star Trek phaser (the non-pistol-looking ones).
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: TXP is lethal after two doses; however, the villain from the pilot, Sepp Dietrich, was TXP'd twice before Lambert sends him back to 2193 with a third dose; the effect was not death but failed time travel, deformity and a homicidal rage against Lambert. It's not casual that this happened after the Big Bad, Mordecai Sahmbi, was prematurely confronted and reduced to a mere occasional nuisance.
  • Present Day: Darien Lambert's destination
  • Product Placement: The opening credits contain a suspiciously long shot of a Continental Airlines airplane in flight; SELMA is disguised as an AT&T Credit Card.
  • Projected Man: Selma.
  • Public Secret Message: Lambert would send messages to the future by placing coded personal ads in the newspaper.
  • Quick Draw: One episode has a temporal fugitive, playing at an Old West lawman, teach Darien how to "shoot from the hip", which goes against everything Darien learned at the police academy. Naturally, this ends up being useful by the episode's end.
  • San Dimas Time: In a couple of episodes.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When under the influence of Sahmbi's latest invention, Darien contemplates using TXP on himself in order to return home. Selma doesn't admonish him for that, pointing out that he has already done more than can be expected out of a person, and no one would blame him for quitting. Another cop could always take his place. His determination to continue is renewed by the end of the episode.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: CINDI (Consumer Information Network Data Interface) to SELMA. Unlike the wholesome mother-like figure of Selma, Cindi looks like a giggling blonde bimbo with virtually no personality. She also occasionally glitches.
  • Spikes of Doom: Darien nearly falls into a pit with those on the bottom. The trap is hidden by a hologram that projects an image of grass. It's only thanks to Selma detecting strange emissions nearby that he survives.
  • Super Cell Reception: Justified in one episode. Lambert takes a cellphone into an Amazonian swamp area, and his companion-of-the-episode gives him grief because it won't work where they are. He claims it's a satellite phone, but it's really SELMA, his computer-on-a-credit-card.
  • Super-Reflexes: Time Stalling, where people of the 22nd century can temporarily boost their brain's processing power to effectively acquire superhuman reflexes. This is often used by the protagonist to beat his opponents.
  • Supernatural Fear Inducer: Darien arrives to a hotel whose owner uses special waves to cause sleeping people to experience nightmares to the point of death. In the climax, Selma manages to Reverse the Polarity and send the waves back at the bad guy.
  • Time Machine: TRAX. Its use is normally lethal to living beings. A person can ingest a drug called TXP to allow him- or herself to survive a time jump. However, the drug itself is fatal after two doses, which allows, at most, a jump there and back. Also, it's the precise TXP dose that determines how far through time someone can be transported, which is why TRAX has a fixed 200-year arc; any less and the dose won't protect the traveller, any more and it's toxic. It's possible the technology is still in its infancy and may be made safer at some point. Sahmbi has also re-created a more primitive time machine, while in the 20th century, and used it to help corrupt industrialists get rid of toxic waste... by sending it to the future.
  • Time Police: Averted; only Lambert is chasing the time fugitives, and he's seen as heroic for trying.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The "parallel universe theory" is mentioned in the pilot, and in an episode which required avoiding a series of assassinations convincing the would-be perpetrators that their actions wouldn't have effect on their own timeline; other episodes acted as if Lambert was changing the timeline with every action.
    • One episode makes the "parallel universe" explicit when seemingly random people are murdered by a weapon from the future. Lambert realizes the killer is a man whose beloved girlfriend was accidentally killed by a cop in the 22nd century. The victims are all of the cop's ancestors and he believes that by killing them, that cop will never be born and she'll stay alive. Selma openly tells Darien that this is flawed as these deaths do nothing to alter the timeline Lambert is from but he notes the killer is unaware of that or doesn't believe it.
    • And in still other episodes it seemed that some things in his world only exist because he caused them to be - such as looking up his favorite chicken pot pie recipe from a cookbook written in 2192 and giving a copy to the man who invented it in 1992 - thus bringing his favorite meal into existence via paradox.
    • There was an episode where Lambert had to save the life of one of his favorite singers. At the end she says she'll name a song after him: Mystery Man. His response? "That's my favorite song".
      • In the same episode he tells her she may no longer be famous in her future due to the parallel universe thing. Way to alternate the theories in the same episode.
  • U.S. Marshal: Lambert's cover in present day was as a U.S. Marshal, as it is the role of that office to apprehend fugitives.
  • Villain Decay: There were some attempts to make Sahmbi seem like a convincing Evil Genius and Big Bad, but they eventually petered out. By "Perfect Pair," he seems on the verge of having a heart attack just because he thinks he's in the same room as Lambert.
  • Virtual Sidekick: SELMA, a hologrammatic computer the size of a credit card that the main character keeps with him as a knowledge and strategy helper.
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Cancer is mentioned to have been cured by the 22nd century. Additionally, people are generally much healthier and more fit. However, one episode mentions that, being in the past, where the environment is far more polluted, is slowly "adapting" the future physique to be worse. In one episode, Darien uses his foreknowledge of medical breakthroughs to help a terminally-ill woman, by sending her to a doctor, who is in the early stages of a new experimental treatment for the disease, which Darien knows will be successful.
  • Yakuza: One episode involves Darien going up against them. During the first encounter, he ends up causing one to fail in his task, so the guy performs a Yubitsume as punishment. In his second appearance, he is shown missing a pinkie with the hand bandaged.