What if you could read minds, move objects with your mind, and move yourself anywhere you wanted to go in an instant.
These are the “three Ts”: telepathy, telekinesis and teleportation, of “The Tomorrow People,” a series which premiered last October on The CW Television Network.
Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) lives with his widowed mother (Sarah Clarke) and seems a normal enough teenager. Except he keeps waking up in places he didn’t go to sleep. Such as a neighbor’s bed in a locked apartment. The neighbors are perturbed.
A young woman Cara Coburn (Peyton List) contacts him telepathically and tells him he’s one of the Tomorrow People or Homo Superior, a genetically advanced human who is presumably the next step in evolution. To emphasize the point she and some friends teleport him to their secret HQ.
But all is not well for the new people. A secret organization Ultra wants to find them and neutralize their powers, or kill them if necessary. Stephen meets Jedikiah Price (Mark Pellegrino) who runs the organization who explains the people with the power are dangerous to humanity.
Oh yes, and Jedikiah is his uncle, the non-super powered brother of his father, who may be dead or may be in hiding. In spite of Jedikiah’s single-minded determination to find and neutralize all Homo Superior, Stephen agrees to work for Ultra in order to find his father.
The Tomorrow People would appear to have all the advantages except for one thing, they can’t kill. Well, except for some…
“The Tomorrow People” thus falls within the sub-genre of superman science fiction, and borrows liberally from its predecessors. It is a remake of a British series that ran from 1973 to 1979. The term homo superior was coined by Olaf Stapelton in “Odd John” (1935), one of the earliest superman novels.
A crucial plot element that showed up in episode 5, “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” that the founder of Ultra is himself a Tomorrow Person, is lifted right out of A.E. Van Vogt’s novel “Slan” (1940), considered the benchmark of the genre.
The social implications of teleportation a a psychic ability (rather than a technology) was first explored in Alfred Bester’s “The Stars My Destination” (1956). Teleporting humans hunted by an organization dedicated to their extermination was the theme of the movie “Jumper” (2008).
When Darwin published “The Origin of Species” in 1859, the question inevitably arose, “If we are the culmination of a long process of evolution, what might come after us? And if we gave rise to a new and superior species, would they dominate or destroy us?”
Consider that in the 19th century, many thought it was already happening. That the superior races of Europe were dominating the inferior races of the world, and that it was right a good this should be so.
Others took the history of colonialism as a cautionary tale and wondered if another race might do to Europeans what they were doing to others.
The culmination of this kind of thinking came during the 12-year reign of National Socialist Germany and their doctrine of the right of the master race to exterminate races of “untermenschen.”
However, novels such as “Slan” were parables of an advanced people persecuted for their superiority, a kind of uber-Jews.
There are a lot of really interesting and important questions here, but because of the history of eugenics ideologies such as Nazism, you can get called nasty names for bringing them up.
Today there are two broadly defined positions on the current state of human evolution. One holds that evolution basically stops with civilization. Because civilization makes life easy and eliminates selection pressure.
The other position holds that human evolution has continued and even accelerated. (See: “The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution” (2009) by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending.)
This makes people uneasy because it follows that evolution does not occur evenly across the human race because not everybody has been civilized for the same length of time. And because Europeans are not the oldest civilized people.
There is also a hot discussion on whether or not humans should take charge of their own evolution through selective breeding or genetic engineering.
These are hot button, career wrecking issues. The kind that can only be safely discussed in the context of science fiction.
The powers are silly. Telepathy is only barely possible, telekinesis and teleportation violate some pretty fundamental laws of physics.
The idea however is not.
So what if there were really superior humans? Would they be persecuted? Enslaved? Or would they dominate humanity?
It’s not that “The Tomorrow People” sets out to examine these issues, it’s not that high brow. It’s that it can’t help but make you think of them in the course of a reasonably entertaining action series.
Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.