Quick! Name a sci-fi show that was on NBC in the '80s that featured a pair of time travelers correcting history as they come across it. If you said Quantum Leap, you’re not exactly wrong. But that’s not the show I’m talking about.
Years before Quantum Leap was a glimmer in NBC’s fall lineup, Voyagers! blazed the trail with a format so similar, it has actually been called the predecessor to Quantum Leap.
Phineas Bogg (Jon-Erik Hexum) is a member of the secret society of Voyagers, a mysterious organization of time travelers charged with keeping history on the right track. In Voyagers! while there is only one timeline, it's a flexible one. It wobbles and jitters at key points, and runs the risk of "jumping the track." The purpose of the Voyagers themselves is to travel to these weak spots, identify the point of divergence, and restore the timeline to its previous course — “give it a push where it's needed.” When history diverges from the ideal, the Omni’s light turns red, indicating a problem. When history and the timeline match, it lights green.
Due to a malfunction, Bogg ends up in 1982 and crashes into the bedroom of 11-year-old orphan Jeffrey Jones (Meeno Peluce). Bogg is an inept history person and relies on a guidebook given to him by the Voyagers to help him along the way. Jones’ dog steals the book and attacks Bogg, thinking he’s an intruder. In the struggle, Jeffrey falls through the open window and Bogg dives after him to save him. Bogg wasn’t supposed to be able to travel beyond 1970, but the Omni’s circuits are malfunctioning. The guidebook would have told him how to fix the Omni, but without it, Bogg thinks he’s sunk. Jones’ dad was a history professor and he picked up a lot of his dad’s knowledge; Bogg reluctantly takes Jones with him as his guide. So while Boggs lost a book, he gained a sidekick/companion who’s able to tell him things that a book never could have.
Some of the historical characters Bogg and Jones encounter include: Cleopatra, Babe Ruth, Abraham Lincoln, and the Wright Brothers. As mentioned before, when the Omni flashes red, history has been changed and the duo is off again to put history back on track.
The series was originally canceled by NBC after its 13th episode, but a massive letter writing campaign brought the show back for the rest of the season. It was then canceled again due to low ratings. Maybe if it hadn’t been up against 60 Minutes it would have fared better. There were rumors, however, that the show was undergoing some extensive retooling and would eventually return to the airwaves. But a tragic accident prevented that ever from happening.
After a long and draining day's shooting in October 1984 on the set of Hexum’s new show, Cover Up, he jokingly put a prop .44 magnum revolver to his temple and pulled the trigger. The gun fired and the wadding from the blank cartridge shattered his skull. Hexum was rushed to the hospital, but despite five hours of surgery to repair the damage, he died a week later. Hexum was only 26 when he lost his life, and his organs went on to save the lives of five other people.
Voyagers! was a fun show to watch when I was 8, and it still is today. I’m glad that this series has finally made it to DVD and if you’re a sci-fi or time travel fan, this is definitely worth picking up. My one complaint is that there are zero extras. No promos from back in 1982, no commentaries or retrospective from Meeno Peluce or even a tribute to Hexum. Even one of those would make this set all the better.
Grade: A-Powered by Sidelines