The Horror Honeys: Time After Time: A Horror TV Honey Review

Time After Time: A Horror TV Honey Review

A Web Exclusive Review with Kat Wells

Imagine if H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper knew each other. Were good friends, even. Now imagine that Jack the Ripper took off in H.G. Wells’ time machine to escape the cops and Wells followed him and they ended up in 2017 and were chasing each other all over New York City! Pretty fucking cool idea, huh?

That’s the premise of ABC’s new drama, Time After Time. The show is based on the 1979 film (and novel) of the same name, and this 2017 iteration was developed for ABC by Kevin Williamson (which makes some sense given the Ripper aspect of the story, but which makes little sense given how much I expect out of Kevin Williamson and how little this show delivers).

Episode 1: Pilot

H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper: A Buddy Comedy (j/k, I wish)
The show opens in London in 1893. Writer and bright-eyed optimist Herbert George (H.G.) Wells (Freddie Stroma) is hosting a dinner party at his home where he is showing off his newly-finished time machine and musing about his dreams of Utopia to a few close man friends. John Stevenson (Josh Bowman), a doctor, is expressing his doubts about Wells’ assertions that Utopia will be achieved in only five generations, when suddenly the cops burst in looking for Jack the Ripper, open the good doctor’s medical bag, and find bloody rags (in 1893, that means you’re a killer for sure!). In this case, they are absolutely right. John is, in fact, old Leather Apron himself, Jack the Ripper, and takes advantage of Wells’ time machine by jumping in it to escape police. The machine returns to Wells’ basement (the Ripper lacks a special key that prevents the machine from returning to its origin point), and Wells hops in to chase him down, nobly believing that his friend John must return to their time to answer for his horrible deeds.

The rest of the pilot is filled with the tropes of time travel fiction that we are all by now familiar with. Once in 2017, Wells is apprehended by security at the New York City museum the machine winds up in, and is very confused by  the fact that the assistant curator he must answer to is a woman (Genesis Rodriguez). He even stands up every time she does, like some kind of chivalrous relic! LOLZ! Wells wanders around New York City, mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the future and dismayed at the absence of any trace of the beloved Utopia he expected it to be.

Skyscrapers and drones and selfie sticks... Oh my!
John, on the other hand, is delighted at the brutality and anonymity of the modern world (maybe nobody tell him about DNA, though, that might kill his anonymity boner). Once he finds out Wells has followed him, he becomes determined to get the key so he can escape to any time he wishes without being followed and kill and kill and kill without recourse. Seriously, he behaves like a crack addict, except his crack is murder. To that end, he kidnaps Jane, holding her hostage so Wells will give up the key.

If that all seems a little plodding and exhausting, it kind of is. It’s a very exciting premise, for sure (already realized to better effect in the 1979 film starring Malcolm McDowell and David Warner), but the procedural nature and paint-by-numbers box-ticking of network television has taken much of the fun out of it. All of the elements are ostensibly there: romance, action, mystery (there are other people of our “when” who somehow also know Wells has traveled to our time and are trying to find him). But it doesn’t quite gel.

Episode 2: I Will Catch You & Episode 3: Out of Time

Wells, sporting brand new 2017 hair, hangs with Jane and his time machine
The second and third episodes of Time After Time involve a lot of plot and a little character development. While being held captive by the Ripper, Jane teaches him about his legacy as the most famous unidentified killer of all time. Wells, working with a newly freed Jane and a wealthy woman claiming to be his great great granddaughter, attempts to repair the broken time machine before the Ripper’s deadline (he’s killing one person every day if they don’t give him the key and help him get out of Dodge). Meanwhile, more is revealed about the other people who are after Wells and the Ripper for their own, potentially nefarious reasons.

The first three episodes of Time After Time feel like one long movie (and not really in a good way); after a little digging, I found that they do indeed, with a few exceptions, follow the plot of the 1979 film. I guess that’s fine, but I’m having a hard time imagining where it goes after that. Even more frustrating to me is how well and quickly both the Ripper and Wells adapt to the modern world, asking girls why they’re “single,” tossing around phrases like “self-aware,” and making jokes about Crossfit (honestly, how in the HELL does H.G. Wells know what Crossfit is after only a few days in our “when,” let alone the stereotypes about people who Crossfit? I could scream).

Jack the Ripper: cell phone user and nice shirt enthusiast
It also makes me sad to see the Ripper so sanitized. The real Ripper was so incomprehensibly brutal, he cut women open from groin to sternum and tossed their intestines over their corpses’ dead shoulders like a goddamn sash, stealing their uteruses and parts of their vaginas for good measure. Once you know that, it’s hard to watch him get the ABC treatment. Time After Time is full of pretty people who are great actors, but ultimately just doesn’t have any bite and isn’t very exciting. I’m off to watch the 1979 film, and then maybe re-listen to The Last Podcast on the Left’s multi-part series on Jack the Ripper.

Kat's Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Anachronistic Hairdos

Time After Time airs Sundays on ABC at 9pm