While flying under the ratings radar on Showtime, Odyssey 5
drew loyal fans with a premise that could have yielded fascinating developments beyond its 19-episode run. Before taking show-runner jobs on UPN's ill-fated Star Trek: Enterprise
and Fox's 24
, creator-writer-producer Manny Coto dreamed up this provocative pastiche of sci-fi ideas, connecting an end-of-the-world scenario with a time-travel twist and an alien invasion plot with X-Files
overtones. You could argue that Coto's reach exceeded his grasp, since none of these elements combine to form a fully satisfying whole (especially since the series was cancelled before it reached its intended conclusion), but there's something to be said for the show's entertaining tangents and unexpected complications. It all begins when the five-member crew of the space shuttle Odyssey
witnesses the shocking implosion of the Earth, leaving them stranded and doomed to suffocate when their air supply is depleted. Instead, they are rescued by the Seeker (John Neville), a crystalline alien in human form, who sends them (or at least, their mental and spiritual essence) five years back in time, reunited with their physical bodies with a mission to discover what went wrong and save Earth from oblivion.
Peter Weller stars as the brash, foul-mouthed Commander Chuck Taggart, a seasoned flyboy whose 22-year-old computer-whiz son Neil (Christopher Gorham) must now cope with being physically 17 again, reliving high-school (including his first serious relationship) while investigating possible causes of Earth's destruction. Along with geneticist Kurt Mendel (Sebastian Roché), shuttle pilot Angela Perry (Tamara Craig Thomas), and TV news reporter Sarah Forbes (Leslie Silva), their quest leads to the discovery of sentient nano-bots, synthetic humans, and a far-reaching conspiracy masterminded by a NASA splinter group secretly known as "the Cadre." In his pilot episode commentary recorded with Weller in 2005, Coto outlines some of the ideas he would've developed had the series run longer, and these 19 episodes serve up plenty of surprises that hint at the series' untapped potential. That makes Odyssey 5 both fun and frustrating--we're left dangling with an unresolved cliffhanger--but the ensemble cast makes it worthwhile. While the writing skews toward juvenile silliness on some occasions (and veers into full-on comedy with guest star Ted Raimi in the entertaining episode "The Trouble with Harry"), it's clear that Odyssey 5 was pushing conventional boundaries of TV science fiction. For that reason alone, it's a shame it lacked the audience that would've warranted additional episodes. --Jeff Shannon