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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

'Time Trax' S2: 'Quantum Leap' Meets 'I Dream of Jeannie' Meets 'Brimstone'

Time Trax: The Complete Second Season
This review of the 22-episode second season of the '90s cult sci-fi time travel show "Time Trax" is part of a small informal series that is intended to keep the spirit of Comic-Con 2013 alive in the same way that some folks extend the holidays by not removing the Christmas tree from the living room until Valentine's Day.

I have never made it to Comic-Con, but "next year in San Diego" has been a personal motto for quite some time.

This series of reviews began with last week's analysis of the most recent DVD release of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" and is ending with an upcoming discussion of the recently released DVD set of the third season of "The Adventures of Superboy."

Aside from being a fun and quirky series, "Time Trax" is unreal because it is a genuinely cult show that unites its fans. Exchanging emails regarding this program with a fellow classic TV fanatic led to discussing other great scifi time travel shows.

This correspondence included discussing the hilariously campy '60s Irwin Allen series "Time Tunnel" and convinced my friend to try the recently reviewed British show "Crime Traveller."

"Time Trax" revolves around the journals of 22nd century man Captain Darien Lambert of the Fugitive Retrieval Section. His superiors have sent him back 200 years in time to capture roughly 100 escaped criminals who used a time machine called Trax to relocate to the '90s.

Like any good scifi show, Lambert has an arch-nemesis. Dr. Mordecai Sahmbi. Sahmbi, who has also traveled back "to the present," is the madman with the evil mind who invented the time machine and sent the felons back to our era for fun and profit. Doc Brown he ain't.

Similar to time-traveling Dr. Sam Beckett of "Quantum Leap" and even closer to pursuer of 113 Hell-escapees Ezekiel Stone of the unfairly cancelled 1998 Fox drama "Brimstone," Lambert must remain in the past until he captures each escapee.

On capturing the wrongdoer, Lambert either sends that individual back to the future or  has him or her otherwise face justice. This code of justice includes almost never zapping the bad guy in the back with Lambert's futuristic weapon. Lambert usually faces said malfeasor and makes sure that he or she sees the "bullet" coming.

A typical episode involves Lambert's quest by beginning with an event that puts him on the trail of one of his prey. Examples include a tabloid story on a thief using a freeze ray and recognizing a fugitive in a televised rugby game.

That quest often results in Lambert teaming up with a temporary partner who is not always a complete innocent. One of the better episodes has Lambert and a wonderfully feisty female sheriff pursuing a bank robber from the 22nd century who delights in tormenting Lambert in the 20th century.

The short Youtube video that is provided below offers a great primer on Lambert's background and explains his enhanced, but not super-natural or alien, abilities.


The "I Dream of Jeannie" aspect of "Time Trax" relates to Lambert's highly devoted credit card sized technology-based assistant SELMA, which stands for Specified Encapsulated Limitless Memory Archive. SELMA appears in the form of a hologram when Lambert orders "SELMA visual mode."

Unlike "Leap's" highly informative but largely impotent holographic Al Calavicci, SELMA's great powers warrant comparison to the abilities of Jeannie the genie. Additionally, SELMA's aforementioned devotion to Lambert runs much deeper than Al's to Sam. (Comic-Con 2014 panel anyone?)

SELMA's massive database includes in-depth information regarding the 22nd and 20th century backgrounds of  the escapees and of just about everyone else. She is also a very sophisticated GPS and comes in handy when Lambert needs his personal information inserted in a law-enforcement agency's database as part of his undercover work.

On a lighter note, SELMA's abilities to mimic voices and to simultaneously realistically project a myriad of sounds are among the seemingly countless ways that she can create diversions to assist her captain. SELMA additionally narrates the series. Other powers include opening locks and controlling most electronic devices.

Revealing new abilities of SELMA during the second season are one way that the writers keep "Time Trax" fresh. The audience also learns of new limitations.

The offering titled "Out for Blood" easily earns the "Episode of the Year"  award if only for guest-starring "Star Trek: Voyager's" Jeri Ryan as a literal nine-of-nine whose resistance turns out to not be futile.

As if having Seven of Nine guest star is not enough, the main story line is a "Terminator" style plot about a future villain killing the ancestors of a man who he feels done him wrong 200 years from now.

An especially fun episode can be considered "Lambert's Island"  (Gilligan's first name was Willie) in that it involves Lambert and six others stranded on a small uninhabited South Pacific island. The characters include a former navy man, a dreamy adorkable highly resourceful professor type, and an all-American small-town type girl.

A particularly fun scene from this episode in which a passenger states that she will welcome an approaching helicopter full of bad guys with open arms begs fans of the '70s rock gods "The Who" to add the next line from one of their classic songs to the woman's declaration. (Google it millenials.)

Second-season episodes that are particularly true to the comic-book nature of "Time Trax" include having Lambert wrangle with a Sahmbi-created lookalike android and a story involving a 22nd century inventor whose advanced technology catches the attention of a 20th century crime lord.

Another episode also has a very different type of evil twin; this pairing is much more yin and yang than the killer android plot. One spoiler is that neither evil twins sports a goatee.

The second-season episode that contributes the most to the lore of "Time Trax" and also gives Lambert some closure involves an investigation that puts Lambert in contact with a 22nd century relative "with a past" who is living in the 20th century. This one also includes some nice scenes with SELMA.

Another especially fun second-season episode has Lambert helping a very friendly and mostly gentle alien, who understands English but can only vocalize in dolphin-like tones, whose mate shared E.T.'s fate of being stranded during a prior expedition to earth.

The alien plot is very predictable but is entertaining and provides an interesting departure from the quest for future felons. Further, the audience truly feels for the brother from another planet who undergoes a very heroic quest for his boo. We really want to toss him a ball to balance on his nose.

The series finale is similar to an earlier one in which Lambert gets disabled in the line of duty, really should call it a day and return to the future, but sticks around and copes with the help of his latest bodacious romantic prospect. Stand out elements of this one include fun flashback scenes to the future and Lambert displaying great courage even for him. I would want him around if a 22nd psycho ever targeted me; SELMA would be our little secret.

Anyone with questions about this awesome action-packed series is welcome to either email me or place a personal ad in The Washington Post. You can stay in communication via Twitter by locating @tvdvdguy.