AICN EXCLUSIVE!! What Wasn't Hurling Dan Vasser Through Time?? Series Creator Kevin Falls Reveals The Secrets Of JOURNEYMAN!!
Published at: Aug. 9, 2008, 4:37 p.m. CST by hercules
I am – Hercules!!
Because NBC cancelled “Journeyman” after only 13 episodes, viewers never learned who or what was sending startled newspaperman Dan Vasser back and forth through time on his mysterious missions, or why.
This was a problem. Kevin Falls, who came up in the TV business writing for “Sports Night” and “The West Wing,” was new to science fiction when he created “Journeyman,” but the time-travel drama quickly attracted rabid fans aplenty.
When the episodes stopped airing, many wanted very much to know the secrets of “Journeyman,” and what future episodes would have held for Vasser.
Back in late December, Falls answered via e-mail all of AICN’s questions on the matter. But because there was a writers strike at the time, and no one was yet certain if “Journeymen” creators would be permitted to produce episodes beyond the 13 NBC had already aired, we were asked not to reveal the secrets of Falls’ “Journeyman” playbook until he was certain the small-screen adventures of Dan Vasser had come to an end.
That time, sadly, has come.
Who or what was sending Dan on his sudden missions into the past? Was it God? Nature?
KEVIN FALLS: Let’s just say it was too specific and grand to be science or government.
Would we ever learn?
We would have led you to the water's edge and let you figure it out. The later conflict of the show was going to lie with those people who were trying to find the cadre of travelers. Would they try to manipulate them for their own self interests? [Recurring FBI agent] Richard Garrity was coming back for sure.
We also were aiming for a series ending where the key people Dan helped through the course of the season would figure in a Rube Goldberg-inspired climax. Not quite on the level of save-the-world like “Heroes,” but something with some scope.
Did Livia [Dan’s ex-fiancée, who turned out to be a time-traveler herself, from 1948] stay so long in her future and romance Dan because The Powers That Be meant for her to act as his mentor?
Initially. And her mission was to get Katie and Dan together. At first we were going to do it because we wanted [Dan’s son] Zack to have some traveling power (to the immediate future) but felt that was too genetic like in [the novel] “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” We really ran away from anything derivative. Anything that harkened back to other TV shows was coincidental.
Does Livia's story mirror that of Evan [the time-traveling mental patient at the center of the final episode]? Did she decide to pull out of Dan's life [by faking her own plane-crash death] to facilitate a mysterious greater good?
We kept going 'round and 'round about that. We felt that Livia was keeping some secret from Dan that was huge and tragic.
Why could Livia only go forward from her native era? At some point (when Livia dies maybe?), would Dan suddenly start moving into the future as well?
We just thought it would be cool to give them each a specific and separate gift and we liked the tragi-romantic notion of them cursed to never live in their respective presents.
Would Dan have met the elderly 2008 Livia in the first season?
Yes. Absolutely. She was alive. Many of the fans projected that and they were right.
Did we ever learn what did Livia did for a living in 1948?
We were going to have her in law school and her husband being threatened by that. And maybe the husband would try to take advantage of her gift.
Did Livia use future technology to further her finances?
I think we know what happens when you do stuff like that. There's blowback, like in Episode Nine. They can only make money to help them survive in their travels.
So she didn’t "invent" the radar range or the UNIVAC or The Clapper?
That was Evan. He was smart that way. One scene that kept getting cut out of the pilot and episode 9 was Dan needing cash in the past and gambling on some well-know bowl game. But it got cut for time and I still regret it.
Were Dan and Evan born during the same comet pass in 1972?
People shouldn't get too locked into the comet thing. That was just one theory.
Are The Powers That Be necessarily a force for good?
I think the end game was for the good. We wanted to explore some darker themes early on, but our ratings dictated otherwise. I wanted Dan to have to shepherd a hit man through his life to kill someone. It would really fuck Dan up, but there'd be a bigger reason for it. Sort of like life (not the TV show) we would have done it [late in the first season].
Was it not irresponsible of the The Powers That Be to snatch Dan away while his car in was in drive?
What Dan came to learn is that he better adjust his life to fit the TPTB and not the other way around. And he did.
Non-Vassers never seem to see the time-travelers vanishing or appearing unless they're supposed to. Can one assume this is somehow by The Powers That Be's design? Are they that omniscient?
You know, the idea of the white light was more to help with transitions. But the idea was that the believers got to see it. We used a little more than I wanted later, to be honest. But the strike limited my input toward the end. In fact, I'm blown away by the response the last two shows got. We had to rush them before the strike. I did my rewrites on both the weekend before we walked. I was lucky Tracy McMillen, Aeden Babish and Matt McGuinness did such a good job on the first drafts of their episodes. But we could have used a couple more coats of paint. But thank God I had my co-EP Alex Graves minding the store.
Would a future storyline deal with Dan erasing the government's knowledge of his ability?
Did Dan himself tell a young [Livermore Labs tachyon expert Elliot] Langley about his ability decades ago, around the time that photo of Langley posing with a preteen Vasser was taken?
No. But I think Langley was on to Dan at a very young age.
The season finale would have brought together some if not all of the characters Dan saved -- to do what?
Well, it was going to be a plague, but then “Heroes” did that. When we were told “Heroes” was doing it, they suggested we change ours. No way we were going to win that one. We would have come up with something, but remember, I could read the tea leaves in mid-October. I decided then, let's think in terms of 13 [episodes].
What else was ahead for Dan, Katie, Livia, Jack and Jack's hot girlfriend? How many of the [never-shot] final nine episode storylines had you worked out before the strike?
Katie and Dan were going to split up for a while. [Dan’s brother] Jack and Dan were going to live together and then Dan and Katie would get back together. Livia was going to die in episode 20. Dan was going to save her in 21. And in 22, Dan would come back to his house in the present like he did in the pilot and someone else would be living there. Katie and Zack would be gone and this time Dan would have no idea how to get his family back.
And then we'd start season two. I'm getting depressed thinking about it. This staff was so fucking smart. We would have just gotten better. You know, I'm not bitter toward NBC as much as I am the mainstream critics who collectively dismissed us without giving us a second look. I think when we went out we were doing some of the best TV out there. And I’m so grateful that the on-line community embraced this show, actually got the show and ended up being the wind in our sails for the second half of the season.
I spot zero prior sci-fi in your filmography. Have you always quietly harbored an interest in the genre or was it more that NBC herded you toward it in the wake of its success with "Heroes"?
You're right about that. Nothing in my resume, nor did I watch any sci-fi. But not because I turned my nose up at it. Quite the opposite. I didn't think I was smart enough to understand it. My brothers were big sci-fi fans and I always sort of envied them for it. (My brother Mat is one of the founders of Sideshow Collectibles.) I was a big sports nut as a kid and was sort of the outsider. But I have a deep respect for the genre and think shows like “Battlestar” filled the void left by shows like “The West Wing” as it applies to social commentary. And the same rules apply to sci-fi as they do to more traditional dramas -- rich characters and compelling stories.
So putting you into sci-fi was NBC’s idea?
No, my agent Marc Korman suggested time travel after he heard that ABC was looking for a show in that genre. I pitched “Journeyman” to ABC (the best pitch I've ever given) and they passed. NBC was the last place we went. If they would have passed, I would have been on “Shark” another year.
I found the genre so liberating and challenging. We got to use time travel as a prism to comment on marriage and infidelity, sibling jealousy, lust, etc. I like to try different things. I don't know if I'd do another sci-fi show, but I wouldn't close the door on it either. I like to mix things up. I liked “Studio 60” a lot, but maybe [series mastermind Aaron Sorkin] should have done his unique take on a cop show or something different. By the way, he’s not done with TV, yet, and we’ll be the better for it.
Since our e-mail chat with Falls in late December, NBC announced a “Journeyman”-free autumn schedule and the trade papers announced Falls was at work instead on a Fox pilot based on the long-running Argentinean TV series “Lalola,” about a womanizer who finds himself trapped in the body of a woman. Falls and I resumed our virtual conversation a few days ago:
Have you seen Blake Edwards’ “Switch”?
How is “Lalola” different?
Well, the set-up is the same -- womanizing man turns into woman, has to deal -- but this pilot is based on the Argentine format called “Lalola,” so there's a “bible” we'd loosely follow. Frankly, the show isn't as simple as it sounds. I've read some “Journeyman” fans dismissing it. But a lot of folks dismissed “Journeyman” early on because they thought it was a rip-off of “Quantum Leap” and the show became so much more. This will be funny, hopefully smart, provocative and turn on its head the relationships between men and women. Dana Calvo, a “Journeyman” alum, has been my window into the gender.
Playing the readers' advocate here: Still kinda sounds like "Switch."
Yes, there's no getting around it, LaLola does sound like “Switch.” And the challenge will be squeezing out 100 episodes, but the Argentine version managed to make 150. However, if we get past the pilot we'll have our work cut-out, no question.
I do know this: We'll be pushing boundaries and getting into some situations that haven't been seen on television before. I thought I had a fresh take on the time travel genre and we were just getting to lift-off speed when the plug got pulled. By the way, I'd put our 13 shows up against all the returning second year shows and dare anyone to say we shouldn't be among them. Anyway, our show won't be what anyone expects beyond the pilot, I guarantee that. And it should be funny.
You’re working on other things as well?
I've got two other projects at Sony. One I didn't write, but it's a great script with a star who has never done TV before. I'm attached as the showrunner if it goes forward. In fact, everyone wanted the [Sony project’s] star for “Journeyman” last year. I'm not going to get into it until we go out to the nets, but I'll give you a scoop if it sells -- and it will.
The other is a spec I wrote during the strike and it's another angle on a sci-fi subject that the nets have been trying to crack for years -- cloning. Although, as with “Journeyman,” my way in is more personal and intimate. This one I'm keeping under wraps because there are other cloning projects out there. But I think you're going to see less sci-fi developed this year. That's why I haven't gone out with it yet.
Falls says that at the moment there are no plans for a “Journeyman” DVD or Blu-ray set, but fans with a computer and $20.69 can still purchase the complete-series Unbox version here.