Filling some of the void left by the demise of “The X-Files,” Showtime’s “Odyssey 5” is a welcome break from rerun hell. With intrigue and cable edge (read: nudity, language), the two-hour premiere sets up a tempting story about an oddball space shuttle crew that is sent into the past to save the Earth. And although the cast doesn’t quite gel in debut seg, series creator and writer Manny Coto leaves plenty of wiggle room.
Peter Weller headlines as Commander Chuck Taggart, a 26-year NASA veteran on a routine space mission that includes his 22-year-old son, Neil (Christopher Gorham), the youngest astronaut on record, who rises quickly through NASA’s ranks but hits the glass ceiling that is his tough-as-nails pop.
Other crew members include Kurt Mendel (Sebastian Roche), an oversexed, Nobel Prize-winning geneticist; Sarah Forbes (Leslie Silva), the first journalist to travel in space; pilot Angela Perry (Tamara Craig Thomas); and mission specialist Matt Walsh (Craig Eldridge).
After completing work on an orbiting satellite, the crew experiences several onboard malfunctions and, sensing a cataclysmic event, watch helplessly as the Earth implodes. The ensuing shockwave sends the shuttle spinning out of control, floating aimlessly in space with only a few hours of oxygen left. The astronauts resign themselves to their inevitable fate, only to wake up inside the confines of strange vessel.
An alien being, the Seeker (John Neville), tells the remaining crew that this sort of mass destruction has been going on throughout the galaxy. As the only survivors, the Odyssey crew is given the chance to go back in time five years to try to uncover the malevolent force behind Earth’s destruction.
Weller has proved he has the stuff to carry a show, but in this debut episode, he doesn’t appear physically up to the challenge. Looking haggard and stiff, his Taggart should be less RoboCop and more Buckaroo Bonzai.
Adding a good bit of personality and comic relief, however, is Roche, who has the most fun with the group’s newfound circumstances. Silva’s Sarah is more interested in saving her son than saving the Earth, and by establishing such tough priorities, her character is boxed into fairly serious material. A bit heavy on the grim, Silva has yet to strike the right balance. Gorham is more believable as a stoner high school kid than an ace astronaut.
Coto and director David Carson weigh the character development nicely against the underlying mystery — a secret NASA mission called Blue Sky that’s somehow linked to a group of gene-therapy patients.
Only glaring problem is that the misplaced humor — and the special effects — sometimes fall flat. Pic works better on terra firma as the five crew members, armed with knowledge of the future, manage to screw up their past.