Best TV Shows You’ve Never Watched: VOYAGERS!

If there is one particular story plot that I love reading and watching about its time travel. I love the concept of time travel, and a well-done time travel story will always catch my eye. I think I can trace this interest to a couple of things, and this T.V. show was one of them.

Created by James D. Parriott, Voyagers! aired on ABC for one season, which lasted 20 episodes, during the 1982-1983 TV season. I was a very wee lad at the time, and I was instantly hooked. So I’m going to do a little retro review here. Keeping in mind that I haven’t rewatched any of these episodes in many years, so I’m mostly going by my vague memories.

The series starred Jon-Erik Hexum as Phineas Bogg and Meeno Peluce as Jeffrey Jones. The premise of the series is that Phineas is a time traveler. He’s part of some secret organization of people called Voyagers, whose job was to travel through time correcting various errors throughout history to make sure that events transpired the way that they were supposed to. It’s an intriguing concept. But from what I recall, the exact details of these Voyagers, where these people come from, who formed the organization, who invented time travel, etc., was never fully explained. Nor was it explained if something or someone was deliberately causing the disruptions in history that the Voyagers were needed to fix (although I do recall an episode where a rouge Voyager who was going around messing with time was introduced). But it was always portrayed as if the Voyagers were “fixing” history to run correctly. Although it could just as easily be seen as if they altering history, making events turn out better than they originally were. Each possibility makes for intriguing plot points that could have been explored if the series had ran longer.

The Voyagers traveled through time via a hand-held device, which looked like a fancy pocket watch, called an Omni. It would tell them what time they were in, and it would flash a red light if events were incorrect. And when the light flashed green, that meant that the Voyager had fixed things to the way it was supposed to be. Each Voyager was given a guidebook that explained historical events so that the Voyager would know what they needed to fix.

Phineas appeared to be a human from some point in the past (a later TV movie which was just some episodes of the series edited together implied that the Voyagers were humanoid aliens from another planet, but I choose to ignore that). In the debut episode, his Omni malfunctioned and sent him to the then-present year of 1982, which was further in time that Phineas was ever meant to go. He appeared in an apartment building and met Jeffrey, an 11-year-old boy whose parents had both died in some kind of accident. Through a series of mistakes, Jeffrey ends up traveling with Phineas into the past. And now, because of the limits of the Omni, Phineas is unable to return Jeffrey to his proper time. So Jeffrey becomes Phineas’ partner. Phineas also accidentally left his guidebook behind in 1982, so without it he doesn’t know exactly what it is he’s supposed to do when he arrives in a new time. But, thankfully, Jeffrey just happens to be a major history buff (y’know, as is typical of your average 11-year-old boy), so he can eventually figure out what they’re meant to do.

Each episode usually had Phineas and Jeffrey making several trips backward and forwards through time. They’d arrive at some point in the past and discover that things were different than they were supposed to be, Jeffrey would figure out where things must have gone wrong, and he and Phineas would travel back further in the past to fix things, and then they’d return to the original time to make sure everything was now correct. Along the way, they usually met one or more famous historical figures. For example, one episode had them travel to the 1920’s where they see that Franklin D. Roosevelt is a famous movie director. So they then travel further back in time to meet him when he’s younger and convince him to go into politics, instead of trying to write movies, so that he eventually becomes President. Another time they go to the past and discover that Theodore Roosevelt is dead before he became President, so they go back to when he was a younger man and stop him from getting shot and killed by Billy The Kid. One episode they had to convince Joe Louis not to quit boxing, another they had to inspire the Wright Brothers to invent the airplane.  Other diverse figures from Cleopatra, to Harriet Tubman, to Babe Ruth, to Alexander Graham Bell and many others also appear in the series.

They also met Robin Hood in one episode, despite the lack of evidence that he was an actual historical figure and not a myth. The same goes for an episode that involves Moses.

The show was fun, and the dynamic between the two lead characters was enjoyable, with Phineas often coming off as exasperated with Jeffrey for being a smart alec kid, and Jeffrey chasting Phineas for usually becoming sidetracked from the mission at hand due to his interest in some beautiful woman he’s met. But as the season progressed, the mutual respect between the two grew, to the point where they were like a big brother and little brother. I learned a lot while watching this series and looked forward to each episode.

From what I’ve later learned, despite getting decent ratings in its Sunday night timeslot, ABC chose not to renew it for a second season so they could instead air some new news show (which ended up failing) against 60 minutes. And thus, Voyagers! faded mostly into obscurity. I think because it was an hour-long show with only 20 episodes produced, it didn’t find much life in syndication afterward. But I’ll always remember it.

Sadly, a couple of years after this series ended, Hexum would accidentally shoot and kill himself with a gun that he believed was harmless because it was loaded with blanks while filming a new TV series. Peluce would appear as a guest on several other TV series over the next few years, although his acting career never really took off, even as his half-sister Soliel Moon Frye would go on to star in the hit Punky Brewster. Today he is retired from acting and has worked as a school teacher and a photographer.

But, hey, if you have young kids, and you’re stuck at home with them because you’re trying to avoid catching the coronavirus, and you want something for them to watch that’s both entertaining and educational, do them a favor and consider introducing them to this show.

VOYAGERS!

2 comments

  1. […] As I wrote back in April, for most of my life I’ve been intrigued by stories involving Time Travel. And I believe that I can trace this interest to two events from my childhood, one was the TV series VOYAGERS! and the other was this film, Time Bandits. I don’t know which came first for me. Time Bandits was originally released in America in November 1981, while the one and only season of VOYAGERS! debuted in October 1982, but it’s possible that I didn’t see the movie until after VOYAGERS! began, I don’t remember exactly when I first saw it, because I was quite young at the time, and I’ve rewatched the film many many times over the years, so it all sort of runs together in my head. But it was definitely these two projects that sparked my love of this particular plot device (I also have very vague recollections of seeing reruns of a 1960’s series called TIME TUNNEL, and I know I was pretty young when I first saw the 1960 film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ THE TIME MACHINE, but I’m sure those came later). […]

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