Why do all the good shows get cancelled?
Odyssey 5 was absolutely one of the best sci-fi series I have ever seen in all my years of watching television! I was introduced to it by a friend who was a massive fan of The X-Files, he told me this was the natural successor to the 90's phenomenon. So when the pilot episode was broadcast on SKY One I sat watching with high expectations. I was not disappointment.
The 90 minute opening story was simply the most stunning episode of television I had seen up until that point in time. It could've been a big screen, big budget, movie. It also perfectly set up the premise for this smart, intelligent series. We are introduced to the main 5 characters who are aboard the space shuttle Odyssey; Chuck Taggart (played by Peter Weller) the Commander of the Odyssey, his son Neil Taggart (Christopher Gorham), Kurt Mendel (Sebastian Roche) second in command, Sarah Forbes (Leslie Silva) a journalist who is reporting on the space walk about to be taken by Angela Perry (Tamara Craig Thomas).
The date is August 7th 2007 and it is just another routine mission. Or it was until the Earth suddenly dissolves into a fiery ball and implodes, leaving the crew of the Odyssey 5 alone in space and resigned to death. However, they are rescued by a non-organic being called the Seeker. He had discovered 50 other worlds destroyed in the same way as Earth, but had always arrived too late to observe it. This time he has found survivors, and offers to send them back in time 5 years to 2002 so that they can attempt to prevent the disaster. He sends only their consciousnesses back, and not their physical bodies, as physical time travel is impossible. So they wake up in their bodies of 5 years previous, the only inhabitants of Earth who have a knowledge of the forthcoming event. They have a codeword associated with their mission: Leviathan.
Just traveling back in their own timelines opens up new possibilities for their futures. Chuck is reunited with his wife, who had dies in the implosion. Neil is back in high school, Sarah returns to a time before her son had died from cancer, and Angela (who was comatosed in the explosion) 'awakens' mid space walk, and panics. These 5 aren't a group of close friends, they were basically at work in 2007 and so now need to find each other in 2002 to begin their attempt at saving the planet.
One of the first striking things about Odyssey 5 is the language. This is an adult show, with plenty of swearing. I remember reading an interview with Peter Weller who said they were encouraged to add their own profanities into the script to make it more personal. There are moments when you think they may be trying to outdo each other! But this is just one aspect of the series that made it stand out, proper grown-up sci-fi was a rare thing in 2002. Odyssey 5 never patronises, it was smart, entertaining, thought-provoking and ahead of it's time.
A lot of the story revolves around AI and nanotechnology, in fact the villains seem to be a race of artificial intelligence beings themselves. They are trying to learn about humanity through human-mimicking surrogates called Synthetics, and it is their study of humanity that will apparently lead to the destruction of the Earth.
The Odyssey 5 discover that their knowledge of the future means they can change the timeline that they have already lived through once, this becomes clear when at the end of the opening episode a character who was previously alive in 2007 dies in 2002. Their task is further hindered by the discovery of a second group of Synthetics who hail from Mars. It seems that in the original timeline all the Synthetics created by humanity are destroyed by a satellite designed for that purpose by a cabal within the US government. Whether this act of destruction is seen as a declaration of war by humanity's AIs or the Martian Synthetics are to blame for the Earth's destruction is never resolved, because unfortunately Odyssey 5 never came back for its second series.
The creator of Odyssey 5, Manny Coto, still talks about his desire to return to the series - I feel the same way too! But it's over 13 years on from the shows broadcast now so it would likely be impossible for a continuation with the original cast, but the premise and story itself is a very strong one and it could make for a great movie.
I can wish anyway!