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Voyagers! was a time travel series that aired Sunday nights on NBC from
1982-'83. I was 7 years old and instantly hooked. The lighthearted
fantasy concept involved a kid, a pirate and cool watch like time
machine (the Omni) that was worn on the belt. As a kid I wanted my own
Omni more then I did a Jedi lightsaber.
The show was about a recently orphaned 12 year old named Jeffrey Jones (Meeno Pulce). Jeff is living a dreary life in his Manhattan high rise with his aunt and uncle, who don't like the idea of suddenly raising a kid themselves. One night a time traveler named Phineas Bogg (Jon-Erik Hexum) crashes into Jeff's bedroom. Bogg is a ruggedly handsome man that's dressed like a pirate from the 1700s, who happens to be a member of a mysterious organization called "Voyagers". "I am a Voyager" Bogg says, "You ever hear of one? Course not, no one has", Bogg continues to tell Jeff. Voyagers are people that are trained to "travel through the ages" to keep history on track and make sure it's always on the right path. They don't get into the philosophical aspects of what is the right or wrong history, and there is no need to in a fun show like this. If the Omni flashed red then something was wrong with history. Once the good guys fixed the problem it became a solid green. The Voyagers seems to exist out of our linear time, they appear to be from the past but use technology from the future. Through a series of mishaps Jeff winds up as Bogg's time traveling companion, and Bogg is unable to take Jeff back to 1982 because his Omni would only go up to 1970. Apparently it was malfunctioning, which led him to land in Jeff's 1982 high rise apartment in the first place. Jeff is a child genius who knows everything there is to know about history. Bogg doesn't know much about history so Jeff proves valuable to Bogg, as Bogg left his Guidebook back in Jeff's 1982 bedroom (remember they can't go back). Jeff basically becomes Bogg's new Guidebook and the two improvise their way through solving problems the best they can.
This was created as an educational series for children, and it worked. They hit it out of the ballpark with this one. I probably learned more about history from Voyagers! then I did from any of my 2nd grade classes. There was always a main plot and then a secondary story line where Jeff and Bogg visited another time line. Sometimes a brief third time story would be thrown in. The best episodes had two story lines that mirrored each other in some way. "Agents of Satan" had Jeff and Bogg land in New England during the Salem witch trials, after escaping being burned at the stake the duo land in 1924 Boston during a séance that just happens to have Harry Houdini in the audience. Houdini never believed in real magic or the supernatural, only the incredibly well staged illusions that he performed. He famously went around the country debunking phonies swindling people out of money, so when Houdini sees our heroes appear out of nowhere and then immediately vanish into thin air he is convinced that ghosts are real. Jeff and Bogg inadvertently turned a green light zone into a red one. This kind of story telling was just flat out AMAZING for a kids show. The writing was top notch. Other great episodes were "Worlds Apart" (Thomas Edison and Lawerence of Arabia), "The Travels of Marco Polo", "Barriers of Sound" (Alexander Graham Bell), "Voyagers of the Titanic", "The Trial of Phineas Bogg" (we get to see the Voyager school) and "Jack's Back" (Jack the Ripper).
I have acquired all the episodes in recent years, complete with the NBC bumpers ("Voyagers will be back after these messages"). A few of my episodes even have some of the old NBC ads from the time, with Meeno and Jon-Erik dressed in costume and telling us "Sundays are the place to be on NBC!", which was a precursor to the "NBC Let's All Be There!" ads a couple years later. I get a flood rush of magical childhood nostalgia when I see stuff like that. I was nervous that show would look just too ridiculous and immature for my adult eyes. I was proved wrong. Sure there are a couple of forgettable episodes and yes there are some corny moments here and there where you can tell this was a children's series, but it's damn entertaining one. The acting can be silly at times, but sometimes you have to just accept a well made show's faults and just roll with it. The stories and the writing were what really attracted me. This was a series aimed at children but written with older audiences in mind, so I can still watch this one as an adult and not feel guilty. The series always dealt with famous historical figures, but who cares? The show had plenty of wit and zany enthusiasm going for it. That other great time travel series Quantum Leap would be there later to deal with the more regular folk. At the end of each episode Meeno Pulce would give a quick narration over the closing credits, telling you that you could learn more about the historic figures visited in this episode through reading, "Take a voyage down to your local library, it's all in books". Unfortunately NBC canceled the show after 1 season. The show couldn't compete against the hard hitting 60 Minutes, and perhaps the complex plots was something that couldn't be sustained. I'll always remember this show though. It's a shame that back in the 80s moron shows like The Dukes of Hazzard lasted for six years and Voyagers! only stayed on the air for one.
"Voyagers!" was one of the best time travel shows I have ever seen. But a bad time slot up against 60 Minutes on Sundays spelled doom for Voyagers! I was about 6 or 7 years old when this show came out. No one my age even remembers this show, and I don't even bother with anyone significantly younger than me remembering Voyagers! The show centered around the adventures of 12 year old Jeffery Jones and his dimwitted 20 something adult companion Phineas Bogg. Bogg is a Voyager but is ill equiped for time travel, Jeff being a history whiz(and every other type whiz) is able to help Bogg out. Like "The Greatest American Hero", "Voyagers!" features a hook with a lost instruction book. In this case, Bogg's guide book. If Voyagers! was given a 2nd Season as it so rightly deserved, then I am certain Jon-Erik Hexum would still be with us. Tragically Hexum accidently killed himself a year after Voyagers! left the air.
Voyagers! was an excellent show that could have gone far and taken us on many historical adventures, it was appealing both to children and adults. The teaming of late actor Jon-Erik Hexum and Meeno Peluce was wonderful, they had great chemistry and timing in their roles as Voyagers Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones. Most of the plot lines were so fun to watch and follow, you really did learn some interesting facts along the way. This show is a great addition to the time travel genre and it even inspired another excellent show, 'Quantum Leap.' Jon-Erik was strikingly handsome, funny and charming as the confused pirate/Voyager and Meeno Peluce had a rare natural talent that only children could have, the ability to be lovable and a pain all at once! I highly recommend finding and watching this show to any sci-fi/time travel buffs!
There are several things to note about "Voyagers!" The first is that
this was a part of a master plan by NBC Program chief Brandon Tartikoff
to merge entertainment with education, and to provide kids with
intelligent programming, not the usual dreck that seemed so prevalent
in the 1980s.
The concept of the show was deceptively simple. There are a team of men and women who keep track of "history." These "voyagers" each have a hand-held device called an "Omni" which gives them their location, the date and a signal if history is "wrong." They all go back and forward through time to correct any "mistakes" that may have occurred in time and keep the world on track.
One voyager is named Phineas Bogg (an obvious play on Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg from "Around The World In 80 Days"). However this particular voyager didn't pass his history exam and landed on the windowsill of Jeffrey, who just happened to be a whiz kid in history. Together, they became "Voyagers!"
The serious problem the program had was in its construction. In one episode, Germany had somehow won World War I. The voyagers traveled back in time and discovered that famed flying ace Eddie Rickenbacher had nothing to do. That's because the Wright Brothers hadn't invented the airplane. So they had to travel again and discovered Orville and Wilbur were arguing over a girl in their bicycle shop instead of working on their flying machine. So the Voyagers had to set them back on track.
It had to have been extremely difficult to write such elaborate plots that both were well known enough for an audience to relate to and yet capable of making sense in the plot of the show. As brilliant as some of these episodes were, the question is how many related subplots could there be for any moment in history, before you get into material that isn't in the library? With such a limitation, with production costs being what they were for an early 1980s s/f program and with ratings being lower than desired, "Voyagers!" was not viable for more than a year. Looking at the series now, it would have made for a brilliant "Harry Potter" style string of films, since there really aren't enough historic events to have made it to the famed 100 episode level.
I remember this show clearly from when I was in 4th grade and was quite devastated when it was cancelled. This show helped spawn a love-affair with History and learning. I so greatly wish that more shows like it were to be made....but instead we must be flooded with cr*p like, "Making the Band" and "Full House". If anyone knows when the Sci-Fi Channel plays these episodes -- please let me know!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was one of my favorite shows in 1980's. It mirrored another movie
about a little boy from the U.K. who gets caught up with thieving time
travelers and famous people in history called, 'Time Bandits' (which
was much "darker"}. It even had the same 'bomb falling whistle' sound
when they entered a new time era from that movie. Bogg was clueless
about history but Jeffrey was a genius at it. Of course, Bogg got all
the women. Alternate histories were explored like crazy and "bad"
things in history were allowed to happen. It touched on good issues
like Jeffrey glamorizing criminals (Billy the Kid) and Bogg falling in
love with the deaf future 'wife to be' of Alexander G. Bell to a
retired old man Voyager becoming a hero again after giving up on life
and saving Marco Polo's life. Some episodes are on YouTube but where is
the DVD collection?
For dtucker86 from Germany
The Voyagers did end up on Titanic and met a woman Voyager trying to keep the painting 'Mona Lisa' from sinking with the ship but Jeffrey wanted to warn the captain and no one listened to him except Molly Brown. Bogg mentions to Jeffrey their job is not changing history but making sure it happens as it is known and the ship sinks. In the final episode 'Jack the Ripper' was just an evil Voyager named, Drake attempting to "destroy history" by killing Nelly Bly but he wasn't the real Jack. Hexum was new to Hollywood with Voyagers and years later accidentally shot himself on the set of 'Cover Up' but it was not a suicide.
A lot of fans of this show were half my age in 1982-83. I was 14 and in high school. I had a terrible crush on Jon-Erik but the show was so good his beauty just enhanced a great show. I am 43 now and I never forgot it. I was reading an article on Solei Moon Frye and remembered her big brother Meeno Peluce. Then I thought about Voyagers and how I hadn't seen it in almost 30 years. I went hunting. I found several episodes...Thank You Youtube! I also thought I would look at the show with critical eyes like I do Dallas and Dynasty now. I was so wrong; I was thrust back to a simpler time, it really was a great way to learn, if we had more educational shows like that today maybe the United States children wouldn't be so "dumbed-down".
I didn't get the chance to watch that show as a child, since it was
only aired once here in 1989. However, I recently found out this show
exists (I love time travelling shows) and it's still a great pleasure
to watch it. It's kind of obvious that the show must have had quite a
small budget, but they still managed to put a lot of details into the
episodes. They even travel to Austria (where I live) once and I'm
surprised at how accurate the whole scenery was (although it was
doubtlessly filmed in the states). street names, signs, accents, German
words. Everything perfectly right. I also love the moral values that
the show brought to its viewers. Phineas Bogg - although he's a
hopeless womanizer and knows practically nothing about history -
repeatedly claims he doesn't drink alcohol and he doesn't want Jeffrey
to play with weapons. The interaction between Jeff and Phineas is one
aspect I truly love about the show. He's the perfect father (or rather
big brother) figure any kid could have.
Sure, the special effects are really funny for modern viewers - but we have to admit we are spoiled by cgi effects, so it's no big deal. Let's just hope they release the show on DVD sometime. That one is really worth remembering.
I used to watch this show as a kid and absolutely loved it. Sci-Fi channel re-runs it from time to time and I heartily recommend you recording it for younger children to watch. It's cool and educational too.
I remember this series very well, because in the mid eighties it kept
me occupied as toddler! As a Uni-History student, and someone for who
history is a hobby, I think Voyagers was the best.
It gave to history what no other documentary or series could for a toddler. It let you walk through that era while actually captivating a young mind whose attention span would be hard to grasp on such great historical episodes. Literally seeing a time through the present day eyes of the heroes. Okay I do admit, the kids dodgy stripped t-shirt could have been changed. But it worked, doing assignments and reading books that weigh a ton, my mind still wonders down the streets of whatever era or battlefield, much in the same way that the heroes did. I am eternally grateful to whoever made this series! Its a shame that this series isn't out on DVD. Its an even bigger shame that they don't make series like this or movies like this either. The love of history is all but extinct. Current Cinema and movie makers who concentrate on blood and guts and twisting the historic facts to please an audience of adolescents who know nothing of the rich tapestry of the past is now the norm. Sad!
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