As if high school weren’t tough enough, Stephen Jameson is convinced, with good reason, that he is going crazy.
He hears voices no one else does. Yet in Stephen’s strange new life the voices are real. He’s a superior creature, a “homo superior,” as he discovers on the compelling “The Tomorrow People,” premiering on The CW on Wednesday.
Stephen is a good guy, says Robbie Amell (“1600 Penn”), who plays the high school student. He earns good grades and is a devoted son, but his life unravels.
“In the past year things have gone to hell for him,” Amell says. “If you were hearing voices in your head that weren’t your own, that would be horrifying. He is finding out that there isn’t anything wrong.”
Not if you are a genetically mutated superhuman, there isn’t. In addition to hearing voices, he teleports in his sleep, a habit that does not endear him to neighbors when he wakes up in between a husband and wife.
He can move incredibly fast, punch hard, leap and do it all at seemingly the speed of light. Usually such abilities come with a cape and rubber jumpsuit with built-in muscles.
John is a leader of the Tomorrow People, and involved with Cara (Peyton List, “Mad Men”). The Tomorrow People, which also include Russell (Aaron Yoo, “Disturbia”), are endangered. Since they are evolved, they can’t kill, and that’s a distinct disadvantage.
The paramilitary Ultra, a group of renegade scientists, hunts the Tomorrow People. Ultra considers the Tomorrow People, a species living among us, a threat.
The pilot does a solid job of explaining the mythology of the show, which developed a cult following after being a hit in the U.K. in the 1970s.
The CW version is set in New York. Sometimes the Tomorrow People ride the subway, though if one can teleport, one avoids subways. Their hiding place is an abandoned subway station, where they hone their skills: telepathy, telekinesis and teleportation. They fight as if they’re in a martial arts film.
“It is a genre show,” List says. “It is a sci-fi show. There are superpowers. But we keep it set in reality as much as possible. For the most part, it is based in reality, with regular life conflicts, with loves and love lost. When it is just robots, that just feels hard to relate to.”
Cara reaches out to Stephen; it’s her voice he hears, saying, “You are not crazy.”
He happens to be in chemistry class at the time, and when he yells, ‘Shut up!” the teacher is not amused.
“Cara is very strong, and she is very secure in her choices,” List says. “She believes in what she is doing.”
Cara and John explain to Stephen who and what he is. This helps him understand why he has astounding strength. Stephen’s powers are far greater than the others.
Then again, he is the son of a man revered among the Tomorrow People; a man Stephen says was a deadbeat dad who abandoned him, his brother and mother.
But he also remembers his father showing him a magic trick, palming a coin, and teaching him to be skeptical.
“The truth is there is only one thing you can trust,” his dad tells Stephen as a boy, in a flashback. “You. Trust your heart, son. I love you, Stephen.”
Understandably, Stephen spends much of the pilot confused. There are, though, wonderful side effects to superhuman powers. A school bully steals Stephen’s medicine, a psychotropic drug doctors prescribed for a misdiagnosed mental illness.
The bully gets high from the meds, and when he helps himself to more, Stephen has replaced them with laxatives and lets the bully steal those. The two wind up in a fight, and with Stephen’s newfound super strength, he pulverizes the bully.
Still, Stephen is kidnapped in lower Manhattan and taken to Ultra headquarters, where he meets Dr. Jedikiah Price (Mark Pellegrino, “Lost,” “Supernatural”). An evolutionary biologist who studies the Tomorrow People, Price is also Stephen’s uncle, but he doesn’t let Stephen know that right away.
Instead Price has Stephen restrained, and just as he’s about to inject Stephen with an antidote to stem his powers, the Tomorrow People breach Ultra’s headquarters.
Tensions rise fast. Ultra agents face off, but the Tomorrow People do not want Stephen used like a lab mouse.
In one terrific scene, Stephen’s abilities shock everyone. He can stop time, arguably the best superpower ever. By doing so, he halts a bullet’s trajectory, and everyone, including Stephen, is stunned.
Soon, Stephen learns that Dr. Price, whom he perceives as evil, is his uncle. Price says he became a geneticist to help his brother.
Stephen has a stark choice. He can either go underground with the Tomorrow People or he can live above ground with his family and friends, working with his uncle and Ultra and against his own kind.