Most folks, if they got their hands on a time-travel device, would probably end up using it to bet on sporting events, sign the Beatles, take vengeance on childhood bullies, kill Hitler, or maybe stop Abraham Lincoln from getting shot. But thankfully, those with the real power of time travel decided to use it responsibly. They were called “Voyagers,” and two of their number shared their adventures with the world in the NBC Sunday night series Voyagers!
In the premiere episode, recently orphaned twelve-year-old boy Jeffrey Jones was introduced to the power of the Voyagers when Phineas Bogg stumbled into his bedroom, circa 1982. Bogg’s Omni—the Voyagers’ hand-held time travel device—had accidentally landed him in Jeffrey’s time (the thing wasn’t supposed to be able to carry him past 1970), and things only got worse from there. Jeff’s dog ate Bogg’s time guidebook (the one that told him how everything was supposed to turn out), and Jeffrey himself got knocked out the window of his tall apartment building. The only way to save Jeff was to dive after him, activate the Omni, and carry him on Bogg’s travels through time—a big Voyager no-no. And that’s exactly what Phineas Bogg did.
As it turned out, Jeff was a handy kid to have along. The boy’s dad was a history professor, and Jeff had learned more than enough to make up for Bogg’s lost book. The Omni itself told the Voyagers when history needed a fix (the light turned from green to red), but it was up to Jeff and Bogg (usually Jeff) to figure out exactly what needed fixing.
The plots took the two time-traveling companions back to fix a number of problems: helping Edison invent the light bulb, freeing Harriet Tubman, getting George Washington fighting on the right side of the American Revolution, or fixing a cross-temporal mess that ended up involving Cleopatra, Lucky Luciano and Babe Ruth. Dozens of time disasters spilled out in the show’s first and only season, and Bogg was even called back to the Voyager homebase to stand trial for breaking Voyager code (he got off, by the way). But the one unanswered question was how history got diddled with in the first place, and if it did, then wouldn’t that mean that history wasn’t really the way we thought it would be, and who’s to say which things were meant to be which way at which time? These are among the reasons you shouldn’t let dogs eat your Voyager instruction manual.
Voyagers! never made it back in time for a second season, and hopes of a reunion were tragically dashed when lead actor Jon-Erik Hexum died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound on the set of a movie. The show has become a cult favorite among sci-fi fans and educators alike, since young Jeffrey was sure to encourage the viewers at home to read more about that week’s historical lesson at the end of the episode. And many budding history majors got their first taste of the wonders of the past courtesy of two voyagers with the power of time travel and the good sense to use it properly.
“We travel through time to help history along, give it a push where it’s needed…”
“Green light, kid! We did it!”
USA / NBC – Universal / 21×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 3 October 1982 – 31 July 1983
Creator: James D. Parriott / Producer: Jill Sherman
JON ERIC HEXUM as Phineas Bogg
MEENO PELUCE as Jeffrey Jones