‘Valerian and Laureline’ flashback: ‘Time Jam’ episodes 21-30 (2008) (TV review)

The “Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline” writers finally give us the cute romantic sequence they had been so obviously holding back from us in the 30th episode, “Get With the Times,” and darn if it isn’t almost tear-jerking. Laureline must stay on a planet and press a button after Valerian takes off in their ship; they can’t both depart.

Laureline just sits on the beach for a year or so, her hair growing long to show the passage of time. As the wordless montage ends, Valerian returns. They swim toward each other underwater, and – in the latest example of “Time Jam” making an odd editing decision – it’s implied that they kiss, but it’s not shown. (Later, Laureline explains that she thought Valerian might’ve needed mouth-to-mouth.) These two are as awkward in love as the comics’ V&L are comfortable in love.

At the other extreme of the will-they-or-won’t-they dance is “It’s Showtime” (episode 26), where a TV producer wants to make a fictional show about V&L, who are as well-known in “Time Jam” as they are anonymous in the comics. The schlock producer’s V&L equivalents are in love, and our heroes protest (too much) that in real life, they are just friends. Plenty of moments among episodes 21-30 – such as Laureline being curious at the mention of Valerian’s ex-girlfriend – are appetizers leading toward episode 30’s main course.

Another TV-related parody comes one episode earlier in “Running Out of Time” (25), where V&L are thrown into a deadly reality show where they fight a series of creatures, including the Marcyam (from “Empire of a Thousand Planets”). This one is a bit off base; at one point, Laureline kills a creature with grenades and is proud of herself. It seems more likely she’d be crushed that she had to kill the beast.

This third batch of 10 episodes in the “Time Jam” series is hit and miss, but it does feature the best episode of the series so far: “Once Upon a Time” (24). Valerian and Laureline are invited to Aldebaran Prince Baral’s wedding, and the prince’s ex, Pirna, isn’t merely the latest villain of the week: It looks like she actually succeeds at killing Laureline. Mr. Albert, whose omniscient ability to witness V&L’s adventures on a big screen isn’t well explained, even by “Time Jam’s” standards, flies in with his time machine and saves her. But the drama of Laureline’s “death” works in the moment.

The ability to change an event would seem to rob the series of any permanent stakes, but “Payback Time” (27) tries to address that in a story reminiscent of the final act of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” V&L go back to 912 feudal France and watch their own first meeting. They need to interfere without making it look like they’re interfering. In another one of those cute moments, Valerian admits he was smitten with Laureline at first sight; she notes that he never told her that before.

“Time Jam” goes “Quantum Leap” with “A Long Time Ago” (22), where our heroes meet Jules Verne in 19th century France. Again, they must avoid influencing the past: Valerian has to stop himself from raving about Verne’s books because the author hasn’t written them yet. This episode is a pleasant nod to a literary ancestor of the comics’ Christin and Mezieres; in both cases, the auteurs let their imaginations run wild, not caring if they sometimes exceed science fiction and enter the realm of imaginative fiction.

The five episodes I haven’t mentioned yet are less memorable. In “Time of Troubles” (20), Prince Baral is mind-controlled by the Vlagos into dropping his environmentalist ways. Mind control and political maneuvering by the Vlagos are regular themes in “Time Jam,” although this one is more heavy-handed than is usual for the series.

“Time to Pay the Piper” (21) has some interesting concepts – people are trapped in a paradise world, but bored to tears by it – as well as a cool sequence where V&L drop through an asteroid field in their spacesuits to get to the surface, which is unreachable via spaceship. But it doesn’t coalesce into a strong episode. “Time Heals All Wounds” (23) is the series’ most annoying episode. It introduces the Schniarfors (the title characters of “The Living Weapons”), creatures that are either horrifically violent or cloyingly sweet, depending on if they’ve been tamed or not.

“In the Nick of Time” (28) and “Starved For Time” (29) almost function as a two-parter, as Pirna (the villain from “Once Upon a Time”) employs some sort of evil scheme that our heroes naturally get out of. Bringing this villain back isn’t a bad idea, but the writers fail to push her to the next level.

Gork Yodol continues to be the main villain, but the Vlagos leader won’t let Yodol kill V&L, so although he’s not cackling with evil glee as much as he used to, he likewise doesn’t seem like a threat (although it’s neat when he orders the Mortis Quartet to help our heroes in “Running out of Time”). Then again, the overarching galactic threat has never been the reason to tune into “Time Jam.” Like the comics, it’s more about the standalone adventures.

It’s nice to see the Tempus Fugit out of the repair shop and in its rightful place as Valerian’s ship again. Weirdly, V&L use the other ship – the name of which I can never quite catch (Saloon? Simoon?) – in some episodes without explanation, too. I guess it’s like a two-car family.

While there is no Ralph, no Transmuter, and not a lot of the Shingouz in this batch, there are fairly regular examples of Mezieres’ work popping up. Maybe it was my imagination, but Valerian strikes me as being drawn more like his comics counterpart in this batch. Laureline, not so much — the comic version leans cute, the cartoon version leans pretty — although it’s plain to see why jolly criminals Bart and Garp from “Payback Time” are smitten with the flame-haired heroine (as is every male being in the galaxy who lays eyes on her).

Valerian needs to lock this down. It’s nice to see he’s finally on the right track.

“Time Jam” episodes 21-30:

More “Time Jam” reviews:

Episodes 1-10

Episodes 11-20

Episodes 31-40

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