Image of Trancer hunter, Jack Deth.
|First appearance||Trancers (1985)|
|Last appearance||Trancers: City of Lost Angels (2013)|
|Created by||Charles Band|
|Portrayed by||Tim Thomerson, Zette Sullivan|
|Spouse(s)||Wife Lena (divorced), Alice (deceased)/(separated)|
|Children||Daughter Josephine Forrest|
Trancers began as a nod to pulp detective novels, with similarities to cult sci-fi movies Blade Runner and The Terminator (the latter of which was released the previous year). In the series, time travel is made possible using a drug or the pre-set co-ordinates of a time machine, although parts 4 and 5 introduced other means of time travel between dimensions.
Jack Deth is a wisecracking police detective (or “trooper”) in Angel City (the future Los Angeles) and is portrayed by Tim Thomerson in six out of the seven films, as well as having a cameo appearance in the movie Evil Bong. Zette Sullivan assumed the role for the sixth film in 2002, since the character can be inside the body of a relation, of either gender.
Jack’s job is finding and “singeing” “Trancers”—the zombie like sub-humans, who obey the command of the powerful and (often psychic) villains throughout the series. But this won't work on those whose will is too strong.
Deth appears in all the films, but Trancers 6 only has archive footage of Thomerson in character and a double body is used for some scenes. Zette Sullivan plays his daughter, whom Jack is inside.
Jack Deth is a cop who originally was from the 23rd century, c. 2247 in Angel City (the renamed Los Angeles, following an earthquake). Jack was married to a woman called Alice B. Stillwell, who was also his partner, until she was killed by zombie like enemies called "Trancers" after an operation went wrong.
After seemingly killing his arch nemesis (Trancer guru and psychic mastermind, Martin Whistler) on Mekon Seven, Jack briefly quit the force to go into retirement, when he was thrust into a new assignment by the council of Angel City, who wanted him to re-capture Whistler, who had unknowingly escaped back to the year 1985 using some kind of drug induced time travel technique, with a plan to assassinate the ancestors of Angel City’s three ruling governors; Van Zandt, Ashe and Spencer.
Whistler already disposed of Van Zandt prior to the council recruiting Jack Deth, as explained by Spencer at the council HQ, after he played a holographic message Whistler had left as a warning. Jack then notices that Whistler's body is being preserved whilst he is in 1985 in the body of Detective Weisling and proceeds to shoot the body, causing it to vanish. Although the council are angry over this, they choose to let Jack have the assignment. With no time to spare, Jack was giving an injection by his former girlfriend, the recently promoted engineer, Ruthie Raines. This sent Jack's consciousness back to the 1980s era. Upon arriving in the body of Philip Dethton in 1985, Jack meets Lena (Helen Hunt) and Jack follows her to work, where she dresses as an elf and greets little kids with Santa Claus. But when "Santa" sees Jack, it is then revealed that he is a Trancer and Jack struggles with him briefly, before shooting him dead with his .38 Special. When Jack and Lena leave, Jack convinces Lena to help him as he doesn't know his way around. Together, they fail to save Spencer's ancestor, Chris Levery, when Whistler found him first and tranced him (Jack dropped a photo of him in the mall, and it was picked up by one of Whistler's men, leading them on the trail). Jack and Lena were yet to track down the former baseball pitcher, Hap Ashby, while concurrently having to contend with the Trancers that were following Whistler’s commands.
Jack was extracted from his mission by his supervisor McNulty when Ashe become frantic over the deaths of the other council members, but Ashe allowed Jack to continue when he explained how he was close to finding Ashby, her ancestor. Immediately after Jack returns to his ancestor's body, he spots Whistler on TV being interviewed and learns that Ashby is on Skid Row.
Jack and Lena steal a couple of motor cycles from a punk who had bothered them earlier in a nightclub and they go to Skid Row where they track down Ashby and help him to escape from Whistler and his goons. Lena is shot by one of the tranced cops, enduring a minor injury, but manages to reunite with Jack and Ashby at their hideout. Jack is worried about losing Lena, as he explains how he lost his wife back home in Angel City.
Jack then lures Whistler from Skid Row to China Town, using Lena and Ashby as decoys, although at first Lena thinks Jack has sold them out in a phone call she overheard Jack making to Whistler. After saving Lena from being thrown off a roof by using another time freezer watch, Ashby throws trash from a skip at Whistler which hits him in the face, causing Whistler to go over the edge of the building. Ashby then throws a bottle at Whistler, which causes him to lose his grip, making him fall from the roof and into a fountain. Jack quickly grabs Whistler, only to realize he has only one shot left of the drug that sends a time-traveler’s consciousness back to its present (“up the line”). By injecting police chief Weisling with the serum, Weisling was spared from death. Weisling would go on to father six children, as told by Whistler himself. Meanwhile, since Jack cannot return to Angel City, he must remain with Lena and Ashby in the past and as foretold by Whistler, Jack goes on to marry Lena prior to the events of Trancers II.
A Trancers segment was originally planned for inclusion as part of an anthology film called Pulse Pounders, which would have seen Deth reunite with Lena and McNulty. However, the movie was never completed due to budget restraints and the collapse of Empire Pictures. After this, Charles Band founded the Full Moon company, and the basis for that film was used in Trancers II, following 3 years of being in development hell. It was, however, later revealed by Charles Band that the 'lost footage' (really, just around 20 minutes) from Pulse Pounders would be digitally remastered with a soundtrack similar to the original movie and made into Trancers: City of Lost Angels (otherwise known as Trancers 1.5), that was made available for download via fullmoonstreaming.com but then released on DVD in November, 2013. In that short movie, Deth has to fend off against a dangerous female assassin.
Six years later in the proper sequel entitled Trancers II, which is set in the year 1991, Jack, Lena, and Ashby later came under threat from Whistler’s brother, Dr. E.D. Wardo. Wardo had began trancing mental patients and homeless people using an addictive drug from the future called Scurbosa, which he was growing in a nearby greenhouse using smuggled seeds. In order to stop Wardo, Jack and company were aided by Deth’s old supervisor McNulty (returning in the body of his ancestor, now a teenage girl) and Jack’s first wife, Alice Stillwell, who had been resurrected by altering the course of history, to try to help Jack stop Wardo’s Trancer farm, and while in the hospital, she escaped captivity, still trapped inside the body of her ancestor, who just happened to be a mental patient herself.
Alice's presence served a purpose: The council wanted Jack to return to Angel City, as a council seat awaited him. Alice was supposed to die after a couple of days once her job was complete, by being sent back after the mission objectives had been met (i.e. the council was merely using her). However, as Jack's real body had calcified in the future, Jack could only return inside the body of his ancestor in the newly created TCL chamber. Otherwise, he would remain in Old California for the rest of his life.
Trouble arose due to a jealous rivalry between Lena and Alice, as they both considered themselves to be his wife. After Lena was captured by Wardo’s men, Jack and Alice tracked Wardo down to his Scurbosa greenhouse and had to defend themselves against a lynch mob of Trancers. Jack killed Wardo by darting a pitchfork into his chest before he could shoot Ashby, who had arrived in a firetruck with McNulty to help put out a fire. Alice was saved from her imminent death by being sent forward in time in her ancestor’s body, using the TCL chamber that was hidden in the barn at GreenWorld. McNulty also returned to the future, proclaiming Jack as being happy where he is.
In Trancers III, in 1992, Jack and Lena were on the verge of splitting up due to their failing marriage. Although Jack promised to amend their relationship, he was forcefully returned to the future by the android Shark before he could fulfill this.
In the future, the remaining council leader, Harris, and Alice have Jack go down the line to 2005 in order to end a Trancers scheme that was fully sponsored by the government. This caused Jack confusion as to how Lena was the one who obtained the details of this program. It was in the future that Jack was given his assignment—find and destroy the Trancers at their source. Jack was once again able to stop the Trancers and program director Col. Daddy Muthuh with help from Lena (now happily remarried as Lena Forrest and with a daughter), Shark, and R.J., who was a defected recruit. For a while, R.J. helps Jack, but she eventually succumbs to the Trancers steroid and is shot by Jack in a mercy killing when she is about to transform. Col. Daddy Muthuh tries to psychically make Jack shoot himself, but as his will is too strong, he quickly shoots Daddy Muthuh dead. Seemingly after that battle ended, the Trancers had been wiped out for good, but Jack and Shark were needed elsewhere.
In Trancers 4: Jack of Swords, Deth continues his time travel adventures with Shark. Harris scolds Jack for allowing Shark to be destroyed during a mission, Jack was about to reconcile with Alice when he learned that Alice and Harris had began a relationship while Jack and Alice were apart. Very angry over this, Jack leaves and is rubbed the wrong way by a woman in a bar called Lyla. Unable to remain out of work for any length of time, Jack returned to Harris’ lab, where Jack was assigned by Harris and (to Jack's surprise) his new supervisor Lyra to journey to Kansas using the TCL chamber. During this assignment, a stowaway creature called a Solonoid caused Deth’s time machine to make a crash landing on another planet, which he later learned was called Orpheus.
On Orpheus, Jack gets caught up in a war between the surviving humans and the never-before-seen vampire like Trancers called Nobles, as well as their fearsome leader, Lord Caliban. A prophet named Farr predicted Jack’s arrival in Orpheus.
Jack is injured trying to escape from these new bloodsuckers, and passes out in the woods. He is found by a kindly peasant, who nurses him back to health and then sends out a carrier pigeon, alerting Caliban of his whereabouts and therefore betraying Jack. The man is killed however when the Trancers show up with Caliban, despite being loyal to Caliban, and Jack is captured after his time freezer watch fails to do its job, resulting in the Trancers humoring his predicament.
From then on, a woman Jack called Lyra (because she resembles her namesake from Jack’s own time) involuntarily served Jack, at the order of Caliban. Jack eventually escaped from Caliban’s castle with the help of the Trancer lord’s son, Prospero, and a rebel group called the “Tunnel Rats”. Jack was able to foil the diabolical plans of Caliban, thanks in part to the deceased wizard Oberon, and Prospero (who had chosen to align himself with Jack, so he would not end up like his evil father).
Unfortunately, one of Caliban's men uses an art work of Caliban to somehow bring him back during Trancers 5: Sudden Deth, in which Thomerson makes his final appearance in the canon.
Caliban figured that Jack Deth would head for the Castle of Unrelenting Terror. After learning of a talisman that could allow the possessor to cross dimensional realms, Jack and Prospero journeyed to the Castle of Unrelenting Terror to obtain the Tiamond, so that Jack could return to Angel City. Prospero also saw this as an opportunity to distance himself from Shaleen, a female rebel who he was falling in love with. Prospero understood that he may have hurt her during an uncontrollable feed, and also due to this, Jack does not fully trust Prospero, even if he is now on the good side. This causes Prospero to become offended, as he explains to Jack his ruthless methods of killing Trancers causes Jack to be uncaring. After this argument, Jack allows Prospero to act as a guard during the night, while Jack rests up, perhaps proving that Jack has gained some trust in the very thing he has hunted all his life.
Jack and Prospero were unknowingly being followed by the returning Caliban, who disguised himself as a wild dog and saved them from a hostile refugee in the woods. Once inside the castle, Jack and Prospero were able to overcome all challenges that the castle threw at them, which included being tricked with fake food and female company, and yelling at some ghosts, causing them to simply back off, and Jack defeating his evil doppelganger, which then ultimately awarded him with the Tiamond. Just then, Caliban returned and threw Jack and Prospero in two separate cages, locking them inside, before he escaped with the Tiamond, and due to its unique power, he could return to his castle.
Jack used his special switchblade to cut through the bars and they hurried back to Caliban’s castle on horseback. During the final showdown with Caliban, the Nobles and the Tunnel Rats, Jack was severely wounded by Caliban, leaving only a limited amount of time to get back to L.A. As many rebels and Trancers fought each other, Prospero faced and killed his father, allowing Jack just enough time to use the Tiamond to return to L.A., somehow bringing Prospero with him. Jack stepped out of the TCL chamber with Prospero and overheard Harris and Lyra talking about him, and they were surprised to discover that he was still alive. Prospero chose to stay in L.A. for a while, as he now felt ordinary, while Jack asked Lyra for a fresh start. Meanwhile, in Orpheus, the other Lyra realizes she is pregnant with Jack's child.
Trancers 6 sees Deth switch bodies yet again. In the year 2022, Jack learned from Dr. Jennings that he fathered a daughter called Josephine, after Jennings witnessed her being attacked by an unknown female assailant, while he was doing a routine check of the time-belt. Although Jack had met the girl in 2005, he did not know they were related. As it turned out, Josephine was in danger because she saw a meteor fall to the Earth, and her boss happened to be Mr. Castle, an alien Trancer who came to Earth inside the meteor. Castle's assistant Shauna Wilder is put in charge of recruiting new Trancers.
Jack inhabited Josphine’s body when the newest group of Trancers appeared in her time and began using the energy from the meteor to mass-produce the deadliest Trancers ever seen, in an attempt to take over the city, and ultimately, the world.
After dealing with a renegade Trancer at her place of employment, Josephine visits her friend Dr. Paul Malvern for help. They fend off an attack by Trancers, but end up being captured and forced to work for Miss Wilder, with Josephine narrowly managing to avoid being tranced with the meteor ray herself. Josephine just pretends to be a Trancer, so that this buys her more time.
Josephine and Dr. Malvern eventually turn the tables on Shauna Wilder and the Trancers, but Dr. Malvern is critically injured when Shauna plunges a knife into his back. Shauna and Jo then begin to wrestler each other to the ground, reminiscent of Jenning's vision at the beginning of the movie. The scuffle ends with Jo gaining the upper hand. Jo then uses the meteor ray to behead Shauna, thus preventing her own death. Sadly, Dr. Malvern dies, reminding Jack Deth of the sacrifices that come with being a Trancer hunter.
Josephine returns to Castle's office, to see Castle is quickly destroying evidence using a paper shredder. Just before he is revealed for what he really is, Mr. Castle warns Josephine that killing him would be pointless, as there are many more just like him in the universe controlling thousands. Yet Josephine shoots him anyway, exposing his true alien form.
With the Trancers having been wiped out again, Jack decided to remain in his daughter, in case the Trancers should come looking for her now that she's wanted by them. But as seen in the end sequence, the Trancer kid with an eye missing survived, possibly indicating that a new threat could be looming.
Thomerson as Jack Deth appeared in the 2006 movie Evil Bong, briefly talking to someone in a dream like state. Other Full Moon characters also made appearances in this film, like Ivan Burroughs from Decadent Evil and the cackling Jack Attack from the Demonic Toys movies, although this movie isn't canoncal.
At the height of Full Moon's popularity in the 1990s, Eternity Comics released a series of comics based on their films, and did a short Trancers series, with similarities to the first two movies, such as the long second watch, Deth's encounter with Lena, the asylum from Trancers II, and Jack's love for vintage cars. A figure of Jack Deth was originally planned, but never was released (it can however, be seen on Google along with the unreleased Demonic Toys branch of collectibles).
Jack Deth is equipped with a plasma powered gun called a “Heater” in his own time, but uses a .38 Special when he is sent to the 1980s. He can identify a trancer by scanning them with a bracelet (only seen in the futuristic opener of the first film). He is later given a wrist watch that can temporarily halt time, stretching one second to ten (although this appears to be inaccurate on-screen). This trick can allow for a quick getaway. This was referenced in The Matrix. The time travel drug was phased out and replaced by the TLC chamber, but the original premise returned in Trancers 6.
His other supervisor “Lyra” (Stacie Randall) later supplies him with a new gun that can be powered naturally with sand, small rocks, etc. He also receives a new wrist watch that can still slow down time, but with unlimited use. However, this trick backfires on him in Orpheus because Orpheus uses magic.
The most important item he receives from Lyra is an ordinary looking switchblade, that is designed so it can cut through just about anything. This saves his life on more than one occasion. Jack Deth is a fan of vintage cars, and is also a smoker, as Jack (as Josephine) receives a case which includes a pack of cigarettes.
Trancers 6 tries to be like the original Trancers, by only including the original movie's time freezer watch. Although including this is probably a plot hole, as Trancers 6 ignores parts 4 and 5 completely, and therefore, it does not make sense to be using the old one.