Seven Days (TV series)
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Seven Days intertitle
|Created by||Christopher Crowe
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||66 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||approx. 42 minutes|
|Original run||October 7, 1998– May 29, 2001|
The television channel Spike syndicated all of the episodes from 2003 to 2005.
Three seasons of Seven Days were produced. All three seasons have been shown in North America, while the BBC broadcast the first season in the United Kingdom. There are currently no plans to release the entire series on DVD and/or Blu-ray from Paramount Home Entertainment and CBS Home Entertainment.
The plot follows a secret branch of the United States' National Security Agency which has developed a time travelling device based upon alien technology found at Roswell. As the opening of the show says, the Chronosphere, or Backstep Sphere, sends "one human being back in time seven days" to avert disasters. The show's name refers to the fact that the Backstep Project can only backstep seven days because of limitations imposed by the fuel source and its reactor. As the fuel source is limited, there is a strict mandate that they only Backstep for events relating to "National Security". The backstep team and the equipment are stationed in a base called Never Never Land, which is in a secret location somewhere in the desert of Nevada.
Project Backstep was initiated by the National Security Agency (NSA) after the Roswell incident of 1947. The crashed alien saucer was taken to a secret base called "Never Never Land" (inspired by Groom Lake in Area 51, nicknamed in real-life as "Dreamland") in the Nevada Desert where it was reverse-engineered.
By reverse-engineering the alien technology, they were able to create a time machine. The "time machine" consists of the Chronosphere, including the Chronosphere's hangar and its supporting equipment.
The time machine uses Element-115 salvaged from the Roswell crash. This transuranic element allowed them to generate a time distortion field around the Chronosphere. The sphere is teleported away from the hangar and into space, after which the chrononaut, Frank Parker, steers the sphere towards the required space and time coordinates (referred to as "flying the needles").
The Time Machine
Descriptions of how the Chronosphere and the time travel mechanisms work were revealed in the early episodes, and in episodes where Russian time travelers or spies attempt to steal Element-115 or the secrets of the Backstep Project (for example, in Season 3, Episode 21 – "Born in the USSR" and in Season 1, Episode 9 – "As Time Goes By").
While it may appear that the time machine is the Chronosphere itself, this is not the case. The Chronosphere has its own power source for navigation and avionics, but it doesn't produce the time displacement field for time travel (explained in Season 1, Episode 9 – "As Time Goes By").
Instead, the Element-115 fuel source, the reactor and the gravitational field generators are located outside the Chronosphere. A waveguide conduit connects the reactor to the Chronosphere, whereby the gravity wave generated by the Element-115 fuel source is "pumped" towards the sphere. The sphere will then latch on to this gravity wave whereby it is converted into a time displacement field, which is a localized region of spacetime distortion (see Season 1, Episode 9 – "As Time Goes By"). Due to the limited amount of Element-115 fuel, it has to be used sparingly. Furthermore, due to the limitations of the reactor size and output power, the time displacement field has sufficient energy to send the Chronosphere back in time for only seven days (see Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2).
It was also mentioned that they can only go back in time seven days due to the limited quantity of the fuel source. The Element-115 fuel source can "regenerate". It will be depleted after each Backstep, and it will take seven days for the fuel to regenerate to an amount necessary to charge the reactor up to 100 percent (see Season 3, Episode 8 – "Tracker").
However, in another episode – Season 3, Episode 21, "Born in the USSR" – the Soviets mentioned that they encountered a mathematical limitation of the time travel mechanism that they were working on, in which it would appear that time travel is limited to only seven days to the past, and nothing more than that. They mentioned that they were unable to overcome this "barrier".
It was implied that Project Backstep still existed many decades into the future. In Season 2, Episode 23 – "The Cure", an NSA agent from the future traveled far back in time to stop a doctor from developing a cancer cure. He revealed that this cure would mutate and cause an epidemic that brought mankind to the edge of extinction. The NSA of the future salvaged more Element-115 from another saucer crash, and used all the Element-115 fuel that they had at one go, thus enabling the Chronosphere to be transported decades into the past.
The Chronosphere gets damaged by most Backsteps (mostly due to the crash-landings). The NSA will send retrieval teams to recover the sphere and deliver it back to NNL. Welders are constantly seen working on the exterior of the sphere in the NNL hangar.
Significantly, the natural laws of time travel within the series operate to prevent cohabitation of a timeline by more than one version of a person or object: anything arriving from the future replaces its past self. Paradoxically, the effects of the future upon the new arrivals remain in place, creating a paradox that allows information to be sent to the past. For this reason, the on-duty chrononaut is typically confined to base as the absence of the chronosphere and/or its pilot is used as a means of determining a Backstep has taken place (and to prevent civilians from seeing Frank vanish into non-existence when replaced by his future self). This concept however is contradicted in a number of episodes, where Backstep personnel appear to become aware of the Backstep only when Frank calls in as 'Conundrum', his backstepping call sign.
In the final episode of the first season (Episode 21, "Lifeboat"), it was revealed that the Roswell crash was actually an alien craft transporting convicts to a penal colony in another solar system when it developed a malfunction and crash-landed on Earth. The aliens were preserved and kept in a secret holding facility deep within Never Never Land, but one of them (nicknamed "Adam") came back to life and attempted to cause a nuclear power plant meltdown.
These aliens are referred to as "Greys" and were said to originate from the Zeta Reticuli system. Donovan explained to Parker in the pilot episode that in order to cross the vast distances between stars, the aliens have developed a propulsion technology that bent space and time (similar to a warp drive).
The NSA have been reverse-engineering the technology left behind from the crash, but was still unsuccessful at replicating a warp drive for faster-than-light travel. They have, however, harnessed the alien fuel source, Element-115, to bend spacetime and the end result was the ability to time travel (explained by Donovan in Season 1, Episode 1).
It would appear that the aliens, who were used to faster-than-light travel, had developed cognitive functions that made them aware of multiple timelines and realities. This was revealed in the first season finale in which the alien Adam was aware of the timelines before and after Parker's Backstep (Season 1, Episode 21 – "Lifeboat").
The aliens also had advanced surgical procedures whereby an implant was able to bridge the signals in a damaged spinal cord, allowing paralyzed aliens to walk again (Season 2, Episode 6 – "Walk Away"). Ballard tried out this implant and it enabled him to walk again, but the neural profile of Adam (from which the implant was taken) was also imprinted in the implant, and it gradually 'leaked' into Ballard's consciousness, effectively causing the residual 'mind' of Adam to possess Ballard.
Other than the Zeta Reticulians, another extraterrestrial entity that was shown on the series was the "Time Gremlin" (Season 2, Episode 11 – "Time Gremlin").
The Chronosphere passed through a wormhole rift just outside of Earth orbit and was drawn towards it due to its gravitational effects. While lingering around the wormhole's event horizon, an alien creature caught on to the Chronosphere and followed it back to Earth. In transit, the gremlin damaged the sphere, causing Frank Parker to "lose the needles" for the very first time, leading to his first failed Backstep.
It was later revealed that the creature originated from the Hydra system. Ballard somehow traced the origin of the wormhole and suggested to the Backstep team that they should launch the sphere into space again with the hatch open, and let the gremlin return to where it came from.
Soviet time travel projects
In two episodes (Season 1, Episode 9 – "As Time Goes By" and Season 3, Episode 21 – "Born in the USSR"), it was shown that the Russians had their own time travel projects.
The Soviet time travel project also had possession of Element-115 from a similar alien craft crash in Siberia (Season 3, Episode 21 – "Born in the USSR"). However, Soviet physicists were unable to refine the physics needed to harness the ability of Element-115 for spacetime distortion.
In the episode "As Time Goes By", a Russian time machine from the future returned to the past to visit Project Backstep. The Russian chrononaut (Olga's husband, believed to have died seven years earlier in a failed experiment) tried to steal the Element-115 fuel source and damage the Chronosphere. The Russian time machine was shown to be powered by a "Photon Reactor" that has a similar output to a hydrogen bomb (according to Ballard), something that Ballard is also working on. This allowed the time machine to generate sufficient power to create its own localized time displacement field without relying on Element-115. The Russian chrononaut also claimed that his time machine is able to travel forward in time, not just backward.
- U.S. Navy Commander Francis "Frank" Bartholomew Parker (Jonathan LaPaglia), a former Navy SEAL and ex-CIA operative who was brought out of a secret CIA mental institution – due to a mental breakdown he had suffered as a result of being tortured while being a prisoner in Somalia – to be the project's chrononaut. It is often said that Parker's mental problems are what allow him to be such a good chrononaut. Parker's youth was spent in a Philadelphia area orphanage. He is divorced and has a son whom he doesn't see often. He is continually chasing Olga, but she keeps refusing his advances. Two running gags are that first, every time he actually hooks up with Olga (including the very first episode), he is forced to Backstep to before it happened, and is unable to duplicate the events that led to them getting together. He also occasionally drinks to excess and has a gambling problem, which leads to the second gag: every time Parker tries to profit from gambling on events he recalls from the future, he picks the losing side (the lone exception to this is when he gambles to get a bankroll for a charitable purpose). Technically, he's an NSA agent but, outside of a mission, he can't leave the Project's headquarters, which chafes him. He always tries to get around the rules in an ongoing battle of wills with security chief Nathan Ramsey. His codename is "Conundrum".
- Dr. Olga Vukavitch (Justina Vail), a Russian doctor who worked in the Russian version of the Backstep Project, which, without any technology from the Roswell crash, never reached operational level. She lost her husband in an accident. She grows to like Frank (whom she keeps calling Mr. Parker) at times, but is almost invariably put off by some new show of his crassness or arrogance (although Frank often manages to overcome this, only to have to Backstep). Despite this, many episodes reveal that she has a hidden affection for Frank, and she always thinks of him shortly before she dies in a previous timeline.
- U.S. Navy Captain Craig Donovan (Don Franklin), Navy SEAL and Project Backstep's military advisor/tactical coordinator and backup chrononaut. He is an old friend of Frank's from the SEAL teams, who led the operation to rescue him in Mogadishu. Throughout the three seasons, he never got a chance to replace Frank as the Chrononaut. He has donned the flight suit a few times, but each time before he makes it for Backstep, Frank shows up and takes over after all. It was always mentioned that his pain tolerance is lower than Frank's and thus, he's unable to steer the needles as well as Frank during a Backstep.
- Dr. Bradley Talmadge (Alan Scarfe), director of the Backstep Project operations and a long-time member of the NSA intelligence community. Although middle-aged, he is shown several times to still have excellent combat skills.
- NSA Agent Nathan Ramsey (Nick Searcy), Backstep Project security chief. A short-tempered, highly opinionated man, he opposes Frank becoming chrononaut and is therefore made the prime target of Parker's practical jokes. Ramsey is portrayed to be conservative, and he always makes politically incorrect statements supporting the use of force to quickly end problems (but the way he puts it is always funny instead of malicious). Ramsey's area of expertise is intelligence and counter-intelligence. His job is to use the information that Frank Parker gives him to avert disasters, but Frank commonly fulfills the missions himself. Ramsey is also the man the NSA sends out to retrieve Frank when the Ex-Seal makes unscheduled disappearances from the base.
- Dr. Isaac Mentnor (Norman Lloyd) (seasons 1–2, guest appearances in season 3), a scientist with a shadowy past that's tied into the Roswell cover-up, Dr. Mentnor was the man who initially conceived the Backstep project.
- Dr. John Ballard (Sam Whipple) (seasons 1–2). The wheelchair-bound resident genius on the Backstep Project. Ballard is responsible for calibrating and maintaining the Spheres and keeping them active to allow for a quick Backstep if needed. In the fourth episode of season 3, he won a tropical island in a poker match in Las Vegas and got married to two girls, but he's not sure whom, since he was a little drunk at the time. So he took some time off to straighten things out. (In reality, Sam Whipple was battling cancer and died shortly after leaving the show.)
- Andrew "Hooter" Owsley (Kevin Christy) (season 3). A young physics prodigy whom Ballard suggested as his replacement. He works with Dr. Mentnor to enhance the existing Backstep technology and has been shown occasionally to have a secret crush on Olga.
U.S. television ratings
|Season||Episodes||Timeslot||Season Premiere||Season Finale||TV Season|
|1||21||Wednesday 8:00pm Eastern/7:00pm Central||October 7, 1998||May 26, 1999||1998–1999|
|2||23||September 29, 1999||May 24, 2000||1999–2000|
|3||22||October 11, 2000||May 29, 2001||2000–2001|
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