May 20, 1996 was a painful day for me. As a faithful watcher of this series I spent the week before pushing for a second season along with a handful of others. I recall, and this was a long time ago, that we were trying to get some kind of national coverage to keep the show on the air. May 19, 1996 arrived. The word was official.
Nowhere Man was canceled.
The brass at UPN didn’t understand the show. Being a rather new network they wanted something that would take television audiences away from the big four. They made an attempt towards the middle of it’s first and only season to give a direction they were confident with, but ultimately (according to one of the special features on the DVD set) gave up in favor of broadcasting black sitcoms instead.
And, let’s not forget, Star Trek: Voyager.
The Mind Boggles.
So May 20, 1996 arrives and “Gemini Man” airs. After 25 episodes, photographer Thomas Veil finally discovered why his life was erased, why the people who erased him want a certain photograph he took and why they never bothered to kill him in place of taking the photograph.
I felt the need to discuss this particular show as, like many television shows canceled too soon, questions were felt unanswered. The biggest question of them all is why the hell a group of individuals decided to make THIS man go through 25 episodes of hell in the first place. As one character who Veil tried to force information out of put it, “You are two steps away from checkmate”.
In certain instances through the episodes, he technically had the answer.
In “Something About Her”, the show’s fourth episode featuring future Matrix actress Carrie Ann-Moss, Veil is kidnapped by the people who erased his life and is put into a state of hypnosis where he suddenly has his life centered around a young woman named Karin. Things progress in the relationship, but it becomes clear to Tom that something isn’t right. Karin eventually frees Veil from the brainwashing before she ultimately dies after being stabbed by one of the men who controlled the experiment.
In the next episode, “Paradise On Your Doorstep”, Veil is kidnapped again and transported to a remote community seemingly peaceful and separated from the real world. After being a bit too rebellious, he is drugged and placed in a hotel room as if it all never happened.
In the episode after that entitled, “The Spider Webb”, a television producer named Max Webb has a show which basically mirrors Veil’s chaotic existence. He confronts Max about his connection to the people that erased him and basically tell him that he is predictable. Eventually Max is killed off by Veil after making him fall into one of his own traps leaving Veil with no answers yet again.
Let’s stop for a second and break this down:
- They can make communities.
- They can make people come and go as if it were a light switch.
- They can control the outcome of your own existence.
It’s really a bit of a mindfuck when you think about it: at every turn there’s a new twist, a new clue, a new hint as to what the truth is. The problem, and yet a bigger question is, is the life that he hopes to get back actually his real life?
If not, what was his real life? If it is, is this a means to throw Veil emotionally off?
Considering producer/writer Larry Hertzog died a few years ago I seriously doubt anyone will see a Nowhere Man revival.
The episode, despite leaving you wanting for me, basically said what I had started to consider years after it aired. Thomas Veil is not his real name (The “Veil” part is the big clue): he was basically a prisoner of the people who were chasing him and the life he fought back to get wasn’t even his.
So what was it all about?
Breaking him down I suspect. Getting whomever the real person was behind the Thomas Veil identity so confused and vulnerable that he wouldn’t be good to anyone, nor be able to fight back against the people who did this to him. I think this would have made for a very good mini-series as opposed to a TV show and I’m surprised Larry never thought to do that considering the fickle nature of television itself.
Then again, he never intended the series to actually get to the truth until way later.
That’s a real creepy thing to consider:
Are any of us really who we say we are? Could we all just be one sleep away from waking up in a different, less satisfying reality?
Given that the Matrix came out a few years after the series was canceled, I wouldn’t be surprised if they took some elements of NWM and put it into the film.