Time Travel Television Review
7 Days

The Sphere, Olga and Parker

M A I N   C A S T
  Frank Parker
Craig Donovan
Olga Vukavitch
Bradley Talmadge
Issac Mentor
Dr. John Ballard
Nate Ramsay
Jonathan LaPaglia
Don Franklin
Justina Vail
Alan Scarfe
Norman Lloyd
Sam Whipple
Nick Searcy


"Let's Do it Again..."
a breathless female voice at the end of the opening credits.

7 Days debuted in the fall of 1998 with a large ensemble cast including a mix of relatively new actors, such as Jonathan LaPaglia and Justina Vail, together with veteran actors Norman Lloyd, Don Franklin and Alan Scarfe.

The premier episode of 7 Days, entitled "Seven Days", tells the story of Project Backstep a secret U.S. government project set in an isolated military compound in the Nevada desert. Project Backstep had been developing a time machine that has at its core alien technology rescued from the 1947 Roswell crash. The project is more than a year away from a test run with a human pilot, when fate forces the team's hand.

A Russian suicide bomber flies an airplane into the White House killing the American President and Vice President as well as the Russian President who was attending a summit. The team at Project Backstep gets the word that they may be called upon to test their device prematurely and that they should begin preparations. A race against the clock begins to find subjects that have the aptitude to become the pilot of the time machine. The main selection criteria for candidates being that they possess the ability to learn quickly and that they be expendable.

Enter Frank Parker, one of 5 potential candidates. Parker was plucked from a high security military mental institution where he was being detained after suffering a mental breakdown following a harrowing mission to Somalia several years earlier. Through a tough screening process Frank is ultimately chosen as the candidate that will make the trip, despite objections from one member of the team, Nate Ramsay who sees Parker as threat to the project. Since they are only able to "back step" 7 days, a race against the clock begins. On the one hand they want to delay launching until they have sufficient information about the attack to be able to send back with Parker in an effort to prevent the bombing. On the other hand they cannot put off launching the mission forever since they need some of the seven days to be able to stop the terrorists once they return to the past.

Parker's trip is somewhat flawed, but he survives and makes contact with the Backstep team. Verifying his identity through a code word - "Conundrum" and the use of a bar-code tattoo given to him during his training for the back step he proceeds to brief the team. The wheels are then set into motion to intercept the terrorists, but only partially succeeds as they force the terrorists to switch to Plan B. Having caused the terrorists to adopt a new course of action, the team's knowledge of the future as related by Parker is no longer useful. The remainder of the episode is taken up with a standard action formula of stopping the bad guys

Getting Around In Time

The technology at the heart of this time travel project is alien based. We are told the reactor, which generates a gravitational field capable of warping time and space, is the key to the device. The "seven days" of the series name refers to the number of days they are able to go back in time. When Parker asks a team member why 7 days and not a month or a year, the answer given is that it is related to the size of the reactor. How convenient!

The time machine itself is a blue sphere with many facets, which tends to suggest a space capsule of sorts. In fact Parker wears a space suit during his missions and in the opening and closing credits of the show we actually see the sphere launched into outer-space and hovering above the planet before descending again.

It is explained that since the earth is constantly moving (i.e. rotating as well as orbiting the sun) additional hardware and software was needed to stabilize the object so that it would return to the same location in space. This process is called "flying the needles" and requires the operator the machine to align the various axes of the sphere. This is done on a digital display using a joystick control similar to that of fighter pilots. Not an easy feat when the sphere is vibrating considerably.


The pilot episode established an interesting premise and a workable formula for a one-hour action series. The series failed to find its niche and in light of the events of September 11, 2001, its probably just as well. After all it would be pretty hard to have a show such as 7 Days which was aimed at undoing such cataclysmic events and ignore it. To put the show in a position of trying to center an epsiode around such a tragedy as the World Trade Center would be impossible and ill advised, so luckly the show never had to face such a choice.

In my opinion one of the toughest challenges of developing a Time Travel based series is establishing a premise that leaves the writers enough room to maneuver. With other series that have gone before such as the Irwin Allen's classic Time Tunnel, there are only so many historical turning points you can visit before you are left defending the future from alien races. 7 Days appeared to have established a premise that would allow for a multitude of plot lines for the foreseeable future. Since all crises are resolved by episode end anything is possible since in reality it never happened. By using the time travel premise to resolve crises of earth shattering magnitude (or at least of American-sized magnitude) we are not subjected to cliched scenes of modern characters interacting with historical figures.

I felt that pilot episode got as many things wrong as it did right. For example in the pilot episode Parker is implanted with a disc under his skin that is supposed to store information that can be retrieved by the team when he arrives in the past. During the first trip the disc is violently ejected from his body slicing through his skin and space suit and flying across the capsule. I had suspected that it would be explained that since Parker didn't have the disc seven days prior to his trip into the past that it was "rejected". No explanation was given and no one mentioned the missing disc. Another curious omission was the use of the password "Conundrum". While it makes sense to have a fool-proof method of identifying Parker, I didn't notice any discussion of the logic to having a password prior to his use of it. Whether these flaws are the result of writing or editing is something only those on the inside would be able to say. For the casual audience member we are left with unanswered questions and contradicting lines of reasoning from episode to episode.

One of the things the show gets right, in my opinion, in the pilot episode is Olga's explanation to Parker that the past is by no means fixed. Events that happened in the past are subject to play themselves out differently when revisited. Parker learns this the hard the way placing a sure bet on the outcome of basketball game he thinks he already knows the results of.

My larger problem with the series is that the theory of time travel that they are putting forth here suggests that there is only one time-line. In other words that that by travelling back in time and intercepting the normal flow of time that the future Parker has left is somehow erased or overwritten. While this may be a simplistic explanation that works on a basic level, there are a number of flaws that can not be ignored.

1) What happens to the Parker of seven days ago when he arrives? Theoretically you would expect there now be two Parkers and two spheres at the compound.

2) Assuming the flow of time "over writes" the future that Parker left, then in the case of the pilot episode it means he was never chosen for the project!

3) While some of these "paradoxes" can be explained away, this simplistic model of time travel really suffers when we consider two time travellers undertaking separate backsteps. If the time flow erases the future, then who survives and who is erased?

I'm not saying this is the only explanation for the model of time travel they are proposing. It could also be that they are suggesting that the time line has been split into new branches. So that in reality the "tragedy" that befalls the future Parker departs from cannot be undone, but only avoided in an alternate time line.

Yeah I know, trying to understand time travel can give you a headache!

The ensemble cast seems a bit awkward, with the roles of the various scientists fairly vague. As with Quantum Leap and Time Tunnel, it would seem that the fewer principles involved the better. In my opinion Parker, Donovan, Vukavitch, Talmadge are the essential characters needed to make the series work. Mentor (Norman Lloyd) and Ballard (Sam Whipple) as scientists on the project have contributed very little during the first season. As with several of the key project personnel in Quantum Leap they could have easily been mentioned in name and not seen until later episodes. The one character whose role is not essential to the project but does lend some added dimension to the series is Nate Ramsay (Nick Searcy). As the token inept nasty character, Ramsay successful plays Frank Burns to Parker's Hawkeye. In my opinion the writers need to better balance Ramsay's inherent distrust of Parker and his his involvement in Project Backstep. In the pilot Ramsay's appeared to be the head of security, with little power or involvement in the actual project. Personally I think it would have been a better use of his character if he were an essential part of the project but a jerk all the same.

One final criticism of the series. For the uninitiated viewer picking up the story with out having seen the pilot, there is little in way of explanation as to how the sphere works, or why Parker seems to be a prisoner against his on will. My advice to the producers (and we all know how much they listen to fans), would have been to change the opening credits to include some background narration on the premise. Imagine trying to understand the premises of Quantum Leap, Time Tunnel or Early Edition without the overview being explained in the opening credits.

R E L A T E D   L I N K S
7 Days -- Fan Page

This is one of the better 7 Days Fan Sites I've come across. A concise, well organised site with a good overview of the characters, episodes, the series in general.

Other Bonus areas of the site include:

  • A great link section to other 7 days sites and Time Travel related sites;
  • A very thorough page of BAD reviews the series has received;
  • A "conundrums" page discussing some of the more puzzling aspects of the series;

7 Days - A Fan Site

In addition to the usual overview of the series and cast background information, this site goes the extra mile documenting the entire crew that worked on the series during the first and second season in a section called Behind the Camera.

Even more impressive is the lengthy analysis of Frank and Olga's relationship during the course of the series in a section called Frank and Olga???

A word of caution, the author of the fan site admits that site may not be very current in the coming year or so because of academic commitments. I should probably also warn you that pink text on a black background gets a little hard to read after a while, but don't let that stop you from checking out this great fan site.

Review Modified: 2003-04-27

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