In the annals of cool girls in science fiction, The Girl From Tomorrow stands out as a little known, but entirely pivotal chapter. So much better than it ever needed to be, this Australian show from 1990 follows the adventures of teenager Jenny Kelly ((Melissa Marshall) dissatisfied, bored, a kid who doesn’t fit in at all, and is coping with her parents’ divorce and her father’s indifference to his family. It’s 1990, and Jenny is a middle class kid who has purple hair, which didn’t happen quite as frequently back then as it does now.
One night Jenny encounters a very strange girl named Alanna (Katharine Cullen), who we, the viewers, already know is from the 30thCentury and currently not only trying to find her way back, but also stop the rampage of a dangerous 25thCentury criminal named Silverthorn (John Howard). Jenny doesn’t, however, and doesn’t have a clue about how dangerous and madcap her life is about to become.
Part of the story involves Alanna convincing Jenny that she is, in fact, from the future, as well as juggling the involvement of Jenny’s mother, a teacher at Jenny’s school, and Jenny’s science-fiction obsessed little brother, Petey (James Findlay), who proves to be as resourceful as he is irritating. As the girls tangle with Silverthorn and his lunkhead of a henchman, Eddie (Miles Buchanan), the thing that surprises more than anything is the engaging girl power sub text, coupled with a nice fast pace that keeps you watching, as well as Marshall’s performance as Jenny. Perhaps not a great actress, but her sneering and huffing, her rolling eyes and pursed lips, and her lesson in out of the box thinking to the more rigid and dry Alanna is unexpectedly charming.
The second season, which aired three years later, follows a more expansive storyline that sees action in all three of the eras of the various characters, flitting back and forth in order to correct a time discrepancy and also fill in the historical blanks between Jenny’s time and Alanna’s. Most of the
time is spent in Silverthorn’s era, a post apocalyptic city scape with corporate baddies and punk styles — a little bit Blade Runner, a little bit Max Headroom, and Silverthorn himself always struck me as a nod to Mad Max.
The girl power is less overt this season and separating Jenny and Alanna for a good portion of it impedes the charm a bit, but the casual placement of women in varying roles of power and importance is at least notable. But despite the more ensemble feel of the season giving more time to the boys, Jenny and Alanna are still self-assured heroines propelling the action despite the separation, keeping things frantic and tense. Even more than the first season, it snowballs to its conclusion, making good use of Silverthorn’s ever-shifting allegiances and Petey’s resources over his annoyingness, and addressing both with a good sense of humor. Both seasons work well together as a complete story arc.
I don’t know that kids’ television has changed all that much since 1990. Not from what little I’ve accidentally seen, anyhow, so I have this feeling that despite the dated quality some of the fashions and music that Jenny Kelly embraces — and all that residue of the ’80s just makes it all the more interesting, anyhow — this would still stand up well against a lot of the current fare offered to the younger age group, and I think Jenny Kelly and Alanna are still pretty awesome female adventure characters that would find a new audience in this world gone geek.
Originally published at vknid.com on November 9, 2015.