What makes Voyagers! Steampunk?
The first question that needs to be asked is…What is Steampunk?
Depending on where you research, there are many explanations, but they're all similar. In its most basic definition –
"Steampunk is the use of modern technology, powered by steam and set in the 1800's."
If you want more concrete facts, take a voyage to Steampunk Wiki!
If you want more concrete facts, take a voyage to Steampunk Wiki!
Others may say – Gears. So many Gears! But it's not just that. Honest!
As a sub-genre of Science Fiction, Steampunk embodies a whole culture of elaborate ideas and intricate creativity. In my own words – It's a whimsical mix of the refined features of the Victorian era and a gritty, dystopian future. According to some it's a protest against modern technology itself. A throwback to the Industrial Revolution. Steampunk may have shiny parts, but it's never as sleek or colorless like elements in today's Macintosh Tech world.
It's full of brass, steel, wood, and copper. Vivid costumes of rich leather, ruffles, lace and velvet. Delicately placed jewels and gems, silver and gold. And we can't leave out that many Steampunk followers love to add features of the Old American West. It's an adventurous world of springs and cogs. The age of invention on steroids. Yes, and tons of gears.
One artist's image of a Steampunk world.
Vladimir Studio – 2013
Even amongst Steampunk adherents, the definition is varied. Some say it can be anything you want it to be. I'm not immersed in this culture, but I feel that's too broad a statement. To an extent, it's true. But from the research and books I've read, there's definitive styles and specific elements that would classify a thing as "Steampunk."
So where does the show Voyagers fit in? I pulled the main ingredients that give it a true "Steampunk" feel. Voyagers was meant to be a kid's show, though I think it appealed to adults and middle-schoolers even more. Hollywood was just beginning to learn about trends and marketing to specific ages. By working with Scholastic, Voyagers' aim was to get people to read and learn history. "Take a voyage down to the Public Library," The young actor Meeno Peluce tells us at the end credits. "It's all in books."
Sounds like a valiant Steampunkish goal to me.
Phineas Bogg – Voyager Field worker – A heroic, gorgeous, heart-of-gold pirate with a thirst for adventure and a weakness for women. His past is unknown, save for him claiming that his best friend's were pirates of old - Bluebeard and Calico Jack, to name a few. Though he could've befriended them while time-traveling. His clothing places his origins in the latter 17th century. He has modern sensibilities, and is definitely not your typical Robert Louis Stevenson Pirate. Bogg's not book smart, but he's reliable and thinks quick on his feet in time to save the day.
His big heart allows him to take in a brilliant orphan from New York City.
11-year old cute, precocious and sensitive Jeffrey Jones. With his amazing knowledge of history, he serves as the human Guidebook on most voyages. Being from 1982, he adds the "modern" aspect to this world of Voyagers. Bogg and Jeff become partners and together they right history's wrongs.
Bogg in Steampunk regalia without the bells and whistles.
Olivia uses her Guidebook and does her upmost to live by the Voyagers code. Her fierce independence gets her into jams. She meets her school rival Bogg on board the Titanic and learns its okay to accept help from friends. Bogg and Olivia argue a lot, but eventually can't hide their simmering tension.
Voyager Susan – Defense Lawyer for Voyager Headquarters – She's beautiful and elegant. Bold, yet calm. She's a mysterious blonde who dresses as if she's from an Ancient Greek or Roman era.
Susan bravely exposed the misdeeds of the Prosecutor in Tribunal court and saved Bogg from Banishment and Jeffrey from being returned to his own time-zone. She carries a silver Voyager locator. Susan is Bogg's Voyager School crush and he acts very bashful around her. She's sweet and refined, but she also wished he'd "given a girl a chance."
Voyager Drake – Prosecutor for Voyager Headquarters – Brusque, indignant, and darkly handsome with a penchant for the Victorian era.
Drake's a Machiavellian Lawyer (As in he was Machiavelli's best pupil). He's adept at cheating, convicting, and banishing innocent Voyagers through tampered evidence.
Drake's not afraid to resort to physical violence. While Bogg hates guns, Drake has no qualms about nearly shooting Nellie Bly and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His hunger for power is so strong he's willing to obliterate the fabric of history and claims to have Voyagers siding with him on every level.
All of these characters and the world they inhabit are ripe for creating a marvelous Steampunk story.
But what's Steampunk without all those wonderful toys? The Voyagers universe uses at least 2 peculiar devices made of steel and brass, gears, cogs, and sprogs. Just ask Thomas Edison, who had cleaned and re-calibrated the entire Time Travel machine, but couldn't figure out how it worked or lit up.
The Omni – A Voyager's handy, elegant method of time travel. It has red and green lights like an all-knowing traffic signal – red means history is out of alignment, there's a parallel universe that needs correcting.
Green means it's back in order, according to our present history texts. A Voyager most often can't budge until the correction is made while they're in the proper time-line.
It has a centered globe and dials with ball bearings to guide you to the year and date needed. Voyagers are assigned different models that are set for certain blocks of centuries - Bogg's goes from 1450 BC to 1970AD, Voyager Drake as a Prosecutor, got his hands on an open-time calibration omni. State of the Art for Headquarters.
When a Voyager presses the activator, they instantly disappear from the time zone, but the 10ft landings into the next one leave much to be desired!
The most Steampunk device in the whole series!
The Omni Memory Reader – A rickety machine running on plenty of steam. Once the fog clears it will peer into history and the recorded contents of a user's omni. The omni records can be tampered and edited, as it happened at Bogg's trial and apparently dozens of other innocent Voyagers.
The machine must be activated by placing the omni in the center and then it works its Steampunk magic. I see lots of GEARS!
There are dangers to touching this machine while its active. It has a built in security shield. Bogg learns the shocking consequences when he impulsively tries to take his omni back and escape the unfair trial.
The Guidebook – It resembles a Bible, and its contents hold a written history of the world – past, present, and future. Wait…that IS the bible. This is Bogg's Guidebook, which he lost when he crashed into Jeffrey's room and later he forgets to obtain a new one from Headquarters.
The Guidebook holds every historical fact that has shaped the world. It's a vital tool in a Voyager Field worker's bag of tricks. It's very possible that a Voyager's Guidebook continually updates itself with each Voyager's mission.
So there you have it. The show was on a budget, which was sadly obvious by the latter episodes, however the production values remained solid. It was unfairly canceled after 20 episodes. We never see the full scope of Voyager Headquarters in all its Steampunk glory, so it's left up to our imaginations. We don't learn if it's another planet or a dimension on the fringes of time. I assume it's both. A slap-dash 1984 TV movie – Voyager from the Unknown – calls it Planet Voyager. The original artwork looks somewhat futuristic. The movie itself is 2 badly edited episodes, so nothing drastically new is presented and it doesn't take away from the original Steampunk aspect of the series.
I like to think the inhabitants wear clothing from their respective eras before they were plucked out of time for their ambitious Time Traveller calling. Or perhaps they've developed a unique world all their own. This is where the imagination can run untethered, but it's still reigned in by the distinct Steampunk facets the show supplied us.