Random Voyagers! discussion – The budget's effect on the show



So many of the fans still feel Voyagers deserved a 2nd season and strongly believe Jon-Erik would be with us today had that happened. (But that's only speculation at this point.) When I think of a lot of the dumb shows that get renewed year after year it annoys me. I can see the bigger picture as I research for my Voyagers! book.

In the end, it often comes down to money. (Not surprising) When a show slashes the budget, chances are they're on their way to cancellation. For Voyagers, it wasn't the writing, or lack of talent. From all accounts the cast and crew loved what they were doing. Guest writers and Directors enjoyed their brief time working on what Meeno Peluce called a "uniquely working machine." It was a "big production with only two main characters."

The show had a good amount of fan support back then. Families watched it together. Teachers praised it. There was definitely themes for the adults and plenty for the kids. It became the little show that could…but in the end it just couldn't. They (The Network) put the show up against 60 minutes and pre-empted it for a long time by the World Series. They eventually gave Voyagers the death move by pushing it to Fridays. Shows put in that slot barely survive. At least they never used to when people went out on Friday nights.


The Voyagers production team had to deal with grossly hypocritical Doctors and their coalition "case studies" over the so-called violence. I've learned these studies considered every explosion heard on the soundtrack, every gunshot in the distance, an act of violence. No wonder they came down hard on the Pilot episode, which had sword fights, gunfire, plane wrecks, and bombs. but never any killing. Nearly everyone involved in Voyagers disagreed with their assessments because it brutally changed the show's dynamic.

Director Dean Zanetos (Jack’s Back) – "I researched every historical film that had ever been made by Universal. I traced the history of the footage to see if it was available for the show. We would construct episodes around the stock footage that was available. This saved us millions of dollars in terms of matte paintings and extras.”

Jack's Back featured the matte painting footage of Victorian London from Mary Poppins!

Even when these budget cuts removed all those fun little in-between adventures, Voyagers still chugged on with melodramatic stories within two time zones – The red and green one. Their adventures were toned down too and they found themselves solving the protagonists more personal problems. 

Between what Director Dean Zanetos said, and the crew had confirmed that they had free use of the entire old Universal studios backlot – It's hard to believe that the budget blew so quickly. Execs claim they spent budget money on advertising for "Cleo and the Babe" – but the adverts for that particular episode are rarely seen – Mainly, there's a lot of promotional photos from the episode. More than the others, except perhaps the Pilot and "Created Equal." 

As some fans today believe – The parties who rolled the dough at NBC in 1983 didn't seem to care much about Voyagers. But it should be noted that Brandon Tartikoff, then the President of NBC, said it was his "biggest disappointment to cancel the show" and he tried his best to support it.

More budget confirmations by Director Paul Lynch (The Travels of Marco Polo…and friends) – "It was an interesting show. But they never had the money to do it correctly. Although the Pilot was very impressive, there was pressure after the first two shows to cut back on budget. If we couldn't shoot a show in seven days, they were thinking of cancelling the show. The scripts were good and in general, the show was very good. They just needed more money."

The quotes from the crew were compiled by Mark Phillips in his Voyagers chapter from the book

"Science Fiction Television Series: Episode Guides, Histories, and casts and credits for 62 Prime Time Shows, 1959-1989"

It's no use to gripe and complain about a 35 year-old show. But we're fans, it's practically in our DNA to continue the discussions and what ifs? And rest assured, my future book is about celebrating Voyagers and its themes, not tearing it down. (And not making enemies of NBC! ) The best thing they did was cast unknown Jon-Erik Hexum and partnered him with young TV pro Meeno Peluce. They impressed us so much as Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones. They're two unforgettable characters. Voyagers also had some incredible actors that embodied the spirit of the historical people they played. My favorites are Stephen Keats as Thomas Edison, Fay Hauser as Harriett Tubman, Gregg Henry as Teddy Roosevelt and Kenneth Gilman as Alexander Bell. 

Who are your favorites?

Money runs out and TV shows come and go so fast, but the characters and stories will stay with you forever.

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