Let’s be honest, we’ve all wanted the chance to turn back time – to take back that bitchy comment or undo that unwise snog, perhaps?
But what if the clock was turning back – just without our knowledge? According to new sci-fi drama The Lazarus Project that’s exactly what’s been happening.
Until the first episode, our protagonist George (Paapa Essiedu) had been just as oblivious as the rest of us – too busy enjoying life as a new dad and setting up his successful risk-management app.
Then he wakes up and discovers that the last six months of his life never happened – and he’s the only person who remembers it.
It turns out that thanks to some snazzy space tech (don’t even bother trying to understand it, it’s really not the point), the world can be reset back to a checkpoint on July 1 every year, much like a very high-stakes video game.
George is a mutant and is one of the few people on the planet who can remember the old save.
Pressing the rewind button is The Lazarus Project, a multinational organisation of former spies and special ops agents turned time travellers headed up by Wes (Caroline Quentin doing her best M impression).
Their job is stopping extinction-level events from happening within that year, and when some despot does press the red button or a deadly plague wipes us out, they simply roll back the clock until we make it to next July.
Clearly, they’re playing in hard mode, because The Lazarus Project seem to be extremely busy, staving off dozens of doomsdays since 2018 alone.
Mentored by the formidable Archie (Anjli Mohindra), George joins the gang on their mission. But when things get personal, George finds himself struggling with his newfound power.
It would be easy to write this off as a rehash of all the other time-bending, save the world, spy dramas (Heroes with a touch of Spooks comes to mind) and it seems that way at first – you’ve got a nuke-pinching Russian villain (Tom Burke) making mischief, a couple of explosions and car chases, and a flurry of pointless side plots.
But amid the timey space hoo-hah, dramatic stunts and impressive CGI, writer Joe Barton is busy delving deep into the ethics of turning back time and the effect it has on the people experiencing it – the sacrifices made, the loved ones lost, the ever-increasing nihilism caused by a world that just won’t stop ending.
The Lazarus Project is not always easy viewing – there’s an early nod to Covid (too soon?) and all the gone-wrong scenarios are enough to make one nervous – but wry humour and a fast-paced script help you along (and disguise some less than original sci-fi tropes).
Essiedu’s extremely compelling performance brings real depth to the likable everyman George and coupled with twists that not even a time traveller would see coming, it’s a watch that’s worth the ride.
The Lazarus Project is out today on Sky Max.