Seven Days

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"Ever wish you could live the last week all over again? My name's Frank B. Parker and I do it all the time. I work for a secret government project experimenting with time travel. When things really get screwed up, I'm the guinea pig they send back to take care of it. Catch is, I can only go back seven days."

Science Fiction Time Travel series which aired on UPN from 1998-2001 and not to be confused with the manga of the same name.

Using technology salvaged from the Roswell crash, a secret NSA project has developed "The Sphere", a time machine capable of carrying its pilot back in time exactly seven days.

The trouble is, the "backstep" process is extremely painful, and if the pilot passes out and loses control of the Sphere he'll end up in space or underground -- and in their search for a pilot with a high enough pain threshold, the best candidate is psychotic Gulf War veteran Frank Parker.

Due to the limitations of their alien fuel supply, backsteps are reserved for cases where massive disasters can be averted (Frank's first mission is to prevent a terrorist cell from detonating a stolen nuclear weapon in Washington DC).

Though it would seem that most of the time, Frank's missions should entail nothing more than a well-timed phone call, this rarely turned out to be the case. Typically, the situation would either prove more complex than the backstep team had previously believed, time would be short (often, political or intelligence-gathering factors would delay the backstep until about 6 days 23 hours after the disaster of the week), or Frank would just decide to solve the problem himself for no good reason (but then, he was insane).

While most shows divert from their "normal" premise to explore ways in which the underlying technology can go wrong only occasionally, Seven Days ended up relying on this device approximately every other episode. Over the course of the series, Sphere malfunctions had various effects including:

  • Mentally reverting Parker to a childlike state
  • Turning Parker into a ghost (Combining Blind Seer and several other tropes)
  • Giving Parker an Evil Twin
  • Giving Parker "time hiccups" resulting in a Groundhog Day Loop, and causing the bubbles in Parker's beer to move in the wrong direction
  • Summoning a "time gremlin"
  • Opening a black hole
  • Intercepting a soul on its way to the afterlife
  • A trip to the Mirror Universe
  • Causing Parker to switch bodies with the Pope (A Freaky Friday Flip)
  • Intercepting a jet midflight and slicing it in half while picking up one of the passengers and sending his consciousness back in time.

Also, all life on Earth was wiped out at least three times, once by the Cure for Cancer.

Main characters would also die in almost every episode, either as a major part of the plot or as an afterthought (all life on Earth is wiped out including all of the main characters); their deaths would always be fixed by a Backstep, of course, but it was still somewhat jarring to see a show repeatedly kill its entire cast!

Despite its reliance on both a Disaster of the Week and phlebotinum breakdown, Seven Days is noteworthy in that it was not formulaic structurally. While most episodes began with a Columbo-style setup showing how the disaster of the week came to pass, what followed varied substantially. Sometimes, the backstep would occur immediately, followed by an investigation in the past. Other times, the investigation would come first, with the backstep put off until the final scene. Sometimes they would do both. And, of course, how the prevention of the disaster was related to the Sphere malfunction-of-the-week varied greatly as well. In quite a few episodes, Parker's official mission was secondary to his own personal goals in a backstep (Typically, saving a friend from a personal tragedy, or simply escaping from his confinement on the base).

Though they never went so far as Quantum Leap in this regard, there are occasional hints that some form of god takes active offense at their tampering in his domain. Parker's life is often spared by divine intervention -- for example, an unexpected thunderstorm that puts out the fire in which he'd just incinerated the Antichrist. How this fits in with the fact that voodoo priests on the show can perform actual magic is unclear.

Tropes used in Seven Days include:
  • Adam and Eve Plot. Whenever the population of the Earth is killed, it's more like an 'Adam and Olga' plot.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: CLAIRE, the disturbingly attractive supercomputer who just wants to save the world by killing a bunch of people.
  • All Just a Dream
  • All the Myriad Ways.
  • Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome Applies to EVERYONE in the season 3 episode 'Kansas'.
  • Ax Crazy. 'Deloris'.
  • Blind Black Guy. In the episode where Parker became a ghost.
  • Bluff the Imposter: In one episode, Parker is pretending to be Russian while speaking to a pair of Russian bad guys. This seems to work at first, since Parker learned Russian in an earlier episode. One of the Russians asks where he's from, and he responds that he's from Moscow. The man says that he loves the Summer Gardens in Moscow, and Parker thanks him. The other Russian pulls a gun on Parker, while the first explains that the Summer Gardens are in St. Petersberg.
  • Cuckoo Nest
  • Deus Ex Machina
  • Disaster Of The Week. Anything and everything can happen in Seven Days. And then it will never be mentioned again.
  • The End of the World as We Know It
  • Evil Twin. At least two of them! Evil Olga, and Evil Parker. One of the sphere malfunctions causes Parker to split into two, one good and one evil. The evil one actually kills the good one! When he goes back in time, he gets surprised attacked by his own evil twin. This anti-anti-Parker is good again, and has all of the knowledge that the evil Parker was going to use to take over the world. Backstep sends anti-anti-Parker to the mental institute Hansen Island in place of the real Parker in the end.
  • ET Gave Us Wi-Fi: The Time Travel machine, along with some other more common technology, was reverse engineered from alien technology salvaged from the Roswell crash.
  • Fake American: Frank Parker, played by Aussie Jonathan LaPaglia.
  • The Government
  • General Ripper. The project's head of security didn't seem to know that the Cold War had been over for years.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Every now and then Frank would make a very tongue-in-cheek joke, but couched in a way that someone not paying attention might miss it.

Terrorist: Well? Is the President coming?
Frank: No, but he's breathing hard.

  • Green Rocks
  • Groundhog Day Loop
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Basically any time Ramsey calls someone a hero, patriot, good soldier, or really any sort of compliment, it turns out that guy is the problem of the week, or at the very least, a tremendous Jerkass.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum
  • Instant AI, Just Add Water
  • Kavorka Man: While not actually ugly, Dr. Ballard is certainly Hollywood Homely, and yet, the women flock to him. Perhaps it's the wheelchair.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: Let the world be destroyed, or give the psycho the keys to the time machine?
  • Mirror Universe
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: One episode dealt with an alien from the Roswell crash that was supposely friendly which Frank and Olga set free. However later they find out he was a dangerous criminal whose first act is to try and overload a nuclear plant. Oops.
  • No OSHA Compliance. The "sphere bay" always had welding sparks flying about; weren't they ever finished building that place?
    • Given that the sphere is held in place by a load of flimsy scaffolding, I'd imagine that it's designed to be deconstructed and rebuilt whenever the sphere is retrieved. Parker really does try to land it in the right place though. (And he sometimes does!)
      • "What is it with these DAMN WELDERS?"
    • According to The Other Wiki, whenever he crashlands it damages the sphere, requiring repairs.
  • Only One Me Allowed Right Now
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Olga.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown. As described above, roughly every other episode.
  • Prison Ship: In one episode, one of the inventors finally translates the markings on the ship and finds out that it is a prison transport. Unfortunately, the Grey prisoner has just escaped and is hell-bent on paying the humans back for putting him in a coma.
  • Punishment Box: Frank's background includes several days in such a box while being a captive (a form of interrogation). He never cracked that way, but the project recovered him from a madhouse.
  • Red Scare. Love interest Olga was Russian. Ask Ramsey, and he'll blame everything on the Dirty Communists. One episode has a slightly unhinged general try to start a world war an effort to wipe out Communism. At the end of the episode Ramsey says that he had the right idea. (Parker facepalms.)
    • There are at least two episodes where the Russians are trying to steal data or fuel from the project.
  • Reset Button. The whole premise of the show
  • Roswell That Ends Well: see ET Gave Us Wi-Fi above.
  • Scannable Man - Frank is, since he was given the chrononaut's tatoo in his first mission.
  • Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics. The White House, The Pentagon, whole countries: everything explodes.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The entire point of each plot, although Parker usually functions as more of a Time Paramedic than a Time Cop.
  • Shout-Out. One episode features guest star Robert Picardo (the EMH from Star Trek: Voyager), and when he gets hurt, for the only time in the series, Talmadge says, "Let's get him to sickbay."
  • The Teaser. Actually, a lack thereof, which by this time was unusual
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Dr. Ballard in "Walk Away". Turns into a modified Flowers for Algernon Syndrome plot when the phlebotinum that allows him to walk also makes him Ax Crazy.
  • Time Is Dangerous: There are so many things wrong with the Sphere. First of all, while it's very accurate in time travel, landing it where you want to be requires precise piloting. Second, Our Time Travel Is really painful. Third, well, go to the page and check out the list of Phlebotinum Breakdowns the machine suffered. That's probably not even the full list!
  • Time Travel
  • We Have Been Researching Phlebotinum for Years: On the spaceship containing the Power Source of the chronosphere.
  • Will They or Won't They?. Even more infuriating: Whenever Parker made any real progress with his love interest, he would invariably go back in time and undo it.
  • A Wizard Did It. Lots of the pesky little details about how time travel works. Most notably, the various reasons they give for why backsteps can't just be daisy-chained to extend the seven day window don't stop them from doing it anyway at least three times.
    • Maybe because, as stated repeatedly during the show, there exists only one instance of anything at a time. That's why there are no two Parkers after a backstep. Each time a backstep is performed, a portion of the alien fuel is lost FOREVER. So, while it's possible to jump back again and again, it's very costly.
    • Turns into Fridge Horror when you consider the show was cancelled just before 9/11. As an in-universe excuse, I guess they finally ran out of Element 115.
  • You're Insane!. Frank just agrees with anybody who says this, because he is insane.