“Thought Crimes” is an origins episode. Even though it’s being sold as a 90-minute movie, anyone familiar with episodic TV can tell you right away that “Thought Crimes” was a 2-hour TV pilot that never materialized into a regular show. Which is an awful shame, because this is one of the better sci-fi/superhero show that’s come along since the irrelevant and goofy “The Invisible Man”, starring Vincent Ventresca as a thief-turned-superhero and Paul Ben-Victor as his gung-ho partner/warden.
The best reason why “Thought Crimes” works so well is Navi Rawat. The relative newcomer plays Freya McAllister, who on the night of her prom discovers that she has latent telepathic powers. The discovery turns her somewhat insane and she’s subsequently locked away in a mental hospital. In a bit of blink-and-you’ll-miss exposition, we learn that her mother may have had the same “gift”, and died as a result of it. Years past, and Freya’s father dies in an accident, her sister has gone on with her life, and Freya, with no one to take care of, becomes a ward of the State.
Enter Michael Welles (Peter Horton), a doctor researching telepathy. Welles whisks Freya away to a secluded farm where he teachers her to harness her powers. And since writers Donnelly and Oppenheimer knows they are working with a 90-minute pilot/origins episode, Freya’s reluctant coming to terms with her gift takes the entire first half of the film. But fear not, you won’t be bored for a single second of it. Forty-five minutes watching the beautiful Navi Rawat acting her heart out is not the worst thing you can do with 45 minutes of your life.
With the audience having devoted their time and now their sympathies to Freya’s plight, her induction into the world of spies and criminals via the NSA has us right alongside her. Freya flees upon learning that Welles works for the NSA, and that they plan to use her as a weapon, but to no one’s surprised (it is the show’s premise, after all) Freya eventually agrees to help the NSA. Freya is sent after an elusive international assassin who no one has ever seen, and who has come to the States to kill an important government official. She is teamed up with NSA field agent Brendan Dean (Joe Flanigan), but is forbidden to tell him about her powers.
Understandably, Dean is not so hot about the raw deal, but since the orders came from the top (Joe Morton, playing the head of the NSA), he has no choice. The second half of the film follows Freya and Dean as they track down the assassin, with Freya using her powers to uncover secrets from the minds of criminals. Once again proving that they have a handle on their leading lady, Donnelly and Oppenheimer’s script never makes it too easy for Freya. She’s tentative and even afraid out in the field; men with guns are running around, and at one point she realizes Dean has just entered a booby-trapped building set to explode.
Through it all, Navi Rawat shows her stuff like a champ. “Thought Crimes” works, and would have worked marvelously as a series, because of Rawat. Not that Joe Flanigan is chop liver. The man who would go on to crack wise on “Stargate: Atlantis” was cracking wise on “Thought Crimes” a year earlier. With that familiar “It looks disheveled, but I think it’s a style” haircut and the Richard Dean Anderson-esque mannerisms, Flanigan makes an excellent foil to the serious Freya. She’s spent years in a mental institution and trying to come to terms with a power that scares the hell out of her; he has a photographic memory and likes to sing the Scooby-Doo theme song in his head.
Another plus for the movie is Peter Horton. Although he appears to be a good guy, there’s something not completely on the “up and up” with his character. I had the distinct feeling that Welles was being set up to become a villain in the never-happened series. For instance, Welles is possibly the only person in the world who has developed the discipline to hide his thoughts from Freya, making him invulnerable to her. Also, the movie’s final scene, with Welles looking secretly over Freya’s shoulder (remember, she can’t hear his thoughts, so she doesn’t know he’s around), hints at a darker agenda by the good doctor.
As a standalone movie and a TV pilot, “Thought Crimes” is thoroughly entertaining. It has a radiant lead in Navi Rawat and a funny jester in Flanigan. Scully and Mulder these two ain’t, and that’s a good thing. Unfortunately “Thought Crimes” never materialized as a series, and as a result genre fans are missing out on what would have been a terrific show.
Although it should be noted that the movie was released in 2003, and it’s only 2004 as of this writing. Is a viable series still in the realm of possibility? One can only hope.
Breck Eisner (director) / Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer (screenplay)
CAST: Navi Rawat …. Freya McAllister
Joe Flanigan …. Brendan Dean
Jocelyn Seagrave …. June MacAllister
Peter Horton …. Dr. Michael Welles
Dylan Bierk …. Elizabeth