It seems like time travel TV shows are the rage lately. The latest one, Timeless, airs on NBC and it actually stands out from the pack. When looking at its premise, Timeless seems fairly formulaic in its premise: a trio travel through time to protect history from a villain out to change it. It’s what goes on each week on Legends of Tomorrow and many Doctor Who episodes. Yet, somehow Timeless manages to be refreshingly engaging, inventive and fun to watch.
The credit for this largely goes to the scripts. The screenwriters took a tired premise and just ran with it. They actually address some of the challenges of time traveling and the preparation needed for it. For instance, before heading out on a mission the time traveling trio have to go to be properly attired and carry the right kind of currency. Then surprisingly, the show actually allows history to be changed and left altered at the episode’s end! In one episode, John Wilkes Booth never assassinated President Lincoln, instead that deed was done by the show’s antagonist Garcia Flynn (Gorin Visnjic) and it’s part of history now. In another episode the Hindenburg landed safely in New Jersey only to be destroyed later on.
Then there is the fact that two of the time travelers, Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) and Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), are disadvantaged in their temporal journeys by who they are. Rufus is African-American and winds up in less enlightened periods where he is liable to be treated as property, while Lucy, being a woman, is also looked down upon in the past despite her depth of knowledge. These characters are also imperfect with their own faults. While being a brilliant scientist and engineer, Rufus doesn’t have practical know-how in surviving, first aid and has to rely on the third member of the group, Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) a Delta Force soldier. The three don’t quite get along with each other let alone have a shared trust. And that is for good reason. Each of them have their own agenda.
Wyatt more than anything wants to find a way to use time travel to save his wife but is prevented from doing this. Adding to his bitterness is that Lucy’s sister was erased from existence after they came back from a time mission and now Lucy openly is operating to undo this damage. As for Rufus, he doesn’t find any joy in time traveling and would rather be behind a keyboard. But he is forced into the missions to spy on the other two by a mysterious and secretive group with their own agenda, which includes stopping Flynn.
This running conspiracy is a major flaw in Timeless. As imaginative and exciting as Timeless is, the conspiracy arc is often trite and gets in the way. But lately it is adding to the show’s mythology and character motives. But the best development about this conspiracy is that it is making us viewers question whether or not Garcia Flynn is truly evil. He is on a quest to change American history in order to erase the existence of the group’s unseen, but nefarious leader, Rittenhouse. Flynn is doing this to avenge the death of his family at Rittenhouse’s hands. Adding to this unease is that Flynn carries a journal written in the future by Lucy and hints that she will ally with him down the road. So we can all hope that this Rittenhouse conspiracy will lead to something worthwhile.
Now adding to the enjoyment of Timeless is that the show isn’t afraid to do some real time traveling. In each episode the travelers go to distinctly different eras. From 1940s Germany to 1750s North America, the episodes reveal interesting tidbits about those time periods, and thankfully the production values are up to par when it comes to presenting these time periods. But most of all, Timeless is always entertaining and often leaves you hanging during the commercial breaks. It has room to grow, but hopefully as its title hints, Timeless will have time to fully live up to its potential.