Timeless has arrived, and while writing this I have Huey Lewis and the News’ “Back in Time” stuck in my head on repeat. Why? Because Back to the Future and Doctor Who are the gold standard when it comes to time-travel. Like the era of zombie shows everywhere we turn and vampires before that, nearly every network is in on time-travel game this season. NBC’s Timeless is the first to drop and boy I had my misgivings. How many time-travel shows does one person need to watch? Well, I can’t answer that until the others arrive, but I can tell you that Timeless requires a season commitment. Before I break down the episode and explain the reason this show works, this is your warning that spoilers are ahead. If you haven’t watched yet, hop in that Delorean and meet me back here in an hour. For the rest of you, let’s do this and buckle up.
1. Time-travel made rea…listic.
Okay, so we’ve already established my love for Marty McFly and David Tennant (my favorite doctor for you non-Whovians). Initially, watching Timeless, I was alarmed at the sight of their time machine. It was unwieldy and bulky. Definitely not a Delorean or police box. It was angular but lacked the color and style of the machine as seen in UPN’s old series Seven Days. Honestly, though if it was announced to the world that time travel was now a thing, this machine as seen in NBC’s new series is what we would likely see. It’s more realistic than the first two mechanisms and for those who didn’t watch Seven Days, this machine is more powerful. Seven Days was a great series, but the pilot in that series could only travel back seven days. From tonight’s episode and the previews, it appears that Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett), and Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) will pop up in some interesting places in. Looking at the image below, the machine has an interesting construction and actually invokes the impression of an eye. The all seeing eye takes our trio back and forth throughout time.
2. Solid lead characters with their own mysteries to be solved.
After the machine is stolen by Goran Višnjić’s Flynn, Lucy is recruited by Homeland Security to travel back into the past to keep him from wrecking havoc. Why is she so important? Lucy is a renowned historian, and she’s charged with offering as much knowledge as possible about the places and times where they’ll be traveling. The amazing Sakina Jaffrey is among the supporting cast. She asks Lucy to offer information about local customs and serve as much as a cultural liaison as a historian. She is supposed to keep the group from making huge changes that will cause huge ripples in time that will change history as we know it. More on how successful or unsuccessful she proved in that aim, later. When they arrive in the past, Lucy realizes that she has some mysterious connection to baddie, Flynn. He tells her to ask around about something called Rittenhouse.
Rufus is a scientist that had already been working on the project when Flynn’s team breached the facility and stole the machine. Rufus doesn’t think it’s the best idea that he travel back in time. As a black man, he’s less than enthused to travel back to times and places where he would stand out so much and be met with the worst of prejudices and hate that loomed so large in the lives of blacks throughout American history. As seen in the pilot and that scene at the police station, Rufus’ fears are realized. He uses it though and brings in the knowledge of the future to taunt his jailers. In doing so, he proves a distraction enough in helping Lucy and Wyatt free themselves. Earlier, before they make the jump, Rufus’ boss, Connor Mason, insists that Rufus needs to be the one to make the jump and pilot the “lifeboat”. Mason alludes that Rufus knows exactly why he needs to serve as the pilot for their trip back to 1937. Just hours before the Hindenburg is supposed to crash.
Wyatt is the group’s “muscle”. The soldier nearly jeopardizes the entire mission in his aim to save a journalist who reminds him of his dead wife. Clearly, these folks have never watched Star Trek. In any case, they’re going to need to enact their own form of the prime directive. No interference or huge changes to the past or risk ripples in time. Gotta wonder what their continued use of pop culture references in the past might mean. At one point, Lucy introduces herself as Nurse Jackie and Rufus as Doctor Dre. What hospital do they work at? Oh, General Hospital of course. Then there was Rufus getting into it with the racist cop. Rufus told the man that he hoped he lived long enough to see the rise of prominent black figures in history like President Obama, Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson and Michael Jordan in action.
3. Those are ripples, Pinnochio.
Speaking of ripples. Though they ultimately defeat Flynn’s attempt to bomb the Hindenburg, the group isn’t entirely successful in stopping Flynn from making some small changes that are far reaching. How far reaching? Lucy returns to find that her present has changed. Her mother is no longer deathly ill. Her sister, Amy has been erased from time and Lucy is the only person who remembers her. There are a few other significant changes that will be hugely evident in next week’s follow-up episode. Though, the trio ends up making changes, there are some rules set from the beginning. They can never travel back to a time where they have existed or already visited. A previous pilot tried it and didn’t return whole.
Between the amazing vistas and great costumes, Timeless offers adventure and mystery as to what exactly is going on with Flynn and what Lucy has to do with it. After watching the second episode, I already have my suspicions about their connection. More on that next week, though. Here’s hoping we get more information on Rittenhouse and on how Lucy can possibly fix the issue of her missing sister. America’s history is rich with different eras that I cannot wait to watch the show explore. What say you? Did you check out the series premiere of Timeless? What are you hoping to see most as the series continues? Hit the comments and let me know what you thought of the premiere.
Timeless airs Mondays on NBC at 10/9c
Photo by: Joe Lederer/NBC