Have you seen Timecop? Contact? Quantum Leap? Doctor Who? Then elements of NBC’s new time travel show Timeless from the producers of The Blacklist might seem familiar. It is science fiction for people not really into science fiction. History for people who get their history from Wikipedia searches. This is what network television feels it needs to make a genre show in this time of “prime television.” A conceptual sequel so you can have a sense of familiarity without having a sense of déjà vu.
For reasons not yet explained a mysterious criminal (Goran Visnjic) breaks into a non-descript facility and violently steals a state-of-the-art time machine while kidnapping what appears to be the facility director (Matt Frewer). Using a handwritten diary/scrapbook as a guide, he seems intent on rewriting America’s present by altering its past.
The stolen time machine is referred to as the Mother Ship, because less sleek more DIY looking prototype, the Life Boat, can track when its sister ship is located, but not where. Do not ask why. The answer will be… reasons. The Life Boat was kept operational in case a rescue mission was necessary. Now it isn’t the Mother Ship crew that needs rescuing, but America itself.
A hastily assembled team of a scientist/time machine pilot (Malcolm Barrett), a Delta Force soldier (Matt Lanter), and a history professor (Abigail Spencer) famous for being the daughter of another famous history professor is the only hope to keep America’s history on track. Group dynamics will certainly be tested. Race and Gender relations in the past were touched on and that will surely continue to be an obstacle for the team as they weave in and out of America’s story.
The first episode is enjoyable and I will continue to watch for at least a few more episodes to see how it progresses. Personally I wish they would have flipped the familiar approach completely. Instead seeing how actions in the past affect the present we know, I would like to see the opposite. Give us a not quite familiar, but similar present. Have the alterations get the show’s present closer and closer to our own. Make the view a part of the overall world by questioning what could have been. Tie in actual conspiracy theories: Are the moon landings doubters correct because they remember the original timeline? Are we actually remembering how things really happened? With this premise who could say?
Timeless does appear to be following in the footsteps of current police procedurals in the sense that individual stories will be episodic, but a larger mystery will be woven in over the course of the season. Again, this feels like a network trying to appeal to the broadest of audiences. Wrapped up episodes for the pop in views and season length sagas for the long haul/binge watching viewers.
Timeless airs on NBC Mondays 10/9C. So far I am willing to continue watching. Sometimes seeing something that reminds you of old friends isn’t bad. Providing the similarities to previous works slip away as the stories continue to shape the differences of this new fictional universe.
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