Timeless Review – TV – NBC May Have Stumbled Into A Sci-Fi Winner

Shows that involve time travel have a lot of hurdles that need to be factored in, and Timeless confronts the challenge by attempting to simply avoid the problems altogether. It’s actually a good way to go, and the way the show builds its premise works better than anyone probably dared to hope.

The best element the show puts in play is that no one who actually does the time travelling wanted to go. Well, that’s only true of our heroes, but that’s all that matters. Time travel is forced upon them, and that puts us in the position of unique, and easier to develop, motivations for our characters.

Lucy Preston (Abigail SpencerSuits, Rectify) is a mild-mannered, but respected, history professor who is pressed into service for the government when a time machine (secretly constructed by a private sector company) is stolen. Known criminal/terrorist Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic) has made off with the thing that he shouldn’t know exists, and gone back in time to shortly before the crash of the Hindenberg.

It’s a national emergency the likes of which nothing before could possibly compare to, and the government is in desperate need of a team to follow Garcia back in time to figure out what the hell is going on, and stop whatever he has planned. Lucy is tagged for her knowledge of history, and the convenience of her proximity to the lab with the other time machine.

TIMELESS Review -- "Pilot" -- Pictured: (l-r) Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston

Photo by: Joe Lederer/NBC

To give us an entire team, the government has tapped Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) to be the muscle, and computer whiz Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) gets roped into the trip because he helped build the time machine and knows how to pilot it.

The show is obviously a race against time, and it plays out to take advantage. Once we get moving, the show doesn’t slow down again until slowing down is forced upon our team, and that doesn’t last long. It’s a kind of breezy adventure, reminiscent of the best parts of shows from decades long gone, but mixed with an insightful, intriguing effort at story construction.

You can’t have a time terrorist with a straightforward agenda, that’s just not how that could possibly work, and Garcia brings so many questions to bear that there’s no time to think of any of them. What could he possibly hope to gain by visiting the time of the Hindenberg crash, and what will he do next?

The best stories about time travel leave the actual workings to magic, or come as close as they can, because otherwise you need an actual explanation. The more you talk, the more it’s going to go silly. Timeless builds in an excuse for glossing over the details by way of simply not having time or inclination to explain them, and it works rather beautifully.

And, while not quite covering the flaw in the “stopping the damage by going back” plan, which is that whatever he went back to do would instantly have its effects on the present, Timeless brings the changes/paradoxes difficulty home in rather a unique way as well, by ultimately making them the crux of the show. Garcia knows a lot more than we might imagine, and the ripples that changes to the past make have more far-reaching effects than anyone has ever guessed.

It’s gripping, clever fun, and adds to the delivery with a rotating period backdrop that’s delivered better than you’d expect from television (not least because Rufus isn’t on board with travelling to the past, none of which is anywhere a person of color wants to go).

 

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From Eric Kripke (“Revolution,” “Supernatural”), Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) and the producers of “The Blacklist” comes this thrilling action-adventure series in which a mysterious criminal steals a secret state-of-the-art time machine, intent on destroying America as we know it by changing the past. Our only hope is an unexpected team: a scientist, a soldier and a history professor who use the machine’s prototype to travel back in time to critical events. While they must make every effort not to affect the past themselves, they must also stay one step ahead of this dangerous fugitive. Can this handpicked team uncover the mystery behind it all and end his destruction before it’s too late?

The cast includes Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, Malcolm Barrett, Goran Visnjic, Paterson Joseph, Sakina Jaffrey and Claudia Doumit.

Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan serve as writers and executive producers. John Davis, John Fox, Marney Hochman and Director Neil Marshall also executive produce. “Timeless” is produced by Davis Entertainment, Kripke Enterprises and MiddKid Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television.

 

Written by
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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