Timeless: Season: 1
The concept of time travel has intrigued humanity for thousands of years. The concept of going back in time to correct history’s ‘mistakes’ or, for the academically inclined, witnessing the pivotal moments in history first hand difficult to resist. A similar desire manifested in the opposite chronological direction. Many have dreamt of skipping over the years, decades or even centuries for a glimpse of the marvels awaiting our species. It is inevitable that time travel would result in any one of a myriad of paradoxes that not only complicates the prosed methodology of time travel but, perhaps more importantly, they obfuscate the implementation of a executed narrative. Science fiction writers have been contending with this genre peculiarity for over a century with greatly mixed results. Considering the inherent complications with this theme its deployment on television has often met with a noted lack of success. A recent offering from NBC has made a notable contribution to getting it right, ‘Timeless.' In a move that borders on brilliance, the writers of the series eschewed the necessity of attempting to provide some plot contrivance around the morass of conflict paradoxes. Instead, they dove headlong into a carefully chosen consequence of transversing the temporal barrier. Changing the past sends ripples through the timeline that can, and frequently does, split off a new timeline with differences of varying degree. This immediately becomes a substantial motivation for several of the primary characters. The series embraces temporal change and fully defines the parameters of the show’s fictional universe to take advantage of the established ruleset.as a lifelong fan of science fiction I greatly appreciate a storyteller sufficiently confident in their tale to fully commit to it and treat it as real, within the parameters they have established.
In a top-secret laboratory, a scientist has been diligently working to build a fully functional time machine. Shortly after it was deemed successful, the machine was stolen by a rogue NSA agent, Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic). Immediately he took the purloined vessel and proceeded to go back in time indent on altering the course of American history for his covert purposes. It is eventually discovered that guiding his actions is the contents of a mysterious journal that details the fate of his family. The laboratory, owned and operated by Government contractor, Mason Industries, possesses one slim hope to counter the harmful actions of Flynn, an early prototype called ‘The Lifeboat.' Overseeing the endeavor is Connor Mason (played by Paterson Joseph), the CEO of Mason Industries in San Francisco and the inventor of the two-time machines. To achieve their goal Mason assembled a team to take the Lifeboat through time in pursuit of Flynn. Denise Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey)), is charged with dire oversight of the team although she remains in the present. She is the supervising agent of the Department of Homeland Security.
The tactical member of the team is Master Sargent. Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), a Delta Force Soldier trying best to control his PTSS that resulted from a tragically failed mission and the murder of his wife in 2012. Considering it prudent to include a historian on the team with a thorough knowledge of history, Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), a history professor. After their first mission back to May 6, 1937, to prevent Flynn from interfering with the Hindenburg Airship disaster. The passengers are saved, but Flynn does murder a reported that did originally die in the fiery crash. Something was drastically by the alteration that made several significant changes I Lucy’s life. Her mother, Carolyn (Susanna Thompson), no longer was dying of cancer, Lucy discovers her father was not her biological father and, most shocking of all, her sister, Amy (Bailey Noble), was completely erased from existence. Travelers remember both the original and change timelines, so this loss hits Lucy extremely hard. Finally, the pilot for the Lifeboat is Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett), one of the principal project programmers who was trained as a test pilot. As an African American, he realistically notes that there aren’t many periods in American history where he would be able to fit in fully. This regrettable historical truth is simply stated avoiding the pitfall of overly relying on it as a major plot device. Issues of morality are consistently treated as relative to their respective time, filtered through the prism of our own, modern sensibilities.
Under less talented and capable oversight this format would have inevitably degraded into a variation of the hackneyed ‘freak of the week format. Instead of a monster, serial killer or another antagonist archetype, the villain consistent remained Flynn with the specific variables introduced through some historical event. That is the source of a considerable degree of versatility. If properly executed, as in this series, the robust selection of venues and situations takes the intrepid heroes back in time to face such memorable moments running the gamut of the assignation of President Abraham Lincoln to running with Bonny and Clyde. Several episodes bring the team back to the time of the Revolutionary War, forwarding a purpose that is crafted to maximize the suspense felt by the viewers. Underlying the sinister actions perpetrated by Flynn are in service of a covert, nefarious agenda of an organization known as Rittenhouse. It was founded by a fictionalized portrayal of a real figure in American history, David Rittenhouse portrayed here by journeyman actor and genre staple, Armin Shimerman. Rittenhouse was a noted renowned American astronomer, inventor, clockmaker, mathematician, surveyor, scientific instrument craftsman. He was a civil servant securing his place in history as the first director of the United States Mint. Within the context of the series, Rittenhouse founded the eponymous organization in 1778 that would eventually utilize time travel to alter history to their advantage.
This series caught my attention quickly drawing me in from the very first episode. Admittedly a substantial part of what initially drew my interest was the cast which consisted of performers with proven track records. Abigail Spencer most recently co-starred in one of the better dramatic television shows in recent years, ‘Rectify.' She played the devoted sister of an innocent man released from prison after 19 years of incarceration. This demonstrated her ability to successfully explore the emotional travails of a woman confronted by unusual stressful circumstances. I was familiar with Matt Lanter from his short-lived series ‘Star-Crossed’ where he played an extraterrestrial in a science fiction spin on ‘Romeo and Juliet.' Paterson Joseph is a popular British actor featured in a broad range of shows ranging from medical comedies to the British installment of the ‘Law & Order Franchise. Arguably the most familiar were Goran Visnjic. Among his considerable list of credits, he was a significant part of the high bar of medical dramas, ‘ER.' His spectrum of abilities ranging from stanch hero to reprehensible villains he is ideally suited to the morally ambiguous character of Flynn. The actor that piqued my interest the most was Malcolm Barrett. My first exposure to his work was in the Dark comedy, ‘Better off Ted.' in that shoe he played a research scientist working for a morally bankrupt corporation. Although cheerful and pleasant he didn’t realize that he was, in fact, an evil scientist. The common factor with these cast members is experience in plating emotionally and psychologically complicated characters.
NBC canceled the series after one season on May 10, 2017.Three days later, following negotiations with Sony Pictures Television, NBC renewed the series for a ten-episode second season to be broadcast in 2018. This is a rear occasion when the network allows fan concerns to override, or, more accurately, resurrect a series after officially pulling the plug. Even though we must wait a year at least, we know the show will continue.