Timeless

tSo, here’s the premise. There’s a time machine. A bad guy steals it and goes into the past to do mysteriously bad things. The government (which just found out about the whole time travel thing fifteen seconds after us viewers) are taking initiative and putting together a team to go back in another time machine to stop the bad guy. The team includes a historian (who knows way too much about history) and a military dude (who is way too calm about everything) and a techie to drive the machine (who is way too black to not have bad things happen to him in the past).

The cast is engaging enough, and the past is well realized. In this episode, they go back to the 30’s and experience an alternate version of the Hindenburg disaster. I was equally intrigued and annoyed by the ominous statements of the bad guy, implying that he has knowledge of the future. I get that they’re setting up a multi-episode (maybe even series-long) mystery to pull in the new viewers. But it’s so obvious and so cliche nowadays. I’ll definitely watch some more episodes, but if they don’t show that they have some tricks up their sleeves, it’ll be a second- or third-tier recording on my DVR.

All in all, a decent show. Of course, it has some of the drawbacks that most time travel stories have. They want actions in the past to change things, but they don’t want them to change things much. I don’t want to give away any last minute twists, but when the historian returns from her jaunt and goes home, things are dramatically different… except she lives in the exact same house. What-the-what? (Even Back to the Future got that much right.)

Even more perplexing, when the bad guy went into the past, his actions should have propagated through time to impact our heroes. How can the historian remember the “original” timeline? She wasn’t “protected” by some technology. The instant the bad guy exited 2016, everything would be different, and whatever the bad guy did would be the actual history, as far as our heroes know. (They wouldn’t know the history as it was altered again by the heroes, of course. They would know history as if the bad guy went unthwarted.)

Time travel is super tricky in even the contained environment of a movie or a book. Making it work in a TV show is a challenge. 12 Monkeys seems to understand how to do it. I have less faith in Timeless.

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